Business Rule #46: |
Less is More
March 20, 2006
by Caroline Pfouts
The challenge of advertising is to attract attention,
tell a story, and sell a product. Whether the medium
is a television spot, a radio commercial, a print ad,
or a billboard, that’s a lot to do. Pack in too many elements and you lose your audience. It’s a tough balancing act—and that’s why there are so many bad ads out there.
This week, both teams did surprisingly well when charged with creating a billboard for Post’s new Grape Nuts Trail Mix Cereal. Synergy had a good basic concept: the next generation of Grape Nuts. The idea of a father and daughter enjoying the new cereal together wasn’t bad either.
Whenever a product claims to be “for everyone,” you can pretty much guess that the marketing team doesn’t understand their product or its audience. Although it would be nice to have everyone buy your product, positioning a brand for anyone with a pulse does nothing to define it. The first question a real marketing pro asks when evaluating a new product is: “What makes it different from everything else on the market?” Once you can articulate what makes your product special, you’re on the road to knowing who will buy it—and why.
Over on the Gold Rush team, Project Manager Charmaine Hunt kept the group discussion on track. “Billboards are only seen for a few seconds,” she reminded her team. She knew their message had to be something people could understand at a glance. She understood the medium.
The Gold Rush concept was appropriately simple: showing someone chugging the new cereal straight from the box. Their slogan was “It’s that good;” and they let their image tell the rest of the story. When they cast a model, they chose a wholesome-looking young woman and dressed her in workout clothes. Without words, they conveyed that this cereal is for health-conscious people, while the picture of her pouring it into her mouth straight from the box—no milk, no bowl—said it’s delicious. With three words, they communicated that the new Post cereal was a healthy cereal with an exciting taste. Great work.
Synergy’s idea was a little more complicated: passing on the new-and-improved cereal from parent to child. Not bad. Unfortunately, their choice of models was poor. The girl was great, but while the “father” may actually have been old enough to be her dad, he didn’t look it. Even if people mistook the man in the ad for the girl’s boyfriend, like Donald Trump did, the ad still could have worked.
The fatal flaw in the Synergy billboard was the combination of two design efforts that just didn’t mesh. While one group was off with Sean Yazbeck shooting photos of their models, the other committee was designing the lettering and graphics for the billboard. Sean knew Synergy was in trouble when he saw how detailed the lettering was: “It looks like a big box of cereal.” Just not as good. Tammy Trenta, the Synergy Project Manager, was too personally involved with the copy. When she saw the two designs integrated, she should have known it was too busy and solicited her teams help in simplifying it.