Column: Product or Service Should Live Up to Advertising

In any business or sector with a direct or indirect service component, great advertising can actually work against you.

Take Citi’s whole identity theft campaign. It’s breakthrough and award winning, but at the end of the day, it’s a bank that – when last I checked – acted like a bank.

Or how about American Express? You don’t get more aspirational than “My Life. My Card” or how about their “OPEN: for small business” value proposition/promise.

We understand you and your business is a great selling point, provided of course there’s any semblance of authenticity.

There’s also Visa’s “Life Takes” thrust, which is as open-armed and amorphous as can be. But does life also take hold time, reenter your card number and include 15 direct mailers in your box?

Here’s where great advertising is akin to running a marathon with your laces untied. You might see the finish line in sight, but you also might slip and break your neck. When a consumer sets foot into your store/bank/site and/or dials your 800-number, do they encounter the same aspirational high ground? Do they get their frustrations solved and solutions “Delivered”?

I guess my point is this: if your follow-through, your customer service and your after-sale support is anything less than the advertising that sets it up, then you’re being set up for failure.

Perhaps you should find an agency capable of delivering truly mediocre advertising solutions (thankfully, these are the norm nowadays as opposed to the exception) or manage your customers’ expectations accordingly by setting the bar incredibly low.

Agencies have long tried to justify their negligence with the axiom, “No better way to kill a bad product than with great advertising.” But at the other end of their mouth they plead to be treated as partners. The solution is simple. If the product is flawed, reject the assignment or demand to be able to participate in filling in the gaps, bridging the disconnects, or at the very minimum, creating advertising that is truthful, representative and realistic.

DRTV spots aren’t exactly going to win any Grand Prix’s any time soon at Cannes Lions, but at least they have a few things going for them: Long form content for starters (one of the 10 approaches I cover in my book), demonstration (one of the new roles for advertising) and the all-powerful no-questions-asked-money-back-guarantee.

That said, they also have their work cut out for them and need to, like all other forms of communications, evolve and keep up with the times. There are undoubtedly questions about credibility, arguably due to a decades-old and strong exaggerated/over-the-top production element and quality, not to mention confusion or doubt about the ease of the returns process.

Think about it: all things being equal, a genuine no-risk, hassle-free satisfaction-guaranteed-or-your-money-back, coupled with a great product, should equate to the perfect one-two selling punch.

The solution? Consider the power and potential of consumer-generated content in the form of community-originated testimonials, guarantees and endorsements in favor of the perceived customers-for-hire alternative.

In a perfect world, we’d be offering up great products through commensurate great advertising all the time. In this world, however, let’s strive towards the pragmatic and consistent promise and delivery of advertising that befits the product it represents.

Joseph Jaffe is president and founder of jaffe LLC, a marketing consulting practice . His blog, “Jaffe Juice,” provides straight-shooting commentary on all things new marketing. Mr. Jaffe’s first book, “Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand With A Bold Mix Of Alternatives To Traditional Advertising” (Wiley/Adweek, 2005) focuses on how advertising is evolving in a world ruled by an empowered consumer and no longer governed solely by the 30-second spot.


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