Last month was the 18th anniversary of Sam Kinison’s death. Kinison, a former revival preacher, was known for his fire and brimstone comedic delivery and trademark scream. I was thinking of the late great comedian recently while writing a capabilities piece for our agency — an e-doc on how we’ve helped clients build a stronger web presence. It seems to me Kinison’s classic bit on solving world hunger offers an important lesson on the topic:
My colleagues here at Seidler Bernstein know one of my dirty little secrets: I like to collect slogans from trucks and vans.
Okay, maybe it’s not all that sinister. More like a guilty pleasure. Because it’s fun for a brand strategist like me to see how some businesses summarize what they’re all about in one line. Really, those billboards rolling down the highway are in effect the front lines of Brand America. We’re constantly exposed to their messages.
There’s an old saying in advertising: “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” In other words, great marketing will get people talking about your product. But if they have a less-than-amazing experience, it could be the kind of talk you don’t want. This is especially true today, in the age of social media, when bad news travels even faster.
We were meeting with a client — more specifically, with the president, marketing communications director and consulting executive. We were vying to come up with a name for a new surgical product and had been at it for about an hour. We wondered how the name might change when line extensions came into play down the road. And so of course the talk naturally turned to shaving.
“What we’re talking about here is not unlike how shaving companies name their products,” the consultant said.
Any parent can tell you the first rule of naming: Don’t blab your names to the whole world. It’s one of those lessons you learn the hard way. For example, when my wife was pregnant with our first child, I made the mistake of floating one of our top contenders past my father-in-law. “Ava?” he scoffed. “Ava Gardner was such a tramp.” Good thing we also loved the name Lucy.
Several out-of-state companies working with our agency are in a State of New — either relaunching their growing organizations or breathing new life into a flagship product with a six-figure ASP. The reasons vary from positive to negative, from entering new medical markets to a false start for an expensive device. These companies are full of questions: Should we rename our company? Can our product really have a second life? What’s different about us?
Recently we were presenting brand strategy to a large client group and the topic turned to viral marketing. We stated that the goal of such techniques as social media was to generate word of mouth, which, as any marketer knows, can be the best kind of advertising. It seemed a given and I was ready to move on to the next point.
Suddenly, one listener, a young woman in the company’s e-marketing department, raised her hand.
“I don’t mean to be thick,” she said. “But exactly what do we mean when we say ‘word of mouth’?”
It’s a word that can strike terror into the heart of even the most hardened, ink-stained copywriter. A simple Google search will show you why: “Innovation” may be the most overused word in medical device marketing — a once-powerful adjective that has lost almost all of its voltage.
Yet innovation is at the heart of the medical device industry. And as a concept it’s been making a comeback. From the Wall Street Journal to Medical Device Daily, innovation is once again front-page news. In our agency’s experience, many medical device companies are seeking to brush up their images as innovators. But how can you say innovation in a fresh, evocative and meaningful way? How do you say innovation without actually saying it?