Models, lingerie and fashion shows. What could be sexier than working for literally the hottest store in the mall? At 21, my first “real” marketing project was to create a promotional postcard for the manager of our local Victoria’s Secret. Yep, this is it, I thought at the time. The start of my long and glamorous advertising career.
I got it half right. My career has been long, and winding, but maybe not so flashy. At least not in that way. You see, it turns out that postcard was the “sexiest” client I ever worked for. Was it all downhill from there? No way!I’ve had the privilege of working for some incredible causes and orgs over the years, with real-world impact. But you probably wouldn’t consider them sexy.
Highway Guard Rails Are SO Sexy
Manufacturing. Medical clinics. Bonds for road safety. Banking software. None of these are particularly steamy subjects. They could be considered dry, uninteresting, even boring. But some of the best work I’ve done is for “unsexy” companies and products.
And that’s the point: These companies are no less deserving of great marketing.
In fact, stories around the companies, products, services and people from “boring” industries can be more powerful than any image from the Victoria’s Secret runway show, if done right. And in the age of social marketing, story is paramount. Look beyond the surface and you’ll find plenty to tell a compelling tale around.
There’s Always Something Intriguing to Say
So when (for most of us it will be when and not if) you find yourself working for a client or vertical that’s not so thrilling on the surface, here are five tips to create effective marketing for “boring” products:
1. Remember you exist because you solve a problem for someone
If not for the needs of your customers, your company would have no reason to exist. So what is it that your business provides that fulfills the needs of its customers? Does your order and fulfillment system make sure that vital parts arrive on time, fleet maintenance is completed and kids get their toys on time? Take a close look at all the problems you solve and how you, in turn, become the catalyst for positive outcomes. In business-to-business (B2B) industries, pull the thread through from your company to your clients and then to their end customers.
2. Think outside in
How do your customers feel? What do they want to happen every day? What do they think? Get in the head of your customer through research, anecdotal evidence, experience and interviews. Create a narrative around the daily situations that your customers face and how your company helps solve them. What happens in the daily life of a mother who ends up being late to work because she got a flat, and how does your service center turn that experience into a positive for her day? Visit customer sites and highlight what they do, with special attention to how your company’s products connect to that mission.
3. Show the people behind the brand
Your company’s employees likely have interesting lives of their own, at work and beyond, from involvement in their local communities at charity events to adventure travel in far-off locales. Does your company offer a sabbatical program? If so, show what employees use that time to achieve. Does the firm match charitable giving? Create a list of the top non-profits or any notable ones and connect their stories to your brand. At the office, look at areas of high contact such as customer service, and tell a real life story about how vital they are to a client’s operations.
4. How can you make your customer look great?
Everyone wants to look and feel good about their purchases. At work, this can mean getting praise from the boss or overcoming a challenge. At home, this may mean making their spouse or children happy, or even just themselves. Focus in on self-desires and connect your business to that goal. Paint a picture from case studies or other real-world results (if possible) about the end state. Solve buyer’s remorse ahead of time by addressing post-purchase pain points.
5. Elevate the mundane
Focus on the benefits of your features, no matter how small. Why are your machining bolts the way they are? What goes on in your shipping department to keep materials protected in transit? There are many ways to go here. Walk through the process of fulfilling an order from start to finish and record as many details as you can, then zoom in on them one at a time.
Keep It Real
The best way to market brands that aren’t so sexy is to be real. Tell true stories around what the company does to make life better or solve problems for others. Look at how its customers serve the world, connect to what employees are doing at work or on their own time, and build a bigger narrative out of small details. With any company, there are many ways to tell its story to the world that connect. Look deeper and you’ll find them.