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Top 5 Creative Advertising Techniques

Advertising techniques have persuasive energy. The strength of that persuasive energy is measured in several ways, most importantly in relation to a target audience.

Advertising techniques are tools. The tools you use to attract attention, engage minds, trigger emotions, and change what people think. All of which can lead to sales. Or votes. Or clicks.

Here are some advertising techniques:

>Make a metaphor

Create a symbolic representation of the key idea you want to communicate by using two images or statements that are completely different, but when placed together create a new idea.

You can use words. Or visuals. Or both. You can create a metaphor to represent a characteristic of the brand. Or a feature of the service. Or a benefit of the product.

To create a metaphor, use one thing – a vivid statement or dramatic visual – to suggest another thing – your company, product or service.

A metaphor, by the way, is like a simile, but more powerful. A metaphor “is”. A simile “is like”. A metaphor equals. A simile is similar. But a simile can help you create a metaphor. Here’s how:

– Start with the most basic idea, the key concept for your product. That might be ‘safe’ or ‘agile’ or ‘bright’ or “well engineered”. Then sketch or write ways to express that idea.

– Complete the sentence, “This brand, service or product is like….”

– Fill in the blank: “The benefit to the consumer of this brand, product or service is like __________________”

A metaphor can be used to characterize the brand’s personality. A branding campaign for an investment bank uses the visual metaphor of a fencer, for example, to characterize the company as aggressive yet sophisticated.

A metaphor can represent a product feature or a benefit to consumers. As in the ad for an iron enriched breakfast cereal showing a magnet attracting the cereal out of the bowl.

Another example, a “subservient chicken” is a metaphor for “having food prepared your way” at Burger King.

Metaphors can communicate internationally, cutting through language barriers. But they can also be so culturally specific that they fail to work.

A metaphor can symbolize a problem, the risks inherent in life, to make people think about business and personal insurance. As in an ad for an insurance company that shows a banana peel lying on a busy sidewalk.

Make sure your metaphor is fresh. If you’ve seen it or heard it before, don’t do it again.

>Promise a benefit

Promise readers a compelling benefit that the product or service can deliver.

A benefit is something of value to the target audience. Ask, “what can this product or service do for me?” And the answer is a benefit.

The persuasive energy in a benefit ad comes from two characteristics. First is the importance of the benefit to the reader. Second is the specificity of the benefit.

A good example, the headline, “Introducing a washer so gentle it can actually help your clothes last longer.”

Ambiguous or abstract words such as “professional” or “beautiful” or “unique” are not specific enough to mean much, if anything, to the reader. Avoid them and their relatives.

A benefit may or may not be a competitive advantage. It could be, for example, that many brands of car batteries come with a lifetime guarantee. But if no one else is making the claim, go ahead and stake out the territory.

Clients will sometimes say, “Our competitors could say the same thing.” But that may not matter to the consumer. If you are the first to advertise the benefit, the consumer response could be, “Sounds good, I’ll give it a try.”

Even if consumers may be aware that several products offer the same benefit, the ad that brings that benefit to mind can trigger a sale.

Features or benefits.

A feature is a characteristic of the product. “This computer has a 250 gigabyte hard drive.” The benefit, what it can do for the reader is, “This hard drive stores a lot of data, like my family videos.”

But sometimes, as in the above example, a benefit can be inherent in the feature. Most people know immediately the benefit of a 250 gig hard drive. So if the vast majority of readers understand the benefit inherent in the feature, there is no need to explain it. Just say the feature.

>Mention a problem

Problems. Everyone has them. And some products solve them.

A TV commercial opens with the kids screaming, “We’re hungry, mom!”

A headline reads, “Do you have enough money for retirement?”

This is a technique to grab attention, to engage people who have the problem. Or people who want to avoid getting the problem. Or those who are concerned about the problem for other reasons, like the guy whose wife has headaches every night.

Later in your ad, commercial, or mailer you’ll explain how your product solves the problem. But the focus of the ad, the concept, should be about the problem.

This concept works particularly well when your target audience has a big problem, a big concern. The bigger the problem, the better it works.

But it can also be used with charm or humor. “Problem # 3 with SPIKE cologne: Women touch you in elevators.”

>Get really real

Show what people really think. About the opposite sex, their job, or relatives.

Show how people really feel. About money, their spouse, or financial security in old age.

How people really dress and act at home.

What people really think about at work. Like sex and petty insults.

Depict the attitudes, jealousies, and insecurities that rattle around inside us all.

Like many creative techniques, there is a spectrum from moderate to extreme in the way you get really real. From the nose-picking, overweight, insecure side of life. To the kinder, softer side that people present to children, friends, pet animals.

For FMCGs, the realism might be found in the history of the product. For instance, you could explore the feelings a young housewife has towards her mother, who used the same product.

For a B2B products and services you might explore feelings of competitiveness, of over-sized egos, or greed. On a specific level, that could translate to stealing from the company or spreading malicious gossip.

For luxury consumer good, consider ads that explore feelings about “keeping up with, or surpassing, the Jonses. ” That is, the desire to be better then the guy next door, or the woman in the office down the hall. Here we’re talking about the desire to incite envy or jealousy. Or to show, “I’m better than you.”

To inject realism into your advertising you must understand people. Perhaps with your own insights into human nature. Or with qualitative research into the attitudes and behavior of the target audience.

Be natural and realistic in the copy or dialog you write, in the characters you cast. “Real” people are not “beautiful” people.

It can help to look at, to understand feelings people genuinely have — emotions that relate to the target audience, the product category, or the service. An example is the classic automobile campaign featuring a car salesman making wildly exaggerated claims about gas mileage, resale value and so forth. Many people think car salesman tend to lie.

A few final thoughts. This is a difficult ad technique to do well. Which is surprising, intuitively, because what could be easier than being “real”?

this technique is easier to sell in the West, particularly Europe and North America, where there is a history of openness about feelings, as well as a thirst for reality TV shows and tabloid news.

It’s an approach that can be more difficult to sell in other parts of the world, such as some Asian or Middle Eastern countries, where feelings tend to be guarded, more private. But there you have a creative opportunity.

>Create a character

Create a character that adds interest, story value or recognition to your campaign.

Could be an actor playing a role. Or a cartoon character. Or a dead politician. He, she or they are all “created” characters because you define the role they play in the advertising.

While a brand character must represent a characteristic or the personality of the brand. An invented character does not.

Some of the world’s best advertising campaigns have been built on invented characters. And the best of these characters frequently do not reflect the brand or even demographic profile of the target audience.

Like a good movie or book, your character needs to be interesting. Different. Unexpected. With lots of personality. Quirky behavior. Or strongly expressed views.

These engaging, out-of-the-ordinary characters will grab attention, and by grabbing attention, they will help communicate your sales message because they break through the clutter, stand out from the crowd.

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