Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'd check those lyrics, Kyra...

The other day I happened upon a new commercial for Trop50 orange juice.  If my attention wasn't so focused on the carton -- which showed the redesigned graphics that Tropicana is abruptly dumping for its Pure Premium OJ -- I might have noticed that the woman in the commercial is Kyra Sedgwick.  Then, again, maybe I wouldn't have -- she's the last person I'd expect to be in a commercial this...generic.

For the inaugural spot for their new pitchwoman, Tropicana and its ad agency fell back on one of the most shop-worn and unconvincing advertising scenarios.  Kyra sips a glass of Trop50 and energized, she dances around her kitchen with wild abandon.

But even worse than the embarrassingly contrived excitement over a product that would NEVER come close to eliciting such a response, the spot compounds the dopiness factor with its choice of music:  Tom Jones' 1971 hit,  "She's a Lady."

As a theme for female empowerment, it's a bit...curious.  Purely by coincidence, a couple of weeks ago, I annotated the lyrics (in parentheses) for a female friend recently:
Well she's all you'd ever want,
She's the kind they'd like to flaunt and take to dinner. (SHE'S A TROPHY, SOMETHING TO DISPLAY)
Well she always knows her place. ('NUFF SAID)
She's got style, she's got grace, She's a winner.
She's a Lady. Whoa whoa whoa, she's a Lady.
Talkin' about that little lady, and the lady is mine. (AGAIN, A PRIZED POSSESSION)

Well she's never in the way (SHE'S LIKE A WELL-BEHAVED PUPPY)
Something always nice to say, Oh what a blessing. (SHE DOESN'T BOTHER ME WITH HER LITTLE PROBLEMS)
I can leave her on her own
Knowing she's okay alone, and there's no messing. (I DON'T HAVE TO BUY A CHASTITY BELT FOR HER)
She's a lady.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, she's a lady.
Talkin' about that little lady, and the lady is mine.
Of course, in the spot, all you hear is the opening chords and "She's a lady, whoa, whoa, whoa, she's a lady..."  Still, it's a little like selling a pickup truck with the lyrics "I am strong, I am invincible..." and hoping no one realizes the song is Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman."

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Unravelling The Snuggie

Last week, in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, columnist Rob Walker tries to unravel (yes, that's a pun) the "Snuggie" phenomenon.

A quick refresher (as if you really needed one; The Snuggie has become as culturally ubiquitous as pet rocks of the 1970's):

Walker begins:
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Snuggie — you know, the blanket with sleeves. Or rather, a blanket with sleeves: the Slanket, the Freedom Blanket, the Book Blanket are all quite similar, and all predated the Snuggie. But why the Snuggie? Surely no one thought that the startling success of this oddity — sales topping $60 million — was a story of innovation, or an engineering or design breakthrough.
One theory is that the Snuggie has caught on because it’s comforting — as if, in these recessionary times, we have become a nation of Linuses...

A second theory holds, more prosaically, that when rates for television commercials fell as mainstream advertisers started pulling back, infomercial-style peddlers took up the slack...

This factor is hard to dispute, but it cannot, by itself, explain why this specific bit of “As Seen on TV” flotsam has attracted so much interest.
Two reasonable explanations, but as he noted, they seem a bit undercooked.  So here's my take on why the Snuggie proved more popular than previous versions:  Part of it may just be in the timing -- a blanket made for "cocooning" right when the economy is forcing people to become homebodies again -- but even more than that, I think the mystique is really all in the name.

"Slanket" sounds like a cover for your Slinky, combining "sleeve" and "blanket" was too clever by half.

"Freedom Blanket" sounds like another post 9/11 political message; wear while enjoying your Freedom Fries.

"The Book Blanket" sounds like a cloth book cover; at any rate, it specifies too limited a usage.

But "Snuggie" tells you everything you need to know -- it's something to snuggle up in; Plus its sounds warm, cuddly and emotionally satisfying, qualities no other name comes close to evoking.

(You can even wear one while typing at your computer -- not that I'm admitting anything...)

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Old wine ad in a new bottle

When an art form -- even an "illegitimate" one, like advertising -- has been around long enough, imitation and appropriation can happen unknowingly and probably, inevitably.

Case in point: This 1952 wine ad, employing an artistic illustration to impart sophistication and distinctiveness:

An approach surprisingly similar to the ads of Absolute Vodka some 30 years later:

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Trust Me, you've seen this before.

I've posted on my Twitter account about this, but with only 140 characters per post, I can't really do my point justice.  So:

Cable network TNT has been touting their new series, "Trust Me" as a drama, but at most, it's a "dramedy," a drama/comedy hybrid.  Actually it's more of a "comma" -- more emphasis on comedy than drama) -- but you can't really blame them.  

Despite the prima donna attitudes and daily crises in the ad industry, it's tough to ratchet up enough tension to make the outsiders feel anything really important is at stake.   (That's why most dramas tend to be about either murder investigations or legal trials).  So it was probably a good decision for the show's creators (two former ad men themselves) to base the show more on the lead characters' interactions than on winning and keeping clients.

Where they failed was in the personalities of the two main characters, falling back on the standard sitcom pairing of the uptight straight man and the wacky loose cannon.  Guess which is which (it's not hard):

Like I said, they're basically the same one-note characters you see in a lot of sitcoms, but oddly, they most suggest a duo not out of sitcoms, but a sitcom-ish 1982 movie.  Written by former sitcom writers and directed by a former sitcom star, "Night Shift" seems remarkably prescient of  TV "Trust Me:"

Eric McCormick = Henry Winkler.  Ed Cavanaugh = Michael Keaton.  Granted, "Trust Me" does take place in advertising and "Night Shift" is about two guys involved in prostitution, but -- well, you've heard the comparison before.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Putting the Squeeze On Tropicana

Last Monday, the NY Times reported that Tropicana was reversing its decision on new packaging for its orange juice, dumping the new design that, with its large glass of orange juice and large expanses of white space, looked like as contemporary as the 1970's. 
Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued, executives plan to announce on Monday, and the previous version will be brought back in the next month.

Also returning will be the longtime Tropicana brand symbol, an orange from which a straw protrudes. The symbol, meant to evoke fresh taste, had been supplanted on the new packages by a glass of orange juice.

The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look.
So what was behind the switch in the first place?  Later in the article,   explains:
“We underestimated the deep emotional bond” they had with the original packaging, he added. “Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.”

Among those who underestimated that bond was Mr. Campbell himself. In an interview last month to discuss the new packaging, he said, “The straw and orange have been there for a long time, but people have not necessarily had a huge connection to them.”

Reminded of that on Friday, Mr. Campbell said: “What we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research.”
A very curious mea culpa, given the efforts that Tropicana took over the years to cement that mnemonic device in consumers' minds, from still images like this:

To filmed footage, like this:

(Here's that last image again, if you missed it:)

For this discussion, let's not question the wisdom of changing your longtime packaging so radically that you've made it harder for shoppers to quickly identify you among other orange juices in a crowded refrigerated case.  

Let's just consider that, in pursuit of "freshening" their packaging, Tropicana tossed out the one element that they truly "owned," an iconic image so simple, so memorable, and so elegantly expressive of their brand promise, on what appears to the whim of their ad agency.  Other OJ makers would kill for a iconic image like this, and Tropicana was worried that consumers felt no bond with the orange-and-straw?  

Did they ever consider that an emotional connection wasn't as important as its more "rational" connotation to buyers?  Or even more to the point:  What did they really think the new packaging offered that would compensate for the loss of the previous recognizability and communication?

How do you enhance your brand equity by dumping it?

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