There’s no doubt about it – businesses are afraid of offending anyone with their marketing.
Every image, every word, every action – it’s scrutinized to the nth degree. And while everyone can agree that we as business owners should aspire to never be overtly offensive to anyone, some companies take it so far that they strive to be “approved by everyone yet appeal to no one.”
Let’s use the analogy of putting your home on the market.
If you’ve ever watched HGTV, you’re already familiar with the same tired advice given by real estate professionals everywhere:
“Keep everything neutral and remove your personality from the house.”
So, that funky shade of chartreuse you love on that accent wall? It’s history. What about that kitschy gold lamp your spouse gave you as a joke? Gone. And your Mickey Mouse collection? Nope – it gets the boot, but good. Next, every wall is painted eggshell, banal art adorns the walls, and every lick of your personal style has been removed and sanitized.
Now, the above example might be a mite sarcastic, but you get the point. Some companies are going about their marketing like they were just trying to win a popularity contest and not reach their “bread and butter” demographic. While organizations should never wade in the obvious waters of any “isms” that cross the lines of human decency, good taste, and discrimination, they could be edgier in their branding in a way that will appeal to the folks they are most trying to reach.
My company 4Patriots has done well with marketing to a conservative audience and speaking to their traditionalist values. We understand how our customers feel about current cultural and political events, and we reaffirm them through our messaging.
Other companies have followed suit. Take these examples and see how each used a different theme to make a splash:
Humor: Dollar Shave Club nailed this one with a hilarious video demonstrating the benefits of their razor and shave cream monthly home delivery service. With even the off-color language, no one could resist the infectious humor and the perks of becoming a DSC customer: quality products, convenience, and supporting job creation. In just two years, DSC went from $4M in sales to over $65M. I’d say that’s a “cutting edge” success story!
Metaphor: Allstate does this brilliantly with their character aptly named, “Mayhem.” A guy dressed in a suit and tie, Mayhem is always around the corner to wreak a little havoc in your otherwise peaceful existence. Allstate’s commercials featuring Mayhem take a dry, bland service (insurance) and spice it up with skit-like scenarios that entertain and provoke thought simultaneously.
Reality: Clorox is a household name, but one way they stay as such (kind of like any iconic American brand now woven into the national consciousness) is to constantly up their game when it comes to advertising, exemplified by their campaign entitled, “Bleachable Moments.” What new parent or pet owner can’t identify with that? Whether it’s potty training or skydiving, Clorox pokes fun at all those moments we wish we could erase (and now can, thanks to their reliable, trustworthy product.)
Pushing the envelope in marketing doesn’t mean pushing people away. But if you’re not taking some risk to find your “true tribe” as it were, you’ll just be spinning your wheels and draining your coffers without the ROI every business needs to stay profitable… and relevant.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.