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How to advertise a low-interest category product?

As an experienced Johannesburg-based copywriter (I wrote my first ad a good 30 years back), I’ve conceptualised ideas and written copy for many brands across many industries and categories – automotive, confectionary, industrial, hospitality, financial services..you name it.

The majority of brands fall into either the “high interest” category or the “medium interest” category, and by this, I mean that the product or brand could either be of great interest or moderate industry to its intended target market(s). There are of course also brands that fall in the “low interest” category – Eskom and electricity, for instance -although naturally when there are power cuts or loadshedding, they become temporarily “high interest” until the power is restored and they revert to being of “low interest”.

Insurance is another “low interest”category. This is not to say that insurance is unimportant. It is important, especially in our country with its high crime rate and appalling number of motor accidents, but it’s not a product category generally viewed as exciting. Insurance is a grudge purchase. We buy it because we need it, not because we WANT it.

The same holds true of security products. And fencing (I’ll come back to fencing in a bit..)

A high interest or medium interest type of product typically is not difficult to advertise, from a copywriting point of view, anyway. Because the interest exists our task as copywriters is simply to come up with creative work (with our art directors and designers) that converts that interest into sales. This is done by communicating – creatively -the product or service’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

An example of a high interest product in South Africa? Nandos: a brand that has become synonymous with good advertising. Over the years, Nandos has become the benchmark for creative advertising in this country. It’s topical, irreverent, fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. As a result, it’s liked across the divide. Many a time have I been in briefing sessions when the client says “I want a Nandos” ie a campaign that gets noticed and talked about – surely, the job of all advertising?

Now, unfortunately, not all products and product categories lend themselves to a “Nandos style of advertising”.

Some products are just deadly boring.

Take the product I made mention of earlier: fencing.

When I met with a fencing manufacturer in Pretoria last year to discuss their advertising requirements, I confess to having had doubts as to the best way to go about their marketing. After all, fencing is much like insurance: a grudge purchase – unexciting. It’s important, yes, and takes on added importance the morning after one’s property has been broken into.

Doubt aside, I set out to create advertising that a) would show the various products in the range b) highlight he company’s experience and capacity c) create awareness of the company and d) get the campaign noticed.

Points a, b and c were not difficult to achieve. Point e – creating a campaign that would get noticed – was the most challenging. How to make fencing (a low interest category if there was one) interesting is not the easiest job in the world.

The campaign I eventually presented to the client comprised a print advertisement (it would have worked well as a magazine ad or a newspaper ad), online banner ads and a series of billboards. (The billboard shown at the top of this blog articles was one of a series).

With the target market being game farmers and rural folk, and also, property developers and trustees of residential complexes in urban areas, the media agency I worked with proposed various print titles for the print advertising side of the campaign, and a selection of strategically-placed billboards to target the farming and game farming community.

A common denominator across all identified target buyers was their typically South African love for sport, and particularly rugby. The game farmer in the Free State would be an avid Free State rugby fan whilst the game farmer in Polokwane would be a Bulls supporter for sure. They would have a friendly rivalry. Both might have a need for fencing and would have a shared passion for rugby. For this reason, the outdoor (billboard) component of the advertising campaign largely took on a rugby theme to boost its “talkabality”. Other billboards in the series promoted the company’s ability to install one’s fencing requirements speedily, and anywhere in the country.

The fact that the client didn’t buy the campaign was a pity. In my opinion as an experienced advertising person and ad hoc marketing consultant, it would have worked well as it gave the fencing company a “tonality” and “character” – two things that would set it apart from other fencing manufacturers and keep the brand uppermind.

As a copywriter and hands-on creative resource, I’m all for topical advertising and humour in advertising – and count this as a decent piece of work.

If there are any marketers in the fencing industry wanting to see the campaign, I’d be happy to forward it. Just email me on gerard@kavonichone.co.za with “fencing campaign” in the subject line.

At the end of the day, a low interest product needs good impactful advertising to generate interest. The last thing a boring product needs is boring advertising. Taking a different approach often pays off. It really is that simple.

Gerard Kavonic is an experienced copywriter, conceptualiser of advertising ideas and co-ordinator of marketing projects. He resides in Johannesburg and runs This country’s smallest ad agency, Kavonic Hone. See www.kavonichone.co.za He has been in the South African advertising industry for 30 years and during this time has won a number of awards for copywriting. He works on a full agency or ad hoc project basis and also offers a consulting service. He can be contacted on +27 83 444 9888 and gerard@kavonichone.co.za His skype address is gerardkavonic.

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