“Advertising is over half my problem” (Quote from a prospective client).

 Another half-truth.

 In this particular instance, like so many others, the advertising was a problem. However, it was, in reality, symptomatic of the underlying causal factors and therefore a product of inappropriate or mis-aligned briefings and orientations.

 Achieving “cut-through” and impact are becoming progressively more challenging. Communication channels, like the marketplace, are rapidly evolving. As a result, they are more complex, and in a range of circumstances, more fragmented and disjointed. The word and concept “synergy” seems to be limited to a power company which operates in Western Australia. (And, let’s not venture into commenting on its standards, consistency and universality of supply and distribution – let alone costs.)  Alas, all too often, “1+1” is regularly coming up short of 2.

 Consumers and clients tend to have reduced attention-spans, they exercise more readily selective perception whereby large blocks of communication – which are deemed to be irrelevant – are filtered or blocked.

 Typically, blame for advertising under-performance is attributed to the communication channels or advertising agencies. Wrong.

 Access to targeted and preferred audiences can be achieved, but result in little or no responses, if the context is not right.


 The lack of “fit” in the marketplace often relates to a company, brand name, product, service and, yes, category.

 That can and does have implications for defining (or redefining) target audiences, product/service configurations and timing.

 “Outdoor furniture” is a fine example. It is a category which has some unique (and interestingly, self-induced – if unintended) – characteristics demand is typically short-term, with high peaks and low troughs. Price is a key determinant in product and outlet selection.

 Why? In essence, to many consumers the term “outdoor furniture” equates to summer. So in Australia that means consideration for, and contemplation of purchasing products in that category is, (at a stretch) limited from November to March.

 Accordingly, advertising – regardless how creative or price-oriented – will not readily resonate with and impact on targeted primary, secondary and tertiary audiences during autumn and winter periods.

 Mind-sets do constrict interest, demand, sales and relevance. Therefore, effective repositioning of the category - “outdoor furniture” - is needed to promote scope and opportunities for increasing sales throughout the four seasons.


 At differing times, endeavours to communicate with select demographic and psychographic profiles may well be futile or marginalised unless, and until, all factors and variables are aligned.

 Individual consumers fulfil multiple roles in the contemporary pluralistic society. That is; she may awaken next to her spouse or partner and be a “wife”, she then prepares breakfast for the family as “mum”. Driving to work she is another “commuter”, before arriving at work, to undertake her role and obligations as a “boss” or “employee”.

 On the way home, after a full-day’s work, she calls into the supermarket and completes the task of a “shopper”, before participating as a “team-member” in a local sporting club.

 Thus, the self-image and role-specifics of a prospective outdoor furniture buyer may, and probably will, differ.

 Our research has verified and identified that key point, together with prioritised purchase criteria that are applied, buying “outdoor furniture”, or alternatively repositioned product categorisation.


 Developing awareness and sensitivity of often unrecognised needs is an important component of the communication mix.

 The actual products or categories may not be primary purchase items. They can be, and often are, dependent, subsequent or complementary acquisitions.

Establishing and profiling such value-packages tend to de-emphasise price sensitivity, demands and expectations.

 Alas, the four “P” components of the selling philosophy – Product, Price, Place, Promotion – have been eclipsed, again.

 Advertising may be an element in the mix, but it is questionable that it is “the” problem.


 Certain key aspects of the communication and marketing disciplines, when developed in sequential order enhance impact, resonance, effectiveness and sales. They include: 


    Extend consideration beyond demographic and psychographic profiles. Identify, isolate, analyse and focus on relevant lifestyle role-plays. This will personalise headlines and messages.


    Broad-brush generalisations typically lead to commoditisation.

    “Department stores” are passé, outdated and hold little interest for many. Discount department stores suffer from an image and positioning problem, which is reflected in poor and falling sales and profits.


    Not all products, services and brands are, in isolation, a primary purchase item.

    Their value is enhanced when clustered with other, often more dominant merchandise:

    “Would you like … with that?” is a well established proposition that elicits positive responses in sufficient numbers and percentages, to increase the bottom line.


    From a “clean slate”, decisions need to be made about the content, the headline, context, channels and scheduling of the advertising/communication mix.

As implied in this sequential overview, advertising can prove to be (an important) footnote, rather than a problem. 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

L:         (08) 9257 1777