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The banality of (most) marketing

Oxford defines banal as “so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring”.

I say this with the deepest respect for all business owners, but man there is a lot of boring marketing out there, especially in the services sectors (insurance, realty, law, etc). 


And I think, more often, it’s smaller businesses and professionals who put out the least effective (worst) advertising. I mean, when you only have a bit to spend on an ad or ads, you’re going to put everything you can think of in it. 


From a certain perspective, it makes sense. I’m going to say everything I do in this one ad because hey, I’ll probably only have one chance to tell you all the things I can help you with. 


Maybe. Most likely not, though.


Let’s say Marketing Success is a function of Messaging x Frequency.


Small businesses can’t compete on frequency. Unlike, say, the banks or telecoms, they just can’t afford to replay TV commercials over and over.


So they’re left to compete on message.


Small businesses, though, often can’t compete on messaging, either. It takes cheddar to hire agencies to make engaging ads. 


Which leaves the logical, safest path to marketing: imitation. Use the same messaging as competitors, especially industry leaders. 


Take realtors. (I’ve been noticing these guys on my daily dog walks).


I think ReMax must have written the playbook on realty advertising. Especially bus benches and billboards.


The basic components are a smiling headshot, a name, and some claim to fame. I know this has worked for them over the years.


They ‘own’ this formula. 


I’d be willing to bet my two cats (not my dog) that competing realtors running this playbook strengthen ReMax’s brand position, not their own.


That’s because we tend to group things into categories. 


Realty = ReMax


Good for ReMax. Bad for everyone else.


You can’t out ReMax ReMax.


They own the realty space in your head.


So how does a small biz or entrepreneur brand compete?


Say something different. A lot different. And relevant but unexpected.


Then, at least, you have a chance to create a new brand connection in the crowded space your prospects call a brain.


If you’re competing against the industry leader(s), maybe think about going sideways and making a different brand connection with your audience. 


Don’t reinforce one that already exists for your competitor.