I found this year’s Super Bowl ads were “pretty good”.While the Farmers ad stood out as amazing, the Budweiser ad was nice. But the rest of it while well executed feels like something we see on CNN all the time. Nothing was different.
Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road? Let’s hope someone has the strength to do something different.
The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass. Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do. Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’re excited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched. Maybe even a game on the website.
Ah, we have our launch.
This is a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year. Convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done. What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.
At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out: now, more than ever. It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.
Push yourself to be different. The most beloved brands are different, better or cheaper. Or not around for very long.
There are four types of launches:
Good but not different (our launch above)
These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.
Good but different:
These don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.
Not good and not different:
These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. The tallest of midgets. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.
Different but not that good
Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.
It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad. One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts. As Steve Jobs said: “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”
We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”. Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand? The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.
In case you need any added incentive: Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies. Just because they are different! And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.
Push yourself to find your difference
To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:
For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:
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