Great lemonade only comes from great lemons.

Great lemonade only comes from great lemons.

Here’s a thought that’s so obvious, it’s easy to overlook: Before you focus on making your advertising effective, make your product or service effective. Don’t think for a minute that the success of Apple, Nike, Target or any other famous brand is based exclusively on their marketing savvy. They have great lemons. So their lemonade – the advertising and marketing efforts – seems so much sweeter.

How many times has a friend who has recently seen a movie told you, “All the good parts were in the trailer.” Inevitably they are referring to an over-hyped movie with a large promotions budget that ultimately fails at the box office. So why does it fail? It has great marketing. Maybe even a big opening weekend. But it fails because the experience leaves the promise unfulfilled.

If you want any kind of long-term success, make your “movie” great. Great marketing and advertising works only when the experience or product lives up to the marketing. And the advertising is merely an extension – a caption – of what the ultimate experience will be. That is why you rarely see infomercials, with their ridiculous overpromises, work for more than a short period.

Your first and most important priority right now (and “right now” means at any moment, in any economy) is making your product, service or offering so beneficial that your advertising simply needs to capture that in the most efficient way. And then communicate it to the right people.

Advertising will provide you no long-term solution without your benefits living up to the promise.

Lemons first. Lemonade second.