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Change is inevitable, but is it good? That depends

Generic, all-to-frequent advertising conversation:

CLIENT: “I want to change my advertising.”

AGENCY: “Are your sales down?”


AGENCY: “Are you losing market share? Are inquires waning?”


AGENCY: “Then why do we need to change?”

CLIENT: “Because people are tired of our advertising.”

I’m not saying that the general public doesn’t get tired of certain ads, but from a marketing standpoint, we must be careful to not jump the gun. Remember, as a business owner, you are much, much closer to your brand than the general public.

You will consider your advertising messages to be “worn out” long before anyone else does.

So, to answer the question posed in the title of this column — change is good, but only if it is needed. So how do we know if it is needed? I could go into a lengthy and philosophical diatribe regarding “burn out” theories, when frequency becomes mere repetition, diminishing returns, etc. — but I won’t.

A true believer in the KISS method, I offer readers the following checklist:

— Am I losing marketshare?

— Are revenues down?

— Has new competition moved into the market?

— Does my current advertising no longer reflect the culture/direction of my company?

— Is my target audience still the same?

— Is my core competency still the same?

Answering “yes” to any one of these questions may mean it is time to change your advertising message and/or brand direction. If you answered “not really” to these questions, then there is probably no need to make a change.

So let’s pretend the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes,” and you need to make a significant change in your marketing strategy. What does this change entail, and what kind of results can you expect?

The first thing required in any significant change is money. That is not something that business owners want to hear, but it is the truth. Also true is the fact that, if done correctly, money spent on changing marketing strategy is an investment that more than pays for itself in increased business down the road. But just like with any marketing/advertising strategy, if done the wrong way, it becomes an expense. And when we’re talking about CHANGE, it can be a big expense. So, lesson one, be as sure as you can be that you are changing your marketing strategy in the right direction. Spending a few extra dollars on research upfront can save you major expenses, and headaches, in the future.

Lesson two, be patient. It is human nature to resist change. We find comfort in familiarity, although we often find results along the road less traveled. My agency has undertaken name changes, branding changes and shifting advertising strategy for a variety of businesses in all manner of service and product industries. Almost without fail, there is a downturn in business following a significant marketing strategy change. Sometimes this downturn is negligible. Other times, it is more pronounced. Some businesses don’t have the stomach for it, and revert back to old, familiar territory without giving the new strategy a chance to work. Companies who stick it out for a few months almost always see sales return to previous levels, and then proceed to climb to much higher levels. Patience is a virtue, and this virtue leads to revenue.

Our final lesson, be confident. If you have done the research, are comfortable with the developed strategy and have the financial resources to properly implement your marketing change, then stand behind the change. There will be naysayers, probably within your organization, but I go back to my second point — patience. If there was truly a need to make a change, and the preliminary work was done correctly, it will pay off in the long run.

And now a piece of advice to all those businesses who answered “not really” to the above list of questions: As countless wise men have said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “Because you’re tired of your advertising” should be the last reason to change anything. If you can’t help thinking that you’re “tired of your advertising,” just ask yourself, “Am I tired of my profits?”

Tim Mask is vice president of brand planning and development at Maris, West & Baker advertising in Jackson. He can be reached at tim.mask@mwb.com.

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