Mad Libs Marketing. Or, “That’s your message? Really!?!?”

I’m sure you remember those wonderful fill-in-the-blanks books, “Mad Libs.”  You know, you just insert your own verb, noun or adjective in the blanks and see how silly the sentences come out.  Mad Libs are great for kids and fun at parties, but they have no place in expressing your marketing message.  Yet, as I look through the pages of ads in magazines, or surf companies on the web, I see all kinds of Mad Lib slogans and taglines, which are in effect condensed marketing messages:

  • A Global Leader in [ activity ].
  • Building tomorrow’s [ product ] today.
  • Putting [ people, needs or ideas ] first.
  • [ kind of people ] helping [ other kind or same kind of people ]

At the very least, many marketing messages are so generic, any competitor in the same industry could put their name in the space:

  • For funeral homes:  A tradition of caring since 1911. [ funeral home name goes here ]
  • For hospitals:  Compassionate healthcare. [ hospital name goes here ]
  • For banks:  We’re here to help.  [ bank name goes here ]

They don’t communicate anything unique about the marketer other than the category in which they operate, putting them at the same level as everyone else who provides a similar product or service.

By comparison, here are a few examples of taglines past and present that are truly distinctive and demonstrate a unique selling proposition:

  • The Ultimate Driving Machine
  • Think Different
  • The Uncola
  • It’s everywhere you want to be

If you’re in the former camp instead of the latter, it’s a perfect time to re-think what you have to say to prospective customers that gives your firm the edge.

As you begin looking forward to the new year, it’s worthwhile to look backwards to some of the strategies and tactics you’re bringing into 2012…starting with your basic marketing message.  Ask yourself, is our message so familiar, expected or generic that it could apply to any of our competitors?  Does it fully express our unique point of difference?  Is it fresh and “sticky”?

Without having a strong point of view and a distinctive message risks your customers seeing your products or service as a commodity, and they’ll be happy to shop your competitors when they think price is the only difference.

This may require a bit of corporate soul-searching, but it belongs on your marketing must-do list for 2012.  Otherwise, you’re just [ verb ]-ing your precious marketing dollars  [ preposition and place ].

by Dan Katz © 2012

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