Author Archives: bthorn_1

Why Do You Advertise, Anyway?


I get this question a lot.  I feel there is only one answer, at least for retail businesses.  It is not to get your name out. It is not to brand.  It is not to get “Likes”.   It is not to let people know you won awards, have the best parking, have friendly, knowledgeable staff or have been in business for 25 years.  It is not to build your image.  It is to sell more stuff.  Period.

Before you start emailing me why I am wrong, hear me out.  Of course, advertising can help you build your image and build your brand.  But, the reason you want to do these things is… sell more stuff. There is no other reason.

Listen, advertising is really just about telling people why they should buy your stuff, or let you service their widget, and why you can do it better than the next guy.  Advertising is to tell your story, leading to a sale.

So, what is your story?  What makes you different than your competitors?  I ask most new clients why I would ever shop there…and they can say that it is because they have the lowest prices, best service, or best quality. Now tell me! It never ceases to amaze me how many can’t really answer that question.  In most cases, it is because they really are not much different than their competitors – at least on the surface.  Often they go into big spiels about how they really do have better service and peel off a bunch of reasons, or that their products are hugely superior to their competitors.  Got news for you….if I asked the same questions to your competitors, they would give me the exact same answers.  I have always taken the approach that on balance, most of my competitors are pretty good at what they do.  They do things right most of the time.  So, knowing that, how do I make myself better so I am always one step ahead of them, and I challenge my clients to do the same thing?

So, what really makes you different?  What is your unique story?  What can or will you do that your competitors won’t.  What is the one thing you want to be known for….with every customer, with every sale?  Focus on these things and you will sell more – thanks to your advertising.

Just Because You Can……



“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.  I used  these words many times over the years with myself, my son and my employees.  I had a wonderful sense of validity when Jeff Goldblum, playing Dr. Ian Malcolm in the original Jurassic Park movie, uttered “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

I find myself thinking about these words more and more lately.

In business, these words stand for integrity and doing the right thing.  However, as I read about connected cars being hacked and taken over as they speed down a highway, utter nonsense being passed off as truth on social media, and more and more technology designed to ensure we don’t have to leave the couch at all, I wonder where all this is headed.  I feel this impending doom lurking just beyond the horizon.

Much of this doom is rooted in social media.  On the surface, it seems like a wonderful way to stay in touch, re-connect and share your life with those with whom you want to.   If that is all it was, it would be wonderful.  However, it seems that it has exploded, much like how the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, into an uncontrollable catastrophe.  We humans seem to have a knack for taking a great thing and turning into a problem. Even things like autonomous cars and UAV’s have me wondering how wise we really are. As a pilot, the latter is very troublesome as I ponder the prospect of delivery drones flying around with no one looking out of a window.

Consider this – a person posted a lost child post on social media.  In time, someone recognized the child and reported where they believed the child was.  Normally, this would be wonderful news.  However, in reality, the child was in a protection program along with his mother from the child’s abusive father.  Who posted the lost child post?  You guessed it, the father.  I read this story the other day.  Whether true or not, it takes little imagination to realize it could be.  Add to this scenario all the cyber-bulling, false accusations, public-shaming and videos that people take of unknowing innocent people, and suddenly social media becomes much darker than it is bright.  Businesses can be brought down by reckless use of social media.  Even terrorism has adopted social media as a weapon of choice.  And sadly, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for it.

Where is this all going?  As we become more connected, we seem to be more disconnected with each other.  We are vulnerable in ways we have never imagined.  We seem to be losing our ability to truly socialize, be together and work together through what is ironically called social media – where one irresponsible post, tweet, or share could ruin your business, your life, or that of another, in the blink of an eye.

Friendly Knowledgeable Staff….Yawn!


You’ve probably heard seen it in many radio, TV, and print ads.  A business boasts about “ample free parking” and “friendly knowledgeable staff”. You might have also heard that a business has the “best selection” or the “lowest prices”.

As an advertiser, if you really expect people to react to your advertising, you must do a lot better than this.  I’ve got some news for you – having good selection, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and competitive pricing is the price of admission.  People expect good service.  They expect knowledgeable staff.  They expect a good selection.    These are not things that make you different -they are things that make you the same as all the others.  If you can’t come up with more reasons and better reasons for people to come to your store, you’re doomed.

I always ask my new clients why I, as a consumer, should do business with them.  Almost invariably, they start spewing off about the things that I’ve just mentioned.  They almost never give me really good reasons to do business with them and why they are really different, and what they can do for me that perhaps their competitors cannot.  In many cases, I could ask the exact same question to their competitor, and get the exact same answers!  This, clearly, is not the foundation upon which to build a strong advertising or branding campaign.

This is when we’re really start drilling down and uncovering the unique aspects of their business.  It usually doesn’t happen quickly, and in fact, can take several meetings to accomplish. We are looking for something we can hang our hat on for the business.  The un-shakable thing that is non-negotiable about how they do business.  Sometimes, we don’t find one, and have to develop one.  But usually, it is there, hidden and buried behind all the clichés and mediocrity of their previous advertising.

Here’s a hint on how to do this effectively:  Start with the truth. What is your unique story?  Did you get into business in a different way or for a different reason than your competitors?  Do you carry products that your competitors don’t?  Do you have a guarantee that your competitors don’t?  Can you effectively solve the problems that your customers have – and how?

Too often businesses try to be creative for creative’s sake when building their advertising. While being creative can get attention, your customers are more interested in what you can truly do for them, right now, than the color of paint you use to illustrated it.

Very often when my clients and I get discussing their history, passions, and trials and tribulations of their business, some absolute gems are uncovered that we can build and advertising and branding campaign from.  Truth sells.  Fluff doesn’t

One other note, don’t be afraid to be bold. Take a stand. Establish a good staff, good pricing, and great selection – but then, put a cherry on top!  Make a promise that if you’re late for your service call, it is free, regardless of the reason.  If it breaks, fix it.

These things people remember.  These things bring people back.

10 Advertising Resolutions for 2021


I am not one to make a lot of New Year’s resolutions, but here are a few thoughts for your advertising in the coming year:


  1. At least once in 2019, make a guarantee with some teeth. A real one, not a fluffy one.  You’re on time or it’s free.  It works or you get a new one, no questions asked.  Buy from us and you get repairs for free – for as long as you have it. This will help separate you from your competitors.
  2. Ban the words “best”, “greatest”, “cheapest”, “lowest prices ever”, “Number 1”, and “for all your (blank) needs” from your advertising. Forever.
  3. Resolve that what is in an ad is more important that where it is placed or who hears, sees, or reads it.  Make it about the prospect and what is important to them.
  4. Understand that advertising is about selling stuff – not branding, engagement, likes, clicks or awards.
  5. Spend enough to get the job done.  Be bold and make it happen.
  6. Trust your advisors.  While there are a few exceptions, most people I know in marketing and advertising are decent and honest.  Let them help you.
  7. Advertise as if no one has ever heard of you.  Truth is, even if you have been around for years, many have not.
  8. Assume your competitors are good at what they do.  Because they are.
  9. Take some risks with your copy. Push the envelope a little. Don’t have all your ads sound or look like everyone else’s ads
  10. Deliver what you promise. Better yet, over-deliver. Nothing is worse for a customer than not finding what was promised in your advertising. If you have to, keep it simple and small….but WOW them when they contact you.

Have a great year!

The Clicking Game

Have you ever noticed that just when you are about to click on what you really want to look at on many sites, the page shifts….just enough so you actually click on an ad?  Think this is a coincedence?  Go ahead, believe those metrics your on line agency feeds you.

I dare you!