Friday, July 5, 2013

Comedy isn't pretty

Let's start out by admitting the obvious, convenience store coffee is usually horrible. 

Made from low quality, poorly roasted beans then brewed by people who are too busy watching for teenage shoplifters to ensure any sense of freshness; expecting great quality coffee drinks from gas station barista is like hoping to pick up a real Rolex from a street vendor in Soho.

So I give Cumberland Farms credit for not creating a campaign about how fabulous their iced coffee is. 

On the other hand, I'm still not sure this effort works.

What's not to like? It has The 'Hoff singing a super-cheesy pop song in front of awesome '80s graphics and a couple of fawning babes on the beach. It's all there.

But something's missing. This spot gives credence to the old adage, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

It takes a deft touch to create satire and someone totally committed to the genre, the idea and the details. That's not the case here. It's as if the producers of this spot felt that getting Hasselhoff to sing was enough. 

It's not.

Let's start with the fact that there is no idea behind the spot. There's no story to the video. It's just a random series of images that are intended to be ironic. But like a bad cup of coffee, there's no reason to come back for more.

The spot is also missing the layers that would make it really work. 

The music is poorly composed and badly arranged. There's nothing interesting about it and on top of that, while the guitars are right, it's missing the trademark synth and other sounds of the era. 

Even though there's ample opportunity for real humor in the lyrics, there isn't a single line that makes you laugh out loud. 

The images could work so much harder to make the drink the star. Hasselhoff is singing about his love for Farmhouse Blends, that's the story video should be telling. Instead it's all about him, which after watching it a few times makes the drink even less appealing.

I give these guys an A for trying something different, but an E on execution. On that level, it certainly leaves me thirsty for more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It isn't over until we say it's over


Here we go again. Another article by a smart, successful articulate marketing professional on the cataclysmic shift that's happening in the advertising industry today.

The author argues that traditional advertising is no longer relevant because we all have smartphones and other wiz-bang technology, we can tell stories about people, and we are capable of inventing incredible new products that disrupt entire categories.

He, of course is right. Except he's not.

True, there are products that are so remarkable they don't need advertising.

True, great businesses are being built that change the way we think about the very business they're in.

And true, brands that demonstrate their benefit to their customers and relevance to their lives are more interesting and successful than those that talk only about themselves.

But here's the thing that Mr. Inamoto fails to mention:

It has always been thus.

From the moment the first images were painted onto cave walls promoting the exploits of great Paleolithic hunters, advertising has been evolving.

The printing press, radio, television, the automobile, the internet, smartphones have all changed advertising as we know it. And every new technology that's introduced will continue to change it.

Let's face it, if people are attending, watching, reading, interacting or otherwise involved with some activity, companies will find a way to insert themselves into the action to promote their products and services. That's what advertising is.

It's not just a :30 second TV spot selling trucks.

It's not just a four-color magazine ad selling beer.

It's not just a banner ad selling men's suits.

It's not just a guy jumping out of a balloon hundreds of miles above the earth selling energy drinks.

Advertising has always been adapting to meet the culture of the day's consumer and to take advantage of the technology of the day's media.

Yes, advertising as we've known it for the past 20 or so years is changing – just as it has been doing every day since the dawn of mankind. So let's stop with the histrionics. Let's refrain from the proclamations that we are in a special time of extraordinary transformation because here's what hasn't changed.

Companies that understand who they are, what they offer, how they benefit their customers and get that message to people in interesting, relevant and compelling ways using any and all of the tools available to them will continue succeed.

Advertising is dead. Long live advertising.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A strong start

On July Fourth Chevrolet will begin its most important vehicle announcement in years with the launch of the new Silverado.

Each Silverado delivers approximately $12,000 profit to the corporation. Full-size pickups, like popular priced sedans, are at the very heart of Chevy's DNA. It's a category they have to play successfully in to be whole. And they need this campaign to help change the trajectory of the brand.

Chevy Trucks were always the bright spot in the Chevrolet product line. Even as the company was losing share in cars, their truck sales remained strong, nipping at Ford's heels. But then the bankruptcy happened and that broke the brand's faith and trust with some truck buyers.

You see, Chevy wasn't just an American-made brand. Chevy Trucks helped make America. They hauled hay on the farms, towed tools to the jobsites, moved mountains of dirt, rock and sand to make way for progress.

When GM went begging hat in hand to the federal government bail it out, it was a sign of weakness. It undermined one of the essential pillars of the Chevy brand. Now people weren't leaning on Chevy Trucks. Chevy was leaning on the people. Chevy wasn't like a rock anymore, and truck sales began to decline significantly.

Clearly the people at Commonwealth and Chevrolet understand that their road to redemption won't be built on the strength of superior features alone. Especially since any superiority that this new truck may have in mileage, towing capacity, comfort, etc. will quickly be matched or lost once Ford launches the new F-Series in six months.

Chevrolet needs to become something more that just a collection of features. It needs to find its center; that one thing the brand is famous for. Based on this spot, it's clear those in charge think the future of the Chevy Truck brand is buried in its past.

First of all, I'm going to come straight out and say it. I like this spot. While there's nothing really new here – the images are those we've seen in truck spots for generations, using a popular artist to create a new song for the brand, bolting an irrelevant tagline on the end – are all hallmarks of Chevy Truck advertising.

This spot works because the details are right. The tone is right. The fundamental message is right.

Trying to own the word "Strong" is smart.

Chevy was always about dependability, being there when you need it. Every image and every line in this song remind us of that. Since Ford has been the category leader, Chevy has been a feisty underdog, not afraid to take shots at the big boy. We did it 20 years ago when we produced the Chevy Truck Ford County campaign. They're doing it again here with the line "Everybody says he ain't just tough."

Will this campaign lift Chevy Trucks out of the doldrums and have it challenging Ford for sales supremacy? Not on its own. The product has to be right and the grass-roots marketing has to get people behind the wheel and experience the product. It's going to be a long, tough road.

This is definitely a strong start.

Here's a full-length, web version of the spot that does a better version of conveying the entirety of the positioning. Enjoy.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Eating the past

They're back.

Twinkies, those golden concoctions with the creamy white center, will be returning to store shelves soon. And with them comes an interesting question.

Is nostalgia enough to revive a product whose ingredient list looks like a chemistry experiment and oversweet taste would make even Paula Deen blush.

Twinkies disappeared from store shelves a year ago when its owner, Hostess Brands felt they couldn't profitably manufacture the finger cakes and its other products under existing union contracts. So they shut the company down selling the brands and other assets.

I'm guessing it wasn't just high labor costs that caused the company's demise. With a brand portfolio that also includes Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's, and Wonder Bread, Hostess products are as on trend as handlebar mustaches and Victrolas.

Yes, there will be a huge surge in sales when Twinkies first return to the stores. And after the initial frenzy dies down, I'm sure still be a niche market for the them. Thanks to financial maneuvering by Twinkies' new owners, they might be able to fabricate them at a lower volume and still make money for the foreseeable future.

Even still, it's not a future that will look anything like the brand's illustrious past. Twinkies' relevance on this planet passed with the Eisenhower administration and will continue to fade as the food industry migrates to healthier, more natural options.

So there they'll be, on store shelves waiting for people to pick them up when they're feeling nostalgic.

Thankfully, they have such a long half-life, because that's not a very good recipe for fast turnover.