Be Rebellious

In order to get consumers (whether they are retail or service customers or business-to-business audiences) to notice an advertising message, many companies resort to loudness and one-upmanship. Neither of these tactics works in the long run.

If your competition is talking loudly and you decide to yell louder, what do you think they will do? Yep. They’ll start to scream. Nobody wins a shouting match when it comes to advertising. And usually you’ll find you even lose a few customers in the process because they can’t stand the noise.

It’s the same with one-upmanship. If you have to compete on more and better coupons or more and better discounts, giveaways or incentives unrelated to your core product, your revenue per sale decreases as well as your number of sales.

Customers see these types of games as gimmicky, fake and disingenuous; and they leave. The ones who do stay now view you and your competitors as commodities with no difference except your price. That is a dangerous place for a company to find itself.

The answer to clutter is not more clutter; it’s finding who wants to hear you and speaking to them. So how do you compete if you can’t out shout or out discount your competition? You get rebellious and radical with your advertising.

Do those words scare you? That’s okay. Remember, you’re being courageous now. You can handle it. Besides, rebellious and radical aren’t dirty words. They will help you draw attention away from your competition without resorting to screaming and insulting your customers.

It’s not about being outrageous just to get attention; it’s about being remarkable. An advertising campaign with a strong rebellious strategy is, by its very nature, different from anything your audience will find from your competitors’ marketing efforts. It’s unexpected. It’s surprising. It’s effective.

There are two keys to creating a successfully rebellious advertising campaign. The first is the big idea. This idea comes from a strategy that is derived directly from your customers and their relationship with your brand. You arrive at this idea through a discipline called account planning. We’ll get into the details of both the big idea and account planning in later articles.

The second key to a successfully rebellious advertising campaign is attention. You can’t gain attention if you don’t learn to identify and then steer clear of the norm. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is or how large your potential market, if your target audience doesn’t pay attention to your message, your ad budget has been wasted.

Think about these two keys while you flip through the newspaper or a magazine. Ponder them while you watch TV. You should notice something almost immediately. Most ads today don’t seem to be based on any big idea. Many are so boring that you flip right past them without noticing them. Others get your attention but the ads don’t have much to do with the product so you quickly forget the brand the ad was supposed to sell you. What an opportunity for your brand!

Now, there is a caveat to being rebellious. Your ads should never be different just for difference sake. The difference should be derived from your brand’s uniqueness.•

This article introduced the second of twelve steps. Challenge yourself, your staff and your ad agency to revolutionize your advertising program. If you missed the first step, contact the author for a complimentary copy. And, remember, every revolution begins with just one step.

Jeff Berney is a freelance idealist, brand evangelist and writer. He can be reached at

© 2006

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