Advertising needs problems to solve
Einstein is reported to have said that if he only had one hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and the remaining 5 minutes solving it routinely.
Advertising agencies are tasked with delivering greater value for brands, both now and in the future. To do that, time and attention needs to be spent on finding problems for advertising to solve. To find the right problem, we use a basic diagnostic tool, shared by Richard Huntington. It involves asking some simple questions at the start of a project about what’s holding a brand back and whether the real problem we need to solve is a product, brand or communications problem.
Product problems are pretty fundamental. They’re tied to a product’s actual performance, how it compares with the market leader as well as its price. We know people don’t make choices in isolation, so we need to consider whether our product is more or less appealing in context of available choices to justify its price.
Consumer preferences can and do regularly change. Take the automotive category. Buyers have shifted away from sedans toward SUVs, in a major way. In a total car market that grew just 0.9% in 2017, medium sized SUV sales accounted for a whopping 39% of all new car sales, with 13%+ growth. Meanwhile, legacy brands such as Holden experienced a -4.2% decline in total sales, with noticeably lagging product line-up.
What about your distribution? We know that as a brand becomes more widely available, in more and more places, it can expect to grow.
What problems might customers encounter as they’re researching, choosing & buying? By mapping the path to purchase for your customers, you can help uncover common pain points that will allow you to address friction within your distribution channel, be it online or psychical.
Once you’ve exhausted your options with product problems, it’s time to move onto the brand.
Is there something about people’s relationship or perception of the brand that could be holding sales back? Do you need to do more to promote positive perceptions or address negative associations?
Take Alfa Romeo. Their latest product line-up has received standing ovations, from both press and auto enthusiasts. But how many of todays buyers still hold unhelpful associations of Alfa’s being unreliable? If this negative view is widespread, then Alfa Romeo must deal with their brand problem first and foremost.
Finally, if it’s not a product or a brand problem, then you can move on to communications.
Are you telling the right story? Do you need to target new customers for growth? Communication planning needs careful consideration of consumer touch-points, context and attention levels.
These questions will help you find where your real problem lies, so you can direct attention to it in a way that can make a difference.
Have a problem? We’d love to hear from you.