If they remember the commercial but have no brand recall you lose
There has been a disturbing trend recently in TV advertising and it, as much as anything, explains why so much of it has failed to increase market share for its brands: The brand barely makes an appearance. And, when it does, it’s only at the end.
As a test case, let’s use a smattering of the Super Bowl ads from 2009, especially with the 2010 version coming up and we’re in anticipation of more ads we’ll forget.
Now, go do something else for 10 minutes. Come back and tell me whom the ads were for. What you saw is six of the 11 spots with the brand only making an appearance at the end. They are basically comedy skits with a logo tacked on at the end. (The Cheetos ad falls into this category, even though Chester Cheetah makes a cameo appearance early.)
Why is this a problem? Simple. There is no memory of the brand itself once spot like these have been replaced by something else. Is this effective branding? I don’t think so.
Try this little experiment: The next time you are watching TV with friends or family, and notice any ad where the “who is this for?” is answered only at near the end and the rest of your group is laughing at the ad.
You will discover that most will not remember. It’s like asking who was the advertiser in the “herding cats” spot years ago. Who knows?
That’s because much advertising has become the equivalent of watching an SNL skit, with a company logo slapped to the end of it. It’s about the comedy, not the brand. It’s marketing as entertainment.
And millions of dollars are wasted on bad brand advertising.
Within the above examples, you saw a horror show with Cheetos, Careerbuilder.com, Teleflora, Pedigree and Pepsi Max. Castrol also has to be included because, even though a character mentions the brand early enough, you’d have to be paying attention with the intensity of Bobby Fischer to notice it.
But let’s consider the Bud Light ads (Read our study of the beer category here). This really gets to the heart of the problem because it doesn’t just lie with the failure of mentioning the product or brand early. (Although, most can’t even get that right.) Having a unique tone and attitude that permeates the ads from start to finish is just as important as the verbal or written message.
Apple is, of course, the best at this. You recognize right away this is an Apple spot – whether it’s the PC/Mac or iPhone app spot – just by the imagery and tone.
In the Bud Light spots, built around that inane “drinkability” theme, the brand is frequently mentioned and so you’d think there’d be no problem with it.
But it reminds you that Bud’s competitors completely copy the same exact tone and attitude and messaging as Bud does. In the above test (watching with friends, secretly judging them while they laugh at an ad, then asking them who it was for 10 minutes later), try it with any beer ad. You’ll get the same answer: Bud. (Coors and its Silver Bullet might be an exception.)
Brand recall is ALWAYS the goal
That’s because when you copy the market leader, people immediately think it’s about the market leader. Even though there are thousands of beer brands (when you include microbrews), Budweiser remains the market leader with nearly 50% of the market share. So, when a Miller ad, for example, adopts the same tone and attitude as the Bud spots, you mistake it for Bud.
(That brings up another side note: So many marketers never realize that to be different and better than your competition, you also need to be different and better in tone, not just in the words you say.)
There was one spot from our sample that is reminiscent of one that got it exactly right: The famous Mean Joe Greene-Coke ad. (read more about Coke here). Right from the start, that one had the tone, message and Coke brand (America, nostalgic, good harmony) to the very end. You never once forget it’s a Coke spot and the emotional connection to the brand is established early – which is why it worked so spectacularly well.
No short shrift to eTrade or Doritos – although eTrade is much better at being different than its competition than the throw-away Doritos spot – but the lack of a Mean Joe Greene out there demonstrates how far over the cliff we’ve gone.
TV advertising, and marketing in general, has simply gotten too clever. The Careerbuilder.com spot is a perfect example. It is meant to be annoying – to stick with you like lint – but it comes off as just wink-wink. Your ribs hurt after having its elbows in your side so often.
Better to keep your eye on what’s important. Getting the brand message across from beginning to end or making viewers laugh and justify it by slapping the logo at the end. What’s best? The question can be answered by which one results in dollars and cents instead of just spending it.