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Have a look at these 2 ads that I recently came across in a magazine.
First the Hyundai.
Now the Volvo.
Both estates/station wagons.
Both using a similar photographic angle.
Both appearing in exactly the same magazine.
Now while I accept that the price point of the vehicles may mean they’re targeting different audiences [& – to be fair – the Volvo is selling efficiency rather than Hyundai’s style] from my personal perspective, the Hyundai car is way better looking than the Volvo and so if I was in the market for a vehicle like that – even a car that had to be fuel efficient – I’d probably pass on checking out the Volvo and explore the possibilities of the Hyundai.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “… but what if the Hyundai ends up having the fuel efficiency of the Space Shuttle?”
Well, then there’s a possibility I might go back and check out the Volvo, but that’s a hell of a risk for a brand.
OK, I accept the reason I like the Hyundai is because I’m a sad bastard who responds to shiny things more than a magpie, but what these ads highlight is that if you execute category convention ad styles, then you run the risk your audience could directly compare you to a competitor and if you’re not good enough – regardless of the reason – you might lose out.
That might be a good strategy if you’re a challenger brand [“We’re the same, but different”] but it’s not if you’re a market leader and that’s why it’s a bit strange that the brands who need to keep things fresh the most are often the ones that keep things the same.
[Yes, I appreciate I am ignoring how ‘distribution ownership’ is often the key to success – especially with FMCG brands – but this is my blog so I’ll ignore it if I want to]
Of course, the bigger issue is that they are still ‘ads’ and maybe they’d be better off developing an idea that makes people experience the product rather than just show it … however I guess the real point I’m trying to make is that it could be argued the real point of having a strong brand is less about forging powerful & emotional bonds with your audience and more to do with ensuring people find it hard to directly compare your offering to a competitors.
That said, in this case it hasn’t worked for Volvo.
I feel I understand what they stand for way more than what Hyundai stands for, but to be quite honest, I’d rather be seen getting out the back of a sheep than one of those beige Swedish tanks.
In other words, a strong brand might help you occasionally overcome weak creative [emphasis on ‘might’] but it won’t help you overcome product laziness or a competitor who wants your audiences affections more.
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