Let’s put an end to Mystery Marketing We are a website design and development company that sees the strangest things.

As the creative director for a website design and development company, I pay attention to marketing materials. I was thumbing through a pretty technical car magazine yesterday and ran across an ad that had a highly stylized illustration of a car. The ad was in color and took up a full page. This page probably cost the advertiser more than ten grand. There was one small problem, however. Nowhere in the ad did it mention what they were trying to sell or what the product was. I thought, “Maybe it’s just me.” So I showed the ad to nine other people in our website design and development company. Not one of them could tell me what the ad was about.

Thankfully, they had a website listed and I was able to figure out what they did by going to their site. I emailed them and actually got in touch with the guy who created the ad. He said that he…”was going for an emotional connection with the reader, not a technical explanation of their product.” He also mentioned that 90% of the people who read this particular magazine know their products already.

“So why run the ad?”

I think what really happened is that the ad writer was way too close to his product. Because he works at the company and probably does the in house catalog work and website design and development, he is intimately familiar with everything it does. That’s why he just happened to leave out the most important part in the ad: What they’re trying to sell.

This kind of basic mistake abounds among companies that create their own marketing materials. I see dozens of websites where I learn that they “leverage solutions to help clients achieve goals and that they’re Six Sigma and ISO certified.” Alas…not a clue as to what they do until I drill down into the site—and even then it may be impossible to discern what it is that they do.

I see the same problems with email blasts, brochures, trade show materials and other sales collateral. If this was the right thing to do, the ad campaign Got Milk? would simply say, Got?

To be sure, even big companies make ad mistakes. Right now, there is a Cialis TV spot that shows a cowboy with a 4×4 pickup towing a horse trailer stuck in the mud. When he gives the truck gas, the rear wheels spin. He winds up getting the horse out of the trailer and they pull the truck and trailer out. What’s wrong with the ad? It’s a 4×4…Why weren’t the front wheels spinning too? Of course, 90% of the viewers won’t notice it, but I did and I am of proper Cialis age.

My favorite mistake is the Exxon print ad featuring a high-tech diesel chemist talking about their wonderful advancements in diesel fuels. They had a large photo of the chemist and a second photo of a spark plug held in a vice. The mistake? Diesel engines don’t have spark plugs.

If you’re worried about any of the above, take a fresh look at your marketing materials. Can people really tell what you do? If you’re not sure…show the materials to your spouse or even your Mom. If she can tell what you do, you can be sure everyone else will know. Still worried? It may be time to hire an outside website design and development company to take a look.