The Loudest is the Weakest

Unremarkable products/services need the loudest advertising because it’s the only way they will get remarked about.

This is the fifth in a series of posts sharing business lessons learned from the movie, AMERICAN GANGSTER.

Setting the Scene:
The big city street life was new to Frank Lucas’ brothers and cousins. They were used to country life in the backwoods of North Carolina before being recruited into Lucas’ drug empire. Once in the game, these young men had instant status and inordinate wealth thrust upon them. It’s hard to stay humble when fame and fortune comes so easily.

Huey Lucas, Frank’s oldest brother, became friends with the flamboyant and always dapper Nicky Barnes. Soon after their friendship was formed, Huey began to dress less like his conservative brother and more in the superfly style of Nicky Barnes.

The Loudest is the Weakest
Much of Frank’s success as a drug lord can be attributed to his conservative and sophisticated outward appearance. He dressed like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Tailored suits. Crisp shirts. Sharp ties. Classy, without being attention-hungry.

The one quality, above all, Frank wanted to instill with his brothers and cousins was to stay humble in appearance so that one’s actions would always speak louder than one’s clothes.

When Huey Lucas flaunted his Nicky Barnes-like superfly outfit at a nightclub, Frank stepped in and dressed down his dressed-out brother. Frank told his brother he was “making too much noise” by wearing a “clown suit” that acted as a billboard to the police advertising, “Arrest me.

Listen to me,” Frank said to Huey. “The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.”

Wow! Great line and so applicable to marketing where the loudest advertiser in the room, probably has the weakest product in the room.

It’s reasonable to assume weak and unremarkable products/services need the loudest advertising because it’s the only way they will get remarked about.

We’ll be seeing lots of “loudest in the room” advertising during the 2009 Super Bowl.

Most Super Bowl advertisers make lots of noise showcasing their “clown suit” gimmicky advertising with the hopes of grabbing our attention. The louder these companies talk, the weaker we can assume their product/service is.

Perennial “loudest in the room” advertisers are the major beer companies. The only thing worth talking about Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light is their loud advertising, certainly not their boring beer.

A recent example of “loudest in the room advertising” comes from Toyota. Their “Saved by Zero” campaign played incessantly during October and November of 2008. No one I knew was talking about how great the Toyota Tundra is or how unique the Toyota Camry is. Everyone was talking about how obnoxiously loud the “Saved by Zero” campaign was.

Think about this … when people talk about your brand, do they talk about the products/services your company does? Or, do they talk about the advertising it did? If people are only talking about the advertising your company does, then your “loud” advertising is potentially hiding a weak product.

Like Seth Godin, Frank Lucas believes in spending money to make products stronger and more remarkable rather than spending those same dollars to make the “loudest in the room” advertising messages.

For Frank, as we learned in an earlier lesson, this meant spending time, money, and action to make his brand of heroin, Blue Magic, more remarkable.

The marketing adage of Actions Speak Louder than Advertising fits right in with the Frank Lucas way of doing business.