Break the Mold: When Carefully Planned, Bold Marketing Generates Fantastic Returns

By Shore, Jeff | Success, August 2014 | Go to article overview

Break the Mold: When Carefully Planned, Bold Marketing Generates Fantastic Returns


Shore, Jeff, Success


TODAY'S BOLDEST marketing successes come from the stodgiest of industries: insurance. The affable Aflac Duck has transcended its TV presence by waddling onto T-shirts and coffee mugs. Progressive's bubbly Flo is one of the most recognizable faces on television. And Allstate's darkly humorous mayhem guy is so entertaining that viewers stop their DVRs to see what he's doing.

The imagination behind the selling power of a charming duck, an aggressively cheerful woman with shellacked hair, and all manner of violent accidents personified by a calm, rugged leading man is noteworthy: Bold marketing works. The juxtaposition of humor, likability and entertainment with old-school, boring insurance is a big part of the boldness in these marketing campaigns.

The other bold ingredient is the image choice. Because we recognize these faces and are drawn to them, we recognize the names of the insurance companies themselves. Over time we start to feel like we know the companies in the same way we feel like we know their spokespeople... or spokes-ducks. That's Marketing 101: Choose a face for your company that people will like, show it to them over and over, and they will be drawn to the company that image represents. That's why bold marketing works--because it sticks with us and inspires us to act.

History Versus Imagination

Can you recall a TV commercial for a bank, a car dealership or any laundry detergent that isn't cut from the same unoriginal cloth of industry norms? Probably not, because most marketing is stuck in a rut of repetition based on ancient records of formulaic success.

It's not just TV ads that fall prey to those worn-out formulas. Cheesy billboards for lawyers are still common. Realtors still mass-mail refrigerator calendar magnets that don't stick on stainless steel, the top-selling appliance material for 20 years now. And many people default to the WordPress-o-Matic webpage even though most children can whip up a customized website in an afternoon.

Marketing is largely a nondescript mass of things we've seen countless times. And a big reason is that marketers are forever challenged by a strategic choice: Do they build a campaign out of an organization's history or out of their imaginations? This is a conundrum largely because in marketing "new" is synonymous with "risky." There is safety in knowing that some amount of success will be achieved through proven methods even if that success is small.

It boils down to a choice: Do you want to be a little successful? Or are you willing to be bold in the riskier quest for large-scale success?

Bold Don'ts and Do's

Let's say you're ready to be bold. Bring on the risk... you're up for it! How exactly do you achieve successful bold marketing? After all, you don't want clients to view your boldness as obnoxious.

A quick review of local TV ads serves up proof of how many marketing screw-ups occur, especially those commercials featuring the owner and founder of car dealerships. You can imagine the thought process that led to these promotions: "We don't need some big-city marketing firm telling us how to make a TV commercial. I can make my own, and everyone will love watching it!" Uh-huh, like everyone loves watching a train wreck. It's a bold decision that proves annoying.

For a classic misfire on the national stage, you need look no further than J. …

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