Tampons & Sports Cars
During this economic downturn, Audi has grown market share and remained profitable as traditional global automotive leaders wallow in bailouts, recalls, and falling sales. While many companies cut advertising expenditures, Audi America has reported an increase in its marketing budget by 20% and developed waiting lists in several metro markets for its models.
How? Well, if you agree with Audi America’s chief marketing officer in this revealing video clip, it’s because they abandoned Detroit mainstays and appealed to more than consumerism. Rather than relying on drives down winding roads accompanied by headlines of new features and price points, they use traditional and nontraditional channels to separate themselves from ubiquity. With their clean diesel and green police campaigns, they give consumers something to ponder. Their vehicles—what they sell—occupy only brief seconds in their spots. In fact, in some of their commercials, long, shiny lines of their competition’s vehicles fill most of the space. They take some risks, including racing an airplane at takeoff for viral video and asking ESPN video journalists to film a racing documentary on their race team.
If you’re not into European cars, consider Kotex, which is fighting ubiquity and segment stigmas with its new “U” campaign. Using candor and self-deprecation, they are bucking the clichés and euphemism their industry has implemented for decades. Their product packaging now comes in rainbow colors within black boxes. Rather than talk about product features, they mock menstrual product advertising. They’ve built social media into their web site that generates donations for a female-empowerment non-profit.
“We’re really out there and we’re trying to touch women and say we care about this conversation,” said Mr. Meurer, of Kotex. “We’re changing our brand equity to stand for truth and transparency and progressive vaginal care.” †
How ’bout your company ads, promotional materials, and “About Us” web page? Are you just stacking resumé bullet points against your competition’s stack? Are you making superlative claims then making sure they see your logo? Are you trying to do what you’ve seen your competition do but just a bit shinier or with better stock images?
Or are you evoking something that makes prospects stop, think, and maybe change their preconceived expectations of your industry?
To be fair, I ask those questions about my company, too.
As a result, my company brochure isn’t full color. I abandoned print ads years ago. biplane productions isn’t even in Lynchburg phone directories. There are no galleries of my award-winning work on my web site—instead: a link to a clearinghouse of free marketing advice and a map of auctions to which I’ve contributed. I don’t rent trade show booths; I engage with my prospect base through seminar podiums, industry lobbying, and trade publication contributions. Unlike the ad agency industry standard, I don’t mark up my printing or take a commission from newsprint ads. biplane productions‘ clients see exactly what I pay for media and subcontractors in line item detail. I open my personal life to clients and prospects through a robust Christmas letter and proactive online social networking. My company car is wrapped like a race car.
These are each intentional choices, sifted through a specific brand identity. It’s more than advertising, bigger than graphic design. It’s letting branding infiltrate my business.
Why? Because a lot of work-from-home designers are hungry and willing to charge less than biplane productions does. Because my work isn’t a price point commodity that you can find at the other end of an online shopping cart. Because I’m not a freelancer; yet biplane productions isn’t a traditional ad agency, either. I am the only one who does exactly what I do for whom I do it. So, why use other companies’ marketing techniques to illustrate my services?
As an auction marketer, you’re in the same boat right now. Your competition is cutting commissions to get the auctions you’re chasing. Bid callers are muddying the water in which auction marketers like you swim. They’re offering online bidding and the same web sites you do; they’ve got lettering and a logo on their SUV, too.
So then, how are you leveraging your individuality to gain sales and hopefully market share? How are you illustrating your competitive advantage beyond the designations behind your name, the plaques on your office wall, and the charts & graphs in your proposals? None of these are bad things, but they can’t carry the weight of your brand alone.
God gave us unique combinations of pasts, talents, interests, relationships, and burdens. He’s the master of creativity; and we could chock this all up to the same expression of infinity as DNA and snow flakes.
But he handed those “random” cocktails to us for a reason: for us to leverage them for kingdom gain. He needs people to fly missionaries into remote fields and folks to love parking cars in church parking lots, hearts to sit with the elderly and arms to rock the infants, professionals to reach secular strongholds and private-school instructors to tutor the Christian leaders of tomorrow.
Take a look at your life. Maybe scribble notes on a piece of paper. Whom might you be able to reach that the church as a unit might not? The pains from your past—how could Jesus comfort and rescue others through those experiences and ensuing growth? How can you use your hobbies and proficiencies to leave a legacy larger than your own?
[footer]* “Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad,” NYTimes.com, Andrew Adam Newman, March 15, 2010.
Image(s) used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010[/footer]