Your message has to reflect what they feel is important.
How can you get the customers you target to visit your store? Is the woman the key to buying home furnishings? How can you reach her? How can you make sure she will buy from you and not someone else? Is there something missing from your advertising that makes it less effective or causes it to fail to persuade your target? Those are just a few questions we have received this past year regarding our articles in Furniture World Mag-azine. It is time to answer these questions directly.
The woman is the key in selling home furnishings. Regardless how she appears while in your store, she makes the ultimate buying decision. She chooses the color, texture, scale, comfort level and furniture finish. She also normally decides how furniture purchases will be placed in her home. Our research has identified only one exception during this past year. According to A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.S, men have been making more decisions when it comes to buying leather goods in the upper price points during this past October and November. But in the main, women make the home furnishings buying decisions.
Remember that this key decision maker does not want to be rushed into an incorrect decision. She will probably come back once, twice or even three times. She needs to be assured that her decision is the correct decision for her and for her home. Recently, many dealers have described this 'B-Back' phenomenon. It is a fact of life in the late '90s. Understand her indecision. Encourage her to look around. If you do, you will help build confidence in your store and enhance it's reputation. These factors count. Much more on that topic next month.
In the past few issues, we have highlighted television programs which appeal to women who are considering making specific home furnishings buying decisions in certain months. Interestingly, certain programs are more effective than others in influencing these customers to buy certain types of products. For instance, if a woman is in the market to buy higher end bedding, it is our opinion that The Late Show with David Letterman is a better bet than The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, especially if the woman prospect lives on the East Coast. That means, if the audience is equal, and the dollars are equal, and you can only make one television buy on one late night program, then the best buy would be The Late Show with David Letterman. It should be pointed out, that this observation was based on research done in October 1994, and may not be true today. As times change, so do the attitudes of the prospective buyer. Thus, what is good in October may not be relevant in February. That is why attitudinal surveys are measured constantly against a specific period of time.
As mentioned in previous articles, Thursday evening is, in general, a better time to advertise than Friday evening. The HUT (Households Using Television) levels are higher on Thursday evenings than on Friday evenings. It stands to reason that Friday is the first day of the weekend and Friday is a traditional eating out night in most communities. With more people away from home, television audiences decrease. Thus, Thursday is usually a better time to advertise than Friday in most cases.
Thursday is also a better day to reach your target because Friday is normally payday. If you can reach your customer while she is mentally spending her available money, then you have an opportunity to bring her into your store mentally before she actually buys. Thursdays are furniture selling days...at least in the mind.
Now, if the woman is the key, and Thursday's are the best day to reach her, should you advertise at all on Friday? Certainly! Not everybody follows the majorities' lead. And, not everyone in the majority is always doing the same thing each and every week. Friday is very good mid-day. Friday is usually very good during the 5PM and 6PM newscasts. Friday is fair during prime time. Friday is good on cable, because it has a relatively stable and level audience size during all day parts. Friday is not bad. It's just not as good as Thursday.
We have heard that some dealers are canceling their Friday cable buys because it is not as good as other days. This is not wise. You can capture the other part of the audience very efficiently with cable on off days. Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are good cable days. They can give you excellent frequency at very attractive costs. Use broadcast during the Wednesday through Sunday period to give you the valuable reach needed to cover your specific targeted buying audiences. Friday is also a particularly good time to advertise on CNN Headline News which usually has excellent ratings in early morning from 6A-9A. And the time is not that expensive. This is a great way to build your frequency and build it with the anticipation of weekend business.WHAT ARE THE MOST PERSUASIVE ADS?
Now that you have decided what media and time and days to buy, what kind of television commercial will give you the best results? There are some real facts you must pay particular attention to when talking about what kind of television commercial really works. The information you use must be timely and of this generation, not something borrowed from yesterday. According to Video Storyboard Tests 1994, women were asked what type of TV commercials persuade women most? The study offered these responses: Children 61%, Humor 57%, Celebrities 39%, Real-life situations 34%, Brand comparisons 32%, Product demonstrations 17%, Expert endorsements 17%, Company presidents 6%. It should be noted that respondents could give more than one answer.
CHILDREN IN ADS: It is interesting that 61% of women responded that children in commercials were the most persuasive. But then, as most of the respondents were probably mothers, this should not be surprising. The biggest surprise is that so few furniture retailers and manufacturers use children in their advertisements. Does this mean that all of our advertising should feature children? No. But it sure wouldn't hurt to begin putting them in some of your commercials and other advertisements.
HUMOR IN ADS
Humor has long been known as one of the more persuasive forms of advertising. The difficult part about using humor in television advertising is the difficulty involved in creating a commercial that is really funny. Humor is hard to write. People do not laugh easily. If you can find out what makes women laugh, you will have achieved one of the great feats in television advertising. And remember...what makes you laugh does not necessarily make your key prospect laugh. Too often, we who advertise are men and work in our stores all day long, month after month. Our idea of humor is sometimes quite different than our potential buying customer. We are convinced that the term "Get a life!" was intended for home furnishings dealers. Simply put, we do not get enough sunlight.
After the big two (Children & Humor) the persuasive index drops significantly. The use of celebrities scores 39%, but the cost for the celebrity could outweigh the result. So the next time you insist that your advertising become creative and get more like the big guys at K-Mart and Isotoner, remember celebrities cost and K-Mart and Isotoner no longer have the luster they once had when their celebrity was cause for attention. An aside: What was the last movie or series that Jackie Smith was in? And, what is a guy from Miami doing pitching winter gloves, especially when there is an obvious football reference? O.K. Marino comes from Pittsburgh and he sometimes plays ball up in the frozen tundra. But believability is stretched beyond maximum. Or was this intended as a commercial that contained humor and not a celebrity driven vehicle?REAL LIFE SITUATIONS:
Real-life situations with only 34% persuasive pull seem, as we all live in the real world, somewhat effective.
But real life is usually boring and mundane and humorless. Why would one want to remind someone about their qualities in real life unless it's life threatening or cause for health? Again, with humor and children, perhaps real life can be fun.BRAND COMPARISONS:
Brand comparisons with 32% is not bad, but relatively few consumers know anything about furniture brands. Brand comparison, therefore, makes little sense in the retail furniture industry. Another thing that makes little sense in the furniture industry is using industry jargon in consumer commercials. Your customers know couches and cocktail tables. Who has recently heard the word "suites" used when referring to bedroom sets in normal conversation? We have created a language all of our own, borne of SKUs and Western Kings, wall units and accents all richly woven into the texture of self belief with a Carolina flavor. Boys and girls, the real people don't talk like that.
PRODUCT DEMONSTRATIONS: Product demonstrations rank sixth. And if you can come up with a meaningful sofa vs. sofa demonstration, please give me a call. Maybe with humor or with children it could work.EXPERT ENDORSEMENTS:
Expert endorsements rank right up there with product demonstrations. Who is an expert in home furnishings that will be so convincing that the world will beat a path to your door to buy your product?
COMPANY PRESIDENT: And now we come to one of our favorite topics. The use of the company president as the company spokesperson. Certainly this was originated because the world wanted to hear from the company president. For the record, company presidents as spokespersons are given a poor 6% of persuasive positiveness by the women in the survey. We do see American Express featuring various CEOs. But remember, they are hawking AmEx. We see an occasional head of a Wall Street firm attempting to be straight forward and earnest in a heartfelt delivery. Since when was anyone connected with Wall Street given the latitude of having a heart? And we see the amazing ego of the Remington spokesperson each and every holiday season exclaim his infinite wisdom by touting his product. This commercial is often cited as an example of success advertising because of repetition, and because the company did not have to compensate a celebrity spokesperson... not based upon proven results. Yet, how many furniture dealers insist on getting on the television screen to hawk their own stores or their deal or their sale or their egos? Ladies and gentlemen. The targeted audience is not listening, much less interested in buying from the person who copies.
There was only one Frank Perdue in the advertising industry. He was the Casey Stengel of his business. He probably did put a chicken in every pot. For that, we should have elected him to office.
In the beginning, these advertisements were effective because there was a bit of originality to them. They were clever, unique, simple and effective. Brighter minds tried to make them better by putting on more polish, getting company presidents who could speak better. But they missed the entire point. Frank was effective. The people believed what he said, not just because he was saying it, but because he was original.
Industry experts estimate that furniture sales will rise about 5% this year. This is not as great as last year, but it is an increase. With housing starts slowing, furniture sales will follow suit. All this means that we have to become sharper in our advertising methods. The use of television will allow you to break out of the age-old mold of furniture selling through the newspaper. The use of television will allow you to break all the old bad habits of not reaching the specific buying public. The use of television will lead you to increased traffic and increased sales. Children and humor could play an important part in developing your furniture presence. But the real issue could be closer to home and easier to create on the screen.
A recent survey asked female shoppers what influenced their choice of stores they shopped in most. Here are their responses: sales 62%; reputation or great service 61%; great variety of merchandise 60%; product exclusivity 21%; promotional events 6%. It should again be noted that in this EDK Forecast, 1994 survey that respondents could choose more than one answer.
Now, if you analyze the type of advertising that is likely to persuade women and at the same time look at what influences these shoppers to buy at a particular store (which we will talk about next month), then developing a series of television commercials that work should be a breeze.
Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at firstname.lastname@example.org.