The Black Cow: Better Than Baking Soda in the Fridge
Every so often a truly great marketing coup comes along that stands out from all the rest. When Arm & Hammer told us to put boxes of baking soda in the refrigerator, nearly every fridge in America got one as a gift. The onions no longer fought with the fish and the leftover pizza. And just in case you missed that part of the campaign, part two reminded you it was time to change the box of baking soda. So if you didn’t have one there already, you ran out and bought one. Yet another great scam perpetrated on “Boobus Americanus” (see H.L. Mencken). It doesn’t really matter whether or not the baking soda works (it probably does); what matters is how effectively they marketed it to solve a problem that most people didn’t have. If your refrigerator stank, the usual solution was to throw out the spoiled food that caused the odor. Or just accept the fact that you’re gross.
But the ad agency that did Arm & Hammer had nothing on whomever the American Angus Association brought in to convince Boobus that black cows taste better than brown ones, white ones, brown and white ones, and all the other possible colors of cow. And we bought it big time. Hundreds of restaurants now have the word “Angus” in their names. McDonalds and Arby’s proudly offer “Angus” beef products at a premium price. Supermarkets let you know which ground beef and steaks on their shelves came from a black cow.
After all, what do we really know about Angus cattle other than their black color? Have you ever read of a national taste test comparing prime aged and well prepared steaks from different colors of cow? No, neither have I.
This could be the greatest marketing coup, dollar for dollar, yet.
I can just picture it. It’s about 7 pm at the ad agency office. The 20-somethings are sitting around thinking about who their next client should be. Then somebody says, “cows.” I bet we can convince people that the color of a cow affects its taste. Do you want to do white cows, brown ones, or black? OK, let’s go with black cows. Somebody go check to see if there’s a black cow ranchers’ association or something like that. There is? Great. We’ll call them in the morning and see if they agree that the genus Boobus Americanus is just as stupid or even stupider than the Arm & Hammer guys thought.
Or maybe the black cow ranchers got the idea first. Either way, it’s pure evil genius.
B2B Tag Lines: A Little Ho, a Little Hum . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Recently, I was thinking about a tag line for a client. The more I thought about the good tag lines I’ve seen and heard, and that others cite as some of the best, the more I realized that nearly all of them were business-to-consumer (B2C). Businesses whose products/services are marketed to other businesses (B2B) have a harder time coming up with effective tag lines. The fact is that most of them out there are just plain boring and pointless.
OK, let’s go straight to law firms. Let’s say you’re a high-end firm (not looking for 18-wheeler wreck personal injury claims, traffic tickets, or divorce work), and your target audience is General Counsel at mid-size to large corporations. What are you going to say in a tag line that will make this fact-driven, no-form-of advertising-has-any effect-on-me, audience of attorneys sit up and take notice and even believe your law firm may be different from the dozens of other firms that pitch them for business all the time?
Yes, you can take the good advice of those who tell us to test, test, test those tag lines. But really, you can try stuff out only on your best clients – the ones who like you well enough to respond to an inquiry or participate in a study. But they already know something about you and probably like you, making them less than the ideal participants in a study. Any mass query of GCs who don’t know you will get very little response.
Except for one, They’re nearly all meaningless junk. That one says, “We keep our clients out of jail.” I like that one; it’s direct and meaningful. I suspect, though, that the audience likely influenced by that tag line is an audience for whom the tag line doesn’t always prove true.
- Leadership. Creativity. Results
- Counsel to market leaders
- Legal counsel to great companies
- The advantage of focus
Here’s a great one. “Experience Innovation.” What on earth does that mean? These lawyers do things in ways that other lawyers don’t know about and have never tried? Really?
I’m sorry, I dozed off for a minute. Give me a break! What law firm couldn’t or wouldn’t say the same things? Guys, get the 25-lawyer committee together and try again. Just kidding, don’t bother. Your marketing guy has a delete key – allow him to use it.
What I really suspect is that an all-purpose tag line for this audience is a waste of time. Don’t bother putting this stuff on your web site unless you just have space to fill and nothing interesting to fill it with. Don’t put it on your letterhead, your invoices, or anywhere else. But if you’re doing something like developing a campaign targeting a very a specific market — say architectural firms for example — then it should be very possible to develop an effective branding tagline for that market for use in that campaign.