You may not have heard of Oliver Adams but you may have heard of Jack Trout. Jack Trout, recognized as one of the world’s foremost marketing strategists and the pioneer of the “positioning” marketing concept, lists the story of Oliver Adams as one of his favorite books.
The book by Robert R. Updegraff is titled Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Businessman. It may well be the best marketing book you have never read. It is short, succinct and to the point. It is also the book that we at Brand360 reread every so often, to remind us to go back to the fundamentals.
Oliver Adams was a very ordinary man working in the glitzy world of New York advertising. One of his stories is as follows.
The manufacturer of bond papers wrote to the advertising agency saying that they were interested in advertising and wanted someone to come to their mill and talk it over with them. Adams was assigned to the job. He spent two days wallowing in paper, understanding where the paper came from and how it was made. On the third day he laid out his tentative advertisements and showed them to the president of the paper mill.
The president rocked back and forth in his chair for a few minutes.
“Young man,”, he said, finally, “every good bond paper is made of carefully selected rags” – quoting from the advertisement in his hand; “every good bond paper is made with pure filtered water; every good bond paper is loft-dried; all good paper are hand inspected. I didn’t need an advertising man from New York to tell me that. What I wanted was some original ideas. Everyone knows these things about bond paper.”
“Why, is that so?” said Adams. “I never knew that! Our agency controls the purchase of many thousands of dollars’ worth of bond papers every year, yet I venture to say that not a single man in our organization knows much about paper-making, except that good paper is made of rags. You see, Mr. Merritt, we aren’t any of us paper-makers, and no one has every told us these things. I know there is nothing clever about these advertisements. They are just simple statements of fact. But I honestly believe that the telling of them in a simple, straightforward way as qualities of your paper, month after month, would in a comparatively short time make people begin to think of yours as something above the ordinary among papers. You would be two or three years at least ahead of your competitors, and by the time they got around to advertising, your paper would already be entrenched in the public mind. It would be almost a synonym for the best bond paper.
Mr. Merritt was evidently impressed by the logic of Adams’ argument, yet he hesitated.
But we would be the laughing stock of all the paper makers in the country if they saw us come out and talk that way about our paper when all the good ones make their paper that way.
Adams bent forward and looked Mr. Merritt squarely in the eyes. Mr. Merritt, to whom are you advertising paper makers or paper users?
I get your point, said the president, you are right. I’m beginning to see that advertising is not white magic, but, like everything else, just plain common sense.
The paper campaign was a success from the start, yet when it was analyzed, Adams had done nothing but the obvious.
And that’s how Obvious Adams got his name.
An obvious strategy is very powerful. It is simple, easy to understand and immediately evident. That is why it works so well. When an engaging message is evident to you, it will most likely be evident to your customers and they can better understand it and buy. Isn’t that the whole point of doing any brand and marketing in the first place?
At Brand360, we would like to apply the obvious to each strategy and message we craft, to grow your brand’s value to customers.