How to promote a product in a saturated and traditionally un-sexy industry

Simon Prince, director of marketing at conference call service providers Powwownow, discusses how you don’t need the flashiest all-singing product or marketplace to be able to engage millions.

shutterstock_173989391It won’t come as a huge surprise to share that conference calling hasn’t traditionally been a hot bed for creativity. It’s not an industry which immediately lends itself to exciting and controversial campaigns and activity, as for most people in the UK, it can be a difficult task to explain fully the benefits while keeping them engaged. There are great examples throughout the UK of companies hitting that sweet spot and becoming affective in a traditionally ‘un-sexy’ industry. The likes of Dropbox, Transferwise and Old Spice all operate within marketplaces which none of us would deem hugely exhilarating but all of whom have been creative and clever in establishing a clear brand identity which has resulted in business success.

When we were founded in 2004, conference calling was huge in the USA but hadn’t gained significant traction in the UK. Rather than market and promote conference calling as a service, we were keen to create a brand identity for Powwownow and ensure we were the first name people would think of, should the services we provide be required.

Many large organisations have approached marketing their services in very conventional ways. Messaging has been service-led, and they’ve focused on targeting the decision makers or influencers within a company. We approach the market from a different angle – targeting our prospects not at a “business employees” level but as individual consumers with the aim of connecting on an emotional level. This “flare” activity is designed to drive top of mind awareness so when a user has the need they know who to look for.

Advertising is of course one strand of marketing activity which can naturally help exposure but it must tie in with the company’s messaging and other strands must be aligned as well. Creative events, competitions and PR can all help to formulate a powerful brand ethos but it must coincide with the overall marketing strategy of the company and how you want your company to be perceived. Controversy for the sake of it which doesn’t tie in with the brand helps no one and creativity doesn’t have to mean a brainstorm on bean bags at lunchtime, it can be simplicity which doesn’t necessarily re-invent the wheel. It sometimes feels as if companies go chasing the fame while forgetting who they really are.

I think when assessing where your business is at and where you want to go – you must be realistic. We accept that we don’t have the budgets of the large Telcos and therefore buying high impact brand ad spaces, such as TV, is simply not possible. As a result, producing campaigns that get cut through and can compete in extremely cluttered spaces, such as the London Underground, becomes the ticket to success. It’s crucial that creative campaigns are noticed and work as hard as they can for the brand. This has been through running, what are at times, edgy, confrontational or visually arresting campaigns.

Our latest campaign, ‘Here’s to Flexible Working’, quite literally portrays working flexibly with bright eye-catching images helping to highlight our stance on the subject matter and our desire to make it more common place. Before this, we had people wearing horror masks on the commute with the tagline ‘avoid the horror’ displaying the awkwardness of a commute and questioning why people put themselves through it every day. Both campaigns helped to display some of our core brand messaging but also enabled us to display character, have some fun and ultimately cut through the noise.

You certainly have to be clear from the outset what type of business you want to be – identity is everything when it comes to standing out in a ‘saturated and un-sexy industry’. Needless to say, you do not have to operate in a traditionally ‘fun’ industry to have fun with your marketing campaigns. After all, as the aforementioned companies and others have found out – creative marketing often has a bigger benefit to the business than merely putting a smile on people’s faces. Establish your name and people will soon realise what exactly you can offer them, attempting too hard the other way round can result in problems.