Visual Hammers speak to consumers

May 10, 2012

   A visual hammer is so effective because it says something about your brand. The “lime” that says Corona is the authentic Mexican beer. The “contour bottle” that says Coca-Cola is the original cola. The “cowboy” that says Marlboro is the masculine cigarette.

   A company makes a major mistake when it develops a verbal strategy without considering what visual hammer might help hammer that idea into consumers' minds. 

   In the year 2010, General Motors spent $1.1 billion advertising its Chevrolet brand. The verbal strategy? "Chevrolet runs deep."

   But how do you visualize an abstract idea like that?

   Most advertising slogans are abstractions impossible to visualize. To turn them into "nails," they need to be brought down to earth.

   Years ago, BMW could have used "performance," a typical automotive theme, to position its brand. Instead, it called its brand, "The ultimate driving machine."

   "Performance" can't be visualized, but "driving" can. So BMW ran television commercials with happy owners driving their BMWs over winding roads. A great hammer and a great marketing success. Today, BMW is the world's best-selling luxury vehicle brand, outselling Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.

   Look at the problems Brand Atlanta has had in trying to create a memorable slogan for the city. Created by Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2005, Brand Atlanta has the task of trying to make the city more of a visitor and business destination. (Trying to do both was its first mistake.)


   "Every day is an opening day" was the first slogan that quickly ran out of steam. My complaint, Where's the visual that could reinforce an opening day idea?

   "City lights, Southern nights" fared no better. (It was another slogan that couldn't be visualized.) At the launch of this backup campaign, the executive director of Brand Atlanta said, "I went to New York last weekend and it wasn't because of I love New York." Maybe she should have paid attention to the best-known city slogan in the world.


   It's the "heart" hammer that makes all the difference. Ironically, Atlanta also has two well-known verbal ideas that do suggest visual hammers.

   Atlanta is a fast-growing community because it's the transportation hub of the Southeast and home of the world's largest airport. Locals often call their city "Hotlanta," a verbal idea that suggests many possible visual hammers.

   The second idea has to do the environment. Compare Dallas, the city's only serious competitor in the South, with Atlanta. Compared to Atlanta, Dallas looks like a desert and Atlanta is loaded with trees. "City in a forest" is what people often say about Atlanta.


   If there is one case history that demonstrates the power of a visual hammer, it can be found just 145 miles east of the city.

   In the world of professional golf, there are four major championships: (1) The U.S. Open, (2) The British Open, (3) The PGA Championship and (4) The Masters.

  The first three are hosted by major golf organizations, but the Masters is hosted by a private club, the Augusta National Golf Club. Guess which tournament draws the most attention? The Masters, of course.

   If you want to make your brand famous, give your brand a green jacket.


Visual Hammer is on sale now at Amazon and iTunes.

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