November 11, 2011

Marketing: The Spark Plug Theory

Henry Ford was not a guitarist.

Consider that assertion for a moment. What do you suppose it means? That Ford was a pianist? That his musical tastes leaned more toward Big Band? That he was lacking in manual dexterity? Any (or all) of those explanations may be true, but in the context of the ad that my firm created for Pimentel, a small, family-owned guitar maker, it’s a poetic way of pointing out that these handcrafted instruments of beauty don’t roll off an assembly line. (You can take a look at the ad by clicking on the photo at the right of this column.)

It’s not a big leap to come to that conclusion; anybody who knows about Henry Ford and his contribution to the Industrial Revolution would likely draw it. But as simple as interpreting the headline is, it does require involvement from the reader. That’s what makes the ad work.

Voltaire once said, "The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.†That’s one reason why ads tend to fall flat, at best, and annoy at worstcompanies cram too much into them trying to make their case, or expect that they can open and close the sale in one fell swoop. But nobody wants to be told what to think. The best advertising is like a spark plug that leaves a small gap for the audience to fill in for themselves.

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