I spent this morning at another "creative session" at a local winery discussing upcoming brands, labels, graphics, slogans and whatever else came to mind with these concepts. After wards I dropped in on a staff member of our county promotional arm and talked about our upcoming board meeting. We'll be discussing branding and what that means for us up here.
While I was talking I realized that I spent the morning talking about branding/marketing and I'm on the board of two organizations, one for our county and one for our city, devoted to marketing and promotion.
On the two boards we talk a lot about advertising. Where to advertise, what the ad looks like, consistency of message, fulfillment, etc. However my own business almost never advertises.
We have tried pretty much all the available media, except for television, tracked the results as best we could, and determined that we do just as much business, if not more when we don't advertise than when we do.
I suppose what this means is I write and design crappy ads. Advertising clearly has to work, otherwise people wouldn't continue to spend money on it. I suspect though there may be something more going on.
First, I'm convinced there's a certain threshold of saturation/dollar amount below which it's pointless to advertise. Many factors influence this figure, type of industry, market, demographic, and others. The aggravating thing is I don't know what that number is.
I realize this sounds confusing. Here's an example. Let's say for a particular set of factors the advertising threshold is $20,000 per year. The owner of the business is unaware of this number and routinely spends $16,000 per year on advertising. Since the threshold is never reached, the advertising isn't effective and the money would have been better spent on other things. Or the budget increased to reach the threshold.
I have nothing to back this up other than my own instinct. If anyone has practical experience with this please let me know.
Second, I'm not convinced it's appropriate for restaurants to advertise. I've read comments from some restaurateurs that if they see ads for a place they assume it's in trouble. Thoughts please.
That said, we do advertise, sparingly. At this point basically with people who will trade with us. We just don't have the cash to toss at something which has historically brought us little return. Some of our ads also try to weed out customers as much as attract them which might be part of our problem. For instance during the summer we have run an ad which read "if you want an ocean view, go to the beach. If you want great food come to..." Which we think is funny and also serves our purpose of eliminating what we call "the clam chowder people".
During the summer at least one party per evening leaves either before or after being seated because we don't have clam chowder. I like clam chowder, but just because our place is somewhat near the water there's some obligation to have clam chowder on the menu? We also get people either calling or trying to wander around the dining room before service wanting to know about an ocean view. Now it is true you can see the ocean from our place, but having more integrity than your average realtor, I'd hesitate to say we have an ocean view. I'm more a spirit of the law, rather than letter of the law kind of guy I guess.
So perhaps our advertising is less than effective because in some of it (and truly not most of it) we have chosen to be somewhat obnoxious.
At any rate, I feel sorry for the winery and the two boards I'm on. I think they've got the wrong man for the job.