Can Your Marketing Campaign Pass the “Huh?” Test?

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Can Your Marketing Campaign Pass the “Huh?” Test?

A marketer has a few seconds at best to engage the audience in an ad or marketing message. But many marketers forget this simple fact when they develop marketing campaigns using elaborate or confusing creative concepts.

When the audience’s reaction to an ad is “Huh?” instead of “Wow!,” it’s a painful waste of marketing resources.

Here are three examples of advertising and marketing campaigns that fail the “Huh?” test – and three tips to avoid making mistakes like this in your smart marketing strategy.

Value – Huh?

This Allstate Insurance billboard appears on highways around Cleveland, Ohio, where my marketing agency is located. I also spotted it last weekend in downtown Columbus.

IMG_1054-300x225What was Allstate thinking when they came up with this headline? No one can read, pronounce, or understand the meaning of the word “Value’Lujah” at a quick glance, not even after seeing this message many times.

Imagine how much more effective the message would have been if instead of “Value’ Lujah – New Lower Rates,” the copy had read, “Hallelujah! New Lower Rates.” Everyone knows what hallelujah means, but “value’lujah?” I doubt it.

Good Banking is What?

Charter One, a regional bank that markets in the greater Cleveland area, has a new marketing tagline that’s a real head-scratcher: “Good banking is good citizenship.”

What? As a consumer, I have many beliefs about what good banking is, but “good citizenship” isn’t one of them. This message may be linked to a creative concept they’re using in TV ads where the founding fathers discuss modern banking, but even if you had just seen the founding fathers spot, would this tagline make sense to you? And what does it have to do with the audience? It’s a message (I think) about the bank, not about the customer.

Monsters Behind the Wheel?

Just last night, I saw this new ad campaign for the Honda Civic HF. The creative concept has something to do with a female college student (she’s in a college classroom and has pink nail polish, so I’m making this assumption) who’s a monster and drives a Honda Civic HF with her girlfriends.

I had to replay this spot multiple times on YouTube to get the basic storyline and even then, my reaction was, “Huh?” What does this have to do with a car? And how does this convey any meaningful, takeaway message that differentiates the product in the marketplace? What you remember after seeing this ad is a goofy-looking girl monster driving some type of white car. I doubt that’s what Honda was aiming for.

3 Lessons for Your Smart Marketing Strategy

Here are three tips to be sure your marketing campaign passes the “Huh?” test:

  1. Keep it simple. When I was learning how to write advertising copy, my boss, who is one of the best copywriters I’ve ever met, edited and re-edited my copy to strip the message down to its essence. She often reminded me to use words a fourth-grade audience can understand. She was right. Your odds of delivering an effective marketing message increase exponentially if you keep the message and the concept simple.
  2. Clever can backfire. As a marketing consultant, I’m always advising my clients to be original and creative in their marketing campaigns. But there’s a clear line between an attention-getting creative concept and one that’s so incredibly clever it totally loses the audience. If your marketing agency presents a new creative campaign, ask yourself and others how quickly you grasped the message they were trying to deliver. If most people don’t immediately understand the concept and message — in seconds, the very first time they see it — insist on a new approach.
  3. Don’t expect repetition to clarify the message. Some marketers believe a complex or elaborate campaign concept engages the audience. Their theory is that the audience will pay attention to such ads in an attempt to puzzle them out, and that repeated viewings will result in high awareness and understanding. I don’t buy it. Audiences don’t have the time or interest to figure out what you’re trying to tell them. No one wants to work at “getting it” – they just want to get it. And making sure they get it, with an engaging, but easy-to-understand marketing campaign, is essential to a smart marketing strategy.
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