Learning how to tell your company’s story is one of the most important things a business of any size must do, but it also can be the most difficult. While large firms have the resources to pour into marketing themselves across a wide variety of media, small businesses must find a way to do so on much smaller budgets.
But there still is plenty for small business owners to learn from large companies about telling a compelling, relatable story that customers can’t resist.
Here are six companies kicking butt at telling their stories that you might learn a thing or two from:
Dollar Shave Club — Purchasing razors probably is one of the least riveting things on anyone’s to-do list, but Dollar Shave Club transformed the mundane into the awesome after launching a viral video. The video starred the company’s founder, Mike, who is portrayed as a man’s man giving a stream of consciousness-style monologue about the virtues of Dollar Shave Club. While the video is rather deadpan and non-PC, it spoke directly to the company’s demographic — young adult men. Reflecting mockumentary-style sitcoms that are so popular today, this shows high production value isn’t always necessary to create viral content.
Allstate — Inspired by Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs, this company utilizes “Mayhem,” an advertising character played by Dean Winters who personifies a wide spectrum of auto and homeowner-related disasters commonly faced by the insurance firm’s target demographic. Hoping to outshine the popular Geico and Progressive ads, the “Mayhem Is Everywhere” campaign features a deadpan comedic style as an effort to appeal to younger viewers. With nearly two million fans, Mayhem is among the most frequently shared corporate characters and gives Flo a run for her money (more on her later). Small businesses looking to target specific local markets can look to Allstate’s clever customizations of its national campaign, where Mayhem plays a particularly nasty Chicago pigeon or foggy day in Seattle.
Dos Equis — Enlisting the aid of the “Most Interesting Man in the World” — a bearded, ultra-masculine persona of Chuck Norris proportions, played by the ever-suave Jonathan Goldsmith–to sell its light-bodied, malt-flavored beer. Much of the brand’s popularity stems from the ease with which fans can repurpose the ad slogans in their day-to-day conversations (example: “I don’t always make videos, but when I do, they go viral”). The recurring campaign is so successful that it inspired a spin-off campaign by Vitamin Water featuring NBA star Steve Nash. Stay thirsty, our friends.
Progressive Insurance — Everyone has seen Flo the cashier, played by Stephanie Courtney, who has become America’s advertising sweetheart. She manages to be quirky, upbeat, and likable without relying on traditional female stereotypes. Her retro hairdo, genuine smile, and “power to the people” attitude appeals to consumers. Now a fixture in pop culture and veritable advertising icon, Flo boasts a huge fan base on social networks (over 5.3 million likes on Facebook!) and even inspired a popular Halloween costume featuring her trademark Chuck Taylors, white polo, and tricked-out name tag. Flo proves that an honest and friendly brand can hold its own in the highly competitive insurance marketplace. Now that’s Progressive.
Geico — Through its wide variety of commercial characters and campaigns, Geico has repeatedly made advertising history and proven that offbeat, anthropomorphic oddities like cavemen, pigs, and a charming British gecko can effectively sell car insurance. And with good reason: the company spent $921 million on its media impressions in 2012 in its campaign to heist the No. 2 spot in the car insurance industry from Allstate. Unless you live under a rock (like one ad’s caveman character), you’re sure to recognize the company’s consistent message of savings summarized by their tagline, “Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.” The biggest takeaway here for smaller businesses is that idiosyncratic humor, satire, and rhetorical questions are effective tools to burrow into your target market’s subconscious, regardless of your budget.
Old Spice — The smashing success of Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercials proves that old companies can learn new tricks and beat newer players on the scent scene at their own game (see: Axe Body Spray). Played by Isaiah Mustafa, the “Old Spice Man” delivers unapologetically masculine, shirtless monologues in extraordinary and adventurous situations, making a traditional brand hip again. As the dominant purchasers of household personal hygiene products, girlfriends and wives everywhere have been inspired to remold their men in the likeness of the Old Spice Man, breathing fresh muscular life into a classic product portfolio. Small businesses take note: interacting directly with individuals through social media is a great way to forge stronger, reciprocal relationships. Old Spice strengthens customer loyalty by featuring Mustafa in customized video responses to tweets directed at the company.
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