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Stop Following The Pack and Create Advertising That Is Different

Follow the CrowdAs a young stockbroker almost 30 years ago, I considered myself a contrarian in my financial philosophy. If the market was bullish then I was a bear.  When they were buying I was selling. I did not believe in following the pack. Oscar Wilde said it a different way. “Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong.” Beware the pack mentality.

This contrarian view or thinking differently is important in advertising and it is more than just doing the opposite of your competitors.

If the most important idea in advertising is “new”, then creating a creative strategy that is unique or different is essential to your campaign’s success. It’s definitely not as easy as it sounds. Studying your client’s competition and their advertising strategy then simply doing the opposite is too simplistic; being truly different goes much deeper than that.

Our agency has adopted and adapted our own version of creative disruption to find new, different creative strategies that separate our clients from the pack. However, disruption isn’t only helpful for creative ideas. It can also help uncover exciting new strategies for their brand, media plan or even a website design. Here are the important steps to doing things differently with your own advertising.

Doing your homework

First we have to look closely at the accepted norms and boundaries defined in our client’s industry, his competitors, how they sell and market themselves and of course their ad campaigns. The time we spend on research and understanding always pays dividends later when crafting a client’s advertising.

  • Estimate relative market share among your direct competitors. Who is the leader? Who are the major players you must consider? (Basic SWOT Analysis will uncover much of this and give you a foundation)
  • What is their core message, advertising claim or benefit?
  • What is their visual style or how do they represent their brand and advertising visually?
  • Where do they advertise? What media do they use?
  • Are their messages, advertising claims and visuals styles similar?
  • Are their similarities or trends among the industry? What is common practice?
  • What competitors stand apart and do a better job?

Imagining a different creative strategy

I hear this old trope again and again. Usually from prospects who think they have a handle on their own creative strategy. “Good advertising ideas can come from anyone.”  While that’s true, they rarely do. Whether your advertising creative comes in-house or from your agency, there’s no arguing that the mass of ads are copycat thoughts that merely match competitors’ claims or very low concept thinking that fails to demand buyers’ attention. Your ad must offer new thinking that attempts to persuade or influence the intended target or entertain with one central memorable idea. If you’re in a technical business where most advertising is matter-of-fact, explore a strategy that plays on emotional fears or internal motivations instead.

Amateurs build ads that list features; often the exact same features that they share with competitors. That’s useless. Try to own a specific benefit that the other guy has ignored and is one of your strengths. Being different can also mean creating a unique style, look and message that’s not like the rest of your competition. Break apart the norms and conventions of your industry advertising that says you must advertise THIS way because that’s how we all do it. Groupthink is failure.

Think of GEICO’s breakthrough Caveman campaign in 2004. In the commercials GEICO advertises that using their website is “so easy, a caveman could do it”. The hugely successful commercial also made a fun jab at political correctness. At the time none of the other insurance companies were driving rate shoppers to their websites to compare much less using satire in their advertising. At the time it was unlike anything else in the insurance industry. It was truly different and disruptive.

Making it your own

Congratulations! You have finally discovered a new advertising message that’s different. You will stand out and get noticed, but you have to own it completely. Prepare to launch the new campaign comprehensively across all communications channels – paid, owned and earned media. We call this integration.

Once there is a media plan in place for your new ads to hit the market, you should not forget to integrate other platforms that could boost your reach and recall.

  • Email your customers to introduce the new campaign
  • Content marketing – publish stories on your website and share it across your social media channels
  • Send out a press release to business and trade magazines and websites
  • Update your website so the new campaign visuals and message are showcased on your home page and throughout your website. Do the same with social channels like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn
  • Revise your digital marketing including Adwords and social pay-per-click (text ads, videos and display ads), and don’t forget your mobile advertising
  • Consider adding your new slogan to invoices, letterhead, promotional swag, shirts, email signatures and anywhere else you touch customers or prospects

Creating a bold new advertising message that is really different from competitors will ensure that your company is noticed. In advertising that’s the first step to success. Better to stand alone than lost in a group of also-rans.

Mike Hallaron
About Hallaron Advertising Agency

Mike Hallaron is principal partner and has served as director of accounts at Hallaron Advertising Agency in The Woodlands, Texas since 2003. The agency works closely with clients divining advertising strategy and implementing effective, award-winning campaigns. More than just an idea shop, Hallaron is a full-service agency focused on increasing client’s sales using TV, radio, mobile, Web, outdoor and social media.

(281) 299-0538
2002 Timberloch Place, Suite 420
The Woodlands, Texas 77380