Money to burn, but no brand to be found.
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Money to burn, but no brand to be found.

Ugly Babies

by

July 11, 2012

Flip through the newspaper almost any day of the week and you will find a consistent presence of ads promoting various repair, heating, cooling, and roofing companies. What strikes me about these ads is their similarities…in design, message, brand and sizable media investment. I often wonder how an entire category can get things so wrong.

Now, if they weren’t running half-page ads in large newspapers, I could argue that they don’t have the money to invest in developing a brand. But that clearly is not the case. I tend to think they are suffering from a case of me-too-itis, as many industries do. How does this happen? Presumably, most players within a category believe the leader is doing it right, and everyone seeks to replicate their success. They adopt similar messaging, promotions, and advertising formats.

Here’s a good example of this: visit a few “about us” or “company” website pages within a category and read the first paragraph. The following excerpts represent what you will find in the repair/heating/cooling category.

… we have proudly served Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Maryland since 1980!
… homeowners throughout Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania and Maryland have relied on us for over 20 years to service…
… our focus has been the same for more than a quarter century – providing superior service and installations to customers…

With all of these similarities and clutter, owning market share becomes a game of who can spend the most money. Not a bad deal for newspapers, TV, radio and Google. A better strategy would be differentiation.

Take Hutchinson Plumbing, Heating & Cooling for example. (I am not picking on you, Fred.) They run TV spots that tout “trust Hutch,” while their website proclaims “Your total energy experts.” Their look and feel has waged the familiar font war of the heating/cooling/plumbing category and their logo is doing
overtime…to name a few things preventing Hutchinson from doing a more effective job with brand and marketing. Then I visited their Facebook page, to find a cover photo with the headline: Hutchinson has saved the Delaware Valley over $1,000,000 in energy costs. That’s a pretty powerful claim. And it is one that would serve them well as a brand strategy. I can envision a streamlined brand without clutter and shouting. Just a focused claim of being the energy savings leader. I think that would be pretty cool. Pun intended.

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