There are a number of “rules” or “laws” in marketing that can absolutely not be broken.  Of course, they absolutely can, but you better have a darn good reason.  I’m going to provide a couple of companies and campaigns that broke the rules then provide you with an example of why the rules exist and the kind of success you can have when you follow the rules.

1.    Rule Number 1:  Always use your company name.  This is so extraordinarily obvious that no one should ever break it.  And for everyone except one company, this is true.  The point is a good one.  Repeated use of your logo and name in all of your communication is imperative especially if you are a small business.  The theory and it’s a solid one, is that there are so many messages out there that you don’t want to make it harder on the consumer to receive and understand your message.

THE EXCEPTION:  Nike.  I don’t know exactly when the solitary use of the swirl started; I would guess 15-20 years ago and here’s why it worked.  They were creating a brand; an image.  They bought their media well.  Meaning it was perfectly targeted to the folks they wanted to receive the message.  And their message was perfectly targeted to this audience.  It is the perfect marriage of message and target audience.  The youth they targeted wanted image and pizazz as well as a good product.  This audience would also take the time to discover who this company was that just did the “swirl thing.”

2.    Rule Number 2:  Be consistent with your message.  The quickest way to throw your money away is to send out mixed messages.  By the way, this is also the surest way to end a personal relationship, but I digress.  As I pointed out in Rule Number 1, the battle for the attention of consumers is intense and highly competitive.  So why would you make it that much harder to communicate with them by running multiple campaigns with different messages that has every possibility to confuse the consumer?  Why indeed?

THE EXCEPTION:  Geico.  Here’s why Geico gets away with it.  Their marketing budget is enormous.  They can truly afford to spend enough on each campaign to get the consumer’s attention.  They do achieve something by running multiple campaigns.  They make their brand “cool” or “funny” or “fun.”  They have made their campaigns something to look forward to for different groups of people.  Some people like one campaign, some like another.  Currently they are running the folk singers, the gecko and the Geico Dough boy that I know of.  They also throw in the cavemen periodically.  They are confident that if you don’t like one campaign you’ll ignore it, knowing that you will more than likely find another campaign that you will love.  This whole idea works because they have the money to own the media.
And…… to follow the rules and succeed:

3.    Rule Number 3:  Don’t present yourself as being all things to all people.  I was the advertising agency for a catering firm in Baltimore about 15 years ago.  They were looking for an agency/campaign to get them noticed to a greater extent than they currently were.  When I examined the catering marketing landscape, all the ads looked alike to me.  Pretty pictures of pretty food.  So, I consciously decided to not try to be all things to all people.  I recommended a campaign (which they bought and used for a decade) that was targeted to those with a certain sense of humor.  We pitched ads that showed no food but were dominated by a single headline, followed by the phone number and logo.

Sample headlines:  “Catering even your Mother-in law will love.”
“Yes, you inhaled.”  (At the time it was closer to Bill Clinton’s pot smoking saga.)
“If you own a Michael Bolton CD, call another caterer.”

They worked.  They were funny and were a real breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale marketing environment.  They did not appeal to everyone, but they appealed like no other to a certain segment of the population and that was all we needed to increase sales by 20% in the first year.

The rules of marketing are meant to broken and to be followed.  Knowing when to break them is the key to success.