Sunday, March 02, 2014

Aviation Advertising Needs a Checklist Too

The aviation world lives by the checklist. Of that there is no doubt. Yet, when the aviation industry spends advertising money to tell us about the latest technology, the power of the checklist seems to go right out the window costing advertisers a poor return on their money by not effectively engaging the reader. As examples, advertisements from Aspen Avionics, BendixKing, and J.P. Instruments from a recent aviation magazine are reviewed in this series of posts along with a checklist to ensure future improvements.

But first, one might ask, what’s the goal of any advertisement anyway?  Some say it is to create a set image, counter competition, and/or provide information.  While all of those points might be relevant, the real goal of any advertisement must be to capture a reader’s attention, inform them, and then persuade them to take a next step forward in an action chain that will ultimately result in a sale.

Just as every takeoff ultimately needs to lead to a landing, every advertisement needs to lead to a sale.  Ignoring this basic advertising reality leads to a failure to engage the reader and un-engaged readers fail to become customers. The checklist to utilize for improving returns on advertising is I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer).
  • Every effective advertisement must first INTERRUPT the reader and get their attention.  Just as you call “clear” before turning the key of an airplane at startup in order to catch the attention of those around you, in advertising, the interrupt must be a call-out that will catch the reader’s attention.
  • Once the reader’s attention has been secured, the next step is to ENGAGE the reader with a promise to teach them about a solution to the interrupt.  This can readily be done by asking a pertinent question and then suggesting an answer.  The successful “Got Milk?” campaigns are good examples of the interrupt then engage step of an effective advertisement.
  • Now that the reader is involved, the EDUCATE step needs to set the hook by identifying key issues the reader can relate to and demonstrating how the advertised product or service can uniquely solve for those issues.
  • Finally, every advertisement must serve up an OFFER strong enough to reel the reader in and drive an action to learn more. Without an offer, an advertisement is just noise in the wind.
Just as using a checklist can help ensure the desired result of a flight, use of the I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) checklist in preparing an advertisement will ensure that the right message is conveyed in a manner that results in sales as opposed to noise.  As you can see from the results table, in this review, Aspen Avionics performed best versus the checklist.  BendixKing tried but missed the mark. And J.P. Instruments seems to have forgotten the checklist entirely.

Back at the beginning of the last century, not long before the Wright Brothers 1st Flight, the retailer John Wanamaker uttered, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; I just don’t know which half.”  Those words are still true today unless advertisers follow the Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer checklist.  Just imagine … more effective advertising expenditures leading to more involved and well-primed readers who want to become buyers.  You see, just as in flight, following a checklist helps to ensure success in advertising too.

About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. ( Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to

Saturday, March 01, 2014

J.P. Instruments “EDM-900” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

In a magazine alongside advertisements from Aspen Avionics and BendixKing, the J.P. Instruments (JPI) “EDM-900” effort, like that funky little airplane you’ll find at every airport, is visually a “whole other can of worms.”  The shame is there is plenty of potential in the presented material if JPI applied the I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) checklist toward creating a successful advertisement.

The overall look of the “EDM-900” advertisement itself serves as the primary Interrupt in much the same way a burst of static on the radio interrupts the quiet of flight, or multiple pilots keying their radios simultaneously results in a noisy mess.  The issue is that the reader’s eye does not know where to focus on this advertisement. Thus, the easiest thing to do is to turn the page (in spite of the hard-earned money JPI spent on placing the advertisement in front of the reader).

Think about this from the reader’s point of view.  Should you look at the product, the little disconnected green fuel pump handle floating in the sky, the fading into gray model number and the tiny “Engine Analyzer” text that serves as the headline, or maybe the variety of red or yellow text highlights?  Geez!  It is exhausting just describing it all.

Ok, cutting to the I-E-E-O checklist chase, this advertisement simply fails on the Interrupt, Engage, and Educate parts of the advertising process.  However, there are a lot of great nuggets to be mined here for a future series of advertisements that could be useful in creating a unique market position for JPI.  The built in America theme, the fuel saving storyline, the more than 1,000 aircraft STC approval point, the no panel rework advantage, and the proven data recording ability, are all examples of different elements around which JPI could build an excellent advertising message.  These are messages that can capture a reader’s attention and help to differentiate JPI from the Aspen and BendixKing advertisements a reader will find in the same magazine.

And just to be clear, the fact that a lot of text is presented in this advertisement is not the core problem.  If you have successfully interrupted and engaged a reader, they will invest their time to read about and educate themselves as to the product story.  However, it has to be a story; not just a list of bullet points in a difficult to read typestyle. Imagine a conversation as a list of bullets with a bad accent.  It is not much fun. Trapped participants usually cannot wait to leave.

Lastly, the JPI “EDM-900” advertisement simply fails on the Offer section of the checklist. There is no offer of a low-risk next step for the reader to take to learn more about or to buy JPI products.  Yes, there is a web address, which one might suggest is an offer, but the link is literally buried at the end of a tiny mouse-type line of 21 numbers, 7 dashes, 2 commas and a colon.

Sorry, JPI.  This advertisement needs to be grounded as inoperative.  Start again and use the I-E-E-O checklist to fly right with success.


BendixKing “On Course” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

Checklists are simply a fact of life in the aviation world.  Why then does the industry forget the power of the checklist when creating advertisements to inform us of new technologies to buy?  The I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) Checklist as illustrated in this example from BendixKing and their recent “On Course” advertisement clearly highlights the value of the checklist for improving advertisements.

The BendixKing “On Course” advertisement uses dual beauty shots of a runaway and product to interrupt the reader.  It’s not a bad idea as most any pilot would likely be drawn into the threshold crossing view of the runway.  However, the eye will naturally want to look down the runway (can’t you just hear your earliest instructor telling you to do that?) and thus the eye fights to look away from the meat of the advertisement.  If your gaze heads to the end of the runway, the next natural step is to fly off the page and onto something else entirely.

Just as a checklist may requires a double review of a critical task, this advertisement tries to counter the wandering eye tendency by making sure the second beauty shot, the product, is large and crisply rendered (though the image on the display doesn’t directly support the image at the threshold).  This attention battle leaves the reader in a tug of war between allowing their eye to flow down the runway and off to the next page, versus zeroing in on the eye-candy of the product itself.  The approach works in the end, but it is far better if the interrupt stage of an advertisement does not initiate such a conflict.

As to the engage stage of the I-E-E-O checklist, the “On Course” advertisement promises to educate about “value … without costing a premium”.  In fact, of the four text blocks in the advertisement, the cost/value point is hit upon at least once in each block.  However, not one shred of evidence is offered to back up the promise.  The advertiser crossed off the checklist item but never realized what was missing.

So, even if the idea of value and cost savings served to engage the reader, the education phase of the advertisement totally drops the ball by not offering proof points to back up the claims.  Ironically, two very strong points to build the information around already exist in the advertisement at some level; the BendixKing legacy with its near omnipresence position in so many planes and the hinted at trade-up program.  These two features enable strong and unique ways to leverage the BendixKing legacy into new sales.  Unfortunately, no meaningful details are exposed for the interested reader who might be thinking about and wanting to trade-up, except of course for the bottom line print that suggests the restrictions and limitations.  Such a missed opportunity!

As to the Offer stage of the I-E-E-O checklist, while the “On Course” advertisement suggests the reader contact a BendixKing dealer, there’s no suggestion as to how best to do that or where to find a dealer.  Yes, there is a web address below the company logo but that is a pretty weak offer for a message that has such potential.

In summary, the BendixKing “On Course” advertisement is a bit of a missed opportunity.  It starts with dueling Interrupters, begins to engage but then fails to deliver a real education as to the advantage of working with BendixKing. Finally, it misses the landing and forces a go-around by not having a clear and compelling, low-risk next step offer for the reader to take. 
One last point, while all pilots possess excellent eye-sight (without a doubt), the reality is that white/grey text on a blue background should be avoided as a general advertising design element.  Young advertising designers tend to love the look.  Older buyers simply cannot easily see such text.

About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. ( Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to

Aspen Avionics “Two Heads Are Safer” & The I-E-E-O Checklist

Checklists are found everywhere in the aviation world.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that advertising in the aviation world can be significantly enhanced and improved with the use of a checklist. The I-E-E-O (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, and Offer) Checklist as illustrated in this example from Aspen Avionics and their recent “Two Heads Are Safer” advertisement clearly highlights the value of the checklist for improving advertisements.

The Aspen advertisement makes efficient use of white space with a clean design. It interrupts with a beauty shot of the product itself along with a headline that has a familiar ring to it.  And while the interrupt could be stronger, the “Two Heads are Safer than One” headline positioned directly above the dual displays of the featured product is just intriguing enough to catch the attention of a reader thinking about a potential avionics upgrade.  So, Aspen successfully checks off the interrupt stage of our I-E-E-O advertising checklist.

Next, Aspen’s engage statement is the first paragraph of text in their advertisement.  In reminding us “the cornerstone of aviation safety is redundancy” they nicely link the interrupt headline and product shot with the engage step of the checklist.

However, as they move into the EDUCATE phase, Aspen’s diligence with the I-E-E-O checklist begins to slip.  First we learn that their product is the only GA EFIS display providing “total system redundancy” at “less fly-away cost” than the competition. 
Additionally, they add two seemingly important and relevant issues when they point out that their product can “effectively eliminate heavy, unreliable steam instruments” and provide “window layout flexibility” allowing the user to customize the product to “prioritize critical flight data.”

This is not a bad start to the educate/teaching phase; they have raised four relevant issues redundancy, cost, reliability, and customization.  The problem is they explain or educate only the tiniest bit about the redundancy and customization elements. Further, they leave no educational proof as to how their solution delivers on the cost or reliability promises.

In advertising, if you are going to raise issues with a reader, you must provide proof points or risk being seen as “all talk, no action” instead of a seasoned voice of reason with which a reader will spend their hard-earned money.  A better approach would be to narrow the issues and expound upon them one by one. Better yet, change the design of the advertisement to provide more space for details about multiple issues, so the reader comes to better understand Aspen’s unique product offering.

Where Aspen misses the mark though, is at the OFFER stage of the I-E-E-O checklist.  It’s here that a low risk offer should be made to motivate the reader to take further action; just reading an advertisement will not a sale make.  After all, if you’ve managed to Interrupt, Engage, and Educate a reader with any success, the next logical step is to Offer the reader an action that will move them closer to a purchase decision. If not, then the advertisement is just a noisy statement piece instead of a tool meant to ring the cash register.

So, while Aspen’s advertisement started out boldly enough, it finishes with a mere whimper by not making an offer to the interested reader.  Oh yes, there is a web address in the lower right hand corner that links directly to an information page about the product but it is listed in tiny type.  Even worse, there is not an invitation, direction, or promise surrounding the link other than the company’s logo.

On the positive side, Aspen is using a “live-link”, so readers viewing the advertisement on a tablet, phone, or computer might touch the link and be delivered to an extensive, product web page that is well made.  Imagine how many more readers would experience that extra information if an offer hinted at the glorious detail behind the “live-link”.  Closing an advertisement without an offer is similar to missing the fuel level part of the pre-flight checklist and then wondering why you’re flying on empty.

One more thing, almost as an afterthought, Aspen’s “Get Connected” effort is included in the advertisement.  This is an intriguing program and a key element that can be used to set Aspen apart from the competition.  However, by including it in the layout of this advertisement, the reader is left wondering how the “Get Connected” story, links with the main “Two Heads are Safer” story.  It would prove far more effective to integrate the message of “Get Connected” into the Engage and Educate step or keep it out of the advertisement completely.  Usually, when a company places two, non-integrated elements in an advertisement, it is done to satisfy internal company politics trying to economize around a budget, instead of thinking about the reader’s interest and how best to make a sale.

In summary, the Aspen “Two Heads are Safer” advertisement starts out strongly enough in the Interrupt and Engage stages of the I-E-E-O checklist, but then slides slowly down the success stack toward a whimper of a landing by cheating through the Educate part of the checklist and blowing off the Offer stage completely.

About the Author

Greg Gudorf is an avid pilot and experienced technologist/marketer based in San Diego, California.  As the founder of The Gudorf Group, Inc. ( Greg works with Start-Ups, Innovators, and Re-Starts to strategize, build, and bring to market hardware, software, and service-based solutions for the real world.  Learn more with an e-mail to