Friday, February 8, 2013

Florida and its manufactured identity crisis

The Gap. Starbucks. Best Buy. American Airlines. Kraft. They've all been criticized for recent logo redesigns.

So is it any surprise that when Enterprise Florida, the group charged with promoting business in the state, unveiled this new logo, controversy ensued.


You guessed it.

The necktie is of course more commonly associated with businessMEN than businessWOMEN thus the logo is sexist.

Now, if you subscribe to the theory that any publicity is good publicity, then this is a stroke of genius. The "sexist logo" story has been picked up by every business newspaper, website and television network, allowing Enterprise Florida to reinforce facts like the state ranks 4th in the nation in the number of women-owned businesses.

I'm not a woman and I rarely wear a tie, so I don't pretend to know how this logo makes female business owners feel. But I do know this after 30 years of helping companies develop their brands and establish identities: if you unveil a new logo, someone is going to hate it.

You might as well be prepared to use the controversy to help build your brand. Whether by luck or design, the marketing people at Enterprise Florida are doing just that.

Oh, just for the record, I hate this logo. Not because I think it's sexist, but because it's ugly.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Playtex taps a new market

Positioning is an interesting thing. It can create new markets and brands without actually changing the product. If you doubt it, just  look at what's happened recently to the product form once only known as baby wipes.

We've used them for years in our nurseries while changing our kids' diapers, but move the tub to the bathroom, rebrand it "Cottonelle Fresh Care," slap a new label on the package and voila! with very little alteration of the product itself you have "moist toilet paper wipes." More importantly, you have $150 million in annual incremental sales.

Well Playtex has taken this a step further, finding another occasion that a wipe may be in order...

That's right, according to their website, Fresh + Sexy wipes are "specifically designed for use before and after sexual activity."

And yes, they are unisex.

Are these right for everyone? No.

Is everyone enamored with the marketing? Just read some of the comments on their Facebook page.

Are they selling more disposable paper at a premium thanks to this sly bit of repositioning? Yes.

And, that's the point.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taking an Axe to Gillette

I was wondering how long this would take.

In just a few decades, much to the chagrin of Junior High School teachers everywhere, the Axe brand has gone from zero to owning all things young male when it comes to smelling and grooming. Body sprays, washes, shampoos, gels, deodorants and more.

Now they're taking all that equity and leveraging it against one of the great rites of passage in a young man's life, shaving.

A few years ago, I did a project for another shaving manufacturer (not Gillette) looking to create products that appealed to guys 15 - 18 who were just starting to shave. I interviewed more than a dozen teenagers and had them show me all the things in their bedrooms and bathrooms that were most important to their lives (fyi, I now live in great fear for the future of our country).

My recommendation: do a deal with Axe or some other brand that was relevant to their hormonally driven lives.

The client's brand was dad's brand. And though dad taught them how to shave, like all teenagers, none of them really wanted to be their dad.

Knowing this, I'm a little surprised at Gillette's response in Ad Age; talking about all their skin care experience:
"We have a healthy respect for our competition, but millions of men put their face in Gillette's hands for a reason. We understand men's skin better than any other grooming brand."
I hate to break it to the marketers at Gillette, but teenage boys don't want to know how much you know about skin. They want to know how you're going to help them get laid. Marketing expertise and authority will only move teenagers more quickly to an Axe brand razor.

It's the same attitude GM adopted when Honda and Toyota hit the shores – we'll let those companies sell young people cheap econoboxes but when they're ready for a real car, they'll come to us – and we all know how well that worked out.

It won't happen overnight, but it won't be long before a generation of new shavers grows up with an Axe razor in their hands and Gillette's 84% market share begins to significantly erode.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My post game analysis

Yesterday, I wrote about my favorite Super Bowl spot, "Farmers" for Ram. While there is some controversy about the origin of the idea and whether the agency or Ram should have credited the original video somehow, as long as gave their permission and were compensated fairly, I'm okay with it.

Now on to the rest of the spots.

My favorites in no particular order:

Fun story, tied nicely to the game, nice demonstration of the product benefit. People think you can only do great ads for cars and beer. P&G and their agencies consistently prove that wrong.

Nice twist on an old story. I'm a sucker for that song and unlike Landslide on the Bud Clydesdale spot, it actually adds to the concept. I'm not sure I would have put the car on the track – a gratuitous nod to performance – but I guess a lot of guys fantasize about that, too. I like the reveal at the end. It's a smart, well-crafted ad, designed to address the perception that Mercedes are unaffordable.

Taco Bell
Fun, well done, easy to like. Great music. Yeah, Pepsi did a similar concept in 1990. But this works.

I didn't like this spot at first but it's grown on me. Audi to me is all about inspired engineering and technical superiority. As I was driving my A4 Quattro through the snow yesterday I realized that the benefit of that feature is confidence. And that's what this spot is all about.

I like it for the same reason I like Audi, it sells the ultimate benefit of the car. You can't drive a Beetle and not smile. And no, contrary to what the perpetually offended will have you believe, showing people of different races speaking with a Jamaican accent is not racist. 

And now onto my least favorites...

Here's a sappy, predictable story about a boy and his horse. Now, drink a beer. Oh and maybe you'll like this irrelevant song we put behind the video. I know I'm in the minority here, but it's my blog, so there!

Ignore your child unless she offers you a tasty snack, then cross dress. Can we please stop the consumer-generated ideas? They're way to cliche, predictable and do nothing to sell the actual product.

Budweiser Black Crown
I can't think of a group of people I'd less rather drink an ordinary beer with than this crowd. 'nuf said.

This spot is so bad, I'm not even going to embed it. If you really must punish yourself by watching it, click this link. I moved all my accounts from GoDaddy to another host last year specifically because their advertising was so bad. I was talking to a guy yesterday who has thousands of domains registered through them and said he would move if he didn't have to hire three people full-time to make it happen. The people at GoDaddy will talk about all the buzz they generated, but just like Groupon a few years ago, they'll find out that bad buzz is a lot worse than no buzz at all.

Obviously there were a lot more spots. And a lot of good ones – Sketchers, Hyundai, Oreo, Jeep, M&Ms – and a lot more bad – Calvin Klein, the CBS Promos, Kia, Samsung, etc. – but these are the ones that stood out for me. 

Let the debate continue.

Monday, February 4, 2013

There was only one

I had planned on blogging a review of all the memorable Super Bowl ads this morning, but it turns out there's really only one worth talking about: "Farmer" by Ram Trucks.

While Audi, VW, M&Ms, Oreos, Coke and Budweiser created spots that seemed to to move the needle in terms of conversations on Twitter and other social media platforms, Ram pegged it.

The opening image is so powerfully disruptive, it stopped all conversation in the room. Paul Harvey's voice, the the stark emptiness of the track, the tempo of his words build to a crescendo more memorably than any jingle. The images are hauntingly beautiful, striking a perfect balance between the harsh reality and glorious romance that is a farmer's life.

The main reason this spot works is it avoids all Super Bowl advertising cliches. There were no gratuitous babe shots, no alien invasions, no spectacular special effects. no self-deprecating celebrities, no hilarious shots to the groin.

This spot stands out for the same reason Apple's 1984 commercial stood out: it was unexpected, different and it told a powerful truth. Like the Chrysler 200 spot of a couple of years ago, in just two minutes, it redefines what Ram means in the minds of those watching.

Ram is a fourth place brand in its category behind Ford, Chevy and Toyota. Those who believe it is inferior would not be enticed to consider Ram by mere facts. This spot gives them a reason to look without challenging their orthodoxies and should help increase traffic in Ram showrooms.

Is this the best Super Bowl spot ever made? No. Was it the best spot on this Super Bowl? By far.

And now the controversy: about 30 seconds after the spot aired, posted this article about how the Ram spot was a rip-off of a video that has been on's Youtube page since June 2011. While it is a superior recreation of the video, it is not a rip-off. It was done with the knowledge and cooperation of Someone at the client or agency saw it, knew it would work and had the guts to say we don't have a monopoly on great ideas. For that, I applaud them.

Tomorrow I'll take a look at the also rans in the Super Bowl ad wars.