Advertising Marketing

A bun with nothing on it

It was a warm Canadian summer day, just perfect for a family picnic in the park. It was so perfect that there was a light breeze, birds chirping and I’m pretty sure I saw a unicorn. We set up under the shade of a maple tree and pulled out our meal to eat. Our oldest, 8 at the time, wasn’t feeling well, and for lunch, he asked for a bun with nothing on it.

I gave him all kinds of options: ham, cheese, butter, mayo. His reply: A bun with nothing on it.

Just the way he said it was almost rhythmic. Now, in an effort to cheer him up, I started making outlandish suggestions that turned into meme-style over-the-top call and response.

Tomato? Elephant? Fingernail? Just a bun with nothing on it.

Next, because he was starting to giggle, it became:

What would you like for your birthday? Just a bun with nothing on it.

What about Thanksgiving? Bun with nothing on it, too.

What would you like for Easter? Just a bun with nothing on it.

What would you like for Christmas? (He jumped in) ‘Turkey! Just kidding. Bun with nothing on it.”

I’m pretty sure the entire park heard me roaring. It was such a great quip, totally out of the pattern and then right back in. It was a moment of fatherhood pride that, even while feeling unwell, he was right on his game to make someone laugh.

Now, whenever someone says “Just kidding” inevitably one of my boys will tag on “bun with nothing on it.” I’ve found myself explaining “A bun with nothing on it” to teachers, neighbors, and my parents when my boys bring it up because one of the most awkward feelings is being on the outside of an inside joke.

This got me thinking about what it feels like when someone interacts with our business, and we use terms, phrases, or acronyms (or ‘inside knowledge’) they don’t have any context for:

Why don’t your current CAC (customer acquisition cost) and your ROAS (return on ad spend) line up? It’s a WYSIWYG editor (what-you-see-is-what-you-get).

Sometimes our acronyms aren’t even specific to our business, but just general terms we think others will know or terms we use internally.

What’s your ETA (Estimated time of Arrival)? Is it too late to repond to the RFP? (Request for proposal).

Not only is the listener feeling the awkwardness of being on the outside of inside information, but we often assume everyone gets that acronym and we don’t take time to explain it.

So what can we do? Evaluate everything you’re going to communicate in a scenario where someone outside of your business may hear or read it: Social Media, your email newsletter, or your sales call, and view it through the eyes of someone who has never heard of a bun with nothing on it.


How to sell a parachute to a penguin

Let’s say you’re going to sell a parachute to a penguin (stay with me on this) and all you know is that a penguin is a bird. That is 100% fact. You strike up the conversation like you’re talking to a sparrow or flamingo or seagull; after all, you’re talking to a bird.

You start by asking how his morning flight was or when his favorite time to catch a worm is, or how long his wife incubates on the eggs before they’re hatched. The penguin has a couple of options. He can ignore you, correct you politely, tell you bluntly what his life is like or go along with you anyway, but despite his choice of response, he’s not in a position to embrace the parachute you’re trying to sell.

Why? Because you didn’t take the time to learn about the penguin, you brought to the conversation your understanding of birds.

If you had learned about your audience, you would know that, even though penguins are birds, they don’t fly, they spend 75% of their hunting time under water and the male holds the egg on his feet to hatch while the female scavenges and brings back food.

This isn’t to say you couldn’t find an opportunity to a penguin that needs a parachute in case he fell from the top of an iceberg or needed to jump off the end of a cliff to escape a hungry seal. After all, penguins can’t fly. But until that penguin knows you understand him, he’s not interested in what you have to sell. He’ll assume you don’t understand his needs and can’t then provide a solution. Even with facts in hand (A penguin is a bird. It’s a fact) don’t assume you already know.

The same thing happens when we try to communicate to an audience we don’t understand. Whether through advertising, creating a guest experience, speaking to a crowd or building a friendship, fundamentally, you have to understand the penguin in order to sell him the parachute.

The best way to get to know him? Ask.




Advertising Marketing

4 ways to create audience-focused advertising

Advertising is an important part of what we do and the goal is to inspire a response. Something like “That’s for me” or “I hadn’t thought of it that way” or “I can be part of that”.

Advertising has 2 parts:

Tell people what to expect

Whether you’re promoting a trunk-or-treat Halloween event, Christmas concert, a new series topic, small groups or a new members class, advertising is an essential first step, and gives people a window into what to expect from your event. When your event happens, if the event is as good or better than they expected, then you’re starting to build trust. This is true for internal promotions (like your bulletin or announcements) and external promotions (on Social Media, road signs, billboards or mailers) and every step of the way is an opportunity to strengthen trust. Tell them what to expect and come through on it.


Inspire a response

Telling people what to expect is about the WHAT, and inspiring a response is about the WHY. Why would someone get off their couch on a Tuesday night and come to this event? Why would someone stay late after church or spend $25 to come to this event? If you can nail the WHY, then the WHAT just falls into place.

Here’s an example: Your favorite band is coming to town on Saturday night. It’s on your bucket list to see them and your best friend wants to take you and buy your tickets. Why do you want to go to the concert? Because your favorite bucket-list band is coming to town and you have tickets.

Does it matter if the show starts at 7 or 7:30? Does it matter if the ticket was $20 or $25? Does it matter who is opening for them? These are all the ‘WHAT’ details and at some point they matter, but they’re not the WHY behind making the decision for you.

It’s important to realize that, in this example, your WHY may not be someone else’s WHY. Maybe their “WHY” is their boyfriend is in the opening band, or their kids want to go and they want to spend time together or they have a goal of seeing a live band every month this year, and this happens to be the closest concert.


Discovering what motivates your audience will help you craft your “Why” message in your advertising. Here are 5 ways to discover your audience’s “why”.


1. Imagine you are your audience

If YOU are the target audience, what would inspire you to go? What incentive would you need? Would you want to go alone or take someone with you? Based solely on your personality, what would motivate you to arrive? Now, take those answers, and figure out how your audience is different than you. Are they in a different income bracket, or have larger families, or work later than you or newer to your church? Tweak your perspective based on those differences and figure out WHY they would want to attend.


2. Ask someone who has attended before

If this is a new members class, then have a survey at the beginning of the class asking how they first heard about your church, what made them want to come and why they’ve chosen to come to your new members class. That information is valuable in discovering their WHY, and using that as a way of advertising the class next time.

For instance, if they say they came to your new members class because they want to serve on your kids team and being a member is a pre-requisite, then your advertisement next time could be ‘If you’d like to get involved in serving on a team at church, come to our membership class to learn more.’

You could also do a raffle at your outreach event asking 3 questions and collecting contact info. This will help you know who came any why so you can prepare for next year’s event.


3. Ask someone who has not attended

This is a typical conversation for me: “I know you’ve been coming for a few months, and it’s great to see you every Sunday. Have you been to our membership class? I look after our communications here, and it would be helpful for me to get your perspective about what you think about the class.”  Answers vary from work schedule (they work every Sunday and classes are on Sunday afternoons) or didn’t realize that was a way to get to serve on a team.

At one point, we were trying to get everyone to that class within the first 3 months they started attending, so in our announcements I was saying “If you’ve started coming to Life Church in the last 90 days, we’d like to invite you to Connect At Life…”. The feedback that we received is there were people who had been coming for a 6 months or a year and how thought they’d missed the window to attend, so by focussing on one audience (people who had just started attending) I was eliminating another (people who had been around for more than 90 days).

More causally “I’ll see you Tuesday at Trunk or Treat!” and hopefully they’ll confirm, or let you know they won’t be there, and maybe offer a why.


4. Explore who else is reaching your audience well

In a world of Social Media advertising, YouTube and crazy amounts of big data, it’s relatively easy to track down someone who is already reaching your audience and pick apart their strategy to expose the WHY.

Need to advertise a youth event? Who are your youth following and can you figure out why they resonate?

Need to reach single moms? Look around your church to see who has their attention.

Duplicating or dissecting what’s working for someone else can help get you a step closer to resonating with that audience.


Remember, the WHY matters more than the WHAT. Always ask yourself “Why would someone attend this event?” and target your advertising to them. What have you found to work well in your church’s advertising? Leave a comment!