It is the 1900s. Eduard and Andre Michelin run a rubber factory in Clermont-Ferrand, France. Business is slow, unsurprisingly, as roughly 2200 cars are traveling the roads of the country. The brothers are barely making ends meet, possibly strolling across the Seine river, perhaps sharing a croissant, trying to figure out how to sell more tires.
And therein lies the most brilliant marketing trick of an admittedly boring industry: the Michelin Guide.
The company developed the 400-page Michelin Guide offering automobile drivers with auto maintenance tips, hotels, and travel advice ideas. The idea behind this guide was brilliant: people would be more inclined to travel in their cars if they had a guidebook with road maps, hotels, and tourist attraction ideas.
So, this primitive google map would make people feel safer while traveling, which would increase travel, resulting in increased car mileage, and more mileage would result in worn-out tires, and well, you get the picture. So, where would car owners turn to when in need of new tires? Yeap, you guessed it, Michelin, of course!
The Michelin Guide was a huge success after its release in 1900. It was so successful that it boosted business for those restaurants, hotels, auto maintenance garages listed in it (ever been to a Michelin star restaurant? Bet you didn’t know that this is where the coveted star comes from, right?). The entrepreneurial brothers were ingenious and definitely deserved a marketing star if such stars existed.
In fact, the Michelin duo, Andre and Edouard, was so confident in the future of the automobile industry that they circulated 35 000 copies of the Michelin guide for free (do the math, 2 200 cars VS 35 000 copies, and the meme Dream Big, instantly takes on a whole new meaning). By 1920, the guide was such a huge success that Michelin started publishing guides for other European countries. Since the publication was now an instant hit, the wise move would be to add a price to it. Soon enough, the company’s profits soared, and they made a name for their tires beyond the borders of France. Voila! Succès très rapide!
There is a lesson to be learned here: no business is a boring business if you know how to market it right. And trust me, nothing is more boring than tires, right?
If you are a marketer, chances are you have been asked to create content for a ‘boring’ industry. But take it from the Michelin brothers, everything is possible if you are creative enough. So here are some more examples of genius marketing done right.
Marketing Done Right
Granted, shoes are never entirely “boring” and, nowadays, they can be a fashion statement in their own right.
But sports shoes were not such a big hit back in the 1980s. Like all sports brands, Nike shoes were not all that jazz. Sports shoes were a product of necessity, worn only during exercise, and not much attention was paid to brands or appearances, for that matter.
Until the big hit “JUST DO IT” came along. The brilliant logo was a complete game-changer. The company’s sales increased from $800 000 in 1988 to more than $2 billion in 1998. The core message, JUST DO IT, is still one of the most recognizable ones three decades later and the true embodiment of marketing done right. Nikes’ marketers just did it, and boring Nike was the talk of the town.
There is not much to say about soap, right? I mean, you use it to keep clean on a daily basis, especially when it gets scorching hot and sweaty out. With an abundance of deodorants and soaps out there, soaps become a product of necessary daily use and bear little actual consumer interest. People will usually buy whichever soap is cheapest, having no brand loyalty to one particular kind. And here, enters DOVE.
DOVE’s Real Beauty Campaign is an excellent example of marketing done right for an otherwise “boring” industry. Instead of focusing on positioning their deodorant, soap, and body wash products against their competition, DOVE marketers chose to use their products to empower women and pass the message that every woman is beautiful, regardless of age, ethnicity, weight, or body type.
They were empowering women to love their bodies no matter what, and this catapulted an otherwise “boring” brand to become the industry’s leader.
3. File Storage
Cloud File Storage has made our lives so much easier. Precious photos from family vacations are kept safe for a future trip down memory lane. Your university thesis is protected, and you don’t have to worry about losing it, your computer crashing, or your USB malfunctioning. Important work documents can be organized, retrieved, and shared. Cloud file storage is genuinely magnificent, and anyone who has ever lost a crucial digital file can attest to it. And yet, we hardly talk about file storage, and companies that offer such services are never the topic of casual conversation during cocktail parties.
File storage? Yawn..boring. But, there is one company that has taken the marketing of ‘boring’ brands to a whole new level: Dropbox.
Dropbox’s email campaigns are so successful that they make you want to use their services. They use language that takes away all the sophisticated, technical terminology and speaks to their clients on a more personal level. They are funny in a way that shows they are self-aware of how ‘boring’ they are but still realize how they can be valuable and do not pretend to be anything they are not.
Insurance is a necessity, but that does not mean it is not boring. There are so much trivial information, so many different types of insurance, so much to read between the lines. And truth be told, insurance information can be downright depressing. Life insurance, car accident insurance, work accidents insurance, malpractice lawsuits insurance, and the list is endless. Insurance is one of those things that we know we need but we do not necessarily like to think about. So, how do you make an insurance company seem less boring? How do you make it stand out from the crowd and draw customers to it?
Geico showed the way by creating buzz-worthy content that is memorable, sharable, and, believe it or not, genuinely adorable. How can you not fall in love with the gecko? How can you ignore that two quirky ukulele players? How can you not smile when you see their ads? Put a smile on your audience’s face, and you will win their hearts for sure.
5. Toilet Paper
Oh, toilet paper… What can be said about you? You are just toilet paper. One rarely stops to make an informed decision when standing at the toilet paper aisle (yes, there are so many toilet papers out there that they rightfully deserve their very own aisle, ok?). Decisions are primarily based on price factors and not brand loyalty. But did Cottonelle let this minor, boring detail stop them? Absolutely not. The marketers of Cottonelle were very mischievous in their campaigns. They used two bulletproof “aaawwwww” cuteness overload mascots: children and dogs.
Their campaigns featured golden retriever puppies and adorable toddlers playing around the house, making a mess with the toilet paper, and wreaking havoc in the living room. Not so boring anymore, right?
When standing in front of tons of toilet paper, which one do you think will end up in your shopping cart? The one that made a memorable impression on you. The one with the dog.
6. Car Rental
Car rental companies are way up the ‘boring’ ladder in the minds of consumers, perhaps only outranked by insurance companies (merely because the car rental is sometimes implicit of holidays and fun times and, let’s be honest, holidays are never 100% boring, even if the business of renting a car is).
But not Avis. Avis is the king of car rental, even though it actually ranks second. Back in the 1960s, the Avis Marketers had a hard job in their hands. Not only were they marketing for an admittedly ‘boring’ industry, but they were marketing not for the industry leader - Hertz - but for the sweaty runner-up, Avis.
So what did they do? They decided to brag about their second-best position and turn it around in their favor. Their campaigns blatantly stated the fact that Avis tries harder because it is only second and cannot afford not to try so hard.
The “We Try Harder” slogan is one of the best marketing slogans of all time and shows that with a little bit of creativity, a boring industry can become the topic of conversation around the dinner table.<