Archive for January, 2010

Black Not the Right Color for Aruba

January 25th, 2010

My favorite word–at least in a marketing context–is “provocative.” When you think about it, that’s really what marketing is all about: provoking a target audience to pay attention and respond to your story. Sometimes you have to take chances to be provocative, and on occasion that can mean doing something that’s completely unexpected.

That’s clearly what the ad agency for the island of Aruba is trying to do with its TV campaign featuring the comedian Lewis Black. The campaign shows Mr. Black complaining about things most people would consider to be Aruba’s assets: the white beaches and clear blue water that make it difficult to concentrate on work; the friendly people who smile at you endlessly; the bright, sunny ambience that removes all excuses for being depressed.

I can just imagine the agency’s pitch: “All the Caribbean islands’ ads look the same. So we want to take a different approach–Instead of showing people talking about how nice Aruba is, we’re going to show a curmudgeon complaining that Aruba is too nice!”

While I have to give them at least some props for taking a novel approach, the ads don’t quite work for me–and I’m a big fan of Aruba as well as Lewis Black’s ranting style of humor. The main problem is that the ads just aren’t all that funny. I find myself straining to find the punchline that never seems to arrive, and asking myself, “Why couldn’t they have found a better way to utilize his talents?” And I would think that viewers who aren’t aware of Mr. Black must be asking themselves, “Who is this guy, and if Aruba’s so great, why isn’t he enjoying himself?”

Ads should never make their target audience work this hard to get whatever point they’re trying to make. A much simpler–and potentially funnier–approach would be to show how Aruba turned the world’s biggest curmudgeon into a smiling, laughing, sunny optimist. Contrast cranky Lewis on the streets of New York with life-loving Lewis on the beaches of Aruba. It’s a simple idea, but simple is good–and Lewis Black could make it fresh and, well, provocative.

The Aruba campaign’s tagline is, “90,000 friends you haven’t met yet.” I say show Aruba transforming Lewis Black into someone you’d want to hang with, and then change the line to, “90,001 friends you haven’t met yet.”

It Doesn’t Get Better Than…Oscar Mayer’s New Ad Campaign

January 19th, 2010

Few food brands have a more impressive marketing legacy than Oscar Mayer. Their iconic “Weinermobile” was one of the first and most memorable marketing vehicles ever (literally). The company has been quite innovative over the years in the area of new product development. And the brand was supported by decades of Baby Boomer-pleasing advertising, including the classic “Oh, I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Weiner” campaign in the 1960s and the charming bologna commercial in 1973. Since then, however, the brand’s advertising hasn’t seemed nearly as memorable or provocative, perhaps in part because the brand was swallowed up by marketing monolith Kraft Foods decades ago.

Now, however, Oscar Mayer has just launched a very appealing television campaign that just might be the best thing the company has done in thirty-some years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the ad online, but I did find a link to its infectious song, called “It Doesn’t Get Better Than This” . The tune is also the theme song for Oscar Mayer’s Good Mood Mission Campaign, which admirably is donating huge quantities of food to non-profit Feeding America.

As regular readers know, one of my pet peeves is advertising agencies that are somehow ashamed to showcase the products that are paying their salaries. This campaign, however, shows numerous vignettes of people–mostly children–eating and having fun with a variety of Oscar Mayer products. This, coupled with the wise inclusion of the ever-popular Weinermobile, makes is impossible to miss the fact that Oscar Mayer is the brand making your eyes twinkle and your mouth water.

It’s also refreshing that the ad doesn’t plagiarize past Oscar Mayer ads. It is its own creation, and a very entertaining one at that. In fact, it was very much in its element when it debuted on “The Golden Globes,” and it will be an even better fit when–I can only assume–it airs on “The Oscars” next month.

Blue Moon’s “Artfully Crafted” Is, Well, Artfully Crafted

January 10th, 2010

For the past few years, one of my favorite beers has been Blue Moon, a Belgian-style, unfiltered wheat beer brewed by Molson Coors Brewing in Golden, Colorado. If I had to come up with a two-word description of its flavor, it would be “distinctively refreshing.” And that’s also a fitting description for Blue Moon’s new TV commercial, “Artfully Crafted”.

This commercial is literally a work of art, one of the most visually creative and pleasing spots I’ve seen in years. Its brilliance lies in the fact that it focuses on the special ingredients that go into the beer–so much so, in fact, that half-way through the commercial I was almost literally savoring this brew’s unique flavor. This commercial could only work for Blue Moon; if you put any other beer in its place, it just wouldn’t ring true.

Not only is this the perfect ad for the product, the ad appeared on the perfect show: Anthony Bourdain’s exceptional “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. The show already had my wife and me making plans for what we were going to have for dinner tonight (Indian food), and once “Artfully Crafted” aired, I also knew what beverage I’d be choosing to accompany that dinner.

In fact, as I’m typing this, one question enters my mind: Is 3:30 too early for dinner?

An Easy Solution to a Tough Naming Problem, By Gum!

January 6th, 2010

Most of my posts involve rating an ad or some other marketing initiative, but on occasion I’ll use this space to float an idea. The impetus for my latest idea is today’s news report that the new owner of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family, is seriously exploring the possibility of selling the naming rights to the Cubs’ stadium, which for years has been known as Wrigley Field.

Given what they shelled out for a team with a big payroll that fans would like to see get even bigger, the family can hardly be blamed for turning over every stone of opportunity in search of incremental revenues. But this naming rights situation could easily become stickier than a well-chewed piece of Juicy Fruit.

After all, many die-hard Cubs fans are at least as loyal to the ivy-covered “Friendly Confines” as they are the team itself; changing the name of this venerable structure won’t sit well with these folks. What’s more, they’ll likely take it out not only on the Ricketts family, but on whatever company signs on to put its brand over the door to the joint. (Many Chicagoans still call White Sox stadium “Comiskey Park” instead of “U.S. Cellular Field”, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who refers to the former Sears Tower as “Willis Tower.”) And all of this means that any company contemplating a deal with the Ricketts family will value the rights much lower than if they didn’t have to worry about offending the Cubs fan base.

Fortunately, I have a very obvious solution to this tricky dilemma. After minutes of thorough and painstaking study, I’ve come up with a company that could buy the naming rights without offending one single member of Cub Nation. It’s a well-known, iconic brand that’s as American as apple pie and, well, baseball. In fact, its products are already sold at this ballpark and virtually every ballpark in the country.

The company: Wrigley.

Admittedly, after having its name adorn the stadium for the past 83 years at no charge–since Wrigley owned the team for much of that period–Wrigley (or its new parent company, Mars) might not savor the notion of suddenly having to write a check for that privilege. But they have to recognize that there is some benefit in having your brand name associated with one of the most popular sports franchises in the world, and they should be willing to pay a fair price for that benefit. In fact, given that Wrigley is the only company in the world who could purchase the naming rights without upsetting fans, these rights are actually worth more to Wrigley than they would be to anyone else.

I would suggest that the Cubs and Wrigley agree on an objective third party to determine the fair market value of the naming rights based on what other sponsors have paid for naming rights across the country, and then have Wrigley’s price be two-thirds of that figure. This way, Wrigley can feel good about getting a healthy discount, and the Ricketts family can sleep at night knowing they have more money in the bank as well as an unruffled fan base.

Now that I’ve solved that problem, I’m ready to tackle a slightly larger one: what it will take for the Cubs to win their first World Series in 102 years.

Domino’s: “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”

January 3rd, 2010

In past posts I’ve railed against advertisers who take potshots at their competitors, but this will be the first time I’ve criticized an advertiser for taking a potshot at itself.

I’m still shaking my head after seeing a Domino’s commercial in which Domino’s employees admit that their customers have complained that their crust “tasted like cardboard” and their sauce “was like ketchup”. At first I assumed this was a Pizza Hut or Papa John’s commercial–which would have been bad enough–but when I realized it was a Domino’s commercial, you could have knocked me over with a lukewarm Cheesy Bread. To make matters worse, the cavalier way the employees make their admissions conveys a sense of, “Can you believe the kind of crap we’ve been serving you all these years? What were we thinking?”

When the commercial goes on to claim that Domino’s has seen the error of its ways, I found myself thinking, “Uh, you’ve been knowingly lying to me all these years about how wonderful your pizza is, and now you want me to believe you when you say you’ve greatly improved your quality?”

To be fair, the ad does go on to put its money where its mouth is by offering a special low price and a money-back guarantee. But I’d be a lot more anxious to give their new pizza a try if the first part of the commercial showed real people credibly raving about the product, or used some clever, creative communications that made we think, “Wow, that must be one great-tasting pizza!”

This Domino’s commercial reinforces two major rules about marketing:
1. Don’t ever admit that your product stinks.
2. Don’t ever market a product that stinks.

The good news is that if you obey the second rule, you’ll never have to worry about the first one.

A Better Route for the Smile Train?

January 3rd, 2010

By all accounts, Smile Train, which is dedicated to treating children suffering from cleft lips and palates, is a very honorable and well-run charity. It seems to me, however, that this organization could be even more successful if they took a different approach to their advertising.

For the past year or two, it has been rare to pick up a magazine without seeing a Smile Train ad with one or more heartbreaking–and painfully graphic–photos of third world children afflicted with cleft lips or palates. From a purely marketing standpoint, I think there are two problems with this approach. First, the photos are, quite frankly, very difficult to look at. In fact, I suspect that many readers quickly turn the page to avoid confronting them. Second, if you do look at the photos, the children’s conditions are so severe that it makes you wonder if anything can be done to meaningfully improve things.

In my view, Smile Train should use the tried-and-true “before and after” approach to show prospective donors just what an impact their contributions can have. I say this not just based on intuition; rather, it’s based on a conversation I had with an executive with Children’s Miracle Network when I was VP of Marketing for CMN sponsor Dial Corp in the early 1990s. At the time, CMN was raising almost twice as much money from its annual telethon as was being raised by the better-known Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. The organizers of CMN firmly believed that a big reason for their superior fund-raising record was the fact that while Jerry Lewis’s approach was to generate sympathy by parading his sick kids in front the the cameras, CMN chose to showcase “success stories.” These stories generally took the form of videos that started by showing a child just after he or she was stricken with a devastating and seemingly hopeless illness or accident and ended by showing the same child in a much-improved and often completely healthy state following treatment at a CMN-affiliated hospital.

In other words, if you want someone to donate to your cause–or buy your product or service–don’t just show the problem; show the solution as well. That’s a rule that makes sense for any marketer, and that I don’t know why it wouldn’t make sense for Smile Train as well.

In fact, when your name is Smile Train, doesn’t it make sense to have your ads show a smiling passenger?

Zero Rates a Fourteen

January 2nd, 2010

Blogging about the Coke Zero ad campaign probably isn’t the most timely thing to do, as it’s been on the air for around two years. However, the campaign remains as fresh as ever; in fact, I just saw the Troy Palamolu ad that first aired 11 months ago and found it as entertaining and compelling as the first time I saw it.

There are two reasons I’m a fan of this campaign. First, as a former brand manager (for Dial Soap), I get a kick out of having two brand managers as the stars of the campaign. Second, and much more important, I admire Coca Cola’s cojones in having its flagship brand–the corporation’s golden goose–be the ostensible bad guy in the campaign.

In several prior posts, I’ve been a passionate critic of ads that attack the competition. They tend to make the advertiser look like a cheap-shot artist, and they give the competitor valuable attention. In fact, the worst of these ads can confuse viewers to the point that they often think the brand being attacked is the brand doing the advertising. As a result, the competitor often benefits as much as–or more than–the advertiser.

Of course, when the brand being attacked–Coca Cola in this case–is the advertiser’s flagship brand, you’re advertising two brands for the price of one. And what better way to make people think that Coke Zero tastes just like Coca Cola than to show Coca Cola’s brand managers being furious that, well, Coke Zero tastes just like Coca Cola?

Not only that, the Troy Palamolu ad takes it a step further by parodying–very humorously yet respectfully–perhaps the most famous ad in Coca Cola’s history.

Not to be ignored in all of this is the fact that Coke Zero does in fact taste more like Coca Cola than any diet cola I’ve ever tasted. I even like the brand name, particularly the fact that it doesn’t contain the words “diet” like all of its competitors.

A great product plus a great name plus a great ad campaign adds up to anything but zero.