Good Advertising With Bad Results
by Chad Rueffert

Sometimes advertising just doesn’t work.  I hate to say it, but I’d be naïve not to believe it since I’ve seen it happen many times. Even creative, well-placed, strategically sound advertising sometimes just doesn’t work.  The big question business owners ask is why. Why am I spending all this money to talk to my customers and yet no one seems to be listening?  If you’ve committed yourself to a true advertising campaign then the problem is not exposure, it’s response.  People do see or hear your advertisement; they’re just not motivated to act on it. Let’s cover a few of the main reasons why this happens.


Bad Product

There’s an old adage that says advertising a bad product will only put you out of business faster.  Admitting your product, service, company or concept is a failure is one of the hardest things in business.  But sometimes it’s just simply true.  It didn’t matter how much Coca-Cola advertised New Coke -- no one wanted to buy it.  The product was fine, but the concept was a failure.  Demand is what drives sales.  It may seem a good idea to open a German Restaurant because there are no others in town.  But you may find out there are no competitors because there is simply no demand for schnitzel.  If you seriously advertise your product and yet have no response from the buying public, it’s a good idea to seriously re-thing the product itself.


Bad Pricing

Even a good product can fail with bad pricing.  To test if this is an issue, take all pricing information out of your advertising and see if store, phone or website traffic increases.  If it does, you know your pricing was the issue.  If it doesn’t, you’ve probably got a different problem.


Bad Timing

Some heavily advertised, well-designed and affordably-priced products fail simply because of bad timing.  If the market is saturated with options in video games, your new game may not sell no matter how cool it is.  Did a competitor beat you to the market?  “Me, too” marketing is far more difficult than advertising something unique.  Just because your product is ready for market, doesn’t mean the market is ready for your product.


Bad Location

This is a relatively obvious problem.  No advertising can fix the fact that your location is too far away or too hard to find.


Bad Marketing Strategy

Not all products, services or companies should be advertised.  Often, companies use advertising when they should be focusing on other aspects of the marketing mix.  In some cases, a company that spends $100,000 a year on media advertising might be better served to hire two $50,000 a year sales people.  Complex products, products with narrow public appeal and geographically limited companies are good examples. 


Consider the bad location example.  If customers can’t come to you, it’s time to take your show on the road.  Send your sales people out to where your customers are, and use your advertising as a support system. 


A Bad Support System

Some people think advertising should result in sales.  In a perfect world that’s true.  But unless you are offering a direct response product, there are usually several steps your customer must go through between being exposed to your advertising and actually purchasing your product.  Even if your advertising is outstanding, if you fail during any of those other steps, you’ll fail to make the sale.  Let’s take a bank for example.  A customer may see your television ad and then write down your phone number and website.  If they call your number, somebody better be there to answer.  They probably won’t call again.  If they visit your website, it had better be up and running and provide all the information they need.  If they visit your location, you had better have ample parking, courteous employees, a short line, etc.  For most products or services, advertising can generate awareness, interest, desire and even action.  But if that action hits a roadblock, the sale disappears.


Advertising is a business function that does not exist in a vacuum.  There are lots of reasons why advertising campaigns fail, and sometimes it’s the fault of the advertising itself.  But when your advertising fails to deliver, start by analyzing your product, pricing, location, timing, strategy and support system before you fire your ad agency!