“Make Us Famous”

Early in his snarky, whip-smart analysis of what advertising can and cannot do for a business or brand, veteran adman Bob Hoffman asks:

Bob Hoffman

 – Why do some actors get million dollar fees for appearing in movies while other equally good actors get nothing?

  – Why do some people get the best tables at fancy restaurants while nicer people can’t even get in?

  – Why do some people become President of the United States while there are millions who are smarter and more decent?

Right, because they’re famous. Fame is a massive advantage in business and in life.

* * *

Simple ideas like “fame” are anathema to the marketing industry.

We advertising and marketing professionals make our living by convincing business people that marketing communication is a deeply specialized practice that requires particular knowledge and acumen. So we do our best to complicate the shit out of it.

(Source:  The Three-Word Brief by Bob Hoffman. Highly recommended.)


What about your advertising? Do you see it as an expense or as an investment? It’s either one or the other.

Effective advertising not only yields positive returns, but the longer you do it, the better it works. I’ve seen it happen again and again in my nearly five decades of working with local advertisers. And here’s a funny thing: the simple principle you need to succeed in business is the very same one that will make your advertising successful: just keep showing up!

Here in my small corner of the world—Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho—thanks to the two land-grant universities that have been shaping our communities for the past 133 years or so, our market is constantly changing.  Hundreds of businesses that were around when I began working for the Pullman radio stations in 1979 have disappeared.  The reasons are many but a few worth noting include:

  • Population turnover. 25% of our student population turns over each year. Thousands of graduating students leave the market and thousands of new students enter it.  That’s thousands of lost customers and thousands of potential new ones.
  • Changing business landscape. One month after I started working for the Pullman radio stations, the Palouse Empire Mall opened, immediately and dramatically changing shopping habits. Pullman merchants waved their white handkerchiefs at the edge of town to bid a literal farewell to the throngs of customers and their dollars sailing eastward.
  • New direct competitors. If you have a unique offering and it succeeds, it won’t be long before somebody enters the market to compete for a share of your market. Count on it. The two or three brands at the top of a category get the lion’s share of the business, leaving all the rest to fight for WLO. This is why books on advertising strategy, positioning, differentiation, etc. continue to sell.
  • Life changes.  Marriages and divorces, births and deaths, illnesses and injuries, employment and career changes, life changes affect consumer behavior, sometimes leading previously loyal customers to start shopping elsewhere.
  • Outside interference.  The last 36 months have been replete with outside interference, as overweening governors, lawmakers, and medical “experts” bullied their way into making decisions about your family, business, church, and school with disastrous consequences. At the time, the legitimacy of their incursions into these institutions may have seemed expedient, if not prudent. In hindsight, more and more of us today are realizing (too late) that the cure was worse than the disease. My wife and I were discussing the big disappointment that COVID-19 vaccines have been. Yet billions of dollars were poured into advertising their efficacy; some states and cities even took to bribing citizens with special lottery prizes, free drinks and meals, etc., in an effort to persuade the masses to get vaccinated.  Looking back, I’m reminded of all the money that once was poured into ads like these, intended to convince the masses of cigarette smokers that medical experts could be trusted to have their best interests at heart. As it turned out, they were just blowing smoke.

Medical “Experts” Blowing Smoke

There are, of course, problems that advertising can’t solve.  If you run your business poorly, advertising won’t make things better. In fact, advertising might even put you out of business faster, because good advertising accelerates the inevitable. So, if your business poised to succeed, a great advertising campaign can help you achieve success sooner.

Here are some other things good advertising can accomplish for you:

Control over your messaging. As many businesses have learned the hard way, social media can be very fickle. You have little to no control over what is said about you in online reviews and social media posts, or in coffee-shop conversations for that matter. But you have complete control over your advertising. And unlike in print media, for example, where your ad may compete with others on the same page for a reader’s attention, radio advertising provides an exclusive showcase for your message.

Mass media means mass reach. Everyone knows that word-of-mouth is powerful, but it’s also slow to provide any momentum. Radio advertising multiplies your word-of-mouth messaging exponentially and instantaneously.

Radio + Website is a powerful combination.  Use radio advertising to drive traffic to your website, where you can further engage customers at their convenience and on their schedule.

Your share of voice can be purchased. Share of market must be earned.  How can you increase both? Here’s some help for you.

Advertising increases your familiarity with consumers.  Customers prefer to buy from people they know and like. Want to be the brand that people think about first and feel the best about when the need arises?  Advertise!

Businesses that advertise regularly attract the best employees.  Job applicants prefer to apply for jobs at companies they know and like. (On a related note, radio advertising can help fill job openings faster, with better-qualified applicants.  Here’s why.)

These are just a few of the many things good advertising can do for your business.

Most business owners are not advertising experts. Working in and on their business leaves them precious little time to work on their marketing and advertising. Therefore, it behooves the business owner to find someone he or she can rely upon to develop an advertising strategy likely to succeed, and to create advertising messages and campaigns that will execute that strategy effectively.  David Ogilvy, one of the advertising giants of the 20th century, wrote in his Confessions of an Advertising Man (in chapter five, How to Build Great Campaigns):

I once asked Sir Hugh Rigby, Sergeant Surgeon to King George V, “What makes a great surgeon?”

Sir Hugh replied, “There isn’t much to choose between surgeons in manual dexterity. What distinguishes the great surgeon is that he knows more than other surgeons.”  It is the same with advertising agents. The good ones know their craft.

(To be continued)

About Rod Schwartz

Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He joined the Pullman (Wash.) Radio Group in 1979, where he worked until his retirement at the end of 2022. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales (GraceBroadcast.com), providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. Rod also operates an independent advertising, marketing, and communications consultancy for small business owners and professionals, FirstStrikeAdvertising.com. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com and on his Viewbug gallery.
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