Marketing is only effective to the extent that it is relatable. It doesn’t matter how creative or funny it is if people can’t identify with it or simply don’t care.
A really good example of effective marketing is an advertising campaign that Regus ran in 2009. Regus leases office space and temporary meeting rooms to startups and SMEs, so they designed their advertising around a series of humorous scenes involving entrepreneurs conducting business in awkward locations.
While the campaign’s comedic approach helped lighten Regus’ corporate image, the key to its success was very simple: it focused on a problem (access to a professional working environment) that Regus’ target market (startup entrepreneurs and small business owners) could identify with and was struggling to solve.
Compare the Regus campaign to a controversial ad that Hyundai ran in 2013. Hyundai’s use of dark humour to highlight their innovative safety features by designing their ad around a failed suicide attempt was roundly criticised for being insensitive and distasteful.
Controversy aside, Hyundai’s ad is an abject failure because it simply isn’t relatable. People don’t buy cars to prevent self-harm. There were plenty of ways that Hyundai could have showcased their safety technology by presenting a scenario that people could identify with (like the famous Chapman’s Peak ad that Mercedes Benz ran in the 1990s). Instead, they tried too hard to be edgy and ended up with a PR disaster.
The lesson is simple: there are plenty of ways (controversy included) to get noticed, but getting noticed doesn’t matter if nobody buys your product or service because they can’t relate to your story.
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