Keeping Brands Secure in Insecure Times


brand_security_small.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — I grew up on a farm. When I was little, my dad got a new Massey Ferguson tractor, and I got a new Massey Ferguson hat from the dealer. My dad used to joke that it was a very expensive hat that happened to come with a free tractor. I loved the hat, and loved Massey Ferguson. When I was little.As I got older, I put in a lot of hours on that tractor, and grew to detest it. It had problems in deep sand, and we had a lot of deep sand. It ran hot. And there were other reasons to dislike not only it, but tractors in general: You see, in my teenage years, a tractor didn’t conjure, for me, idyllic scenes of American agriculture. Amber waves of grain, and all that. A tractor meant very real, very hot, and unbelievably dusty days, pulling a disc harrow through never-ending orange groves. I’d rather have been surfing, or hanging out with my friends. The little kid magic had pretty much worn off.

The year before I left for college, my dad started thinking about buying a new tractor. He wanted to try a European brand that had just entered the Florida market. It was called SAME, and was manufactured in Italy, I think. (SAME is still around, and now a part of Deutz-Fahr.) He had one delivered for a test drive.

The sight of that thing, alone, irritated me. We were supposed to be a Massey Ferguson family, weren’t we? Suddenly, I was eight again, defending my loyalty — for a tractor, of all things — against some upstart interloper. It shouldn’t have mattered to me. I was leaving for college. I wasn’t even going to be around to use it. Still, “You want to test it?” I thought. “Fine, I’ll show you a test.”

I took the SAME to a part of one grove that had sand so deep I could never pull a harrow through with the old Massey. I engaged the harrow, and drove in, using a gear I knew was too high. The wheels began to spin in the sand, and instead of gearing down, I let ’em spin. I buried the thing to its axels. It took another tractor to pull the SAME out. The next day, my dad ordered a new, bigger Massey Ferguson.

Kind of a funny story. But what in the world does it have to do with interactive advertising? Glad you asked.

Think back to that tractor hat, for a second. How much do you think a branded hat, given to a 7 or 8-year-old boy, influenced that 17-year-old’s decision to bury the unworthy competition? I think: A lot.

Next question: How is the tractor hat different from giving a customer a branded digital…something that makes their life just a little easier, and connects them with your brand? Not much, in my opinion.

We can make pixels do just about anything. We have a gazillion new ways to shout our message from the rooftops. But it’s becoming more clear every day that shouting isn’t as effective as we once thought. Nor is making pixels dance, just to see them dance.

But if you can give a customer something personal, and useful — something that solves a problem, and in the process, connects that customer to your message — you’re forging a relationship.

Of course, the things we make today are vastly more complex than the things advertisers used to rely on. At least, we tend to think they are. They’re certainly more tech-driven, and interacting with them is a more intricate process. But from where I sit, the best, most successful things we make have an awful lot in common with that tractor hat. Because they’re built to provide useful, personal, human interaction — and in the process, forge a relationship between the brand and the customer.


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