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Marketing Momentum: What Gets Your Attention?

By Katrina Olson

What ads, direct mail pieces or commercials get your attention? What does it take to make you give up a few minutes of your time?

Professional marketers and advertisers have learned a few tricks for capturing the hearts and minds of readers, viewers and browsers. Here are a few of them.

How to make them stop in their tracks.

Do something unexpected. 
Instead of just talking or writing about your product’s features, find a unique way to demonstrate the benefit.

To show how easy it was to park with its new parking assist feature, Czech automaker Skoda used a clever “mechanical” device for its direct mail piece:

Go against the grain.
If your competitors are using color, use black and white. If they’re using product shots in their ads, use people. If they’re cramming their ads full of type and pictures, use more visually appealing “white space.” (White space can also be black, blue or yellow. “White” just means blank.)

If your competitors are still using banners or static (still) ads in the digital sphere, use motion. Try incorporating video, audio (or both), or using animated GIFs (graphic interchange format). All the cool kids have been watching GIFs on Tumblr for years.

In May 2015, Facebook started experimenting with GIFs as ads and Page posts. Here’s one created by Wendy’s to promote their fresh salads:

Solve a problem.
Find a pain point that resonates with your target market. Will your product save them time? Can you eliminate a frustration in their daily lives or jobs? Can you make an annoying part of their job less so? Can you eliminate or reduce a recurring problem?

Several years ago, Citibank recognized that consumers were frustrated when their recently purchased products suddenly failed. They created this TV ad to highlight the purchase protection features associated with Citibank credit cards:

Make it attractive.
Good design matters. It’s worth it to hire a graphic design firm, agency or freelancer to make your ads more visually appealing—and it costs a fraction of what you’re paying the media to run it. 

Awhile back, I was pitching a new senior living community. The newspaper had been creating their ads. To show them the value of professional design, we did an “ambush makeover” on one of their ads:

We got the account and worked with them for several years.

Use shock value.
Use startling yet relevant claims, statistics, images, photos, videos or statements to get attention. But be careful – this strategy can backfire on you… Like this fake TV newscast about the release of previously rescued Snuffy the Seal back to the sea:

Some claimed the ad was in poor taste, calling it “disgusting” and “offensive.” One Facebook fan thought it was funny but admitted that it made his seven-year-old cry for 15 minutes afterward. Those reactions led to this follow-up commercial:

While I wouldn’t recommend this tactic, it does work. See below:

Meet Casey. We drove 80 miles, round trip, in a thunderstorm to get her—the same day my daughter saw the ad. (Although, I’m pretty sure this farmer from Danville was not just being clever.)

Make a promise.
Can you promise same-day service, free shipping, or guaranteed on-time delivery?

Beauty and weight-loss companies have been making the same promises for the past 50 years, according to a Huffington Post article. So it must work!

Tickle their funny bone.
Most people have a sense of humor. You can get their attention and build brand loyalty by making them chuckle.

To promote a zombie film festival, ad creators offered this handy piece of zombie-killing advice, “Don’t Panic. Aim for the Head.” Of course, we know zombies aren’t real… but just in case.

Appeal to Emotion
Emotion includes fear, disgust, empathy, love, sympathy… any strong feeling that you can evoke from your audience.

This advertiser made their somewhat mundane product incredibly special in their video, “World’s Toughest Job.”

What about you?

You’re probably thinking, “Sure, it’s easy to be creative when you’re promoting zombie festivals or cars, but my product isn’t quite that exciting.”

Your business, service or product is exciting to someone, or it wouldn’t exist. Find the inherent drama in your product, or create it by employing the tactics listed above. Good luck!

Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.


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