Marketing P.A.I.N. – Part 3, Advertising the First Stage of Pain

The advantage in building a brand is that people ask by name for what you sell

A brand is a trademark or distinctive name identifying a product or a manufacturer. Branding is the process of raising awareness of the advantages of a particular trademark, and building strong emotional ties between customers and products.

The advantage in building a brand is that people ask by name for what you sell. The disadvantage is that they’ll buy when they want to, rather than when you wish to sell.

But if your prospective customer feels no discomfort, she will feel no incentive to buy. Not your brand. Not anyone else’s.

Truthfully, the vast majority of people at any given point in time feel no pain. They have no interest in what you offer. They consider your ads a nuisance. They wish your ads would go away. And that assumes that you managed to catch their attention at all. And yet, effective branding happens at Pain Stage 1.

Branding strategy targets people who are not yet aware of discomfort.

Why would you advertise to those non-prospects?

To increase the reach of your advertising.

The broad, all-inclusive lack of focus in the message, “eliminate your pain by purchasing our product/service,” doesn’t allow the targeting of specific audiences. Ads for pregnancy tests, for instance, will be exposed to retired men as well as to women of childbearing years. Ads for weight loss products will reach thin people. Ads for cars will become familiar to children.

At Stage 1, your message reaches “everyone,” and waits for some of them to experience a triggering event. People’s status occasionally changes, and for some, an event will occur which places them firmly in the market. Some women of childbearing age will need a pregnancy test. Some thin people will overindulge over the holidays. Children will grow up, and some of them will purchase automobiles.

Combined with top-of-mind awareness caused by your advertising, this new perception of need will lead them to look you up in the white pages, rather than looking up your business category in the Yellow Pages.

Typical Stage 1 messaging is “We Want Your Business.”

A much more effective Stage 1 message is “If you ever need us, we’re here for you.

My favorite example of a successful Stage 1 advertising campaign is Roto Rooter. For the last five decades their message has been “When your drain clogs, we’re a phone call away.

The company’s Public Relations Manager tells me they refer to their campaigns as “grudge marketing.” Paul Abrams describes this mindset as, “We’re the company people call when they have drain problems. People know us by name, but they resent being forced to call.

The public knows Roto Rooter’s name because of the consistency with which the company’s advertising exposes the mythical “everyone.” Roto Rooter knows eventually some drains will clog.

Here’s a sample Roto Rooter ad from 1968.

When stopped up drains get you down, why wait, watch, and worry over home remedies that just don’t work? Next time remember to call the expert, your professional Roto Rooter Man. (jingle) When Roto Rooter comes, that’s when your troubles go. When Roto Rooter’s here, that’s when your troubles disappear. Call Roto Rooter, that’s the name, and away go troubles down the drain. Roto Rooter sewer service.

A more contemporary version of “When you need us, we’ll be here,” is demonstrated by Countrywide Mortgage.

Countrywide’s delivery is solidly at Pain Stage 1. The strategy is simple: get the attention of homeowners, and plant in their minds the idea that Countrywide can bail them out of a financial shortfall. Then wait for some of those folk to need the cash.

Homeowners, want to refinance and get cash? Countrywide has a great reason to do it now. A no cost REFI. It has no points, no finance fee, no credit reporting fee. And no third party fees. No title, escrow, or appraisal fees. Absolutely no closing costs, so you wind up with a lot more cash. Call now and ask for a no-cost REFI. We’re America’s number one home loan lender, and no one can do what Countrywide can. (Announcer) Call one, eight hundred, six four one, seven one three six.

As we’ve already discussed, advertising what you sell at Pain Stage 1 is the most costly of marketing options, but it also offers the largest potential number of sales, and profit. The combination of 75 million American homeowners and a tight economy promises a huge payoff for Countrywide.

Matching your advertising message to the degree of pain your prospect feels will make your ads more effective.

In Part 4 we’ll look at focusing your message toward people who already feel the discomfort. We’ll help them to realize that buying from you is the surest way to soothe their pain.

Your Guide,
Chuck McKay

Marketing consultant Chuck McKayYour Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.

Questions about focusing on the issues your customers care about may be directed to Or call Chuck at 304-208-7654.

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Marketing P.A.I.N. Series

Part 1, Relationships
Part 2, What Do People Want?
Part 3, Advertising the First Stage of Pain
Part 4, When People Realize They’re Hurting
Part 5, Testimonials and Comparisons
Part 6, Make It Stop!
Part 7, Tie It All Together
Part 8, Message Frequency, Media Choices, and Tracking


  1. Sean Stefan

    Thanks for the article Chuck. I’ve always wrestled with the idea of why companies would spend so much money just to let people know they exist – even if they aren’t buyers. But if you have the money and plan to be in business for a long time, it should eventually lead to a steady stream of income. There’s so many brands that are still thriving because of advertising they did decades ago.

  2. Chuck McKay

    Good observation, Sean.

    When people start studying advertising they tend to be drawn to studying the big companies.

    But unless someone has brought up the points you just made – different resources, and longer time frame – its easy to design advertising that doesn’t produce enough revenue to pay for itself.