When the $110 billion behemoth greenlit a failed pitch from a four-year-old TV episode, it earned a lot of free publicity and left competitors in the dust. Every advisor can apply the marketing logic.
Heinz made headlines last week blurring the gap between fiction and big business when it credited advertising firm Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for an upcoming billboard campaign.
The punchline, of course, revolves around the fact that the firm hasn’t done anything noteworthy since the late 1960s, and for that matter, even then it only existed in the retro “Mad Men” TV universe.
But despite the trappings of a stunt, the billboards work because the messaging is top notch. And for wealth managers eager to get their branding points to a receptive audience, it’s not a vast leap from selling ketchup to selling financial advice.
1. Heinz keeps it simple.
There’s not a lot of verbiage in these ads. The words that appear are short and about as far from technical jargon as it gets. Heinz isn’t trying to make anyone feel smart. Successful advisor marketing needs to take a similar approach.
You’re asking to protect and grow their money so they can afford more of what they want. That’s really it. While everything else may sound impressive, it’s really just sizzle around that core proposition. As long as you get results, it doesn’t matter how you do it.
2. Start from zero.
Neither the ketchup bottle nor the product itself appear in the ads. Potential customers see a world without Heinz and then compare it to their kitchen cabinets. If the pictures make them worry about dry meals, they buy.
Likewise, the real first step for advisors looking to seal the deal is to show prospects how hard it is to go it alone. Self-directed investors routinely mistime their trades, fail to rebalance, overweight the wrong asset classes and pay too much in the process.
Take a look at their current financial position. Show them where they’re leaving money on the table and calculate what they would have saved in one of your portfolios. Make them want that ketchup.
3. Stand apart.
Heinz doesn’t even use the word “ketchup” in the new ads, which was a dealbreaker for the company when Don Draper pitched the campaign back on the TV show. It’s actually a smart move.
They own this category, with roughly 50% of global market share. Their only two real competitors between them are still 20% behind that commanding lead.
When you own the category, you don’t need to even acknowledge that potential customers even have other options. Heinz wins when they make you forget anyone else sells red tomato relish.
You can own your category if you differentiate yourself in the right way. You’re not selling generic investment services. You have a specific and unique service platform that’s slightly different from what everyone else in your territory delivers.
Once you can communicate that differentiated brand, push the generic discussion to the margins. It only confuses your message, which is that clients get to work with you and not just another commodity player.
4. It costs what it costs.
Commodity players compete on price. Heinz makes sure its ketchup is affordable enough to avoid chasing people away, but the ads are all about quality, not value.
There’s no price tag on those billboards. No talk about profit margins or cost savings or even all the ingredients that go behind the label. Heinz doesn’t dwell on its business model or how it’s compensated on every bottle.
If you’re chasing prospects who fight over basis points, it’s going to be a hard struggle to convert them into happy long-term clients. Until that hypothetical moment, they’re going to be fickle and a drain to maintain.
Don’t make that the default conversation around your practice. Start with value. Be the must-have flavor. Then, if price comes up, you can drill down into the basis points. If it doesn’t, everyone’s happy.
5. Think outside the box.
Heinz was willing to run with a campaign sourced from a TV show because they could see the appeal of the sales proposition. They risked a little ridicule and a lot of blowback once the news started circulating.
It doesn’t matter where ideas come from as long as they work. Maybe it’s time to look beyond the standard lighthouses and retired couples running on the beach when you’re scouting imagery that sums up the value you provide.
Take your cues from other industries. Odds are good your competitors are so immersed in the advisory world that they’re really just regurgitating current consultant buzz. It’s good buzz, but the power of the messaging fades when everyone else is already doing it.
Heinz was willing to go outside not only industry standards but the advertising establishment. They’re crediting a TV show here, paying the production company for the intellectual property rights and doing it with visible humor.
And if you love lighthouses and beach runs, that’s the heart of who you are as an advisor. Relish it.
6. Success has many parents.
These ads are credited to real-life ad agency David Miami as well as the fictional firm where Don Draper worked. It’s an extremely unorthodox move, but everyone was willing to go along with it because they believed in the campaign.
We talk a lot these days about “team approaches” and “being the financial quarterback.” It’s rapidly becoming a necessity in a world where clients want 360-degree expertise that’s too expensive to build out on your own on the fly -- and they want it 24/7/365.
Heinz is a lot more than the eponymous family that founded the company and kept it booming for 140 years. Individual Heinzes came and went but the taste remained as constant as it gets.
Ultimately, that’s the kind of solution you want to sell: a service platform that you’ve put together to incorporate the best practices from many different professionals working in many different disciplines, robust enough to continue on even if one or more of you leave the organization.
You’re all partners. There’s no competition. And your interests are aligned with your clients just like the real agency’s loyalty to Heinz outweighed their professional pride.
These ads are about a whole lot of ideas coming together to become the best possible execution. That’s not a solo show. It’s a team performance.
7. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
The new billboards could have come straight from the episodes of the show set in 1968. It’s not “retro” so much as timeless.
That universal human connection across decades and generations was a big part of the show’s success. Find what’s universal about what you offer and play it up.
Your clients get that you’re modern. You have all the technology you need and are familiar with all the latest developments in the industry and the markets.
But it’s not the heart of what you do. Technology evolves. Fads come and go. You’ll be the same person throughout and your message will remain relatively constant.
Offer them that security and they’re yours for life.