Semantic Markers

Martin Lindstrom is a fascinating individual, he did a seven million dollar marketing study on the brain and wrote a book about it; Buy-ology: The Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. I encourage you to read it but what got me thinking was a recent podcast put on by Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch.  Talking with Mr. Lindstrom, they simplified it down to semantic markers.  Lindstrom says, “Semantic markers are like a slap on the chin” in a negative or positive way.  Our subconscious makes most of the decisions for us so brands should be trying to create these subtle markers in our minds. Lindstrom goes on to say that small companies should be taking advantage of semantic markers to get a lot of value out of the marketing effort with very little effort.

So how do you create a semantic marker in someone’s mind?  By going to extreme’s and doing something completely unexpected but so memorable it is embedded in our minds.  Remember how good Burger Baron’s billboards were?  They were different and were actually funny that they stuck out in our minds, you’d chuckle to yourself when you thought of Burger Baron.

How about the Roughrider’s Watermelon heads?  Difficult not to talk about those.  It allowed Roughriders fans to show the league how dedicated they really were.  It was different and definitely not for everyone.

Just recently the apparel company 22 Fresh came out with a new outlet store on Facebook.

The only way you can buy anything in the store is if you have “Scrilla”, and you can buy Scrilla or earn it.

This store isn’t for the average person, then again, regular people don’t wear 22 Fresh, it’s cool, it’s new, and you have to have the Scrilla to afford it.

What’s different is memorable.

Lindstrom also discusses why we don’t see more of this ingenious advertising regularly and he attributes it to organizations being too conservative and trying to please the masses.  When you set out to tell everyone a message, no one hears.  Most of the advertising messages we see are targeted at a large number of people and the result isn’t surprising.  The more conservative, politically correct, respectful, polite the message is, the easier it is for us to ignore it.

So the next time you want to tell everyone about your product don’t, come up with a different message, a different medium, cross the line, offend someone, do something that has never been done in your industry, evoke emotion. Otherwise you are just making noise.

5 replies
  1. Sean Stefan
    Sean Stefan says:

    It’s interesting that the Burger Baron ads that you pulled were from when the campaign first came out. They’re still doing billboards but not as many people talk about them anymore because they’ve rounded off the rough edges. Now they say things like: Combination Burger $2.49 all January. There’s no edges there – and the edges were what made those billboards successful.
    .-= Sean Stefan´s last blog ..Women Entrepreneurs of SK Presentation =-.

  2. Jeph
    Jeph says:

    Good point Sean, do you think your impression of Burger Baron has changed now? It seems as if they have settled for what the masses would ‘supposedly’ would like. Martin Lindstrom also talks about creating controversy, making people choose a side. We like to cheer for a team. Maybe Burger Baron should be making fun of the other burgers in town? I think they could have some fun with that!

  3. Derek Wu
    Derek Wu says:

    I totally agree Jeph and Sean. I don’t understand why Burger Baron changed their creative to appear as a “Franchised” restaraunt. This was their competitive advantage. Prior to this campaign, I figured BB was for greyhairs that went their for a coffee and small fries. When this campaign launched, myself along with probably many of my demographic figured it was cool, hip and the place to be for a suculant burger.

    To answer your questions about has “your impression of Burger Baron” changed? Yep, I don’t think they are innovative and cool anymore and thus don’t slam their burgers. They could have kept on with those creatives, driving their messages into our brains (which would have been harder and more costly, if outsourced, to do) but instead I feel as if they simply when to the big text, heavy imagery and boring messages. Maybe this was part of their strategy, but if it was, make a U-turn Mr. Baron.
    .-= Derek Wu´s last blog ..Squareflo Scores 93% =-.

  4. Jaco van Heerden
    Jaco van Heerden says:

    I agree that the Burger Baron ads were very funny. However, just because an ad is funny doen’t mean it is effective. I for one have never felt the urge to buy their product. I like the idea of doing and saying something dofferent, however I also feel there is a reason why restaurants tend to use images of delicious looking food in their ads. I think it has something to do with the fact that the image and more importantly the idea of food gets the taste buds started. I think everyone knows fast food is not should be avoided. As such I think fastfood businesss best strategy is to convince you otherwise, by showing a product that looks delicious (rather than unhealthy) and/or cheap… cheap enough to make you say, what the hay…

    I noticed a Burger Baron ad the other day. It showed a meal which I thought looked very unapitizing due to a slight green tinge to the photo. I think it was fish or perogies, or something that seemed out of place for a Burger joint. I have no idea what the ad said, due to the fact that it was very wordy and uninteresting. It did get a laugh out of me though, since it used quotation marks around one of the key statements, which made me imagine someone winking while they said whatever the statement said. Ad if it is not completely true… So that was funny, but obviously not memorable.

    Burger Baron, to mee, is like a Rub-and-tug, I know it’s there and I can see myself going there at some point to try it out, however the reality is probably that I wont.

    Wait, I just remembered, I have been to Burger Baron, I couple of times over the past 9 years… and I just remember their service being slow.

  5. Lynne P
    Lynne P says:

    I was trying to find the billboard for burger baron that really could not be seen unless you were in the pickup window of mcdonalds drivethrough on albert and dewdney. when you were at that window you could see it. it was hilarious

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