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Books for you, money for us. How to get a message across in marketing

March 30, 2010


Brochure for the 1961 Velocette Viceroy, an example of positioning

"Oh Darling, How Wonderful" - the Velocette Viceroy of 1960 failed to catch on, not least because its makers were more famous for building robust sporting motorcycles. Yet this brochure does its best to convince with "5 reasons" to choose this most monstrous of scooters!


The older you get as a marketer, the more you think you’ve seen it before. The temptation is not to repeat the past and to do something different. But if there’s one thing I have learned over the years is that in marketing, the customers decide. So staying “on message” is crucial to success. But what is your message? 

Message can be big (a brand message – e.g. Triumph Motorcycles’ “Go your own way”). Or it can be focused – e.g. “Calgon products – the most convenient way to fight limescale build-up”.  The important element is context. 

Looking at the Triumph website, we are greated with the brand messages but also freedom-based pictures of the fabulous Triumph range. You can also design your own motorcycle, choose your own branded clothing, and take part in forums. 

The theme is about independence of spirit. The strapline also cocks a snook at the perceived hegemony of the Japanese industry. So owning a Triumph is all about being an individual without being a rebel. 

Now looking at Calgon, their message is all about solving a problem. There’s advice about living with hard water, information about what Calgon does to solve the problem, and you can sign up for their news about home solutions products. In a slightly ironic way, there is also a link to their TV adverts – a technique still seen occasionally to add credibility: “as seen on TV”… 

The point with message is that it must be consistent. There’s no point in redesigning a logo if the rest of your marketing is badly designed or written. To spend money on brochures is wasted if the brochure doesn’t tell a story. 

In print or online, message needs to be substantiated: by pictures, by testimonials, by copywriting techniques. Message cannot be permitted to waver or merely to have lip service paid to it. Because consumers are never taken in by a half-hearted approach. 

For years, I have wanted to try a very simple message for publishers: “books for you, money for us”. This has always been a joke of mine – boiling marketing messages down to a simple truth. But it’s not as silly as it sounds. Ultimately, the marketer’s role is to generate money from the sale of goods. 

A half-hearted message is not good enough. Customers need to be convinced. The marketer’s acronym for this is AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) or the more complex AIDCA (where the C stands for conviction).  Every piece needs to be judged against this from the point of view of the customer. 

If you play the role of the customer and are unconvinced by the materials put in front of you, have the guts to tell the marketer to do it again. To send out vacuous, self-centred and unfocused material is both expensive and a ludicrous exercise in corporate vanity.

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