Innovative Advertising

February 20, 2012  

Today I received an email from the owner of a furniture store who read my “Best Practices Are Stupid” book.

He asked (paraphrased)…

In all my years of furniture advertising, I have been showing pictures of nice living room, bedroom, mattress, and dinette furniture on sale. In your book you suggest advertising pain. Should I change the way how I’ve been advertising furniture reminding readers about their fabric wearing out, cushions getting too soft, etc. 

Here is my response (paraphrased)…

Although I am not an advertising expert, all of my studies and experiences show that pain-based messages tend to motivate people into action more. Then again, Apple of course is a great example of a company that does not use a pain message; they sell on coolness. But that’s Apple. And what works for them might not work for you!

If you look at infomercials (versus standard commercials), they ALWAYS focus on the pain they solve. In fact, these direct marketing companies typically won’t sell a product that does not solve a pain. It has to be more than a “nice to have.”

The question is, who are your buyers? And what are their buying habits? Some customers only care about cost, and quality is not a factor in their decision making. On the other hand, for higher end buyers, you may not want to associate your message with negatives as this could turn them off. However, there is definitely a market for those who are price sensitive yet don’t want (as you put it) to be embarrassed by having old furniture. For these buyers, you can find a way of selling both the cost message and the pain message at the same time.  Of course, the pain can be monetary. Discount furniture stores are notorious for comparing their prices to those of the big retailers. That creates a pain – if you are in the market to buy.

But if you are not in the market to buy, the pain approach as I discussed can be effective.  In the book I discussed two different styles of “bed” commercials…

“Think about the last mattress commercial you heard. They all say the same thing: ‘Buy our xyz bed and you will get your best night’s sleep ever.’ Yawn. Boring. The commercial may put me to sleep, but it’s not going to get me to buy a bed. Now consider this actual radio advertisement. ‘If your mattress is 10 years old, it weighs twice its original weight due to the dust mites that accumulate over the years.’ Ouch! This creates a pain and makes me want to replace my mattress immediately.”

I just saw that commercial again the other day. And I have to admit, it really got me thinking about buying another bed, even though mine is in great shape and super comfortable.

Given this, there could be a few ways of going about this…

As you point out, the embarrassment factor. Getting people to really take a look at their furniture.   Most people don’t even notice the imperfections until they take a hard look.

Or maybe you can talk about health factors. Soft cushions can cause back problems. Maybe you can have an ad that says, “Does your back bother you? Maybe your sofa is the cause of your pain. If you furniture is more than 10 years old, the support structures may be sagging, robbing you of needed support.”

You get the point.

The key is, make sure your message matches your market. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to this.

Then do some tests. I would not invest heavily in any advertising where you did not use the “build it, try it, fix it,” approach I mention in the book. Your brand is too important to leave to chance and hypotheses. Let the real world tell you what works…and what doesn’t.

Understanding your customers’ pains can be a very powerful method for creating new products and for creating messages that have them want to buy your product.

Instead of selling customers on how great your product or service is, show them the downside of using a less reliable alternative. As a friend of mine says, “If you need open heart surgery, would you shop for a cardiologist based on price?” She then launches into the risk associated with not getting it (your product/service) right.

What pains do your products/services solve?

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