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I wanted to take a minute to talk to you today about one of the most famous quotes in the history of advertising.

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, that quote is David Ogilvy’s famous one-liner, “the more you tell, the more you sell.”

This is a line you hear repeated pretty often in marketing and copywriting blogs, but not one that’s often explained or elaborated on nearly enough. In other words, it’s become somewhat of a cliche.

And That’s A SHAME!

Because the truth is, Ogilvy’s words have never been more relevant than they are today.

We’re living in a time when more and more questionable material is being passed off as “advertising.” I don’t mean questionable in the sense of questionable or manipulative, I mean questionable as in BAD, ineffective, useless.

Here’s a great example, from a company that I (like most people) actually admire quite a bit:

Google is a great company. They make products that have made our lives immeasurably easier. But from a marketing perspective, they could stand to do a little better, and this ad is a perfect illustration of that.

Let’s take a closer look at the ad above, and why it doesn’t work.

First, it’s just ugly. The blue background, the bad animation, the song… Yuck. Aesthetically, this ad doesn’t win any points.

But that’s not even the real issue with this ad. The real problem with it is that it doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t explain any features, convey any benefits, or build any positive associations. In fact, truth be told, it doesn’t do much at all, other than to say “hey guys, Google Chrome exists and on an unrelated note some dude wrote a song about marvellous breadfish. Awesome!”

And You Don’t Need To Look Far For Proof It Ain’t Working

Google is a market leader in TONS of different categories.

They DOMINATE the search engine market with a 67% market share.

They own most of the online advertising market, with at least a 41% market share, more than 10 times that of Facebook.

And if you’ve ever thought that the “smartphone wars” were anything but settled, the numbers tell a different story: with 81% of the global smartphone market, Google has clearly bested Apple in the struggle for supremacy over the handheld procrastination market.

Yet, in spite of Google’s domineering position in many markets, most of the products Google offers under the “Chrome” brand have been nowhere near as successful. While the browser itself holds a leading position in the browser market, Google’s strategy of having Chrome serve as the flagship brand for a future, Google-dominated “online OS” universe is clearly faltering, the Chrome OS currently holding less than 1% of the global operating system market.

What could Google have done differently with this ad?

How could they have presented Chrome and positioned it to take over not just the browser market, but also the operating system and laptop markets?

How could they have made it more interesting, more informative, altogether more…

… compelling.

Four words:

 Tell More… Sell More

Google is a company that makes most of its money off of ads on the World Wide Web (the part of the internet that most websites live on).

Its strategy, with the Chrome constellation of products and services, was put the World Wide Web front and center in the average person’s computing experience; to take functions that were normally handled on the operating system, and put them online. Had Google’s strategy worked, the benefit to them would be obvious: more time spent on the web means more revenue for Google.

In order to really make the “Chrome” strategy work, they would have to do a lot more than just get the browser in front of a lot of people; they would need to convince people that making the browser the center of their computer experience, is something that would benefit them significantly enough to make the switch.

When we take this into account, the picture is clear: To make its strategy work, Google needed something much more than a 15 second ad (nevermind a very badly done 15 second ad), they needed something else entirely.

What might that “something else” have been?

It’s hard to say, exactly. Perhaps a TED Style speech by a visionary at the company, or a Steve Jobs style product launch, or even a well positioned documentary-style expose on Youtube could be the perfect way for Google to showcase their vision for the Chrome constellation of products.

But whatever alternative strategy they might have taken, one thing is clear: to make it work, they’d need to tell! In other words, they’d need to explain WHY the strategy they had in mind, was worth the significant change in user habits it demanded. For Ogilvy, this would mean a few things:

1. Doing the research. One of Ogilvy’s boldest claims in his groundbreaking work, Ogilvy On Advertising, was that an advertising campaign can almost NEVER work, if not preceded by a lot of tedious, in-depth research. According to Ogilvy, research isn’t just “important,” it’s indispensable; advertising done without it is nearly worthless.

2. Making it interesting. For Ogilvy, advertising wasn’t about being “creative” (in a breadfish-song kind of way), it was about making something so interesting that people want to buy it. In Google’s case, that would mean building a large amount of interest in the “online OS’ concept.

3. Promising value in the form of benefits. Ogilvy believed that the best way to convey value was in the form of a demonstration; this is why so many of his ads featured comparison tests with competing products.

The Takeaway

Even though I made the Google Chrome case study a prominent part of this post, my real point ultimately relates to you and your business.

If you aren’t generating as many leads as you’d like, if you aren’t closing as many sales as you’d like, if you aren’t enjoying the market share you wish you had, ask yourself one question:

“Am I TELLING Anybody Anything Here, Or Am I Just Doing A Song And Dance In Hopes Of Getting Attention?”

It may take some soul-searching to answer this question honestly, but once you do, you’ll have taken the first step on an inevitable path toward more effective and more profitable advertising.