As the longtime fan of this wretched rant knows, we go against the grain.
Most small-business marketing pros will tell you to ignore branding and big-brand advertising. It has nothing to offer you in any way vis a vis modelling it for your own marketing.
And most of the time, those big brands get everything wrong anyway. Right?
Not right at all.
Here at Slow Burn Marketing, we are huge fans of big brands.
They often do get it right, and they often can serve as a model for your own marketing--IF you understand what they're doing and how you can do it in your own, small, under-budgeted world.
BUT EVEN BETTER FOR ALL OF US IS WHEN THEY DO GET IT ALL WRONG
Because we then get to indulge in schadenfreude and hilarity.
A great example is the Kendall Jenner Pepsi video from the first week of April.
Presumably, you've not been hiding under a bottle cap for the last month.
You are aware of the poop storm that swirled around Pepsi's 2-minute, 39-second short film.
In it, model and reality-TV star Kendall Jenner casts off the artifice of a high-fashion photo shoot and joins her peeps in the streets in a puzzling and benign protest march, and she ultimately brings the world together by handing a swarthy, ethnically indeterminate police officer a bottle of Pepsi Cola.
The internet went berserk.
And not in a good way.
The most repeated phrase was, "Tone-deaf." The advertisement was savaged for co-opting "Black Lives Matter iconography." The backlash was so intense that Pepsi pulled the video within a day.
MAKES YOU GLAD YOU COULDN'T AFFORD TO HIRE KENDALL JENNER OR HUNDREDS OF EXTRAS, RIGHT?
Even though you thought it might be nice to advertise your flower shop by having a socially-protesting supermodel insert long-stemmed roses into the rifle barrels of National Guardsmen, all to the tune of Pharrell Williams' "Happy."
We won't bother going into how something like the Kendall Jenner video came to be, other than to say: feel free to blame it on executive hubris, and that oft-dreaded beast of bad advertising, the in-house marketing department.
And again, why should you care?
We'll get to that in a moment.
First, let's look at the new video that's being heralded as the anti-Pepsi, anti-Jenner throw down.
Last week, the internet erupted in accolades and laurels for Dutch beer producer, Heineken.
IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE VIDEO, IT'S THE AUTHENTIC YANG TO PEPSI'S INAUTHENTIC YIN
In this video, pairs of Brits who don't know one other are made to cooperate in a series of small tasks.
As these real people execute these tasks, they also don't know that they've been set up.
Prior to being put together in the room, each of these people has been prompted to speak to the camera about their social and political views.
A climate-change denier. An environmental doomsayer.
An anti-feminist white gent. A pro-feminist black woman.
These pairs are put in a room together and made to build something.
They end up getting along, and amicably discussing their differences...
Over a beer.
THIS ADVERTISING MESSAGE IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Nobody is going to solve world hate by drinking a Heineken with their imagined nemesis.
In fact, you could argue that this effort is just as socially irrelevant as the Pepsi video.
But here's what the Heineken message does not do: it does not act in a tone-deaf manner.
It instead puts its finger right on the pulse of the zeitgeist and says, "I feel ya."
It doesn't spend huge amounts of money fabricating a silly scenario that trivializes Big Problems so a soft drink can be positioned as heroic.
Instead, it lets real people with big differences behave in a real and surprising manner, and the beer gets to be a vehicle for transporting them to a place of thoughtful discussion.
IN SIMPLE TERMS?
The first one is inauthentic and insulting.
The second one is authentic and gracious.
One is repellent.
The other is attractive.
And neither of them is going to change the world.
But at least one of them, because of where it sits relative to world problems, is going to leave you feeling good about the product.
So what on earth does any of this have to do with the small-business marketer?
ECONOMIES OF SCALE, MY FRIEND
You might not be able to afford a grand location shoot with a supermodel and a hundred extras.
You might not even be able to afford a "reality" TV shoot which, at a fraction of the other's budget, still costs what is, for you, a year's revenue.
But your take away is simple: you cannot afford to be inauthentic.
Resonating with an attractive authenticity is key.
And that kind of resonance doesn't have a budget.
Emotionally relevant, genuinely attractive messages that illustrate a better reality cost no more than the price of smart thinking.
And that thinking begins with a simple question...
WHERE IS YOUR CUSTOMER'S JOY?
Executed correctly and with finesse, your marketing will find and portray that joy at the intersection of your customer's reality, and your product or service.
Your brand and the resulting advertising should evoke a resonant authenticity that makes the core customer think, I feel good about this guy.
Too often, especially in radio advertising, people feel compelled to be clever or, worse, funny.
"We need some funny advertising! That'll have folks flocking into our funeral home!"
Well, I don't know about that.
"Oh, come on! I've been doing this my entire life! The first three letters in 'funeral' spell 'fun!'"
Well, maybe for you. Not for the person requiring your services.
BUT CAN YOU STILL FIND JOY AT THE INTERSECTION OF YOUR PRODUCT AND THAT PERSON?
Years ago, the Forest Lawn chain of cemeteries and memorial parks ran a radio campaign called, "Celebrate A life."
Each message was a single voice telling a story, recounting the life of someone special--and how that special person was remembered in the context of a Forest Lawn memorial service.
One was about the guy who loved Dixieland, and there was a jazz band that played.
Another was about the guy who was an avid motorcycle rider, and an epic ride was held in his honor.
And far more engaging than the vast majority of the category's rational, left-brain messages justifying the benefits of advance-planning packages.
THOSE MESSAGES TRY TO RATIONALIZE A DEEPLY EMOTIONAL PROPOSITION
And nobody wants to hear it. That simple.
It's necessary to remember that the decision to buy is like the decision to do anything else: it is made in the emotional centers of the brain, and rationalized afterwards.
That means a relevant, resonant, emotionally attractive message is key.
Frequently, the small-business marketer's message lacks relevance, resonance and emotional attraction.
Granted, it takes some skill to create such a message. But more than that, it takes awareness and understanding and a focus on your core customer.
It's also easier to craft that message once you understand what your brand means to your core customer, and how you want that customer to feel.
So often, the small-business marketer comes to the table pushing an ego-driven agenda like, "We need to by funny!" Or, "We need more bullet points!"
OR, "WE NEED A SUPERMODEL TO USE OUR PRODUCT TO END SOCIAL STRIFE!"
In the final analysis, for all of us, no matter how big or small our budgets, all of our marketing is about selling our stuff.
But when you authentically understand what is really going on in your customer's life, and can speak in an authentic manner about solving that problem, your marketing wins.
But when egos rule, and somebody up the chain of command tells you it's time to trot out the supermodel, things change.
Supermodels have their place.
As does comedy.
As do bullet points.
But all of them pale by comparison to the simple skill of holding the mirror up to your customer's needs, wants and fears, and reflecting them onto the better reality you have in store for them.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.