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Fad Marketing v. Reason-Why Marketing

When it comes to marketing, which is more important: getting attention or getting results? Advertising trends suggest most marketers believe getting attention is the way to get results. But is that necessarily the case?

It’s true. Cleverness does get attention. It’s not enough to ensure people remember what you’re selling, though. Think about these classic commercials:

  • Morris the Cat. Which cat food was that? I honestly don’t know.
  • “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.” What powder were they selling?
  • Florence Henderson frying chicken. I know she’s selling oil, but I can’t remember which one.

Perhaps attention-oriented marketing is more of a fad than real marketing wisdom.

What marketing should be

In May 1905, John E. Kennedy defined advertising as “salesmanship in print.” It’s such a back-to-basics definition, no one has been able to improve on it in the 100+ years since he wrote it.

Kennedy understood that the only reason we advertise is to sell products. Not to keep your name in front of people (although there is a place for that). Not to entertain. And certainly not for general publicity.

Our goal is to give our prospects a reason to buy. Kennedy calls this Reason-Why advertising.

The bottom line is profits

We market to make a company more profitable. Period. That said, it’s important that we market in the most effective ways.

Let’s face it: it’s easy to lose focus. We want to cut through the clutter and get our prospect’s attention. We know our audience is overwhelmed with marketing messages, and we know they don’t have time to read most of what we write.

But Kennedy’s principles hold true even now, more than a hundred years after he began his advertising career. When people are offered so many products that they can’t focus on any one of them, getting their attention is less important than moving them to action.

Give him a reason to buy

We need to tell them why they should buy from us. There’s got to be more benefit to purchasing our product or service than in not doing anything at all. It’s all about selling our target audience on the benefits of doing business with us, not entertaining them. Consider this:

  • The average consumer receives 3,000 media messages a day. Fifty-two of those messages may actually get their attention. Only four will be remembered. (Christa Carone, DMA’s Digital Marketing Days Conference)
  • People don’t attend to messages that don’t offer some benefit to them. Ads must answer the question, “What’s in it for me.” So offer to make your reader’s life easier. Help him achieve a goal. Help him avoid something harmful. Teach him something useful.
  • Pretty layouts don’t sell as well as plain (but strategic) layouts. Nice artwork can get a second glance, but the right words, given prominence in a simple layout, can keep them reading.
  • High-quality content will get blogged about, linked to and spread among friends more than a funny ad. Think useful, not clever. You’ve got to have something to say that’s valuable to your target audience.

Remember, you can get noticed without improving your sales. If your marketing efforts don’t bring in more than they cost, your strategy needs an overhaul.

Consider moving to Reason-Why advertising. Take the time to figure out what sets your business or product apart from the competition, then sell those benefits.


When it comes to marketing, which is more important: getting attention or getting results? Advertising trends suggest most marketers believe getting attention is the way to get results. But is that necessarily the case?

It’s true. Cleverness does get attention. It’s not enough to ensure people remember what you’re selling, though. Think about these classic commercials:

  • Morris the Cat. Which cat food was that? I honestly don’t know.
  • “A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away.” What powder were they selling?
  • Florence Henderson frying chicken. I know she’s selling oil, but I can’t remember which one.

Perhaps attention-oriented marketing is more of a fad than real marketing wisdom.

What marketing should be

In May 1905, John E. Kennedy defined advertising as “salesmanship in print.” It’s such a back-to-basics definition, no one has been able to improve on it in the 100+ years since he wrote it.

Kennedy understood that the only reason we advertise is to sell products. Not to keep your name in front of people (although there is a place for that). Not to entertain. And certainly not for general publicity.

Our goal is to give our prospects a reason to buy. Kennedy calls this Reason-Why advertising.

The bottom line is profits

We market to make a company more profitable. Period. That said, it’s important that we market in the most effective ways.

Let’s face it: it’s easy to lose focus. We want to cut through the clutter and get our prospect’s attention. We know our audience is overwhelmed with marketing messages, and we know they don’t have time to read most of what we write.

But Kennedy’s principles hold true even now, more than a hundred years after he began his advertising career. When people are offered so many products that they can’t focus on any one of them, getting their attention is less important than moving them to action.

Give him a reason to buy

We need to tell them why they should buy from us. There’s got to be more benefit to purchasing our product or service than in not doing anything at all. It’s all about selling our target audience on the benefits of doing business with us, not entertaining them. Consider this:

  • The average consumer receives 3,000 media messages a day. Fifty-two of those messages may actually get their attention. Only four will be remembered. (Christa Carone, DMA’s Digital Marketing Days Conference)
  • People don’t attend to messages that don’t offer some benefit to them. Ads must answer the question, “What’s in it for me.” So offer to make your reader’s life easier. Help him achieve a goal. Help him avoid something harmful. Teach him something useful.
  • Pretty layouts don’t sell as well as plain (but strategic) layouts. Nice artwork can get a second glance, but the right words, given prominence in a simple layout, can keep them reading.
  • High-quality content will get blogged about, linked to and spread among friends more than a funny ad. Think useful, not clever. You’ve got to have something to say that’s valuable to your target audience.

Remember, you can get noticed without improving your sales. If your marketing efforts don’t bring in more than they cost, your strategy needs an overhaul.

Consider moving to Reason-Why advertising. Take the time to figure out what sets your business or product apart from the competition, then sell those benefits.