Search Results for: differentiate

1 Absolutely better brand differentiation.

What you can learn from a good, strong shot of Vodka.

The first rule of advertising is this: Never take the same approach as your closest competitors. If you want to differentiate your brand, you have to think “different.”  Contrarian even.

”Here’s how:

• Even if you’re selling the same thing, don’t make the same claim. There are hundreds of different ways to sell the benefits of your product or service, so find one that’s different than your competitors. That often comes down to one thing: Listening. The better you are at listening to consumers, the easier it’ll be to differentiate your brand.

• Don’t let your ads look or sound anything like competing ads. Use a different layout, different type style, different size and different idea. The last thing you want to do is run an ad that can be mistaken, at a glance, for a competitor’s ad. If all the companies in your category take a humorous approach to advertising, do something more serious. Find a hook that’s based on a real need of your target audience, and speak to that. Zig when the competition is zagging.

• If you’re on the radio, don’t use the same voice talent or similar sounding music. Find someone different to do the voice work, rather than a DJ who does a dozen new spots a week for other companies in your market. Same thing for tv spots. (This is an easy trap to fall into if you live and work in a small market… there’s not enough “talent” to go around.)

Unfortunately, every industry seems to have its own unwritten rules that contradict the rules of advertising.

These industry conventions aren’t based on any sort of market research or strategic insight. They’re not even common sense. Everyone just goes along because “that’s how it’s always been done.”

The problem is, if that’s how it has always been done, that’s also how everyone else is doing it. In fact, some of these industry conventions are so overused they’ve become cultural cliches.

The rule in the pizza business says you have to use the “pull shot:” A slow-motion close-up of a slice of pizza being pulled off the pie, with cheese oozing off it. In the automotive industry, conventional thinking says you have to show your car on a scenic, winding road. Or off the scenic winding road if it’s an SUV. In the beer business, it’s a slow motion close up of a glass of beer being poured.

These are the images that everyone expects. They are the path of least resistance for marketing managers. But if you go down that road, and follow your industry conventions, your advertising will never perform as well as you’d like. In fact, history has proven you have to break the rules in order to succeed.

Just one execution in the long-running Absolut campaign.

Absolute Vodka is a perfect example. In 1980 it was a brand without a future. All the market research pointed to a complete failure. The bottle was weird looking. It was hard to pour. It was Scandinavian, not Russian. It was way too expensive. It was a me-too product in the premium vodka category.

But the owner of Carillon Imports didn’t care. He believed his product was just different enough… That all he needed was the right ad campaign.

So he threw out all the old conventions of his business and committed to a campaign that was completely different than anything else in his industry. And he didn’t just test the water, he came out with all his guns blazing.

Needless to say, it worked. The “Absolute Perfection” campaign — which is still running today — gave a tasteless, odorless drink a distinctively hip personality and transformed a commodity product into a cultural icon. In a decade where alcohol consumption dropped, Absolute sales went from 12,000 cases a year to 2.7 million. And it’s still the leading brand of Vodka in the country.

The moral of the story is this: When you choose to follow convention, you choose invisibility. To gain attention disrupt convention.

Instead of worrying about what everyone else has done, focus on what you could be doing Take the self-imposed rule book and throw it away. Do something different. Anything! This is especially important for service companies that are difficult to differentiate from the competition.

Take real estate agents for example. Realtors are, in essence, me-too products. In Bend, Oregon they’re a commodity. Even if a realtor has a specialty there are at least 100 other people who could do the same thing. For the same fee. That’s the bad news.

The good news is, even though there’s no difference in price and no discernable difference in service, you could still create a major difference in perception. If you’re willing to think different.

Like Absolute Vodka, a unique approach to your advertising is the one thing that can set you apart from every other competitor. Advertising is the most powerful weapon you have, simply because no one else is doing it. At least not very well.

But putting your picture in an ad won’t do it. That’s the conventional approach.

Remember rule number one and run advertising that says something. Find a message that demonstrates how well you understand your customers or the market. Run a campaign that conveys your individual identity without showing the clichéd, 20 year old head shot. Do what the owner of Absolut did. Find an approach that is uniquely yours, and stick with it no matter what everyone in your industry says. Over the long haul, the awareness you’ve generated will translate into sales. Next thing you know everyone else will be scrambling to copy what you’re doing.

Eventually your campaign just might become a new industry convention.

the worst words in marketing BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

Wait, what??? The 5 worst words in marketing

BNBranding logoI am not stupid. I can connect the dots pretty well when it comes to concepts, jokes, images and nuances of commercials, print ads or social media posts. And yet, I often find myself scratching my head saying “HUH?”  Which is, unfortunately, one of the worst words in marketing.

Here are a few others that I’ve heard uttered:

“What was the meaning of that?”

“What were they really trying to say?”

“What were they thinking?”

“Why should I care?”

Or worst of all, “Wait, what? That doesn’t make sense.”

the worst words in marketing BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

The new version of the Audi R8. Plenty of good words come to mind.

Here’s a good example from an old superbowl telecast… The Godfather spot for the original Audi R8.

Normally I wouldn’t waste my breath critiquing the commercials that debut during the game, but this one really got me because it’s a brand I love.

But we’re talking about advertising that makes you go “huh” not sports cars that make you go “wow.”

Give credit to  of San Francisco for breaking away from the usual automotive cliches. The spot in question is a take-off on the most famous scene from The Godfather, circa 1975… the horse head in bed scene.

Godfather fans recognize it immediately… slow-paced, dramatic music with an exterior shot of a gigantic Italian mansion.

Cut to a creepy old guy asleep in bed. He wakes up, pulls the sheets back and reveals, horror of all horrors, the disembodied front end of an old Bentley. His screaming is really quite disturbing.

Cut to a product shot of the R8 zooming out of the driveway. The tag says, “old luxury just got put on notice.”

HUH????? What does the R8 have to do with old luxury?

I had to watch this spot three more times before I could identify the front end of the car as a Bentley. Or is it Rolls? And the old man is covered in oil instead of blood.

I get it. Talk about over the top! It’s a great piece of cinematic advertising, but it’s not good brand management. Even though it left most people scratching their heads, it’s ranked as one of the top 50 car commercials of all time.

BNBranding how to choose the right message for your adsIn the advertising business the technique is called “borrowed interest.” Usually it’s reserved for me-too products in categories with low involvement and little inherent interest. Like non-aspirin pain relievers or feminine hygiene products.

You have “borrow” interest from something that people are actually interested in.

But that’s definitely not the case here. The Audi R8 is one of the coolest, meanest looking new cars in years. Who needs to borrow an old movie scene to advertise such a great product? Couldn’t the creative team find any inspiration in the R8 itself?

And why, may I ask, is Audi positioning the R8 against an old Rolls Royce? Not exactly on brand for that particular model.

The R8’s a super car — more comparable to a Lamborgini than a Rolls. Not exactly apples-to-apples.

I doubt I’m the only person who’s confused by Audi’s approach. I bet the worst words in marketing come up all the time in context with that ad…

“What?”

“Huh?”

Why sacrifice clarity for an elaborate spin-off that leaves many people feeling completely clueless? Nobody’s going to spend time figuring out the message like I did.

Besides, if I worked for Audi I’d want people talking about the car, not the commercial.

It seems like the R8 spot was conceived with no clearly defined message in mind. As if the brand manager said, “hey, let’s spend four million dollars and introduce the R8 at the Superbowl this year. Wouldn’t that be cool.”

Nobody took the time to figure out the strategic intent of the spot before the creative team sat down. In other words, Audi didn’t know what they wanted to say besides “introducing the new R8.”

Was it really their intent to scare Rolls Royce and Bentley? I can’t imagine. Maybe someone thought the car was a little over the top, so they did a commercial to match. Who knows?

Chances are, you don’t have 5 million dollars earmarked for one, single commercial. But if you did, wouldn’t you want to avoid confusing people?

Wouldn’t you want the best ROI you could possibly get?  If so, then make sure your marketing messages have these three things covered: Relevance. Credibility. Differentiation. These are the three best words in marketing.

Branding firm BNBrandingThere are thousands of ways you could tell your brand’s story, but the trick is to make your message relevant to the specific group of people you’re targeting at that particular time and place.

Is the Godfather really relevant to football fans who’d seriously consider an Audi R8? Will that movie reference resonate more than the car itself? I doubt it.

That’s the trouble with borrowed interest. It’s usually low relevance.

The second thing is credibility. Consumers these days are highly skeptical of any commercial pitch, and a claim that leaves them scratching their head will never pass the credibility test.

Confusion’s not credible. It’s never a good idea to make your target audience feel like idiots.

Finally, good old-fashioned differentiation.

I have to admit, the four-second shot of the R8 at the end of the Godfather spot is enough to differentiate it from any other car on the road. All the rest of it’s just Superbowl ego-marketing nonsense.

Before you place your next ad, be sure to do the “Huh” test. Listen carefully to the feedback and if a lot of people come away saying “Huh, I didn’t get it,” then you need to rethink the ad. There are plenty of great, creative ideas that won’t leave people utterly confused.

But do your ad agency a favor and get that feedback early in the process. Before you film anything and blow the production budget. And trust your instincts… if it feels confusing to you, it’s almost guaranteed to be confusing to people who aren’t as familiar with your product or service.

And while you’re at it, also do the “Duh” test.

Is the spot so obvious and banal, the reaction is, “Duh!” You don’t want that  either. That’s also one of the worst words in marketing.

For more on clarity in advertising, try this post. 

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

3 To Blog, or not to Blog.

john furgurson branding blog authorThis post is from the archives… John Furgurson’s first official branding blog post from 2007. There’s some insight here on why it’s still a good idea to start a blog. Especially if you’re in the professional services business.

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I have to admit, I’m a little slow when it comes to embracing the latest, greatest technology. Like this whole blogging thing… the internet is littered with the remains of some 200 million abandoned blogs. And here I am, crafting my first post.

So why bother? Why dive into a time-consuming new activity that’s already lost its novelty?  Well, there are all sorts of good reasons to start a blog. Here are my top five:

1. I believe in the old idea that you reap what you sow. I’ve learned a lot since I started my professional career. And I’ll never forget some of those early lessons from that little print shop in Gresham… like why the two-buck customer at the counter is more important than the big job you’re running in back. Or what a great corporate identity feels like on paper.

I’ve written, studied and compiled many great stories that can help you succeed, and I believe in sharing my insight. I think it’s good karma. And good business. In fact, we’ve made it a core value at BNBranding, so I’m using this as an opportunity to walk the talk.

2. I love to learn. Sounds trite, but it’s true. New creative outlets like this provide endless learning opportunities… I’ll learn how to start a blog from scratch. I’ll learn from the comments I get. I’ll learn from the process of writing every post. I’ll learn from my role as a business reporter, and the new perspective that provides. And I’ll learn from working in a new medium. (New to me, anyway.)

This persistent longing to know more affects everything I do… the shows I watch, the websites I visit, the sports I love and the causes I embrace. It’s no coincidence that I helped launch Working Wonders Children’s Museum. The whole point of that charity is to nurture curiosity and instill a life-long love of learning. It serves me well.

3. I believe in the commercial power of a few, well-chosen words…  Words move people, and blogs are perfectly suited to the written word. If you can write well, and you’re in business, you should start a blog because it’ll differentiate yourself from those who can’t write.

Inspiration for the words I write will come from many sources, but the take-away will always be the same: practical, marketing-driven advice that will help you succeed in business and in life.

Some of the material will come from articles I’ve written and published in the past. I’ll deconstruct some of the best — and worst — marketing programs around and share those “lessons learned.” I’ll do personality profiles of inspiring clients, companies and acquaintances. I’ll share much of the reading I’ve done and provide a handy executive review of the latest, “must-read” business books. And I’ll always have stories that will help you build your brand.

4. I believe it’ll help build my brand. Yes, there is a self-serving component to all this. But most of all, because I love writing.

This is not a personal, electronic soap box. I’m going to avoid topics that derail family gatherings, like politics and religion, and stay focused squarely on business. Specifically branding, advertising and marketing.

John Furgurson bend oregon branding expertHowever, I do reserve the right to digress occasionally into my favorite related subjects like the golf industry or skiing or anything related to life in Bend, Oregon.

Enjoy.

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