An Inconvenient Truth* #2

May 13th, 2011

Know Thyself

I’ve spent far too much of my time and limited mind space thinking about this rather inane question:

What on earth is Allstate thinking?

For the last couple of years, they’ve had the Strong Soothing Black Man as their spokesperson in their TV spots. Don’t know his name, but it doesn’t matter. The SSBM exudes what we all need right now: quiet strength, unwavering confidence, the feeling that no matter what may go wrong in your life, the SSBM will make it all go away.
Are you in good hands? We sure are, Strong Soothing Black Man. Then inexplicably, it all changed.

Like a child wrenched from Daddy’s arms, my safety and security were suddenly blasted from me. Because, without warning, the Allstate commercials began featuring the uber-creepy Mayhem.

Mayhem’s your basic Psychotic White Guy, posing as every threat you’ve never thought of. Your everyday life, your most basic and innocent acts – such as cruising to Vons to pick up bananas – are made sinister. Because Mayhem is lurking everywhere.

He’s the tree smashing your windshield, the teenage girl texting her way into the back of your head, the ghoulish fool howling through the sun roof in a parking lot – as he careens into your back bumper.

I watched in horror. I waited for the Strong Soothing Black Man to appear and make it all go away.

But he never came. And I was afraid.

Because this sudden, crazy shift in Allstate’s marketing freaked me out. I wondered, who IS this company? And why do they suddenly want to scare the living crap out of me with this Psychotic White Guy? Allstate’s bipolar positioning shift left me confused – and wary.

Which leads us to Promobabe’s Inconvenient Truth #2: Know Thyself

Does your company project a consistent brand identity? Do your customers have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for? Here are Promobabe’s basic guidelines for making sure you know thyself:

  • Resist the urge to be all things to all people
  • Understand your company’s “core personality.”
  • Use research, customer feedback, etc to help determine how your target market sees you. Are you the smart guys? The friendly helping hand? The cool, sexy alternative?
  • Be consistent in your marketing. Remember you can change and freshen your creative, just like we all change our clothes. But your basic persona still remains the same.
  • Customer confusion = frustration = marketing death!

Clearly, Allstate was having a crazy, whirlwind of an identity crisis. Played out in expensive TV spots to confused viewers.

While I don’t have the inside skinny on whether or not the Mayhem campaign worked for them, I’m betting it didn’t. Because a few weeks later, the Strong Soothing Black Man appeared in new spots again.

Is your marketing message in good hands?

*ignore at your own marketing peril

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