Archive for October, 2010

Travelers Ad Laughable–For All the Wrong Reasons

October 27th, 2010

If you click on this TV ad (and haven’t read the title of this post or looked at the logo above!), I’m guessing that for the first 20 seconds you’ll be thinking something like,”I know I’ve seen this ad several times, but for the life of me I can’t remember what the point is or who the advertiser is.”

Why do ad agencies create advertising that is so hard to understand?  Don’t they get that their audience has better things to do than to decipher the clues and connect the dots that they’ve so cleverly (or not) provided?  The fact is that unless you’re an advertising geek like me, you won’t even bother to try.  Instead, you’ll turn the channel, pick up a magazine, converse with whomever else is in the room, daydream–anything but exert the effort required to unravel their convoluted ad.

If you were to watch this ad with the sound off (and it’s not much better with the sound on), there’s absolutely no way you’d know the ad is saying that Travelers will make sure your damaged car will be repaired using the right replacement parts.  In fact, there’s no way you’d know the commercial is for an insurance company, or that it has anything to do with automobiles.

Unfortunately, the agency–and presumably the client–fell in love with the idea of using computer-generated imagery (CGI) of a rabbit laughing hysterically at a snake with a rattle tied to its tail.  As entertainment this is mediocre, and as advertising it’s downright pathetic.

A few years ago Travelers had an infinitely better campaign that creatively used its distinctive red umbrella to reinforce the notion that Travelers provides numerous types of protection.  It also left absolutely no doubt that Travelers is the brand being advertised.

I’d be shocked if the people who produced and approved that campaign are the same ones involved with the current ad.  Either way, I’d say it’s time for the current Travelers ad to hit the road.

Cheez-It Advertising Shows Great Maturity

October 24th, 2010

As you might have deduced, I detest ads that are confusing, boring and afraid to tell you the name of the brand being advertised.  I also detest food advertising that doesn’t attempt to make your mouth water.  Refreshingly, this TV campaign from Cheez-It commits none of these sins; the ads are simple, entertaining and appetizing, and the Cheez-It brand is all over the place.  I especially like the fact that, unlike the typical light beer commercial, the humor isn’t gratuitous; it revolves around the product’s primary benefit–its big cheese taste.

As an extra bonus, this campaign doesn’t waste money on distracting big-budget special effects.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they produced five or six commercials in a single shoot.

There aren’t many in the team picture of campaigns that are able to find a simple, entertaining way to communicate both why the product is special and what the brand is.  But when they snap the photo, I hope the photographer tells everyone, “Say Cheez-It!”

With Southwest, Bags–and Gags–Fly Free

October 6th, 2010

Today I enjoyed the services of one of my “hero companies”:  Southwest Airlines.  Hero companies are those that do virtually everything well:  great products, great service, great people, great marketing.  There aren’t many companies on the list; Apple and Starbucks are definitely on it, and so is Southwest.

Southwest is one of the most underrated businesses of all time in my opinion.  For them to be the most (and often the only) profitable airline year after year after year is nothing short of amazing, particularly when you consider that they do it despite charging extremely low fares.  I also love the fact that they’ve further separated themselves by refusing to charge for bags while their competitors nickle and dime their customers–and their brand equity–to death.

But what might best differentiate Southwest from the competition is not only the way they motivate their employees, but the way the leverage their employees’ morale to enhance the customer experience.

I shot the above photos today with my Blackberry in the jetway  of my plane as I was boarding a flight from Chicago to Denver.  The life-size photos of Southwest employees smiling and waving at you made for a very warm and surprising welcome.  And what was particularly impressive was how genuine the smile was on each and every person.  I found myself thinking, “Man, these people really love working for this company.”  And then I found myself smiling too, which is not something I’m used to doing when I board an airplane.

And it didn’t stop there.  From takeoff to landing, the flight attendants and the flight crew were engaging and smart…and very funny.  After reciting the mandatory instructions about how to use the flotation device in the event of a “water landing” (my all-time favorite euphemism, BTW), the flight attendant added, “So you can just paddle around until the Coast Guard arrives.”  He then took us through the oxygen mask drill, telling us that if you’re traveling with a child, you should put your mask on first before putting the mask on the child.  He then added, “And if you’re traveling with two children–(dramatic pause)–pick whichever one you think has the most potential.”

Both jokes were delivered with impeccable timing.  And both were non-politically correct, which fits perfectly with the image of a company whose brilliant former CEO Herb Kelleher was known for chain-smoking, swigging Wild Turkey, and publicly arm-wrestling his fellow CEOs.  This is a company with an attitude–and a very infectious one at that!

A big part of making customers loyal to your brand is getting them to think of the brand in personal terms, to feel like they know and like the people behind the brand, and to believe that those people care sincerely about their happiness.  That can be hard to pull off when you’re a manufacturer, but when you’re in the service business, you have hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of opportunities each day to have your employees build your brand equity with every customer encounter.

Unfortunately, very few service companies get that, but Southwest Airlines certainly does.  And that’s why their brand equity continues to fly as high as their shareholders equity.

Bing Needs to Search for Better Advertising

October 3rd, 2010

Over the years Microsoft has developed a well-earned reputation for being an exceptionally mediocre advertiser.  Even though its recent Windows 7 advertising represents an improvement over the company’s prior efforts (remember the embarrassing and mercifully short-lived effort starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld?), Microsoft advertising has generally exhibited microscopic amounts of creativity.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine appears to suffer from the same advertising affliction as its parent company.  Add this  TV commercial to the list of thousands of commercials you’ve seen repeatedly without knowing who the advertiser is or what the point of the ad is supposed to be.

I’m not exactly going out on a limb to say that an ad should reflect the character of the product or service being advertised.  One of the features that’s most important in a search engine is simplicity. So even if you’re smart and patient enough to decipher that this commercial is for a search engine, its convoluted and disconnected communications can only lead you to expect that you’d have anything but a user-friendly experience at www.bing.com. The truth is that Bing is actually a pretty good product–I use Bing Images all the time–but you’d never know it from its advertising.

Maybe it’s time for Microsoft to search for a new ad agency.  I’m sure they could find one using Google–or perhaps that other new search engine.  Oh, what’s its name again?  I think I just saw an ad for it…It’s right on the tip of my tongue…

Sun Mountain Needs to Get Out of the Sun

October 3rd, 2010

Any golfers looking for a good price on rain gear will probably find plenty of half-price sales on the Sun Mountain line.

In case you’re not a golf fan, Sun Mountain outfitted the U.S. team with rain gear (jackets and pants) for the 2010 Ryder Cup competition against the European team.  As might be expected for early October in Wales, Sun Mountain got a wonderful chance to show off the performance of its product when it rained heavily on the first day of the event.  There was only one problem:  rather than repel the rain, the Sun Mountain rain gear actually absorbed it.  This led to understandable complaints from the American players that it was affecting their play, which was of course reported extensively by the TV and other worldwide media covering the competition.  To add fuel to the fire–or water to the flood–the American team went to the pro shop at the Celtic Manor club hosting the event and purchased the ProQuip brand rain gear worn by the European team–complete with the European team logo.

Normally it would be quite a coup for a golf product brand to get its line selected for use in the sport’s most-watched global event. Such product placement can have more impact and generate more exposure than millions of dollars worth of advertising.  But that assumes one thing:  that your product actually works.  If it doesn’t, it’s a disaster of monumental proportions.

As the owner of a marketing agency, I naturally have a deep appreciation for brilliant marketing initiatives.  However, the first rule of smart marketing is to make sure you have a product that works–ideally, one that works better than any of your competitors’.

Shame on Team USA for not doing its due diligence and making sure that the waterproof gear it selected was, you know, waterproof.  And shame on Sun Mountain for turning a potential marketing coup into a certifiable Waterloo.