The Five-Second Rule

Some define the Five-Second Rule as a momentary lapse in food-safety etiquette. However if you’re a small business, this principle can breathe new life into a faltering marketing plan.

The number one complaint of many advertisers is they’re receiving anywhere from a mediocre to lukewarm reception of their ads. It’s a real possibility that some of these ads fail due to the fact that they’re not built for today’s environment. As you look at your marketing, keep in mind that the world of communication is moving at a mind-numbing pace. The strategy of sending out pawns first while venturing into a slow, laborious spiel no longer works. On the contrary, it is absolutely critical to unleash your very best at the outset.

Five seconds is the maximum amount of time given to make this initial impact. Think of it as your first impression; should you capture the undivided attention of your audience in these precious moments, chances are they’ll hang around to hear the whole story.

Let’s explore the Five-Second Rule in the following areas:

Billboard or Outdoors 

Brevity is the soul of wit.Nothing is truer, especially when your audience sees your ad while doing 55 on the interstate.

A few tips:

-Limit your text to one line (even better - 4 words or less)

-Use a large, rounded or block typeface/font

-Avoid redundancies between text and images

Television and Radio

Remember that viewers/listeners are constantly tuning in and out. In addition, they’re spot-hopping with the latest DVR technology (this is now true for radio).

Try one of the following:

-Begin with humor, an educational fact or something surprising

-Mention offers and deals at the beginning

-Start with a jingle

Direct Mail Piece

Unlike other media, direct mail is tangible – a major plus. However, this does not guarantee success. Go a step further and present your best offer while avoiding junk mail-status.

Some ideas:

-Feature an unbelievable coupon on the outside of the mailer

-Avoid bait-and-switch tactics (i.e., making pieces look like real checks or IRS letters)

-Create a piece with non traditional dimensions

-Upgrade your paper product to a heavier weight or premium texture

Email Marketing

The email marketing world is a volatile place; even the most prestigious of companies can sometimes find themselves being ignored or worse – sentenced to the spam folder.

So carefully consider your approach with the following in mind:

-Know that the subject line is king – focus your energy on making it great and brief

-Before sending your email, run it through a free spam checker (search online)

-Avoid too many images (long load times may destroy your 5-second window)

As you begin to hash out ideas for your next marketing endeavor, spend the bulk of your efforts on what your audience will see, hear or experience in the initial moments.  Remember, all brilliant ads must first pass the litmus test of the Five-Second Rule.

Walter Dailey is a marketing speaker and proven creative professional. He’s the lead consultant and executive producer for Dailey Sound Vector Media, a creative services organization that specializes in commercial, jingle and marketing campaign development for small businesses throughout the US.  Ask Walter your questions at