A general who leads troops into battle without a mission and a clear plan is headed for defeat. A hiker setting out into the wilderness alone without a map and a final destination is headed for disaster. A business that launches an advertising campaign without a clearly defined advertising objective is also destined for failure.
Advertising is the most powerful tool any business has. A single advertising campaign can create awareness, enhance brand image, announce important news, open a new store, launch a new product, expand a geographic market knock out a competitor, build retail traffic or increase sales.
Advertising is powerful – but it isn’t almighty. You can’t expect one ad or one campaign to take care of all your business needs all at once.
A well-planned and thought out ad campaign can accomplish almost anything – but you must first clearly define what exactly you want your advertising to do. This means setting a single primary objective.
It sounds pretty simple, but you’d be amazed at the number of advertising campaigns that fail because they either lack an objective entirely or their objective is too broad and not clearly defined.
That’s because setting a clear and realistic advertising objective is more complicated than many business people think. In fact, a number of successful entrepreneurs and experienced business people don’t really know what an advertising objective is and how to establish one.
Setting an advertising objective is the first step any advertising agency or business does before creating any campaign. A clear, carefully defined objective provides the solid foundation needed to develop every element of the campaign from start to finish.
A solid objective is the basis for setting the advertising strategy. The strategy determines “how” the ad will get the desired results and the tactics that will work best. The objective and strategy are the foundation of any successful ad campaign.
The specific objective and strategy determine the creative approach used. It’s the basis for the style and content of the copy, as well as the visual elements of the campaign.
Targeting the right audience is also impossible. The objective of the advertising and the resulting strategy are key elements in audience segmentation and the selection of primary and secondary target customers. Without definite advertising objectives and the strategies based on them, it would be impossible to make efficient and cost effective media buying decisions.
Advertising budgets are also based on the objectives as well. Unless you know precisely what you want to accomplish, you can’t know how much money it will cost to get the job done right.
Finally, measuring and determining the effectiveness of any advertising requires clearly stated advertising objectives. To know whether or not the advertising worked, you first need to know your objective – or what it is that the advertising is trying to accomplish. Working with specific objectives, you can then benchmarks, define the measurement process and analyze the results.
Objectives are so critical to advertising success because the entire campaign rests onn them. Yet so many businesses, small and large alike, don’t spend as much time developing them as they should.
On Madison Avenue, we have a simple but very effective way of developing advertising objectives that are realistic and produce results. It’s an organized and disciplined approach that involves answering five basic questions that build a clear objective as you progress. Here are the questions you need to answer to set an effective advertising objective, along with a real-life example of how it works:
Why Are You Advertising? Write down the main reason you need to advertise. Is it to increase sales, build retail traffic, generate leads, announce a sale, open a new location, launch a new product, fight off competition. Select just one. The most effective and cost-efficient advertising is tightly focused. If you absolutely, positively and beyond a shadow of a doubt have equally strong reasons for running the same advertising at the same time, write them down. Then prioritize your reasons as 1, 2 and 3 with your first priority being the most important. For most businesses, the basic underlying reason for all their advertising is sales. Let’s take the case of a small but successful gourmet food company. The reasons they want to advertise are building brand awareness, facilitating wholesale distribution, increasing retail grocery, specialty, mail order, Internet and restaurant sales, as well launching a new seasonal BBQ product. After reviewing their written priority list, the company saw they expected their advertising to accomplish far too much. Especially since they were a small company with a small advertising budget.
What Do You Want To Accomplish? Determine the one most important thing you need the advertising to do. Be as specific as possible. Merely stating to “increase sales” as an object is far too broad. Ask yourself exactly what type of sales you want to increase. Our gourmet food company reviewed its list several times and narrowed their basic objective to “increase retail grocery store sales by 30%”. All the company did was fine-tune its thinking. Rather than focusing on all its channels including specialty stores, wholesalers, mail order and Internet sales, the company decided to concentrate on retail grocery store sales.
Who Do You Want To Primarily Target? Ask yourself who is the primary customer I want to reach. Once again, keep fine-tuning your answer to this question. Some of the important factors to consider include whether you want to reach consumers or businesses, females, males or both, people of specific ages and incomes, all your customers or only current, former or new customers, as well as other relevant demographic and lifestyle traits. In our gourmet specialty food company example, a clearly focused target audience would be “female shoppers 29-65 with household incomes over $75,000. The company’s advertising objective evolved from “increasing sales” to “increasing retail grocery store sales by 30%, to “increasing retail grocery store sales by 30% from female shoppers ages 29 -65 with household incomes of $75,000+”
When to You Want to This to Happen? Next you need to determine exactly over what time period you want the objective to be reached. The answer to this depends on your specific business and market objectives. It could a week, a month, six months or even a year. Our specialty food company forecast weak fourth quarter sales, so it decided to run the campaign from late August through the end of December. This further clarified the objective as “increasing 4th quarter retail grocery store sales by 30% from female shoppers ages 29 -65 with household incomes of $75,000+”.
Where Do You Want This To Happen? Whether you’re a local, regional, national or global business, you need to determine exactly in what geographic market you want your advertising to accomplish the objective. Local retailers might focus on residents of one town or reach decide to reach out to people within a 50 mile radius. A regional or national business may opt to concentrate on a few specific states, whereas a global advertiser might limit their campaign to only one country. You make this decision based on your specific business and market needs. Our gourmet food company’s retail grocery distribution is almost exclusively on the East Coast. Since the majority of its sales come from stores in the northeast, the company decided to concentrate the advertising campaign only in this region. By following these five simple steps, the company’s advertising objective evolved from just “increasing sales” to “increasing 4th quarter retail grocery store sales in the Northeast by 30% from female shoppers ages 29 -65 with household incomes of $75,000+”.
As you can see from our example, the company and its advertising agency now have a single very clear and precise objective that will guide them in creating the campaign, setting a budget, selecting media and evaluating the effectiveness of the advertising with cold hard numbers.
The company’s advertising objective resulted in a very effective campaign that increased retail grocery sales from its target market by 39% in the fourth quarter – almost 10% over the objective. But like many carefully planned and creatively executed advertising campaigns, it accomplished even more.
Our food company initially wanted to increase sales in their other channels and facilitate greater wholesale distribution too. Even though the company funneled almost all their advertising budget into the retail grocery campaign, specialty store, mail order and Internet sales each increased by between 9% and 14% as well. Their advertising, even though designed to target only northeast grocery store shoppers, had a “rub off” effect on other customers as well.
The company also noticed after the advertising campaign that wholesale distributors continued to increase their inventories. New distributors were calling to inquire about their product line as well. The campaign was obviously facilitating distribution too.
Try this proven 5 step approach to create effective advertising objectives that produce measurable results.
You’ll see a major difference on your bottom line between following an objective of “increasing sales” versus “increasing 4th quarter retail grocery store sales in the Northeast by 30% from female shoppers ages 29 -65 with household incomes of $75,000+”. Like all executives always say “the devil is in the details”.