We humans are creatures of habit.

When we go to the supermarket for toothpaste, we stride purposefully to the oral care aisle. Mission accomplished. But for the dozen toothpaste brands fighting for visibility in that aisle, becoming the choice is a costly, frustrating job.

So why can’t brand stewards take their toothpaste brand out of the toothpaste aisle, even if their product still resides there? What about advertising their toothpaste in the candy aisle, or on apples? What about doing a joint promotion in the school lunch kit section, with a mini-tube included gratis with each lunch kit?

Unorthodox brand placement is more than creative. It can give your brand new real estate to occupy in the consumer’s brain – completely free of competitors.

This brand placement strategy is more than creative. If done properly, it can disrupt your consumer’s habits and give your brand valuable real estate in the consumer’s brain – in space unoccupied by your competitors.

Here’s how to do it right.

untapped

Back in the early 90s, radio and bus ads were no go zones for respected financial institutions. I was working on Richmond Savings, a small west coast credit union with neither the resources or the desire to slug it out in the respected ad media of choice for banks – national newspapers and television.

So we advertised on bus sides and the radio.

This choice enabled us to virtually ‘own’ these two media, despite a limited ad buy. Because we were the only financial sector advertisers using these media, we stood out like a sore thumb. And our media buyers gained outsized freebies from the bus and radio reps trying to attract more business from our sector. Wins on all fronts.

The lesson here is obvious. Look around. Chances are, you’re moving in the same media circles as your competitors. Take a moment to pause and check out ad space that would never be considered by media buyers in your category. If you’re the only one there, it will take relatively little effort to look like you own the medium. And you’ll be one step closer to owning that priceless real estate in the consumer’s mind.

Take a moment to pause and look at ad space that would never be considered by media buyers in your category. That could be your ticket to shaking things up.

unexpected, but relevant

Exaggeration, comparison, and metaphor are three of the oldest tools in creating effective ads. What they do is create the unexpected out of the expected.

They can also help you find logical media that nobody in your category is using.

marc stoiber brand strategy

Consider this image. Clearly, the person who dreamt up this ad said to him or herself “Hmmm, if people are sick of a grimy barbecue, how can we bring that thought front of mind?” The solution: exaggerate.

And with this exaggeration – is your barbecue as grimy as a sewer grate – comes a media idea. Suddenly, your brand is placed out in the street, speaking to people where there’s no competitor in site.

Now, it’s easy to see the immediate correlation between a grimy grille, and a grimy sewer grate. Both are metal. Both look the same. Neither should touch your expensive steaks. I get it. There are multiple nodes that connect the metaphor to the reality.

marc stoiber brand strategy

And here’s where I ring a cautionary note. You need to keep that relevance front and centre.

Look at this image. What the heck does a Visa card have to do with a subway?Certainly, I understand the ‘swipe’ implication. But apart from that, there is very little ‘there’ there.

I still like the fresh use of a new medium for Visa. I would challenge, however, that simply being unexpected isn’t as powerful as being unexpected in ways that relevant on multiple levels to the message or product.

The lesson: let the tools that create unexpectedness (metaphor, exaggeration, comparison) work their magic to present great new media. But also strive to create as many points of relevance as possible, to avoid becoming a fun, but forgettable sight gag.

viral

The beauty of advertising today is that a great idea is no longer just one moment (or one brand placement) in time. Ideas that disrupt consumers are often captured by those consumers on their smartphones. Presto – your media reach just grew exponentially.

The best part of having your brand placement go viral in a photo is that the viewers of your ‘fun’ execution trust the person sending the photo – which makes them far more likely to click, view, and share themselves.

Case in point: I saw the barbecue ads I profiled above featured in a german ad magazine, on Pinterest UK, and on a site called Weburbanist, to name just a few.

Does this mean your toothpaste ad on grocery store apples will make a viral victory lap around the world? Difficult to say.

One thing is certain, though. You’ll never get there stuck in the same aisle as your competitors.

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