Beat the competition with single-minded advertising

When David Ogilvy said “the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife,” he intended to remind Ad Men that we were talking to ordinary people with common needs and wants. They are certainly not like those that Malcom X talks about who ‘stand for nothing and fall for everything’.

The ordinary consumer is not gullible. They will not buy your product just because you make incredible and unrealistic claims such as ‘tangle-free hair weaves’. If they fall for it the first time, buy your product and then eventually find their hair in a bind, don’t expect them to make a repeat purchase.

In Africa, contrary to the brand managers that Ogilvy refers to, our executives think that consumers are geniuses with extraordinary, Einstein-like cognitive abilities. In their advertising they roll out complicated lists of benefits and features meshed in Calculus and Greek, and expect audiences to develop algorithms to compare them to competitor products before making their next purchase.

Eventually all brands in the category end up looking exactly the same and thus the buyer resorts to the age old differentiator — price. That is exactly what we don’t want because price wars and nuclear holocausts have one thing in common; there are no winners.

The effective weapon that you have against your competitors is single-minded advertising. Al Reis and Jack Trout in their book ‘Positioning: The Battle for your Mind’, talk about how complex the brain is, and how humans simplify information in this, the worlds first supercomputer.

For easier data management we tend to refer any new information against existing knowledge, and therefore Reis and Trout introduced the idea that every brand category is a ladder in the mind. Each rung of the ladder represents a brand with the top one being the market leader.

In order to achieve market dominance, differentiate your brand or have personal meaning with your consumers it becomes critical to be single-minded with your advertising message. Remember that the only entities that can be all things to all men are God and Berkshire Hathaway shares, so don’t even try it.

Single-mindedness requires the wisdom of Carl von Clausewitz who said in his book ‘On War’, that you should concentrate all your forces at the point of impact. This is equated to identifying the most important brand attribute that will separate your brand from the rest in the consumers brain.

It takes either a good piece of research or a Chief Marketing Officers of superior elk to derive the consumer insights and connect them to the one brand promise in a powerful way. The final result is advertising that shifts the paradigm and stirs up passions that drives men and women into action — marching into shops in large numbers, seizing your brand and making cash registers ring around the clock.

Your ads, tag lines and promotions will all be driven by this single-minded message and it can last for a season, or forever like with Avis ‘We Try Harder’. In reality it is the minority of brands that achieve this single-mindedness and profit handsomely from it and it’s clear to see that this is not easy ground to gain.


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