Give Your Marketing A Fighting Chance

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Why continuity is key throughout your marketing campaign. PLUS: The major mistake agents make that undercuts the chance of a successful campaign.

January 2001, By Don Hobbs

Quick: What does an ad for Absolut vodka look like?

I’ll venture a guess that even if you don’t drink Absolut, or even if you don’t like vodka, or even if you don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all, you were able to answer that question. That’s because since 1981, Absolut has run one of the most successful (and certainly one of the longest lasting) campaigns in the history of advertising. Their familiar bottle shape has been portrayed in a multitude of different settings over the years, and cumulatively, the campaign has achieved so much notoriety that it even spawned a book, Absolut Book, The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story.

Now let me ask you another question: What do you think would have happened had Absolut abandoned that campaign after only a few ads? If they had judged too quickly and changed gears after six months or a year?

Well, that answer is fairly obvious. We certainly wouldn’t be reading any books about it then.

The point I’m trying to make here is that good advertising takes time. Last month, I talked about the importance of having patience with your career and getting the systems in place to build a successful long-term business. This month, I want to take it a step further and encourage you not to undercut your marketing efforts before giving them a reasonable chance to succeed.

Continuity of image and message is the only way to build a successful campaign. Any good advertising campaign requires time to grow and build an image in the consumers’ minds.
The reason I bring this up is because far too often I see agents make either of these two major mistakes: A) never creating a campaign with any continuity, or B) abandoning their campaign before it has the time to do its job. In this article, I will address each of these scenarios in an effort to emphasize the importance of letting continuity work for you in both instances.

The Trinkets of Failure

At my house, I receive all kinds of materials from real estate agents: magnets, note pads, calendars, postcards (usually created with the company’s image, not the agent’s), even the occasional brochure or two. Yet because of a lack of continuity in look and feel between all the disparate marketing pieces that land in my mailbox or on my door step, the only way I’d ever know if any of them were from the same agent is if I kept them all (which, let me assure you, I certainly do not!).

The cause of this mishmash of materials is that the average agent only thinks of marketing when they have no business. I like to call this approach “running your business by the plan of the week.” This approach only leads to frustration of the continuous ups-and-downs and eventually, to failure. The part that drives me most crazy is that for the same amount of money those agents spend on all the various useless trinkets we mentioned above, they could develop a consistent image that will build on itself over time. And while a campaign fueled by personal brochures and PowerKards may not stack up in kitchen drawers and on the front of refrigerators like the trinkets do, more importantly, the image stacks up in the consumers’ minds.

Many agents allow themselves to get hung up on the concept of “shelf life.” But how many times have you been taking a listing in a client’s house only to see other agents’ magnets or calendars hanging around? Obviously, shelf life doesn’t pay off — building a consistent image over time does.

Patience is a Virtue

If what we’ve talked about so far sounds like a refresher course and you’re already committed to a consistent campaign, let me offer you a word of caution. You will get bored with your advertising over the course of time. You’ll probably see your materials a hundred times for every time the consumer sees them, and therefore, you may tire of seeing the same image over and over for a few years. That’s okay. You aren’t your target market. Don’t rely on your own judgment when the temptation to alter your campaign arises.
The thing is, a year or two into your campaign, when you’re worn out and tired of seeing it, the consumers are just beginning to really take notice. Remember, good advertising takes time. Think back to the Absolut example: their bottle campaign would have never made an impact without longevity. They first had to establish their image and the campaign’s concept before they could really start to have fun with it. And despite the different themes of each ad they produced, notice how as soon as you see each ad, you know it’s for Absolut. Most real estate advertising just causes you to say, “Oh look, it’s a Realtor,®” instead of building a brand for your name the way Absolut did for their vodka.

Resist the Temptation to Change

So, how long should your campaign remain consistent before the consumers tire of it as well? That’s a good question, and one that doesn’t have a hard and fast answer. The general rule is five to seven years, yet some campaigns may survive for up to ten years (or even 20-and-counting, like Absolut’s). The key to keeping things fresh is that while you maintain continuity of your image, infuse your materials with new photos every few years (that leisure suit photo of you just doesn’t cut it anymore). Otherwise, changing directions with your campaign simply means losing everything you’ve invested to that point.

So, no matter where you are on the marketing curve, I hope this article was helpful for you. As you can see from my devoting two months in a row to this subject, it’s one that I feel very strongly about. You’re already spending the money — why not make it work for you and build an image that will truly allow you to achieve your personal and professional goals?

If you would like to get a greater sense of the power of continuity in your marketing, I urge you to read both of these books by Al Ries and Jack Trout: Positioning and Marketing Warfare. They’ll substantiate everything I’ve said here, and I feel both of these books should be an essential part of every agent’s marketing