September 10th, 2014
Everybody remembers Robert De Niro’s famous line from Taxi Driver: You talkin’ to me? It’s #10 on the American Film Institute’s top-100 movie quotes.
De Niro impersonators always use it, while making the “De Niro face.” Memorable and funny, in that context, considering his paranoid character, Travis Bickle, uttered it in anger.
In the business world, that line — You Talkin’ to Me? — spells disaster: it means your audience is confused, your message wasted. That should make you angry.
So, as the CEO, you must ensure that no member of your audience ever questions that you’re talkin’ to him. If this does happen, you’ve failed at branding.
I wrote about this issue in “IBM’s Hazy Hammer” and in Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
Too often, vendors — in pitches, speeches, brochures, tradeshows, homepages, and radio/TV commercials — talk about and to themselves, via a deluge of product attributes, technologies, and jargon.
As a branding consultant, I constantly peruse company homepages, watch and read CEO interviews, and watch TV commercials. Rarely do I think, You’re talkin’ to ME — or someone I can identify! Mostly, my eyes glaze over.
Challenge Company Groupthink
Because it’s difficult for employees and contractors to challenge company groupthink, and industry groupthink, it goes unchallenged and endlessly perpetuates. Most people like to blend in, not to stand out — and these people don’t belong in branding.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when I saw Miller Lite’s new commercial. It excels in talkin’ to the targeted young-male customer, with an unambiguous message: If you drink Miller Lite, you’ll look hot, attract the hot girl, date the hot girl, marry the hot girl, have hot sex, and live happily. In fact, Miller Lite created you. Clear, concise, compelling.
This is rare and refreshing, no pun intended. Miller Lite focuses exclusively on the customer and his desires, and communicates in his language. No mention of hops, aging, golden hue, and mountain springs.
Parting Advice to CEOs
If you want your customers to buy your product, you’d better be talkin’ to them, in their language — not to yourself, in your language. This is axiomatic, regardless of company size, industry, or market (customer type). Miller Lite got it right.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.