Archive for October, 2009

Crown Royal Advertising Fit for a Pauper

October 15th, 2009

My first real exposure to Seagram’s Crown Royal came in 1981, when I was informed that a bottle of this precious commodity would be the appropriate compensation to Father Lehman for officiating at our wedding in Bemidji, Minnesota. A few years later, when I was living in California and working in the wine and spirits business, we conducted a blind taste test in which Crown Royal was determined to be the smoothest of all the premium spirits in the market. Since then, “Crown Royal on the Rocks” has always been my brown spirit of choice. I love the flavor, and on top of that, I’ve always been a big fan of their packaging, particularly their distinctive label, bottle shape and “purple marble bag.”

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was last night when I saw a curiously low-brow Crown Royal TV commercial featuring a young man playing pool, first with his buddies and then with his father. The tagline of the commercial, which has apparently been on the air for at least six months, makes great sense: “For every king, a mentor. For every king, a crown. Crown Royal.” What I object to–from a strategic marketing standpoint–is the pool theme. I know the economy is tough, but if Crown Royal wants to associate itself with a sport, it should be golf or sailing. A pool-themed ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon or Gordon’s Gin would probably work, but for Crown Royal it’s a total miscue.

What’s worse–and I know this is going to sound obnoxious–the father comes across as, well, a guy who hangs around pool halls. He might be a fun guy, but with his low-rent attire and greasy hair, he’s hardly the kind of guy you’d expect to be drinking Crown Royal. And I doubt that he’s the kind of guy that many viewers–at least the ones who can afford Crown Royal–will want to emulate.

I can only assume that the target of the campaign is people who aren’t drinking Crown Royal now. But since these people are presumably less well-to-do than current Crown Royal consumers, the state of the economy means that stepping up to Crown Royal is less affordable than ever for this target. As a result, I’d be shocked if this campaign has attracted many new users, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s turned off more than a few long-time loyal customers.

A tagline referencing the word “king”–twice, no less–is a smart way to reinforce Crown Royal’s brand equity. But associating the brand with the sport of pool was a king-sized mistake.

Lowe’s Deserves High Marks for Latest Ad

October 5th, 2009

Any advertiser wishing to advertise low prices while still protecting its brand equity could learn a lesson from the latest Lowe’s TV commercial.

The ad creatively shows a variety of situations in which a t-shaped item (like an upside-down push broom sticking out of a shopping cart in a Lowe’s parking lot) is placed to the right of the Lowe’s logo, thus creating the word “Lowest”. The ad features several of these shots, each of which is clever and even mildly entertaining, while reinforcing Lowe’s claim of offering the lowest prices available.

The beauty of this advertising is that it registers the Lowe’s brand repeatedly throughout the commercial, which is in stark contrast to the typical commercial that seems almost embarrassed to show or say the advertiser’s name. Moreover, the cleverness of the ad reflects very favorably on Lowe’s’ image.

From a strategic standpoint, I never like to see a marketer hyping low prices, as there will always be someone to come along and undercut your prices and hence your strategy. Still, if that is the strategy you’ve chosen, it’s essential that you do everything possible to protect your brand equity and let people know that you stand for more than just cheap prices. And in that regard, Lowe’s has set the bar very high.

Close, But No “Aha!”

October 3rd, 2009

Have you seen the TV ads from “the proud sponsor of the ‘aha’ moment”?  If you have, do you know whose ads they are? I’m guessing you don’t. 

I’ll end the suspense: the advertiser is Mutual of Omaha. Unfortunately, their advertising represents a bad execution of a good strategy. I’m a big fan of marketing communications–logos, taglines, ad designs, etc.–that are “ownable”, meaning that they can be uniquely tied to your brand.  This concept has the potential to be that, as “aha” composes the last two syllables in “Omaha”.  However, the ads don’t make this clear; I had to see the ad at least a dozen times before I figured it out…and I’m someone who can’t watch, see or hear an ad without proactively looking for clever wordplays.

In fairness to Mutual of Omaha, when they display their logo at the very end of the commercial, the “aha” part of “Omaha” is highlighted. But it’s much too subtle and much too late.  These ads should make it crystal clear from the very beginning that “aha” comes from the word “Omaha” by using a powering and interesting visual device, such as first showing the word “aha” and then adding “Mutual of Om” in front of it. Whatever the device, they should repeat it again at the end of the commercial. It also would help to have a verbal device, such as a line like “Bring your ‘aha’ to Omaha,” or “We put the ‘aha’ in ‘Omaha’.”

Such devices can sometimes be a little hokey, but isnt’ it better to be hokey and get noticed than to be so subtle that your audience doesn’t get it?