Marketing blog posts usually talk about the importance of data, analytics, measurement and all the logical, basics that young MBAs focus on for a successful marketing campaign. But targeting, tracking, optimizing and measuring aren’t the differentiators. They’re the basic nuts and bolts of a marketing campaign that everyone should be doing. What most people, amazingly, ignore is the message.
What are you gonna do to make people pay attention? Why should anyone give a crap? How are you gonna make people have an emotional connection to your brand or product? If your campaign doesn’t have a strong point of view that makes people feel something, you’ll have to spend exponentially more money forcing a bland message down people’s throats. So use the data and analytics and optimize the hell out of your campaign. But make sure you do something that can’t be ignored. A few thoughts on how to go about that.
1. If You’re Not Offending Someone, You’re Boring Everyone
Muslims, Jews, Catholics, African Americans, Asians, Christians, Latinos, white people, homosexuals, heterosexuals, PETA, the elderly, conservatives, the NRA, the NAACP, smelly hippies, trailer-trash, the Amish, private militias, people with chronic foot odor—anyone on this list might be offended if they’re mentioned in an ad. Yet someone left off this list may be offended if they were omitted. Put a kid in a wheelchair in your ad and you’re pandering. Don’t show a kid in a wheelchair and you’re ignoring the handicapped. Use the word handicapped and you’re an insensitive boob. Use the term challenged and you’re insulting. That’s the way it is. If you have a point of view, and you get a lot of attention, you’re gonna offend someone.
We once did a radio commercial for a power company in Chicago about proper insulation to stay warm. And we made some joke about how heavy wool sweaters are itchy. Seemed innocuous enough. Until our client received a terse letter from the Wool Council suggesting our ad was misleading and offensive as only poor quality wool is itchy. They asked that we stop running it and blah blah blah. But if our radio commercial motivated a wool lobbyist to write a letter, I’ll tally that as a win for my client. It’s proof that our message is getting noticed. So don’t be so bland that no one even notices you. Also, when the wool lobbyist complains, post their comments proudly on your social media feed.
2. Knock Off a Few Liquor Stores While Plotting the Perfect Diamond Heist
Like any smart entrepreneur knows, great is the enemy of good. Because if you wait for things to be perfect, you’ve waited too long. Same goes with marketing. Quit pondering and testing your way toward never actually doing anything. Who cares if you’re gonna change your brand colors in six months. Do something! Rather, than spending months and months on focus groups “testing” ideas, get things out into the ethos, monitor success, and tweak as necessary. Instead, combine research and instinct to choose a campaign most likely to resonate with your audience and roll the campaign out in a test market. Then use the feedback to plan next steps, knowing that the data you’ve gleaned is far more valuable than anything you’d extrapolate from a focus group.
3. Drop a Bomb in the Room and Then Throw in a Bunch of Leaflets
This is our somewhat politically incorrect philosophy: Drop a bomb, meaning do something big that gets a shit-ton of attention (yes, that’s a technical term) and then follow up with rational product messages after people are curious. Brands need both emotional and rational messages.
The job of your advertising is not just to explain how your product works. Saying a lot of things that matter to you will not make those things matter to others. Because no one makes rational purchase decisions. We all make emotional decisions and justify them with rational thinking.
Think of the two most important purchase decisions you’ve ever made: your house and your car. The average person looks at the house they buy 1.5 times and spends less than an hour there. There’s nothing rational about that. You fall in love with the view or the pizza oven and then you rationalize the purchase by saying, it’s in a good school district or the kids’ rooms are close to ours, or whatever.
Same with your car. If you were being rational when buying a car, you’d buy the most economical, safest vehicle to transport you from point A to point B. But you’ve convinced yourself that a BMW handles better and performs better. Even though if we took the badge off the front, you couldn’t tell the difference between a loaded Hyundai, Ford Fusion or a BMW. (And please don’t write me letters BMW fans. I know you could tell by the tight suspension and that BMW engine growl. Whatever.)
The point is, we fall in love with what the brand stands for and then we rationalize all the reasons it’s a “better” car for us. Same with every purchase we make. Emotions like love, envy, pride, and vanity are the driving forces of our existence. It’s what makes us human. So when it comes to vetting the perfect ad campaign, make sure people will fall in love with it or shed a tear or bust a gut laughing or say, “I totally do that!” Or, just make sure they want to wear your logo on a T-Shirt. Because, well, there is nothing rational about wearing a logo on a T-Shirt, and yet it’s probably the most popular piece of clothing in the world today.
4. Quit Worrying So Much About Insulting the Customer
I hear this all the time from marketing people as if there’s a subsection of executives who actually want to insult their customers. Marketing people who overthink customer reactions operate from a position of fear. They think that if a person in their commercial or video is the butt of a joke or looks foolish, that equates to “making fun of our customers.” But, in actuality, people watching the commercial or video do not see themselves as the person in the commercial—unless they want to be that person. If the person is cool or smart or sexy or looks good in those jeans, they might picture themselves as that person. If it’s funny and the person in the commercial is made to look the fool, the viewer does not think, “That buffoon in the commercial is me and they’re making fun of me.” So, if you’re gonna make a joke, there has to be a butt of a joke. All your favorite commercials show people acting foolish, being made fun of and looking like buffoons. That’s why you like them. Because those people are NOT you.
5. Know Your Bedfellows
Analytics and data do a great job of tracking your target around the web. Retargeting allows us to follow people where they go and get our message in front of them. But that’s a big problem. The data doesn’t think or feel. It just follows. So if your target goes to an extreme political website or porn site or another site whose values are inconsistent with that of your brand, your ad goes there too. So talk to your media company to target safe sites, generally denoted as whitelist sites. And follow @sleepinggiants. They follow extremist websites and let brands know when they’re appearing on the sites without their knowledge. Full disclosure: @sleepinggiants targets Breitbart and helped reduce their ad revenue by nearly 90%. So if you’re a Breitbart fan, this is probably where we part ways.
The Small Agency Blog is produced by Division of Labor; a top West Coast advertising agency and digital marketing firm that’s been named Small Agency of the Year twice by Ad Age. The award-winning creative shop services clients on a retainer or project basis. And also offers brand consulting services and hourly engagements for startups and brands interested in testing new ideas, but who aren’t quite ready to invest in an integrated campaign or media spend. We can assist with brand strategy, brand voice, early stage asset development, video creation and other communications to get things up and running without busting your budget. Click here for a free consultation.