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.