When Just Do It just won’t do
“Out of the box” thinking is over-rated. Or at least its application misunderstood. Agencies and the brands they serve can improve the effectiveness of their work by focusing not in breaking rules but instead by understanding them better than their competitors.
In the previous chapter of this series we saw how Shakespeare, James Bond and Kit-Kat all relied on the figures of rhetoric for their most famous lines. We’ve also spelled out the formula behind visceral campaigns used to sell otherwise generic goods like sneakers, computers and scotch –Just Do it, Think Different and Keep Walking.
But what if your brand doesn’t lend itself to emotional messages? How do you sell a functional product in a low-involvement category? Welcome to chapter 2 of Eloquence in Advertising*. Today, the formula behind the success of campaigns like Priceless, Got Milk?, We Try Harder and brands such as RedBull, Volvo, Geico and Fedex.
THE RATIONAL CAMPAIGN:
In categories such as B2B, car insurance and in the less sexy corners of otherwise dynamic markets like automobiles and travel purchase decisions are indeed driven or at least justified by pragmatic arguments. If you are shopping for a mission critical cloud computing, no amount of Just Do It pixie dust will do. What does work is to Identify, Reward, Commit and Refresh or IRCR.
Before briefing teams look at the data: what are the top, most motivating drivers of your category?
Once you’ve identified them, select one none of your competitors has an unassailable claim to. If you provide mission critical cloud solutions it might be Reliability. For business class travel might be Service, for others it could be Ease, Speed or Price among others.
Be ruthless about this: it may be that your category has more than one crucial driver or that they vary by segment. Never mind. Pick one where you can make a compelling case, invest behind it single-mindedly and relegate all the others to the fine print.
It may also be that your competitors sometimes outperform you in the delivery of that one driver. That’s fine. The key isn’t to claim outright superiority (“more flights than any other”), or even top parity claims (“nothing works better than”). The key is for your audience to associate your brand with that one driver, over any of your competitor’s.
Federal Express never promised to be the fastest, just that they were fast (in 2000 they went as far as shortening their name to FedEx to convey speed). RedBull never promised to contain the most taurine, just that it’d give you wiiings. Similarly Geico never promised to be the cheapest: just that 15 minutes could save you 15%, and that’s enough.
Now you can start “creating”. The challenge is selling un-sexy products with a rational (un-sexy) driver.
Overcome this difficulty the way your mum made you swallow medicine: if she used ice-cream or Nutella, you can use intelligent humor or surprise. Whatever you do, make it rewarding, worth their attention.
And now for the tough part. Your goal is for your audience to associate your brand’s name to a particularly motivating driver, before that of your competitors. This will take time and money. There is no way around it. But you can will on both by being disciplined and sticking to the driver you’ve identified for as long as it remains relevant. Stay focused, no matter how many cycles, agencies or new CMOs you go through. Examples abound:
- Volvo has been pushing Safety since 1959
- RedBull Energy since 1997 (Gives you wiiings)
- Geico Savings since 1999
- Avis banked on Service for 50 years (We Try Harder)
- Mastercard with Ubiquity since 1997 (For everything else there’s Mastercard)
- the Milk Board banked on Indispensability for 21 years (Got Milk?)
- Life Cereal did it with Taste for 27 years (Mikey Likes It)
As you relentlessly invest behind this one attribute, avoid message fatigue by constantly finding new ways to drive the same point: always reward your audience for its attention.
Geico has been telling us about “savings” since 1994, at the tune of over $1B a year. And while the gecko has become a brand asset, dozens of other devices, like cavemen, Maxwell the pig, the Money You Could Be Saving, parodies, “I’ve got good news”, “you had one job” have all successfully managed to deliver the exact same message in the brand’s unmistakable tone.
Mastercard’s Priceless may appear at first to be an emotional campaign, closer to Just Do It than Saving 15%, but in fact, it also follows the IRCR formula:
- Identify: ubiquity or widespread acceptance as the #1 attribute (for everything else there’s Mastercard).
- Reward: As a large, rather conservative brand, Mastercard went for emotional stories most of us could relate to, from dad and son stories to ex-boyfriends, babies, kids on a trip and puppies.
- Commit: launched in 1997, the campaign’s still going strong in over 200 countries and dozens of languages.
- Refresh: the same point has been made in hundreds of different ways, from ads about grocery lists that lead to priceless moments to facilitating access to, and sometimes even creating them as experiences in the real world for its cardmembers.
Finally, The Line:
If Emotional Campaigns typically rely on pay-offs that provoke their audience to reflect on their own lives (Think Different, Keep Walking, Just Do it, Be All You Can Be), I.C.E. campaigns focus on reminding us what the brand does well: Saving %15 or more, Gives you wiiings, For Everything Else There’s Mastercard, We Never Stop Working For You, We Try Harder, etc.