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Storytelling trumps shock tactics for Mitre 10

July 2022

This is a self-funded case study using our Ad Testing solution.

Despite going by the same name and being in close geographical proximity, hardware retailer Mitre 10 Australia and New Zealand are separately run businesses. It was only fitting then that each brand’s latest campaign also took a ‘starkly’ different approach.

The Australian team made the brave decision to position Mitre 10 as #2 (the ‘Other Brand’) versus dominant market leader, Bunnings. Seemingly an admission of defeat, it caused many raised eyebrows within the marketing community. However, AVIS — in 1962 — proved that this strategy can be highly fruitful, in one of the most famous campaigns of all time.

With Hertz the dominant leader at the time, AVIS boldly stated: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars — So why go with us?”. The answer was because AVIS had to try harder, with the executions which followed revealing why. This resulted in AVIS rapidly erasing the considerable market share advantage Hertz previously held over it.

Baring all and shocking viewers into paying attention through a combination of confronting imagery and humor, Mitre 10’s Australian GM of Marketing, Karen Fahey, called the campaign a “cheeky reminder that there’s an ‘other’ choice for hardware in Australia”.

While Mitre 10 NZ took an entirely different approach, it was no less provocative — in a category typically functionally and price driven, the brand instead invested in a heart-warming tale about an overzealous DIY enthusiast who befriends a staff member.

Which approach was more effective in the “Trans-Tasman battle”? We used our 3Cs framework to find out.

  • Captivate: Be emotive; stand out and grab attention.
  • Connect: Be recognizable; synergize with expectations.
  • Compel: Be motivating; drive behavioral change.

Avis 'We try harder' campaign
Avis 'We try harder'

Captivate

‘Other Store’ was more deliberately ‘in your face’ and attention-grabbing than its more traditionally ‘emotional’ and sentimental NZ counterpart. The Australian campaign — headlined by a spot featuring an older nudist couple — was, without a doubt, a radical departure from your typical hardware ad. And, while shock value is a particularly appealing tactic when you want to shake things up and alter the status quo, it also carries a lot of risk. Indeed, the campaign provoked significant annoyance — causing many to tune out in disgust. While the human touch of NZ’s ‘With You’ triggered much greater passivity, the involving and heart-warming emotional journey meant it was just as memorable.

Mitre 10 Australia and New Zealand - Advertising Testing - Captivate

 

Connect

There’s a lot of truth to an early brand reveal disrupting a story’s eventual emotional payoff; advertisers every day make the mistake of unconsciously placing logo watermarks throughout a film to its ultimate detriment. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule — nor is it to suggest that building brand- and product-centric stories can’t work. In fact, the NZ story was entirely centered around the Mitre 10 store. In the process it made the store, staff uniforms, colors, etc. a constant feature of the ad — ensuring Mitre 10 was unforgettable. But, importantly, the craft of the story meant Mitre 10’s role was a facilitatory one and not just an artificial add-on. In comparison, the Australian campaign wasn’t as strongly linked to Mitre 10; without a clear role for the brand, it’s going to take time — and lots of continued support — for the new platform’s distinctive properties to bed-in.

Mitre 10 Australia and New Zealand - Advertising Testing - Connect

 

Compel

With a clear and tangible link between the uplifting storyline and Mitre 10, ‘With You’ successfully translated emotional warmth onto the brand — largely a function of its caring, personable, and knowledgeable staff. Interestingly, the focus on customer experience drove a greater level of perceived differentiation for Mitre 10 than the Australian campaign’s more provocative approach — which overtly set out to juxtapose the brand against its main rival. ‘Other Store’ wasn’t as successful at building personal relevance or conveying that Mitre 10 could better-meet people’s hardware needs, consequently resulting in weaker predisposition.

Mitre 10 Australia and New Zealand - Advertising Testing - Compel

 

What are the learnings for marketers?

The first lesson is that big, emotional storytelling always gives you the best chance of success — particularly when the advertiser behind it is unmistakable.

The second lesson is that showing is more powerful than telling — Mitre 10 NZ didn’t need a VO to tell viewers how friendly and helpful their staff are: it was implied.

The third lesson is that claims without substance have little chance of landing with consumers — advertisers must provide a simple product truth or reason to believe. So, rather than just simply saying you’re different, translate this into something tangible for consumers.

And it’s here where Mitre 10 Australia could learn a lot from AVIS. AVIS didn’t simply set out to disrupt without providing anything of substance to back it up. Amongst other things, AVIS strategically prioritized locations in close proximity to airports as business travel boomed and convenience became more important. While this point of ‘difference’ wasn’t able to be defended long-term (as is almost always the case), it did give people reason for reappraising AVIS, and reinforced that the rental company was prepared to go above and beyond for customers.

Mitre 10 Australia and New Zealand - Advertising Testing - Cubery Rating

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