Differentiating your brand could be tricky work if your marketing and advertising involves one of the world’s richest men—unless that man is Warren Buffett.
“We thought, What’s the most ridiculous getup we could think up for Warren — and thought, Nah, we can’t do that,” says Phil Ovuka, director of creative media services at Geico.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett has become a staple of the Geico employee-created videos used to kick off their annual team meeting. Over the past four years, Buffett has appeared as a hobo and a DJ. This year, his tattooed Axl Rose send-up stole the show and netted thousands of viral impressions.
What can Warren Buffett teach your brand?
Suppose an employee brought you a marketing and advertising idea so off-the-charts outlandish you couldn’t contain your laughter. What would you do? Dismiss that idea and you lose three ways: employees lose trust in sharing ideas, your brand loses fresh thinking, and you lose an edge that can differentiate you from competitors.
“Differentiate until you want to cry,” says Jon Spoelstra, author of Marketing Outrageously: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts! Otherwise, you’re just like everyone else.
Spoelstra’s track record of creating marketing and advertising success stories in basketball and arena football are legendary. The way to start, Spoelstra teaches, is “by making new a way of life.”
Step into each day looking at things from new and unexpected perspectives. Slaughter the sacred cows and bring in fresh thinking. Doing so will make your people happy, your brand strong, and you rich. Ask Warren Buffett about that.
The bigger the response, the better the idea
Ideas everyone agrees on are safe, bland, vanilla. They’re dreck. It’s the thinking that produces ad-speak-laden messages: “family owned with a commitment for quality and your satisfaction.” Gag me.
Marketing and advertising ideas worth exploring are the ones that double over half the room in laughter, while revolting others. Strong reactions tell you that idea carries a charge that will light up a brand. Nurture such thinking in people and you’ll create an unexpected employee benefit: opportunity.
By stepping into his Guns N Roses persona, Warren Buffett tells everyone, Geico is alive with opportunity. The boss is on the team, not in the watchtower. His appearances in those videos is a clarion call to every Geico employee: your ideas are welcome at the top. It’s a marketing and advertising message that resonates with customers too, earning Buffett and company over 327,00 plays on YouTube as of the moment this was written.
Employees created the video, wrote the lyrics, delivered the message. It works because it’s an authentic sentiment delivered by people who believe. This kind of thing only happens when you create a safe space for outrageous ideas.
How welcome are outrageous ideas at the top of your company?
Jon Spoelstra is our brand of crazy. That’s why you’ll find him teaching a class called How To Make Big Things Happen Fast at Wizard Academy. I spent two days attending his first workshop and highly recommend it–especially if you want to find the way to your envelope’s edge. Click here to learn more.