Recently, Ad Age published an article by Effie Worldwide president and CEO Traci Alford about the results of a study that asked, “What differentiates effective marketing?”

The answer has nothing to do with audience share. Or creative. Or budget.

The research found that the biggest predictor of effective marketing is bravery.

Americans are exposed to 10,000+ brand/advertising messages a day. It’s hard to stand out. Brave advertising connects with consumers in a new and unexpected way. People sit up and notice. And then they talk about it, increasing the effectiveness.

Like it or not, Budweiser’s “Dilly Dilly” was brave—because it was smart. It accessed consumer interest in Game of Thrones and other period shows. It was silly but not self-aware, which bucked the trend of “wink-wink” advertising. It was different than typical “drinking at the pool/game/barbecue with beautiful people” beer commercials. And then there is that catchphrase. I can’t imagine being in the pitch room having to convince the client that “Dilly Dilly” would become part of the popular lexicon.

Brave marketing isn’t just limited to out-there creative. It also can mean taking your marketing into unexpected places. Think about how Red Bull built its brand by connecting with the X Games. Extreme sports are popular now, but at the time no one had supported them in such a major way. It immediately defined their brand. Red Bull’s current “gives you wings” campaign seems tame by comparison. It focuses on the caffeine content of the product. Features and benefits are not brave. Letting consumers feel “extreme” by drinking your product is.

At Well Done Marketing, we say “bold” instead of “brave.” Brave sounds risky, especially to the mid-size B2B companies that are our bread and butter. Bold is positive. People may not always feel brave, but most want to be bold.

We are upfront about what our brand of bold is, on our website and in our proposals:

  • If we have to choose between honest and safe, we’ll always choose honest.
  • “Contrary to popular belief, the messages that really engage your audiences are not about you. They’re about the people you’re trying to reach: The stories you really need to tell are about them and how you fit into their lives.”

You don’t have to be a Budweiser or a Red Bull to be bold. Although creative design and content is important, bold doesn’t have to be award-winning work. Welcoming an outside firm in to give you an honest assessment is pretty bold. So is trying something you’ve never done before. As is telling stories about your audience rather than yourself.