Why do marketers beat around the bush? For example, the real strategy driving 50% of all car ads is buy this car, or you will kill your spouse and child. The linchpin of the other half is sex. Buy this car, and women will want to sleep with you. In the food world, most of us drive by a VW-sized image of an impossibly juicy burger on a billboard. Why don’t they show us the real stuff: the smashed up bun with a slab of ground cattle parts as it’s thrown thrown at you thru the drive through window. Do we fall for it? You bet. It doesn’t mean that the brand genius’s of the world shouldn’t try telling the truth for a change.
Imagine your brand is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The choir is singing a big,
ripe chord, and it’s so “in tune” that it makes your head vibrate. Then
member 292, a bass, starts thinking about his cactus terrarium
and his voice slips a quarter of a step. No one in the audience
notices, but a few of his choir mates shoot disapproving looks. Soon,
291 seems to think 292 has the right pitch. The conductor’s ears start
twirling like radar. The new
corrupted pitch starts to spread like wildfire. Now the whole bass
section has adjusted to the corrupted pitch. The conductor has gone to
Devcon 5. Wolf Blitzer and Barry Manilow have taken over the CNN’s
Situation Room for ongoing coverage of the crisis. And the audience
grows restless. They start to wander out, like disappointed fans at a
football game where the scores screams futility. “Guess the MTC
isn’t what it used to be.”
Planned dissonance can help spark new life in a brand, but sour notes can just as easily suck it out. Ask Susan Abramovitz for more
about Harmonic Brand Stickiness, or email us your name and address to receive the Harmonic Brand Stickiness brochure.
Early in my career, I managed promotions for a classical music
station. One of our most popular promotions was a live jazz program
broadcast from the Hyatt Regency for 13 weeks in the winter. By all
accounts, “Jazz Live from the Hyatt,” was a huge success. Every week,
the atrium was packed with jazz fans clinking glasses of chardonnay, a
sprinkling of local celebrities, and a drooling drunk or two. Life was
good, or so I thought.
The net effect on our brand was decidedly negative. Because of the
event’s success, the station invested heavily in on- and off-air
promotion of the series. Too many people, we became the “Jazz Life from
the Hyatt Station.” The rationalization was that jazz, which has
roughly the same demographic as classical music, would entice new
people to try classical music.
All of the assumptions turned out to be wrong. The Denver Audience
Research Project was the first torpedo. It showed that while jazz and
classical music listeners were similar in demographics, education and
income, their preferences in music listening could not be more
different. In fact, of all the various radio formats, a jazz listener
was least likely to listen to classical music. We might as well been
pitching Cabbage Patch dolls in Muscle and Fitness magazine.
Arbitron data was just as bleak. Keep in mind, due to available
listeners, there isn’t much radio listening on Saturday evening anyway.
There was a significant blip in listenership during the broadcast that
disappeared immediately after the show. Remember, jazz fans aren’t so
keen on Boccherini. As for other parts of the day and days of the week,
there was no measurable increase in listening.
After a few seasons of “Jazz Live from the Hyatt” focus groups
showed that existing, loyal listeners to the station were confused
about the presence jazz program. Meanwhile, fringe or non-listeners had
high awareness of the Jazz programming but not much else.
While JLFH created community goodwill and heightened awareness of
the station, it was an abject failure from a marketing standpoint. Does
this mean that you should stay focused exclusively on the core of the
brand? Absolutely not. Risk taking is key to bringing new customers
into the fold, building loyalty among existing customers, and staving
off dry rot.
Photo of Khevan Onaje by Dizzy, San Francisco
based in Maryland, Baltimore and Washington, is a recycling operation
that rescues fixtures and materials from homes and buildings on the
verge of demolition. Second Chance focuses on older buildings with
their stained glass and finally wrought materials that can be resued or repurposed into other objects.. But why shouldn’t we
apply these same principals to automobiles, appliances and newer homes.