Advertising is about selling yourself, not your competitors

I am busy finalising a new marketing campaign on behalf of Warwick Limited, it is not a revolution of their market positioning but rather, as Mercedes may say, “an evolution” of an existing theme. The problem is, as it has always been in marketing, that of uniqueness. What does an international investment institution do and say, in the year 2015, that clearly differentiates itself from its competition, especially as “Long Term Investors”, has rather been over played by all of the big players. To be frank and direct, is has not only been flogged to death but has also now been generally debunked as simply meaning, “Please give me your money for a very long time, and eventually I will get it right and give you a decent return!”.

There’s is also that odd and old style of ad that follows the “One home, one heart, one love”, type of theme, as first tried by Bob Marley Asset Management in 1975, but is now used by some financial supermarkets who want to appear soft, human and cuddly. Then there are the wacky ads, yes they are fun to watch aren’t they but leave me wondering what they are about and what the heck were they supposedly selling me?

The worst sin of all, and committed by many companies, is that they become so similar in wording, font, colour and style that they actually form a ‘mutual appreciation advertising club’, none of us know or rather remember which of the club produced any particular ad, but they each all spend R100m. They then each end up with 25% of the R400m new spend produced in response, so you get your R100m back, bingo “stalemate”.

Here is a smarter idea, why don’t we all rather invest in the advertising agencies, those who peddle this ‘off the shelf one look fits all’ nonsense? If you do then also say well done to Sir Martin Sorrel and his WPP group, the world’s largest advertising group, as WPP probably own at least two of the agencies hired by the ‘club’, so they always have more than one horse in the race!
The problem is that this type of grey corporate type thinking often leads to the long term corporate suicide as the executives, know nothing about marketing and just can’t stop themselves from buying into that “just like me advertising” campaign. In my experience corporates that make ‘pretty ads’, or even worse ‘highly memorable ads’, those that are then remembered long after the name of the company paying for it is forgotten, have either too much money, less character and strength of opinion than their advertising agency, or are plainly just a bit thick.
In the 70’s and early 80’s two opposing drink companies, ‘Martini and Cinzano’, offered identical products and in the competition that followed Joan Collins was the often ‘wet and straight person’, to Leonard Rossiter’s funny man. He was in each ad always trying to pick her up, but eventually in every ad he ended up covering her instead with his or her drink. The adverts were a sensation, the sales turnover of ‘both’ companies went up by over 50%, so an amazing advertising campaign. The problem was that only one company was advertising, and at the time and even now, no one could remember or tell you who the ads were actually promoting ‘Martini or Cinzano’, although Joan did get the lead ‘lady’ role in that cinematic classic “The Stud”, off the back of the ads, so to speak!

As a business owner, my goal is to one day be a ‘Martini’, because I know that those ads in the 70’s and 80’s were fully paid for by Cinzano and yet Martini received their 50% sales boost, for zero cost, now that’s what I call superb and innocent ambush marketing.
Back on planet earth in the 21st century, however, I don’t want to win the AUM battle (adverts under management), so the fewer and smarter, and more importantly clearly ‘Warwick’ ads the better. If then later others copy us, “the highest form of flattery”, then that’s free advertising for us and I get the biggest possible bang for my buck, rather like Joan!

Ian Kilbride is the Chairman of Warwick Wealth Limited and the Spirit Foundation (formally known as the KIDS Foundation). He is an Englishman by birth, but has lived in South Africa for 25 years, has two South African sons and a South African step-daughter and son. See all of Ian’s articles on and every week on BizNews.

This article, by Ian Kilbride first appeared on:
BizNews – Thought Leaders on October 6, 2014.

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