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November 09, 2004

Always Say Who You Are

Can you sell goods and services by telling consumers of the problems inherent in using them?

That’s the question the Wall Street Journal asks with regards to AOL’s current advertising campaign.

Aol_1 The article references a recent AOL television commercial where, “… a female subscriber barges into a staff meeting at AOL to list the features she wants in her online service, including automatic spam blocking, and virus blocking, and pop-up blocking.’” Another AOL televison commercial depicts a million man march of AOL subscribers asking for improvements to the Internet.

So, does highlighting problems inherent with the Internet convey that AOL is part of the problem?

At Starbucks, the tribal knowledge Paul and I learned about how best to convey a marketing message was …

Always say who you are, never who you are not.

Given this tribal knowledge lesson learned, it appears AOL would be better served by telling subscribers and potential subscribers who they are and not who they ain’t. Dig?


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Link: Brand Autopsy: Always Say Who You Are. The creators of Starbucks have been dissecting the new AOL ad campaign according to Brand Autopsy. The AOL campaign is based on the strapline "want a better inernet?", where a number of [Read More]


These ads bugged me just because the customers had to visit to ask for these features. Are they trying to talk to existing clients (to keep them from leaving), or winning new ones?

On a lighter note, shouldn't the manager reply "You already have these features with your account. If you weren't such a technophobe/newby/loser, you'd have these already installed and working. Call tech support before getting on my conference table next time, please."

I think they are trying to expand their base consumer pool. Those people who have heard what a great thing the internet can be, and what a great problem it can be. My guess is they are trying to position themselves as the one-stop solution to a pleasant net experience for the technically limited.

I don't think this is a bad strategy. I also don't think their ad really pulls it off.

True. AOL's strategy is solid. But to Stephen's point, they don't pull it off well in the ads.

I believe companies should acknowledge their shortcomings and work to improve their offerings to overcome their identified shortcomings. And when they go to tell consumers about their ‘improved’ offerings, I believe they should go about it by focusing on ‘who you are’ and not dwell on the potentially more negative angle of ‘who you are not.’

A very generalized marketing rule as there are exceptions.

In the case of the AOL ads, I think they could better tell their story if they focused more on the ‘benefit of the benefit’ and less on the ‘dark side of the deficiency.’ Again ... a very general marketing rule to live by and exceptions do exist.

It is also interesting in these ads how aol claims to improve the internet as if they have some sort of ownership of it.

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