ADVERTISING WATER – WHAT’S THE POINT IN MARKETING ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS?
11th February, 2010
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There’s no point in advertising water - we need it to survive; to drink, to wash our clothes, to water our plants and to erm... bath in and flush the toilet and stuff. Equally, it’s a common misconception that there is no point in advertising essential industrial components without any aspirational value. I often hear sales people in engineering businesses say, “Why bother advertising when our customers have to use our equipment – without it their products wouldn’t work”.
Well, Google advertises water. It did so quite noticeably by running this advert, during the Super Bowl this year, and that’s a very expensive advert to take if you think your product doesn’t need advertising.
So why do they do it? After all, no-one would really use Ask Jeeves instead would they? The answer is that nothing is essential in marketing. The point of Google’s advert was to illustrate the way it has become part of life – to make us view it as a utility. Because if we didn’t we would turn to Bing or Yahoo or whatever people used to do to find things before the Internet existed. I think they used to use books stuffed full of yellow paper by the way and they actually left the house to buy the things listed in them. I know, it sounds archaic but ask your grandparents about it – it’s true.
But does this apply if you are manufacturing essential engineering components? Let’s say you make bearings for instance. Your customers aren’t going to stop making moving things if you stop advertising. They could go to your competitors of course, but you believe your market share will take a long time to erode. And your salesmen are really good; they say they could sell just as much without advertising support. So why not cut the marketing budget?
The bad news is that if you are an engineering or technology firm your product isn’t water – and you’re very, very lucky if it’s Google. Yes, it may be close to being a commodity, a utility even, but it can be replaced, re-invented or re-imagined. It can be found cheaper, or better or just presented with a bit more care. Someone can come along tomorrow with a new product that does what yours does in a different way. If you want your customers to continue using your ‘essential’ products you need to reinforce that product’s position and part of that means promoting and advertising it. After all, the human race will soon be doing without fossil fuel; it can probably do without red widgets as well. There are plenty of people around that make blue widgets and theyare advertising.