The secret question that will make your customers take notice.

A recent consumer phone service ad quips: “word of mouth advertising—it’s what they did before commercials”. The message is tongue-in-cheek, but there’s an embedded truism: The ultimate goal of advertising is to get folks talking about you. To get you noticed. To stand out.

It’s why car dealers stand out on the street corner in cowboy outfits, yelling “I’M WILD” to the top of their lungs. Or furniture sales people slap each other in the face with a pie. They’re trying to break through the clutter. They think whoever yells the loudest gets the attention. Sometimes that’s true. Unless everybody is shouting.

We live in an age of over-information. From the minute we wake to the fresh aroma of Maxwell House until we lie down on our Sealy Posturepedic we’re inundated with thousands of advertising messages, not to mention all the noise clamoring for our attention from our Twitter, Facebook and email accounts. According to Forbes, the actual number of advertisements we’re exposed to each day is from 4,000 to 10,000! So, why don’t our heads explode?

The answer is one that most junior high teachers have known all along: we have great filters. We ignore most of the information that surrounds us. So how do we break through? How do we create communications that STAND OUT amidst the onslaught of constant messaging?

“Cows, after you’ve seen them for a while, are boring. They may be perfect cows, attractive cows, cows with great personalities, cows lit by beautiful light, but they’re still boring. A Purple Cow, though. Now that would be interesting.” 

—Seth Rodin, “Purple Cow”

What if I were to tell you there is a secret question you can ask yourself that will put you on the path of differentiation, and help you to become unique among your peers? And if you answer this question correctly, you could change your whole business model. And what if I could show you proof of that claim?
Are you ready? Here it is:

Ask yourself, what business are you really in?

That’s it. Simple? Well, yes. And no. In fact, if you’re a typical business owner, you’re most likely too close to your product to be able to answer this question objectively. You have to back away, do some soul-searching. Or get an opinion from an expert.

Say you’re a car dealer talking to a potential customer. What’s your customer looking for in a vehicle? How important is social status vs just something to get them from point A to point B? How about safety? Cost? Service? Warranty? Is there a common denominator with all these attributes? Ask the question: what business are you really in? Hint: you’re not selling cars.

Once you realize that, you can connect with your customers on an emotional level: in this case, CONFIDENCE. You’re in the business of selling CONFIDENCE. Confidence is an emotion. And emotions sell better than pragmatic values.

To further illustrate the point, here are four companies who asked that question, in so many words, and changed not only their business, but quite literally changed the world.

Apple Computer’s campaign “Think Different” turned a whole industry upside down, by featuring black and white photos of people who changed the world in their own right: Edison, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, and the like.

Apple realized through the vision of Steve Jobs, that they were not really selling computer hardware. That when you buy an Apple product, you’re really purchasing a set of beliefs. A way of thinking. A challenge to the status quo.

McDonald’s grew their empire by realizing they were not so much in the business of selling hamburgers, but convenience. They built on the model that In-N-Out burger pioneered, where you could purchase a burger in a drive-through, without leaving your car. They stopped counting how many burgers were sold in 1994. The number was around 99 Billion.
Volkswagen’s “Think small” campaign, from powerhouse ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, revolutionized how corporations speak to consumers. They determined they weren’t selling cars so much as rebelling against the mass consumerism of the 1950s. They took a product that looked like an orthopedic shoe and turned it into one of the best selling cars ever.
Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign is one of the longest running campaigns in history. The slogan doesn’t have anything to do with how wonderful their shoes are. Instead, it identifies with the passion of their customers. It became a rallying cry for people who wanted to push themselves to new heights. In doing that, they forever changed the way sports items are sold.

Think different. Zig when everyone else zags. Figure out how you can forge an emotional connection that not only persuades, but reinvents. 

Ad Agencies Reinvented.

This is nothing new. From Burma Shave signs to the Mad Men heydays to the current digital diversification, agencies have always had to evolve to remain relevant and cost-effective. What remains a constant is the power of creative ideas and innovative means of communicating easily understood and persuasive brand stories—two disciplines Broderick Advertising can deliver, no matter the medium.