Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tiger - Le Tigre

A couple of weeks ago, I started a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups about the decisions facing the brands using Tiger Woods as their spokesman. The discussion focused on the branding implications - how Tiger's transgressions would affect each brand; whether they should drop him as a spokesman, and what affect that may have on the public's perception of their brand; and whether the "Tiger" brand is finished altogether.

While many stated their belief (mine as well) that the effects of this scandal will in all likelihood heal in time and that Tiger can bounce back, the best way to handle this issue may vary quite a bit depending on the brand. One person pointed out that Accenture, whose brand image centers around integrity, had no choice but to drop Tiger immediately. Tiger is now seen (at least at present) as a direct contradiction to their messaging. Even if people do not respond in the absolute negative to the campaign featuring Tiger, at the very least his image will serve as a distraction from the message and a cause for jokes. Neither helps Accenture sell its services.

But, what about a brand not associated with Tiger deciding to use his scandal to their advantage? While perusing Internet articles recently, I came across a piece from The Daily Finance discussing clothing company Le Tigre's new billboard referencing Tiger Woods. The ad states "Golf needs a Tiger - Let's get back on course", and advertises a deal on polo shirts that will send 20 percent of profits to a golf charity for teaching kids the game.

While some may definitely see the ad as both mean-spirited and a shameless attempt to use Tiger to promote themselves, I tend to think it will ultimately have a different affect on most people. The brand name itself obviously opens the door for some sort of association with the golfer. But, how to use that now is tricky. Le Tigre is clever in their approach. They plainly state that golf is not the same without Tiger Woods. Golf needs a "Tiger" of some kind to bring to the game what he brought to it. Next they offer a solution - a way to "get back on course" and past what has taken place. The solution is a direct association with a charity that exists to bring the game of golf to children from various backgrounds. The message being that through the purchase of these clothes each of us can contribute to a cause which inspires and positively influences young children, and may even give them an opportunity to be the next big star.

A very clever ad campaign at the perfect time in my opinion. Thoughts?

You can read the original article here:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Watching TV With Friends Pt. 2

During the same football game as the last post, another one of my friends made me aware of what was going on in a commercial that aired. It was a commercial I had seen a few times before. But, a key aspect of it completely went over my head. And, as my friend mentioned, it probably went over most people's heads - without any of us realizing it. Watch the commercial below.

I knew the man in the commercial was the golfing icon Arnold Palmer. In my mind, the two ESPN guys behind him are impressed to be behind Palmer in line watching him get his meal. But, as the brief commercial ended, my friend laughed and pointed out what was really going on.

"That's Arnold Palmer making an 'Arnold Palmer'", he said. "Hilarious!"

For those unaware (myself included) an 'Arnold Palmer' is a drink made of half-lemonade and half-iced tea. So, there's Palmer in the flesh in the ESPN cafeteria making actually making the drink that is named after him! The two ESPN employees witness this and think it's awesome. A rare sighting indeed. And, what a funny and clever thing to put in a commercial for a sports program.

ESPN is famous for its "This is SportsCenter" commercials. They are usually short, very funny, and include major stars from various sports. This particular commercial may go over the heads of many. Aside from being aware of Palmer, the viewer would also need to be aware of the particular drink named after him, and be astute enough to notice the actions taking place. Meaning, in most cases, the viewer would have to be of a certain age (among other things, perhaps) for the advertisement to really be understood and appreciated. My friend is my same age. However, he used to be employed at a nice restaurant where he made this drink many times during the brunch hours - a restaurant which, as it happens, is frequented especially by older people.

At first thought you may say that this is not a good choice for ESPN. Why make a commercial that doesn't resonate with as many people as possible? Often times this is a valid point. However, when considering ESPN's aim for these commercials, the approach taken makes much more sense.

ESPN, and SportsCenter specifically, is not out to bring in new viewers with these ads. That is not their goal. The ads don't tell people why they should watch SportsCenter, nor does it list the times that it airs. The 'This is SportsCenter' ads serve to make current and loyal ESPN viewers laugh, enjoy a clever commercial with some of their favorite sports stars, and subtly deliver a reminder of why these viewers choose ESPN. For many people, the ads are just one more thing they love about the network. Much like Superbowl commercials, these ads have sports fans talking at the water coolers after a new one has aired.

An ad like the Arnold Palmer one may fly clear over the heads of some people. But, that is okay. Because the people that do 'get it' appreciate it (and ESPN) much more after seeing it whether they realize it or not. Because of the cleverness. Because not everyone gets it. It may serve as a sort of inside joke between ESPN and those that understand what is being shown. And, what response may this bring out of a viewer? ESPN gets me. I know sports. I know sports pop culture references. ESPN knows too. And they know that I know. We are on the same level. I am getting my sports news from intelligent, yet unpretentious sports fans that know what they are talking about. Through this series of commercials, ESPN is successful in reinforcing the loyalty of their core audience by building a stronger bond with them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watching TV With Friends Pt. 1

While watching the Monday Night Football game with some friends this week, a couple of interesting comments were made in reaction to the commercials we were seeing. I wanted to share each and talk about them a little bit. The fact that these thoughts came from everyday viewers not involved in marketing in any capacity is precisely why they are so interesting...and so important.

The first comment was made to me while watching an advertisement for BlackBerry. Watch it below, and play close attention to the ending just before the word 'BlackBerry' shows up and the logo is displayed on screen.

While watching this my friend said, "Whenever I see this commercial, I think MasterCard. Every time. Because of the logo at the end."

He had a point. While a trained eye that views this commercial several times can probably make out that the red and yellow figures are supposed to represent the letter 'B' in 'Black' and 'Berry', the company is taking a dangerous risk here in overlooking the similarity. It doesn't have to be exact. The colors that were used, and even the way they come together (or separate) on the screen are synonymous to many people with the MasterCard brand. Although BlackBerry put their name at the end of the commercial as well, there is a reason for using colors, shapes, and other things in branding. These are details that when used repeatedly can serve as symbols for the brand in people's minds. In other words, they do not have to see the brand name in writing to know what the ad is for. And, in this case they may even ignore it because the other cues are already there to guide them. However, this commercial guided my friend to a different product altogether.

MasterCard has spent years making the interlocking red and yellow circles the symbol for their brand. And, it has worked. It has worked so well that when my friend saw a commercial using two shapes with these colors he automatically thought of MasterCard, not BlackBerry. This comment represents a potentially huge problem for BlackBerry. This advertisement does not feature BlackBerry products prominently throughout, nor does it mention the capabilities of BlackBerry. It is the attitude of the campaign, the feel of what you are seeing that is meant to be relatable to the experience of owning a BlackBerry.

So, this means that all the viewer has to go on for what the ad is endorsing is what appears at the end of it. The brand name and logo is what relates the experiences in the ad to the identity of the product itself. Now, if the viewer is fooled by their well-conditioned (by MasterCard) memory into thinking that this is an ad for MasterCard, what does this do for BlackBerry? Not much at all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ad Campaigns That Feature The Workforce

One specific type of commercial that has interested me a lot lately is those that feature the company's "workforce" in the ad. Take a look at the two short commercials below to see what I mean.

Though I, myself, have been noticing it more recently with commercials like the ones above, this tactic is hardly a new one. For example, one well-known, long-running ad campaign beginning many years ago featured the Maytag repairman as the familiar face of a dependable brand. This campaign easily comes to mind, though it is not exactly the same as the ones above. What's different? Well, the major point of the Maytag ads is that the Maytag repairman doesn't have anything to do because Maytag products are so reliable. The others prominently feature the employees proudly engaged in their work.

Still, the ads offer similarities in what they communicate to the viewer. Commercials that use "employees" in their advertising are often attempting to establish an image of sincerity for the consumer. These employees are being shown as working hard to serve each customer in the best way possible. They are proud of the work that they do, and the product or service which they provide. They believe in the company which employs them. They see the value in their efforts.

The intended result is to give the viewer an added reason to believe in the brand aside from the great taste of the cereal, or the absence of baggage fees. These ads work to demonstrate honesty and integrity; a company that is truly for the people because they are of the people. The given company is the consumer, so why not trust them?

While some may very well just find these commercials as annoying as any other, the fact is that these are powerful brand messages aimed at making a real connection with people by portraying the company simply as a bunch of honest, hard working people like themselves. It is a clever strategy utilizing a subconscious desire to identify with a brand. And, it often seems to work.