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1. Focusing on features rather than benefits

SO much advertising is ineffective because the people behind it forget that the customer only cares about what’s in it for them. If you’re a dentist trying to get people to come to you for their root canals, put focus on the benefits – having a beautiful smile, preventing tooth loss, etc. – not just the root canal itself. No one wants a root canal, so why would you only advertise that part – the feature?

Another problem with focusing on features is that it’s typically just a lot of jargon that no one really understands or cares about. I saw a flyer for a company called Meritage Homes that had the sub-heading, “OBS roof sheathing with radiant barrier”. Are you sold on whatever this roof product is yet? I’m not. Nor do I know what it is. However, below that, the copy read, “This reflects heat away from the roof, keeping the home cooler in the summer, and saving you money on your energy bill!” This actually tells the customer what they want to know – how they’ll benefit from this roof sheathing with radian barrier that they really don’t know anything about.

If you want to do advertising right, advertise the benefits. Don’t think about what you do – think about what you do for consumers.

2. Putting creativity before message

I worked in an advertising agency for over a year, and I loved the creative side of it. Meetings were spent playing with Lego to “foster creativity”, we were all constantly coming up with the zaniest ideas possible, and there was nothing more exciting than working with a client who wanted something far-out and imaginative. Those of us on the creative team would get frustrated when account managers would tell us that the client wanted something simpler, something less original, and something that just generally didn’t align with our desire to get wild and wacky with our concepts.

But here’s the thing. Portfolio winners don’t always equate to winning sales. How often have you seen incredibly creative advertising that you love, but that gives you zero desire to actually buy/use the product being advertised? It happens all the time. Great advertising should definitely be creative, but not by sacrificing meaningful message.

3. Not understanding the target audience/failing to do adequate research

This can go back to the creativity conundrum again – if you don’t understand the potential customers you’re trying to target, it’s useless trying to produce and implement an effective advertising campaign. Too often, advertisers get caught up in the “big idea” stage of making ads, and forget that their big idea should be directly related to what they’ve discovered about the target audience.

4. Not tracking results/wasting money.

This is a particular problem with smaller, more localized advertising campaigns. Giant companies like Coca Cola are constantly and thoroughly researching their target audience and then tracking how much they were effected by their ads after being exposed to them. Smaller ad agencies and companies that just do their own advertising rarely have a sound understanding of how beneficial their advertising and marketing actually is. If you aren’t tracking the results of a campaign or advertising strategy you’ve implemented, how do you know if the money you spent on it was worth it? You don’t. So track your results.

5. Disregarding the importance of a call to action

Customers are bombarded with countless messages from advertisers every day – what’s going to motivate them to choose you? The least you can do to raise the chances of your company standing out and gaining new customers from advertising is to include a relevant and effective call to action. You’d be surprised how many ads neglect this crucial element of good marketing.

6. Clichés

Ugh. There’s nothing worse than cliché advertising. From annoying phrases to impossible-to-prove superlatives, the world of advertising is filled with horrendously overused clichés. Consumers are basically immune to them at this point, so they really serve no purpose whatsoever in your ads.

7.Terrible email marketing

I literally get between 5 and 10 marketing emails a day that suck (I should really get round to unsubscribing to them all.) There are VERY few companies that know how to properly use email to attract and retain customers. One brand that does it really well is Ulta Beauty – their emails nearly always contain discounts, offers for free stuff, and news about new products that I genuinely want to hear. So many other companies just assume that we have endless amounts of time to pore over our inbox, reading everything anyone sends us carefully and thoroughly.



What terrible advertising moves have you seen all too often? Let us know in the comments section below.