Top 5 Ways Advertisers Use Camouflage

The military spends tons of money to make something blend in and then loses it. Sounds pretty stupid when the army does it, yet advertisers do something even more inept. They spend an insane amount of money buying ad space to get attention, but then camouflage their ads. They still remain invisible because of clutter, attention-spans (Oh, look, there’s a bird!) and generic messages.

Top 5 Ways Advertisers Use Camouflage:

1. Look like the competition.

Ads should highlight what makes you special. To quote the Incredibles, “When everyone is special, then no one is.” That’s especially true when everyone tries to be special in the exact same way.

This Reebok ad is very similar to the Nike ad below (10 years before the Reebok ad).

(source: AdPulp)

Let me emphasize this point.

One of my clients has an employee who previously worked for the competition. Before I worked with this client, their ads were very similar to their biggest competitor’s spots. The employee said before we came in and changed my client’s ads, the competition always knew when my client was advertising because they had more shoppers coming in THEIR doors.

By looking like their competition, my client was sending customers to ‘the enemy.’

2. Advertise where all the competition is.

Why do advertisers have to be right next to their competition? It’s like the CEO went to the marketing department and said, “Castrol is on a NASCAR, why aren’t we?” So then their logo is slapped next to MOROSO and something unreadable (even in a close-up) typed in a script font.

What if you had the audience to yourself, like Sweet Pete’s Bicycle:

(source: Guerrilla Promos)

You get an audience all to yourself.

Likewise, an motor oil company could “rent” a parking spot from their local Auto Zone. Place a temporary sign stating the spot is reserved for users of their product because their engine runs better, fewer leaks, etc.

3. Being irrelevant.

Who cares:

How long your furniture store has been in business?
You’re the #1 car dealer in the metro area?
Your kid is in your TV ad?

When creating your ad, only think and talk of yourself and the customer never will.

Think and talk about the customer and your relationship with them, and they’ll reciprocate.

4. Never change the ‘wrapping paper’.

Has anything changed in your business over the last five years? I would guess so. Then why are you running the same ads?

First, those who didn’t respond to your message yet, won’t.

Second, maybe some responded and didn’t like it. Now they think nothing changed and they’ll still be dissatisfied.

I’m not saying you have to change the brand message, but give it some new wrapping paper every once in a while. If you have a powerful enough message, then it should have legs to adapt.

5. Basically… play it safe.

Being different seems risky. But being the same is even riskier.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
— General Eric Shinseki, retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army


If you’re going to spend money, time and effort crafting a message… don’t throw it all away by painting it camouflage.


“Ugh, another post about branding. I’ve already heard and read too much about that.”

I agree.

This post isn’t intended to give you more information about branding. It’s intended to help you discard what hasn’t been useful.

I’m reading an interesting new book called The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam. Early in the book, he talks about creating a useful website. He dissected the primary components as Brand, Content and Function.

Brand – What will people REMEMBER?

Content – What do people want to KNOW?

Function – What do people want to DO.

That’s as concise and accurate an explanation of branding as I’ve ever heard.

It made me think:

1. This is why most ‘elevator pitches’ don’t work. No matter how short your pitch is, if it’s not memorable, it’s not effective.

2. This is why many branding campaigns don’t work. People won’t remember what they don’t believe.

3. Most vision statements aren’t branded well. They’re usually so long and full of business buzz words, I never remember them. Like branding campaigns, they’re also based on what the company believes about themselves, not what people remember.

Most branding is forgettable. We’re much better at creating brandnesia than brand memory.

How does this change what you put into your:

  • Marketing
  • Resume
  • Website
  • Sermon

Conspiracy vs. Collaboration

There are two models of communication at play today.

Conspiracy or Collaboration

There are times when conspiracy is a necessary evil. Most of the time though, conspiracy is a detriment to our relationships. It limits us and pits us against one another.

Which do you use in your business?

… in your church?

… with your friends and family?Conspiracy

How do you want others to communicate with you?