Search Results for: differentiate

6

Marketing for financial advisors – beyond gift baskets

BNBranding logoIt was one hell of a gift basket, piled high with a delicious assortment of treats… Not unusual for the holiday season, except it came from my financial advisor.

First gift ever from a planner who I’ve worked with for more than 10 years. Apparently, the stock market’s rise inspired her to do a little outreach. That’s one of the problems with marketing for financial advisors… it’s a fair weather affair.  (She stays conspicuously quiet when the market is tanking.)

marketing for financial advisors BNBranding

Her marketing efforts are being driven by outside forces, beyond her control.

Unfortunately, her current clients see the effort for what it is. (Just buttering us up for the bad news to come.) And new prospects aren’t swayed because her personal brand isn’t strong enough to weather the whims of Wall Street.

Her brand has no differentiation and little visibility.

Here’s an example of the typical marketing for financial advisors…

• Monthly Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting.

• Christmas card to all clients. (Gift baskets are typically reserved for only the top three or four clients.)

• One-page, off-the shelf website, never to be touched again once it’s up and running.

• Annual guest speaker luncheon. (Bring in a so-called “expert” spokesperson, book a room at a local hotel, cater lunch and then bore us to tears. If I wanted to know all that stuff, I’d do my own trading.)

It’s more of a tactical to-do list than an actual marketing plan. There’s no strategy at all. In the past it might have worked… She could get by on her good looks and good news from a bull market.

Not any more. There’s just too much competition on too many different fronts.

Compensation for independent financial advisors is typically based either on a flat fee, or on a percentage of the total assets under management (AUM). If it’s $100 million of other people’s money, they typically make 1% of that. A million bucks gross.

The problem is, when the market “corrects” itself, they might see a 30-40% drop in AUM, so they start scrambling to find new clients.

Choose one main thing BNBrandingMost just ratchet-up their networking efforts, hoping for more word-of-mouth. But it’s tough when they’ve been silent for years.

Some have discovered a new, more lucrative pipeline: Internet-based lead generation services.

Advisors sign up with an independent web directory and they pay only for highly qualified referrals. Very little effort for financial advisors. Very big ROI.

Independent, third-party directories also fill a vital role for consumers: They help simplify  the search and match prospects with a financial advisor who fits.

It’s a vexing decision, choosing someone to handle your life savings. And most financial advisor web sites  have the same, stock-photo look, and the same brochure-style copy. Very, very few have any sort of specialty or market niche.

On-line directories have been done successfully in the education market, travel, real estate,  and the auto industry. So why not financial advisors?

When prospects go on line to research “financial advisors” they begin with Google. But Google can’t sort or organize the category in a helpful way. That’s where directories come in…  they categorize advisors, provide details on specific services and nudge prospects along in the decision making process.

So assuming that you have some sort of specialty or differentiating featues, you can get a steady stream of very qualified leads and search engine optimization you could never achieve on your own.

In this day and age, marketing for financial advisors has to go beyond a static website and a Facebook page.

If you really are an expert financial planner, share your knowledge and your unique insight by writing a blog. Establish a presence for you and your personal brand in places where your direct competitors aren’t.

Do something, ANYTHING, that’s different from what you’ve always done.

Most professionals who run small service businesses believe  networking is enough. But that’s not the case right now for financial advisors. There’s no gift basket big enough for the job ahead. It’s time to start employing some new marketing tactics.

But before you dive in, consider your strategy. Because tactics without a strategy is like a ship with no rudder. For more on Strategy vs. Tactics, try this post.

If you want an idea that will dramatically differentiate you from all the other hungry financial advisors and help you retain clients without the use of lavish gifts, send me an e-mail: johnf@bnbranding.com.

For more info, try this post.

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

 

6

Comparison ads – From Cola Wars to Computer Wars

BNBranding logoA client recently asked me if he should run some comparison ads. It’s a good question, and the answer depends on a variety of factors.

There are many examples of successful comparison ads. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the most talked-about battle of the brands was between Coke & Pepsi. The Cola war is still popular topic of college marketing classes and business books. It even hit prime time TV on All In The Family and Saturday Night Live.

“No Coke. Pepsi!” John Belushi famously said.

Today the battlefield has shifted from soft drinks to smart phones, software and fast food. Taco Bell’s trying to compare its breakfast to a McMuffins and nerds all over the world are claiming “I’m a PC.”

It’s the war between Microsoft and Apple. A war that should never have been fought.

software wars on the brand insight blog BNBrandingEvery since 1984, when Steve Jobs launched the Macintosh with one of the most famous superbowl commercials of all time, the folks up in Redmond have been paranoid about Apple. So paranoid, in fact, they’ve ignored one of the most basic tenets of marketing and comparative advertising…

Never respond to an attack by a smaller competitor.

This is marketing 101 folks. If you control 90% of the market, like Microsoft once did, don’t give a puny little competitor like Apple the time of day. Don’t get suckered into a fight, and don’t design an ad campaign that directly mimics the competitor’s campaign.

Apple started it all with the help of TBWA/Chiat Day’s brilliantly simple “I’m a Mac” campaign.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfv6Ah_MVJU Those spots work on so many different levels, it’s ridiculous… probably the most brilliant “talking head” advertising of all time.

comparison ads on the brand insight blog - BNBranding

If the Microsoft execs were smart they wouldn’t touch the subject with a ten-foot pole.

Duck and cover! Just let it go, and come up with something memorable of your own.

You’re the market leader, remember!

But noooo… They played right into the enemy’s hands and produced a knock-off version of the Apple spots. They hired an actor who looks like the guy in the original Apple spots, and gave him this opening line: “Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

All that did was shine the spotlight back on Jobs & company.

Microsoft’s copycat spots gave the Apple campaign a whole new life. Every time one ran, the audience was reminded of the original Apple spots. Not only that, the media coverage of the comparison ads gave Apple free airtime on the evening news, effectively extending the smaller competitor’s media budget.

I’m not sure if Apple was purposely trying to get a rise out of Microsoft, but they sure did. And every time Microsoft responds in kind, they dig themselves a deeper hole.

Next, Microsoft upped the ante in their ad war against Apple.They send out “real people” to shop for the best laptop they could find for under $1000. A cute, wholesome-looking actress pretends to visit an Apple store and says “I guess I’m just not cool enough for a Mac.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQOzNDZzZzk   

It’s a nice, authentic feeling spot. Probably the best spot ever produced for Microsoft. From an execution standpoint, it’s very well done. Unfortunately, it’s based on a no-win strategy. The Microsoft ad actually reinforces Apple’s position in the marketplace…

It’s the computer for cool people. The phone of the hip. The brand of creativity.

Apple has always been a premium brand that’s not for everyone. That’s not news. So why does Microsoft continue to run ads that help cement that message?

In the “Laptop Hunter” spot they’re basically admitting that a Mac is what everyone aspires to. If you can’t afford one you settle for a second-best PC. The spot flat-out encourages people to compare Windows-based laptops to Apple laptops, and the more that happens, the more market share Apple will steal.

Fox News did a nine-minute segment about the misguided Microsoft comparison ads, and Apple’s laughing all the way to the bank.

How to differentiate your company - BNBrandingSure, there is some low-hanging fruit in the market for low-end laptops, but that’s just a short-term message that hinges more on the economic climate than any genuine brand strategy. Not the type of message a #1 player should even consider.

Tit for tat works for Apple. Not for Microsoft.

The market leader should lead, not follow, in its advertising.

Besides, you can’t take pot shots at a perceived underdog, it just doesn’t look good.

The fact is, Microsoft’s never had a decent ad campaign before landing at Crispin Porter. On the other hand, Apple has a long history of groundbreaking advertising, from “Think Different” to the iconic iPod spots and “I’m a PC.”

Apple inspires great advertising because it makes great products. They can do comparison ads because the facts back-up the hype. They have superior products, in so many ways.

Microsoft… not so much.

So that’s the first criteria for comparison ads: If you truly, clearly have a product that’s factually better than the competition’s product, by all means, run comparison ads. Truth rules!

But if the product or service is just the same, or even just subjectively different, don’t do it. You’ll get sued.

Every ad, every social media post, every point of purchase display Apple ever creates is a comparison ad of sorts. Not overt, but a subtle comparison nonetheless. Because as consumers, we immediately categorize things.

ipod branding on the brand insight blog

 

When these ads for the iPod came out, we immediately thought “Wow… that’s cool. Microsoft sure doesn’t have anything like that.”

In fact, there were a number of functional MP3 players on the market at the time, but they weren’t cool looking. They weren’t branded. And they weren’t as well designed as the iPod.

These print ads summed it all up in one, simple graphic solution. They didn’t have to beat people over the heads with product features and mind numbing facts. They just showed the product in its jamming simplicity.

So here’s another criteria for comparison ads… You can do them when public perception is on your side.  Before Apple ever launched the “I’m a PC”  campaign, the whole world knew the score. The TV spots just confirmed what everyone was already thinking.

And finally, when it’s a David and Goliath situation, only David can throw out comparison ads successfully. Like when the little start-up burger chain called Wendy’s took on McDonald’s.

comparison ads BNBranding's Brand Insight BlogOne brilliant comparative ad — three words — solidified that brand and cemented Wendy’s success.

“Where’s The Beef?”

It was a brilliant, humorous twist on comparison advertising. Their hamburger patties really were thicker and juicier than McDonald’s, and the old lady just said it, flat out.

Watch it here. 

Notice that the word “McDonald’s” is nowhere to be found in that script. Doesn’t have to be… everyone knew that they were referring to the market leader. In that case, there’s no denying the success of that comparison advertising.

Unlike Microsoft, McDonald’s was smart enough to NOT respond to the humorous jab.

For more on advertising strategy, try this post. 

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2 retail marketing strategy

Retail Marketing Strategy — Super Sales vs. Super Brands.

BNBranding logoIt’s discount days in the retail world right now. Everywhere you turn there’s a super sale, an inventory reduction, a seasonal clearance event or some other equally banal form of discounting.

retail marketing strategySign of the times, I suppose. With all that pressure from online retailers, brick and mortar store owners are desperate to get people in the door, even if it causes long-term damage to their brand.

But does discounting really hurt your brand?

That’s a question that often leads to heated debates between ad agency folks and their clients. The creatives are quick to condemn anything that involves a price point. But clients want to “move the needle” and “get an immediate ROI” on every advertising dollar. They often claim that any sort of “image” advertising is a waste of time.

Then there’s the agency Account Executive, trying desperately to bring the two sides together in a sort of middle-east peace accord that will save the account for another year. Not a good scenario for a lasting client-agency relationship.

But I digress.

The question is, where does discounting fit into your retail marketing strategy? Does it hurt a brand to run a half-off sale? It depends on the brand and the strategy behind the sale.

So before you hire that sign painter to emblazon your front window with “Everything Must Go!”  ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does the sale or promotion complement your brand promise or contradict it?
  2. Who would the sale appeal to? Are you luring only your best customers, or is a sale a good way to introduce new folks to your brand. And will you ever see those people again?

retail marketing strategyNordstrom has the right answer to both those questions.

When it comes to brand integrity, Nordstrom is the bellwether for the retail industry. It’s a chain known for high prices and bend-over-backward customer service.

Bargains are NOT part of the Nordstrom brand ethos. So yes, frequent discounting would definitely hurt that brand.

If Nordstrom had a Super Bowl sale and a Valentines Day sale and an Easter sale and a Mother’s Day sale and a Father’s Day sale like most department stores, consumers would slowly but surely begin to question the entire premise of the business. They’d begin to doubt Nordstrom’s stature as the industry’s service leader and wonder if the chain compromised the quality of the merchandise.

Might as well go to Macy’s.

So here’s how Nordstrom handles discounting without compromising their brand promise: They only have one store-wide sale a year: The Anniversary sale. (Plus an annual Men’s Sale and an Annual Women’s Sale.)

retail marketing strategyTo manage the inevitable department store inventory challenges and discounting pressure, they opened The Nordstrom Rack. If you like Nordstrom’s outstanding merchandise, but don’t want to pay standard Nordstrom prices for the service, go to the Rack. It’s like a sale all the time. Same stuff, but a totally different shopping experience.

So here’s the final answer: If you have a retail brand that emphasizes customer service and outstanding quality, use discounts very sparingly. Because every sale will send mixed messages to an already skeptical audience.

Contrast that with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart shoppers aren’t going to Nordstrom for the annual men’s sale. They’re going to Wal-Mart every Saturday where a constant barrage of markdowns is always expected, and perfectly “on brand.”

Wal-Mart’s corporate culture takes frugality to an entirely new level, and it shows up on every isle in every store. Wal-Mart’s brand promise demands big, loud sales, or at least the perception of sale prices all the time. That’s why they have spend more than $800 million a year on advertising… it’s a constant state of “Sale.”

For both Wal-Mart and Nordstrom, the retail marketing strategy delivers on the brand promise. Their sales appeal to core customers as well as those who are looking for a bargain. And there’s a good chance they’ll come back again after the sale.

Unfortunately, most business owners can’t answer the question, “is this sale consistent with your brand promise?” Because they don’t know what their brand promise is. When pressed, they can’t pinpoint what their business is really all about, beyond making their quarterly numbers.

They’ve never thought about it. They’ve never articulated it. And they certainly haven’t communicated it to the public in a clear, compelling, consistent manner. They’re too busy advertising “value.”

The Gallup Organization has done extensive research regarding brand promises and have found that the vast majority are poorly defined and poorly communicated.

retail marketing strategy

Sometimes it takes nerve to resist the “big sale” temptation.

“Rather than attempting to convince a skeptical audience that their brand offers something truly meaningful and distinct, some companies have found it easier just to bribe their prospects (with sales) … Repeat purchases that are driven solely by brand bribery, however, are not the same thing as a brand relationship.”

In other words, sales might increase short-term transactions, but they don’t improve your brand loyalty.

Successful brands like Nordstrom have lasting, loving relationships with their customers, not one-night stands. And the more Amazon pushes its automated, efficient-but-impersonal approach to retail, the more valuable Nordstrom-like service becomes.

So think twice about your retail promotional strategy. If your brand’s promise is to consistently deliver the cheapest goods and services in your category, then go ahead. Run sales every month.

But if your brand promise is to deliver value or service or anything else beyond low price, then find another way to drive traffic.

Your brand will be better for it.

For more on brand strategy, try this post. 

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For more on how to differentiate your store without resorting to bribery, try this post. 

Or call us! 541-815-0075

2 polishing your pitch for venture capital

Delivering your elevator pitch to potential investors — Gone in 60 seconds

brand credibility from branding expertsIt didn’t take long to get through the wildcard round at the Bend Venture Conference. Each presenter had exactly 60 seconds to do an elevator pitch. The best short pitch won a chance to do a 10-minute presentation later in the day. The ultimate prize: $110,000 in venture capital.

Nothing tests an entrepreneur like a one-minute limit, and conference co-founder Karen Fast was right there, enforcing the 60-second rule with her wind-up kitchen timer. Low tech, but highly effective.

“Time’s up!”

It was fun to watch.  Presenters really had to hone their pitches down to the bare essence that captured the imagination of the audience.

Plus, they had no PowerPoint slides to use as a crutch. Clearly, some were out of their element. A couple people blew it completely and every presenter was seriously challenged by the brevity of it.

So here are a few tips for for anyone who’s trying to write an elevator pitch or convey a big idea in a really small amount of time.

• What you say in an elevator pitch is important, but it’s what choose NOT to say that makes all the difference.

The objective of the one-minute pitch isn’t to close the sale, it’s to open your audience up and leave them wanting more. Don’t educate them, just tease them. Withhold some really important bombshells for the next meeting. The real objecitve is to get them to ask the right questions… the easy ones that lead right into your most dramatic points.

• Don’t try to condense your 20-minute slide deck into a one minute elevator pitch.

About half of the wildcard presenters did this… they just cherry-picked what they thought were the most important bullet points from their 10-minute PowerPoint presentations. But a one-minute elevator pitch is a completely different animal. You need a script that’s conceived, written and honed down specifically for the purpose or dramatizing your big idea in 60 seconds or less.

• Tell your story, starting with the problem and solution.

In radio, 60 seconds is enough time to establish a plot, develop memorable characters and introduce a touch of humor. So you should be able to convey the gist of your business idea in the time allowed. Great print ads work on a 3 second level, a 30-second level, and a 3-minute level. Your pitch should work the same way, if you have time. In any case, you’ll have to get to the value proposition immediately.

•Whatever you do, don’t start with numbers!

It doesn’t matter that your market is 39 zillion dollars, launching into your pitch with a big number will not differentiate you from all the other presenters. Besides, the stats just won’t resonate with 90% of the people in the audience. You can address the market size later, if you make it to the next round. It’s way more powerful to show how your product will solve one person’s problem.

• Get the right person up on stage.

A tightly edited script is crucial, but you also need a good, credible pitchman. The best presenters engage the audience with some charisma and deliver the message with passion and clarity. They have just the right balance of bravado and business sense, so they don’t come off sounding like a used car salesman, on one hand, or an engineering geek on the other.

It’s not always the CEO or the person with the most experience. One of the presenters on Friday had a good script, but his demeanor was just too laid back to get people’s attention. Another, who had an impressive track record of start-ups, bumbled it completely.

• Forget about introducing yourself.

You don’t have time to be cordial. In his book, The Art Of The Start, Guy Kawasaki puts it this way: “ Unfortunately, entrepreneurs still believe a pitch is a narrative with an opening chapter that must always be autobiographical.”Don’t talk about yourself or the management team. That can come later. Instead, get to the gist of your idea right away.

• Remember, the voting audience is judging the presentation as well as the idea.

If your business idea has a major WOW factor then you can let the idea carry you. But you still need to verbalize the idea in a compelling way.

For instance, there was a company at the Bend Venture Conference that has potential to cure Malaria. Seriously. Unfortunately, the presenter completely missed it and bored the audience to death. They may have had the biggest big idea of all, but they got beat out on style points.

polishing your pitch for venture capital• Step out of the businessman mode for a minute, and think like an advertising guy.

How would a classic pitchman dramatize your idea in a 30-second spot? Can you demonstrate it? Showing is always more powerful than just telling. Everyone remembers the “Will it Blend” series for Blendtec.

• Don’t underestimate the power of a good, old-fashioned product demonstration.

Guess who won the wildcard round… The one guy who could demonstrate his product right then and there. He showed the audience what his product does, and didn’t waste one second explaining how it does it.

Writing your one-minute pitch is one of the hardest things you’ll do. You have to put aside your businessman hat, and think like an entertainer. It’s not for everyone.

If you want to learn more about how to polish your pitch for venture capital, click here.

If you want to save yourself a lot of pain and agony, dial this number: 541-815-0075.  It doesn’t cost much, but it can pay off big time.

a new approach to website design BNBranding

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  Audi 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.