Name That Problem!

Hi all,

Sorry for the absence, skiing out west and the recovery time afterwards took me away from my keyboard. Wanted to touch on one of my favorite psychological principles of advertising: labeling a commonly known occurrence or characteristic makes it more relevant.

A century ago, bad breath was just something that happened, it wasn’t seen as a by-product of poor dental hygiene nor was it something to be ashamed of. Enter Listerine and now-defunct agency Lambert and Feasley. Enter the name HALITOSIS (Latin ‘halitus’ meaning ‘breath’, and Greek suffix ‘osis’ meaning ”cirrosis of the liver.’) Was bad breath something to be constantly monitored and avoided? Maybe not. But HALITOSIS sure was. The term, which can now be found in Webster’s dictionary, stigmatized bad breath and made mouthwash a very relevant product.

Most recently, The Martin Agency have leveraged the same principle for Hanes with ‘Bacon Neck.‘ Don’t you hate it when your undershirt is sagging and wrinkled? Well now you have a name for that! And a new undershirt brand.

The Girl Store (literally)

Unfortunately I don’t have time today to give this great work by StrawberryFrog the write-up it deserves, but I’ll briefly highlight why I like it so much. Before reading further, click this link and experience it. Notice the copy “Buy a girl her life back.”

Here’s what I like:

1) It’s unexpected. If you know you are going to a NPO website, it spares you the normal desperate and emotional plea. If you think you are going to a site that sells girl things, you are obviously taken aback.

2) Tangible. You see (presumably) the actual girls you are helping and the actual ways your donations help them. Even better, the site shows a visual of the objects each girl has already received through donations and what more is needed before the girl can be sent “off to school.” It’s a better version of one of these. One of the insights leveraged here are that people donate more and more often when they are asked to help only one individual (The fact that 1,XXX,XXX girls are being sold into slavery each year is too overwhelming, we think we can’t help (read more on this.)) People also donate more and more often when they see others are donating (which they see when a girl’s support has been somewhat accounted for by previous donors.)

I would love to dive deeper into this as well as the recent avalanche of great pro-bono work, but creatives are calling. Comments welcome!

Service brands make products tangible

People don’t like abstract things. Abstract things are difficult to think about, imagine, and visualize. While sitting in the drone-like state that is most common while watching television commercials, our brains are even more likely to reject complex and intangible ideas. Think financial services and insurance.

Service marketers are thus at a disadvantage from the get-go. Its relatively easy to visualize or feel the crunch of a cereal or the smoothness of a face cream. For most people, it is more difficult to do the same for a rollover 401-k or auto insurance. Here are two recent examples of marketers who have understood this difficulty and saw it as an opportunity. Both campaigns happen to be created by Arnold Worldwide.

Fidelity Investments: “Turn Here” Instead of a big, long, confusing, daunting mix of interest rates and options, Fidelity provides you with a nice neat little green path you can follow to the retirement promised land.

Progressive Insurance: “Flo” While Flo may seem like the star of these spots, the huge frequency in which these spots are aired mean the sometimes-subtle “boxes” of insurance is also a strong driver.

Did Chrysler create sales or just goosebumps with “Imported From Detroit” SB XLV Ad?

Maybe the ad getting the most positive buzz this Super Bowl Monday is Wieden + Kennedy’s “Imported From Detroit” spot. The 2-minute ad took up an entire 3rd quarter commercial break ($12 million) and cost a cool $9 million to produce.

While I won’t claim to be a life-long Detroiter, I did spend 4 of my years in the area and the ad definitely made me tingle with pride and goosebumps. I’ll put it right up there with Allstate for my favorite recession/bounceback emotional plea. As I sit here debating the ad’s effectiveness, I am thoroughly stumped. I guess I’ll toss out my two arguments and let you decide.

Argument 1: Awesome!!!

Its hard to say any ad that was in front of 1 billion eyes for two whole minutes and received overwhelming praise was ineffective. The ad seemed uncannily authentic- W+K nailed the sentiment that Detroiters are tough-as-nails and damned proud of where they are from. There is certainly no “woe is me” attitude in Detroit. America also loves a comeback story, and this spot had three (!): Detroit, Chrysler, and Detroit-bred Eminem (who just released a critically acclaimed album after his Relapse disaster.) And while everyone may not remember that it was a Chrysler the rapper was driving, they will at least remember that he was driving American (which can’t hurt Chrysler.)

Argument 2: Emotional, but where’s the sell?

Would the ad still resonate if we replaced the car with a Ford? Yes. How about a Dodge Charger? Yes. Maybe even a Silverado? Possibly. While Chrysler would like you to believe that the Chrysler 200 (the car in the ad) is a luxury automobile, the Chrysler brand is a far way from meaning “luxury” to consumers. In addition, while W+K executed much better than others, projecting an American persona on American-made cars is nothing new. We currently have Jeep’s “The Things we Make Make Us” (also W+K) and Chevy’s “Chevy runs deep” (Goodby, Silverstein & Partners).

So, America, pretend it was your $20 million (haha, it is!) Was it worth it?

It’s not all about your product (Part I)

In this two part post, I’ll explain how the most successful pieces of advertising don’t mention much about the product.

Part I: It’s not what it is, its who uses it.

In 1951, Ad-man David Ogilvy and the Hathaway Shirt Company achieved legendary status with the unveiling of The Man in the Hathaway Shirt ad campaign. The ads were unusual in that the focus wasn’t on the shirt, but on the man wearing them. The man had a kind of regal mystery to him, complete with an eye patch for added interest and unforgetability.

The Man in the Hathaway Shirt and the subsequent creation of The Marlboro Man (which comes from a similar strategy) sparked the glory days (or Mad Men days) of advertising.

Today, the tact is much more common, with a recently successful example being The Most Interesting Man in the World. Quick: how many calories is in Dos Equis? Where do you buy it? What kind of beer is it? Who makes it? Where is it from?

Who drinks it?

A slightly different example: Southwest is the airline that talks about the people who work for Southwest and what their values are. All the other airlines practice what I call “Numbers Advertising:” they talk about 700 Rewards Points, 148 destinations, 18 inches of leg-room. Southwest talks about people.

The Olive Garden doesn’t talk much about its menu offerings or price, instead focusing on the people who populate their restaurants (families) and how they feel (like a family) while they are there. This kind of advertising is even more effective when all your competitors are using Numbers Advertising.

The concept has potential to help brands in mature, undifferentiated categories break the mold and create a real brand. Standard-price automobiles come to mind.

How is the driver of a Honda different than the driver of a Toyota? Right now we have no idea, but if Honda can show us, maybe it will stop playing second fiddle to Toyota.

Coming Soon: Part II: Its not who uses it, its who doesn’t.

Nike and Livestrong help people help others, help brands.

Glad you’re still reading after struggling through that headline.

Last July, Nike and Livestrong teamed up for a rare effective co-opted advertising campaign. The “Chalkbot” campaign asked people to share messages for loved ones battling cancer and/or motivational messages for Tour De France riders. In a flash of engineering brilliance, a zambonie-like machine will write selected messages in chalk along the real Tour De France trail, to be visible during the races. Nike/Livestrong will then send a picture of the message to its author along with its GPS coordinates.

Reasons it works:

A) Motivational messages make people feel good. The campaign feels sincere and meaningful.

B) The idea is relevant to Nike and Livestrong and Nike and Livestrong are relevant to each other. Perseverance and mental toughness are central themes in both Nike and Livestrong’s brand equity. Both brands are also centered around athletics. A Nike/Livestrong motivational campaign using supermarket aisles (as opposed to the Tour De France trail) as its medium of communication likely would not have been as effective.

C) Engaging. Have you ever been given the chance to have your own message plastered on the playing field of one of world’s most famous sporting events?

D) Buzz-worthy. Person watching on TV: “Hey, I wonder what all those chalk marks are on the trail are? They must be something important.” She ends up looking it up online to find the Nike/Livestrong campaign. Advertising has consistently been proven to be more effective when the target discovers the campaign or message on her own rather than constantly being hit over the head with the message.


140 year old Brand Built on Unique Media

I’m a big roadtripper. And I’ve seen a few of these in interstate adjacent farms.

Between 1890 and 1992, tens of thousands of these barns had been painted by the parent company of Mail Pouch tobacco (which invented what we now know as chewing tobacco sometime in the 1870s). In exchange for allowing the “advertisement,” barn owners got a few dollars and a fresh coat of paint. At the height of the campaign (1960s) there were 22,000 Mail Pouch Barns across the country. The barns were so embraced that they were deemed historical landmarks by the US government and were exempt from the billboard-killing Highway Beautification Act of 1965.

Brilliant. In the US, chewing tobacco is associated with rural areas and somehow seems more authentic there. The run down barns suggest a more simpler time. Simple concept. Maybe my favorite advertising of all time. A Google search suggests that I am not alone.

All advertising strives for “uniqueness”, every advertising agency says they are “unique”, and each RFP demands “unique” ideas. Maybe the most difficult aspect of a campaign to make unique is the media- Mail Pouch did it. While the media was unique, it was also relevant to the product. Advertising iPods or tanning salons on the side of barn likely wouldn’t be as effective. Many brands followed Mail Pouch’s lead and began emblazoning their brand on the side of barns, but none as successfully as Mail Pouch.