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The Daily Special Can’t Be the Whole Menu

February 12, 2018

We seem to use a lot of food analogies on the blog. Maybe that's because food is so easily relatable. Or maybe we're just hungry.

Either way, we think you'll agree that the daily special above just doesn't hit the spot. Not because it's missing a meal, but because it's stuffed too full.

By definition, a daily special can't be the whole menu because if everything's special, nothing is. The point of a daily meal deal (or any ad, really) is to promote just one thing—to the exclusion of everything else. That's what makes it effective. Focus. Simplicity. Exclusivity.

Here's your choice for the day. Take it or leave it.

Of course, there's always an alternative—the rest of the menu. But it should stand in the background behind your upfront promo.

McDonald's does this well. Even with so many (arguably, too many) menu items, they advertise just one deal at a time—currently, their $1, 2, 3 Dollar Menu.

Notice what's missing. Most of the menu. And there's no footnote saying, "Hey, remember the Big Mac," or "Don't forget our fries." As if we could.

Point is, what's missing helps us focus on what's there. Meanwhile, the Big Mac and fries will be just fine on the back burner (or fryer). They won't stay there forever. They'll get their turn again, too.

While this McDonald’s ad is promoting just one thing—the new dollar menu—that menu itself contains several items. So in reality, it’s not advertising a single product, but instead, several products packaged together as a single deal. This kind of bundling is important because it lets us advertise many things under one umbrella.

We see this sort of bundling all the time. Every “back to school” sale is a bundle.

Otherwise unrelated items like pants and pencils get promoted together because kids need both for school. That makes perfect sense. What doesn’t is a retailer trying to bolt other deals onto the back-to-school sale:

Hey, while you’re here, be sure to check out last season’s swimwear. It’s half off. And y'know what goes great with swimming? Poolside barbecues. All our grills and accessories are marked down for Labor Day. Oh, and don’t forget, Grandparents Day is coming up...

We don’t see this everything-and-the-kitchen-sink advertising very often in retail, but we do see it regularly in our main line of work: truck driver recruiting. Busy ads like this (and even busier ones) are common.

If you read our Never Say Nothing Again post, you’ll notice this ad includes all seven nothings we should never say again. But that’s not the only problem here. Rather, the many goodies in this ad aren’t presented as one cohesive special.

To be fair, the number and variety of good things on this menu may persuade a driver to check out Crossroads. Then again, maybe not. Because what’s on this menu isn’t only vague, it’s also offered by lots of other carriers. After a while, they all start to sound the same.

It’s also not entirely clear what we’re looking at. Is this an all-inclusive deal? Or a picklist—like choose any two of the above? Not sure. And besides that, it’s a bit much to take in, like a Price Is Right showcase.

You get a money printer, a free coronary bypass, and a flying truck! But wait! That’s not all! Behind door #2 is a year’s supply of home time!

For all these reasons, it’s better to choose a single big idea (a special) and to use the individual items as supporting points. For example, what if Crossroads reworked its ad like so:

Now there’s just one special: turn a corner with Crossroads. In other words, improve your lot. Do better. Move from a lesser position to a greater one.

The crucial next step is for Crossroads to support and clarify their offer on the webpage they’ve provided. It should explain—specifically, not vaguely—how the pay, benefits, variety of routes, and so on can improve a driver’s situation. But everything should be written and arranged to support that one overarching idea—turning a corner.

That squeezes the goodness out of each item and distills it down to a single solution that’s more potent than any individual ingredient. And that’s truly something special.

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