Let me ask you this: has anyone ever come out, point blank and told you, directly and explicitly, that BMWs were status symbols and more to be coveted than, say, Hondas?
What about Polo or Lacoste clothing? Is it because of explicit word of mouth recommendations that you somehow feel that those brands make better polo shirts than The Gap?
The Importance of What “They” Say
The vast majority of our brand hierarchies and preferences have been formed apart from explicit WOM endorsements. These things rest not so much on what your buddy has said, but what the infamous “they” say. Or rather don’t say, but strongly intimate and suggest.
And it’s these same brand hierarchies that form the background against which customers form and express their opinions. Confirmation bias says we tend to see what we expect to see, and branding shapes expectations…
So what’s the point?
Advertising’s Sleeper Effect
Mass Media effectively shapes brand preference. Few people want to believe they’re “susceptible” to advertising, that they can’t immediately discount a paid for message as obviously biased. And intellectually, they’re right, at least in the short term.
When we first hear an ad message, we take all claims with a large grain of salt in light of the obvious self-interest and bias involved in the message.
But what happens over time?
According to psychological research, over time the emotional bias imparted from the advertising sticks while our intellectual discounting of the message wears away. Over time, (intelligently crafted) advertising affects our internal brand hierarchy. Or at least the ads will affect your friend’s and neighbors’ brand preferences ; )
Why Local Branding Works Even Better
Of course, the customer experience or product reality has to be aligned with the brand promise / advertising message. Fail to deliver on your advertising’s promises and you’ll just go out of business faster. And it’s easier to create a new brand preference where none previously existed than to dislodge an already established brand preference.
But buying this kind of putative WOM can be done, despite what the more militant (and misguided) social media types might tell you.
And done rather easily at that, at least when it comes to most local and medium sized businesses. I mean, do you currently have a strong brand preference for carpet cleaners? Or power washers, roofers, flooring stores, bicycle shops, deck builders, HVAC guys or any of the other hundred things and services sold in your local town?
I thought not.
Some of us might, from prior experience, be able to recommend a provider for one or two of those categories, but not most of them. And that’s where an intelligently run radio campaign could make any better-than-average provider of those things a king in his category – the one “they” say is the best choice; the local brand at the top of the customer’s preference hierarchy.
My Wizard of Ads partners and I bestow such crowns (and riches) on clients all the time. All it takes is a business with the guts to embark on an aggressive ad campaign and an ad writer who knows your business and knows what he’s doing.
If you’ve got the guts, I know an ad writer I could recommend – “they” say he’s the best.
This article was written by my brilliant partner, Jeff Sexton.
Morty Silber, CEO
Mad Strategies Inc.
a Wizard of Ads Partner