Morgan Spurlock will premiere his latest meta-documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at Sundance later this month. The film, which is being touted as the first ever “docbuster,” is a documentary about branding, advertising and product placements completed financed by corporate sponsorships. The above poster was designed by Ron English whose work critiques the marketing practices of many brands, most notably McDonald’s. The poster takes some swipes at White Castle, Aunt Jemima and Kellogg’s so click here to enlarge it for a more detailed view.
Thanks to Flickr user Agent J Loves Agent A for the cool find.
Since beginning my initial work on product displacement, I’ve noted several instances in which companies utilize unbranding techniques in their advertising campaigns (Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Freshjive). AT&T’s “Rethink Possible” campaign aims to align its brand with innovation and optimism rather than just promoting their latest products or services. AT&T wants to enhance its image and as mentioned in this NYT article, “selling on price is a pathway to commoditization.”
As you can see from the above image, AT&T has ditched its brand name and emphasizes its iconic globe. While the company hasn’t completely unbranded itself because the globe symbol boasts a high 90% recognition rate among consumers, AT&T is demonstrating that less prominent branding can empower a company’s image. The omission of the letters is strategic leadership move and “displaying [the globe] without the “AT&T” echoes the way Nike is recognized by its swoosh and Target by its target.” By taking the focus off its products and communicating arbitrary messages about the future and technology, AT&T has adopted an open-ended campaign in which consumers engage with the brand by aligning it with personal notions of what innovation means to themselves.
According to The Daily Mail, Kellogg’s plans to laser its logo on individual corn flakes. The drastic and peculiar plan is meant to emphasize the Kellogg’s brand name in a cereal market flooded with cheaper generic options, which they refer to as “fake flakes.”
Helen Lyons, Lead Food Technologist at the company states, “We want shoppers to be under absolutely no illusion that Kellogg’s does not make cereal for anyone else. We’re constantly looking at new ways to reaffirm this and giving our golden flakes of corn an official stamp of approval could be the answer. We’ve established that it is possible to apply a logo or image onto food, now we need to see if there is a way of repeating it on large quantities of our cereal. We’re looking into it.” [via: The Daily Mail]
I’ve debated whether generic brands are forms of product displacements and ultimately decided that they are since they mimic packaging and naming conventions of their brand name counterparts. In the midst of a recession, consumers often buy generic products to save money. As generic/store brands improved in quality, consumers realize that when they purchase brand name cereal, they are just paying for advertising.
The Kellogg’s laser idea is an attempt to give their corn flakes cereal a label of prestigiousness. As I’ve stated many times when discussing product displacement, even if a brand is tweaked, consumers will still identify the greeked product with the brand referenced. Based on Lyons’ statement, it seems Kellogg’s is worried that product displacement is working too well because consumers assume that all corn flakes are made by Kellogg’s. Click here for another example of a “generic” cereal. Can you guess the brand name cereal being reference?
The 2008/2009 season was marked with a great deal of uncertainty as automotive spending, the largest ad category for network television, steadily decreased. However, desperately needing to reach customers more than ever, the Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and GM) actively sought pricey brand integration deals. General Motors invested heavily in NBC’s quickly cancelled spy series, My Own Worst Enemy. As Brian Stelter notes in his New York Times article, integration deals are very risky and when a show is cancelled, a brand’s exposure from its product placements is as well.
In addition to being a primary sponsor of NBC’s reality show America’s Toughest Jobs, Chrysler signed an elaborate partnership with Fox’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles that included heavy in-program integrations of its Dodge Ram truck. The package also promoted Dodge Ram’s “Never Back Down From a Challenge” vehicle giveaway and featured blatant Dodge branding on all Sarah Connor websites and promotional materials. Dodge Ram was a very good fit for an action-packed show like Sarah Connor and even ranked second in a list of most-recalled hybrid ads (via: Nielsen).
Since Chrysler, was the exclusive automotive sponsor of the show, Sarah Connor provides great examples of techniques used to cover up competitor logos and brand names. I refer to this process as unbranding. It’s more likely for audience members to recall product occurrences In this scene, the “Chev” in Chevrolet were blackened as Cameron walks by a van. This image shows the unbranded grill of a Chevy Suburban that was digitally altered in post production. I was able to identify the SUV during a brief shot in which the Suburban brand name was (probably accidentally) visible. These examples of demonstrate how unbranding serves as a technique to enhance the advertising effectiveness of Chrysler vehicles by eliminating any presence of competitors.
In early December, as the magnitude of the automotive industry crisis was becoming even more apparent, Chrysler announced that it may not survive after 2009 and would probably file for bankruptcy. It was during this period that Chrysler product placements in began to deviate from the established norm. The “Earthlings Welcome Here” episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles, which aired December 15, 2008, signaled what I can only speculate was the end of Chrysler’s integration deal with the show. The episode does not contain any Dodge Ram occurrences, but does feature Sarah Connor driving a Jeep Liberty. The majority of shots where the Jeep brand name and logo were visible, occurred in a split second and would probably not be noticed by a casual viewer.
As I’ve noted above, unbranding is used by networks and studios to eliminate the presence of rival companies and increase brand recall. Essentially, unbranding helps eliminate the clutter and influence of brands that are not primary advertisers of a show. Viewers are more likely to remember and engage with a brand/product if it’s presented by itself. “Earthlings Welcome Here” demonstrates another industrial function of unbranding, which is to prevent giving advertisers free publicity. While Chrysler make have initially paid for a season long integration package, it’s quite possible that the company pulled out given its dismal financial state. Many of the Jeep Liberty scenes in “Earthlings Welcome Here” feature Sarah Connor driving down long, windy, empty desert roads. These are the types of images you would expect to see in a car commercial.
While I’m sure when this episode was filmed, it’s fairly clear that Chrysler’s Jeep brand was supposed to be heavily promoted, as evidenced by the title character’s (Sarah Connor) repeated use of the SUV. In addition, the Jeep Liberty was given a lot of screen-time, that was however, negated by it’s logo being digitally removed. I have include two images in my Product Placement Flickr set I believe illustrate an intended lingering visual duration of the Jeep Liberty. In this image, the Jeep is moving directly towards the camera, but there is no trace of the Jeep brand name. Several seconds later, just as Sarah Connor is visible behind the wheel, it becomes obvious that the Jeep brand name and logo were deliberately blurred out. This scene consisted of one continuous shot and would have surely generated high recall from viewers if Jeep was not displaced by the show’s unbranding efforts.
No that’s not a typo in the blog title. Walmart recently replaced its widely recognizable logo and ditched the star and hyphen. It seems Fox News (along with perhaps other major media outlets) must not have received the memo, because as I began this post, the network flashed a caption that included the hyphen. The retail monster giant has been plagued by media coverage of its business practices and poor treatment of employees and like many companies concerned with their image and reputation, Walmart is attempting to improve its public perception. This is quite a feeble and poorly executed attmept I must say. Branding company Lippincott is reportedly behind the new logo, but this information has yet to be confirmed (via: Brand New). I guess the agency doesn’t want to be associated with this mess. Click here for an artist rendering of a sign to be used at a test store in Memphis.
The rebranding effort will also include the “Save Money. Live Better” slogan, which replaced the long-standing “Always Low Prices” in 2007 (via: Huffington Post). The old navy blue, sans serif logo was introduced in 1992 and used a five-point star as a hyphen–perhaps for patriotic effect. Click herefor a Walmart logo timeline. The color is definitely softer and is meant to represent the company’s supposed commitment to environmental responsibility. The font is no longer in all caps, which Brand New points out, “…helps humanize Walmart with a name that reads more like John, Albert, Sarah or Wilbur.” The new design seems to be very Web 2.0 influenced. Click here to see examples of Web 2.0 typography and let me know what you think.
A press release from Walmart states, “This update to the logo is simply a reflection of the refresh taking place inside our stores and our renewed sense of purpose to help people save money so they can live better,” but does not explain the significance of the asterisk-like starburst. Brand New commenters have brilliantly compared the starburst to an asshole, which pretty much sums up the suites that run the company.
AKQA, London’s latest endeavor for NikeiD seeks to take mobile marketing to a new level by attempting to deepen the interaction between the consumer and brand. NikePhotoiD, the latest service offered by NikeiD, allows users to customize Dunk high-tops on the fly by simply texting an image of their surroundings with a camera phone. The application then selects the two dominant colors of an image and sends participants an example of a customized sneaker superimposed over the original image they took along with a link to share or purchase their creation. NikePhotoiD will only be available in Europe, but AKQA is working on expanding the product selections and service to other regions.
Paulo Tubito, Nike’s Director of Brand Connections, states, “Where past use of MMS in mobile marketing campaigns has typically focused on short-term, one-way interactions between brands and consumers, Nike PhotoiD opens a genuine creative dialogue between the brand and its audience” (via: Contagious). I’ve always found most mobile marketing attempts to be rather one-dimensional despite being highly user-controlled and initiated. Although NikePhotoiD includes a viral aspect, I doubt designs will be widely shared on a long-term basis. Perhaps its because the NikeiD website has such boring color and material selections, but I’ve never enjoyed viewing the sneaker designs of other people. This really seems like a neat service and when it arrives in the states, I’ll definitely try it out, but it strikes me as nothing more than a gimmick that will lose its appeal after customers satisfy their curiosity. Ross Cidlowski makes a great point when he wonders if Europeans use cell phones differently and questions whether this campaign will have any significant impact on people’s behavior.
I love customized sneakers and appreciate how Nike is inviting customers to capture the environments that inspire them. The creative process, however, is severely limited by the lack of color options and ability to actively design the sneaker. Perhaps a more effective way for Nike to strengthen its mobile communication with consumers would have been a relaunch of the NikeiD website with better navigation and palettes that allow visitors to create custom colors and patterns.
The polls will close at the end of June and a new soft drink will join the Mountain Dew family. In November, PepsiCo, which owns Mountain Dew, teamed up with WhittmanHart and launched an exceedingly interactive ad campaign to revitalize the brand. The campaign consists of several phases where players of an online game design their own Mountain Dew drink. The user-generated beverages were then narrowed down to three flavors (Supernova, Voltage, Revolution) and are currently being sold for a limited time. The packaging instructs customers to visit Dewmocracy.com and vote for their favorite flavor. It goes without saying that Mountain Dew is playing off of the excitement of the national elections and even displays results from each state.
“Dewmocracy” is the first large-scale web marketing campaign by Mountain Dew that targets teens and Millennials, who have grown up with the Internet. In 2007, the brand ended its highly-successful “Do the Dew” and “extreme sports” approach to end being labeled as an energy drink like Red Bull. Ending its long-time partnership with BBDO and opting to collaborate with WhittmanHart has so far demonstrated impressive results. The agency has incorporated many opportunities for consumers to be entertained and collaborate into the media it created. The “Dewmocracy” website in particular contains experiential features where visitors can post messages and create there own 20-second campaign commercials to share on their social-networking profiles.
In addition to the website and multi-player game, WhittmanHart created a 4-minute short filmto provide “Dewmocracy” with a back-story. The power to design a drink is framed as an act of defiance against evil corporations seeking to eliminate people’s freedom to make their own choices. This sort of rhetoric that addresses cynicism toward corporations is similar to how Mountain Dew appealed to “Gen Xers” in the 90s and will likely make the campaign a success. Although members of “Dewmocracy” may not view themselves as full-fledged counterculturalists, they look for outlets of self-expression and the site provides exactly that. In March, WhittmanHart reported “Dewmocracy” drew 70,000 visitors that spent an average of 26-28 minutes on the site.
To promote the three flavors, PepsiCo has been giving customers free bottles and 12-pack cans at several supermarket chains. I’m sure the soft-drink giant is hoping to get people hooked on a particular flavor and so they will visit Dewmocracy.com and become brand ambassadors campaign supporters. Overall, the interactivity of Mountain Dew’s new marketing strategy is top-notch and engaging. Voting-centered ad campaigns seem to be popular and enjoyed by consumers. In 2003 and 1995, M&Ms drew a lot of attention and participation when the company asked customers to select a new color for its candy.
Reebok couldn’t release a decent pair of sneakers if the instructions were written on the heel. The company’s latest attempt at whetting the palates of sneaker collectors is an ill-conceived collaboration with Kool-Aid. Their line of Kool-Aid scented sneakers, which are available in grape, cherry, and strawberry, was released earlier this month. For the burgeoning fashion victims fashionistas that enjoy coordinating their outfits, matching hoodies, hats and t-shirts are available and will most likely be hitting the clearance rack the second they’re unloded off the truck.
If these sneakers were geared towards children, I’d forgive the bright colors and figure Reebok is capitalizing on their love of sugary, artificially flavored drinks. However, the Kool-Aid kicks are part of the company’s 2008 “Your Move” campaign, which tries way too hard to portray Reebok as a brand that embraces individuality. Granted, I’m not all that familiar with Reebok or its products, but I have seen a couple of its recent spots, and I must say, the ads are definitely lacking authenticity.
Reebok is obviously trying create a space for itself among sneaker heads, but it fails to realize sneaker-collecting culture was created by the consumers. Nike, Adidas and Puma know this and are able to make campaigns that come across as collaborative, not phony. Another reason why Reebok will never be fully embraced by collectors is its lack of a solid brand identity and history. Several years ago it rebranded itself as RBK, a move that reminds me of KFC’s disturbing (and somewhat true) urban legend. It’s really hard to establish a long-term relationship with a company that undergoes identity crises and encourages shoe-sniffing.
I saw the following job posting while browsing NYU’s CareerNet.
Employer: cip marketing Corporation Division: East Title: adidas Brand Coach Description: Objectives:
adidas America and cip Marketing Corporation have partnered to create an exciting opportunity for students. As one of the leading brands in the world, adidas is aware of the value of the relationship with retailers and consumers. We are looking for students to assist in our mission to inspire adidas retailers and consumers. Students who can inspire by sharing the passion, authenticity and innovations of the adidas brand.Duties and Responsibilities:
Must be a self starter with strong self management skills. Must have flexibility to work with short time lines in a fast-paced environment.
• Ensure sell-through of adidas products
• Increase Accounts’ Sales Associates knowledge of and passion for adidas products, marketing initiatives and technologies
• Brand representative at events
Qualification: • Above average MS Office skills
• Excellent communication, presentation skills and ability to interact at all levels within an organization
• Ability to lift 60 lbs
• Ability to travel within Metro area
cip is currently handling several retail and event projects for Adidas. It seems as though Adidas is looking to engage retailers as well as consumers, thus adding a whole new level to its marketing strategies. It really impressive to see how in a relatively short time Eric Liedtke has managed to revitalize the company’s image after its declining sales in the late 90s. I might apply to the job; Lord knows gambling debts don’t pay off themselves and I’m not one to welsh on a bet.
A lot has been going down in the world of Adidas and being an avid sneaker collector, I’m excited! Following a month-long renovation, the Originals store in SoHo reopened during Fashion Week and set the stage for the company’s new Celebrate Originality campaign. To promote the launch of the redesigned store, a giant adidas Originals shoebox was placed on Broome St. Adidas, 180 Amsterdam and Hill & Knowlton have been generating a lot of buzz over their viral and interactive marketing strategies, which includes the release of an animated film about Adi Dassler on YouTube and implementing various blogger/social-networking outreach methods.
The Celebrate Originality campaign introduces the miOriginals concept, which allows customers to design their own sneakers through interactive, in-store workshops. According to Andrea Corso, an Adidas spokesperson, “It’s special for Originals because it’s now making this design component available to more consumers with more products and turning it over to them so they can bring their creative to life.” During a time in which people do not only consume, but rather render brands and products as part of themselves, the new Adidas campaign will most likely succeed. Adidas introduced sneaker customization–a phenomenon that has proved successful for both Nike and Puma–in 1984 with the release of it Adicolor products. Through the use of a brand model that treats customers as active, creative partners and participants, sneaker companies function much like a culture.
Adidas has embraced the promotion of digital media and interactive events in the past. In 2006, the company created several short films on YouTube for each color in its re-released Adicolor series. For this campaign, Adidas opened a secret showroomin NYC’s Chinatown that prompted a lot of online discussion over its location. To compliment a website it created for user-generated content, Adidas put up white billboards that encouraged people to tag them with graffiti.
With a new Atelier retail design and special section in its stores for customers to relax in and be inspired, Adidas is not merely executing their latest advertising campaign. Celebrate Originality serves as an example of how companies are seeking to increase brand loyalty and engagement by using marketing methods that encourage experiences.