What is the ultimate marketing message for a consumer product?

David Ogilvy, founder of one of the greatest advertising agencies of the last century, wrote a book titled “Confessions of an Advertising Man.” Rather than a “tell-all,” it is a “how-to” book. At its core is the belief that there is a perfect message for every product. In the 42-page PDF version available online, Mr. Ogilvy describes what it takes to come up with successful campaigns not just once by luck, but systematically. In the modern lexicon, ideas that “go viral.”

Ogilvy and Mather was an agency known for creative genius. Ideas burst from the subconscious of its writers and artists that captured consumers’ imaginations. It is important to note that the things Mr. Ogilvy says are required for success are “hard work, an open mind, and ungovernable curiosity.”

He is talking about research and analysis that is so in-depth and intense that the key facts about consumer needs and the product merge in the creative mind and produce a revelation. The creative juices don’t start to flow until after research and analysis are done or the results of brainstorming messages look more like the aftermath of a tornado than a bed of daffodils blooming after a spring rain.

An open mind asks questions. The information about consumers available now is way beyond what was at hand for Mr. Ogilvy. The data is also so accessible, at least by tapping into marketing services firms, that marketing managers have no excuse to not know precisely:

  • What market segments find their product appealing?
  • What else is going on in their lives?
  • How big potential sales to current market segments might be?
  • What potential might there be to reaching beyond current strong market segments and what differences these new market segments have that would affect the amount of effort needed to achieve sales goals?

What do customers like about your product? Secondary research tapping available databases may be sufficient guidance for the creative mind. When the risk/reward ratio is high enough, secondary research should lead to primary research to find out what key market segments value as the core product. Again, both among customers and among prospects, appended data highlights the people to engage. Attention directed beyond the key market segments is distracting information, not helpful.

There are so many methods to get consumers to reveal how they think that don’t involve the distortion of directly asking them, especially using targeted internet image/message presentations. Again, research, analysis and hard work come before the creative process is turned loose.

“Ungovernable curiosity” is a way to describe the “what if” element needed in the creative process. All the insights gained from research must be synthesized into a message that conveys the brand promise, the core product benefits and the value proposition in simple language that sticks in people’s minds.

There is an ultimate marketing message for every consumer product. Products that appeal to nearly everyone have messages with broad appeal (“Just Do It!” for Nike). Products that appeal to market segments with narrower core benefits have messages that resonate with their target market segment and clunk with the rest of the populace (“Zoom! Zoom!” for Mazda sporty cars).

Do the work. Ask questions. Immerse the creative mind in the data to discover the perfect message for your product. If you get stuck, let’s talk.

Contributing Author:
Clinton Kennedy
Senior Database Marketing Analyst

Jenny Lassi • October 13, 2020

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