“Give people a taste of Old Crow, and tell them it’s Old Crow. Then give them another test of Old Crow, but tell them it’s Jack Daniel’s. Ask them which they prefer. They’ll think the two drinks are quite different. They are tasting brand images.” -David Ogilvy
Ogilvy is right
In one of the most competitive marketplaces the world has ever seen, the power of the brand is more relevant than ever. But brand alone isn’t enough to sell your products…there’s more to it than that. In order for your brand to achieve the status of a Jack Daniel’s or an Apple, you must first make a sale. To do this, your brand needs the right pitch, at the right time, to the right person. Modern marketing technologies and tactics have made it easier than ever to get the right person at the right time, however, the right pitch is an art form that often eludes even the world’s largest brands. Here are some guidelines to help you craft the perfect pitch and close the sale:
The Big Idea
You’ll know one when you see it. If not, don’t worry. It’s safe to say you’ll have a couple more years to do so. A great example of a big idea in action is GEICO’s amazing “15 minutes could save you 15% or more” campaign. This pitch is arguably the most recognizable in the country over the last 5 years. Why? Well some would say their massive billion dollar advertising budget had something to do with it, but it’s more than that (this is going to be a trend). The Gecko is recognizable, the pitch sticks in your head like the Cardigans singing “Love me, love me, say that you love me”, it’s unique, you grasp the pitch and value-add immediately, it transfers effortlessly from medium to medium, and I believe it will stand the test of time. Keep striving for that big idea. Don’t sabotage your potential and play the ‘safe’ game…swing for the fences, every time.
Whenever you can, put the product first. If you’re selling a commoditized product, your only option is to explain the product virtues more persuasively than the competition and ensure your advertising style stands out from the crowd (see above). And always keep this gem in the back of your mind: there are no dull products, only dull writers.
Product comparisons seem to be the prevailing approach used to differentiate a company’s product offering from the competition. Examples: Surface Pro vs. the iPad, Verizon’s Network vs. AT&T’s Network, Comcast vs. Dish. Brands all over the world are utilizing product comparison marketing in an attempt to influence consumer perception and position their competitor’s product offering as inferior. While this can often be an effective tactic, there is another way to sell that should not be overlooked. Set out to convince the consumer that your product is good. If they think your product is good but are unsure about your competitor’s offering, you will most certainly close the sale (and look better doing it).
Every piece of communication should be thought of as a contribution to the overall brand image. More importantly, this image should stay consistent year after year…this is often the spot where brands get in trouble. Back to our whiskey example. Ogilvy mentioned how the homespun feel and high price point of Jack Daniel’s evokes a feeling of superior quality. He wrote this in 1963. If you take a look back through the history of their labeling, advertising, and branding…to quote King Crimson if I may, “it remains consistent.” In short, the pitch will close the sale, but a consistent and well-crafted brand image will create customers and brand advocates for life.
My New Year’s Resolution
As you can probably tell, I’m diving back into my old advertising and marketing books by some of the greats: Ogilvy, Hopkins, Cialdini, Whitman, Caples, yada, yada, yada. There is a wealth of information in these publications that can (and should) be integrated into every campaign, piece of copy, advertisements, collateral, your company releases to the masses.
Many of us have become complacent as a result of convenience. Before you grab the pitch forks, let me explain. Ogilvy didn’t have the luxury of hyper targeted PPC campaigns. He didn’t have behavioral based marketing automation programs that will deliver the right marketing message at a strategic lifecycle point. No, he had only the most basic channels available to him. But he possessed an exceptional understanding of consumer behavior and a wealth of marketing experience which allowed him to unleash some of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever, and as a result, some of the most revered brands of all-time.
There is still so much to learn from the masters of old. Sure, our highly targeted multi-touch campaigns with real-time digital analytics produce a return, but how much is left on the table due to improper positioning, lackluster copy, and a weak pitch?
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to share little nuggets of knowledge from the masters in the hopes that just one person gains a greater appreciation for the early trailblazers of marketing and in turn, the profession as a whole.