May 10, 2010

Does your brand live in a cul-de-sac?

We've all been stuck in one of those nightmarish suburbs where every street is a dead end. Display home after display home rolls past like a never ending brochure from Delfin or Metricon. In town planning the cul-de-sac is fast falling out of favour. Residents have to drive further, have limited access to public transport and other services and suffer from a lack of community integration.

A recent study that looked at the options for a 1km walk in any direction (above) for residents in cul-de-sacs showed a distinct lack of options compared to those living in more traditional urban grids.

The same cul-de-sac planning is evident with so many of our stronger performing brands. When a marketing strategy or tactic works the temptation to repeat the exercise over and over is strong. If your eDMs or POS are working well enough - and the ROI is respectable - why change it up?

Without realising it we can create cul-de-sacs in the market where people are receiving the same messages through the same channel time and again. Pretty soon the scenery starts to look familiar.

So how can we keep people interested and give them a deeper engagement with a brand? One technique that springs to mind is to tell your brand story in a different way.

Avis and DDB had a lot of success with 'We Try Harder' in 1962. Their insight was that as the second placed car rental supplier they had to try harder with their service to win customers. I'm sure a lot of their advertising was around airports and bus terminals, wherever people were in the market for a rental. That's important.

Imagine if they extended the idea beyond the bus terminal and had Avis staff on selected bus routes for a month handing out cushions or cups of 'hot joe' and newspapers to weary interstate or overseas commuters. What if they designed branded lounge chairs for airports that were the most comfortable you could sit in? They could even have had Avis staff pumping gas at gas stations within 2 miles of commuter interchanges. There are so many ways you express the proposition that 'We try Harder'.

The advantage to mixing up your messaging in such a way is that when people come across a billboard or newspaper ad that states 'We try harder', they bloody well believe it.

It's not too hard to find ways to engage both your current and target markets in new and interesting ways. We've all been looking at the big numbers in research, segmentation and other types of analytics. What are most of our customers reading, buying or watching? 32 per cent read that? Great! 24 per cent also like that? Fantastic! Chances are though that your competitors will be reading it too and relying on the same data for their campaigns (Hello to the Big 4 banks and the recent wave of "we're here for you" marketing.)

What if you dig a little deeper and look at some of the insights that haven't been tested? Perhaps you just might find a map out of your brand cul-de-sac?

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