Have you heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” That’s how most people feel about big-ticket items like dishwashers and mattresses. Have you ever bought a new bed for fun?
People don’t typically shop for durable goods unless their old model is broken. Even then, people wait. In the mattress industry, consumers who admit their beds are uncomfortable — and need replaced — still wait up to five years before upgrading. How do you get people to think of your brand first when it’s time to buy? By owning a strategic position.
Wine Glasses and Bowling Balls Change Everything
Remember the bowling ball-being-dropped-on-a-mattress routine? That was Simmons (now known as Beautyrest). In their commercials, a bowling ball was dropped on a mattress without spilling the glass of water on the bed. Later, Tempur-Pedic produced a similar spot using a wine glass and a person plopping down beside it. This is where we learn the value of holding a single position in people’s minds.
Tempur-Pedic kept banging the “lack-of-motion transfer” drum and didn’t let up. Today, most people think every mattress that keeps motion transfer to a minimum is a Tempur-Pedic, despite Simmons doing it first. A relative of mine with a new mattress said, “It’s the kind where you don’t feel the other person move around: a Tempur-Pedic.” I lifted the sheets — he actually had a different brand of hybrid mattress. Tempur-Pedic’s positioning trumped reality.
Powerful big-ticket brands know that a consumer’s mind will associate a brand with one thing. I recently read ad copy that said, “Caretta Desks make wires disappear.” There are plenty of desk makers focusing on style, shape, or size. Caretta aimed at a different pain point — tangled, ugly wires — and had the wisdom to own that position. Aesthetics don’t solve a problem; hiding wires does.
Solving the Problem
Here are six tips for creating a position that will get your big-ticket product big-time results.
- Dive deep and do the time. David Ogilvy famously wrote about the time he spent touring factories, talking to workers, and reading literature. The client is too close to the product to see it through the consumers’ eyes. It’s up to you to experience the product firsthand, read about it, interview the team, and have face-to-face visits with people who use it.
- Is your product “toasted?” In a memorable scene from “Mad Men,” Don Draper tried to determine how to position Lucky Strike when cigarettes were under attack. In the end, Draper focused on the fact that Lucky Strike “toasts” its cigarettes, saying, “Everybody else’s cigarettes are poisonous, but Lucky Strikes are toasted.” Sure, Lucky Strike’s competition probably did the same thing, but the first company to solidly own a position wins.
- Consider the sales associate. Electrolux made an oven that boils water in 90 seconds. It’s a vivid experience that’s easy to demonstrate during a sale. In the big-ticket space, you live and die by retail sales associates. Make their lives easy with a demonstrable product position; sales professionals will direct customers to your product first because you’ve given them a story to tell.
- Plan the channels. An ad is not a strategy. In the early stages, think about how you’ll communicate your message across multiple channels. Do you plan on running a lot of radio ads? Don’t choose a position that relies on visuals. A strong position is nimble enough to transfer to any medium and stand on its own.
- Keep it simple. Try explaining the position to a third-grader. If she gets it, you’ve hit the mark. People rarely buy big-ticket items. Simplify the benefits, and you’ll be rewarded with their business.
- Consistency is essential. How can you predict the death of a deep freeze? You can’t. You never know when a customer will need a big-ticket item. That’s why it’s critical to unapologetically own a brand position and consistently trumpet your message.
When I worked in radio, my manager told me that when I thought I was saying the call letters enough, double it. When listeners griped, double it again. It worked: I developed the top-rated radio show in the market with our target demographic. Most people pay attention to your advertisements one time: when they’re in the market for what you sell. Make yourself memorable the rest of the time.
When marketing big-ticket products, it’s easy to think your approach needs to be equally behemoth. Catapult your big-ticket campaign by owning a unique position in people’s minds — whether that means a desk that hides wires or a mattress that can balance a wine glass.
*This is a guest article by Mark Kinsley*