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Successful Business Advertising

From BMA Knowledge Base

The Fundamentals and Techniques for Successful Business Advertising

Reasons to Advertise Your Products or Services

  • To position your company, clarify the company position/philosophy
  • To Initiate, stimulate or maintain momentum, disseminate important information quickly
  • Maintain consistent and controlled communications, report performance
  • Discourage, intimidate competition, stand above/apart from the competition
  • Change perception/remove prejudice, secure and maintain professional acceptance
  • Create, enhance or maintain an image and/or leadership position
  • Introduce new company or new company name, conduct research
  • Retain existing customers, resell lost customers
  • Introduce new products and services, test new products and services, enter new markets
  • Promote multi-product sales, promote new use for existing products
  • Enhance employee pride, loyalty and morale, reduce turnover
  • Open doors for personal sales calls, reinforce personal sales calls, letters and direct mail
  • Reach top management, unknown influences who don’t see salespeople
  • Generate leads, produce sales, reduce sales costs

10 Fundamentals which must be observed for an advertisement to achieve consistently successful results:

  • Successful advertising must:
  • Communicate basic information.
  • Create an emotional response in the reader/viewer.
  • Aim at achieving at least one measurable objective.
  • Talk to members of a clearly defined audience.
  • Address the individual reader's or viewer's self-interest.
  • Be attention-getting, interesting, desire-provoking, and action-getting.
  • Be simple, succinct, single in purpose, and specific.
  • Offer substance versus platitudes and puffery.
  • Be perfectly truthful and absolutely believable.
  • Identify the advertiser.

In addition, there are 100 Proven Techniques related to these fundamentals that will generally assure you of successful results.

While you can't do them all in any one advertisement, commercial, or piece of literature, you can use this guide as a checklist.

Psychological techniques:

  • Establish a personality, and maintain it consistently throughout your campaign. This includes style, manner, and use of language.
  • In addition to personality, try to project an image for your product, service, or idea. Decide whether you want it to appear established, dependable, successful, etc., and communicate that quality. Emphasize a benefit. As noted in Fundamental #5, people are interested in what appeals to their own self-interest.
  • Determine a key idea and make it memorable by mnemonic devices such as rhymes, alliterative phrases, initial letters, or acronyms.
  • When you show people in ads, make sure they relate to the audience. People generally do not identify themselves strongly with age, geographic, social, and economic groups different than their own. Exceptions are sometimes romantic figures, and appeals to "upward mobility."
  • Use women tastefully in illustrations. Studies show that men, women, and children all respond best to attractive women.
  • '"Cute" works well with some audiences. Women in general respond particularly well to babies and loveable animals like kittens.
  • Use the strongest motivation you can discover. Business and professional people have been found to be most highly motivated by fear. Fear of making a mistake, looking foolish, being fired, etc. Curiously, this fact seems to be little used in business-to. business advertising.
  • Avoid the distasteful. For example, pictures of people in pain tend to repel all.

Manner and tone:

  • Make your customer or prospect part of your ad, and make him or her feel comfortable in its content.
  • Address your chosen audience on a selective basis. Don't try to appeal to all people.
  • Try to speak person-to-person directly to an individual, rather than to a whole group. This is a refinement of Fundamental #4.
  • Direct your advertising to the needs of the potential user of your product, service, or idea. This sounds obvious, but many advertisers and creative people foolishly address their own needs, and ignore those of their audience.
  • Concentrate on a single, clearly defined message.
  • Do not "scream and yell" at your prospect - either in broadcast or print.
  • Try not to derogate or insult your audience. Even the common device of, "You thought there was only one kind of carbon paper; well you're wrong," can immediately antagonize the very people you might most want to attract. So can "the prospect portrayed as a jerk," a common consumer advertising technique.
  • Be aware that good taste is important, although it is all too often scrupulously avoided by those advertising people who lack it.
  • Remember that neatness counts. Sloppy, careless copy and layouts suggest sloppy, careless manufacture and service.
  • Put your best foot toward. To do so, place the best you have to offer at the beginning where the greatest number of people have a chance of being exposed to it.

Details of content:

  • If it can be done gracefully, you will benefit if you mention your best point more than once. Do not be afraid of having your advertising appear "self serving" - that is its purpose.
  • Promise something of value, directly or indirectly, positively or negatively. That is, the promise can be either in the form of what can be gained, or in the form of a suggestion of what will be lost if the audience does not take the suggested action.
  • Overall, try to make the reader or viewer understand what you have to offer. Realize that they don't know all that you do about the subject.
  • In this context, it is well to tell in product advertising what your product does and how it works.
  • Include other details of your product, service, or idea. Particularly those likely to be of interest, of course, such as price, service, delivery, and guarantees.
  • Set your product or service apart as different, unique, and desirable.
  • Where possible, provide proof in the form of evidence that can be objectively sustained. Empty and groundless claims do little good.
  • Use trademarks and symbols, especially when advertising to people who cannot read well. That's upwards of one-third of the U.S. population, and a much higher proportion in most other countries.
  • Clearly identify the advertiser, or at least the product or service. This is not vanity, but intelligent business practice. Advertiser identification should be least 10% of the ad area, and equivalent in broadcast time.
  • Usually, the earlier you mention the advertiser, the better. Especially in broadcast, waiting till the very end to "surprise" the listener or viewer may more often leave him or her wondering who the sponsor was.

Verbal techniques:

  • Make your headline encourage readership of the text or body copy. To do so it should not only be interesting, but should also relate directly to your text.
  • Get right to your point. Don't "beat around the bush" or equivocate.
  • Relatedly, remember the KISS formula: "Keep It Simple and Succinct:"
  • Sequence your message in a logical manner, consistent with the development of the sales message.
  • Don't be afraid of long copy. If it tells the story, and is likely to be interesting to your audience, it is the right length. After all, your audience contains the only people you should care about affecting. If you can get them interested in your message, they'll read long copy as well as short. So use enough words to cover your material. Succinctly, but thoroughly.
  • Use narrative copy as much as possible. It is appealing and interesting. It "invites readership." It allows you to present your corporate personality, and establish your image. It permits the friendly, personal tone necessary to turn a prospect into a customer.
  • Use exactly the same words each and every time you state features and benefits. This enhances recall. Variations on a theme are not as readily remembered.
  • When appropriate, include natural, appropriate, and believable questions and quotes in your text to add interest.
  • Generally, try to avoid negatives in headlines, as well as a negative tone in the text. Positive statements are more productive.
  • Break headlines of more than one line into logical and meaningful phrases.
  • Use subheads to help make long copy more readable.
  • Plan subheads to tell a story by themselves, so you communicate something even to the person who merely skims your ad.
  • Use boldface and italic type judiciously and sparingly to add meaning, interest, and a conversational tone to your printed words.
  • Remember that ad readership studies show that upwards of twice as many people read captions as read text. other research has shown that caption information, linked with a picture, is retained better even than a headline or a picture alone. So captions should be mini-ads, pertinent and persuasive in and of themselves, with advertiser identification.
  • Keep in mind that short paragraphs invite readership.
  • Short sentences are easiest and fastest to understand.
  • Use basic, monosyllabic words. Winston Churchill on the value of Anglo-Saxon roots in English wrote: "Short words are best, and old words when short are best of all." Of course, none of these three points means that you should "talk down" to your audience or create a choppy flow.
  • Use active verbs wherever possible. They add excitement, enthusiasm, and create involvement.
  • Employ the linguistic style of your audience, except for special effect.
  • Use trade terms for business audiences and appropriate colloquialisms. But do not alter spellings to "write in dialect:'
  • Don't use exotic words, except for very special effect. If you do use such words, be sure to explain them clearly and completely.
  • Generally speaking, shun vulgarity.
  • Try to avoid unsubstantiated claims, and superlatives.
  • Avoid advertising clichés. These have been so overused as to create immediate resistance among most audiences.
  • Try to foresee questions your audience may have, and answer them in your advertisement.
  • If your message is complex, make it easier for your reader with "bullets," asterisks, arrows, dashes, and marginal marks.
  • If you have a long list, number your items. But not if they are fewer than four. That insults some people.
  • For overall organization, remember the guidelines of the famous preacher who explained his success as, "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em; then tell 'em; then tell 'em what you told 'em:'
  • Sum up your story at the end of your ad.
  • Know when to end, and do so as soon as appropriate.

Design/visual techniques:

  • Keep in mind that the "design" of an ad in itself is not worth anything. There must be a reason for every configuration.
  • Plan your visual and/or headline to attract attention, and to cut through the clutter of competitive advertising, as well as all the other things that call out to your prospect.
  • Use a dominant graphic or sound to grab attention, and to stand apart from your competition.
  • Keep your design simple. The eye and/or ear should not be "rattled" by distracting, intrusive, conflicting elements.
  • Provide a logical pattern for the eye and/or ear to follow. In print, particularly, this is what I call "inviting readership."
  • In print, see that your layout works to move your audience through the persuasive process. The successful ad should never call attention to itself as an "interesting design."
  • Use "white space" to your benefit to give an open appearance, and to set off important elements.
  • While openness is important, don't get carried away and waste space, however.
  • Remember that illustrations which arouse curiosity work well. They incline the audience to wonder what's going on, and to look at the commercial or read the ad copy to find out.
  • Similarly, remember that illustrations which inspire respect and awe can also be beneficial. This is the basis of many testimonial ads.
  • Try to make your illustration not only interesting, but also one that creates involvement and enhances understanding by being relevant to your message, and sized in proportion to its importance.
  • Make the illustration simple and immediately recognizable. Masses of people, for example, do not pull in the audience. Macro and microphotography - except to select scientific audiences - are meaningless.
  • Remember that, generally speaking, photographs work better than artwork in terms of appeal, believability, and interest.
  • Product-in-use illustrations are more effective than most other approaches to product advertising.
  • For technical communication, the best illustrations in order of importance - are (a) photographs, (b) cutaways, (c) graphs and charts, (d) drawings, and (e) cartoons.
  • Small insert or drop-in illustrations can clarify meaning and add interest. But don't overdo this technique, lest your ad look like a curio cabinet.

Production techniques:

  • As appropriate, use color to make ads both more attention-getting and more memorable. Budget is your main consideration. If you can't afford color, it is better to go with a well-crafted black and white ad than with no ad at all.
  • Be aware that although bleed ads may score well, they may not justify their extra cost. ("Bleed" means the illustration reaches all the way to the edge of the page.)
  • Putting a border around copy and illustration may hold a reader's eye in much the way that some bleed does.
  • Plan the proportions of your ad - like the length of your commercials - to fit the specifications of the media.
  • Unless your illustration is specially shot for it - with even, dark or light backgrounds do not reverse out or overprint your headline. A varying background behind a headline reduces readership and involvement.
  • Generally speaking, readership of an ad is inversely proportional to the number of different typefaces used. The cleanest and best-read ads generally use a single typeface for headline, caption, and text.
  • Studies show headlines that are best read are set in upper and lower case, with "normal" capitalization and punctuation, including periods at the end.
  • Serif type, like that in our reading primers in grade school, is what most of us find easiest and most inviting. (For example: Baskerville, Bodoni, Bookman, Garamond, Goudy Oldstyle, Palatino, and Times Roman.) Exotic faces are interesting for short spurts, but do not hold readers through long texts the way these classic typefaces do.
  • Type should be large enough to be noticed, and to be read easily. Generally, this means text should be no smaller than 10-point, and is particularly important among older audiences.
  • Use ample "leading" (line spaces) between lines of type and paragraphs to ease reading, "10 on 12" and "12 on 15," for example, are good proportions of pica type size to leading.
  • Short lines are easiest to read. Break pages vertically into two or three columns, like the columns in newspapers and business magazines. We are only used to reading typewriter faces all the way across a page.
  • Black type on a white or light background offers the best readership. Reverses and screened images behind or over text discourage sustained readership.
  • Horizontal orientation of type - especially body copy - will get several times the readership of type running at angles or upside down, according to tests among business executives and adult consumer groups.
  • "Windows," caused by short lines at the end of paragraphs, enhance readership by "opening up" the text to the eye.
  • "Widows," on the other hand - single words on a line by themselves - make the text look irregular. Recast your sentences, if necessary, to avoid them.
  • Also avoid two or more hyphenated words on successive lines. This, too, is an old typographer's rule, often overlooked today with the convenience of computerized typesetting.
  • Set text justified left and right- in a block like newspapers and business magazines set it.
  • Some studies have shown recently that a large initial letter on the first paragraph of text increases readership. I think it's being overdone these days and is therefore losing its advantage- specially if you want a "news story" look.
  • Be consistent in all you do. Make all your communications elements reinforce one another and work together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Do not skimp on quality. Shoot for the very best you can possibly afford. The perceived value of an advertisement, a commercial, a mailing, or a piece of literature correlates in the mind of the target audience with the value of the product, service, or idea presented. To try to save money indiscriminately on production can cost far more than your savings in the total marketing process.

Action items:

  • Where reasonable, conclude with a direct or implied call to action. It gives ads a reason for being.
  • Coupons or 800 numbers increase response to print ads, as business reply cards do to direct mail. So use them if high response figures are desired.
  • Bound-in, or blown-in cards in magazines and newspapers sometimes work even better than coupons. Again, extra cost and "good taste" are major considerations.
  • Web site addresses should be used, if possible.
  • Although most advertising doesn't literally "sell," it is the first step in a process that should result in a sale. Therefore, it is most important that you keep firmly in mind that you are not in the business of entertainment, education, pornography, or fine arts. Above all, you should aim instead for persuasion.

You need more than rules to create enduringly artistic and "breakthrough" advertising. But, by following this guide, you will make your advertising work for you, and communicate in ways that will significantly contribute to sales.

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