Monday, February 27, 2012

An open letter to Nabisco marketing

Dear Wheat Thins brand management team:

I hate it when other people make me look stupid. (I really don't need any help.)

That's exactly what you did last Thursday night when Steven Colbert announced that you were his new integrated sponsor.

I'm not sure which genius on your team at Nabisco thought it would be a good idea to send a brand guidelines memo along with a box of crackers to Mr. Colbert. If you were expecting him to do anything other than make fun of it, maybe you should have watched the show, say, once.

The problem isn't with the brand guidelines memo. I've written a few. They're all jargon-filled missives about brand archetypes, personality, values, ideal customer profiles, symbols, usage occasions and the like. And really, yours isn't that bad.

Brand guidelines are important for the team creating the ads, websites and promotions. But do you know who they are not important for? A comedian like Colbert whose whole schtick is based upon biting the hand that feeds him.

Sending him that memo was like putting a lame barasingha in a tiger cage.

Now everyone knows we marketeers are navel-gazing twits who write incomprehensible sentences like "Wheat Thins keep you on the path to, and proud of, doing what you love to do, no matter what that is."

The brand guidelines are in place so you, Mr. Brand Manager, don't align yourself with comedians like Colbert – or anyone else on Comedy Central, a channel dedicated to making fun of everyone and everything on God's green earth – if you don't want to become the butt of his joke.

If you even thought there was a chance Mr. Colbert was going to leak the contents of your memo and put 17 Wheat Thins in his mouth – really, if you watched the show, you'd know that chance was about 99.99997% – you should have looked for another Sponsortunity.

I hope we've all learned something here today.




  1. Sorry Harvey, but I have to disagree.

    Nabisco knows exactly what they were doing when they made the deal with Steven Colbert. The Colbert Nation will talk about Wheat Thins, will buy them and shove 17 of them in their mouths too. This is an old brand that was looking to re-nvent their image and grab a new audience. Remember their last spokes-person? It was Sandy Duncan, about a million years ago.

    Dr. Pepper and Ben & Jerry's did the same thing. Sales went up.

    Nabisco provided the Brand Guidelines on purpose. An integrated sponsorship is not in the current Brand guidelines, which tells me they are throwing them out the window.

    My kids (14 & 17) worship Steven Colbert and I am sure they will spend their own money to buy Wheat Thins because Steven Colbert tells them too...even if they know it's a joke.

    my $0.02

    Your friend, Bob Karnick

  2. I'd have to agree, based on the brand guidelines, that this sponsortunity was not productive. But maybe they are tossing them, or playing w that. Because it's a lot of earned opportunity on top of that paid opp. The fact that we're discussing it here, for instance...

    But what I really learned is... what a barasingha is! I guess it's a swamp deer. And it's unfortunate enough to live in the same ecosystem as tigers.

  3. You may be onto something Bob. But it seems like an odd way to burn the brand guidelines. Even if Nabisco did it on purpose, I think the message is the same, regular consumers think the way we talk and obsess about brands is absolutely silly and we should do everything we can to make sure they see the result, not the workings of our branding processes.

    And Jonathan, I learned that as well. God, bless Google for helping make my analogy a little less stale.

  4. Oops. I snarfed 17 wheat thins last night.

    Time to put in a new team at Wheat thins.

  5. As of this moment 10:53 am on 2/28 the Wheat Thins segment from that show on has been "unavailable." I'm not sure when the video went dark, but I watached it early yesterday. And there is no longer a Hulu clip available either.

    Technical issue or legal issue?

  6. Seeing as everything else seems to be working on YouTube, my guess is legal...