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7 rules of effective retail advertising

December 23rd, 2016 by Bob Bly

Several of you asked me recently for advertising tips for

And since I don’t write retail copy, I turned to my pal Brian
Croner, who was kind enough to provide these “7 Rules of
Effective Retail Advertising.”

1–Hard sell out-pulls soft sell. An independently owned store
doesn’t have the ad budget of a big chain. So one ad needs to do
the job of 10 or 20. Your ad has to get more attention than your
larger competitors and has to create a sense of urgency and a
fear of loss.

2–Use bargain appeals. Whether your prices are better than your
competition isn’t relevant. Make your customers BELIEVE you have
great deals. This could be something as simple as “60% OFF
RETAIL!” (“Retail” can be any number.)

Or have some loss leaders available so you can make the claim
legally by saying; “Some items SOLD AT OR BELOW COST!” These
bargain appeals work!

3–Always have an event or sale. “I have skeptics ask me all the
time. ‘Won’t you lose credibility if you run a sale all the
time?,'” says Brian. “The answer is: no, you won’t.”

For instance, when someone is in need of a new mattress or piece
of furniture, they LOOK for SALES and EVENTS! Your advertising
has to appeal to the next group of prospects ready to buy your
products NOW.

4–Have a start date for your event; e.g., “STARTS FRIDAY at
10am!” Brian says he uses this hook in over 30 markets and it
works in all of them. It generates excitement and makes people
plan to go to the store.

5– Create a limited time frame for your event. “Almost all the
furniture stores we have worked with were going to close on Black
Friday,” says Brian.

“Our clients run 10 or 12-hour sales on Black Friday. The event
is hyped all week long through Thanksgiving Day on local media.
A recent store who just signed on with us did around $45,000 on
Black Friday in a town of only 13,000 occupants!”

6–Buy media wisely. You’re in the business of purchasing
customers — not space, not time, not “likes.”

And don’t believe for a minute that local radio, local
television, and your local newspaper are “obsolete”. These
mediums still have good circulation and loyal audiences.

If you want to add social media, go into it slowly and measure
the results carefully. Both Brian and I have watched multiple
businesses nosedive when they pulled away from what was working
with “traditional media” and invested most or all of their ad
budgets into new media.

7–Repeat your successes. When elements of an advertisement work,
you keep it, repeat it, and try to improve upon it. If your
“48-Hour Stock Reduction Sale” worked this year, it will most
likely work again next year.

Thanks, Brian!


Category: Advertising | 458 Comments »

The Death of Advertising

February 1st, 2010 by Bob Bly

Word-of-mouth marketing has always been more powerful than paid advertising, simply because people believe their friends more than they believe advertisers.

Social networking multiplies your ability to share your opinion about a product exponentially.

According to a study by Jupiter Research, online social network users are 3X more likely to trust their peers’ opinions over advertising when making purchase decisions.

People talk about products on social networks. The social networking site myYearbook found that 81% of survey respondents said they had received advice from friends and followers related to a product purchase through a social site.

Of those who received advice, 74% found it to be influential in their purchase decision.

It would seem that marketers who can successfully integrate social media with traditional marketing would wipe the floor with the rest of us, don’t you agree?


Category: Advertising | 268 Comments »

Save Money When Hiring Ad Agencies

October 6th, 2009 by Bob Bly

If you want to save money when hiring ad agencies, use a small agency (50 or fewer employees) instead of a big agency (over 500 employees).

According to an article in Avertising Age (10/5/09, p. 26), chief creative directors at big agencies bill at $964 an hour — almost 4X more than the $271 an hour chief creative directors at small agencies bill on average.

Somehow, I don’t think that the creative director at the big agency is 4X more creative than her counterpart at the small ad agency.

And I seriously doubt the big agency’s campaigns generate 4X the sales of the small agency’s work…..


Category: Advertising | 387 Comments »

Should The Monster Burger Be Banned?

July 24th, 2009 by Bob Bly

My friend DH, a retired copywriter, once said he would take on any product except those that are illegal, immoral, or fattening.

A new hamburger now being sold at the stadium of a minor-league baseball team — the West Michigan Whitecaps — surely falls into the third category … and maybe even the second.

The burger, which weighs 4 pounds and costs $20, contains 5 beef patties, 5 slices of American Cheese, extra nacho cheese, nearly a cup of chili, salsa, sour cream, and corn chips on an 8-inch bun. It has 4,800 calories — as many as 9 Big Macs.

Susan Levin, director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), wrote a letter to the Whitecaps asking them to put a WARNING label on the burger stating that eating red meat increases risk of heart disease, and asked that they not sell the burger to minors.

While the burger is arguably both disgusting and unhealthy, lots of restaurants, fast food stands, and stores sell foods that are unhealthy and (to many people) disgusting.

But don’t consumers have the right to decide what they want to eat? I can go to any ball park, and if I want to pig out, buy half a dozen burgers or dogs at any snack window — and no one will question me.

Do you admire PCRM and Levin for their latest attempt to protect the public’s health?

Or shouldn’t the Whitecaps and their customers be free to buy and sell whatever foods they desire?

And: are there any particular product categories that you refuse to market because you don’t approve of them?

(For me, I once turned down a publisher who needed direct mail packages to sell books on hunting — not because I think hunting should be banned, but because I find it repugnant and do not want to encourage it in any way.)

Source: Good Medicine, Summer 2009, p. 13.


Category: Advertising | 187 Comments »

Can You Create a Better USP Than This One?

June 5th, 2009 by Bob Bly

A local furniture retailer here features his rather sleazy looking self and his cute little kid in a TV commercial where together they proclaim, smiling, “We have the BEST furniture!”

And that’s the whole of their sales pitch and unique selling proposition (USP) — that they have the best furniture.

Well, best may sound good — after all, everyone wants the best, right?

But as a USP or ad copy, it’s terribly weak and ineffective.


Two reasons.

First, EVERYBODY says they are the best — there’s no differentiation.

Second, the very fact that it’s the ADVERTISER saying he is the best creates immediate skepticism — the viewer does not believe it.

Can I give you an example of a stronger USP?


Wonder Bread.

They wanted to say their white bread was the best — and their USP was: “Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways.”

Memorable, different, unique, and with a benefit (“builds strong bodies”).

If someone asks you why they should buy from YOU instead of your competitors, and your answer is “because we are better” — you’d better come up with a stronger USP.

Or — do you have a better idea for gaining customers and building market share without a good USP?


Category: Advertising | 140 Comments »

No One Reads Long Copy, She Says

February 23rd, 2009 by Bob Bly

JS, a subscriber to my e-newsletter The Direct Response Letter, writes:

“I have been reading a lot of your promos as well as those of many other of the [marketing] columnists and writers. All of them (the promos or letters) are very long. I would think in today’s busy world that people don’t want to take time to read such long marketing letters yet you’ve been in business for a long time and obviously have learned what works well and what doesn’t. When I was employed by a Chamber publisher and writing their marketing materials, everyone told me, ‘keep it short, no one reads long emails.’

“Are there studies available that prove the effectiveness of long sales and marketing letters? Or is it just a given among those of you who have been doing this for so long, and that they’ve worked for your customers?”

The question of long vs. short copy is one of those tiring arguments that never seems to quite get settled.

Do you agree with JS’s publishing boss, who insisted that “no one reads long [copy]”?

Can you cite any evidence, either way, on the superiority of long vs. short copy or vice versa?

If you “cop out” (nothing wrong with doing so) and tell me, “It depends” — then I ask you: “Depends on what?”


Category: Advertising | 144 Comments »

A New Idea for Radio Advertising in the Internet Age

February 18th, 2009 by Bob Bly

I just heard a radio spot for Tony Robbins offering an interesting twist on using the web for fulfillment.

Instead of sending the listener to a URL on the web, the commercial tells you to call toll-free 800-503-3980 and leave your e-mail address on the voice mail.

They promise to send an e-mail to your address with a link to where you can get a free success system online.

I’m not sure this is better than just giving the URL directly in the radio spot, although the reasoning is that it’s easier for a driver to call the 800 # on his cell phone while in the car. It also captures the e-mail address.

Unfortunately, when I called the 800 number, I got a message saying the voice mail box was full — and I could not leave my e-mail address with them.

So you could say the radio spot was so effective it overloaded the voice mail system with calls. Or, the advertiser planned poorly, did not arrange sufficient inbound phone lines, and therefore poured an unknown amount of radio ad dollars down the drain.


Category: Advertising | 139 Comments »

Madison Avenue Agency Fails Advertising 101

October 9th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Last night I saw a Burger King TV commercial in which two guys dressed in hamburger costumes go to Wendy’s to order hamburgers, only to conclude that Wendy’s doesn’t offer burgers as good as BK.

The primary visual displayed on the screen throughout most of the commercial is the giant Wendy’s sign in front of the Wendy’s the burger guys go to.

In their argument with the server about who has the best burger, the name “Wendy’s” is mentioned about the same number of times as the name “Burger King.”

Consequently, the average viewer who sees the commercial is more likely to think of Wendy’s than he is of BK.

In fact, if he was paying scant attention as so many viewers do, he may even think he has just seen a Wendy’s commercial.

Does BK’s ad agency not realize they have made a giant blunder here?

Hard for me to accept that grown adults hold those agency jobs, created the commercial, and thinks it’s good — and that grown adults at BK approved it.

Did none of these folks pass Advertising 101?


Category: Advertising | 196 Comments »