Zen And The First-Time Buyer

A Zen truism: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

All over the world the vast majority of people are passing through stages of their lives, and ignoring advertising. Most people don’t need, don’t want, and are not even interested in most products being advertised. Thus, they ignore the ads.

At age 14 did you pay attention to stockbroker’s ads? When you were 21 had you ever noticed an ad for a retirement community? I can assure you that the ads existed. Why don’t you remember any of them?

If you’re like most of us, at that stage of your life you had no interest in these things. You ignored the ads. Their message didn’t even enter your consciousness. No wonder you don’t remember seeing any of them.

We live in an information rich society. Frankly, we live in an information-overloaded society. Out of sheer self-defense we ignore most of the adverbabble that surrounds us.

When you think of your high school graduating class, how many of you married at the same time, and had children simultaneously? Few, I’ll bet. So though you and your classmates may have had very similar life experiences, you didn’t have them at the same time. You moved through the various stages of your life independently of those around you.

And for most of your life, you’ve ignored most advertising.

The person most aware of advertising? The owner of the business. The owner has such a high exposure to his own ads that he’ll get tired of them much more quickly than the public ever will. He’ll want to “try something new” just out of boredom.

He shouldn’t.

If the ads are working to deliver a steady stream of customers, he should let them continue to do the job they were designed to do. The Sherwin Cody School of English ran the same ad for 42 years – “Do You Make These Mistakes In English?” Mr. Cody was never bored when he heard his cash register ringing.

Last year’s shoppers are already someone’s customers. Maybe the business we’re discussing. Maybe a competitor.

Once people’s lives enter a new stage, they have new motivations to listen to the ads, and to hear them for the first time. And the messages that worked so well last year, will work equally well this year on a whole new group of shoppers.

This is why successful ads shouldn’t be changed often.

The rhythm of life doesn’t have us all marching to the same beat. And at any given time we pass out of a life stage as someone new enters. Think of this as a steady stream of first time buyers.

When the student is ready…

A woman becomes pregnant for the first time. For the first time in his life, her husband is becoming aware of ads for baby furniture, for disposable diapers, for college funds. Those ads, which surrounded him for years, are suddenly just “there.” Now, though, they are getting his attention.

How many first time pregnancies will there be this year?

America’s birth rate is 1.4%. Our population is 51% female. The U.S. Census tells us that the average family has 1.9 children. Therefore: less than four tenths of one percent of the population will be pregnant for the first time this year. Slightly more than three hundredths of one percent will be pregnant for the first time this month.

A company that manufactures or sells baby monitors, for instance, will have roughly three hundredths of a percent of the population in their marketing area become aware of them for the first time this month. And that’s enough to keep them profitably in business.

The ads they ran last year will be noticed for the first time by a whole new group of shoppers this year, and last year’s appeals will be just as attractive to this year’s shoppers.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

It takes a lot of effort to just be noticed in our over communicated world. When you (or your advertising manager / agent / consultant) have come up with an idea that actually persuades someone to purchase from you, don’t stop running that ad until it stops “pulling.”


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