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Reaching Today's Consumer

Furniture World Magazine


Wise media choices can help you do it.

To reach and move today's consumer there are at least three words that retail advertisers should always keep in mind:

CONSISTENCY • IMMEDIACY • ENVIRONMENT: We all know that we need to have our message seen precisely when a buyer is interested. The problem is knowing exactly when they are interested.

In our business we are very aware that only a small percentage of buyers are ready to buy furniture at any one time. We do make a mistake, however, if we discount the impulse buying aspect of accessories... and the general need to shop 2, 3, 4 or 5 times before making a furniture decision. Because of this, our advertising message needs to be in front of the consumer always, but continuous exposure can be costly.

The answer is a communications program planned carefully and purchased for the long term. This philosophy provides continuity of message, meets budget requirements, and helps ensure that your message is in front of the consumer at the right time. It does not, however, necessarily create the major excitement needed to motivate immediate buying. The presence of advertising, in itself, can not be relied upon to create excitement. This is where creativity and the proper message have to step in.

Here's a rough example of a planned program: Let's assume we have decided to spend $10,000 per month or $120,000 per year on advertising. To meet our consistency need, let's take 80% of the budget ($96,000) and divide it by 52 weeks. This gives us approximately $1800 per week for our basic advertising program. Let's use the 20% remaining ($24,000) as our fund for special sales, events, etc.

By the way, if you have more than one store in a community whose audience can be reached by the same media, you will certainly not have to spend double the one store budget. We'll discuss how to maximize media value for multiple stores in another column.

Please don't get caught up in the validity or lack of validity of these precise numbers. The principal of this approach is very sound. You now have a consistent program, which you will need to plan creatively with your advertising agency, and you have a fund for the quick hits you will need to gain special attention.

IMMEDIACY AND RELEVANCE: If you want me to become interested in and act on your product story you must create or capitalize on an immediate need, want or desire. If I read your ad and say I'll do something about that next month you have started the motivated buying process nicely, but you have not led to an immediate sale. How do you do this?

One way to create an immediate need that is certainly popular is to tell the buyer that they must move quickly because the price will not last. This approach is good every now and then, but not all the time. Sooner or later the buyer will realize that you are always having a sale. In my view the sale approach should be used carefully and selectively, not as a long term strategy.

A better way is to know your buyer: demographically, socially, even politically. Know that buyer so well that you can approach her personally. Most of us do not need new furnishings. Our job is to make her want new furnishings. Why? Because her mother-in-law is visiting. Because next Thursday her Club is going to meet in her home. Because her husband has always wanted a really comfortable chair to watch football in. Whatever the "want" we must bring the consumer's wish list to a first line event. I not only "want" that new sofa, but I need it now because of .... club, husband, mother-in-law visit.

This is, in my view, the real reason people spend money. Sure they want to save money during a sale... that is a given, but they still will not spend unless they have a "need" or a "want" amplified into a need because of timing. It is not difficult to achieve this step change, but it does take patience and consistency.

THE MEDIA ENVIRONMENT IS KEY: If you believe that moving our buyer up that chain from no interest, to want, to need, is in fact the key to long term industry growth (as I do), then you must select your media environment carefully as well.

Every community varies somewhat in which media are the strongest, but television generally reaches the most people fastest and quickest; newspaper reaches people as quickly as TV and can elaborate past a 30 second exposure; radio reaches many people when they are a truly captive audience (while driving) and is excellent for memorability, especially when comical or musical approaches are used; and magazines have the most "shelf life and long term educational/informational ability. There is a good reason to use any and all media, but normally our budgets will not allow that.

Please think environment for your message. For a message of a sale this weekend I would choose Thursday through Sunday television, radio and newspapers... in that order. For a message aimed at establishing the image of your store or differentiating your store from another because of service, etc. I would choose prime time television (if I could afford it), Thursday and Sunday special newspaper supplements or even a small ad on page 2 run regularly, or well done, full color magazine ads. Establishing an image must be done carefully and worked at over a long period. The media environment you choose should be geared to the right time for your buyer (when they are relaxed and interested), the right place (special television shows on home furnishings or newspaper, magazine features) when you can be sure that every dollar you are spending is aimed at an interested person. In these environments you can actually shorten the time it takes to move the consumer through the buying chain because the buyer has already taken some of the steps prior to being exposed to your message.

In later columns I will further develop these concepts. I hope you will drop me a note if you have any questions.

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 lhanish@furninfo.com.