Marketing Slogans are for Lovers

April 27, 2009

The development and use of a great Marketing slogan is a long lost art. And a key to effectively building your brand equity. Yet, I see so many weak slogans these days that seeing or hearing a really great one has a way of reminding you of the astonishing power of a simple idea, well articulated.

One of the things I remember most about driving to and from the Darden School at UVA back in the early 80’s is, strangely enough, the state’s marketing slogan: “Virginia is for lovers.” Growing up in east Tennessee, I would frequently see cars buzzing up and down I-40 and I-81 with the provocative slogan emblazoned on their back bumpers. I’m sure you too have seen or heard the line, and no doubt, have never forgotten it.

Virginia is for Lovers Marketing Slogan

Virginia is for Lovers Marketing Slogan

Created 40 years ago this year, it’s a great example of a marketing slogan that really works.  For more examples of great advertising and slogans, check out the monthly Ads of the World winners. Strangely enough, “Virginia is for Lovers” wasn’t the original slogan–the more clunky (and much less powerful) “Virginia is for history lovers” gradually evolved into the final line. Driven primarily by bumper sticker advertising–who can forget the white font and red heart–it embodies several things that are common to all great slogans.

First, it has a clear target–lovers. What a truly original way of personalizing a state for everyone. Whoever wrote the line was a genius, because the line isn’t primarily about the place, it’s about who we want to be. It’s aspirational. Who isn’t, or doesn’t want to be, a “lover?” This marketing slogan speaks to everyone.

Second, there’s a clear benefit:  If Virginia is for lovers, it’s for people who are, or want to be, in love. Who wouldn’t want this ? And importantly, anyone who has spent time in the state knows that Virginia does, in fact, have a dreamy feel to the place. So, it’s entirely plausible: Virginia really is for lovers.

Third, the slogan is provocative. New Jersey is the “Garden State.” Ohio is “So much to discover.” A state for lovers is in a category and space all its own. It has stopping power. It makes you stop and think.

Lastly, it’s memorable. How many of us, if asked, wouldn’t know the state’s marketing slogan ? Try this test at home: “_______ is for lovers.” Amazingly, most of the “marketing” that I recall for Virginia is from automobile bumper stickers. Who needs new media when you have a great idea ?

There’s something else that’s important here–durability and longevity. Check out the list of U.S. state marketing slogans. Notice how most states have multiple ideas that change over time? Notice how Virginia only has one? I have to give a lot of credit to Virginia for sticking with it. Marketers spend every waking minute thinking about their brand, their value proposition, and how it’s being articulated and communicated in their marketing plans. They swim in their own marketing ideas and often forget that their brand is nothing more than a millisecond of thought in the mind of the average consumer. And thus, they tend to tire of a good idea way before consumers do.

So the folks in Virginia should be applauded. They have a great marketing slogan that communicates their state benefit in a compelling, provocative and memorable way. And they haven’t walked away from it. But don’t just take my word for it. In the year the slogan was introduced, Virginia travelers spent only $800 million vs. $14+ billion in 2004. 

Why can’t all Marketers be as inventive, disciplined and impactful ? Great marketing slogans are for lovers.

Snakes From the Sky…Measuring Marketing

April 24, 2009
Years ago when I was mountain biking in the Don River valley in Toronto, I glimpsed something flying through the sky heading straight for my head.  A split second later,  it bounced off my helmet, landed harmlessly on the ground, and slithered away into the grass–a snake of all things ! I looked up, and saw a hawk flying away, unhappy no doubt about his lost prey. In retelling this  story, people incredulously ask:  “what are the odds of a snake falling from the sky and hitting you in the head?”
Snakes Falling From the Sky -- The Odds of Measuring Marketing ROMI in Most Companies

Snakes Falling From the Sky -- The Odds of Measuring Marketing ROMI in Most Companies

About the same odds as Marketing partnering with Finance to measure the impact of Marketing at most companies. If we really believe in marketing, and marketing with impact, the CFO should be the CMO’s best friend. Marketing should want and, indeed, demand measurement. My first boss once told me: “Data is your friend.” He meant that if you had the data and facts on your side, you would win the debate the majority of time. In fact, every Marketer should have Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master” (click here) on their desk, so they can win the marketing measurement debate.

Why isn’t Marketing measured more often ?

Marketing As A Cost

When Marketing isn’t measured, it’s like anything else at a company–a cost. And it’s treated like a cost: when times are good, people spend more; when times are bad, people spend less. The reason it’s so easy in so many organizations to cut Marketing is that no one knows what it’s worth. Changing people’s mindset that Marketing is an “investment”  should be one of the top priorities for the CMO. This also changes the conversation from “how much can we cut” to “what are we giving up if we don’t invest this money?”                 

Fear of Failure

Marketing people are human. They’re proud of their work and want people to see and admire it. But they’re also like anyone else, a bit concerned that when examined closely, their work might not hold up. Fearful that it might not turn out to have the impact they would like. If any part of your Marketing organization isn’t measuring their impact, I’m sure there will be concern when you announce that it will be measured in the future. If Marketing isn’t having an impact, then we should improve it, stop it, but most importantly, do something other than continue it. Part of the CMO’s job is to eliminate people’s fear by rewarding transparency and measurement.

Measurement & Tools

It’s difficult to measure. We’re different. There are unquantifiable benefits. There are too many variables. We don’t have the tools, etc.  With proper planning, you can measure the single variable impact of virtually any marketing initiative. If there are multi-variable impacts, then measure that too. Identify the un-quantifiable benefits. Build, buy or create the tools. All too often, Marketing isn’t valued because it isn’t measured–and almost anything can be measured if there is enough desire to measure it. The CMO’s job is to address and overcome false objections to measurement.

Brand equity building activities are especially susceptible to this kind of debate. There is a belief in some quarters that the “brand” is sacrosanct and can’t be easily measured, and indeed, shouldn’t be measured like more tactical marketing initiatives. This is silly. With the right data, you can define the impact of brand attributes on overall brand image or satisfaction. In turn, we can correlate these with business outcomes. So, we can and should measure the relationship between brand building activities and the ultimate financial outcomes that we want Marketing to drive.

This is the CMO’s job. To hold Marketing accountable for it’s spending. To  ensure transparency and elminate fear. To ensure impact. Marketing should be building the brand, customer satisfaction and delivering top line growth and bottom line returns to the company.

It’s possible that a snake will fall from the sky and hit your CFO in the head, rendering him unable to understand why Marketing is spending so much on activities without understanding their impact. Just don’t hold your breath waiting…

Zip the Monkey and Effective Advertising

April 18, 2009

How many ads have actually made you buy something? Hmmm… As a 9-year old, I was leafing through a Boys Life magazine and saw a print ad for a real live squirrel monkey–for only $19.95. I wanted the monkey so badly that I convinced all of my friends to front me $3 each for the future opportunity to see the monkey at any time. I also risked the ire of my parents when they discovered by new friend “Zip.” That was one powerful ad. But why ?

Advertising Made Me Buy A Squirrel Monkey

Advertising Made Me Buy A Squirrel Monkey

How many ads have actually made you buy something? Think about it. I’ll bet that once you mull this question a bit, like most people, you’ll think of no more than two or three examples–at best. Is advertising really that ineffective ? Of course, I thought of Zip the Monkey. Beyond an ad which excited my sense of boyhood daring and adventure, what other brands advertising have caused me to buy ?

Well, Advil PM advertising for one. I saw the ad recently, sitting on the sofa, partially jet-lagged from another cross-Atlantic business trip.  It was simple, comparative, and to the point:  with Advil PM’s time release formula, you can sleep through the night. No waking up like the other major competitor.  I travel extensively and spend a lot of time in Europe.  In Europe, six hours ahead of the U.S., I would take the competitive product before going to bed — only to wake up in the middle of the night–wide awake. Hours later, I was at work, even more exhausted than usual and dreaming of a long nap. It sounds trite in print, except that this was EXACTLY my issue.  Said differently, I was the perfect target and the right timing accentuated and personalized the message. Upon seeing the ad, I thought: “That’s me–I have to try that.” And I did. 

Advertising research tells us that persuasion and other factors are critical to advertising effectiveness. But communicating a benefit persuasively and convincingly is also a function of making an important benefit relevant. And relevance is about solving personal problems or issues and communicating this at the right time.  Establishing the right target is foundational. Communicating the right message ensures relevance. Using the correct media gets your product or service message to the right person. Right timing deepens the ad relevance and personalizes the communication.  Of course, this is one of the reasons search marketing has proved so enormously successful–it matchs the “intention” of the searcher and increases right timing. John Battelle wrote about this intention phenomenon in his excellent book, “The Search: How Google and its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed our Culture”.

There is huge opportunity for marketing communications to improve right timing. The advent of digital marketing, social media, search, improved media buying and other forms of marketing analytics will increasingly enable marketers to drive right timing and open up a vast frontier of marketing effectiveness improvements.

It’s been a long time since I sent in my $19.95 to get my very own squirrel monkey. To be honest, I can’t recall the specifics of the ad.  But something tells me that there was an issue involved–like the humiliation I felt the day before at school when my green rock was overshadowed by some really cool shark teeth. Perhaps it had something to do with me badly wanting to be the king of “show and tell.”  While everyone else had rocks, dolls and shark teeth to show, I had a real live example of effective right time advertising:  Zip the Monkey.

Randall Beard

Long Term Parking and Word of Mouth

April 13, 2009
Dosh Dosh had an interesting recent posting (click here) on the importance of “surprise” in word of mouth marketing. A positive customer experience is not always enough. Recovery from a bad experience is not always enough. As in war, with word of mouth, what may be required is the element of surprise.
Car Problems in Public Parking

Car Problems in Public Parking

My family and I experienced this firsthand when we returned from a long vacation trip only to find that our Lexus parked in airport long-term parking wouldn’t move when placed in “drive.” Not good–especially with three tired young kids in the back seat uninterested in dad’s exhortation:  “don’t worry.”  I dutifully called Lexus customer care — fully expecting they would send a tow truck and get me a rental car. Surprise–instead, the service rep walked me thru a 5-step process which solved the problem on the spot and we drove away both surprised and delighted. I’ve told this story to many, many people. 

There are several interesting points here.
  • This positive word of mouth example started out as a negative customer experience. Redesigning your customer experience around problem recovery can drive positive word of mouth–sometimes as or more effectively than a positively expected experience. No business is perfect. To err is human. We can all pursue 6-Sigma quality levels in products and processes but things will still go wrong. The key is to understand which problems are important and then design solutions that surprise customers: “I expected a tow truck but was able to drive home instead.”
  • The second interesting point to this story is that most (this posting excepted) of the positive word of mouth it generated was face to face, not on-line. In fact, research continues to show that for almost all categories, most word of mouth, positive or negative, still happens off-line. While there is no doubt that web based social media are becoming increasingly fast and powerfully connected, it’s still true that most word of mouth happens in day to day off line conversations. I didn’t rush out and post something on line about this experience–it happened over a year ago, but this posting was preceded by multiple in-person storytelling episodes.
  • The last point here is that the most valuable word of mouth talk tends to congregate around needs-based themes. People don’t just talk about random surprises associated with brands. They talk about things they care about. Word of mouth tends not to be about your brand positioning or value proposition–otherwise, there would be no surprise. These themes can be researched. Before developing any word of mouth program, we need to try and understand: “what are people already talking about and why?” and importantly, how do we link these themes back to our brand positioning and value proposition ? This seems counterintuitive, but the key is to link word of mouth conversation back to your value proposition in a way that builds the equity of your brand.
Car problems in long term parking–it’s not just a story. It’s a story about the importance in word of mouth of surprise, off-line communications, and important customer themes. All of these are necessary ingredients to get your word of mouth programs working in your favor–and out of long term parking.