Startups, Advertising and Brand Building

Advertising, Brand building and sales.

Exactly! This is what every start up would think in terms of progress that could happen through advertising.

So whatz aim of advertising. Is it aimed to build brands or bringing customers or for just making a feeler in the industry? Tough question to answer. If you ask advertising pundits, they would say that advertising helps to build brands. They would say that advertising could be helpful to build intangible asset in the mind of public.

Biggest problem for us is that we don’t have any tool to measure whether it hold true to their given commitment. As we know start ups don’t spend much money on advertising. If any startup does have an idea to do so, I’d say its sheer waste of money.

It would be surprising to hear this word from a person who has worked for an advertising agency. But truth is a truth. Let’s see why it’s not wise for startups to go for advertising.

Advertising is costly one: Advertising is always costly. It’s immeasurable. We don’t know whatz return for a particular advertisement. Just single or couple of insertions won’t be enough for a start up. It has to be done constantly and obviously it could incur huge costs. Advertising won’t suit budget of small start ups.

Advertising lacks credibility: Being a start up none of your customers would know you. Moreover by just giving multiple insertions in a top notch journal couldn’t convince your prospects about your products.

Advertising creates competition: Biggest problem of advertising is that you’d get noticed by your prospective competitor. This is not good for start ups. History says that successful companies are averse to get noticed by competitors. Google is great example of how it was averse to get noticed by competition. They kept their biz secret till they get listed in the stock exchange.

Having said these, I won’t say that there is no need for advertising. Advertising could definitely be helpful to increase sales, provided it should be done properly. Advertising should focus on changing behaviour rather than changing attitude of your customers.

Once start ups grow there might be possibility for them to advertise their products. It might become imminent for them to choose advertising. They should try to advertise to focus group rather than working on generic advertising like changing attitudes of customers. By focus group I mean target customers.

Advertising – Behavioural aspects holds the key

Changing Attitude vs Changing Behaviour

“If your assignment is to change minds don’t accept that assignment” – Jack Trout, Marketing Guru

Its simple common sense that it’s impossible for us to change basic attitude of a person. You can’t ask a politician to be clean in his job. It’s almost impossible. But make no mistake most of the advertising gurus are trying to do that and are wasting tons of money in that process. Unfortunately they’re not isolated guys, their consulting counterparts are advocating it and they’re almost complimenting each other.

It’s well known that when we’re almost 14 years of age everything gets finished. We use to have judgment for everything from education, food, interacting with people, making friends and from a to z. Most of the behavioural scientists seem to accept this. We believe what we believe inside within us. We have some conclusions and we work accordingly. But suddenly if someone asks us to change this it’s not possible for us to accept them.

But believe me advertising people are not willing to accept this notion. They believe that attitudes could be changed. Indians like cricket, even though it’s not their national game. Now if you ask a kid on question about national game, you’d be surprised to hear cricket from its answer. That’s the perception. It’s been created and it’s quite tough to change that perception.

But advertising people could try to make people to know about new and unique issue about their products. They should try to focus on uniqueness of their products and they could ask the prospects to try them. This has been said by dozens of marketing gurus decades before me and it could possibly be said by marketing gurus decades after this. But it’s impossible to change one’s attitude. You can’t change attitude of advertising people. They’d always try to achieve impossible. There’s thrill in achieving impossible.

Now coming to the point of attitude vs behaviour, I’d try to make it simple for your understanding. I’m regular reader of business books. If any advertiser would like to advertise business books, they just can’t make me to get impressed by giving statistics of the book. May be just may be I could get impressed on knowing name of the author. That’s definitely one criterion. Other than that, nothing is there. If it’s well known author like C.K. Prahalad, Jack Trout everyone would pick that book. There is no need to advertise too much. If it’s not known author, what could be the gimmick to attract me.

Uniqueness about the subject could play crucial role for me to learn more about that book. May be new technology, new biz opportunity, may be writing about impossible achievement (Black swan), and others. This could be helpful for me to change my behaviour. Yeah, this is what I’m saying about changing behaviour. Everyone would love to learn new things viz., new opportunity, new technologies and others. This is about behaviour. My attitude remains same, but my behaviour might get changed to the given situation. Advertisers must try to change the behaviours of prospects than changing their basic attitude.

I’d give another example on changing behaviour. This is well known example.
“Avis is No.2 in rent-a-cars. We try harder”. This is classical example for behavioural advertising. Its simple logic that people always like winners. But still they love underdogs.

Your favourite team in cricket might be Australia. But still you love India, because its own country, plus they’re behaving as if they’re trying harder. Basic attitude of Indian team remains same, not winning big matches and winning on important occasion, but they tried to improve their status by creating world record (4 Centuries by top 4 batsmen) against Bangladesh and possibly with other minnows.

Building Brands

So whatz the aim of advertising? Quick answer “Building Brands”. How much of truth in it, remains a question. It seems to be ready made answer for any advertising practitioner across the world. We need to ask it to ourselves. Is it possible for us to measure this assertion? It’s really tough to come up with answer.

But we’re constantly proclaiming that Advertising Build Brands. If this is true, how it’s possible for Google, Linux, Microsoft, I-Pod to build brands. Any kid would say that these brands are build by word of mouth than advertising. So why advertising people are often behaving like “Confident Bluffers” than working truly towards their goal of acting as an insurance for brands. Advertising won’t build brands, but it acts as insurance for brands.

Brands could be built by public relations than so called advertising. But don’t misunderstand that advertising is not needed for a brand. Advertising is important for a brand, but it is not a tool to build a brand.

Advertising should be used as insurance for your brand. You must know how to use advertising. You shouldn’t use advertising as a strategy. It’s not a strategy. Ofcourse advertising in one or other way might become necessity, but it’s not a tool to build your brands.

Why advertising couldn’t build your brands. Let’s say for example, you’re coming with hottest technology in online space. Say you’re spending 100k in front page of a magazine. Do you believe that prospects would use your killer app just by seeing your advertising? Ask yourself, would you try others product by just seeing their advertising in front page. It’s not possible. You would love to read reviews of the product, you could probably ask for reference, you could love to get a demo and other writings in the press. Then how it’s reasonable for you to believe that your prospects would love the product by just seeing your front page advertisements.

To conclude, I’d say that advertising should be used properly like your martial skills. Advertising is a precious tool, so you should use it at right time that shouldn’t bring chaos for your finance department. Because Advertising is precious, it’s costly. Act accordingly!

6 Responses to “Startups, Advertising and Brand Building”

  1. Supradeep says:

    First, I appreciate the amount of thought process behind the article.But, there is a basic flaw in the line of thinking. Is there a so called “brand” for a startup? think again. Advertising is not just about getting a front page in the magazine, its about arousing interest in the target audience.

    True – Startup’s cant afford COSTLY advertising, they can very well afford afford ADVERTISING. There are various ways of advertiising which are affordable. Everything boils down how RELATIVE, creative the content is!!

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