The Importance of Advertising: Selling the Sizzle, Not the Steak

importanceofadvertisingAt its most basic, advertising is the process of calling the attention of the public to a product or service by a business. More specifically, there’s a desire to manipulate and encourage a target audience into not only desiring a product or service, but to feel a certain way about it and without this product or service, they will lack this feeling. Everyone advertises! E-ver-y-one. Whether you’re selling your talents in a job interview, a small business just getting started among the behemoths, or Coca-Cola letting you know they’re still around after 100 years, everyone at one time or another needs to convince someone else of the worth of themselves or their product.

The Importance of Advertising

Advertising not only informs your customers of a new product or service and reminds them of older ones, but it lets them know why they should buy your’s as opposed to your competitor’s. An ad will let people know why you are different and, if effective, will convince them that this product will give them benefits that the other guy’s product won’t. On the financial side, the effective marketing and advertising of a product is a great source of income for a company of any size.

Some companies, like car manufacturers, have a tough time making their product stand out from the rest, but good advertising can shine a whole new light on a car. For example, when you’re purchasing an automobile, you probably have a certain type of vehicle in mind as well as a price range. If you make minimum wage, chances are you won’t be buying a Lexus. Advertising reaches out to you, the potential customer, and lets you know how a certain car might make you feel. Will it make you feel safe? Will you be considered cooler if you buy this car? Will you be willing to go outside your price range for some added bonuses? When done effectively, advertising should make you feel a certain way as a result of owning a specific product that no other product on the market can provide.

Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak

This is an old adage from the advertising business that still holds true today. Advertisers want to sell the benefits of a product, not the product. You can buy twenty different bars of soap, but Irish Spring advertisements claim not only freshness and cleanliness, but according to the woman from the ad, its “Manly, yes, but I like it, too”, so its for both sexes. A company selling something knows you can probably get that something anywhere and you can get many versions of it, but they want you to buy their something because it makes you feel a certain way, and no other product can make you feel this way.

Tricks of the Trade

Advertising has been around for as long as there’s been things to sell (“These sandals feel like you’re walking on clouds and almost make you forget you’re building a pyramid!”), but modern advertisers have amassed some nifty gimmicks to not only make us feel like we need something, but to make it seem like we came to that decision ourselves. None of them are overly complicated, but they are effective psychological tools. Here’s a few:

  • Jingles and Slogans – Everyone knows at least five jingles and slogans, whether the like it or not: “Byyyy Mennen”; “Don’t Leave Home Without it” (American Express); “I’m Lovin’ It” (McDonald’s); etc., etc. These get into the customer’s head like a catchy song and may entice them to buy that product.
  • Mascots – Like the jingles, product mascots are part of our lives, for better or worse. The Energizer Bunny, Mr. Clean, The Jolly Green Giant, and don’t forget the most prolific mascot factory out there: cereal boxes. A well-known mascot is a very important asset for a company to have.
  • Testimonials and Endorsements – This is when Colonial Penn Insurance gets Alex Trebek to convince you to buy insurance from them, or when “actual customers” show you the hair they grew with Rogaine. This plays on the notion that “If it worked for them, it’ll work for me!”.

Other Ways to Get Your Ad Out There

Unless you live in the Tunisian desert, advertisements are almost impossible to escape. Everyone knows about commercials, billboards, and print ads, but advertising has evolved with media. Online advertising has become necessary and people have even started using Facebook to advertise. Though avoiding ads is easier said than done these days, some companies try to break the mold and do something completely new. For example, to advertise a new line of living room furnishings, IKEA placed a room’s worth of furniture – couches, rugs, lamps, tables – on a sidewalk and placed signs around the setup that informed people that this brand new furniture was free for the taking. They filmed people’s various reactions to it, which ranged from incredulous to greedy, and made a commercial out of it. There are as many ways to get a message to the masses as there are products, but here are few of the more effective and sneaky methods.

  • Product Placement – This is when a company puts a product into a movie or TV show. Like when a character drinks from a can that is obviously a Pepsi, or eats at Burger King. Sometimes this is blatant, sometimes covert, but it gets the brand’s name out there.
  • Subliminal Advertising – This one’s sneaky. Subliminal advertising happens when an image pops up for a split second and we the viewers only notice it on a subconscious level, then wonder why we’re craving Jiffy Pop.
  • Street Advertising – This is when companies use an ad’s environment to their advantage. Ads can be seen in subway tunnels, visible only to the riders, as well as advertising on pavement and with graffiti.

Besides coming up with the actual products and services to sell, advertising them is the next most crucial thing a company will do, otherwise, no one will even know about the existence of them. Some companies, like Coke, whom everyone in the world knows about, still spends billions of dollars on advertising in order to keep their name out there and on the minds of the consumers. In both instances, advertising is the liaison between consumer and manufacturer and is absolutely critical for the success of a product or service as well as its producer.