Last week, we received an email from the owner of an HVAC company we work with expressing concern about the radio stations on which his ads were about to start airing.
His concern wasn’t so much about the radio stations, per se, but about his competitors’ ads that already air on those stations.
To his discerning ear, the other heating and air companies’ ads sounded very similar to each other in their production, style, concept, and delivery. He feared that the ads that we produced for his company wouldn’t be as effective because they didn’t have quite the same sound as all the competition.
His email immediately caused me to flash back to 1998.
At the time, Tim and I slaved away as lowly production people at a cluster of small market radio stations. We had been tasked with creating a radio ad for a local motorcycle dealership. We knew that other bike dealers were crowding the airwaves with the usual clichés such as gimmicky sales, special financing rates, and rebates.
We chose a different route.
In his best-selling book The Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams wrote, “Engage the Imagination, then take it where you will. Where the mind has repeatedly journeyed, the body will surely follow. People go only to places they have already been in their minds.”
So instead of shouting about prices, discounts or zero percent financing, Tim and I produced the audio equivalent of a test drive. We put the listener on the bike. Our hope was that our commercial would cause the listener to visialize the open road, hear the rumble of the bike, and feel the wind in his hair.
It was unlike anything else on the air. We were mighty proud of that ad. We couldn’t wait to present it to the client.
When we finished playing the commercial, there was a long pause on the other end of the phone line. The owner of the dealership then said eleven words that knocked me on my butt:
“Can’t you just make a commercial that sounds like everyone else?”
No joke. That’s what he said.
And that’s exactly what we did.
By the way, he’s not in business anymore.
We get it. Being different is risky. It’s scary. It makes you vulnerable to ridicule and criticism.
But it can also be a powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal.
I’m not saying you should be different for the sake of being different. That’s not advertising. That’s annoying.
But if you have a strong, personal, unique message built on your goals & values, strategic planning, and customer experience, it’s okay to say it in a different, more believable, unpolished, persuasive way.
Sure, it’s easy and safe to blend in with the crowd. But when you look and sound like everyone else, don’t be shocked when nobody finds you.
Photo by Nichole Ferrari-Hamm