Stop Complaining & Start Buying Brand Real Estate

March 31, 2015   /   by  Diane Callihan

Why You Should Build a Place in Your Customers’ Mind

Imagine a grizzled ad man in a rumpled suit, perched on a stool in a once-trendy-but-now-passé cocktail lounge, spilling his guts to no one in particular as the bartender rolls her eyes.

“Today’s marketing is an electronic shouting match. An indistinguishable wash of noise comprised of ubiquitous irony and repeated hipster buzzwords, endlessly cycling and recycling. Sure, everybody talks about brand equity, but who really knows what that means? The latest computer-generated, talking animal? Gimme a break. In my day…”

What about his day? Was it ever really better? Did marketers really know more about cutting through the clutter in the 80s and 90s? Did they really come with ideas that became as valuable as the products themselves? And most importantly, does anybody really need to think about brand real estate anymore?

Did marketers really know more back then?

Certainly some of them did. The Energizer Bunny was a child of the 80s and is still going strong today. And who can forget those California Raisins, singing and dancing their little Claymation hearts out? And decades later, variations of Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” catch phrase still permeate pop culture today.

But the absolute king of the big idea had to be one company: Apple. Their groundbreaking “1984” TV spot, with its Orwellian overtones and portrayal of dystopian sameness, (since channeled by Taco Bell in their recent “Breakfast Defector” campaign) launched with the fury of a thousand MTV videos during Super Bowl and became a watershed of American Advertising.

The Value of Owning an Idea

Theories abound about why this campaign is generally remembered as a milestone — its Super Bowl time-slot, its 60-second length, its cinematic feel — but the one I prefer is this:

It wasn’t an ad about a computer.

In fact, the purpose of the ad was to tell us that this was not a computer. Rather, it was an idea. The idea that you could make a personal computer so simple to use, that it would be like a release from slavery, and once released, you would be free to create, to explore in the way you were always meant to.

Don’t Pay Rent to Your Competitors

It was this core idea — ‘simple computers’ — that gained traction with consumers and became implanted in their brains. For Apple, it was like owning a piece of real estate in someone’s mind. This strong association with a concept made every piece of marketing easier, because everything the brand did stood out from the crowd, maximizing recall and making the most out of every GRP. Microsoft could—and did—outspend them 100 to one, but it wound up just being rent paid to Apple on a piece of territory Windows could never own.

So that was then, but what about now?

What’s the value of owning a word or a concept in today’s fractured, inbound marketing paradigm, where all is content and the benchmark is relevancy to the consumer’s search parameters?

Only everything, of course.

Build Brand Equity with your Messaging Strategy

The truth is that the marketplace isn’t less cluttered these days, it’s infinitely more cluttered. New media and search engines haven’t given consumers more clarity, any more than a mall with a million stores. They have to know what they want first. And that want only comes through a connection with a brand. They have to be introduced to it, they have to like it and they have to want it.

Even if their first connection with your brand is through a website, the same rule applies; without a connection between them and your brand, without a single, simple, unique selling message that enters their brain and sticks there, they will drive on.

And even if the website is just one facet of your brand’s overall marketing mix, idea ownership is still vital, because often, it’s the second or third touch of a campaign cycle, when consumers really become interested in buying your stuff.

For this reason, messaging strategy is the tiebreaker in web development and new media, just as it is in every medium. If your mission is sales, then you cannot ignore it. The messaging strategy should be the culmination of all the elements of the marketing strategy - position, tone, unique selling proposition - and it must be served up in a way that’s simple, unexpected, relevant and engaging.

Owning an idea gets even more vital when it comes to marketing automation. Techniques like lead nurturing campaigns are fantastic at building trust with prospects and allowing them to self-learn, but there is still an element of belief, of emotional understanding, that has to be established in order to break the competitive tie. And just as importantly, it’s this connection that allows your product to be sold at a premium price.

Cash in on Your Brand Real Estate

The brand idea — and the emotional messaging around it — are the silent sales team for your brand. It’s there to tell consumers, ‘we stand for something’, when no human is around to do it. And in this digital world, that’s more important than ever.

So, instead of warming a barstool and kvetching about the sad state of affairs in today’s marketing, what our grizzled ad guy should be doing is buying brand real estate. He should merge what has always been true in the ad world with an inbound, automated ecosystem to produce an infinitely more valuable and lasting message for consumers.

And you should too.

Diane Callihan

Diane Callihan

With more than 20 years of experience writing for some of the country’s top brands, Diane helped to shape Roger West’s content strategy, lead generation, and PR efforts as Director of Marketing. She currently serves as President of Callihan Content Creation.