In Business: Be Courageous, Be Imaginative, and Be Rebellious
For such a simple statement, this is one of the hardest things for people to do. It goes back to that damn survival instinct each of us is born with. If an animal draws attention to itself in the wild, it might soon find itself the main course of a larger animal’s next meal. That fear of being chewed up and spit out has survived all our millions of years of evolution and is alive and well in today’s business environment.
Fight or flight is another instinct many of us haven’t yet learned to manipulate. It’s easier to run away from a new idea than it is to stay and fight for it. With today’s leadership-by-committee mentality and intense public scrutiny, the easiest solution is unfortunately the most popular. Companies today often miss the forest through the trees. They tend to concentrate so much on short-term profit that they fail to make investments or take advantages of opportunities that promise long-term profit simply because they require a short-term loss.
It may also be argued that fighting for a new idea—whether that means pushing for the development of a new product, staving off competitors or supporting a slumping brand rather than letting it die—is usually undesirable because of such costs.
Certainly that might be true in the short term, but in the long run, giving up too soon my actually cost your company far more in lost revenues, public outrage or shrinking market share. It requires a different way of thinking. Advertising and promoting your business is an investment in your business’ future. Investments are not mere costs. They come with a benefit.
Let’s get one thing straight from the very beginning. No company ever dominated its industry by operating with a philosophy of fear. And, ultimately, no company can survive if it doesn’t learn to conquer its fear and take chances, make changes.
It is the ability to see past any short-term problems to the bigger, long-term picture that has fueled the meteoric rise of the world’s most successful companies. Nobody knew what Apple was before its history making 1985 Super Bowl commercial.
Apple paid to run that commercial only once, but it ran again hundreds of times around the country and the world during local and national news broadcasts. Stories about Apple and its commercial were front-page news for weeks.
When it comes to advertising, you might wonder what kinds of changes are needed. After all, it’s just advertising. If your ads look like your competitors’ ads, if your messages are strikingly similar, if you talk to yourself instead of your customers, if you worry more about your logo being large enough than the message being attention-getting enough, you need to change.
Now this is just the first step, so we won’t get into any more detail here. The object of this step is to let you know that you need to screw up your courage and prepare to make some changes in your advertising that will have a profound effect on your bottom line.
Fear is the greatest motivator. However, instead of motivating people to act, it usually causes people to freeze or retreat. It takes courage to make the kinds of changes that are needed to survive in today’s crowded, complicated and competitive business environment.
Conquer your fear. Be courageous.•
This article introduced the first of Jeff Berney’s “Twelve Steps to Creating Breakthrough Advertising Campaigns: A creative philosophy to help companies recover from years of playing it safe.” Challenge yourself, your staff and your advertising agency to make a revolutionary transformation of your advertising program. And, remember, even the largest revolution begins with just one step—the first.
What’s the easiest way to kill a great ad campaign before it even begins? Take it too seriously. Advertising is not rocket science. You shouldn’t need a degree in the physical sciences to create or understand an ad.
And you should never, ever, under any circumstances, kill an ad because it is not literal enough. On the contrary, if you find your ads are too literal, you should destroy them all and start fresh.
Are Volkswagens flawed pieces of junk? No, but an ad with the headline “Lemon” gets your attention, doesn’t it? It makes you want to read the story, which goes on to explain how the particular car shown in the ad would never be driven because VW cares so much it weeds out the lemons so you never get a bad car. Think what an opportunity would have been missed if the folks at Volkswagen had taken that headline too literally.
Think about it from this angle. Why do people read an ad or watch a commercial? The majority do so because they find them entertaining and informative. If your ads are all information and no entertainment, you’ve wasted your budget.
This is not to say that an ad should be created purely for entertainment purposes. Again, a great ad is both entertaining and informative. The entertainment value should be derived from a feature of your product or brand. In other words, what you’re selling should be the star of the show. Sounds simple enough, but it is often hard to strike the right balance. That’s what makes advertising so fun.
How much information does your audience really need? What kind of story will they find entertaining? These are questions that should be asked and answered early on so that when you finally are presented with an ad or a campaign, you can judge the work according to these preordained guidelines.
A good campaign will reach your target audience and talk to them on a personal level. This has a valuable effect on your sales and reputation. A great advertising campaign will do more than that. It will create a buzz outside of your target audience.
Apple Computer’s “1984” commercial ran only once. But it is still one of the most talked about commercials because it was rebroadcast on every major news show and written about in every major newspaper for weeks and months. And none of this cost Apple anything more than a single TV buy.
It’s worth noting that Apple’s Super Bowl commercial helped make the company a household name and created unbelievable demand for the new Macintosh computer-yet the ad never showed the product or explained any details about it.
BMW’s Mini Cooper was one of the first cars to be introduced in the United States with no TV advertising. Blasphemy! Instead, they bolted the Minis to the roofs of SUVs and drove them around major cities. They created tongue-in-cheek billboards, interactive print ads and great guerrilla promotions. Most importantly, they created a waiting list of customers who couldn’t wait to get a Mini.
Companies that think bigger become bigger. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle. If you just think like a local operation, you might miss the opportunity to expand regionally, nationally, or even internationally. Your advertising campaign should reflect the direction of your company—even if you’re not yet there.
Challenge yourself and your agency to think bigger.•
This article introduced the third of twelve steps. Challenge yourself, your staff and your advertising agency to revolutionize your ad program. If you missed a previous step, contact the author for a complimentary copy. And, remember, every revolution begins with just one step.
In order to get consumers (whether they are retail or service customers or business-to-business audiences) to notice an advertising message, many companies resort to loudness and one-upmanship. Neither of these tactics works in the long run.
If your competition is talking loudly and you decide to yell louder, what do you think they will do? Yep. They’ll start to scream. Nobody wins a shouting match when it comes to advertising. And usually you’ll find you even lose a few customers in the process because they can’t stand the noise.
It’s the same with one-upmanship. If you have to compete on more and better coupons or more and better discounts, giveaways or incentives unrelated to your core product, your revenue per sale decreases as well as your number of sales.
Customers see these types of games as gimmicky, fake and disingenuous; and they leave. The ones who do stay now view you and your competitors as commodities with no difference except your price. That is a dangerous place for a company to find itself.
The answer to clutter is not more clutter; it’s finding who wants to hear you and speaking to them. So how do you compete if you can’t out shout or out discount your competition? You get rebellious and radical with your advertising.
Do those words scare you? That’s okay. Remember, you’re being courageous now. You can handle it. Besides, rebellious and radical aren’t dirty words. They will help you draw attention away from your competition without resorting to screaming and insulting your customers.
It’s not about being outrageous just to get attention; it’s about being remarkable. An advertising campaign with a strong rebellious strategy is, by its very nature, different from anything your audience will find from your competitors’ marketing efforts. It’s unexpected. It’s surprising. It’s effective.
There are two keys to creating a successfully rebellious advertising campaign. The first is the big idea. This idea comes from a strategy that is derived directly from your customers and their relationship with your brand. You arrive at this idea through a discipline called account planning. We’ll get into the details of both the big idea and account planning in later articles.
The second key to a successfully rebellious advertising campaign is attention. You can’t gain attention if you don’t learn to identify and then steer clear of the norm. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is or how large your potential market, if your target audience doesn’t pay attention to your message, your ad budget has been wasted.
Think about these two keys while you flip through the newspaper or a magazine. Ponder them while you watch TV. You should notice something almost immediately. Most ads today don’t seem to be based on any big idea. Many are so boring that you flip right past them without noticing them. Others get your attention but the ads don’t have much to do with the product so you quickly forget the brand the ad was supposed to sell you. What an opportunity for your brand!
Now, there is a caveat to being rebellious. Your ads should never be different just for difference sake. The difference should be derived from your brand’s uniqueness.•
This article introduced the second of twelve steps. Challenge yourself, your staff and your ad agency to revolutionize your advertising program. If you missed the first step, contact the author for a complimentary copy. And, remember, every revolution begins with just one step.