The past couple of years around this time our house has been egged. No, it's not some adolescent prank, and there is no messy clean up. Someone or some group of someones has come to our house in secret and hidden a dozen eggs in our yard for our boys to find. It's the cutest thing! We have never known when or if it would happen. We have just found a note taped to our door and plastic eggs in our yard. Some of the fun is the surprise; a little bit of the fun is the hunt, but most of the fun is the mystery. By mystery I mean: there is no name, no logo, no call sign. There's no one to thank, no one to credit. Somehow this empty spotlight (not unlike the empty tomb) makes it all the more meaningful.
Does this sort of anonymity make sense in the businesses world? Is there more to gain from anonymous advertising? Or would it be a waste of valuable resources? I have tried asking myself that question, and I've come up with a couple of different theories. I'm not ready to argue at this point that anonymous advertising is a good idea for every situation. Instead, I'm just going to point out a few good ways to advertise with anonymity.
Remember the "got milk?" ads? Or their precursor, "Milk. It does a body good." commercials? Who did those? I mean somebody had to pay for them. Well, Got Milk was funded by the California Milk Processor Board and It does a Body Good was sponsored by the American Dairy Farmers National Dairy Board. In both cases the sponsoring boards were supporting not a single company per se. They weren't advertising themselves really at all. They were promoting an industry. The logic is pretty simple to follow:
- If we promote milk, more people buy milk.
- If more people buy milk, that will be good for our members.
- What is good for our members is good for us.
Sometimes this concept works really well. Sometimes, not so much. Let's think through the concept with my industry. If I (more or less) anonymously promoted websites and that encouraged more businesses in my area to build, improve and maintain websites, would that positively impact my business? Certainly, in theory, yes it would. This is why I am always happy to write blog posts and articles, give advice and speeches, teach classes and workshops. The stronger the industry, the stronger the business!
Remember the atrocious "What happens here, stays here" commercials for Las Vegas? These heebeegeebee giving ads were paid by Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. These ads promote tourism in one relatively small area, but in so doing it's hoped effects supports a number of industries from hotels to restaurants and probably some delousing companies back home. This make sense on a local level, but it seems to matter on a national scale as well. Just ask all of the once popular people in the "Made in the USA" commercial of 1986. Again, here the logic is:
- If I promote this area, more people will spend more money in this area.
- If more people spend more money in this area, that will be good for its citizens.
- What's good for the citizens is good for me.
Here we get a little away from the business end of things and look more toward the charitable. Or do we? Think of NBS's "The More You Know" Public Service Announcements. Why would NBC sacrifice ad dollars to talk about teaching, abuse, natural disaster, alcoholism or bear attacks? (I'm not sure that last one is real.) Well, partly because the National Broadcast Association strongly recommends and formally required it. Also, it is a nice thing to do. What's good for NBC's viewers has got to in someway be good for NBC, right? Of course, it also garnishes some good will. In fact, that might be the main reason that so many celebrities agree to do them. Think of political issue ads. Instead of promoting a candidate directly, they align a candidate with a certain idea. By so doing, the candidate is identified with a concept that you would find more appealing than the candidate himself. In these cases the logic looks more like this:
- If I promote this idea, more people will associate me with this idea.
- Because they like and support the idea, they will like and support me.
- What's good for the idea becomes good for me.
So, next time you've got some ad dollars to spend or some time to donate, think about anonymously promoting something that you believe or people you support. It may not show a direct return on your investment, but what is good for all is good for you.