OH, NO, ANOTHER SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL?
You are here not for the news of the moment, but for the big-brand insights, techniques and tips that can inform your own small-business marketing.
And this week, we have a stunning example of how to do institutional advertising the right way.
In other words, how to show your brand cares without coming off as a crass, opportunistic jerk.
In case you're unfamiliar with the term, institutional advertising is different from product, promotional or brand advertising in that it doesn't sell a product or service.
Instead, it sells the feeling that an advertiser is a good member of the community.
For instance, Chevron product advertising typically talks about things like how good their gasoline with Techron is for your talking car.
But their institutional advertising talks about things like their oil rigs as fabulous, artificial-reef homes for lots and lots of colorful fish. "See? No pollution! Pretty fish!"
INSTITUTIONAL ADVERTISING IS DESIGNED TO MAKE US FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE ADVERTISER
So often, small-business advertisers try to do it right, but end up doing it wrong.
The worst example, and arguably not even an attempt to do it correctly, is infamous in radio advertising circles. In the wake of 9/11, a jeweler ripped off a famous 1960's recording about U.S disasters, and used it to "honor" Americans before making a pitch to buy jewelry as a smart investment in uncertain times.
Cynical, tone-deaf, calculating, and incompetent are all words that fail to adequately describe this effort.
Fortunately, efforts like that are rare. More common is just an uncertainty about how to drop the sales pitch and go institutional.
And this year's Super Bowl provides a vivid and tear-jerking example of how to do it the right way. And with a simple story.
THE ROOM IS DARK
A middle-aged woman is asleep in bed. A single, tense chord is playing underneath. A cell phone is heard vibrating.
Her husband rolls over. He sits on the edge of the bed. Listens. He says, "I'll be right there."
The tense music bed continues, and builds, as the man drives his luxury SUV through the wee morning hours, across a truss bridge over a substantial body of water.
His car radio is tuned to a news report about a storm that is "Still affecting thousands of families in desperate need of aid."
THE SUV PULLS INTO THE EMPTY PARKING LOT OF AN ENORMOUS BUDWEISER BREWING PLANT
The music becomes Skylar Grey's soulful rendition of Ben E. King's spiritual-inspired, "Stand By Me."
"When the night has come/And the land is dark/And the moon is the only light we'll see."
The man from the SUV is walking through the plant. Freshly-packed cases of Budweiser are speeding along the line.
A title appears, identifying the man as, "Kevin Fahrenkrog, General Manager, Cartersville Brewery." As the crew gathers around him, he says to a guy in a red Budweiser shirt, "Where we at?" Unintelligible conversation ensues. "Stand By Me" continues. "No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Someone presses a button. The bottling machinery stops. The needle on the dial of a pressure gauge drops to zero. The unfilled Budweiser cans rolling along the line come to a halt. A lone man working the line is standing and waiting. "Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Somebody at a control panel labeled "Brew Zone 3" switches from a diagram of a red brewing tank to a tank that is pale green.
THE BUDWEISER CANS ON A CONVEYER MOVE FORWARD
As they advance, they open a gap, revealing a new row of cans. These cans are white, and have one big word printed on the label: "Water."
A giant steel tank is filling with fresh, crystalline water. Men on the line begin connecting hoses. Water can be seen running through the lines. Freshly-filled cans of water start running along the conveyor.
Mr. Fahrenkrog, wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, watches freshly packed cases of water coming along the line. A fleet of forklifts carries pallets of water to a waiting convoy of red Budweiser trucks, which speed away into the morning sun.
The music continues. "No I won't be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Someone is watching a TV news report of cases of water being handed off a truck. The footage is captioned, "Breaking news. Disaster relief efforts in action."
Cut away to reveal the woman who, in the first shot, was lying in bed asleep.
SHE LOOKS ACROSS AT SOMEONE WHOSE BACK IS TO THE CAMERA
Cut to a reverse shot of Mr. Fahrenkrog, General Manager, Cartersville Brewery, at home eating his dinner.
A small hint of a smile as he looks away and down at his dinner plate.
Cut to a long, aerial shot of a Budweiser plant surrounded by green grass and trees. A Budweiser semi is rolling away from the plant as the camera moves up and away. Titles drop in: "Texas." "Florida." "Puerto Rico." "California."
Cut to a shot of a Budweiser can against a white background. Except that, the label does not say, "Budweiser."
It says, "America."
A caption appears...
"WHENEVER YOU NEED US"
The can spins to reveal the white label that says, "Water," with an Anheuser Busch logo.
New caption, "We'll stand by you."
Fade to: Budweiser logo.
This is a veritable blueprint for how to tug at the heartstrings, make a convincing argument for how the business is a good community partner, and never once overshadow the institutional message with a pitch for the product.
The product is there. There are cases and cans of Budweiser in profusion, and the logo is on all the trucks and signage.
BUT NEVER ONCE DOES THIS ONE-MINUTE COMMERCIAL SAY, "BUY BUDWEISER"
Instead, pushes the Budweiser cans out of the way to make room for a desperately needed commodity for disaster relief.
And when you're producing audio or video media, never, ever underestimate the value of the right music bed.
I once had an argument with a commercial producer about a piece of music on a commercial.
The producer's argument was founded on the supposed fact that the music had the correct number of beats.
What the music needs to have is the correct emotional impact.
And Skylar Grey's rendition of "Stand By Me" has exactly what is needed to accompany the images and message of this commercial.
I ALSO HATE TO SAY THIS, BUT...
The Budweiser commercial works better and has a more profound impact than Ms. Grey's music video for the same song.
Because the music video is what's expected.
Yes, there are some poignant notes in the video.
But the Budweiser commercial is completely unexpected.
It is surprising and has a tiny story arc that you don't see coming from the world's biggest brewing conglomerate.
It is focused, and it is relevant, and it doesn't sell beer.
WHAT'S OUR TAKE AWAY?
It doesn't matter whether you're doing a multi-million-dollar TV buy or a local radio commercial or a YouTube video or a Facebook post or a print ad.
If you want to go institutional and promote your community-mindedness, you need to be relevant.
Tell a simple, emotionally evocative story. Budweiser's story is, "Here's how our people get fresh drinking water to disaster zones."
It also doesn't show the disaster. We've all seen enough of that. Instead, we see the story of one man being roused from his bed in the wee hours, and not hesitating to get to the plant to serve a higher purpose.
And finally, never, ever try to sell your product on the coattails of an institutional message. Because then, you just come off like an opportunistic jerk.
And nobody wants to be that.
If you'd like to see this commercial again (and we recommend playing it full screen with the volume up), visit https://youtu.be/CxGUmtRLm5g
And in a completely non-institutional, self-promotional effort, The CoupleCo podcast is rocking the entrepreneurial couple world at www.TheCoupleCoPodcast.com
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE REALLY CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL ALL THESE WEEKS LATER?
Indeed, we can.
Because here, we are not about the hype and the glory.
We are about smart thinking, which is not fleeting and faddish, but timeless.
And sometimes, you get that timeless thinking in Super Bowl advertising.
And while, on the face of it, there may not be anything smart about it, we're going to say, "Dilly, Dilly!"
There is so much to be learned from Bud Light's ridiculous advertising campaign that originally began as a one-off celebration of the season premiere of Game Of Thrones, and has since become a cultural phenomenon--including epic Super Bowl glory with extravagant production, throngs of extras, and CGI effects.
What's to be learned?
ONE THING TO BE LEARNED IS COURAGE
How on earth did this thing happen?
And how did the People In Charge let it?
So far, there's not a lot of press about the creative process.
But you can learn a lot from a big, gregarious and amusing Portuguese gentleman by the name of Miguel Patricio, Chief Marketing Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev.
When asked what "Dilly, Dilly" means, he replied, "It doesn't mean anything. We all need our moments of nonsense and fun."
Nonsense and fun?
THIS IS A C-SUITE-ER FROM A $258 BILLION COMPANY
And he has no problem recognizing the need for nonsense and fun?
But it gets better.
He says, "A lot of people ask me, 'How did you approve that?' We didn't expect it to be that successful. It didn't test that well."
OK. One of the world's most powerful Chief Marketing Officers is happy to go against the research.
People don't like it? I don't care!
THAT IS KNOWN AS GOING WITH YOUR GUT
And I applaud the man.
He further says, "Consumers will get it, especially with repetition. We have a chance here for this to become big. So, we went against the research, and we gave a chance to "Dilly, Dilly," and we are so happy."
And here's a phrase that matters.
Mr. Patricio says there's a test you can do. He went to Amazon and did a search and, without Bud Light doing any kind of merchandising, he found all kinds of "Dilly Dilly" related items.
He says, "It becomes cultural currency."
YOU MEAN, LIKE, "GOT MILK"?
Or, "We'll leave the light on for you"?
Or even, "Real men of genius"?
It was disappointing that Bud Light killed that latter campaign.
And yes, it was wildly successful, making the product a category leader and keeping it there for years.
But Bud Light seems to have a new cultural currency that has turned into another juggernaut.
But, there's also a really important question to ask.
IS IT SELLING ANY BEER?
That's hard to know.
But here's what we can tell you.
According to Ted Marzilli, leader of the BrandIndex global business unit of YouGov dot com, Bud Light's perception with men is at an 18-month high.
We just don't know what "Dilly, Dilly!" has to do with that, as there is other advertising running out there.
And as we all know, perception doesn't necessarily lead to sales.
THAT NOTWITHSTANDING, YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE THE NERVE
Selling beer is a multi-million-dollar proposition.
People live and die by tiny movements of the needle and in the balance sheets.
And to go with the gut in a situation like this is admirable.
Which, for us, is one of the solid takeaways from Señor Patricio: Having the courage to go with your gut is one of the unsung characteristics of emotional intelligence.
There are numbers that tell you it isn't necessarily the best way to go--and you go there anyway.
AND UNDERSTAND, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT GOING WITH YOUR EGO
There's a difference.
Going with your ego is all about you.
Going with your gut is about the world outside you.
How can you tell the difference?
Going with your ego makes you feel good.
Going with your gut makes you feel a little nervous.
And it doesn't always work.
But it usually works better than going with your ego.
SO WHAT IS THE TAKEAWAY?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Have courage.
Marketing can be a scary thing. You're putting a message out there in the world and you can't be sure how it's going to be perceived.
The more impactful the message, the more scary it can feel.
The first time I won a Radio Mercury Award, it was with a message that was scary--because I knew it was good enough to win a cutthroat national competition with a huge cash prize attached.
It was a sweaty palms moment. I was also afraid the client would reject it, making it ineligible. (They did not.)
AND WHEN YOU'RE DEVISING YOUR MESSAGE, FEEL FREE TO PLAY
We all need our moments of nonsense and fun.
Maybe your business can't market with nonsense and fun.
Like if you have a mortuary.
Of course, if you listen to the enormously impactful "Celebrate a life" campaign from Forest Lawn mortuaries, you can hear how fun really does have a place in marketing a business like that.
Not words you think of when you think of the mortuary business.
Unless you work in a funeral home, where I'm told the motto is "The first three letters in 'funeral' spell 'fun.'"
BUT I DIGRESS
Have courage. Go with your gut. Feel free to play.
And don't always believe the research.
It doesn't prove anything beyond what happened in the room.
If you focus group an advertisement with a hundred people, you can get 100 reasons why not to run it.
It helps to understand what they're saying and why they're saying it.
And it helps to realize that focus groups are unnatural.
Just because something doesn't test well doesn't mean it won't fly.
It could just be a sleeper.
I don't test well at all.
And I can fly. And I don't even wear a cape.
You know what else flies? The CoupleCo podcast, available at www.TheCoupleCoPodcast.com
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE FINALLY TALK ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL?
Yes, we'll finally do it.
Now that the hoo-hah has died down;
Now that my die-hard Philly fan of a wife has been in an Eagles victory parade down Park City's Main Street with eight other cockeyed optimists in green jerseysand been covered in the local paper;
Now that the Valentine's Day launch of CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit has happened and you may or may not have paid attention to it (here's the link: https://tinyurl.com/y73nu26g);
We can finally talk about the commercials.
And we're going to talk about what should be your personal favorite, even though it's probably not.
BUT FIRST, A DISCLAIMER
I know that it was also the favorite of Wizard of Ads partner Jeff Sexton, a brilliant copywriter the hem of whose garment I am unworthy to kiss.
I know Mr. Sexton has already opined upon this commercial.
I, however, have not yet read his missive.
I did not wish to be influenced, in whole or in part, by his writing.
So everything here is on me. We are not cribbing notes from his screed. (Though, that could be difficult. His screed is generally much more polite than my own.)
Here it comes:
Thirty words of announcer copy.
One single, 40-second take.
OPEN ON A LONG SHOT ACROSS A RIVER
Coming through tall, dry grass is a red Jeep.
The Jeep plunges over the river bank and into the water.
Announcer: "How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years?"
There's a big a splash as the Jeep barrels through the river towards the camera, water up to the bumper.
Announcer: "Big declarations making claims to some overarching human truth."
The Jeep passes by the camera and heads towards a waterfall. It surges up a rock ledge.
Announcer: "Companies call these commercials manifestos."
The Jeep aims towards the cascading waters. It bounces across a series of rocks, climbs up the waterfall, and barrels away.
Announcer: "There's your manifesto."
Graphic: "The all-new 2018 Wrangler." Graphic fades to: "Jeep."
THE SIMPLICITY AND ELEGANCE OF THIS MESSAGE DEFIES SUPER BOWL MADNESS
It's been a long time since Super-Bowl-commercial mania dished out anything this refined.
It also belies a deep emotional charge that fuels the purchase of vehicles like Jeep.
And there's the fact that weeks after seeing this message just one time in a crowded, noisy room, it still resonates.
It may not resonate for you.
Speaking personally, my wife and I live 5 miles up a rutted dirt road with over a thousand feet of elevation gain.
We live a different kind of Jeep lifestyle.
Jeep is relevant to us. We owned a Wrangler for a while.
WE PRESENTLY OWN A 19-YEAR OLD JEEP CHEROKEE
That vehicle is a beast.
It, too, is red.
And it could have easily followed that all-new 2018 Wrangler up that waterfall.
And laughed. Ha!
This Jeep commercial is one of the oldest, most time-tested ways of advertising: The product demonstration.
It cuts, it chops, it dices, it slices, it gets out blood stains, it'll blend a Justin Bieber CD, an iPhone and a wooden rake handle, it even starts a car that's been left parked in zero-degree weather overnight with the lights on.
PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION IS NOT HIP, IT'S NOT COOL, IT DOESN'T WIN A CANNES GOLD LION
But it's arguable that this product demonstration breaks the mold enough that it could win all kinds of awards.
Because it is smart, refined, and has attitude up the wazoo.
"Hey, buddy. Ya know all the pretense that car makers love to throw atcha? We have no pretense. We just quietly kick ass. So there."
That Jeep commercial isn't really aimed at me or at the Fabulous Honey Parker, or at anyone else who lives a Jeep lifestyle.
People with an actual need for high-clearance, 4WD vehicles already know Jeep. They love it or they don't.
YES, WE ALL APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF THE PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION
But there's more at work here.
Brand is the one way the core customer should feel about the product.
And in this case, a company sold just shy of a million vehicles in North America in 2016 to almost nobody who needs to drive up a waterfall.
They mainly don't even need to drive five miles up a rutted dirt road.
You know where they need to drive? The supermarket. School. The office.
But all those Jeeps get bought because people feel like they're buying the power to control.
AND IN A TIME WHEN THE WORLD SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL?
The feeling of control is a powerful thing to be selling.
Moreover, in an overcrowded advertising environment, saturated with big and dramatic commercial productions that come at you throwing down rhymes and riding horses and breathing fire and kicking ass and taking names...
The ability to be heard above the mayhem...
With the power of a whisper...
Is a glorious thing.
It's too soon to know how well the Jeep commercial will do.
And this one message is a tiny part of a huge advertising machine.
Jeep has such an enormous product line, we may never know.
BUT HERE'S WHAT WE CAN TAKE AWAY...
It is mighty.
It makes a statement.
And it does so without pyrotechnics.
It takes an unsexy technique like product demonstration and gives it wings.
Or, rather, big tires.
And those qualities are available to any and all of us who have to create advertising on a micro-budget.
What we lack in budget, we get to make up for with talent and finesse.
Those two qualities can make even the smallest ad really, really big.
If you haven't yet been to iTunes for the CoupleCo podcast, it's filled with laughs, insights, and couples who are crushing it in business without crushing each other. Here's the link:
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
"HOW DO WE MOVE THE NEEDLE?"
That's the question. It comes from Canada via Chris Pollard, Creative Director at 92.7 CKDR in Dryden, Ontario.
And even if you don't care about radio, stick around. It's going to be worth your while.
When we threw out the solicitation for your burning questions about branding and marketing, Mr. Pollard was first out of the gate.
He asked, "How do we move the needle?"
Normally, the phrase "moving the needle" is a reference to generating sales for a client. Creating advertising that sells more product is moving the needle.
But in this case, Mr. Pollard is talking about training his team in making better, more creative and more effective advertising.
He says, in part, "A lot of marketers out there...want to improve their skills. But training opportunities are sorely lacking. Is there something out there we're missing? My corporate cohorts and I have discussed it several times over the years, and our searches always come up empty."
I can guarantee you, the answer is not one he's expecting, and it's going to be more applicable across the board than you expect.
RADIO IS A VAST WASTELAND
With apologies to erstwhile FCC Chairman Newton Minow, whose famous "vast wasteland" speech to the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961 sent TV programmers a searing message about the quality of their content, radio has become a creative desert.
A fact of the business is that wildly talented and dedicated people get sacked because they're "too expensive." More and more, everything is run by beancounters lacking insight, employing low-wage bean counters who lack skill or intellect, supervised and trained by people who aren't all that great, either. or, who have just given up and do what they can with what they're given. (I am not painting Mr. Pollard's employers with this brush. They seem to be an exception.)
Mr. Pollard goes on to talk about the few, expensive courses out there, and the many affordable ones--many which have fallen by the wayside because nobody can get their stations to pay for them.
So the real question is: Where is the affordable training?
To which I say: It's all around you. Just do it.
Become A Geek For Advertising
Not just radio, but all advertising.
I'm routinely shocked how many radio people do not have any comprehension of how advertising works, what constitutes good advertising, and how they know nothing about advertising history.
Radio has its uniqueness, for sure.
But it also shares commonality with all advertising in that it's a form of persuasion.
It doesn't matter what kind of advertising you do, you need to understand techniques and history.
If you say "John Caples" to most advertising (and radio) people, they look back at you with all the comprehension of a Labrador retriever.
IF YOU MENTION CAPLES' MOST FAMOUS HEADLINE?
You might get a smattering of more comprehension.
The famous headline is, "They laughed when I sat down at the piano--but when I started to play!"
It's an ad for at-home music courses, and it is famous in advertising to the point of being a cliché.
The ad taps into the emotional desires we experience as humans. It features a cliffhanger headline that makes the reader say, "Tell me more!" It makes the pitch with a human and real sounding story from a happy customer.
It's a brilliant lesson in how to make an ad work--and it was written almost 100 years ago.
Caples also wrote a landmark book called, Scientific Advertising. Caples had no patience for funny advertising, and he's very dry. But the book has valuable lessons.
There's even an awards competition named in his honor that requires entrants to prove how well their advertising worked.
Besides Caples' book, there are also plenty of other books available to anyone who's interested in understanding the history and fundamentals.
Yes, times and fashion change.
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY DOES NOT
That's why so many books on advertising, while being out of date as fashion goes, still provide a killer education in advertising.
Just for example...
Ogilvy On Advertising
One of those old chestnuts about the business, it too provides important information about how to craft advertising. And if you read it, you will learn why Ogilvy loved radio and called it, "The Cinderalla medium."
Bill Bernbach's Book
An incredibly expensive book because it's out of print. But it's a lesson from a man who changed the face of US advertising almost singlehandedly. It's filled with simple and pithy advertising that provides brilliant examples of conceptual thinking that make you stop and say, "Wow." The ojne ad you probably know: Vollkswagen "Think small."
When Advertising Tried Harder
Like the Bernbach book, this is also out of print and expensive. But it provides a litany of pithy, in your face ads that, again, helped change the face of advertising.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
Luke Sullivan's "Classic guide to creating great ads" is funny and potent and irreverent and will make you spit chocolate milk out of your nose. Well, maybe not the latter. But it's an excellent guide.
Wizard Of Ads
If you haven't read Roy Williams' first book, get it. Now.
AND ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES...
The Book Of Gossage
This is an enormous and heavy trade paperback about a cult figure in 1960s San Francisco advertising, Howard Luck Gossage. This is the man who coined the phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Gossage had his ad agency in a converted firehouse. He was an intellectual eccentric who once fired a junior copywriter by the name of Jay Conrad Levinson.
Yes, the father of Guerrilla Marketing worked for Gossage, and one day after submitting a copy assignment, Levinson got it back with a note that said something to the effect of, "There's nothing more I can teach you. You're fired."
Levinson has a chapter in the book. Jeff Goodby wrote the introduction.
If you don't know who of either of those people are, you're way behind the curve.
YES, ALL OF THE BOOKS ARE ON ADVERTISING IN GENERAL
And they are useful informative, and important.
Each of them, in their own way, leave you thinking, "Wow, that's good."
At Slow Burn Marketing, we have always maintained that small business advertisers can take many cues from big advertising agencies.
And these books are just part of the legacy that Big Agency Advertising has to offer the small-business advertiser--even one who works in radio.
This rant is going to go on into next week. There's too much more to say and not enough time in which to say it.
But once again, if you want to create better advertising, stick around for next week. It'll be worth it.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?
As a faithful follower to this weekly screed, you have some kind of interest in advertising.
Whether you create advertising for yourself or for someone else, you have some vested interest in "Getting your name out there."
Which, frankly, is a really weak goal for advertising. "You gotta get your name out there, kid."
There are plenty of names out there. Do you care about them all? Any of them?
What names do you care about?
You care about the names that make you feel something.
HOW DO YOU MAKE PEOPLE FEEL?
This screed makes you feel something.
Some people love it. I have the fan mail to prove it.
Some people hate it. Sometimes, when I write things that don't toe a particular party line, people feel insulted and they unsubscribe.
So it goes. Their loss.
But feelings are at the root of everything we do in creating advertising.
Creating an effective advertisement requires understanding how to make a single, defined individual feel the right thing about that which is being sold.
THERE MUST BE A RELEVANT ELEMENT OF ART, POETRY, SHOWMANSHIP, FINESSE, SOMETHING
An advertisement can't just be a Post-it Note that says, "Yeah, we sell that, too!"
And, unfortunately, that is what so much advertising is.
"Hey, we sell this for all your fill-in-the-blank needs!"
Which brings us to why I'm even on this tear.
Something happened over the holidays, and it represents a great loss to many people, including those of us with a fondness for smart radio advertising that means something.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, WE LOST A LEGEND
The radio advertising genius Dick Orkin went to the great Radio Ranch in the sky.
Dick was 84.
And he was perhaps one of the single best minds ever in advertising.
His specialty was radio, but his brand of thinking informed advertising at large for anyone willing to pay attention.
His brand of thinking is especially useful now, in our age of not-too-deep thinking and information overload.
Dick was no dummy. He had a bachelor's degree in speech and theater from Franklin & Marshall, a master's in clinical psychology from the Phillips Graduate Institute, and studied for his MFA at Yale.
DICK KNEW THINGS
One of the things he knew, and which informed everything in his work, was how to matter to the listener.
His Famous Radio Ranch was known for developing funny radio campaigns.
The Radio Ranch had a wealth of advertising trophies backed by an abundance of impressive, results-producing campaign credits for businesses across the nation and even across the ocean.
Long before I knew who Dick Orkin was, I knew his work.
It leapt out of the radio, grabbed you by the ears, made you listen--and made you care.
When I was eventually working in Los Angeles radio, I had the good fortune to learn from Dick at industry seminars, and later in private sessions and classes at his home in Toluca Lake.
DICK WAS A THINKER AT A DEEPER LEVEL
One of the things that so many radio advertisers want to have is a "funny commercial."
There's a kind of conditioning that has come with Big Agency Advertising, and it's the (sometimes) misguided notion that advertising needs to be funny.
In past screeds, we've dismantled that notion and proven that funny doesn't sell. Relevance sells. It doesn't hurt if it's funny. But it must be relevant.
Dick was happy to explain how to be funny, and how to make it relevant at a deeper level than most slap-dash comedy radio commercials ever reach.
DICK ALSO SHARED THE UNDERPINNINGS OF HIS PARTICULAR BRAND OF GENIUS
In searching for examples of Dick's work, I came across a YouTube clip.
It was posted by Dick's good friend, radio guru Dan O'Day. For years, Dick and Dan worked together, training radio professionals in ways to make better radio.
One of the Dick Orkin presentations that Dan sells as an info product is called, The Architecture Of Comedy. In the YouTube clip, before we get there, Dick has been playing radio commercials for the audience, and discussing how the comedy works. He then says, in part:
[The] fact that sex and death are
the basis of so much humor, including
some of the materials that you've
heard in the commercials here, is
because these are things largely
out of our control.
If we could control them, of course,
life would go swell, because everything
is in our control. It's a perfect world.
But we know it's not a perfect world.
Everything human is pathetic. As long
as a person takes themselves seriously,
there will be humor in the world. Because
we're taking ourselves seriously in the
face of an imperfect situation and an
imperfect world. Only man has dignity.
Only man, therefore, can be funny.
THIS IS NOT STANDARD COMEDY INSTRUCTION THINK
Dick goes on to talk about pomposity, ego inflation, ego deflation, the comedy of Type A versus Type B personalities, the awareness and the capacity to understand living in a world where things go wrong and you can laugh at them, the sense of maturity and self-worth required for that, and how a sense of humor is the ability to avoid getting caught in mind ruts where you can't see the opposite.
This is somewhat different than the standard "comedy rules" type of instruction that often comes from comedy experts--things like "Use The Comedy Rule of Threes."
There are all kinds of technical rules that help make comedy work.
But rarely does any guru talk about the human condition and the underpinnings of life that need to be understood before trotting out those rules.
DICK PROVIDED SOMETHING THAT IS SORELY LACKING RIGHT NOW
He provided thoughtful insight into that which lies beneath the craft.
He had a depth of knowledge in performance and psychology that he was readily willing to share.
In the present info-overload culture, the kind of depth that Dick brought to his how-to insight are sorely lacking.
Tools and tricks and surface features are often all anyone gets.
They get only the tip of the iceberg.
The iceberg's foundation--the 90% of the substance that makes it possible--is hidden beneath the surface.
Dick was great at revealing the foundations and making them relevant and useful.
And without relevance and usefulness, where are we?
Dick Orkin has left the ranch.
Long live Dick.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?
AdWeek has released its list of "The 10 Best Ads of 2017."
I thought, this should be good. These kinds of lists always give the small-business owner a great lesson in what to do--or not to do, depending on the particular advertisement.
And the first ad shown, the tenth of the 10 ads represented, is one heck of a "how-to" lesson in advertising.
The very first thing that anyone who's ever seen 2001: A Space Odyssey thinks is, Hey, that's the neoclassical bedroom from the end of the movie.
And it is. It's an actual recreation of that set with the furniture removed. But the room is still unmistakable in its antiseptic starkness and its under-lit white-tile floor.
BUT DR. DAVID BOWMAN IS NOT THERE
Instead, an elderly woman with short, white hair sits slumped in a chair in the middle of the room, wearing a white hospital gown. There is an odd, orbiting device above her head.
Who is she? Why is she there? What is the odd device above her head? Why does it look like a series of concentric lampshades, and what do the lampshades do as they slowly spin on their axis?
A creepy song plays, discordant and metallic sounding, a cheery voice singing disturbing words about ice cream.
A robot rolls into the frame. Its mechanical, emotionless voice says, "Good morning. It's time for ice cream." Its arm thrusts forward a spoonful of white ice cream.
She tastes it and says, "Oh, it's good! What's--"
"Eat the ice cream," says the robot.
IT FEEDS HER ANOTHER BITE
She takes it, then says, "Where am I?"
"Humans require ice cream."
"What is this place?"
"Eat the ice cream."
"I don't want any more!"
"Eat the ice cream."
"How long have I been here?"
"You're so hungry for delicious ice cream."
THE ROBOT CONTINUES THRUSTING THE ICE CREAM SPOON AT HER
"Get that away from me!" She knocks the spoon to the ground.
There's a shot of the spoon clattering on the floor. One vaguely recalls a similar image in Kubrick's movie.
She says, "Where...where's Steven?"
A door in the front of the robot's body opens, almost with apprehension.
Hesitation. Then, an arm slowly protrudes from the dark space within, holding out...
An ice cream cone.
It slides towards the woman. She regards it with trepidation and recoils ever so slightly.
THE ROBOT SWIVELS ITS HEAD TO ONE SIDE
"Everyone you love is gone. There is only ice cream."
The camera pulls back.
The woman begins to sob.
She slumps her head.
There is a dark and dissonant swoosh and "whump."
Following is a product shot.
The product is Halo Top ice cream.
PUTS YOU RIGHT IN THE MOOD, DOESN'T IT?
This is perhaps the best produced, hilariously dystopian, grimly satisfying, un-motivating advertisement for a food product ever.
And here's the one thing I really do appreciate about the reportage around this commercial.
I've read several stories that say basically same thing.
"Wow that's funny.
"And it does the product no favors."
Yes, earlier I did say that this ad would offer one heck of a "how-to" lesson in advertising.
The lesson is how to not do it.
NEVER COMMIT SACRIFICE
Never sacrifice your message or your product--or your brand--to the self-pleasuring comedy of a message driven by creative ego.
I've seen it constantly in small-business radio advertising.
But not like this epic horror.
Understand, this commercial was greenlit by the CEO of Halo Top.
It was also produced to play in movie theaters before Stephen King's It.
For that latter tactic, you can almost excuse it.
Except that, it lives on in YouTube land.
And plenty of people are seeing it.
And viewer reactions are things like, "That's hilarious. I'll never eat ice cream again."
The Fabulous Honey Parker, who came away from her career in big agency advertising with good rules, and good ways to break rules, has a simple rule about food advertising.
"YOU HAVE TO WANT TO EAT IT"
I showed her this video. She did something I've never seen. She watched with her mouth agape.
Her reaction was something like, "Oh, my God."
There is nothing tasty about the old woman in sinister limbo being tortured by a robot with a spoonful of ice cream.
Where it should be the hero, the product becomes evil.
Granted, "Got Milk" commercials cast the product as the hero absent. But nobody needs to be sold on milk being tasty. They merely need to be reminded to buy milk.
In those stories, the protagonists who were too careless to not buy milk end up paying the price. The lesson is, "Don't let this happen to you."
And it was hugely successful.
Except with the Spanish-speaking community.
Hispanic mothers found nothing quite as insulting as the idea that they would forget to buy milk for their families.
THERE WAS AN EMOTIONAL DISCONNECT
"Got Milk" was a huge failure with that demographic. Which is why Goodby-Silverstein launched a campaign called, "Familia, Amor Y Leche." Family, Love & Milk.
It reversed the emotional disconnect inherent in the sardonic message, "Got Milk?"
But the emotional disconnect of "Eat The Ice Cream" is stunning.
The product is malevolent. It is an antagonist. It is threatening and dangerous. Abandon all hope, ye who eat the ice cream!
Since the video does not appear on the Halo Top YouTube channel, it's safe to assume they really don't want it out there and that it was a publicity stunt designed to create buzz.
But the take away for the small-business advertiser: play to your core customer's needs, wants, desires, or even fears. But do not make your product fearsome and loathsome and sinister. It doesn't pay off.
To see "Eat The Ice Cream" and revel in its dysfunctionality, visit https://youtu.be/j4IFNKYmLa8
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
BECAUSE YOU KNOW ANALYTICS, ARE YOU A KNOW-IT-ALL?
As the Fabulous Honey Parker and I traverse the nation in the Slow Burn Marketing Brand Response Unit, we have been doing something interesting.
We've been staying at vineyards and wineries that welcome people in recreational vehicles to stay overnight.
It's a welcome alternative to sleeping in Walmart parking lots (which is a whole subculture unto itself), or in roadside rest areas.
Granted, it's an unwritten rule that one makes a purchase from the host winery.
But unless you go crazy, it's definitely less expensive than a pay-to-stay campground, though one misses the joys of a fleet of motorhomes dispensing hordes of screaming children into the grounds.
We are willing to suffer through.
AT ONE WINERY, WE MET A PROPRIETOR WHO STARTED TALKING ADVERTISING
He found out what Honey and I do for a living, and for some reason he decided he had to start peeing all over radio.
He said, "I keep getting all these radio guys coming in here and telling me I need to be on radio.
"Why would I want to be on radio?
"You can't tell if radio's working! You can't track it!
"I have an online ad, I can look at the analytics! I can see who got it and the demographic breakdown. I can see everything about it!"
Notice, he did not say anything about being able to tell if anyone bought anything.
And if you know anything about moi?
YOU KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DISSING RADIO TO ME
With a lifetime as a lover of radio, and more than a decade in radio advertising with a long list of awards and big ROI performances, I will defend radio.
But I did not reveal any of those things to this gentlemen who was letting us stay in his vineyard.
Instead, I said, "There are two really easy ways to track radio.
"One, put a flag in the commercial. We have an eye doctor client in New Hampshire whose tagline is, 'Straight talk, better vision.' People love it. They're constantly coming into his office and repeating it to him. He doubled his new patient base in 10 months.
"So, if you can come up with a memorable and desirable flag, that's one way.
"The other way is with an irresistible offer that you're not running anywhere else. If people come in asking for the offer or if they're going online to buy it, that's a way to track it."
AND I STOPPED THERE
One reason is I didn't want to seem impertinent or come off as a know-it-all.
And the other reason is I could see his face.
He was glazing over.
He didn't want to hear it.
He had no interest in being disabused of his preconceived notions about the efficacy of radio advertising and one's ability to track it.
Too bad, really. I could have given him many more ways to effectively track radio.
I could have talked about how doing radio well is to be building a local celebrity brand.
I could have told him stories about extraordinary ROI--as high as 2,000% using the offer irresistible-offer tactic mentioned earlier.
But he was obviously the bean counter in charge.
HIS ABILITY TO COUNT BEANS IS SUPREME!
The problem is, people are not beans.
People are soft, squishy creatures with emotional engines that drive the decision making process.
And looking around his winery, it is plainly evident that he knows everything he needs to know about his business.
His branding is a mess.
He has a logo that lacks distinction. It doesn't make the name prominent in any any way, and happens to encourage the misspelling of the brand name. (Using traditional icons to represent homonyms will do that. The city of Elkhart, Indiana uses an icon of an elk head inside of a heart shape. You see that, and your brain says, "Elkheart.")
HIS WINERY VEHICLES HAVE BEEN WRAPPED
Fundamentally, that is a good plan.
But fundamentally, whoever is responsible for the wrap lacks any fundamental sense of focused design.
On the wraps, the indistinguishable logo with the hard-to-find name is practically invisible on the design.
The design is dominated by a giant face with a lurid grin.
There is a mish-mash of design elements that don't say anything about the winery, but create a jumbled mass of colors and distractions.
The only readable words are a line in giant letters that says something like, "Ya gotta try it!"
I'll bet the wrap shop designed it for free. And I'm sure that, as a beancounter, he thinks he got great value because he didn't need to hire an art director.
HE KNOWS ALL THE BEANS SO HE KNOWS ALL THE ANGLES, RIGHT?
He would benefit greatly from spending some money on someone with a proven track record who can speak to focused messages and ROI.
His branding unfocused and messy.
And he has all the answers because he hasn't bothered to ask any of the right questions to someone who knows.
He's a self-informed know-it-all.
It's very frustrating to witness.
That said, he's committed.
He's doing something that a lot of folks will never do.
HE HAS COMMITTED 100% TO HIS IMPERFECT BRANDING
He is conveying it to the public in a way that he feels makes sense.
He might be wrong about details. His ignorance is his bliss.
And he's not afraid to put the brand out into the world and push it forward.
You wouldn't believe how many people we've worked with who lack the courage to make the branding happen.
We've literally rebranded a business that was desperately in need of a makeover--only for the client to kill everything at the 11th hour after spending thousands.
One thing you have to do in this business (or any other) is know what you don't know.
But another thing you have to do is have the courage to commit and propel that baby out into the ether.
Courage and commitment can cure a lot of ills.
Even for the know-it-all who, when he wants your opinion, will give it to you.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WHY ARE WE CHEERING A BRITISH INVASION?
Yes, it is July 4, 2017. In the United States, we are celebrating our declaration of independence from the United Kingdom.
Last week, our neighbors in Canada celebrated their sesquicentennial (that's the 150-year anniversary for all you civilians) of their independence from the UK.
No doubt, many Americans today are wishing they could move to Canada for more than just celebration.
But we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are not going there.
We will not make this a political screed. We never have. We never will. Because politics is just too divisive.
We are inclusionists.
We like to invite everyone to celebrate.
Which explains today's celebration.
WE ARE CELEBRATING A BRIT WHO CHANGED THE SHAPE OF AMERICAN ADVERTISING
Indeed, as creators of advertising, it's hard for us to not appreciate a man who famously said, "Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels."
And is there anything more American than an appreciation for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion?
Well, yeah, there is the national pastime of banging the drum for nonconformity, dissent and rebellion while making sure it conforms, agrees and complies.
"Let's all be different by dressing alike and indulging fanatical groupthink about the same stupid idea! Woo-hoo!"
But I digress.
REBELLION IS THE GAME THAT GAVE THE U.S. ITS INDEPENDENCE
And this Brit, the son of a Gaelic-speaking Scottish Highlander, was fascinated by the American character.
Back in the middle of the 20th century, in the days before the mayhem and the menace of the over-communicated digital culture, this man was an iconoclast, a subversive, a revolutionary.
He came to the U.S. banging the drum for a sea change in advertising.
In an age of the hard sell, he made a convincing pitch for the soft sell.
And his soft sell built brands with ferocious intensity. He won more major advertising accounts than any ad man before or since.
He never won any advertising awards for creativity. He didn't believe in them.
The idea of an industry's creative people giving awards to each other left him cold. He always maintained that if something didn't sell, it wasn't creative.
I COULD ARGUE THAT IF IT DOESN'T SELL, IT MIGHT BE STILL BE CREATIVE--IT JUST ISN'T RELEVANT
But why parse words with a genius? He'll always run rings around you logically.
And this man's particular genius is responsible for so much of what we do in our business that wins friends and influences people.
He changed advertising using his soft-sell methods combined with research.
Yes, that pox, research, always a nuisance, a bother and a misery to so many creative people.
In a famous quote, he said, "Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals."
BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN HE LOOKED DOWN UPON CREATIVE
Remember, he was all about the talented nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.
In fact, despite being an enormously successful businessman, he disdained businessmen who lacked the ability to be creative.
This man famously said:
The creative process requires more
than reason. Most original thinking
isn't even verbal. It requires "a groping
experimentation with ideas, governed
by intuitive hunches and inspired by
the unconscious." The majority of
business men are incapable of original
thinking because they are unable to
escape from the tyranny of reason.
Their imaginations are blocked.
BLAMMO! TAKE THAT, BLOCKED BUSINESSMAN!
Talk about potentially biting the hand that feeds you.
Who makes the decision to hire an advertising agency?
But then, don't Americans like to imagine themselves as the outlier, the nonconformist, the rebel?
"He's right! Let's be rebellious and hire the creative guy! Yay, we're nonconformists! Let's start dressing like nonconformists and pretending we're the new originals!"
But one of the most significant pieces of ad think propagated by this rebellious Brit regards branding.
And interestingly, "branding" is not a word that you hear him use a lot.
But when you look at his track record of iconic brand development, he was a king.
HE SPECIALIZED IN MAKING THE PROSPECT FEEL ONE WAY ABOUT THE PRODUCT
In fact, he called it essential to winning. He said:
There isn't any significant difference
between the various brands of whiskey,
or cigarettes or beer. They are all about
the same. And so are the cake mixes and
the detergents, and the margarines...
The manufacturer who dedicates his
advertising to building the most sharply
defined personality for his brand will
get the largest share of the market at
the highest profit.
We at Slow Burn might argue that this thesis becomes shaky when applied to various small-businesses with whom we work. Because many of them really are different than the competitors.
Nonetheless, the core concept--that the most sharply defined and most attractive personality wins--is one with which we have no argument whatsoever.
Hands down, we have seen it work for our clients. We have even seen it inspire the competition to scramble and regroup in an effort to redefine their own personality--with laughable results.
AND, THIS BRIT EVEN USED AN EXPRESSION NEAR AND DEAR TO THE FABULOUS HONEY PARKER'S HEART
He said something which is not only similar to a phrase she uses repeatedly, but is an idea which is uniquely American.
Honey loves a good sports story, and likes to talk about helping our clients "Knock it out of the park."
And lemmetellya, that is fun to do.
And this Brit liked to say, "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park."
And then he said, "Aim for the company of immortals."
Aim for the company of immortals.
I just got chills.
And interestingly, the Brit was also realistic about this.
He wasn't about winning at all costs. He had perspective and balance.
He also said, "Play to win, but enjoy the fun."
WE HAVE A RULE HERE AT SLOW BURN MARKETING
We've repeated it here before.
We will do business only with people whom we'd look forward to joining for dinner.
Life is too short. We will not take a client just for the money.
It has to be a good fit.
They, like us, have to play to win but enjoy the fun.
Interestingly, this describes not only the person who hired us, but every single person we met when we were engaged in a branding effort for a division of Wells Fargo.
HARD TO IMAGINE--BUT TRUE
And finally, one of the most practical quotes from our British invader.
It is just as piercing and relevant now as it was then.
And it speaks to a mindset seen too often in the hucksterish sales messages that come at us over the airwaves and through the ether.
This man was adamant that, "The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife. Try not to insult her intelligence."
On this Independence Day, a salute to you, David Ogilvy.
Here's to being fascinated by Americans, to burning it up with the soft sell, and to nonconformity, dissension, and rebellion.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
FULL AUTHENTICITY & ZERO MEDIA BUDGET?
Last week, that of June 17, 2017, a portion of the advertising world was focused on the south of France. The Côte d'Azur. Promenade de la Croisette. Le Carlton et Le Majestic.
Yes, the Cannes film festival is long over.
But we've just seen the passing of this year's festival of creative selling: The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Why should we care? The Cannes Lions is big. We are people interested in the small.
Well, let's remember one of the Slow Burn Marketing mantras: brand your small business like a big business and you can make great things happen.
And forgetting a lot of the advertising nonsense that comes out of Cannes (it is a festival of creativity after all, which sometimes becomes creative for its own sake and serves purposes other than ours), Cannes still has a prize category that is near and dear to my heart.
MEET THE CANNES GRAND PRIX IN CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS
Yes, even the great global advertising creativity dog pile, or pile de chien, in the south of France has an award for effectiveness.
So, are you one of those people? The ones who love to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
If so, back off, Jacques.
There's plenty of award-winning advertising that produces results. And as it happens, I've even created some myself.
But I've produced nothing of the magnitude that anyone at Cannes would care about.
Nonetheless, the beauty of the effectiveness award is twofold.
One, it fires a bazooka right at the guy who loves to say, "Advertising that wins awards never produces results!"
AND TWO, IT PRESENTS GREAT IDEAS WORTHY OF STEALING
Well, maybe "stealing" is too acute a word.
How about, the category presents ideas that can inspire.
Because again, this category provides documentable results. It shows the world creative and inventive advertising that made stuff happen.
But on a huge budget, right?
The category's winner this year was a campaign for the Art Institute of Chicago that ran on Airbnb.
The campaign was celebrating the first-ever visit to the US of the iconic Van Gogh work, The Bedroom. Or, if you prefer the proper French title, La Chambre à Arles. Or, since Van Gogh was not French but Dutch, Slaapkamer te Arles.
The Bedroom campaign gave people an opportunity to sleep in a life-size recreation of the room in Van Gogh's painting by renting it on Arbnb.
THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CAMPAIGN WAS IMPRESSIVE
ADWEEK reports that the campaign attracted 133,000 visitors to the Art Institute, and generated $2 million in revenue.
And this happened with an investment of just $500,000.
I know what you're saying.
You can't recreate Van Gogh's bedroom in life size, and half a million bucks is your annual revenue if you're lucky.
Plus, didn't I tee this up with a promise of full authenticity and zero media budget?
The authenticity here is questionable, and the budget is way above zero.
This is not the campaign to which I was referring. But it is fun.
THE CAMPAIGN THAT WAS AUTHENTIC AND CHEAP DID NOT WIN
It was an also-ran.
But it is really cool.
You may have heard about it when it was running.
It was a social media darling.
The campaign is called, The Swedish Number.
How's this for affordable: a media budget of zero.
No media was purchased for this campaign. None.
And it generated $147 million in earned media through international news coverage.
SO, WHAT IS THE SWEDISH NUMBER?
Sweden is a country with a grand tradition of tourism.
Swedes are a gregarious people who love to welcome visitors.
They also don't have any standout tourist attractions that make people say, "Hey, let's go see the Swedish fill in the blank!"
IKEA? Meatballs? Lutefisk?
And Sweden's tourism marketing budget is tiny. They don't have a lot of money to tell you, "We're so much more than IKEA, meatballs and lutefisk."
Enter Swedish PR firm INGO.
Their solution? Simple: a phone number for Sweden.
Anyone in the world could call Sweden on the phone, and a random real live Swede would answer.
Yes, I know. This conjurs up images of 12-year-olds dialing Sweden and saying, "Sven, is your refrigerator running?"
IT MAY HAVE HAPPENED
But far more consistently, random people from around the world called random people in Sweden and had very nice conversations about what it's like to live there.
Over 180,000 calls were made to Sweden.
They totaled over one year of talk time.
35,000 volunteer Swedish telephone ambassadors fielded calls from 180 countries.
The longest call lasted almost five hours.
And the media budget was zero. The Swedish Number was promoted with a couple of online videos and some PR, and news outlets worldwide picked up the story and ran with it.
Radio and TV programs everywhere picked up the phone and called random Swedes live on air. That included Good Morning America and the largest TV news channel in China.
If you search The Swedish Number on YouTube, you can see a Swiss TV host calling Sweden and asking about how all Swedes live in an IKEA and eat free meatballs, and Switzerland and Sweden always get confused for one another. (But only by Americans, apparently.)
AND TALK ABOUT AUTHENTIC
It doesn't get much more real than talking to a truck driver, a school teacher, a farmer, a pharmacist, a designer...
The list goes on.
Even the Swedish Prime Minister took a phone call. It was videotaped for YouTube.
It's safe to say that more people around the world were suddenly attracted to the idea of visiting Sweden than ever could have been accomplished with an under-budgeted TV campaign.
Why did this campaign work?
And why did so many people from around the world make so many phone calls to speak with people they didn't know?
ONE WORD: CONNECTION
Simple, human connection is a powerful thing.
The sound of one voice speaking to another.
Two people making contact.
It's just that simple.
And in a world where advertising contrivance runs amok, where everyone clamors to get your attention with offers and absurdities and craziness and scarcity and discounts and yelling--
A simple, human connection cuts through.
It shouldn't be that surprising. Some of the most effective advertising campaigns of all time have been based on simple, human connection.
At Slow Burn, some of our most powerful advertising campaigns have capitalized on just that. Last week, I was recording Dr. Sam Giveen from New Hampshire for yet another series of radio commercials where he speaks simply and candidly about having a better life with better eye care. Straight talk. Better vision.
SIMPLE, PLAIN-SPEAKING, UNGLAMOROUS DR. SAM IS A LOCAL CELEBRITY
He has never once made an offer in any of his advertising.
He has never pitched product.
He has never been a huckster, nor has he hired one.
Dr. Sam has always worked for a simple, human connection with his patients.
Throughout my career, I've created dozens of campaigns just like that. Recently, in fact, I was asked to record more announcer wraparounds for the legendary Sonny Sardo, an interiors specialist in Southern California.
Over a decade ago, I created a campaign that now numbers well over 100 commercials--all of them Sonny talking candidly, telling stories about things like re-upholstery, drapes and custom furniture.
He, too, is a local celebrity. He makes bank on making a simple, human connection with the radio listener.
BUT THE SWEDISH NUMBER STRIPS THE SIMPLE, HUMAN CONNECTION TO ITS RAW BASICS
And with zero media budget, zero actors involved, zero funny copywriting, and zero trendy art direction, a dinky nation of 9 million people got $147 million in free advertising around the world.
Pick up the phone.
Talk to a Swede.
How much simpler could it be?
You often don't need huge budgets, fancy production, or The Next Big Idea.
Sometimes, all you need to do is be human. Be real.
It's all good. And it all works.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE ADVERTISING?
As the faithful fan of the weekly screed knows, we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress are big fans of Jonathan Goldsmith.
We've previously discussed the success of The Most Interesting Man In The World.
The famous and much-parodied campaign for Dos Equis beer was everything one hopes a good ad campaign will be: entertaining enough to become a meme while producing results enough to make the brand a smash.
It's also safe to say the campaign rivals "Got Milk" for the number of stupid parodies being used by other advertisers. Just recently, we heard a local radio station do a lame parody that said, "I don't always listen to radio, but when I do..."
BUT HOW SUCCESSFUL WAS GOLDSMITH'S CHARACTER?
Yes, the world can be entertained.
But are people buying the product?
Hard numbers for the success of the Dos Equis campaign are difficult to come by. But by all accounts, it has been a raging success.
Various reports peg the results at anywhere from a 22% sales increase in the US (in a time when imported beers sales are slumping), to increasing Dos Equis sales 300% in Canada.
So, why did they shoot Goldsmith's The Most Interesting Man In The World into outer space last year?
Why did they replace him with giant and less-interesting Augustin Legrand's Most Interesting Man In The World?
That, friends, is anyone's guess.
SURE, THERE ARE EXPLANATIONS FROM PARENT HEINEKEN
An article in Advertising Age from March 2016 quotes the USA's Chief Marketing Officer for the parent company saying, "If you just plug the current campaign in the context of college football, there is something there missing."
He said that the then-current version of the campaign is "Looking backwards...You need something a bit more contemporary and something a bit more in today's world."
The article then went on to comment how The Most Interesting Man In The World campaign was an odd fit for, say college football.
The article concludes with the CMO saying that research had revealed that, "We could go further with the campaign--if we would become more active" and "more present-day."
AH, THE POWER OF RESEARCH
Research is used to justify all kinds of proactive steps that don't seem to make sense.
One of the first and most useful things I ever heard about research came in a marketing meeting from a radio program director.
He was talking about doing research to determine the programming direction for the music station in his charge.
The first thing he said--or at least, the first thing I remember--is this: Research is never predictive.
Yes, in a way, it sounds like he was trying to get off the hook in case his programming decisions failed.
But here's the important take away: you truly can never predict how people will behave tomorrow based on what they did or said yesterday.
Speaking as a guy who's heard people say, "I'd buy that!", and opened a business selling that, and nobody bought it, I get it. What people will do is never predicated on what they say.
AND WHAT WAS THE BEER CMO SAYING?
Basically, that their research had predicted the change for Dos Equis was good.
Getting rid of Jonathan Goldsmith and replacing him with that French guy and making the stories more contemporary would sell more beer to more people.
Go ahead. Ask your friends how they feel.
"Nah, he's not as interesting."
Cut to the beginning of June this year, and Dos Equis is changing advertising agencies.
Usually, that means that the advertising isn't working.
But it sounds like the advertising is indeed working--just not as well as they want.
Sales are still up for the younger but less-interesting Most Interesting Man In The World.
But sales for Corona and Modela Negra are up higher. People are finding their beach and looking for beer brewed with a fighting spirit.
SO MORE CHANGE IS GOOD, RIGHT?
We don't know.
We're just disappointed.
We miss the wit and personality of the Jonathan Goldsmith edition.
And it's one of those classic advertising legends where the guys who created the campaign admit they were clueless. They developed the idea half an hour before the meeting, figuring they'd never sell it.
All they were doing was making themselves laugh.
BUT WHY ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT THIS?
Because, Mr. Goldsmith is back.
Not for Dos Equis.
And not as The Most Interesting Man In The World.
He's back looking a lot like that most interesting guy.
A Mexican-tinged guitar is heard playing in the background.
He has some gorgeous women sitting with him in a dark room.
Liquor is poured into glasses.
The glasses clink together.
And Señor Goldsmith says, "I told you, I don't always drink beer." He toasts to you through the camera. "Astral. Tequila."
A FINE LINE BETWEEN LIQUOR ADVERTISING AND LAWSUITS
Astral Tequila has not crossed the line that could get them into trouble, but they are dancing right on it.
And while it's nice to see Mr. Goldsmith back in his most interesting chair, it's just a gag.
We really can't see it continuing.
But as regards flipping the bird to a previous advertiser, it's so much more preferable than the now long-running Sprint campaign featuring Paul Marcarelli, Verizon's former Can You Hear Me Now guy.
Yes, we here are in a minority.
We find Paul's pitch disingenuous and annoying. Research shows some people agree with us. But it also shows that more people are on board with him.
The point is, know your audience and know what they like.
Those of us who miss Jonathan Goldsmith's Fernando Lamas character, and who don't appreciate Paul Marcarelli as an unappealing shill, are in a minority.
And as a minority of a certain mind, we can be profitable.
As a small-business owner, you don't have to worry about the mass market.
You have to worry only about the market you serve--which is much smaller than the nation's entire beer-drinking public.
For instance, let's say you're a local craft brewer.
EACH YEAR, YOU PRODUCE LESS BEER THAN DOS EQUIS SPILLS EACH MONTH
It does not behoove you to worry about whether your brand and your marketing play to the nation's college football market.
You need to worry about whether your brand and your marketing play to the local specialty market.
For example, here in Park City where we live, we are an active-outdoor sports mecca.
Skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, paddling, fly fishing--beer drinkers here get out and do stuff. Constantly.
And local Park City Brewery aims right at that market.
Their beer, ostensibly, "Pairs well with your next outdoor adventure."
The names of their beers evoke the activities pursed by their customer.
THEY DON'T GIVE A FLYING CHUPACABRA'S PATOUTIE WHAT DOS EQUIS IS DOING
That doesn't mean they should ignore it.
It just means they should understand the difference between Dos Equis and themselves, and proceed accordingly.
They're never going to be marketing on a mass scale.
They're never going to compete with a national brand.
They are going to compete with other local brewers like Wasatch and Uinta and Epic.
They need to understand how to stand apart and how to be more desirable.
Yes, it helps to be piercing and attractive and resonant like Jonathan Goldsmith's character.
BUT IT ALSO NEEDS TO BE DONE IN A SCALABLE, RELEVANT WAY
It needs to be done in a fashion that resonate locally.
And in many regards, their most interesting man should be their own core customer.
At Slow Burn, we've always maintained that if you brand your small business like a big business, great things will happen.
And we stand by that.
We're not dissuading you from doing things correctly.
But you also need to understand how to scale it down for your market and your prospect.
You can and should look big.
But you just need to make sure you keep the reigns on it.
And so does your approach to maintaining local interest.
Can you hear me now?
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.