Define the Jargon, Humanize the Sale

Jun 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster

Special to TelevisionWeek

“What’s the difference between marketing and advertising?”

I was posed that question by an older businessman who said he’d never gotten a decent explanation. So of course, the pressure was on to give him a satisfactory answer.

Quickly scanning his office, I noticed trophies for his accuracy in clay shooting. So I decided to use shooting as a metaphor for defining advertising and marketing. “Advertising,” I said, “is the process of pulling the trigger and sending your message out into the world. Marketing is the process of knowing which way to point the gun.”

The businessman smiled, the meeting began, and he became a client.

But the terms “marketing” and “advertising” have wrongly become interchangeable during the past 20 years. Even the terms “marketing” and “sales” have become interwoven to the point where retail salespeople are often referred to as marketing specialists.

Why are clients baffled about the meaning of these words?

Our ever-changing jargon is to blame.

So for media-planning purposes, we propose the following definitions, listed in the order in which they occur:

Marketing: The process of planning the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to satisfy customers.

Advertising: Calling public attention to a product, a service or a company by means of paid announcements so as to affect perception or arouse consumer desire to make a purchase.

Sales: Transactions that involve the transfer of services or products for money.

Marketing, as we see it, involves the methodical process of identifying both the influencers and the end user of a product or service. In marketing planning we should always consider the fact that human beings seldom make purchases based on their decision alone and that they will often seek the opinions of friends or family.

The term “marketing” is often used to describe many different things. But in its purest form it is really about knowing who in the end is going make a decision to buy and how to best communicate with her.

Only after all of the decisions have been made about who’s buying the product, how she likes to be addressed, what the appropriate tone of the message should be and where she is most likely to see the message should we begin to move toward the advertising plan.

A good example is the 2006 Volkswagen GTI campaign featuring a white-suited German engineer and his blond dominatrix assistant trashing the cars of unwitting young men and then replacing the cars with the new GTI. These ads are being severely criticized by the automotive press, but Volkswagen sales, after a long negative slide, are up 20 percent this year.

Bottom line: These ads are working.

Volkswagen is back on the radar of American car buyers, thanks to a simple commercial that redefined how we feel about Volkswagen. That’s the power of a 30-second spot conceived, written, produced and aired in all the right places and at all the right times because the advertising agency took the time to understand not only who buys a Volkswagen but who is not buying a Volkswagen and why. That’s good marketing research.

Advertising, as described by my mentor, is the “process of translating a human thought to an electronic image, and then into a human experience.” In other words, advertising is using a television commercial to compensate for an opinion void in the mind of a consumer. It’s easy to see when very effective advertising campaigns are built on a solid marketing research effort.

At the local television station level we can help clients better target their influencers and consumers. Your TV station’s secondary research tools are useful, but the real help will come from talking to your current client and then looking at the messages being offered by your client’s top three competitors. When you look at those messages you are experiencing what a real consumer sees. Only then can you make appropriate recommendations on what tactics your client should be taking to the marketplace.

Advertising includes subterms such as “reach,” “frequency,” “demographic” “targeting,” “product buying windows” and the key television commercial retail elements.

A cash register ringing a sale is the only true indicator of a successful television campaign. But ironically, when asked, consumers seldom credit an advertising plan. This often causes client unrest.

It’s not to say that the advertising was ineffective. It just means that at the time of sale, the consumer has made a purchase based on features and benefits of the product or service. The television commercial is very far behind the customer emotionally, and he’s moved past the advertising impact and into his rationale to buy. This is why so many client customer surveys are flawed and contradictory, since at the point of purchase, consumers have forgotten about the advertising message.

Americans like to think that they’re not affected by advertising. If this were true, then nothing in our households would have a brand name on it. We buy brand names because we trust them. We trust these brands because we somehow felt comfortable buying them. And we felt comfortable buying them because we saw the commercials and were forced to subconsciously form an opinion about the product.

The purchase of a product is a vote by an American consumer for a successful marketing and advertising effort.

It’s the real vote, and the only one that truly matters.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. located in Red Bank, N.J.