Is it Better to be Bad than Good?

That is the second half of a question that’s been bouncing around in the back of my head for some time now (we’ll get to the rest of it in a moment).  Allow me to explain…

When it comes to marketing and advertising, good is just that — it’s good.  It meets the client’s objectives.  It pays the bills and keeps the lights on.  Good work breeds good work.

But is it memorable?

Bad work certainly is.

Let’s play a little game called recall.  The topic: Advertising for local car dealerships.  Television spots, specifically.  Glamorous, I know, but it serves the point.

When I mention the following Treasure Valley dealerships, do you remember what their recent spots looked like?

Meridian Ford
Dennis Dillon
Edmark Superstore
Team Mazda Subaru
Lithia of Boise

Of the five examples above, which garnered the most immediate or strongest response?  I would be willing to bet that it was Team Mazda Subaru.  You know the spots.  You’ve seen them.  Thanks to some effective media buying they’re hard to miss.  And that leads to the rest of the question:

If you’re not willing to be great, is it better to be bad than good?

Bad, in most cases, is just that.  It makes people cringe.  It elicits a strong reaction.  But it’s also memorable.  Despite your best intentions, I’m sure you can rattle off at least a half-dozen examples of bad advertising that you’ve seen over the years.  And in each case, I’d bet you can remember exactly who the ad was for, and what it was about.  Try as we might, bad ads are unforgettable.

But so are great ones.

The great ones do more than just meet the client’s objectives.  They influence an industry.  They change a culture.  As those who study this business come to realize, it’s the great ads that set, and in many cases reset, the bar by which others are judged.

Lest you think this discussion is limited only to television, it isn’t — it applies to all mediums.  The Bad / Good / Great distinction can take place anywhere.  In broadcast, online, direct, even face to face.

In all cases, Bad is just bad — memorable, but bad.  Good is effective and meets expectations.  Great is a game-changer.

So how do you define the difference between good and great?  What are you doing on a daily basis to push your own work from good to great?  Does it matter to you?

3 Replies to “Is it Better to be Bad than Good?”

  1. Bad certainly is memorable, but you still have to have a good product and service behind it. Two years ago I was interested in buying a Mazda. I dragged myself to Team Mazda (which I would have found through Google even if I hadn’t seen their ads) and told the guy I hated their advertising, but I wanted to test drive a car. He was very happy I remembered them and admitted they make annoying ads on purpose.

    But, they didn’t have the best price and they didn’t have the car I wanted, and they couldn’t tell me how long it would take to get one. I also quickly realized that I knew more about the Mazda 3 than any salesperson on the lot. I ended up taking my business elsewhere.

  2. I don’t know if it is better to be bad or good, but as my advertising teacher at Northwestern University pounded into us, “it better sell.”

  3. You’re not just talking about bad advertising—you’re talking about ludicrously bad pieces, which have a bizarre appeal all their own.

    Ordinary bad advertising is simply weak and ineffective, not memorable. And yes, it’s probably better to be ridiculously bad than forgettable. But why not be great?

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