Yes, there are shortcuts to success. The easy route is out there if you know where to look.
Take gardening, for starters. There are those who wait until the circus comes to town to buy elephant dung.
They secretly dig it into their rosebush beds to make the colors ecstatic and their neighbors jealous.
Who ever thought rose fanciers could be so scheming?
Racehorse trainers have been known to keep a sheep in a horsebox to calm a high-strung thoroughbred. Why? An unruffled horse runs better.
Haitian voodoo practitioners have a sure-thing hangover cure. Stick 13 black-headed pins into the cork of the offending bottle to relieve your aching head.
There’s a shortcut to marketing success, too. It’s less exotic than 13 black-headed pins, but it addresses those ‘how can we do better’ questions that often monopolize management reviews.
Simply, focus on the tag line of your ads. Review the message under your logo and use it as a kind of blood pressure cuff to test the health of your positioning.
So, is your tag line just okay or is it electrifying? Does it have surprise value or is it incurious? Does it separate your product from the rest? Is it full of promise?
The idea of ‘promise’ is key. It’s summed up by the 18th century wit and writer, Dr. Johnson, who defined a good advertisement as a ‘communication full of promise’.
The Doctor was commenting on a handbill announcing the auction of a brewery. More than copper kettles, he explained, what was for sale was the promise of wealth from becoming a brewer.
We echo this thinking with the expression ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’.
With sizzle in mind, evaluate what others are offering. As you look at tag lines you won’t be the first to conclude that many are the marketing equivalent of dog paddle. Certainly, few prompt you to stop and think.
More’s the pity.
So, why put up with inert work and a copywriter who is a dime-store Bill Bernbach? A writer who fumbles your strategic positioning and is dull to boot.
Take a few simple steps to avoid undernourished thinking.
Your tag line should be more than strategy warmed-over — it should embody emotion. It should alert consumers to the fact that you are different/more appealing/smarter/more human.
In an era of so many me-too products, ‘more human’ becomes your difference.
A case in point is Seagram’s 100 Pipers Scotch. It’s a brand that screams ‘commodity’. It’s cheap stuff. Yet the right line can rectify that – one that recognizes that having a drink is about relaxing and seeing the humorous side of things.
So when you say, ‘100 Pipers Scotch … Makes Bagpipes Sound Like Music’, the brand begins to radiate the sort of wit that separates it from the rest.
Suddenly for the Seagram company the proverbial glass is half-full rather than half you-know-what.
One advertising writer, Martin Puris, took tag lines to new heights. He injects ‘promise’ into them. He coined ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ for a car company you might have heard of. He also wrote ‘The Antidote for Civilization’ for Club Med.
What’s so powerful about BMW’s signature is that it addresses the only two things that consumers care about: ‘What’s in it for me?’ and ‘Compared to What?”
Cruise lines spend lavishly to persuade us that you can see more and be more carefree on a ship.
CTC of London does this better than most with ‘Relax. We’ll Change the Scenery’.
For a discount operation this begins to characterize a level of luxury.
More importantly, it allows CTC to protect their margins by selling something other than rock-bottom-priced fares.
In our office the nod for the best tag line used to belong to a can of beans — Beanz Meanz Heinz.
But now the vote goes to a knitting wool company — Cleckheaton.
Think a minute. What can you do with the knit-one, purl-two? How do you give it impact and memorability?
Well, the onomatopoetic power of the tag line, ‘Click Clack Cleckheaton’, is transforming.
Authority is stamped on the brand as the sound of knitting needles and the Cleckheaton name are artfully combined.
It’s a great way to begin to own the market — click clack clap clap.
Use these lines as a high bar; strive to match their power and individuality. Spur your agency to think harder on your behalf.
If your positioning and your tag line aren’t wonderful, stick 13 black-headed pins into them and start again.
The business world is on its knees again. Figuratively, that is, with an awe and reverence best described as Shackleton-mania.
As you may know, Sir Ernest Shackleton is the new management messiah in polar explorer’s goggles and snowshoes.
He’s the dog-eating survivor and hero of an Antarctic shipwreck in temperatures that turn your breath to ice.
According to the corporate world, Sir Ernest, leader of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, is the ultimate leader. Certainly few rate higher for people skills and determination.
The savior of 28 men, Shackleton shepherded his expedition through 22 months of hardship.
The sort of hardship that kills with bone-breaking cold, ferocious gales, dysentery, starvation, exhaustion and the collapse of any hope of rescue.
For avoiding mutiny and keeping his men together and for nurturing them as individuals and keeping spirits high, Shackleton is the darling of business leadership courses.
Move over, Jack Welch … the man they called The Boss is no longer the model for leadership. Now you can swap GE for ‘Gee, wasn’t Shackleton amazing.’
Survival stories rarely come better. Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, was caught in pack ice 1200 miles from civilization and crushed to splinters in the freeze.
The crew was left exposed on ice floes for 10 months. They never reached the South Pole.
But it’s not conquest that makes this story a template for leadership training; it’s team management that ensured survival.
If you didn’t see the Kenneth Branagh docudrama, the IMAX show, the NOVA film or the George Butler 92-minute documentary, ‘The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition’, just wait, there’s a chance they’ll feature largely in your next executive training course.
Equally, there’s the book, Shackleton’s Way, which made the New York Times best-seller list.
The latest ‘Shack’ for our veneration isn’t a basketball star but a team leader who crossed 1000 miles of the cruelest seas in a lifeboat to raise a rescue party for his men.
This little jaunt, with eyeball freezing temperatures and 100-foot killer waves, makes The Perfect Storm seem like an afternoon on Golden Pond.
Shackleton reached a whaling station on the Island of South Georgia and found help. Miraculously, every man was saved.
The famed corporate fix-it guru, ‘Chainsaw’ Al Dunlap, known for dumping staff to recover profitability may want to take note.
If you’re a football fan you’ve seen something of Shackleton. Patriot’s coach, Bill Belichick, is a devotee — he motivated his team to Super Bowl success with the story of the ice-bound expedition. In the current season maybe he should have done it again.
Shackleton’s perspicacity and dizzyingly high levels of optimism also serve as inspiration for executives in companies like Boeing, IBM and Morgan Stanley.
All this is great stuff. But perhaps the most applicable Shackleton lesson comes with his content ability.
The 1914 classified advertisement that pulled the expedition together is a deft bit of persuasion.
‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold,
long months of complete darkness, constant danger.
Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success’.
A fool’s errand made brilliantly attractive. But then Shackleton was looking for something often confused with a fool’s behavior … human endurance of heroic proportions.
Unlike some content today, this wasn’t over-thought or focused-grouped to death.
It’s the opposite of the thin, under-imagined messaging that makes too much content predictable and inert.
Perhaps the most telling thing about Shackleton’s classified ad is that he thought like his target audience.
So the message and tone are just right for those looking for limitless spirit.
You have a full story in just 26 words … a very expansive experience. Shackleton … what a leader … able to manage men, sled dogs and content.
If you’re searching for a change agent, remember that leadership courses aren’t the only way to get your products off the ice.
Strong content also does it.
So, how’s your judgment in this area? What’s ‘terrific content’ for you?
For us, it’s the Honda “Hands” commercial and yet another one from Honda … the Ayrton Senna film.
They begin to reach the Shackleton level. It seems the best campaigns and content have been to charm school.
They have the knack of telling a story with a smile. So, you might want to ask yourself, how does the content for your brand measure up?
Not to discourage those on the Shackleton studies bandwagon, but reading about great men is one thing.
In the end, you have to reach out for something more tangible and more results-oriented.
Like the 26 words that brought Shackleton response. Literally mailbags full of it.