Thereis an old truism that you can’t stand out from a crowd by looking and sounding like everyone else. These days there are more ways to market a business than there have ever been, and the fragmentation of media means that there are some pretty low cost ways to get your message out there.
Never mind the channels; there are more ‘cheap’ marketing agencies than there have ever been. They’ve learned from what they’ve seen in terms of how marketing ‘works’ for your average SME, and the attitude of the average SME is that they want to emulate someone else in their industry.
Every man and his dog, with even the most meagre of budgets, can market in one way or another now, which means we get bombarded by far more messages that our brains automatically block out than ever before – to such an extent that we don’t even realise that our brains are refusing to absorb the majority of messages we get hit with on a daily basis.
The net result
With all of these agencies copying ‘golden rules’ and businesses worrying about being seen in anything other than the most positive light, there is very little that really seems to stand out any more. Your business may look glossy and beautiful, but what do your marketing communications actually ‘say’, that doesn’t just wash over the viewer? Have you thought how it sounds to your potential audience when everyone in your field is insistent that they’re the best at just about everything that a company in your industry could offer?
How fake is that, and how much are we as individuals sick of seeing and hearing it? If that’s the case then why is this the attitude that’s generally adopted when companies decide to market themselves? Differentiators are generally in regards to the future vision of the business, or subtle differences in the way they want customers to perceive them. We’re not stupid, and neither are our audiences. We treat them like fools at our peril.
How about your website? You may have a beautiful template, but what makes it differ from the next businesses? There are plenty of pretty sites around, but what does yours actually offer? There is a whole world wide web out there with plenty of ideals you can look to for inspiration, which is pretty much the same as what everyone else does… which has resulted in a harmonisation of marketing messages and techniques. Where are the businesses that really stand out in this sea of mediocrity? This has been a long-standing question that seems for some reason to get tougher to answer. It’s more important than ever to really command and retain attention.
So what is being done?
This has lead to a new concept in the marketing world – clever marketers are now the ones that mock the industry; that mock the fact that marketing in specific fields works in specific ways. A couple of examples that spring to mind are the new Barclays advert, which spells out that the sand timer represents something-or-other and the woman represents, erm, a woman.
Or the nonsensical ad for the Volvo V60 that highlights it is deliberately nonsensical because all other car ads are.
How about the anti-marketing of Cadbury’s blowing up those poor cream eggs, their goo splattered all over the place?
Then there are the other ads that are deliberately annoying. The fingernails-down-a-blackboard ‘Go Compare’ guy who everyone would like to take a filleting knife too, or webuyanycar.com’s annoying dance tune that goes through your head every time an episode of Top Gear is about to start on Dave. Whether you love or hate these ads, you can remember them, right? And for that reason I see no need to link to them!
So how does this translate to other channels? Marmite have capitalised on their love/hate campaign which translates beautifully to the online experience. I could cite many more examples but am becoming increasingly conscious of my word counts.
A recent statistic showed that people are far more likely to react to peer recommendations than they are to adverts. That’s because they’re honest, which is a lot more than can be said for the rose-tinted-glasses that marketers feel inclined to create for an audience when viewing a particular brand. This is due in part to the altruism of the brand strategy, the vanity of the business, and the difficulty for a marketing agency to pitch a radical idea when nine times out of ten, a company doesn’t want to rock that boat called status quo.
It requires a lot of courage to do things differently, but look at how often that risk has paid off. Whether it be the way the Queensland Tourism Board was able to generate such massive publicity from advertising ‘the best job in the world’, or whether it was Google’s ‘less is more’ approach in the early days to what a good search engine should present, it’s radical thinking that really puts a company on the map, and into the public consciousness.
(PS, Happy birthday Google, 13 today!)