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Big Bang Marketing
If you expect to get noticed in this crowded word, you need to come in with a bang.

By: John Shepler

AFLAC!!!  Do you say AFLAC? Or, like a third of us, can you only quack it?

For the AFLAC duck you'll thank Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval of the Kaplan Thaler Group. They run what is billed as the fastest growing advertising agency in the United States. Prior to Kaplan Thaler, AFLAC was a relatively unknown Fortune 500 insurance company that dumped $100 million into advertising to no avail. After Kaplan Thaler, AFLAC has a name recognition of over 90%. All thanks to the ongoing antics of a feisty duck. The creative breakthrough that made this possible? Simply noticing that when pronounced as a word, AFLAC sounds a lot like quack.

Oh, yes, there is one other small thing. That's having the nerve to talk a company that sells cancer insurance into running what amounts to a comedy routine. Were AFLAC's customers horrified by that? Actually, business went up over 50% as a result of those commercials. They're clucking all the way to the bank while we're quacking "AFLAC, AFF-LACCCCC."

It Takes Nerve
Nerve and lots of it are what propelled Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval to build their advertising business from meeting in an apartment living room to explosive success....literally. That's the message of their book, "Bang!." It's subtitled "Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World." And that's exactly their point. If you want to stand above the crowd and get noticed, you'll have to come up with something outrageous. Forget tradition. Forget the tried and true. You can even forget what some term professionalism, when professionalism is a euphemism for staid and riskless. You need to be outrageously creative and get your wild ideas into the world.

Yes, Oh Yes, Yes, Yes
Another example? Sure. In 1994, Clairol was about to pull Herbal Essences Shampoo from the store shelves because it was selling so poorly. They revamped the product with a new fragrance and snappier packaging. Now they needed an ad campaign to match or it was curtains for that brand. What did Linda and Robin do? They interviewed women around the office on what they thought of shampooing. Surprisingly, they found out that it was perceived as something of a enjoyable and even sensual experience. Brainstorming that notion, their group got to joking about the coffee shop scene from the movie "When Harry Met Sally." The bolt of creative lightning hit. You've see the ads that saved Herbal Essences or at least heard the moaning "yes, yes, yes" of the women shampooing their hair. The brand has now been launched in over 62 countries around the world.

And The Message Is...
The big message of Bang! is that you need to put some bang into your own marketing efforts. Bang is better that lots of budget and huge campaigns. What's more important is novelty, surprise, memorability and being able to forever associate good feelings about your product or service to the message you are spreading. Listen to Linda and Robin and you'll never embrace blandness again.




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