How best to sell? Tell it like it is or through illustration? Actually both with a twist

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Great ways to communicate around a brand can be representative or literal. The debate about which direction is best is always interesting. I’ve been in countless meetings where this topic is debated so I wanted to share 2 great examples of each approach and show why either can be really effective and really creative. I’ve chosen one industry to keep the comparison as level as possible.

The first example demonstrates how literal communications can be really good if done with a creative twist. I’ve found a brilliant initiative from MINI in France. It is called the MINI Store. The idea is simple: to sell a MINI what you need is just a MINI. So why setting up an expensive retail store, when you can have ten or more mobile stores that drive around Paris and take consumers on to immediate test drives? The mobile stores can reach any location in the center of Paris, and engage consumers directly, without waiting for them to walk into brick & mortar MINI store.

It is a very literal program because it is a “sampling” program served up in a surprising way. They could have marketed it as a mobile test drive but instead they played on the cool factor of Apple Stores and figured that MINI had the right to have cool retail offerings but needed to do it their way. Without this creative twist the literal program would have been just that, literal. As such its conversation power would have been less and thus potentially less effective. If I were to criticize the initiative is that it really doesn’t build in social. It would be great to be able to reserve a “store visit” via Facebook and then the store could send me a Tweet when it was close. Who knows, this conversation piece may still come.

The second example demonstrates that taking a representative approach to storytelling can be equally effective as a literal one. The idea is from Ford and is called KeyFree Login. To market its new technology that allows you to access and lock your car without keys (simply walk up and it opens or walk away and it closes), it decided to show how much value this kind of time saver is in other parts of your daily life. As such they created a piece of software the turns your phone into the “magical password unlocker”. You simply enter the room where your computer is and all your favorite sites are immediately unlocked.

What I like about this idea is that it let’s you experience the value in a completely different context (ie nothing to do with cars) but you understand and feel the benefit. If well enough branded and organically branded the service could create a lot of conversation and thus positive brand associations. Moreover, this kind of representative service has the ability to reach further than those initiatially exposed to the message through paid push and thus get to people who are actually in the market for a car.

In summary, both ideas work but both need a good dose of creativity, both need to provide value, and both need to drive conversations. If you don’t do these neither way will be effective because you will be either too expected or viewed as trying too hard.

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