When you’re right you’re right. When you’re wrong, you might be right. Trust a rule of thumb and you’re more likely wrong. The fact is, there’s only one measure that matters and it has nothing at all to do with thumbs.
If a book of hard-fast rules of marketing and advertising existed, don’t you think everyone would be using it by now? One book. Every answer. Take the Bible. It’s a widely trusted source of principled thought. But, not everyone trusts it. David Ogilvy’s timeless Ogilvy on Advertising is about as close as you’ll come to an advertising bible. But, even he says says don’t always follow the rules.
The simple rule is, there are no rules. But, that’s too big to accept or comprehend. So, instead, we seek out some pattern that gives us a sense order or reason for why things are as they are. Then, brilliant marketing experts use those made-up rules to make up reasons for why we should do this or that in advertising. It’s a train wreck of thought in the making because it lacks the right tracks.
It’s more of a guideline, really
When I hear someone starts spouting off a hard-fast advertising rule of this or that, I wanna slug them. It’s only worse when that voice is my own. Rules are for schools, governments, and bureaucracies. The only reason I can think of for a rule of thumb is to establish a baseline which advertising defies in order to become effective.
Defying rules makes advertising better because it surprises Broca–the gatekeeper of our conscious thought, as my partner Roy H. Williams explains in his book, The Wizard of Ads: Turning Words into Magic and Dreamers into Millionaires. Ideas that upset patterns of thinking elicit a response in our mind that, if spoken, would sound like this: “huh?” Lighting fast our logical left brain laterals the idea over to the abstract right to make sense of it. And, just like that, what was unknown penetrates conscious thought. Bam: your idea is on the radar.
Mission accomplished. Almost.
Showing up on radar is one thing. It’s not even a particularly difficult accomplishment. Showing up and staying on gets tricky. It’s where those rules-driven trains of thought run out of track.
How much what you’re saying matters to the person hearing it determines your staying power. Be compelling, be remembered. Prompt an emotional response, prompt action. The idea is the train. How much it matters is the track.
Internet videos can’t be longer than 2:00
It’s our internet video rule of thumb around here. After years of watching viewing metrics, I’ve noticed attention spans drop off at about two minutes; by three you’re talking to yourself. So, we keep them shorter.
Then, I saw this:Moments from Everynone on Vimeo.
4:12 is longer than 2:00
Moments is twice the length viewers typically sit through. But, it’s setting view records because it’s compelling. It’s relatable. It touches you. It moves you. The touchy-feelies among us shed a tear. If it ended with a Kodak logo, you’d think of similar pictures in your life. If it ended with an insurance logo, you’d think about everyone you love.
Whatever came at the end would have enormous attached meaning because here’s what happens in your head: the left brain sees it and says, “huh?” The right sees it and says, “oh wow man–that means THIS.” And, the Left says “oh, I get it.” Because it mattered, meaning is attached.
Therein lies your advertising challenge: does it matter? Does it lay tracks for a train your mind can’t miss? Or, does it stick to rules of thumb that matter only to you and the ad guy who made them up? Advertising only gets a thumbs-up only when it matters to your customers.
Tell your story in a way that matters. Get measurable results every time. No thumbs about it.