THE BASICS OF ADVERTISING AND ADS: THE Offer
Sunday, June 11
Written from my ‘makeshift office’ on the first floor of a guesthouse in Old Quarter Hanoi, Vietnam.
This will be contrarian for some.
I talk about a product whose offering may be considered ‘racist’ or ‘demeaning’—yet it depends entirely on where you see this product and from what frame of mind you see it.
It’s also a contrarian article because it will make some people feel stupid.
You see, for these people, they’ve focused on the wrong things for so long that they can’t afford to be wrong—purely because of their ego.
They’ll finally realize why their ads haven’t been pulling in the results they’ve been looking for.
Yet they thought they were doing ‘everything right’.
So, with this in mind, let’s get on the right track:
When most people create ads, they focus on the ‘thing’—what they’re selling, providing, or giving away…
… this is known as the offer.
Then they’ll go and focus on the ‘other’ stuff, like who it will go out to and what the ad will say.
This is 100% wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
If you have read the first part on how to make a great advertisement, you’ll remember that the LIST is the most important part of any ad.
It forces you to focus on the people you’re trying to reach and then understand what to offer them.
The second most important part of an ad being the offer, which I’m explaining now…
… and the third part on how to make a great advertisement lies in the creative—something I’ve built my career around.
Now, with all three of these parts working together in sync, you’ll have an ad that works.
This 3-part ‘Advertising Basics’ series was inspired by John Francis Tighe, a legendary copywriter known for his ‘3-Legged Stool’ analogy.
I’m not going to explain it again, but if you’ve forgotten the simple analogy or haven’t read the first part of this series, read more about it here:
The Basics of Advertising and Ads: The List - 2017
As an aside, John Francis Tighe was also purportedly a heavy user of one of my favourite sayings:
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
But, I digress… let’s get back to the writing.
A ‘Controversial’ Product Offering… Which Only Works With The Right List
Now, let’s jump into the ‘controversial’ product.
I’ve seen it, and variations of it, several times when travelling in Thailand, and seen again in Vietnam, this month when I popped into a store to grab a bottle of cold water.
It’s also a line of products I’ve seen in the Philippines many years ago, probably around 15 years or so, from my recollection.
I’d imagine it’s still alive and kicking—considering it taps into the psyche of its audience so well.
It was this:
This doesn’t currently work in mass-market Australia (but it easily could and I’ll explain why shortly).
Evidence of this is the fact that it isn’t sold in Australia, despite Nivea being one of the market leaders in the same category for the exact same product.
The only difference here in the offering between what you get in Australia, and what you are offered in Asia is the whitening aspect.
Everything else is what you’d normally expect from a deodorant.
Clearly, Nivea has looked at their list.
They’ve then created and marketed their product offering based around this perceived problem and voila!
A whitening deodorant is born.
There’s also a whole slew of other whitening products sold in Asia that simply don’t exist in the Western world, such as:
These products are all creations born from a clear understanding of their list, their audience, their target markets—whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same at the end of the day.
Why This Make Sense… Yet Doesn’t
Now, from my perspective, these products make complete sense.
My mother is a Filipino and she constantly complains about getting ‘dark skin’ or sunburnt.
This provides me with an ‘unfair’ advantage when it comes to insight.
I had the right information to understand the product offering.
This isn’t a ‘white’ superiority thing as I’ve heard from others, it’s simply that in the Philippines, when mum was growing up, darker skin was a sign that you worked outside.
This meant you were probably poor—you didn’t have an office job, basically.
Mum doesn’t want to be seen as poor (who does?) so she avoids getting too much sun.
That’s ingrained in her thinking. Similar to how tipping is normal to many Americans.
However, I’ve seen many of my friends (who live in Australia) make comments and provide looks ranging from amusement to outrage when they see these whitening products.
The difference in mindset that these cultures have created makes it almost impossible to figure out why they sell them—without the right information—so they jump to conclusions.
I’ve heard variations on comments like, ‘why would they want to be white?’ or ‘it’s sad they don’t want to be their own skin colour’ quite often, which could make sense when you don’t have enough information to run off.
It’s a similar reason why fake tan isn’t typically a big seller in Asia.
In Asia, many wonder why people would want darker skin so it seemed like they were outside all the time—it simply doesn’t make any sense to a large segment of their population.
It’s also why so many of their beaches, some of the best in the world not including Australia’s own, don’t have hordes of locals sunbaking.
Which makes the juxtaposition between sunbathing foreigners fawning for sun even greater when you see the locals covered head to toe, sometimes even with a full-face scarf to avoid the sun’s rays!
Explaining it like this often gets the point across that it’s not something nefarious, but simply cultural differences made clear through product marketing.
Note: I’m not saying that the various shades of your skin being an indication of wealth is any better.
It's clear from this that your offer is based on your list, and that your offer can easily shift to cater to the needs of this list.
So, how can we apply this idea to your business?
Using Your List To Make Your Offer Work
I mentioned that whitening deodorants don’t sell in the mass-market in Australia… but it easily could.
“How?” you ask, knowing now that it was cultural differences that caused this product to be born in the first place and that the perceived value doesn’t translate across as easily from one region to another.
Well, looking at the one quality that makes it a dud at the moment (whitening properties) could easily transform it into a winner depending on who it’s marketed to.
So, there’s two obvious choices here:
Changing Where Your Offer Is Found
This relies on your data and the ability to segment where your offer can be found and bought.
So, for the example of the whitening creams, we could make sure it was stocked only on the shelves of majority Asian immigrant purchasers. This is a geographic-based distribution method, or to niche stores catering to Asian immigrants.
This is a buyer demographic most likely to agree with the value proposition of a deodorant (which they’re buying anyway) plus a whitening cream (which they’re more likely to see as a positive).
Now, for most businesses, here are some examples on how you could control where your offer can be found.
For traditional marketing channels:
For digital marketing channels:
So, plenty of options there if you’re clever about it.
Now, let’s look at changing the offer to market to another segment entirely.
Changing The Offer And Marketing To Another Segment
This is how I believe a whitening deodorant could get to the mass-market in Australia.
You wouldn’t need to change anything in your actual product, except how your product is offered.
Let’s see how:
There is a huge rise in laser and chemical hair removal going on at the moment—a lot of this is to remove underarm hair.
Unfortunately, this process can lead to scars or a darkening of your armpits.
Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going.
So, we’re not changing the product in any way—we’re just changing the positioning of your offer.
The whitening deodorant now helps remove scars and darkening that can happen from hair removal methods.
It also removes any of the negative connotations an Australian audience may have surrounding a whitening cream based on demographic targeting.
I’d wager there are several ways your existing products or services could use this method to make your marketing work more effectively.
In fact, if you’re stuck send me a message and I’ll see if I can’t help you think up of a couple—for free!
And you say I never give you anything…
Summary: Why Offers Are Important In Marketing
Here’s the condensed version.
Offers are important in marketing because it’s literally what you’re selling or providing.
Without an offer that makes sense, you may as well close shop and do something else.
If you’ve got an offer that solves a problem, but it’s not selling well:
Many times, you just need to change how your offer is positioned to get an ad working well.
Keep in mind the legendary copywriter John Francis Tighe’s ‘3-Legged Stool’ approach to marketing, and you’ll be set for a great campaign.
The three legs were:
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Brisbane's senior direct response copywriter
JC Steadman Marketing
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