Posted by Elena del Valle on April 18, 2011
By Eric Granof
Chief marketing officer
Eric Granof, chief marketing officer, ExpertBail
Photos and video: ExpertBail
Building a brand is never an easy challenge, but doing so in the context of an industry that already has a negative image, can be nothing short of daunting. Add to this, an extremely popular television program that supports the negative stereotype and even worse, a long history of Hollywood romanticizing and perpetuating the negative stereotype of your industry and you can begin to see the complexity and magnitude of the challenge that our team at AIA, the nation’s largest underwriter of bail bonds, was faced with only 7 short months ago when we launched ExpertBail. Scroll down to watch a video of a company ad.
The bail bond industry is a very interesting one. Not only has it been misrepresented by the media, but it is also extremely misunderstood by the average person on the street. This is probably due to the fact that most people don’t ever expect or plan on needing a bail bond. So when they do need one, the experience is preceded with fear and uncertainty. We felt it was time to eliminate those negative feelings and replace them with new ones of trust, hope and confidence.
Now, as a marketer you can approach this challenge in several ways, you can be extremely direct and address it point by point and make your argument against it or you can ignore it and hope it just goes away. We decided to do something a little different. Instead of just attacking the negative comments in a defensive and reactive way, we took more of a “truth” approach. We decided to challenge the misperception by simply telling the real stories of our agents. No Hollywood scripts or actors. Real Bail Agents doing what they do everyday…and what most people don’t realize is that a bail agent’s job is not about letting criminals out of jail, it is helping put families back together and protecting the public. And that was the overarching goal of ExpertBail, challenge the stereotype by showing the reality, change the negative by focusing on the positive, and fill the lack of knowledge through education and information.
So from the television commercial that includes real ExpertBail Agents telling real stories, to a special section of the website that contains stories about agents making a difference in their communities to a comprehensive search site that informs consumers about the bail process and provides them with a simple trusted way to find a bail agent, everything ExpertBail does is directed towards changing the perception of bail.
This approach has been extremely effective thanks to the multitude of “storytelling” channels that are available out there. From Public Relations to social media, we have been able to reach out and engage consumers about the bail industry. We provide video content explaining key bail terms and processes, we introduce real agent profiles and tell their stories, we conduct surveys to gauge perceptions and shifts in those perceptions, and much more. Social media has allowed us to not only tell our story but have a conversation about it. We see and hear what consumers think and can instantly respond. When a bail bond brand has close to 5000 fans on Facebook, you know that something must be working.
ExpertBail launch ad
While the tone of much of our communications is serious, we still felt there was an opportunity to have fun and create an alternative-campaign to track along with our “storytelling” campaign. So we took the approach of jumping on the misperception bandwagon and highlighting these negatives in a creative and amusing way. We created AmateurBail. This motley group of characters DOES fit every stereotype and misperception of our industry. Each character fits a particular element of the stereotype, and does so in an exaggerated way. In that way we are communicating the idea that if you have to trust someone at a time when you really need to, than why would you go to a bail agent whom wasn’t endorsed by the nation’s only bail brand, ExpertBail. Or as we say in our big pay off tagline, “Why rely on an Amateur when you can trust an Expert.”
Just as with ExpertBail, the AmateurBail campaign is being presented with both online (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) and offline tactics (outdoor billboards, bar coasters, etc.).
When you think of the target audience for bail, it is really hard to pinpoint one type of person. The reality of bail is that everyone is a potential customer. Okay, yes there might be people who are more prone to getting in trouble, but all in all, needing bail is not something you ever think about needing until you unfortunately do. That is why we have tried to keep our communications at a level and speak across multiple cultures and demographics. That being said, we also understand the importance of the brand being able to speak directly to specific cultures as well. That is why we have made sure to highlight the diverse nature of our agents to show a true multicultural network that is a cross section of every community and demographic. We are currently developing and testing a Spanish version of expertbail.com along with a Spanish version of the commercial to gauge the acceptance of a more culturally focused communication.
In only 6 months, the brand has grown tremendously. The real stories and honesty of the brand has created what we think are real differentiators in the category. Website traffic is up month over month, phone calls are up as well…but the real testament to the quick success of our approach has been the handful phone calls that we have received from people who said they were told by their loved one who was in jail to call ExpertBail…that is the true power of a brand.
The most important takeaways from this particular case study are first, that story telling is an extremely valuable medium for challenging a misperception. Second, that social media can be a successful tactic for any business (heck, if a bail bond company can get 4000 fans, anyone can). Last, that an integrated approach to marketing is essential in today’s marketing environment. With so many tactics available to marketers, it is more important now than ever to create clear and consistent linkages between them so as to appear seamless to your audiences.
Eric Granof joined AIA/ExpertBail in 2009. As chief marketing officer, Eric is responsible for developing and executing a number of marketing initiatives for the company. Additionally, Eric works with and provides guidance to AIA’s family of agents in the area of marketing.