Look at what’s going on around you and ask yourself who you notice.
I’m constantly following the way in which brands and companies market themselves, the trends in style and tone and what drives these variables. Something I’ve noticed is that the brands really standing out right now are the ones being frank, honest and as I was discussing last month, human.
A quick scroll through social media, which is one of the least invested ways people absorb advertising, will give you a good feel for what companies are doing to stand out. There have been a wealth of new consumer brands appearing, for everything from life insurance to laundry pod subscriptions, and those that stand out share similar qualities.
With advertising, the old adage still applies to some degree: If you keep seeing it, it must be working.
One example that has really stuck with me is Dead Happy Life Insurance. The life Insurance industry is traditionally understated, fronted by elderly celebrities, clinical and somewhat cautious and apologetic. What Dead Happy are doing is brave, provocative and will probably make you smile after some initial internal challenges with it. It features imagery of a mascot wearing a white suit and sporting a giant skull on the head. The background colours are all electric yellow, pink, blue and the tone of their copy isn’t just frank, it’s brash; in fact, it’s the way someone would sell you life insurance after a couple of beers down the pub.
The crucial point is that they have taken some big risks and it has clearly paid off. I’ve noticed other challenger brands taking similar approaches, albeit not quite as brash but they are doing what they can to cut through the sluice of noisy, everyday advertising and are doing it in a way that strikes an emotional chord: Provocative, a little outrageous, funny, daring, bright and brave.
After reading the comments underneath, the overwhelming majority of people say they think it’s great, refreshing and brings some fun degree of personality to a difficult topic.
Rethink your usual communication and dare to do things differently.
Given the introduction to this article, how can you apply this to what you do?
The very first thing I’d recommend you do is to look at your own market. How are your competitors communicating? What does their imagery look like? What are they actually saying and what style and tone of language are they using?
Your goal is to differentiate from what everyone else is doing, to find a new angle in how you talk about your offering and to do it in a way that has some real individuality and personality to it. Remember, you want real people (either consumers, or in B2B services not companies they may work for) to respond to it on an emotional level and, in order for that to happen, it has to feel like something a real person would say and not be ‘company speak’.
Take the time to come up with some creative ideas. Think about things that people commonly have an issue with, in your industry, for example. Can you focus on this as Dead Happy have and say something relatable in a warm and frank, maybe even humorous way? What you want to avoid is talking about something negative in a negative way; it has to be positive. Rather than saying, “Are you fed up with your offices not being cleaned properly?” you can say, “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if your cleaner actually cleaned the toilet for once?”. Can you see the difference in how each feels while essentially saying the same thing?
Work on a set of really strong messages like the one above, say five or six, that all represent common, relatable things and that have the same feel. Once you have your ‘killer lines’ you can think about the imagery to accompany them.
Your imagery is only temporary for your campaign… but it may live on!
You only have to watch TV to see how much advertising campaigns and slogans change from one brand campaign to the next. What brands try to do is retain the spirit of what they stand for, unless they are evolving, and have different and striking campaigns; they don’t churn out the same stuff all the time because it ends up not being noticed. Whether it’s Coca Cola, Barclays Bank or Audi, you’ll see how much they vary.
I would strongly recommend working with a creative agency like TFA to help you create some well-executed and individual imagery to accompany your messages. If you struggle with the above, we can help you do that too. Please, please, please do not try and create imagery yourself from stock photos or clipart that destroys the personality of what you may have achieved above. If the imagery is weak it will shut down your attempts of being conversational and real; it won’t feel emotive or real to people and they will turn their nose up at it.
The imagery you create for your adverts should tick a few boxes:
1) Be original and unusual for your industry.
2) Be bold and visually eye-catching.
3) Have a similar feel to the messages they are accompanying and supporting.
4) Cut through all the normal noise of the platform or place where they appear.
5) Strike a memorable chord with people in a way that forms a positive emotional response.
If you can put a tick in all five boxes above and if you have a strong set of messages that will make people smile, even just a little in these times, then you are potentially on to a real winner. Your goal is for your competitors to see it, spit their tea out at what you’ve done, then reel with envy at how successful and talked about your campaign was…and hopefully still is!
Remember, a campaign is only temporary so it doesn’t define your business forever. It’s important to be brave, to take risks and run these things for as long as they are a success. A bad campaign can be damaging if executed badly though so, if in doubt, please do get a professional creative agency to help you.
It’s important to get it right but the worst thing you can do is hold yourself back and do the same thing you’ve always done and that everyone else does. Why not get in touch with me directly if you feel you need advice on anything I have spoken about. Go to our contact page, and ask for Darren.
Originally written and published in for Pulse Magazine