Don’t be a me-too brand: Be disruptive

Being different is scary. In marketing, trying something different is scary. Nobody wants to be the marketer that messes up a multimillion-dollar brand. It’s easier to play it safe, relying on what has worked before for others.

That must be why we have often heard from clients that there is a certain way to advertise in their category—for example, TV ads for men’s razors must start with a 10-second story, continue with a 15-second product demonstration showing the cutting edge deplored and end with a 5-second joke. “This is how we must advertise in order to succeed,” they say. But they seem to forget that the consumers have been exposed to literally thousands of such advertisements and the trigger to purchase is lost and many more millions of naira spent without the desired result. The users should be allowed to help co-create a good story to ensure what is aired is in sync with their reality and world.

Brand Michael Jackson became popular in the 1980s and 1990s because he dared to be different. Michael Jackson it was who turned musical videos from the drab affairs they were to a story telling affair that made people grab the edge of their chair and watched with passion. It was no surprise that thriller won over half a dozen grammies. Michael’s team, led by the legendary Quincy Jones, knew and used the power of storytelling to maximum effect and the world followed suit. Thereafter, we are still waiting for the artist that would take us to the next level.

Coming nearer home, another Michael Power became a household name in Nigeria because Diageo dared to be ‘Different and Disruptive’. As a brand, the way they told the Michael Power story by portraying him as an African James Bond and starring him in mini adventures on radio and television of about three to five minutes in length, placed Michael Power in various action points that made use of his resourcefulness to create value for the brand. The Critical Assignment series became an instant hit across the continent. The two examples above show marketing communication at two extremes and both worked and got the job done.

Junaid Abidemi, Account Director at Kantar Nigeria, in a recent media interview reminded us that simple messages get the job done. But I dare add that long and interesting stories do work too. Try something new and innovative and consumers will vote on your side.

Findings and studies by Kantar indicate that the Michael Power campaign worked. Diageo led the African market in its category by 50% in 2000. Brand recognition reached 90% and volume growth reached 50% in some markets in Africa. Diageo sales doubled in 2003 of schedule two ahead and Cleveland Mitchell (Michael Power) became one of the most well-known alcoholic beverages advertising campaigns in Africa. In 2002, because of its huge success, Diageo, owners of the Guinness brand adopted the same formula in Asia with the character, Adam King.

But copying from a template often leads to mediocrity. In today’s world, it’s ads that are different that stand out and really capture attention, and its ads that capture attention that have a chance to be remembered, to convey brand impressions, and to deliver messages. Therefore, ads that are different are most likely to build brands.

What are your thoughts on the length of marketing communication? Kindly share them with us and we can get some published in this column.

Written by Michael Umogun — Lead, Marketing and New Business, Kantar Nigeria


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