Who Gets "It"?: Not United Technologies

The one thing about the United Technologies corporate print advertising campaign I’m glad about: I haven’t seen it in any recent business magazine issues. And that’s about it. Yes, I think UTC is an exceptional global infrastructure holding company, has a portfolio of great brands, has strong and long standing leadership, and makes good decisions.

But their "Cross Section" ad campaign falls far short of their earlier work in the late 1990’s (Be There First.) And here are the two (2) primary reasons why (excluding their cocky, non-aspirational tag line) I think they don’t get "it."

First, corporate brand advertising is primarily intended to communicate to the financial community – analysts, brokers, fund managers, the smaller general investor, thought leaders, influencers and the like – why that company is the right horse to bet on for the long term. Its strengths, benefits, competitive advantages, and future-based abilities.

Yet so many corporate ads—not just UTC’s—tell about what that company has done and why and how they did it (emphasis on past tense.) They then expect the current and/or potential investor to trust (although "hope" is more like it) that they can carry that previously demonstrated intelligence into the future. But the problem here is that the people who track and make decisions on a company’s value to them, already know about the past. What they want to know is: what’s next and what are you going to do for me tomorrow, because I already know about today and yesterday.

UTC’s ads fall into this trap at every step. We already know about its technology for smart, green buildings, and we already know about its hybrid electric buses. The question is: what are you working on now that will bring you – and therefore me – profits in the next 2-3 years?

Second, the long-copy format doesn’t do it for me. Yes, long copy can be very effective, but that is primarily in direct mail campaigns (see Omaha Steaks mailings for a prime example.) I simply don’t have enough time or patience to read through all of that tiny type. I’m blasted by over 5,000 brand impressions a day, and to get my attention, you need to do what IBM, GE, salesforce.com, Oracle, Itron, Apple and many other successful companies do: make it simple for me to understand what you want me to know, tell it to me quickly and leave an impression that you are the best at whatever you do.

And adding to the long copy problem, I won’t read UTC’s ads because the design looks like an engineer’s PowerPoint slide. Too much information all over the page and I become anxious, hesitant and a bit overwhelmed. David Ogilvy counseled us that the most effective ads focus on one key point. So make it simple, fast and easy, and you’ve got me.

As for UTC, my click, zap, TIVO, DVR lifestyle and mentality simply has no time for them. At the end of the day, I want advertising that provides me with the only three (3) things I need: reasons to use, reasons to trust and reasons to buy.

Next up: Why Salesforce.com gets "it."


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