Differentiation Won’t Differentiate You

Differentiation Won’t Differentiate You

A marketing myth is that if you establish a difference between you and the competition, you’ll become dominant in the category in which you are different.

In reality, being different isn’t enough. Why wouldn’t your audience see your differentiation as just a desperate attempt to carve out a niche? I’m not saying that it never works, just look at Ragu. Years ago they wanted to create a difference between them and their competitors. Jarred tomato sauce was indeed everywhere, and they all tasted the same, striving for that creamy-ish consistency grand-ma-ma used to make.

Despite focus groups and audience surveys, they found that many of their audience actually preferred a thicker, more coarsely blended sauce and “thick and zesty” Ragu sauce became a hit. They found that niche and made the most of it. It wasn’t that Ragu truly believed in thick and zesty sauce.

But lets take “My Pillow” as a contrary example. Mike Lindell, the company’s owner, doesn’t strike you as an appealing pillow spokesmodel by any means. That is, not until he tells his story. Confounded by a lack of good sleep, Mike determined that his pillow was the primary cause of his sleeping discomfort, so he set out on a mission to create the perfect sleeping pillow. True or not (and I don’t know and don’t care about the truth here), his story is believable. If I had sleeping issues, I’d certainly consider us to have shared a condition, one about which he is passionate enough to stake his reputation upon.

He proudly claims to have solved his sleeping problem and now wants to share this perfect solution with the rest of us. And his claim is believable! His passion is believable and many are glad he is sharing that solution with us.

It isn’t his differentiation that sets him apart. To be honest, I’m not sure how his pillow is different from any other, but his passion hits in a way that delivers a sound emotional appeal to those who share his affliction.

Don’t stop at achieving a differentiation. Instead, have a passion, then introduce your differentiation as the conclusion of that passion.


This TV Icon Should Create Icons

This TV Icon Should Create Icons

don-draperIt is the last season of Mad Men. Of course, I enjoy the show. How could I not? I live it here, right down to smoking in the office (don’t tell the city please). We even have a retro martini bar that is our favorite stop after work.

But there is one thing about the show that bugs me. In advertising, the era of the 60s was famous for its use of advertising icons. In fact, many of those icons have endured until today. Tony the Tiger, The Green Giant and Mr. Clean were but a few still in use. But Josephine the Plumber, the Ajax White Knight and the Frito Bandito were all icons created in the Sixties as well.

So why do we never see Don Draper pitching the use of an icon in the show? It almost seems deliberate that they ignore that part of 1960s advertising. Perhaps an episode that showed Don Draper pitching Cap’n Crunch would be bad for his image. More likely, creating an advertising icon is a lot more work than can be whipped out in a show that has enough realism on its plate to begin with. Either way, to me it is the most glaring omission in an otherwise wonderfully realistic show.

In case you wonder just how prevalent these icons were in that era, here is a list of some that were either created or had their most popular days in that era.

Tony the Tiger                          Norelco Santa                                    NBC Peacock
Jolly Green Giant                     The Pillsbury Dough Boy                Speedy Alka-Seltzer
Marlboro Man                          Aunt Jemima                                     Betty Crocker
Madge from Palmolive           Josephine the Plumber                     Mr. Clean
Cap’n Crunch                            Count Chocula                                   Quisp and Quake
Frankenberry                            White Knight from Ajax                   Frito Bandito
Hawaiian Punchy                     Mr. Whipple                                       Maytag Repairman
Juan Valdez                               Mr. Peanut                                          Campbell Kids
Charlie Tuna                             Elsie the Borden Cow                        Lucky Charm Leprechaun
Sonny of Cocoa Puffs              Toucan Sam                                         The Twenty Mule Team
Trix Rabbit                                Geoffery The Giraffe                          Mrs. Olson
Raisin Bran Sun                       Quaker Oats Man                               Ronald McDonald
Wendy of Wendy’s                   Morris the Cat                                    Choo-Choo Charlie
Cornelius the Kellogs Corn Flakes Rooster                                       The Hamm’s Bear

OK, Go Viral: If You Think You Can

OK, Go Viral: If You Think You Can

How do you “go viral?” Dollar for dollar, a successful viral video will do more for your bottom line than any other single marketing activity you can think of. It is like hitting it big in Vegas. However, like hitting it big in Vegas, it comes only rarely.

Viral success will make or break itself, and once you put out there, you can do very little more to contribute to its success. The slightest hint of self promotion will usually disqualify you in the eyes of a suspicious world.

With one exception. The band OK Go are masters at viral video. Their investment in production and creativity of their videos make them the closest thing out there to a predictably reliable success.

Take a look at some, including their newest. I don’t suggest you try to emulate their success, but your own addiction to watching, and yearning for more of these will tell you what good viral marketing achieves.

Their first. The famous Treadmills.
Endless Love” salutes summer.
Rube Goldberg. Another renowned video.
The whole OK Go channel featuring the Brand New “White Knuckles

Steve Jobs – Marketing iCon

Steve Jobs – Marketing iCon

young jobsPeter Drucker, one of the world’s most brilliant business management experts said “Innovation and marketing produce results. All the rest are costs.”

If the head of your company respects that, you are most likely very successful. But what if the head of your company happens to be a genius at both? Then you have Steve Jobs.

When Jobs began his company in 1976, he had the vision to create a computer for daily life. At that time, no one even considered the idea. At that time the world’s most advanced computers were at NASA and the Department of Defense. Today, Jobs’ iPhone carries far more power than anything either of those entities held in 1976. His crystal clear vision was far beyond what anyone else could even imagine. His determination and success in making it happen gave proof of the value of that vision.

Then came the Macintosh in 1984 and with it, what many consider the greatest ad ever. To think it only ran one time is part of its lasting genius. But it was a unique piece of marketing that only he could have created.

Fast forward to the iPod. The mp3 player was already invented, but Jobs marketed it in a way that made it his. The iPod was an unfamiliar product with an unfamiliar interface. One would think an explanation of how it works would be in order. Not Steve Jobs, though. He never showed it, never talked about it. He only had silhouettes dance to it, earbuds in place. The iPod was instantly cool.

He later reinvented the telephone with the iPhone, reinvented the convenience of a laptop computer by removing everything mechanical from it with the Macbook Air, and now has revolutionized portable computing with the iPad.

That doesn’t even mention revolutionizing product naming by adding an “I” in front of everything…that is after he revolutionized naming by calling his products by the least obvious names imaginable. Sure the Macintosh made sense for Apple, but Apple itself makes no sense, nor does naming his progression of operating systems after predatory felines. But that kind of thinking is what you get from a genius in innovation and markeing.

Instant Branding?

Instant Branding?

Brands can’t be created instantly. They have to be developed over time. You put a consistent thought into the audience’s mind, and repeat it until that thought becomes synonymous with your brand.

That is unless you have the budget to create one immediately. Throw in a little Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Ferrell, and on and on, just keep writing the checks. If the concept is right, you can do it.

When you are the BBC, you can afford to instantly create the BBC Music  brand. Sure it feeds off the BBC brand, I will concede that, but when you watch the spot, you can see what they are trying to achieve, and how it is a brand unto itself, separate from the BBC brand.

Then watch the short video on its creation and its brand message is confirmed.


Ice Bucket Challenge: Stone Cold Marketing Brilliance

Ice Bucket Challenge: Stone Cold Marketing Brilliance

How many marketing techniques can you fit into a single campaign? The ALS ice bucket challenge might set a new record. And they execute them all so well.

The challenge employs:

  • Celebrity endorsements – You can’t help but see celebrities of all walks of life taking the challenge then calling upon more celebrities to join them. The unpaid endorsements top every other campaign I’ve ever seen….even more than USA for Africa if you can stand to hear “We Are the World” one more time
  • Viral Marketing – The idea that part of the campaign is to call out three people assures a viral thread across the social media universe once it took hold
  • Word of Mouth – You will see your friends endorse the campaign one by one, until you are finally called upon. Try to resist the peer pressure that creates
  • Multi-level (Pyramid) marketing – By creating brand champions out of friends, family and celebrities, it sucks you in to become one too. It is a steamroller of pyramid marketing.
  • Social media – It employs Facebook and twitter better than any campaign ever has. It uses those tools to make money more effectively than anything in recent memory
  • Public Relations – Even the social media illiterate will surely have heard of the campaign and seen clips of it through news, and sports shows, or through friends and relatives who have seen the videos or participated themselves.
  • Branding – We know it by the “Ice Bucket Challenge” We know it is for ALS research. They have made that message part of us now. We don’t even have to think about it.
  • News, excitement and a strong call-to-action – News:0 “Everyone wants to work to cure ALS” Excitement: The visual of a bucket of ice over a person’s head. Call-to-action: The next three named really can’t ignore it.
  • Brand advancement – The consistency and simplicity of every message, each delivered in its own unique way to make sure you view it is astounding.

What do you get when you run such a successful campaign? Last year, through the month of July and August, the ALS Association received about $2.5 million in donations. This year, with the start of the campaign, they are over $79.7 million in donations.

Like just about every other successful campaign you can think of, the success of this campaign is not in its uniqueness. Every one of these techniques, right down to the bucket of ice over the head, has been done to death in about every combination possible. So why has nothing worked this well? What is different here, is that all the techniques were employed according to a strong plan, that made sense and employed great fundamentals.

When you create a campaign, just worry about the fundamentals, and make sure what you decide creatively makes sense according to that plan. Then believe in and commit to it.