Creative is, by far, the most important element of an advertising campaign. It's what sells. It's also what is missing when many Maine small business owners advertise on Portland radio.
Nielsen, the top-rated consumer research company, recently conducted a study of 500 advertising campaigns to determine which elements were most likely to drive sales. It turns out creative was more important than reach, brand, and targeting. Unfortunately, Maine companies that depend on radio advertising to sell their goods and services may not have received this message. These local business owners, clearly, need to "taste the rainbow."
Tasting The Rainbow
Which would you rather do:
1. Eat bag full of sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil, citric acid tapioca dextrin, modified corn starch, artificial flavors, natural flavors, titanium dioxide, sodium citratate and carnauba wax.
2. Taste the rainbow in a bag of Skittles.
Overwhelmingly, people say no to #1 and emphatically grab #2. But, as it turns out, they are the same thing.
Left to their own device, many Maine business owners fill their advertising with a list of ingredients and fill their commercials with a list of ingredients and skip the rainbow. This is why some radio campaigns fail.
For instance, an ad I just heard for a local retailer consisted primarily of the following: a list of brands they carry, store hours, the number of years they have been in business, their street address, their phone number, and their website. But, no rainbow.
Every Rainbow Starts With A Story
In the most successful advertising, business owners tell stories. Story is where the rainbow the rainbow lives. According to an article in The Harvard Business Review, "It’s no surprise. We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls."
HBR goes on to explain why storytelling is critical to effective advertising. "Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic."
"In one experiment," HBR goes on to say, "After participants watched an emotionally charged movie about a father and son, Zak asked study participants to donate money to a stranger. With both oxytocin and cortisol in play, those who had the higher amounts of oxytocin were much more likely to give money to someone they’d never met."
Can A Good Story Be Told In One Minute?
Telling a story to reveal the rainbow within the confines of 60-second radio commercial may seem daunting. But consider that Ernest Hemingway allegedly once, on a bet, created an entire novel consisting of just 6 words: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn."
Apocryphal or not, this Hemingway story proves it is not the number of words that make the story. It's how the words are used. But, most Maine business owners probably don't pretend to have the literary prowess of the man who wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man And The Sea. But, I promise you, the ability to tell a story in 160 words can be accomplished by anyone.
There is a website that translates thousands of Chinese short stories from anonymous contributors into English. Each of these stories can be told in one minute or less. Here's a particularly powerful one called Heart Murmurs:
"Every day he listened to the heartbeats respectfully and with the utmost patience. Each one was different. He truly believed that one day he would find that old familiar palpitation. Donating her heart had been his wife's last wish. One day, he listened to the heartbeat of a female patient who had come in for a diagnosis. "You've had a heart operation?" "Yes," she answered. "A transplant?" he asked. She nodded. "Are you having any problems or pain with your new heart?" "No. I just came to tell you that she's doing find and she loves you very much."
Heart murmurs is exactly 99 words. Wow!
Good Stories On Portland Radio
Many commercials heard on Portland radio do, successfully, utilize powerful storytelling to engage their best prospective customers. One of my absolute favorites is from "The Roofa", a Westbrook, Maine roofing company. If you are not from Maine, then I should tell you "Roofa" is how some of us of say "Roofer." Take a listen to The Roofa's story:
Listen to another example of great radio storytelling. This one from The United Way of Greater Portland
Reveal Your Rainbow
Here's our best advice to Maine small business owners who advertise on Portland radio. Each word of your radio commercial is precious and you will pay around 60 cents for each one. So, make every word count. Science and history prove that storytelling is human's most powerful form of communication. In your next radio commercial, don't spew facts...tell stories...taste the rainbow!
Lean more about creating awesome radio commercials: