Yesterday I was tackling the morning drive into Toronto and I heard an ad on the radio for these "Big Lasers" from Brodie Ltd. They even have a memorable redirect url - www.biglaser.ca. It didn't take me long to figure out that this is a company that makes and sells laser metal cutters, and that their cutters can make precise cuts over large areas. Now, it's a effective ad in that I got the message, but they wasted their money.
On the morning drive into Toronto, on the station to which I was listening, at any one moment in time you have EVERYONE who drives a car listening, regardless of what they do. Presumably, Brodie wants to target metal cutting purchasers or managers responsible for the precise cutting of large sheets of metal. What percentage of the morning Toronto commuters would fit that description? 0.002%? Yet the advertising sales rep for that station certainly charged the same rate he/she would charge any other company. Brodie paid to reach 100% of drivers, when it only wanted to reach 0.002%. That's 99.998% waste.
Now it's entirely possible that Brodie has exhausted every other possible marketing tactic and decided to simply build brand awareness through mass media marketing. Nothing wrong with that, but I doubt that's the case. And for such a unique product, I'm not even sure the benefit of brand awareness is worth the investment. I must also admit that it's possible they got the air time for free (maybe a Superbowl wager gone bad), but I doubt that too. The point is, they likely spent money reaching out to a lot of people that will never have anything to do with laser cutters.
And they're not the only victims - I see it all the time.
Most often small companies like Brodie come across a marketing idea that seems like a good idea, but they're not getting good advice about that idea. Maybe a colleague or even a relative mentioned it in passing, and they thought they should be proactive marketers, so they look into it. An advertising sales rep would talk about the merits of brand awareness and would not be motivated to turn them away, so off they go!
To me, though, that money is much better spent on tactics where (closer to) 100% of the audience is a potential customer. Trade shows, trade publication print ads, web site advertising on industry sites, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and so on and so on.
The key is to maximize the percentage of the audience that would be a potential customer. Mass media isn't always the best approach.