Don’t Just Sell Harder — Sell Smarter

by | Oct 13, 2022

You’ve probably heard the quote, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s true for many things, including political struggles and costly wars. But it’s not true in every arena, and it’s definitely not true for great advertising! In that case, this would be a more accurate quote to live by: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to never reap the huge rewards of the companies before them.” But what does this have to do with creating successful marketing campaigns?

Creating Successful Marketing Campaigns

One of the best ways to improve your company’s marketing and sell your products or services more effectively is to look back at successful marketing campaigns of the past. There’s a reason why Nike’s 1988 “Just Do It” campaign is still making headlines after 30 years, and Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads boosted sales 36% year over year.

Here’s the good news: We’ve already started digging through the history books for you! Below, you’ll find five lessons you can learn from the marketing legends Nike, Apple, Volkswagen, Dos Equis, and De Beers. After you utilize some of these strategies in your marketing campaign, your bottom line will surely thank you!

A Lesson From Nike: Align Your Message With Your Purpose.

Did you know that Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan came from the last words of a murderer facing a firing squad? It’s true — just search “Nike” and “Gary Gilmore” online. That controversy aside, the “Just Do It” campaign caught fire in 1988 because it encapsulated Nike’s core purpose of inspiring people to move their bodies in great apparel that made that easy. More than 30 years later, Nike still uses the slogan, and its sales have soared from $800 million to $2 billion annually.

A Lesson From Apple: Use Humor To Highlight Your Strengths.

Unless you lived under a rock from 2006–2009, you probably remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign. It featured two people representing the Mac and PC computers: a stuffy accountant type and a laid-back young tech bro (guess which was which). Over the course of 66 spots, the ads used humor to communicate Apple’s strengths and features. The ads were so memorable and effective that the company unanimously won a Grand Effie at the 39th Annual Effie Awards — and slays other companies in the market today.

A Lesson From Volkswagen: Be Honest And Direct.

If you watched the TV show “Mad Men,” you may remember the episode in season one when the ad men at Sterling Cooper go nuts over Volkswagen’s “Think Small” and “Lemon” ads. These ads were brilliant in their simplicity, honesty, and directness. As Business Insider put it, “Where other car manufacturers blithely boasted of spoiler fins and other luxury features, Volkswagen focused on the utility of its smaller, more durable cars in a series of simple ads that openly acknowledged their purpose as a sales tool.”

In the “Lemon” ad, Volkswagen even critiqued one of its own cars as a lemon because its glove compartment was flawed, setting a new standard for honesty in advertising and cementing a fad term for faulty cars we still use today. Take a leaf out of Volkswagen’s book, and your advertising just might pop up in TV shows in 2060.

A Lesson From Dos Equis: Solve A Problem Readers Care About.

The best way to sell a product is to show your customers how it will enhance their lives. In 2006, the beer brand Dos Equis did this to great effect with its “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign. Using its key character, a man so cool “sharks have a week about him”), Dos Equis showed its male viewers how it would solve their problem of feeling unsophisticated, unattractive, and uninteresting. The message was clear: “Drink Dos Equis, and you could be this guy in 20 years.” Over the 9 years the campaign ran, Dos Equis almost tripled its business. Who doesn’t want those results?

A Lesson From De Beers: Paint A Desirable Picture Of The Future.

What Dos Equis did in 2006, the diamond company De Beers did better in 1947. The company’s slogan, “A diamond is forever,” painted the ultimately desirable picture of the future for its customers: showcasing perfect, everlasting relationships. De Beers used that ad to popularize diamond engagement rings and monopolize the diamond market — obtaining an almost scary level of business success.

If you take a lesson from De Beers, though, be careful as you craft your vision. Sometimes companies go overboard trying to show their customers the future they want — if overdone, they can end up being exaggerated. The fast fashion brand H&M did just that in ads for its Conscious Collection and quickly came under legal fire for greenwashing. When in doubt, go back to Nike’s and Volkswagen’s lessons.

Find the Campaign That Works For Your Business and Customer Base.

Properly utilizing these lessons can greatly boost your marketing campaign. The key to a strong marketing campaign is to reassure your current customers that they’ve made the right choice while inviting new customers to try out your product or service. If you’ve been in business for some time, you’re probably familiar with your customer base and may even know how they would respond to different advertising techniques. If you struggle to develop a marketing plan you believe in, reflect on some of the successful marketing campaigns that left an impact on you or those that were highly successful, like the ones listed above. Soon, your inspiration will be flowing.

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