“If you invest in banner ads make sure these stand out among the clutter, with messages that are just too intriguing or benefit-driven for potential clickers to ignore."

SMEs can often lack the resources necessary to hire a marketing firm or ad agency but that doesn’t mean getting your message across to consumers is any less important.

We spoke to several advertising and brand experts to get their thoughts on some of their favourite marketing campaigns and what SMEs can learn from them.

The RTA “Pinky” Campaign

The Roads and Traffic Authority NSW recognised a few years ago that male drivers are over-represented in the road toll, and decided to do something about it.

Lyn Clarke, freelance copywriter and advertising lecturer at RMIT University, says its “Pinky” campaign is the first one that comes to mind as something SMEs could learn from.

“Controversial? Yes but, as it turns out, also very effective in reducing road fatalities,” she said. “This much-awarded and often complained about campaign covered broadcast, print, outdoor and digital media. It also included, from memory, pub coasters and pinky-sized condoms.”

Clarke said while the marketing campaign had a budget most SMEs could never hope to match, it nonetheless showed what makes a campaign work.

“Be honest about what really matters to your target market,” she said. “Be prepared to stand out. After all, if a government body can run the ‘Pinky’ campaign, then an SME can be just as brave, if not more so.”

Clarke said the power of the campaign revolved around a repeated action – the waving of a pinky finger – and businesses shouldn’t discount the power of this technique as it helps people remember the advertisement long after they see it.

Oz Mattress’s website and banner ads

Clarke says for small businesses with a much tighter budget, Oz Mattress’s website is a good case study.

While selling mattresses isn’t something that is widely considered “sexy”, Clarke says Oz Mattress’s website suggests otherwise. The entire site is smartphone friendly and communicates all the right messages – from savings and warranty to a comfort guarantee.

“At the very least your site must cover product range, value for money and customer service,” Clarke said. “For many SMEs, a website is more than a marketing tool – it’s a store replacement as well. If shoppers cannot check out products first hand, generous warranties and a trouble-free returns policy are crucial.”

Clarke said while she was introduced to the business when it was nominated for an Online Retail Industry Award, she revisited it after clicking on a Facebook banner ad that caught her eye.

“If you invest in banner ads make sure these stand out among the clutter, with messages that are just too intriguing or benefit-driven for potential clickers to ignore,” she said.

It’s common knowledge that an audience’s attention isn’t bought but earned. Australian online bookstore Bookworld tapped into this idea during its 2013 Christmas marketing campaign.

As part of the campaign, the retailer turned tram and bus stops into mobile bookstores. Passers-by were encouraged to take a free book and also shop locally.

Kim Noble, marketing manager at Bookworld, said the campaign was a success because it was so different to traditional ways of advertising.

“The Book Stops were a success because we were able to tap into commuter's everyday routines with a unique experience that helped provide a meaningful connection with Bookworld, a task that is much harder to achieve with a standard advertising campaign,” she said.

Bookworld’s Christmas campaign was recognised as the best marketing initiative at the Online Retail Industry Awards. As a result of the mobile book stops, memberships to Bookworld doubled – showing just how important it is to surprise potential customers and tap into their everyday routine.

Patagonia Black Friday campaign

Patagonia, a company that sells outdoor clothing and climbing gear, ran a campaign that was held on Black Friday – a major shopping event in the United States after Thanksgiving.

While other retailers were having sales akin to Australia’s Boxing Day specials, Patagonia took a fresh approach. Instead of copying everyone else, the retailer invited customers into Patagonia’s store to get their apparel repaired or to simply relax.

Michel Hogan, an independent brand analyst, said the campaign encouraged people to focus on pieces of clothing they had bought from Patagonia and in doing so built up customer loyalty.

“Encouraging people to only buy what they need and reuse, recycle or repair what they have is at first blush counterintuitive, but for their customers who care deeply about the same thing it drives the kind of loyalty that extends across the whole year far beyond a single event,” she said.

Hogan said the lesson for SMEs is to remain true to who they are and really get that message across to customers.

“Standing up for what you care about will often help you stand out, and if it puts a few people off, well they probably weren’t ever going to be your customers in the first place.”

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