At the end of this story you’ll find three institutional ads—from United Technologies, General Electric and Archer Daniels Midland.
All are attempts by Madison Avenue to create positive impressions in potential investors’ minds.
Management hopes that if the image of these giant conglomerates can be burnished—as opposed to highlighting the famous brands that they own—the increased awareness will inspire investors to buy stock in the mother ship and the price of shares will go up.
In the case of United Technologies, the campaign is budgeted at $20 million a year.
In their endlessly self-congratulatory and repetitive book, “WHAT STICKS: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds,” Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart say over and over again that of the $300 billion a year spent on advertising in the United States, $112 billion is wasted.
These ads attempting to build brand and recognition for amorphous conglomerates are a total waste of marketing dollars.
Why Institutional—or Conglomerate—Advertising Fails
Conglomerates are made up of different subsidiaries, each with stories of their own.
Individual companies consist of various departments—marketing, sales, PR, production, R&D, manufacturing, accounting, data management, HR and delivery.
In that sense, all companies are identical. The two elements that make an organization unique, newsworthy and interesting are:
* Its people. Not “we” the people. “I” the person—Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah, envelope maker Harvey Mackay and Martha Stewart, to name a few.
* The products and services that the company creates and markets.
Meet a CEO Out of His Element
In an attempt to interest potential investors, George Alfred Lawrence David, 64, holder of a Harvard bachelor of arts degree and an MBA from the University of Virginia, and currently chairman and CEO of United Technologies, has signed off on a preposterous advertising campaign.
David told J. Lynn Lunsford and Brian Steinberg of The New York Times that very few people recognize United Technologies’ name. “When I say we own Otis elevator, or Carrier air conditioning, or Pratt & Whitney jet engines, or Sikorsky helicopters, the lights come on,” he told them.