Imagine you were a grocery chain owner, and partnered with an agency to create a new brand identity. But, when you listened to the pitch, you were so confused. The new brand name they offered you was No Name. The packaging was always plain black printing on a yellow background, which looks like an NHL mailer.
You kept frowning and shaking your head. “This must be a joke.” That was the only thought in your mind. So, you ended the partnership.
If you do so, you reject one of the most successful Canadian brands of generic products. The launch of No Name in 1978 beat a rival supermarket chain by 24 hours.
This is a perfect example of what a smart marketing idea is about. The brand doesn’t look attractive at all, but it’s smart in the market segmentation of generic products. When people are struggling with creating memorable brand names within grocery business where consumers seldom remember brands, a brand called No Name ironically becomes a perfect name for all the generic products - generic products means products with no brand name, so No Name is generic products. The perceptive connection is so tight that No Name becomes the representation of generic products.
In addition, the unmistakable plain black printing on yellow packaging also makes the brand compelling and easily identifiable. With a low-price strategy in a period of rising inflation, the brand quickly became super recognizable and successful.
Therefore, marketing isn’t about beautiful graphics or decent language. It’s about waiting for the advent of a smart idea, and everything starts making sense with this idea. You will find the business messages become clear and sound, and the way of communication is pleasant, simple but effective. Also, the visual is distinctive enough to be memorable, and customers are ready to take actions. Last but not least, the expense is reduced, but the results get better. With a leading smart idea, everything that successful marketing requires is integrated.
But please note that a smart idea isn’t necessarily a creative idea. A creative idea can be big and wild. It looks cool, but it’s still not a smart idea which forges a choice not a look. With a smart idea, you will be deft at building strong connections between your products and your customers. However, a creative idea is more about free association between your products and any other things.
A creative idea is based on an artistic mind, while a smart idea is based on a behavioral-analytic mind which dedicates to facilitating buying decisions.
Named brands can invest millions of dollars in creativity for a better look. But this level of investment is impossible for most small to mid-sized business. This scope of business requires focus on applying budget to the parts that has the greatest likelihood of return which need smart ideas.
Having a groundbreaking smart idea is always difficult. You should be a good product depicter like creative people. You should be a good “mind interpreter” to know what people really want. You should be a good salesperson with great business sense. Sounds hard, doesn’t it?
But we can start with another principle - GET YOUR CUSTOMERS ENGAGED. Unlike a groundbreaking smart idea that will make your brand super successful, this principle is more likely to generate mini smart ideas. It ensures that your marketing won’t be off the track, and maintain meaningful connections to your customers. Using 1 groundbreaking smart idea to succeed is extremely difficult, but using hundreds of mini smart ideas to get customers engaged is a much easier way to gradually achieve your business goals.
For example, if you want to create a campaign to launch your new cookie brand, it’s risky to conduct a branding plan like No Name. But you can launch a voting contest - Which Flavor do You Think is the Best Flavor? Sweet or Salty? And the side with more numbers of votes will win the flavor they like. With this idea, you don’t need big budget for content production and media buying, and people will automatically become your marketers.
Smartness illuminates what has already existed within customers’ mind, while creativity shows customers something completely new. Smartness is market-oriented, while creativity is producer-oriented. Smartness aims for deep-rooted perception and behaviors, while creativity seeks theatrical expression. Smartness fosters successful ads and products, while creativity only product impressive ads.
Having a creative idea is never enough in marketing. A smart idea can truly bring you in-depth communication with your customers, and add real values to your business.