“Remember to honk when you drive by Vern Fonk.”

If you live in Washington or Oregon you probably never thought you’d see that phrase here. Because while Vern Fonk offers commercial insurance, it’s known for its bargain basement advertising targeting tough-to-insure drivers—mostly on cable, often at night.

Their brand is low budget in all ways. Go to their website and you’ll see something straight out of WebsitesThatSuck.com. Bad Photoshop, typos, usability issues—you name it, the site has it.

So how did a company with marketing that’s so bad end up in the venerated pages of The Responsible Marketing Blog?

Well, somewhere along the way, Vern Fonk realized that with their target audience, schlocky sells. And instead of trying to upgrade their brand, they decided to have some fun and just go for it. Every ad is over the top and totally homespun, and some are actually entertaining:

They are doing a number of things right:

    • The ads are highly creative (in a sophomoric way)
    • They’ve bought plenty of media to raise and maintain awareness, in the right places at the right times
    • The ads are driving word-of-mouth
    • By being cartoonish, they are avoiding some scrutiny – it’s clear they are just having fun
    • They haven’t tried to class-up their ads—that would actually be off-brand

They have dozens of ads on YouTube, and most have received thousands of views. The ad above had been viewed over 100,000 times and was even spoofed by Fox12 News in Oregon:

The lesson here is that it doesn’t always take a huge budget to create marketing that works. It takes an understanding of your target audience, a ton of creativity, and the nerve to try something others won’t.

After all, everyone in the market knows Vern Fonk. And that ain’t so bad, is it?

What do you think?

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