The true strength in marketing or advertising is to question everything.

The glass is never (and never can be) half full. Think about that.

A brand is a ‘living breathing thing’ because attitudes change, culture changes so brands must change too.

Polaroid was innovative. They saw that camera film took days to process then and of course, if you’re on your holliers, you want the pictures asap. So, they identified that market gap. Pictures in one minute and they were a huge success.

But of course, they never saw the real rise in mobile phone cameras later and failed.

The didn’t see the brand as needing to re-invigorate constantly…. although they are getting to grips with that now, moving into mobile phone printers, clothing, and headphones (of all things). Too little and perhaps, too late.

It makes the point though; you must stay on your brand game. It’s never done, it just evolves.

If you strive for perfection, you’ll never get there nor ever should. Because, you can never achieve it by definition, but you must keep trying.

This is about changing your own culture. Facilitating a creative conversation within your team. Now sometimes that’s down to you and the ability to listen and forgive craziness. As Apple said, “It’s for the crazy ones” so a crazy conversation should be welcomed with open arms.

Let them ask why? And why not?

How often, a crazy idea fosters a good one.

It’s happened a hundred times where someone has said something ridiculous, which immediately was picked up positively by someone else.

We remember doing a campaign to encourage Irish people to visit the island of Malta. Now that’s perceived in Ireland, as a very ‘British’ island which was an Irish Advertising problem.

There’s an established Irish saying which is ‘Cead Mile Failte’ which means, “a hundred thousand welcomes”. When we visited Malta and Channel 4 UK made a documentary about how we were going about the task, we found the Maltese very welcoming, almost in that ‘Irish’ hail fellow well met, way. And at a meeting, a colleague said, why don’t we use ‘Cead Mile Failte’ as a headline? And everyone laughed, tut-tutted and he turned red.

But Someone else quickly said, what about ‘Cead Mile Malta’ and that became the campaign. It’s actually brilliant (although it actually really means “A hundred thousand Maltas”!) because it communicated to an Irish audience the one thing Malta had – a welcome as good as the Irish. It’s bang on but it came about by letting people talk and offering suggestions, welcoming them.

Allow crazy ideas have a voice. Encourage it. Why not?

That’s also about the working environment and often the marketing office should stand out to facilitate the madness. Soft furnishings, crazy colours do work and it’s that culture that’s gone from today’s Agencies you need to replace. Make Marketing central.

There are millions of objections to you achieving what you’re trying to do and millions of people who’ll tell you why it’s all so wrong. Don’t ignore them but question it and move on. You’re on a path and you’re going from A to B and will not be deflected to put out fires left and right along the way. Clear thinking. Simplicity.

Think about Henry Ford for a minute.

Not only was he building a car in the land of horses but you can surely hear the objections he faced…. We’ll have to build roads? Have traffic rules? Build Traffic lights? What is someone gets killed? How will we sell them? What happens when they break down? Where do customers get gas? You could imagine…..Daunting but perseverance paid off because he had a hunch. He knew people would want to drive a car and he was going to overcome those objections. Not by ignoring them, but by taking those problems on board and solving them.

Think it through and stick with it. Be as crazy as you can dream.

But question everything – this is crucial – Why? What? Where? When? Who? And why not? Don’t be put off, but be clear. You understand what brands are, you understand the real person whom you hope, will buy. Now move on.

We do this every day at Admatic and one real lesson is that you must facilitate an open and honest thought process. If you’re with a Marketing team, allow the most ridiculous suggestions, because what often happens is that they spark something useful. They might sound foolish first off, but what will happen is someone will say, “Hey, there might be something in that, if we did this”.  Crazy thinking pays dividends and the freedom to think openly is important. Don’t tut-tut.

Imagine in one of those sessions, Steve Jobs said, people will want phones they can carry about in their pocket. You can hear the tut-tuts.

And what happened? Apple got rid of him too…..even though he knew he was right.

Seek Innovation. Build a brand.

If you have a product that’s not different to other products in the same market, you have to find that difference, that differentiator. If you haven’t got an obvious one, you’ll need to create one. And create one you can do!

It’s often called the ‘one thing’ (or the Unique Selling Proposition USP) which means developing one thing you can shout about which you believe, people will want and be attracted to. So, it’s about developing a market benefit that people need and not what you think they’ll need! So again, go back to the customer and think about them, not you. Think about their wants and needs.

A differentiator can be aspirational. In other words, something people would like to have, be proud to have and makes them feel good about themselves.

That pair of Louboutin shoes (mind you, cleverly branded with the red sole) or the Armani suit or that Prada handbag. They’re functional, well-made, but they’re aspirational and boy do they demand a premium price! You feel good having them, delighted to unwrap them and show them off, because they say something about you. That’s their Brand promise.

But to be more mundane for a minute, you’re probably not an aspirational product. For example….in our view, all mobile operators are the same. Sorry, but we don’t really see any product innovation there. And all Banks are the same too. Not they might tell you differently, but they’re not and are competing on price (lower monthly 5G rates today! Or free banking!) is a tactic, not a brand strategy. They lack that brand differential.

So, is there a Market Gap there? There sure is because when you see a sector that’s cluttered with brands doing similar things, there’s always an opportunity like ‘Starling’ have in the UK.

We never hear from our Bank. Now they know all about us, what we do where we go, where we are, what ages we are and everything in between. But they never write (unless it’s bad news), never send a Birthday card, never call, nada.

We never hear from our mobile operator either. They ironically, never call….

Indeed, think grocery retail. Do they ever call or do something unique? Nope, just better discounts through some rewards scheme. And aren’t all petrol stations the same? But they all tell you that they’re ‘service driven’. Whatever that might mean, it’s not a strong enough competitive advantage unless you can show people, prove to people, what it means.

You must think and find some new brand differentiator to make the brand create a need.

One idea won’t do it but it will lead you into thought about a new proposition. It may be a sub-brand underneath what you’re doing (like Diet Coke is) but it’s customer Marketing ideas that bring you into that market focus. Bringing things to customers because you know they want them and focus on them. Add to the list of all the things your brand can do. And when you do, the Advertising is easy and interesting.

Maybe it’s a piece of tech you can add to what you’re doing? Or better distribution (home delivery, same day delivery)? Something that people want.

A relatively small used car dealer in a posh part of Dublin, selling upmarket used cars BMW, Audi, Rolls Royce, Maserati and so on), was at a stagnant point. Doing fine, but subject to monthly seasonal fluctuations in sales. Why? Because people with money and kids, simply hadn’t got the time on weekends to visit the dealer. They were, as you might probably understand, going ‘here and there’ every weekend with shopping, kids sports and so on.

The traditional idea that they might drive to and visit a car dealership on their precious day off (and dealers don’t open on a Sunday bizarrely) wasn’t the way to sell used cars. So, the problem here was distribution and customer habits.

The marketing solution was simple but emphatic. Bring the cars to the people; don’t expect them to come to you. So, a simple booking form online allowed potential customers to book a day and time during their workday (or at home 247) where the dealer would drive the car they were interested in, to that appointment to show them the car in the home or office. At a time that suited them.

Show them the car and hopefully sell it, given that the customer had already expressed an interest in that particular car. About 1 in every 2 visits resulted in a sale.

A sub brand and off they went.

Within weeks, car sales had more than doubled. Same dealer, same pricing, same cars, but a marketing proposition based on convenience, sold more cars. That allowed the dealer to invest more in generating more business, like opening on Sundays, like service offers, like an overall brand “It’s not what you buy, it’s where you buy it” marking them out from other used car sellers. In other words, you can buy a used BMW anywhere but if you buy it from them, you get a warranty, they’ll service the car, they’ll provide finance and above all, they’ll deal with any car problems you have. But bring the cars to the customer!

And that model now applies to new car sales online. Why force buyers to come to you when you can go to them?

You are thinking, that is simple, and it is, but effective. Most problem solving should be – simple. It’s about thinking through the problem from the customer side and putting in place a solution that you think will fix the problem. And, keeping it simple.

Does Research help? Not really, only in the 10% space because if you don’t understand (or want to) your customer buyer, you’re not in the enthused space. You should want to and you definitely should need to understand them and their lives. You won’t see an opportunity for them if you don’t. As Henry Ford said, if he researched the market, they’d only have told him “to build a faster horse”.

Research isn’t the answer to do that thinking for you.

As we’ve heard from a leading good Adman, they don’t need 20 women on the Clapham omnibus to tell them it’s a good ad or not! He’s right! Because Admen know their audience, they know their craft, they’re clear about what they’re doing.

Research is another CYA. You’re either on your game, or you’re not. You get it or you don’t and good Marketing and Advertising people always do get it. They know their customer.

Because this customer focused thinking is so often ignored in favour of general audience ‘clusters’, no real understanding takes place. And when there’s no real understanding, advertising and marketing will fail or be ‘hit and miss’ at best.

That’s what’s happening now – doing Advertising before doing the thinking.

Question everything and you’ll get there.

“Let advertisers spend the same amount of money improving their product that they do on advertising and they wouldn’t have to advertise it.” Will Rogers.