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ADmissions | Only Cry Once

True tales of an Arkansas adman

By Frank Cox, Jr.


Ad agencies are experts at making marketing mysterious. After all, what client wants to pay for something they can easily figure out themselves? But perhaps the smoke and mirrors are overblown.

If you distill marketing down to its essence, it comes down to three things: awareness, preference, and the ability to buy. Companies can buy awareness for themselves or their products -- that’s why media in the U.S. raked in $253.6 Billion in 2019. So, assuming a company has some money to spend, gaining awareness is the easy part. The ability to buy depends on your audience. Preference, however, is much trickier.

What are the components of preference? Convenience and comfort are two components. Price can be, especially among commodity products. Certainly flavor, for all of you foodies. But for most products, a key component of preference is also the most intangible component: Likeability.

What makes a product or service likable? Sometimes, a brand’s personality seems to fit with your own. For example, a product that heavily uses humor in its messages may make you smile. And we all like to smile -- and it’s something we remember. Most successful brands actually create communities of users who believe they relate to one another. Harley Davidson is a classic example of this. Harley riders may be doctors, lawyers, or unemployed drug addicts. Nonetheless, they’re all part of the same community, and it helps define who they are. (After all, how many brands do you see actually applied in permanent ink to a person’s arm?)

Another example -- Rolex watches. Rolex lovers don’t care that the watch isn’t as accurate as a $50 Timex with a quartz movement. They simply love being associated with the prestige and perceived quality that being a Rolex wearer imparts. But, times change. A better example today may be the new Apple watches. Yes, they do a lot more than simply tell the time but, perhaps more than that, the fact that there’s one on your wrist tells the world something about you.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I talked about buying a camping trailer. There are lots of options out there but, when it got down to it, my wife said that the only camper she’d have would be an Airstream. Why? Because she simply liked them the most (although she couldn’t tell exactly why). I quickly learned that it was not the least expensive choice. No surprise.

My college roommate, Larry Galloway, used to say, “When you buy the best, you only cry once.” I totally understand that mindset and I bet lots of other people would agree -- whatever “the best” means.

What’s your favorite brand or product? And why is it best? Or should I ask, what makes it the most likable to you? Whatever it is, that’s a Marketing 101 success story.


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