People who’ve been involved with marketing for a long time understand that there are essentially two types of companies. The first is, for lack of a better word, conservative. This is the type of company that’s very risk averse, has a business model that evolves at a snail’s pace (if at all), and perhaps most importantly, rarely breaks any new ground when it comes to marketing or advertising.
The most common examples of this type of organization include major banks and insurance companies, big pharma and energy brands as well as tobacco and oil companies. All of these businesses are content to make considerable profits year after year because they offer ‘necessity’ products or services, and the barriers to entry for new competitors are quite high.
People buy gasoline based on convenience and price. Likewise if you need a drug your doctor prescribes, you go and get it. So these brands don’t need to be creative or innovative to earn your business.
But for the vast majority of businesses today, the opposite is true. Competition is fierce. So some do whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd. These brands are the ‘creative innovators’. Like Google or Apple or Amazon or Netflix.
And yet, many brands that should be innovators are managed by boardrooms or C-level execs who are inherently…conservative. They don’t embrace new ideas. And that’s why their advertising continues to be repetitive and boring.
A notable exception to this occurred in the insurance category over the past few years. Allstate made a serious five year commitment to their ‘mayhem’ campaign – where the central character is a thinly disguised version of the devil himself. And State Farm responded with the atypically humorous ‘Get to a better state’ campaign.
The reality is, most brands are missing out on the opportunity to become category leaders because management simply isn’t brave enough to try something different. Or to invest in the type of branding agency that will help them break through.
It’s a paradox of doing business. No one wants to ‘rock the boat’ and potentially risk their job. But unless someone who can sign the check is willing to do that, no one is really going to sit up and pay attention. And in order to sell, you first have to be noticed.