As we learn the many new ways to advertise created by new digital media, are we forgetting some advertising basics?  Why do we advertise?  To break it down to its simplest form, we advertise for one of the following reasons:

  1. To increase awareness of a product or service, so when someone needs that product or service, the one with the most awareness gets the best chance of making a sale.  This is called top of mind awareness (TOMA).
  2. To solve a problem, whether it be a dip in traffic, too much inventory or some other situation that can be solved by getting the word out.
  3. To take advantage of an opportunity, such as the closing of a competing business, a big price advantage over competitors, an event going on that you can capitalize on, or having the product or service needed at just the right time.

While there could be other reasons to advertise, if you break it down to basics, most reasons will fall under the above three categories.

Increasing awareness (TOMA advertising) has always been one of the most powerful ways to grow a business.  It is a proven fact (http://www.toma.com/workshops.htm) that the amount of awareness of a product or service directly correlates to share of market for that product or service.  But changes in consumer habits have changed everything: where it used to be as easy as just running a consistent ad flight in the newspaper, radio or TV, factors such as the cost of the ads, diminishing audience for the ads and changing consumer-shopping habits have all created new challenges.

The cost/reach ratio of traditional media has made TOMA advertising very expensive.  At the same time, even when consumers think of your brand first, it is easy to go to the Internet to research or compare prices. When consumers go to the internet, it increases the chance that even the most well-known brands could lose to a competitor that may appear above them in a search engine, be linked to related sites or a variety of other ways they are found on the internet.

So what’s replacing the traditional way to gain top of mind awareness?  The bad news is there are few ways that are as easy as buying some ads and sitting back while the media does the work.  However, one new medium that may work similar to traditional media, but costs less and is still effective, is Place Based Media, also known as Digital Signage. You’ve seen them in hotels, supermarkets, restaurants and many public places where there are large numbers of people. Digital Signage works much like traditional media, only better, because the audiences are clearly defined based on the location of the advertising.  Plus, the audiences can be as big or bigger than traditional media, while costing much less.

Social Media, email marketing, and banner advertising are other ways to stay in front of your potential customers using new media.  As you may know, Social Media takes a lot of your time.  You have to build a following and continue to communicate with your followers.  We have found social networking works better for some businesses than others, especially social businesses such as radio stations, amusement parks, and bowling alleys. If your business has a social aspect, then social media can be very effective.  Business to business social networking is good on a site such as LinkedIn.  However, retail stores have a harder time because people do not want stores trying to sell things to them.

Banner advertising on Facebook under the sponsored ads and Google AdWords are very good ways to keep your name in front of a select group of potential customers.  Finally, email marketing is one of the best ways to keep high awareness among your best customers, which are people who subscribe to your emails.

Using new media to solve problems or take advantage of opportunities is a little more challenging.  If you do not have a big email list or fan base on Facebook, there are few ways you can reach a lot of people quickly for events like sales.  However, if you do have a large following on Facebook and do have a large email list, you can reach your best customers and followers quickly and with a great deal of impact. One other good way to reach many people quickly is with Facebook sponsored ads.

Finally, one of the hottest new ways of marketing in the digital age is Search Engine Marketing. Search engines on the Internet have been the biggest factor in changing how the consumer shops and buys. This form of advertising is unique to anything we did in the 1900’s.  The fundamental difference is instead of the advertisers reaching out to the consumer, the consumer reaches out to the advertisers.  The trick is to be there, where and when the consumer is reaching out.  This form of advertising does not correlate with any of the traditional forms.  But as the universe of consumers who shop on line grows, Search Engine Advertising will become one of the most important ways to grow your business.