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Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at the premiere of his new film The 6th Day in his yellow Hummer car, in Los Angeles, 13 November 2000. (LUCY NICHOLSON)
Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at the premiere of his new film The 6th Day in his yellow Hummer car, in Los Angeles, 13 November 2000. (LUCY NICHOLSON)

Guest column

Lessons for marketers from Hummer Add to ...

The harder you try to play it safe, the more likely you are to fail, but far too many organizations are still perfectly comfortable fitting in.

It doesn't take long to figure out that if you deploy that strategy you won't break through.

In a world cluttered with communication, advertising cannot spread the word about your product, service or message as well as it could 30 years ago. But the future isn't all bleak if you're willing to step outside your comfort zone and challenge the status quo. It may be uncomfortable, but the results will be worth the effort and there's only one way to do it.

Make products, services or ideas worth talking about

No matter what anyone now says about the Hummer, and despite its status as a dying brand, it was a brilliant example of how marketing can be pumped into the product development lifecycle. We need only look as far as the Smart Car to see the same process and approach being applied to a more timely vehicle.

It's usually the job of a marketer to come in after development and create a strategy to hype a product or service and drive sales. Take a lesson from Hummer and begin marketing during the development lifecycle. There are many steps Hummer took that can be used by anyone willing to go against the grain.

Identify potential buyers with similar biases and build for them

When GM released the Hummer, the public could not stop talking about it. Whether it was about the size, the design, the practicality or the price, it was being remarked on, even by people who didn't like the vehicle. What's important to realize is that it wasn't built for those who didn't like big cars, it was built for those with a bias for bold, powerful, huge vehicles. Those who shared that bias bought the Hummer and made it a profitable development. Identifying the people with those biases is the best way to start.

Create a product, service or idea that pushes the limits and challenges the status quo

There is no doubt that Hummer did this. Not only was it one of the largest vehicles that could be legally driven on city streets, it was commonly painted bright yellow. Those two traits alone made it drastically different from what was on the road at the time and got people talking. This is how you create something worth remarking on, push through the barriers and create something radically different.

Build a strong story around the product, service or idea

Before it was branded as the Hummer it was the Humvee, a well-known military vehicle. It told the world it was the most dominant vehicle on the road. The story was reinforced when images of action-movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger were seen driving it. The story was consistent and the perception was that the Hummer stood for power and strength. It doesn't matter whether something is actually better or faster or more efficient. What matters is what the consumer believes and the most efficient way to communicate that is with a story.

It has to be easy to spread

For the Hummer, this was not a difficult thing to do. Parked, it did its job. When someone saw one they would likely point at it, and because of that built-in marketing it was an instant conversation starter. The word of Hummer was often spread with strategic product placements in male-dominated shows such as Entourage . If your product, service or idea pushes the limit, word gets around more easily because it's worth remarking on.

Time for change

When a new product or service needs to be created, take a page from the Hummer playbook. Before you even envision the product or service think about the kind of story it will tell, think about who you’re building it for and who you’re not building it for. Take a step outside of your comfort zone and create something that pushes the limits to make it really stand out.

Bring marketing principles into the development lifecycle to create something worth talking about. So many people think this means hyping the product before it's released. What it means is to think like a marketer when creating the product. Create a constant advertisement like Hummer did, like the Smart Car does, or like Little Miss Mismatch Socks.

This is what the new marketing is all about. If you want to break through, make something worth talking about. It's not the hype, not the ads, but the product, service, or idea. If it is good, it will spread and if it spreads you stand to earn a handsome profit.

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who has worked for companies of all sizes. He has collaborated with sales teams and marketing departments to introduce new ideas that he argues have refreshed the way people think about marketing.

Follow on Twitter: @RyanCaligiuri

 

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