Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.

Hey guys, today, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite things when it comes to marketing and branding, and that is billboards. We don’t actually do billboards here at Stratos. They fall a little bit out of the domain of the digital, obviously, and it’s not something that we’re really specialized in.

But I have this obsession with looking at billboards wherever we’re traveling and seeing what they’re advertising. It can tell you a lot about what people are interested in that particular city; what’s selling, what’s not selling. And it is just fascinating to me because I think it’s the one place in marketing and branding that I feel like people fall short a lot.

I mean, there’s obviously a lot of ways to fall short in marketing and branding, but I think billboards in particular sometimes really miss the mark. And I just think it’s unfortunate. And so I love looking at them and trying to figure out what they’re selling, who the company is, figuring out if it’s clear or not, partially as my own personal exercise to make sure that I am always clear, that I’m always communicating what I do, and how it’ll make my customer’s life better. 

So the unfortunate part is I have some pictures of billboards in front of me and you obviously cannot see them. So I’m going to do my best to describe them, but this might be a particular episode that you want to go log on to our website and look for our show notes so that you can see them too.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can get these down so that you kind of have an idea of what’s going on, but I would recommend going and looking at them in person. So first of all, some people would argue that billboards are not necessarily a form of marketing, that it’s more branding. And I don’t disagree, but I don’t think that they’re mutually exclusive.

And so yes, you could have, as we’ll see, there’s one company that only has their logo. That would be really useful if you were a company like Nike, because that’s branding; you’re a recognizable brand. But if you’re not a recognizable brand, you don’t have that much leeway. You still have to do a little bit of marketing. And that’s where you’re being more specific, showing people what you do, how to make your life better, calling them to action, et cetera. 

So before I start, I’m going to warn you. From now on, when you drive around in your car, I’m going to predict that you are going to be looking at billboards. So if you are looking at billboards and see one, and you’re not driving, because please don’t take pictures while you’re driving, but if you can have somebody snap a picture of a billboard that you like and why you want to send it to me, I would love to see it and it might even get featured on our podcast or our website. 

So without further ado, let’s get started. The first billboard I want to talk about is one done by a company, I already referred to this. The company is called Pura and this particular billboard has the name and the logo on the left side. And then on, as a background, it has like a background that fades from white to pink, red to yellow, kind of almost like a watercolor, but that’s all it says. I’ve passed a couple of these on my rounds around Salt Lake City, where I live, and they all have different colored backgrounds, but all of them just say Pura and the logo.

And so every other time that I’ve driven by them, I’ve been driving so I haven’t taken a picture, but every time I’m like, I wonder what that is and why they didn’t put what they are. Cause I don’t know what they are. Like Pura…is it like an air purifier? Is it like a food brand? It sounds close to Purina, which is a dog food brand or an animal food brand.

But like, what is it? And so finally my husband was driving the other day and I had a chance to take a picture and look up what it was. I’ll give you a minute. If you heard the word Pura, what would you guess that they were selling? You probably wouldn’t guess, or maybe you would, but home fragrance release machines that you sync up with your smartphone.

So smart, basically, electronic candles. So I was like, Hmm, that is super interesting. I would have never gotten that. Lucky enough, I was in the passenger seat and could Google it, but how many people are going to see that billboard think, oh, I wonder what that is, and then forget about it by the time they get home?

Again, like I mentioned before, something like Nike or Adidas or McDonald’s, or something like that, that is a huge name brand. They can do this. Like they could just put their logo somewhere and people know what they are. Until you have a brand that has that much brand recognition, you can’t do that, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You just can’t. And also, I am not in the know for how much billboards cost. I know it depends on where you are, how many views there are, but this particular highway gets millions and millions of views. Cross-country like, this is an interstate. And so how many people, who could be customers, are they losing because they don’t know what Pura is?

The next one that I have. I’m going to talk about all of the things that are the ones that I don’t love. And then we’re going to talk about a couple that I do love. The next one is this one by a company called Nexio. The background of this billboard is completely black and they have the word payments and all capital letters, white letters, and it takes up about 80%, maybe even 90% of the billboard. So it’s big, big letters, big white letters on a black background. And right next to the word “payments,” it has the logo Nexio in blue. The logo is a hexagon. Underneath it, it says the Nexio and with it, in the little blue hexagon, there’s some lines.

So again, this is slightly more on track than our good friends at Pura, because we know Nexio has something to do with payments, but again, is it a payment processor? Is it a loan? Like loan lender, sort of company? We have no idea! They have something to do with money, but we don’t know. And so again, I was in the passenger seat at this point and I Googled it. Nexio is a payment processor for multi-level marketing.

And if you don’t know, this is the part of the country that I live in, Salt Lake City. And in this particular zone, near Provo, we call it the multi-level marketing capital of the world because there’s probably a half dozen to a dozen different multi-level marketing companies that are based in the area.

And so is this billboard in the right place? Absolutely. They’re a payment processor for multi-level marketers! However, I don’t know that from just looking at it! So they could have put something like, “Multi-level marketing payments made easy” or “Payment processor for multi-level marketers.” 

Is that more boring? Yeah, it is. But is it clear? Yes. It tells us how, what they’re going to do. And if you’re a multi-level marketer, you might feel that pain point and how this payment processor could make your life better. So again, slightly more on the mark than Pura. But again, they don’t have that brand recognition, yet, to be able to do something like this.

And of course, there may be people who are like, “Julia, we already knew who Pura was. We already know what Nexio was.” And good for you. I’m really glad. So you saw these billboards like you would know what they were, but the thing is, is we also want to do marketing to people who know people. I don’t do multi-level marketing, but I know people who do. So if I saw Nexio’s billboard and I was like, “Oh, I wonder if my friend so-and-so would be interested in that. I wonder if so-and-so has heard of them.” So yes, maybe a multi-level marketer has already heard of Nexio, but a friend of a multi-level marketer might not have, and they could be just as influential to get a new customer.

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The next one is by my good friends at Ken Garth. Ken Garth is a dealership in the area and they have a campaign that’s about listening. And so we have two billboards. We have one that has a white background and on the left side, it has like a chocolate Easter bunny with its ears sticking off of the billboard. And it says “Us” on the left side, on the right side, it says “Them” and it’s a chocolate bunny with ears bitten off. 

And so the idea behind it is us, we listened to you. We’ve got the ears going, we’ve got the chocolate bunny ears. Them: ears are gone. They’re bitten off. They’re not listening to you. And then on the bottom, in the middle, it has Ken Garth’s logo. Ken Garth’s logo, unfortunately, does not have anything underneath it. It is literally a symbol and Ken’s name. And so this is my problem with this one, is that we don’t know who Ken Garth is. Unless if you are familiar with Ken Garth, you don’t know that he’s an auto dealer. So is it an excellent campaign?

Yes. Because who doesn’t want to work with an auto dealer that’s going to listen to them? That’s like the, one of the number one complaints and why other businesses are cropping up, that you don’t have to work with a dealer or a sales agent because you want to be listened to. And so it’s a great campaign, but unless if you know who Ken Garth is, it’s quite literally falling flat.

And so that’s my only addition. And how easy would that have been to add “auto dealer” or something like that? They have a few others. They have one that’s like, “The only song on our playlist is you.” And it’s represented with the words, “The only song on our playlist.” And then right next to it has somebody like a hand holding a phone with a playlist and the song is “You.” 

Again, “We’re only going to be listening to you.” A great campaign, a great, great, great, great, great campaign for an auto dealership. But unless you’re local and know who Ken Garth is, you’re not necessarily going to know who it’s for. And so yes, people could argue with me like, well, they’re only looking for local customers and that might be the case.

And if that’s the case, well done Ken Garth. But this particular highway is a highway that runs all through Utah, all through Arizona, New Mexico. I think it goes up to Idaho. It branches off to like Yellowstone, Montana, it cross-sects with 80, which goes across the nation. And so I just kind of think like, you never know, somebody might be looking for a car and Ken Garth might speak to them. So I just think that simple addition of saying who we are, an auto dealership, would have been helpful. 

Speaking of auto dealerships, I’m going to talk about a good one that I like. And this one is by Young Automotive Group. How do I know that? Because they put it on their billboard. So they have their logo on a top right corner. Underneath it, it says, “Think young, drive young.” And to the left of it, it has some sort of KIA car. I’m not a KIA expert or a car expert. And it has like a tent. So because we live in Utah, people are super outdoorsy. So this is going to speak to their aspirational identity. It’s going to make them, help them know how it’s going to make their life better.

Episode 16: Learning Better Marketing from Billboards | Marketing in the Wild Podcast

It has the car on it, so we know that they are a car dealership. And if we had any doubt, we will know it’s Young Automotive Group, and those words, they say, “Think young, drive young.” So again, an aspirational identity. This is clear, you guys, we know what Young does: they sell cars. And we know how it will make people’s lives better: you get to be adventurous. You get to take a tent out. You also get to think young, you get to drive young, et cetera. 

So again, clear, super, super clear. The other one that I love that is really clear is by Duck Duck Go. If you’re not familiar with Duck Duck Go, Duck Duck Go is a browser that helps you be able to use the internet without getting tracked.

How do I know that? Because their billboard says, on the left side, it has a red background on the left side and it says in white letters, “Tired of being trapped online?” and underneath it, it has a banner that says “We can help.” On the right side for like one-third of the billboard, it has a logo, Duck Duck Go.

Episode 16: Learning Better Marketing from Billboards | Marketing in the Wild Podcast

So while this doesn’t say, “Oh, Duck Duck Go is a browser that will help you search your things anonymously.” Like it doesn’t say that it’s the browser that helps you search the internet anonymously. But it does tell us the problem that it solves: tired of being tracked online? We can help. So it tells us what it does.

So regardless of knowing whether it’s a browser or an extension or whatever it is, what Duck Duck Go is going to do is help me stop being tracked online. And that’s going to make my life better. Again, guys, clear, clear, clear, clear. It tells us what Duck Duck Go does and how it will make our lives better.

Super, super clear. So hopefully. You have taken away a few tips. My biggest message is: be clear. Tell people what you do and how it will make your life better. Basically, this is like the foundation of Marketing in the Wild. We look at other pieces of marketing and use them to help us be informed on how our marketing is operating. 

While none of us might be putting up billboards anytime soon, we can use these principles and make sure our website headers are clear, make sure our social media is clear, et cetera, et cetera. Like if we are not clear, how many of us are those Pura billboards that just have our logo out there, expecting customers to come to us, even though they are getting a million different marketing messages that their brain has to filter?

So if we’re clear, people will remember us. If we’re unclear, we’re going to get filtered out with the rest of the junk. So once again, be clear, tell people what you do. Tell them what problem you solve and how your product or your service will make their life better. Thanks for joining me today. I know this is a little bit different. Thanks for humoring me with my obsession with billboards. Who knows? We might have a round two of this, especially if any of you guys send me your favorite billboards. Send them over, send it by email or via social media. We’ll be happy to check them out. Have a great one, you guys.