My final semester of my senior year in college was dedicated to my Advertising Campaigns class. This is the final class you have to pass in order to graduate with a degree in Advertising.
At the very beginning of the semester, you get into groups that represent advertising agencies. Each of the groups (agencies) have to spend the entire semester researching and building a campaign for the sole purpose of competing for a client. The professors of the college set the client at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, each group pitches their campaign to the board (client), and one group wins the account.
The client that we had to compete for was the SmartCar Fortwo. This car was not available in the United States at the time, so building a campaign for it was particularly tricky.
Most of the other groups had six members, but we only had five. We named ourselves “Party of Five,” which was pretty appropriate because we had a good time, despite the fact that we did not perform well on most of the early projects and assignments—all of which would go into our final portfolio.
We got discouraged, and you could tell the other groups didn’t take us seriously. We tried to keep a good attitude, because this class was very important and we wanted to do a good job. We just couldn’t seem to complete things as well as the other groups.
During our research phase, we exercised all of the techniques we’d learned in order to identify the target market for the SmartCar Fortwo. We did surveys. We conducted interviews. We held focus groups. The result from all of our research was always the same:
Everyone hated the car.
We were in the mountains of East Tennessee, where everyone drove big trucks! We couldn’t find anyone that liked it. And we couldn’t move forward to build ads for a target market when we couldn’t figure out who they were, why they liked the car, or what they wanted!
So I did what I usually do when I hit a wall: I prayed. I prayed that God would help me lead my group past this dead end so that we could build a competitive campaign. We didn’t have to win, but we had to do better than we had been.
And God answered my prayer.
One late night, I was doing some online research at the library. I came across a petition with 500 signatures to bring the SmartCar to the United States. They loved the car so much that they went online and created a petition to bring it to the US!
Gold! This was the target market!
I called my group over and told them that this was our ticket! This was information that (we hoped) no one else had, and it would allow us to build a strong campaign!
We were off! The petition listed the names, cities and states of all of the individuals. We divided up the list, researched phone numbers, and called them to request phone interviews. While some were confused as to how we got their number, most were very kind and cooperative. They answered our 20+ questions and consequently gave us exactly what we needed: insight into our target market.
The results were beautifully consistent. They loved the fuel efficiency. They loved how easy it was to park. They loved how practical it was.
Taking their words and understanding their mindset, we spend the rest of the semester building a campaign titled, “The SmartCar Fortwo. It just makes sense.”
At the end of the semester when campaign presentation day came, we were all sweating and stirring with nerves. We watched the other groups present one after another in the big ballroom in front of all of the leaders of the Advertising College. None of the groups had the research that we did. Every other group used people only in Knoxville and based their campaign around only one or two people that kind of liked the car.
It was our turn. When we revealed the petition and our methodology for research, you could see every set of eyes in the room widen. We nailed our pitch and sat down waiting nervously for the results.
The Advertising College president came to podium and gave a little speech about how everyone did a great job. Then he cleared his throat and paused, “And the 2005 campaign winner is Party of Five!”
We all stood and screamed and danced like crazy people. All of our hard work had paid off and our prayers were answered.
When I talked to my professor after it was all over, I told her how nervous I had been throughout the semester. We really struggled with some parts and we didn’t have the prettiest ads. Then she said something that I’ll never forget.
“The prettiest ads don’t win the campaign, Christy. The best research wins the campaign.” And she smiled and walked away.
That’s a lesson I’ve carried with me and still use even now in my career. The reason the Business Boutique has been a success was because I spent years researching women with side-businesses through hour-long interviews, focus groups and surveys. I tried to understand where they are and what they need.
If you want to have the best marketing for your business, don’t worry about the prettiest ads. Spend some time getting to really know your customers. Ask them what they like about your company and what they don’t. Ask them about their problems and what they need. Ask them about what motivates them and what they want more of. When you get them, then you can actually reach them.
Because it’s not the prettiest ads that makes the best marketing. The best research does.
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One way that I research is by using SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis. Learn how to use SWOT Analysis on my podcast here, and fill out the form below to get this method delivered straight to your inbox for absolutely FREE!