Put yourself in this position: you make good, solid, dowdy cars. People buy them. Some years, people buy a few. Some years, people buy a lot. Which of the following would you want:
- No ad agency at all. Hopefully, people will remember your brand, or read Consumer Reports and check the price tags.
A sales-focused ad agency. You aren’t going to romance people into buying your cars, but if you show them the numbers, you can persuade them.
A glitzy, high-concept ad agency. Why not persuade people to chnage their lifestyle in order to love your brand? Why not convince them that they’re superior to everyone else by virtue of the car they drive? And why not do all that with a wink and a nod, so the other ad agencies know that you know what’s up.
If you chose the last option, you need to learn a lesson, and Randall Rothenberg’s Where the Suckers Moon is the best way to learn it!
The book covers the Subaru / Wieden Kennedy partnership of the early 90’s. Subaru was a Japanese car company that made cheap, reliable cars for mostly middle-class people. And Wieden Kennedy was an advertising agency that had essentially created the Nike lifestyle and image.
Randall Rothenberg’s Where the Suckers Moon explains the problem: a distinctive product might need a cultural movement to back it, but a solid, reliable, affordable product never does. Randall Rothenberg’s doesn’t cover exactly how to avoid this, but it gives readers a couple pretty good hints.
First, try to find an ad agency with appropriate experience. That doesn’t mean experience pitching the same kind of product, but it does mean experience crafting the same kind of pitch. Second, try to find someone whose position in the ad industry is similar to your position in your industry; a top-tier agency with lots of awards was not a good fit for a cost-effective but unremarkable car. And finally, as Randall Rothenberg’s Where the Suckers Moon drives home again and again: know when to cut your losses and switch to something else. (By the time Subaru found another agency, most of the people involved-both on the Subaru side and on the Wieden and Kennedy side-had quit or been fired.)