I really enjoy marketing. While I enjoy the activity of marketing – the planning, designing, executing and tracking of it – I really enjoy looking at the marketing that comes to me, deciphering the message and how it is communicated.
One thing I know is that, unless a piece of marketing is able to grab attention very quickly, the message will not make it through; there are just too many things competing for our interest in this media saturated time. That’s why Clara Peller, all those years ago, opened that Wendy’s commercial with, “Where’s the Beef!!” That was the grabber. The message that Wendy’s hamburgers had more beef in them than, say McDonalds or Burger King would have been ignored, never communicated, without it.
Look at Insurance Industry advertising over the past decade. Led by Progressive, insurance companies have turned advertising into sketch comedy. We know the characters; Flo and Jamie from Progressive, Jake from State Farm, Limu Emu and Doug from Liberty Mutual, and enjoy following their always humorous episodes from commercial to commercial.
That’s a pretty good gig, too. Stephanie Courtney has been playing Flo from Progressive steadily for twelve years. Twelve years! The longest running sitcom in history, ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ ran for 12 years.
Beyond the personalities, think about the meat of the insurance message. Progressive started a trend with the ‘Name Your Price Tool,’ a mythological hand-held gizmo that would enable you to buy car insurance based on your budget. It was prominent for years. What’s funny is that we all knew we could buy auto insurance by budget with any carrier at any time. It didn’t matter that the prop was silly or that naming your price was hardly innovative. What mattered was that we understood that we could save money with Progressive.
That little bit of absurdity was picked up years later by Liberty Mutual with their pitch that you only pay for what you need with LiMu. Come on. You’ve always paid only for what you need with any auto insurance carrier! It doesn’t matter what the meat is. It matters that the marketing can grab you and hold you.
Lately it’s been fun watching State Farm work quickly to establish ‘Jake . . . from State Farm,’ as a character we recognize and look forward to seeing. The first spot, with the wife catching the husband on the phone at 3am used the phrase ‘Jake . . . from State Farm’ three times in the first 10 seconds, delivered with great comedic inflection. After a couple of viewings, Jake was established in the consumer’s mind and could be used to bring the message that State Farm is always there (like a good neighbor) home.
When you are putting together your marketing plan and message, consider the grabber first. How will you arrest the consumer’s attention so that your message might get through? Your message is that you are a full service real estate company that can save consumers thousands with logical set fee pricing, but that doesn’t matter if your marketing doesn’t first shock the consumer open.
For Help-U-Sell, we too often lead with our message: Full Service – Save Thousands. For years that served us well and it’s still great as a message. But today there are many competitors with a similar message, so the consumer has become a little numb to it. That’s why I always push Help-U-Sell brokers to use ‘Crazy Guy’ or ‘Crazy Girl’ consistently on ALL of their marketing. Those characters are our Clara Peller, our Flo, our Jake . . from State Farm. They cause people to stop; and create a nano second of an opening through which your message might get through.
And here’s another great truth: it really doesn’t matter what the message is as long as it communicates the Big Four: we are here, people use us, it works and they save thousands. You do that with testimonials and sold & saves. S&S are superior because they don’t require reading, which people do less and less of today. And what does that say about your testimonials? They should be short; a sentence or two. Don’t use the one that is a paragraph of praise; it won’t get read.
I don’t think we will ever have a gecko with an Aussie accent pitching Help-U-Sell, though a red one might . . . . never mind. Truth is we don’t need one. We already have a great message and a couple of Crazy people to get it through. Your task is to use them, a lot, in a focused, targeted area. That’s marketing.