I think I've mentioned here before that I'm an investor in a new "fast-casual" restaurant, which has grand plans of becoming a small nationwide chain. Other than being an investor, my primary role is as business and marketing counselor. Well, I attended a marketing meeting a week ago with our new advertising agency, who's primary responsibility is designing a website and a marketing look for all of the company's materials. In these two artful areas they're performing well. They also pitched several slogans, including the one they liked the best, "Distinctively fresh."
After letting them complete their pitch, while maintaining zen-like calm control, I casually noted that every single one of our competitors claimed to have "fresh" food. In fact, one of our competitors had the word "fresh" as part of their name. I explained that we could not possibly position our company as exciting, newsworthy or unique by following this not-so-fresh path.
They all nodded and smiled and agreed. No problem, they would come up with new slogans based on our advice. We're paying them well, after all, and every hour on the clock is money in their pockets. But why did we have to give them this obvious advice to begin with?! Because ad agencies do not understand marketing. They only understand creativity and aesthetics. Anyway, they're gonna take another crack at a slogan.
But, never in my experience of working with advertising people have they ever shown me a clear understanding of marketing knowledge. Marketing people generally like to make creative advertising that strikes the funny bone, or is perceived as cool. It's up to the brand's owner to insure that the correct marketing message is not overlooked. It only takes a flip through any consumer magazine, or a night's worth of prime-time TV watching, to witness that most ads fail in properly positioning the brand or product. Who's the Einstein who thought a lying salesman was the perfect pitchman for Isuzu? Who thought talking lizards could pitch beer? Did someone think that launching furry animal out of a cannon would tell people why they should shop online out Outpost.com?! What the heck does Microsoft's slogan ("Your potential. Our passion.") mean?! Sounds like decent slogan for a college, but a software maker!
Ad agencies, left to do their own thing, will not do the thing that best benefits your brand. That's a fact. Leave it to them and you get lameness like "I'm lovin' it" (McDonald's) or slogans you cannot even remember -- anyone know what Coke's is? Didn't think so.
The funny thing about the "Distinctively fresh" tagline is that we clearly explained the uniqueness of our restaurant in a prior meeting. And while freshness was a part of the message, it isn't the key positioning angle we are shooting for (which I'll reveal at a later time, along with the name of the place).
Anyway, as this develops I'll update.
Side note: Added a reading list on the right side. Will list every non-fiction book I read regardless of how it relates to the game industry. If anyone has a question about any of these books, I'd be happy to talk more about them.
Second side note: Ran across this page on Dexterity Software's site that has great articles and advice for indie developers.