October 13, 2004
Have you ever created a great ad to run in a trade magazine or business journal, and only run it one time? Shame on you. Media studies have shown for years that repeated ads have far greater impact than that one-time, two-page spread. And yes, the same ad creative run repeatedly to the same audience can continue to pull in sales leads month after month after month. Here's a real-life example to prove it. (BTW: Definitely check out the fab creative samples -- they just won an CEBA award)
"We had a new product line launch this February," explains Donna Lisitano of Stanley Proto Industrial Tools.
While Stanley's a famous name in the tool world, its new Proto Blackhawk line targeted a different niche than usual -- automotive and industrial mechanics who were willing to pay a bit more for unusually-high quality precision tools.
Some of them hadn't heard of the Proto brand (a brand initially developed for aircraft mechanics), and of course no one had ever heard of Blackhawk.
So, this time last fall the launch team were toiling away, creating every possible type of marketing support material they could for the big pre-launch sales meeting, from catalog pages to Web pages.
Industrial and automotive distributors and sales reps, as well as their prospects, don't surf the Web looking for new tools they've never heard of. However, they do still read the trade magazines such as Hearst Business Media's Motor magazine.
That's why Stanley Tool's advertising team decided to support the launch with a year-long print media campaign. "I believe in constant brand awareness," says Lisitano. "It needs to be consistent over a long period of time. I look at my own pile of magazines that I haven't had time to get to yet. I'd hate to miss running an ad in the one that's going to hit the prospect."
But if you're going to invest in running a print ad repeatedly, it had better be a darn good ad to be worth it....
Instead of focusing on the details of tools themselves, and producing creative about why these tools were technically advanced and better than the competition's, the creative team decided to go in a completely opposite direction, and focus on the prospect.
Why? Creative Director Paul Kingsford explains, "If you talk about the specifics of the tool, sooner or later the whole brand falls down on its face because specific tools may change. Don't hang your hat on benefits of specific products. I needed to create a lasting image for and perception of the entire brand."
First the team sat down with Stanley's sales head who had a lot of field experience. They asked him every question they could about the type of end-user who would be buying these tools. The goal was to get to know the prospect intimately, not just through demographics, but emotionally.
Then they drove around their region to meet a few prospects in person -- walking into automotive repair places and the like.
The resulting creative featured photos of a real-life Connecticut auto mechanic in his shop with an array of tools around him. "It's so real. We moved a few things around for the photo shoot, but that's really what it looked like. That's his shop," says Lisitano.
The resulting two ads' headlines were also inspired by the mechanic's real life:
Ad #1 Headline: Wives leave. Trucks break down. These tools are forever.
Ad #2 Headline: Some days a good wrench is the only friend a man's got.
The ads launched in February 2004. For maximum impact they ran as two-page spreads in nine trade magazines the first month.
However, the magazines in this category have up to an 80% readership overlap. So, the media buyer was able to save money while maintaining a steady presence in the marketplace by running ads every month in alternating magazines -- cherry-picking by whatever related features appeared in editorial calendars.
"We've been very pleased with the campaign," says Lisitano.
In its first seven months, the print ads pulled in thousands of qualified sales leads for Stanley Tools, including more than 1,000 from trade magazine bingo cards alone.
Bingo cards are the cards that magazine readers can snail mail in to receive product literature from advertisers. Normally bingo card results don't interest us because so many readers these days go online rather than mailing in the old-fashioned card.
However, bingo cards do have the advantage of being coded by issue date. So, you know exactly which publication issue generated the leads. (That's something you can't tell from Web landing page results if you're running the same creative each month.)
So, Stanley Tool's team could see that while the launch month had the greatest impact in terms of lead generation, if they had ceased advertising at that time, they would have missed 55% of potential leads to come.
Plus they learned that although all their ads reached pretty much the same audience (due to vastly overlapping circulations), it took a solid seven months of repeated identical ads to nudge 12% of responders into taking action.
If Stanley Tools had ceased their campaign after the first quartet - or even the second - they would have missed out on a large slice of the potential responder pie even though they ran the same creative to virtually the same lists every month.
Here's the data as a percent of total leads generated as of October 2004:
February issues 45% (2-page spreads in 9 pubs) March issues 13% (1-page ad in 1 pub) April issues 7% (1-page ad in 3 pubs) May issues 13% (1-page ad in 3 pubs) June issues 9% (1-page ad in 4 pubs) July issues 1% (1-page ad in 1 pub) August issues 12% (1-page ad in 4 pubs)
How much does the creative itself have to do with the response sustainability? We can't say. But, there's no doubt the creative was great.
In fact, Stanley was deluged with so many requests for posters of the art that they wound up printing some. Plus, the sales force and distributors were thrilled ("The men in the room when they saw this thing were like, Oh my god, it's perfect'") -- and when they love your ad, their morale boost alone can raise sales.
The campaign also won a 2004 CEBA award, which made everybody happy.
Final note -- The estranged-wife of the mechanic featured in the 'Wives Leave' ad returned to him after the ads started running. However, we're pretty darn sure there's no connection between these two events.
Useful links related to this article:
Creative samples of Stanley Tool's ads: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/stanley/ad.html
Keiler & Company - the ad agency that created this award-winning campaign for Stanley Tools: http://www.keiler.com
Free article on media research data -- "Why you should never run an ad just once" http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2468
Stanley Proto Industrial Tools http://www.stanleyproto.com