Time to break the rules

Since the start of 2016, we have created and launched numerous campaigns for clients – brokerages, vendors, MLSs, mortgage companies and title companies.

In many instances, the client’s initial impulse was to draw attention to their might and muscle. The brokerage’s great agents, market share and area knowledge. The vendor’s extensive feature set, prompt service and all-inclusive approach. MLS and title companies’ technology and endless love of their customer.  

It’s a natural urge. One I frequently want to convince clients to avoid.

Door to perception

Detailing accomplishments is important. Knowing what our client has done and continues to do with sales and marketing and how well it’s worked is a critical step in our discovery process. It provides much needed clues that lead us to the conception of an inspired campaign.

But to get to a place of true inspiration, we also must embark on a walkabout through their customer’s journey and discover what drives their impulses and decisions. This journey unlocks a door to a deeper perception of fears, desires and motivations, and reveals the places we need to take our client and their campaign.

Consider the reasons people buy a software application. Jim gravitates to whatever is new. Jennifer prefers fewer features. Julian wants more features. The Smith Team wants to reduce cost so they buy whatever deal they see. Chris’s new brokerage simply wants the best kept secret no one else in the market is using.

This pertains to brokerages as well. What are Brittany and William really buying when they purchase a home? More space? Or a better school district? Prestige? Seclusion? Proximity to family?

Would a brokerage campaign that boasts of being #1 in the market, or a tech company campaign claiming usage by “x-thousand users”, for example, even be heard by customers based on their specific, aforementioned needs?


This process of exploring the motivations of prospects offers an even greater benefit – it creates an acuity for our clients about themselves which they’ve never considered. This enables them to think beyond the standard marketing rhetoric.

When a campaign says the thing people want or need to hear, magic happens.

Robin Hood

In 2013, H&R Block, with their agency Fallon, responded to something they heard while interviewing consumers. The thing people seemed to care about most was getting taxes done right and getting every dime they are owed back.

The creative bomb that went off birthed the now famous, “Get Your Billions Back America” campaign, which launched at the start of 2014.

It was a message consumers heard, understood and were instantly drawn to.

The genius of the campaign lies in what isn’t stated. There’s no reference to Block’s size and number of locations. No mention of total refunds they’ve secured for their customers. No detail about their processes, services, prices or proficiency of their accountants.

No noise, interference or distractions.

Sure, these things matter. But every accounting firm markets around the obvious things that make them great. Block took an alternative route and marketed around what people want – a Robin Hood that gets them what they deserve.  

Breaking the rules

In its attempt to reach the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce – millennials – H&R Block arguably gambled in the world of tax accounting with this out-of-the-box campaign featuring Richard Gartland, a bow tie-wearing older spokesperson who’d never acted before.

By every account, this risk paid off. Four million new customers came to H&R Block in 2014, and their revenue increased by 7.5% over the prior year.

I guess today’s kids liked Richard’s wise, experienced persona.

In an industry where every company follows the same marketing playbook, it’s time to break the rules and create your own boom like H&R Block. Think of your customer’s specific desires and needs and how they align with your message.

Communicating what your customers want to hear is far more effective than shouting out the things you want to say. Once you land on the words they want to hear, you realize how much they become the very words that define your brand.