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.