For most of my life I was a consumer of ads. Well, it's a habit I can't seem to kick so I guess I'm still a consumer of ads. Now I'm a producer of ads. Which means now I know even less about ads. I'm not good at ads (yet), but here's what I figured out about ads, marketing, branding, and positioning so far.
Just like everyone else I am mildly excited to watch superbowl commercials. I knew a kid whose parents called him in from outside when superbowl commercials came on. When they went off, he ran back outside. He's grown up to be a fine young man, stop judging.
This year, things will be different. I'll be looking at the superbowl ads (if I watch it at all with more perceptive ads) trying to figure out production budgets, storylines, branding impact, distribution costs, views, return on spend, re-watches on youtube and a host of other things.
There oughta be an adage that says you don't know anything about anything until you make it.
Everyone loves cake. Not everyone can make a good cake. The first key is to follow the right recipe. The second key is to use the right ingredients (never underestimate the power of pastry flour to make whatever cake-y thing you make be more tender and delicious; hint: it's the protein content).
We were talking about ads, not Betty Crocker. I didn't know anything about ads until I started putting my 'skin in the game' and cash into running facebook and google ads. No, I'm not trying to sell you a course or talk to you about ad strategy.
While running ads, I learned how to search for better information about advertising, persuasion, etc. After too much google and not enough coffee, what people were saying about marketing started to click. I started to understand how the four hoursemen of marketing work together:
Because I've abused you with enough story so far, let's jump right to the working model I have in my head:
Marketing - selecting the people you want to serve.
Positioning - setting how you want people to think about your product in relation to other products.
Branding - creating the overall effect that you want those people to experience as distinct from every other service and product.
Advertising - paying people to expose your brand, message, and/or offer to other people.
The problem was that I'd read a few things about marketing and not enough branding. Then I'd read about branding and forget about positioning and marketing (which I just read about).
It wasn't until I created a nice little image in my head that I started to see how each of these are aspects of the same reality. I started thinking about the paperboy on a corner screaming "extra extra, read all about it".
For the paperboy, selecting the corner to stand on, or the route to deliver is key. You want to be where people are buying, and neighbors tip you on holidays. That's marketing - choosing the people willing to pay for what you're offering.
This same paperboy thinks about his positioning by trying to impress his boss with his work ethic, and impress his clients by delivering the news on time, and probably before any other paperboy can or is willing to get to them.
This paperboy may wear a uniform of tattered clothes to portray poverty so people take pity and buy his papers. Or he might work in pinstripes and suspenders to give the effect of success for people to associate with his branding. He may even wear the same style/color hat so he's easily identifiable.
Advertising, well he's in a special place because he's advertising a business that runs on advertising. That's so meta, right? He'll scream at the top of his lungs on corners, knock doors after school to sell subscriptions. Or he may try to go the bulk route and deliver piles of newspapers to coffee shops and convenience stores, but by this time, he probably is old enough to drive a newspaper truck.
This little guy probably didn't think much about positioning or advertising, but he's doing it. He probably has thought more about how fun it is to ride his bike than whether his route is economically efficient.
Anyhow, if you think of your business like this paperboy, then you can understand how marketing, branding, advertising, and positioning works for both of you. And of course, doing it well is much harder.