Trying to market a “boring” industry?
What comes to mind when you think of a “boring” industry? Software? Mattresses? HVAC? Banking? Justin Ou looks at how to make a “boring” startup both fun and marketable.
In the past, many of these industries had dry, traditional marketing strategies that failed to capture much attention. The intent was to introduce the product or service, state its benefits, and draw in customers that needed them.
The marketing landscape has changed – some of the most interesting brands today are centered around “boring” industries. Is the iPhone boring? It could be, if it had different marketing. It’s just a smartphone, after all.
That’s the secret – it’s all in the marketing. The product or service isn’t the boring part, the marketing is. With the right strategy, any boring industry startup can spice things up and create campaigns that wow the audience.
Best examples of boring products with stellar campaigns
Does it get more boring than whiteout tape or correction fluid, especially when most of us are paperless?
Tipp-Ex doesn’t think so. The company got creative with this dry product with an inventive marketing campaign that showcased interactions between a bear and a hunter. The campaign hit all the right marks and earned millions of views and shares. This ultimately increased sales.
Insurance isn’t the most exciting industry for anyone, but Esurance raised the bar with a popular commercial that aired after the 2014 Super Bowl. The commercial promoted a Tweet that would gift a winner with $1.5 million. It doesn’t hurt that the company used The Office’s John Krasinski as a spokesperson, either.
Known as Beldent in South America, Beldent gum created an experimental performance art piece to promote its gum. The experiment took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and featured identical twins chewing gum as a way to promote its social benefits. The campaign was successful purely for its unique content and engagement.
Three strategies for marketing in a boring industry
Social media marketing
Social media is a game-changer for boring industries. More than ever, brands are able to connect with their audience directly and experiment with exciting and engaging content and unique formats.
With a little creativity, you can develop a standout social media presence that puts a spin on your boring product or service. If your product is complicated and niche, such as a printed circuit board, live Q&A sessions or AMAs (Ask Me Anything) on social media can be an ideal tactic.
Another great option is behind-the-scenes content. Modern consumers are looking for the human behind the brand. There’s no better way to showcase that than with behind-the-scenes peeks into the day-to-day operations, product development, or employee life.
Maersk has an excellent example of behind-the-scenes content used to create engagement on social media. A container logistics company isn’t exactly exciting for most, but the company’s Instagram feed is human and personable. It is complete with gorgeous images, employee shout-outs, and footage from the perspective of a container ship in transit.
Social media creates opportunities to do more than just share your own content. Contests and campaigns can be used to encourage the audience to contribute their own content and tell relatable stories, creating a community around your brand. In addition, user-generated content can boost brand awareness and word-of-mouth recommendations that instill trust in your brand.
Similar to the Esurance giveaway, offering free stuff gets people excited about a brand and interested in seeing what comes next. You can offer your own product or service, a product from a partner company, or discounts to drum up interest.
Digital creator marketing
If you’re struggling to come up with creative ways to spice up your boring startup on your own, why not bring in an expert? Influencers are rarely boring, since their entire brand is built around engagement with followers. Using the right influencer can add a lot of excitement to your brand and boost your reputation.
Influencer marketing is an effective marketing strategy that can significantly improve online engagement and brand awareness, but it’s vital to choose the right influencer. Partner with influencers in your industry or niche to ensure you’re working with the right audience. Chances are that an influencer in the same industry will have an audience that is already interested in your so-called “boring” products or services and hit the right voice for your brand.
Keep in mind that an influencer doesn’t need to have millions of followers to be effective. In fact, smaller influencers often have dedicated, passionate niche audiences that feel more connected to the content creator, and are more likely to take their recommendations to heart. Whichever you choose, it’s better to have an influencer with the right personality and niche than a huge influencer with a massive, but mismatched, audience.
You have numerous options for influencer campaigns, including a brand takeover. This involves an influencer taking control of your social media accounts for a period of time (usually a day) and promoting your brand. You can also have an influencer do a product or service demonstration, a live product review, or a personal testimonial to add some authenticity and trust to your brand. These can be very effective for communicating the real-world benefits of your product or service and providing context for the audience.
Storytelling is a powerful tool to communicate a message and engage with an audience. With most storytelling in marketing, the goal is to make the viewer feel something and inspire them to take action.
Some of the biggest brands in the world use storytelling as a marketing tool, boring or not. One of the most notable is Disney, which makes sense given that the product is built around classic and new stories. Along with the films and television series, Disney tells stories with its theme park commercials, social media content, and video marketing.
But that’s not the only brand that embraced storytelling. Remember the iPhone as a potentially boring product? A big part of Apple’s success with its marketing is that it tells stories with its products.
A phone isn’t just a phone – it’s a camera to capture life’s most cherished moments, an important call to a loved one in another part of the world, or a tool for an amateur filmmaker to realize their dreams. In every story, the phone’s features are highlighted in subtle ways.
No matter how much technology we have at our disposal, a good story will always stand the test of time. The key is to tell a story with compelling characters and interesting plotlines that tap into emotions to keep the audience captivated.
Bring the excitement to your boring industry startup
There are no boring industries, companies, products, or services – it’s all in the marketing. If you’re in a traditional industry that’s less exciting than sportscars, lingerie, or filmmaking, the marketing can be more challenging. You have to get creative and find unique angles. Make compelling content ideas. Find inventive ways to humanise your brand. It’s about getting people invested in the brand, not just your product.
Justin Ou is one of four co-founders and marketing manager of Gerber Labs.