The Ten Commandments (For Advertising that Works)
Fumbling through an old file, we came across a set of principles, circa late 1980’s, that were in force at Frito-Lay around that time. The subject was advertising, more specifically, proven principles that, when followed, time and again resulted in advertising that worked…that demonstrably contributed to building the business. Some of these principles were no doubt borrowed from other highly successful, advertising-driven companies; some were quite specific to Frito-Lay brands.
Ironically, most of us don’t tend to think of (or even remember) Frito-Lay as ever having been a highly successful, advertising-driven company. But there have been times—extended periods at that—when core Frito-Lay brands consistently executed long-lasting advertising campaigns that worked to grow the business: Lays’ “No One Can Eat Just One”; Ruffles’ “Ruffles Has Ridges”; Fritos’ “Munch, Munch, Munch a Bunch of Fritos, Corn Chips”; Doritos’ “They Taste As Good As They Crunch”; and Cheetos’ “The Cheese That Goes Crunch.” While it doesn’t appear that these principles are in general use at the company today, we believe they still hold immense and relevant value for any marketer’s communications today—whatever media form those communications take. So, we offer them up as this week’s edition of DISPATCHES, with only minor editing-updating from the original 1980’s version.
- Strategic Congruence: The hallmark of advertising that works starts with a strategy that works—against the brand’s marketing objective. Said another way, copy can be expected to move the business when its strategy supports and is consistent with the primary consumer behavior objective of the business.
- Management By Objective: As with any business initiative, effective copy requires a clear articulation of the specific challenge the advertising must address. For a new line extension, that challenge may be bringing in new users to the brand; for a mature brand, the challenge might be sustaining a high level of usage (purchase/consumption).
- Strategic Big Idea: The best way to meet the primary consumer behavior objective in a cluttered and competitive marketplace is with a provocative Big Idea that (a) translates the copy strategy into a compelling consumer story, and (b) provides the brand with a distinctive, ownable “copy face.” It’s always appropriate to ask our creative resources, “What’s the Big Idea?”
- Selling Ideas That Sell: There is just no better place to quickly and succinctly hit consumers with the strategic big idea than in a crisp selling idea (i.e., a collection of “key copy words” that translates the brand’s strategy into a promise of benefit to the consumer). Selling ideas that sell all have at least three things in common: (a) they clearly communicate the benefit, (b) they link that benefit to the brand name, and (c) they directly or indirectly call to action.
- Tight Targeting: Advertising that works does so because it changes or reinforces the behavior of a specific group of consumers. We never undertake copy development without thoroughly and clearly articulating the demographic and psychographic make-up of our target. And in developing the advertising, we ensure that the key executional elements (casting, setting, dramatization) all speak to our target. A good question to ask during any Big Idea/copy assessment is, “Who is this advertising talking to?”
- Personal Personalities: Because we are committed to marketing brands of salty snacks rather than marketing a line of snacks under one name (as most of our competitors do), we must protect and leverage the distinctive personalities each brand has thoughtfully developed over time. They are definitely an important competitive advantage. Over the years we have been most successful when we have “tightened the brand name-benefit loop” by having a distinctive, ownable character speak on the brand’s behalf (Bert Lahr for Lays; Avery Schreiber for Doritos; Baby Horton for Ruffles; Chester Cheetah for Cheetos). More often than not, these characters have worked so well because they each—in some way—embodied their brand’s “personal personality.”
- Dramatize the Benefit: Simply said, “If it isn’t in the pictures, the video, then it isn’t there.” For food products, in particular, selling taste or texture benefits requires a vivid dramatization (not merely a “visualization”) of the product’s payoff—often in consumer’s genuine reactions to it. Selling fun requires dramatization all the more!
- Dramatize the Reason-to- Believe: It goes without saying that when it comes to backing up a benefit’s credibility, “Seeing is believing.” In selling our snacks—and the fun that goes with them—we are not interested in contrived or overly technical demonstrations that many performance products employ. But we are committed to dramatizing our unique physical properties (e.g., Ruffles’ ridges) as support for our benefits, as well as for appetite appeal. Another good question to ask when assessing communications is, “Where’s the RTB drama?”
- Synchronization: It may be the oldest adage in the book, but it’s as critical to effective selling now as it has always been: “The words and pictures gotta go together.” There is simply no excuse for missing the opportunity—particularly during storyboard/video-board development—to link the audio and video forces together.
- Short, Sweet Signature: No advertising that sells misses the chance to leave consumers with the selling pitch. We believe in signature shots that effectively re-state the selling idea (Key Copy Words) to instill memorability of the brand-benefit message (likewise, for example, through ownable mnemonic visual devices). It really comes down to addressing that longstanding consumer attitude: “Tell me short and tell me true, or else my dear, to hell with you.”
No doubt, in reading through these ten, you can detect some of the 1980’s timeframe and product category context. But, even if you were to read no further than the bolded lead-ins to each “commandment,” we think you would have a full ten that, for whatever communications you might develop, would serve you—and the likelihood of your brand’s growth from them—really well.
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney