Archive for June, 2010

Slimy Spirit Skids on an Oil Slick

June 28th, 2010

I’ve always suspected that one could make a bunch of money shorting the stocks of companies with really bad marketing, the theory being that if they’re screwing up their marketing, they’re probably screwing up a lot of other things.  I’m also thinking that a good company to put that theory to the test would be Spirit Airlines, because it would be just about impossible to screw up your marketing more than these yahoos have.

Several months ago Spirit kindly gave me fodder for a blog post after they had the idiocy to innovate the concept of charging customers for their carry-on bags.  And now, perhaps somehow determining that I was struggling for a topic for another post, they’ve deployed a new online ad campaign that exploits the tragic fate being experienced by the beaches–not to mention the people–of the Louisiana gulf.

As this Ad Age story illustrates, Spirit’s new campaign unconscionably urges viewers to “Check out the oil on our beaches,” Spirit’s “oil” being suntan lotion donned by bathing beauties on the beaches of Mexico and other locations served by Spirit.  One look at these ads raises the same question raised by Spirit’s April announcement about its carry-on fee: “Who in God’s name is  calling the shot’s at this place?!?!” Perhaps the CEO summoned his VP  of Marketing and said, “You know, I don’t think people hate us quite enough any more. I think it’s time we made fun of  the devastation happening down there in Idaho or wherever they had that oil spill thingy.”

I should caution you that I’m not an investment expert, so you probably should think twice about following my advice about shorting Spirit’s stock. In the same spirit of full disclosure, I’m not an aviation expert–but I don’t expect to be boarding any planes bearing the Spirit logo any time soon.

The Dawn of a Brilliant Idea

June 21st, 2010

It turns out that one good thing can be associated with the otherwise disastrous BP oil spill:  a brilliant TV commercial by Dawn dish detergent.  What Procter & Gamble has pulled off is truly amazing:  they’ve leveraged a national disaster, reinforced their brand’s reason-for-being, and done so in a way that doesn’t feel the least bit exploitative. On the contrary, it feels downright altruistic.

Since its inception, Dawn’s primary benefit has always been its ability to cut through grease, and in recent years its advertising has pushed gentleness as a secondary benefit.  What better way to illustrate this “tough on grease yet gentle” positioning than showing Dawn being used to remove oil from ducklings and baby otters?  And what better–and more timely–way to support a worthy cause than to donate proceeds from Dawn’s sales to cleaning up the gulf?

I must admit that the luster of this ad diminished slightly when I learned that it’s been running off-and-on for almost a year; in other words, it wasn’t created as a result of the BP oil spill.  It turns out that Dawn has been used to clean endangered wildlife following other less catastrophic and less publicized oil spills.  Still, I think it took courage for P&G to run this commercial now, given the risk that some people would charge them with greedily capitalizing on the gulf’s misfortunes.  And had this commercial been created will less sophistication, less warmth or less sensitivity, it could easily have come across badly.  This clearly was not the case, however, and the decision-makers at P&G were able to recognize this spot as the masterful piece of communication that it is.

I can’t remember when I’ve seen a marketing initiative that makes you feel so good about a brand and its parent company while simultaneously powering home its unique selling proposition.  I guess it just never dawned on me that such a thing was possible.

Mac & Cheese Sculpture Hits It Out of the Park–Literally!

June 18th, 2010

Even when I was running the marketing departments  of big corporations and had access to eight-figure marketing budgets, I questioned the value of paying big bucks simply to have one of my brand logos grace the wall of an arena or ballpark.  I’ve always felt that merely exposing a logo does very little for you, that you need to be tell your story or somehow deliver a richer and more meaningful experience to your target audience. And that’s why I think Kraft‘s new “noodle” sculpture outside Chicago’s Wrigley Field is a real winner (a word with which Wrigley Field has rarely been associated throughout its 95 years).

The sculpture is generating more buzz than those obnoxious Vuvuzela horns at the World Cup.  (Click  news story to see an example of the coverage.)  Of course, part of the coverage is due to the fact that some Cub fans are outraged and insulted by the presence of a “noodle” outside the  venerable Friendly Confines.  But a little controversy can be a good thing, and in this case it appears that the majority of fans are “pro-noodle.”  (When you think about it, the Cubs should be thrilled to have a distraction from the fact that they’re in the midst of yet another lovably losing season.)

What I especially love about this publicity initiative is that Kraft had the guts–and smarts–to avoid splashing a logo on the sculpture.  Instead, the sculpture carries only the words “You know you love it,” which is the tagline for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  In fact, when you Google “You know you love it,” the first entry you see takes you to their website.  And when you go there, you see a graphic that is strikingly similar to the Wrigley Field sculpture.

Sorry, but I have to go now; I have a sudden craving for some Mac & Cheese!

KLM Publicity Stunt Pure Magic

June 15th, 2010

Recently, KLM launched their new Economy Comfort seating in an extremely creative way: by having Dutch levitation guru Ramana perform a magical stunt at major airports served by the airline.  Check out this hard-to-believe video.

As impressive as the video is–and I suspect that millions of people will eventually view it–think how impressive it must have been for the hundreds of thousands of people who saw the stunt in person!  And keep in mind that almost half of those people just got off an airplane that gave them a fraction of the legroom being demonstrated by Ramana.

The impact of a marketing message is often due as much to the environment in which the message is received as to the message itself.  In this case, the marriage of message and environment could not have been more perfect–or more magical!

Audi Says “Haudi!” to Excellent Customer Service

June 1st, 2010

Your brand is much more a function of what you do than what you say about yourself.  And there’s no more powerful way to affect your brand–either positively or negatively–than through your customer service.

I’ve been driving my Audi A4 Cabriolet–very happily–for seven years.  When I bought the car, the dealer–The Audi Exchange in Highland Park, IL–asked if I wanted my license plates on the front and back or just the back.  I hadn’t realized that the latter option even existed, but they pointed out that front plates weren’t required in Illinois.  As someone who generally prefers a very clean look, I took the “back only” option.

Unfortunately, at some point over the past several years, the city of Chicago–where I often go for both business and recreational reasons–started ticketing vehicles without front plates.  But when I recently asked the Audi Exchange to install my front plates, I was initially told that the installation bracket that would be required would cost about $280.  When I explained my situation to the service manager and pointed out that I wouldn’t have been charged for the bracket had I had the front plates installed when I bought the car, he smiled and said, “That’s a fair point.  Okay, the brackets are on us.”

That was it. No haggling.  No complaining that I’d bought the car seven years ago.  No running to the general manager for approval.  He simply did the right thing and treated a customer fairly.  In a perfect world, that wouldn’t be newsworthy, but in an age when so many companies fail to empower their employees to make decisions that will make customers feel truly valued, this experience was a very refreshing.

The result is that I’m more loyal than ever to Audi in general and The Audi Exchange in particular.  In fact, I’m so loyal I might even write a blog post about it!