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Banner Ads Bashed

In the last few weeks, there has been a rising tide of articles exposing the ineffectiveness of banner ads. One of these made reference to a study that said that search engine positioning was a far more effective form of on line advertising than banner ads. This piece of marketing brilliance was supposed to be startling new news.

I hate to be negative, but how many Harvard MBAs did it take to figure this out? Banner ads, most of which carry no message at all, are often little more than annoying. However, the person using a search engine is INTENTIONALLY LOOKING FOR SOMETHING. Hello…???

With marketing savvy of this stature, is it any surprise that dot com market capitalization dropped a tidy two and a half trillion dollars in the last year (yes, that’s a “t”- OUCH!). On the other hand, this is good news for companies specializing in search engine placement which is where the real battle for eyeballs is occurring (we use Insight Promotion, by the way – www.insightpro.com).

But where many of the dot com as well as traditional marketers have been missing the proverbial boat is the lack of the “other kind” of positioning – placing a product or service in the mind of the prospect.

What does this mean?

It is not just “We are the leading provider of ________”. Really? Who does the customer believe, you or your competitor who says the same thing? Positioning is a niche. It’s a focus. It’s a place in the mind.

It means when I say chocolate, most people think of Hershey; razor blades = Gillette; tissues = Kleenex; premium coffee = Starbucks; luxury hotel = Ritz Carlton; financial newspaper = the Wall Street Journal; on line books = Amazon, and so on.

Yahoo!, eBay, and Amazon have positions. Banner ads serve some purpose here, but you have one hell of a time increasing “brand awareness” when you do not first have a position in the mind of your public. What does the brand hang its hat on, thin air?

We repeat, a position is the place your product or service has in the mind of your public. The operative word is has. And if your communications strategy does not have and forward a unique position… in the words of Arnold the Great, “Hasta la vista, Baby”.

Okay, let’s be honest, it may not be that bad, it may just be that you will spend bucket loads more marketing dinero trying to get your message across than if it were properly positioned. No positioning means your marketing campaign is like a ship without a rudder. Not good in rough seas. Not good in any seas. You are communicating into a massively over-communicated society today. The average person is getting hit with 1,000 messages a day. What is going to make him remember yours?

Positioning, Baby. Because positioning ties your product or service to something that is already in his mind. “They are small round candies like Lifesavers but they’re chocolate.” Boom, you have an instant concept. Maybe you position against the leader (“Avis is only No. 2 in rent-a-cars, so why go with us? We try harder”), or with a favorable attribute (Volvo = safety), or a price point (Motel 6 = economy) or gender (Virginia Slims {politically correct or not, this brand has a strong position}). But however you do it, Positioning Rules.

The technology of finding an exact position for your product is done by survey. Why guess when you can get it right out of the minds of your public by asking them?

Did I mention that we do these surveys?

We highly recommend the groundbreaking book on the subject by Jack Trout and Al Reis – Positioning The Battle for Your Mind from which some of these examples are taken. .