“Everybody already knows what we do.”
Unless you are Roto-Rooter, Chevrolet or Hostess, that statement is a bald-faced lie.
Please, do not make this mistake born of hubris—a fitting word, as it has its roots in Greek tragedy.
In fact, I went to The Source Of All Knowledge, Wikipedia, for a quick lesson in Hubris. Seems it describes the following:
…a personality quality of extreme or foolish
pride or dangerous overconfidence, often
in combination with (or synonymous with)
arrogance. The term "arrogance" comes
from the Latin adrogare, meaning to feel
that one has a right to demand certain
attitudes and behaviors from other people.
Hmm. I’ve seen that before.
That actually describes a whole lot of what has been happening in American politics over the last few years.
But for the moment, let’s stick with marketing.
The hubris of which we’re speaking regards a kind of attitude that one is immune from doing smart things.
For more than a decade, I made my living writing radio advertising for businesses of all sizes, from local garage-door companies to GEICO.
Frequently, when an advertiser was struggling, it was largely because they were unbranded.
They would invariably be offering a “me-too” parity product or service. There would be no clear brand and no clear way that the prospect was supposed to feel about the business.
The solution would be simple enough.
I would suggest solidifying the brand position and running a branding campaign that gives the advertiser a higher profile and a clear position.
The response was often, “That’s not necessary. Everybody already knows who we are.”
That might be one of the most self-aggrandizing attitudes imaginable when you’re the same person who’s saying, “The advertising isn’t working.”
In the course of a busy day in a busy life, who can possibly make room for every advertising message from every advertiser who wants the prospect to care as much as they do about what they sell?
But, you know what most people can make room for?
An advertiser who’s surprising, who commands attention, and who wants us to know what they stand for.
If I’m not in the market for a car, your car dealership’s great prices this week only are irrelevant to me.
But if you make me believe that your car dealership is like a club for your customers who drop in just to say hi, and you have legions of ecstatic fans up and down the state, I might think, “Wow. I need to go there when I’m ready for another car.”
One reason I’m addressing this problem right now is that it’s epidemic across this nation.
Having driven several thousand miles in the last three weeks, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this:
A big billboard.
A silly headline.
A visual joke.
A non-descript business name.
And zero idea of what the advertiser sells, how I’m supposed to feel about them, and what they think they’re accomplishing with that billboard.
Saw one today. A silly word. A goofy guy in a superhero outfit. A smiling woman. And no other information.
There’s a guy in my home state who has billboards with his name and the tagline, “One call, that’s all.”
It took me years to figure out the guy was a personal-injury attorney.
That’s because I finally saw one of his TV commercials.
“But everyone knows what I do. The billboards are just supporting the TV that everyone knows.”
Dude, not everyone knows.
The irony here is that I’ve often compared an advertisement to an argument in a court of law. Present a case that makes the prospect feel the right way, and they’ll decide in your favor.
If your advertising is struggling, or if your client’s advertising is not working, back away from the hubris.
Do not end up in a Greek tragedy that ends with a plummet from grace because someone believes they’re above good strategy.
Traditional media are struggling. Advertising is a struggle. The world is more competitive than ever.
And there is no competitive edge in hubris.
Not everyone knows wo you are.
But everyone is desperate for something to believe in.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.