“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have on something they don’t need.” (Will Rogers)

I saw a billboard on the highway today that promised me a 9 minute wait at the E.R. for a local hospital. It made me wonder if anybody drove off the road just to take advantage of this great opportunity. Has it really come to this, hospitals competing with signs showing digital clocks announcing average wait times? I don’t know about the rest of you but I really don’t want my ambulance driver checking wait times on his smart phone before deciding where we’re going.  I never want to have this conversation, “Hey, Mr. Horst can you hear me? You have a choice of Overland Park Regional at 9 minutes or Shawnee Mission Med Center at 11 minutes but we’re right in front of St. Luke’s South so really it’s your call.” I fully expect the next wave of this advertising crusade to include a visit by a personal injury attorney with an average wait time of 15 minutes after the anaesthesia wears off or funeral directors giving discounts for headstone deposits made during surgery.

I cannot conceive that anyone who is admitted to the E.R. will evaluate their performance based on the wait time. My only expectation would be, “Take your time but please do it right.” What good would it do to hear, “We got him in under 8 minutes but in the process he slipped off the gurney and broke his leg.” This is especially true for an industry whose longstanding motto is “Do No Harm.” I wonder if that motto could be taught to advertising agencies?

Are we all that addicted to speed and bargains?

Advertising does serve a useful purpose, it makes me want to go somewhere else. I actively look for hidden gems who never have to advertise because their product or service is just that good. And oddly enough, when I find one, I don’t mind paying whatever they think is fair because they really are that much better at it. Now that social media has become such a huge part of our lives, one would think that advertising would become less ubiquitous but it hasn’t and companies are spending tons of money to capture the attention of Twitter twits and Facebook fiends in the most blatant attempt to look like they get it. Frankly, they don’t get it because their product or service still sucks. What’s that old homily about lipstick on a pig?

Every company that wants to be profitable in the 21st century needs to make a better product, first and foremost. Giving your clients a better buying experience or living up to your guarantees or how about customer service that actually serves customers, wouldn’t those be great competitive advantages? I would bet your customers would be willing to wait twice as long or pay twice as much for something that is measurably twice as good. Spending millions of dollars to conquer social media is just a great way to announce your overall ineptitude when push comes to shove and you have to actually live up to your ridiculous promises. Once the world knows it’s all smoke and mirrors, social media will eat you alive, no matter how many experts said otherwise. Welcome to the information age, boys and girls, where people actually talk about companies even when they’re not listening.

My advice is really simple. Spend the advertising money on your employees. Give them the tools, the training and the freedom to do great work and then watch the customers come to your door. Employees who are motivated and dedicated to making great products will return more in investment dollars than any amount of advertising. Social media loves winners.

If anyone out there is still not sure how this works, give me a call. I am an expert at making pigs bigger and tastier.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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