This is the tale of two advisers who were clients of mine. They shared an audience, a location and request: a postcard advertising a seminar regarding retirement and inflation.
“When pigs fly” was pretty much the Client No. 1’s response to our design featuring a bright pink piggy bank balloon floating in the sky. The words “Inflation. Will it rob you?” were painted on the pig.
It was concise. It was fun. It was creative. It was bold.
It was not what the client wanted.
So we reworked it and eventually came up with a watered-down advertisement filled to the brim with 27-plus bullet points and a photo of sad-looking retirees.
It was conservative. It was safe. It was dry. It was dense.
It was exactly what Client No. 1 wanted.
When Client No. 2 approached us, we once again presented the floating pink piggy bank balloon design. This time the client gave a thumbs up and the pig postcards flew into mailboxes.
Client No. 2’s postcard saw a response rate four times greater than Client No. 1’s.
Some of you might argue that the first client did nothing wrong. They stayed true to their brand. And while that is true, fortune — especially in advertising and especially especially in the financial industry — favors the bold.
I mean, have you seen my company’s name or logo? Snappy Kraken and a red, sunglasses-wearing octopus. It doesn’t scream, “We work with financial companies.” But it screams, and you hear it. In the end, we have your attention.
Braveness begets boldness. Oftentimes we see the same old and do the same old in marketing because we’re too afraid to do anything different. What would our customers think? What would our competitors think?
We fear judgment and reactions. So we play it safe. We stick to the path most traveled.
This is why so many logos, websites, emails and marketing material look the same within an industry.
Go ahead. Look up logos of your competitors. Look at their websites. Now look at your logo and website.
To stand out in the sea of sameness, you need to be willing to be different. Don’t worry about scaring off potential clients. You’re losing potential clients because you blend in with your competitors. Why should someone choose you when they can choose Jane or John from the other side of town?
There’s a chance you aren’t even in the race. Prospects could make a decision after looking at two or three websites. After realizing every firm is the same, why continue their search? And if you’re not one of their first clicks, you’ve lost.
Banish that fear in exchange for boldness. Imagine what that change could bring: a wealth of new prospects.
If everybody jumped off a cliff except for one person, who stands out? While jumping off a cliff is a pretty jarring thing, the one who stood alone would stand out more than anyone else.
We deem actions jarring when they go against the grain. If you’re the only one doing something — or not doing something — you stick out.
I like to take this one step further toward boldness, and say that if everybody agrees with your idea, it’s probably wrong. Let me explain.
Take the previous example of the sea of sameness that is the majority of advisers’ marketing materials. Everyone — clients, prospects and employees — accepts the blandness and lack of creativity. It’s their normal. They all nod in agreement to ideas that stick to the status quo (read: boring ideas!).
When you propose an idea that’s different, you’ll likely be met with a lot of arched eyebrows.
As I said, Snappy Kraken was an abnormal name to the financial industry and it raised a few eyebrows. But with curiosity came questions. At conferences and trade shows, our brand started a lot of conversations that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.
They were intrigued, or at the very least skeptical. Either way, they wanted to learn more about us.
Polarizing ideas attract attention and provide an opportunity for you to stand out.
By now, your brain might be whirring with polarizing and creative ideas to make your firm’s marketing more memorable. Before you kick off any campaigns, keep in mind the final component to being bold: simplicity.
Standing out requires more than being different. Sure, it’ll get you noticed — but will you be remembered?
In order for your bold idea to stick with prospects long after the first encounter, it must be simple. Our brains can only process and handle so much information. A unique and simple idea ensures two points of contact between idea and brain.
Think of Nike’s “Just do it” campaign. How much simpler can you get than three words?
There’s a boldness that lies in simplicity. You don’t need 27-plus bullet points on a webinar postcard to get your point across. A more succinct message — “Inflation. Will it rob you?” — will communicate and endure more than 100 bullet points.
Of course, there can be such a thing as being too bold and completely betraying your brand and tribe in the process. Wendy’s has done really well on social because its social brand is snarky and bold. But if American Express tried the same thing, it would probably do more harm than good.
There are three keys to boldness: simplicity, fearlessness and polarization. And while this may require you to ruffle some feathers among competitors and clients, it’s important to remember the key to marketing itself: understanding the needs of your clients.
[More: 5 ways to win clients’ trust]
Robert Sofia is the CEO of the digital marketing firm Snappy Kraken.
Find this series on fintechforadvisers.com.
Marketing that turns skeptics to prospects, and prospects to clients
Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.