Successful Marketing Campaigns Part 2


Continuing our series on why certain marketing campaigns worked:

De Beers: A Diamond is Forever

In 1999, the magazine AdAge claimed that the most memorable marketing slogan of the 20th century was De Beers 'A Diamond is Forever'.

This is an example of tapping into another primal need, in this case the need of many women at the time to secure a lasting relationship with a man. This campaign had two strokes of genius:

1. Symbolise an already-existing fundamental human relationship - marriage - using an already-established image: the engagement ring.

2. Rather than push the product of the ring - how beautiful it was, how elegant, how accessible it might be, perhaps, through finance plans - suggest the deep vacuum by using a simple slogan which capitalised on the symbol and its meaning.

'A Diamond is Forever' makes the most of the inherent qualities of a diamond and then positions it against one of the deepest of all fears: the fear that what is supposed to be a lasting relationship will actually not survive, that the partner will turn fickle and depart.

That’s a primal vacuum, a submerged anxiety of a centrally disturbing nature.

The lesson usually learned here is to use your marketing to convince your consumers that life without your product would be an incomplete existence, and there’s some truth in that. But it capitalises on the fear of that incomplete existence, that deep human vacuum, to draw customers in over the top of the vast expense of acquiring a diamond ring.

When price is naturally high for a product or service, the need must be correspondingly great and the pull of the vacuum powerful indeed.

Marlboro: Marlboro Man

Before public opinion turned against smoking in a big way, tobacco ads had hit on a very basic understanding of marketing vacuums. Peter Stuyvesant, for example, ran a cinema ad for years which positioned international travel to 'Rome, Paris, New York' with the smoking of their cigarettes, utilising the basic unstated need that the customer had to 'get away from it all' - a need which probably underlay his or her desire for cigarettes in the first place - to draw potential customers towards the product.

The Marlboro Man ads used a similar approach. Aimed at the male market, they tapped into the perceived male need to be 'free'. It wasn’t the inhaling effects of the cigarette that was being pushed - addictive things like cigarettes or alcohol can’t ever really be too guilty of 'pushing the product'. No, it was the qualities which were at the time considered to be manly, associated with the American West, horse-riding, the open country which were at the forefront of advertising campaigns. The linking image? Space, freedom, independence. And underlying those, of course, was the need for them in today’s high-pressured, domesticated, urban environment.

Another primal need; another hugely successful marketing campaign.

The usual marketing lesson is to do with creating a lifestyle around a particular product, which again misses the point: it’s not just any lifestyle that will do - it’s a deeply desired lifestyle. In the case of an addictive product, the underlying vacuum pulling the customer towards the product must be so powerful as to be able to overcome the power of the health warning on the packet in the customer’s mind.

Apple: Get a Mac

Apple are a marketing thesis in themselves.

In broad terms, the key to Apple’s overall success has been its ability to tap into needs that no one suspected were there. Again, it took a very successful marketplace, already apparently dominated by giants like IBM and Microsoft, and turned it upside down by connecting with a customer need that was right under the noses of those giants: the customers’ desires for something simpler, friendlier, more beautiful and creative to use.

Each step of the way, under Steve Jobs guidance, new needs were found that no one else suspected were there. Think of the iPad. Who would have thought that there was a market for a computer-like device, half-way between a smartphone and a laptop?

The true genius of marketing is finding vacuums that no one else can see.

And the best source of vacuums is beneath the apparently satisfied need.

Look beneath the apparently satisfied need for the deeper, unsatisfied need.

Apple’s computers aren’t necessarily faster or more 'computery' than their competition, but they are aesthetically more appealing and, largely because they tap into the public who would notice aesthetics more than others - artists, designers, creative people - they are also built to be able to do more creative work. Apple hasn’t particularly pushed products, it’s pushed the needs of customers for a more beautiful and easier to handle product.

While there have been many great Apple campaigns, the 'I’m a Mac' one stands out because no campaign has captured a consumer group's persona quite like it. The man representing the Mac was a screen portrayal of Apple’s primary kind of customer: cool, usually young, laid back, a bit geeky. Conversely, the PC guy was conservative, dry, perhaps older, set in his ways. The Mac persona represented what Mac customers wanted to be like and perhaps were actively like in real life.

Mac experienced 42% market share growth in its first year after the campaign.

The campaign told you everything you needed to know about their product without pushing the product. Marketing’s usual lesson from this? 'Explain your product’s benefits in a relatable way so consumers can relate'.

Not exactly. It might be better stated as 'Appear to know the customers and their needs so well that they are drawn towards you magnetically.'

Clairol: Does She or Doesn’t She?

In this ad series, the question asked applied to whether or not a woman used artificial hair colouring. The idea was that, with really good hair colouring, no one could tell.

In 1957, only one in fifteen people used artificial hair colour; by 1968, half the population used it according to Time magazine.

What was the underlying need here? People were clearly deeply concerned about their appearance, but were not using artificial hair colouring because they were afraid of detection, afraid that they would be seen as vain or ridiculous. There was an enormous vacuum sitting there. Manufacturers of hair colouring products could have pushed the range of colours, their beauty and ease of use and so forth - pushing products, features and benefits - but Clairol did the opposite of what most marketers would do: they struck at the underlying vacuum, the innate fear that may people had about their reputation with others.

The usual marketing lesson? 'Conveying how your product works is more effective than talking about it.' Again, almost, but not exactly: the real marketing message here is that you have to go for the vacuum that is already at work inside the customer.

That’s worth repeating:

Go for the vacuum that is already at work inside the customer.

Touch upon that, as all these hugely successful campaigns did, and customers will flock to the product, pulled by their own vacuum-power.

For more, read How Businesses Really Work

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