Legally bland

Advertising’s role is to create awareness and consideration while, hopefully, driving sales.

yoaaungBut, in order to accomplish any of the above-stated goals, a brand must first differentiate itself from the pack. As a result, if one marketer’s headline or tagline could easily be applied to any other business in their industry (or any other business in any industry for that matter), you can pretty much assume the advertisement failed miserably in its stated mission.

I thought I’d investigate three separate sectors to see if any brands actually did create a headline or tagline that not only explained what they (or their client) did but also differentiated them from every other competitor.

I selected samples from the financial, advertising and PR fields, respectively. Check it out….

Group One: Financial Services

  • “Founded on ideals. Built on ideas.”
  • “You have a passion for your business. We have a passion for protecting it.”
  • “Our bankers aren’t just on the ball. They’re often ahead of it.”

Group Two: Advertising

  • “Advertising that works smarter”
  • “You are what you recommend”
  • “Human-centered social”

Group Three: PR

  • “Committed to being more.”
  • “Let’s start the conversation.”
  • “Engaging. Always.”

So, what do you think? Do any of the headlines/taglines really differentiate the organization and explain what it is does?

Let’s pick a victim from Group One. “Founded on ideals. Built on ideas,” is a catchy tagline that, alas, would work equally well for a credit union, a garden supply shop or your local Midas Muffler franchise. In truth, it happens to be the headline and tagline of Glenmede, a privately-owned trust company. I think their ad agency needs to come up with a few more, new ideas (if not ideals).

Now, let’s skip ahead to the advertising folk. I was drawn to “You are what you recommend.” That headline works really well for an ad agency. But, it also does equal justice to a bartender or, dare I suggest it, even a brothel. In this case, the five words came from Outbrain, which says it recommends content more than six billion times a day! Man, that’s a lot of recommendations. And, yet, based on their creative work, I wouldn’t recommend them to be anyone’s ad agency. Sad.

Last, but certainly not least, are the PR representatives. I chose, “Let’s start the conversation.” It’s an engaging tagline to be sure but, alas, could work equally well for Wal-Mart, a telecommunications corporation or even a street person. In this case, it belongs to the MSL Group, a hallowed name among the Top 10 public relations hierarchy. For me, let’s start the conversation ended up being a me-too, buzz kill of a tagline.

One would hope that, in this highly competitive, one-size-fits-all world in which we live, creative advertisers would be a little more adept at creating what they’re hired to do: create ads that break through the clutter and clearly identify what an organization does to differentiate itself.

Oh well, pretty soon we’ll have computers who will be able to figure this thing out anyway. I even have a tagline for them when they do arrive: “It takes an artificial brain to create a real advertisement.”

One thought on “Legally bland

  1. There’s an old adage that given enough time, 100 monkeys banging away on typewriters will eventually write something that makes some sense. I suppose your suggestion that computers can do the same is the modern version of this.
    From the beginning, what was drilled into every adman cell in my brain were two things:
    One – the brand must be absolutely central to the narrative. If you take your brand out of the narrative and replace it with any other brand, especially one in the same category, the story/message should completely fall apart.
    Two – don’t wear your strategy on your sleeve. The creative challenge is swaying your audience with relevance, subtext and dare I call it… poetry. What’s unsaid is often more important than what is said and what is implied as persuasive as what is explicit. Let your audience become part of the message, filling in the blanks with their own experiences.
    No offense, but otherwise an account guy or even a client could have written it themselves.
    In the cases you’ve mentioned above, the creatives are found guilty on both charges. Time for these clients to bring in the 100 monkeys. Well, being 2015, the computers please.

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