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Here’s some advice from Bill Bernbach:
advertising-principles1. “Go to the essence of the product. State the product’s essence in the simplest terms of its basic advantage. And state this both tangibly and memorably.” – This means selling what your product or service will do for them, not selling the product or the service itself; “The number one toothpaste!” vs. “A sexier smile!” Guess which one sells more toothpaste.
2. “Where possible, make your product an actor in the scene; not just a prop. This makes for a tremendously effective method of getting your product remembered. Because the provocative element in your advertising is also the element that sells your product. This is so simply stated, so difficult to execute.” – It doesn’t necessarily need to be an actual character like a lizard or a talking box of insurance. It means try to give that product or service an active role.
3. “Art and copy must be fully integrated. They must be conceived as a unit, developed as a unit.” – In an ad agency the copywriter and the designer would work together. This is not always possible for a small business, so at the very least allow changes to be made after each contributes their part so there is some cohesiveness. The message is more important. If they can’t get together, start with the copy.
4. “Advertising must have vitality. This exuberance is sometimes called “personality”. When advertising has a personality, it is persuasively different; and it is the one because of the other. You must fight to get “bounce” in your advertising.” – People should actually care about the people, characters, the story of an ad, even if it’s a one line story. Some connection needs to be made.
5. “It is little less than useless to employ a so-called gimmick in advertising —- unless the gimmick itself tells the product story.” – When he says “less than useless” he is not being facetious, literally gimmicks that serve no purpose can harm your brand and your sales.
6. “Tell the truth. First, it’s a great gimmick. Second, you go to heaven. Third, it moves merchandise because people will trust you.” – Lying to your customers is never a good strategy, even if it means some quick sales. You are better off admitting a fault (if necessary) than lying about it.
7. “Be relevant. A wonderfully creative execution will get the big “So what” if it isn’t meaningful to their life, family, business etc. And always opt for an ad that’s relevant over one that’s exciting and irrelevant.” – It really has to be something your customers care about. Many businesses of all sizes tend to assume the customer cares about their business the way the people working there do, but they don’t. Examples include (in most cases) things like, “We’re number 1 in Nevada for a reason!” Don’t worry about that, just tell them the reason. They just wasted eight words and probably lost a whole lot of people in the meantime.
8. “Be simple. Not simpleminded, but single minded. Who has the time or the desire to listen to advertising?” – Despite some false tips to the contrary, ads and marketing should not be dumb. Your customer is not dumb. And even if they are, they don’t think they are, and they don’t want to be treated that way. Simple and to the point is not dumb, it is usually a lot harder and a lot smarter.
9. “Safe ideas can kill you. If it’s been done before, your competition will be ready for it. Your only chance of beating the competition is with advertising they’ve never seen before.  Which means you’ve never seen it before either! Be brave.” – This is sometimes the hardest thing for businesses of all sizes to do. The temptation is to run with the pack where it’s safer. It would be safer if you were running from lions, but you’re not. You’re trying to catch them.
10. “Stand out. If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything has been wasted.”
All of this advice is 100% true today just as it was back then, and it is true for all forms of advertising and marketing for all businesses. The best part is you don’t need a huge budget to follow through on any of it.