Advertising Works….at the Simplest Levels

Now that you have something that people want and a USP which clearly communicates what your key (and most important) difference is, you now need to tell your target group (those most likely to buy), about it.

Not telling consumers where you are and what they can get from you is the second time you “forgot to put bait on your hook when going fishing.  It is also why they do not call it catching!”.

Toad Hall Creativity sign

So start the conversation!  What better way than to use intrigue!

We already know that being all things to all people, is a perfect recipe for disaster and possibly failure, because it always prevents you from working smart first.

If you are everythingthen you are nothing!


It is not and it does not have to be digital (simply an advertising medium that may work for some business and not for others).

Toad Hall Signage

So let’s begin with this local retailer…. not in the big city, but almost a world away in Costa Rica for an excellent example of effective advertising….. at its simplest.

As you have begun to travel up to Lake Arenal and Volcano Arenal, in the north part of the country, there is a single road up from Liberia.  You have already seen these 2 signs made with materials found all around the countryside (metal corrugate) and bright and consistent colors to communicate different messages.


Toad Hall was well aware of that and set about to make their restaurant and boutique hotel not just a stop for lunch, but rather a destination.

Potential customers who have just spent 90 minutes on the road towards Lake Arenal and are looking for a vantage point and a cold one, or snack, have been in conversation with this destination.

After you have seen 6-8 of these on the way towards their establishment, they have:

Toad Hall metal sign

  • Not only had a conversation with you
  • Told you what you can look forward to
  • Why you should stop driving at 80kph
  • Encouraged you to try something special
  • Connected with you!

Definitely not award-winning, but it need not be.  Just start the conversation.

In this case of tourism, the 80-20 rule is much less likely to be in effect (80% of your business coming from 20% of your customers).  So you have to talk to them using advertising to make them thirsty, make them feel that they have to try the best guacamole in the country and take in the spectacular sights.

While growing up in the early 60’s, a restaurant on the way to our cottage did this so effectively, the burger/fries joint subsequently spawned a sizeable furniture outlet.

If you are in the food/restaurant business you must take advantage of the lowest cost vehicle you have.  Your Odor.  The importance of smell advertising or as I like to call it smadvertisng….in the purchase decision can never be understated, especially when people are hungry.

Weber’s burgers on Highway 11 in Ontario did this by blowing smoke well onto a busy highway.  After opening up in 1973 just north of Orillia Ontario it faced a huge problem in 1981 when the provincial government of Ontario installed a chain-link fence, above the previously installed, but ineffective box-beam barrier, to curtail the tens of thousands of people who were crossing over the highway barrier to reach that smell on their drive home from the cottage on Sunday night!

In 1983 Webers acquired a pedestrian bridge from the CN Tower in Toronto for what was then $250,000.  For a small seasonal roadside burger joint, this was not the least insignificant!  After being moved from downtown and erected in the fall, it became the first and only privately owned bridge built over a public highway in the Province of Ontario.

They generated even bigger line-ups because?

Smadvertising………Smell=Free Advertising had them moving 8,000 burgers on a typical Friday, so imagine how little it took to pay off the bridge with Sunday traffic!  I calculate 10 weekends on a gross sales basis so they likely paid it off in a year!

When I had the Kernels Popcorn location in the tunnel of a subway kernels bag for advertisingstation/apartment/business complex in Toronto, I quickly learned from feedback the importance of smell.  It was only a few weeks after opening that I placed a huge, industrial-size fan blowing both the fresh coconut oil popped corn, along with the sweet varietal flavors coming from the cooking kettle out to the passing customers.  I cannot necessarily give you a direct measure of success, but I was a top 5 store in the first year and paid for my opening raw ingredients inventory before it even had to be paid for in 14 days. It was FREE Advertising.  Smadvertising at it’s best, because it is the cheapest!

NEVER a nude logo…..always with the USP.  Kernels still use my USP “seen above and located below their logo” over 20 years later!

There are always ways of getting around local restrictions on advertising.  Let’s say you have a Chip Truck or store.

aframe 2 sizes

Get yourself a few of these metal real estate signs on the ground with your own short message.  They can be had for under a few hundred dollars and placed on the shoulder of the road up to 5 KM’s from your location on Saturday and Sunday.  I guarantee a doubling or tripling of customer traffic.  Pick them up Sunday after dinner and local governments are not likely to bother you.

Once the cash begins flowing, remember what got you here.  Advertising delivers your best ROI (return on investment).  So amp up your program cost-effectively by talking to local farmers and posting these signs on their properties (year-round and eliminate the trips on Sunday night to pick up the original easels), where there is a little more cost.  You might get away with paying for it with a few free meals.  Then move to negotiate with the companies who have paid billboards on the side of the road.

The point is that Advertising at a most simplistic level works.

  • Logo
  • USP
  • Short message
  • Minimum of 3 and try for 5 signs

Next is making sure you are promoting the most profitable items you sell.

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