Monthly Archives: April 2009

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. 

BNBranding's Brand Insight Blog

 

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

 

  • “Brand” Trumps Managerial Incompetence.
  • “High-Quality” Content – Finding or providing something genuinely worthwhile.
  • 1 Tough Mother, 2 marketing objectives: Image advertising AND results
  • 4 common advertising mistakes — Bad puns, bribes and other branding blunders
  • 4 Ingredients of small-business branding – Learning from breakfast cereal and a 4-buck burrito
  • 5 Things All Iconic Brands Have In Common.
  • A new approach to website design – What’s the big idea?
  • Absolutely better brand differentiation.
  • Absolutely Better Branding Strategies (Lessons from a strong shot of vodka.)
  • Advertising in a crisis: Shit happens, but brands endure.
  • Airline Industry marketing (One Canadian brand stands out)
  • As long as first impressions matter, website design will matter.
  • Automotive Advertising: Another ride down that twisting, mountain road of tired clichés.
  • Back to Basics (A working definition of Branding and Brand)
  • Bare breasts mean business at Starbucks.
  • Borrowed interest and other desperate attempts to attract customers
  • Brand authenticity (Keeping it real, honest, genuine and true)
  • Brand credibility killers — 5 things guaranteed to set off my BS detector
  • Brand design with a bang – Visual cues and consistency across platforms
  • Brand experience – How one ski area is trying its best to manage expectations.
  • Brand strategy: Put some meat in your marketing messages.
  • Branding Fundamentals – The ABCs of Branding are RCD
  • Branding the Olympics – leading by example in sports marketing
  • Brands and corporate mergers — F15 Fighter vs. the 787 Dreamliner
  • Brands of Love (How to build a loving relationship with your customers.)
  • Brands that are built to last. (Jim Collins on brand values)
  • Brewpub Branding: Messaging and attitude from Brewpub Beer Snobs.
  • Cammo brand personality (Duck Dynasty goes high fashion.)
  • Catching frogs and campfire songs — Branding lessons from summer camp
  • Class A office space, Class A brand — Brand alignment with your location
  • Comparison ads – From Cola Wars to Computer Wars
  • Craftsmanship in Advertising (God is in the details.)
  • Crowdsourcing logo design (Getting literal for little.)
  • Death in a small business — Brands outlive their founders.
  • Definition of digital marketing — 3 things you HAVE to know
  • Delivering your elevator pitch to potential investors — Gone in 60 seconds
  • Deschutes Brewing Going National (How to grow without selling your soul.)
  • Dual Purpose Websites – How to create branding sites that sell.
  • Ecommerce brands & on-line shopping — The best thing ever for MANkind.
  • Effective Personal Branding — The corporate head shot is not the ticket.
  • Effective TV advertising — How to avoid TV spots that miss the mark.
  • Enough, already, with the exclamation punctuation in advertising.
  • Fake thrills and false advertising — Another automotive marketing misfire.
  • Fear Of Loss in advertising — Another effective angle of attack
  • Garbage In, Garbage Out — How to avoid waste in advertising
  • Getting to the point for better PowerPoint Presentations
  • Golf industry marketing strategy – Parity vs “kickassery”
  • Gratitude in business – 5 things every marketer should be thankful for
  • How stock photos sabotage your brand image – Beware of visual clichés.
  • How to build a brand… First, own an idea.
  • How to build credibility for your brand, one chapter at a time.
  • How to compete in the booming Kombucha Market
  • How to differentiate your company (Disruption as a branding discipline)
  • How to do great branding ads — Subaru scores with skier-focused print.
  • How to do more effective advertising (Just the facts won’t do it)
  • How to hire the right marketing person — the first time.
  • How to make your copy more compelling: Mix up the words for better results.
  • How to survive when the economy tanks.
  • Is “Inspiring Bank” an Oxymoron? The Branding of Umpqua Bank
  • Is it car sickness, or just nauseating radio ads?
  • Judge Not. (And make good marketing decisions.)
  • Just a little trim around the ears — How to cut your marketing budget without hurting your brand image.
  • Just say NO. Sage advice for small business
  • Keen Footwear is a great branding case study. If the shoe fits.
  • Lessons learned from 30 years in a professional services business
  • Living The Brand, Scott Bedbury Style.
  • Logo contests: A bad idea for any good brand
  • Marketing for financial advisors – beyond gift baskets
  • Marketing lessons from all that annoying political advertising of 2020
  • Marketing lessons from GM — Will a $30 billion bailout buy them some focus?
  • Marketing lessons from the not-so-surprising failure of Sears
  • Marketing Management & Leadership – Who’s really running the show?
  • Marketing Resolutions (3 easy paths to better branding)
  • Masterful Brand Management – Golf industry marketing & Tiger Woods
  • Naming — Age-old advice on how to name a new business.
  • Naming a baby vs. naming a business
  • Naming, rebranding, and the role of your brand origin story.
  • Need a new logo? (5 things to know before you hire professional help)
  • New word, old idea — The definition of content marketing
  • Non-profit branding (A story of start-up success and failure)
  • Old-school advice from Mad Men: Improve response by using the USP in Advertising.
  • Packaging design — unwrapping a critical element of your brand
  • Paralysis by Analysis (How fear and big data can kill great marketing)
  • Pepsi logo redesign – A new spin on the Pepsi logo.
  • Personal branding strategy – Get to the heart of it.
  • Positioning — It’s not what you SAY. It’s what they THINK.
  • Predicting consumer behavior: Or the whacky, random ways people buy.
  • Restaurant Branding — Recipes for failure and success
  • Retail Marketing Strategy — Super Sales vs. Super Brands.
  • Secondary Reality (Alternative facts in natural foods marketing)
  • Ski Industry Marketing — New product launch vs. the birth of a brand
  • Small brands, big attitudes. How to create an XXL brand personality
  • Small-Business Management 2020 — Unusual times require an unreasonable approach.
  • Sorting through the endless “marketing opportunities”
  • State Farm is Where??? Insurance industry marketing
  • Storytelling in business — a good story equals strong leadership.
  • Strategic listening and consumer insight – Small business market research
  • Strategic Thinking vs. Tactical Acting – Your marketing needs both.
  • Successful branding – 3 logical reasons why brands need more emotional thinking
  • Successful Branding — Zero-in on the main thing for brand loyalty.
  • Successful brands are built on beliefs. (Not products)
  • The 4 Ps of Marketing – Plus one for Ecommerce
  • The Allure of Ecommerce (4 reasons why small retail brands often fail at online sales)
  • The ancient, proven path to marketing success – Credible, Emotional, Rational
  • The difference between marketing strategy and tactics.
  • The DIY mentality and small business marketing (2 clearly different paths)
  • The Inside-Out Approach To Building A Brand — Start with your people
  • The new normal for Ecommerce — How to sell more stuff online.
  • The new normal in e-commerce — How to sell more stuff online.
  • The rise of “Digital Marketing” — The death of advertising?
  • The secret to success: Clarity in business communications.
  • The secret, missing ingredient of content marketing.
  • The ultimate franchise retail branding experience – like a kid in a candy store
  • The Yin & Yang of Marketing – Are your efforts in balance?
  • These two words are NOT synonymous: Logo. Brand.
  • TMI – How information is killing your advertising
  • To Blog, or not to Blog.
  • Travel industry advertising – Wales misses the fairway by a mile.
  • Truth and clarity about Guerrilla Marketing
  • Truth, Lies, and Advertising Honesty.
  • Under Armour marketing — Sailing into a big, blue ocean of opportunity.
  • Wait, what??? The 5 worst words in marketing
  • Website Design — How to hone-in on a better homepage
  • Website Design & Development – How to make websites work on many levels.
  • What do great brands have in common?
  • What marketers can learn from the Olympics — Branding and the Olympic Rings.
  • When Branding outpaces the brand. And vice versa.
  • Who reads long copy these days? The hungry ones.
  • Why most marketing videos fail. (Unscripted advice on the missing ingredient)
  • Working together for more effective advertising. (11 helpful tips)
  • Writing better web copy — How long should that copy be? Really.