Author Archive

Medium Regular with Milk and Four Sugars

October 2, 2009

Looking at the consumer landscape, it is easy to pick out brands that have been with us for as long as we can remember. Immediately, you might think of brands like Coca-Cola, Apple, IBM, McDonald’s and many others. Their personalities are emblazoned in our minds to the point where we can recite their popular jingles and possibly even draw their logos on paper. This is called, “unaided awareness,” meaning you have a subconscious attachment to the brand. This is due, in part, to the personal connections we have developed with these brands over the years. For example, I remember when I worked with my dad on my first summer job. I was 13, and every day, we’d wake up at the crack of dawn and head over to Dunkin Donuts. I’d get a donut or a bagel with some kind of juice. But, my dad would order a croissant and a coffee. He’d have it how he still has it to this day, medium regular with milk and four sugars.  We’d then sit in the car and talk over our breakfast until we had to punch in for work. Those moments with my dad are moments I’ll never forget, and Dunkin Donuts will always be a part of that story.

dunkin_donuts_logo

But, how is it that Dunkin Donuts and other long-standing brands like it, has managed to stay relevant to an ever-changing audience? It is about acknowledging the past and giving credence to the present. What does this mean? When we think about brands that have been with us for decades, some for more than a century, we have to realize that they have survived amid enormous cultural change. Including different generations of evolving mindsets, like my fathers generation as well as my own. For example, when Starbucks entered the picture and fixed itself upon global domination, Dunkin Donuts did not rush out to make its brand more youth oriented by adding gradients or cleaner typography. What did the company do? It stuck with its candy colored pink and hot dog font and just added a coffee cup next to their logo. It didn’t put on airs or presume to be something it was not. Dunkin Donuts, as well as other long-standing brands, has learned to adapt, but has not forgotten itself in the process. Many brands have created a presence for themselves through social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, etc… Does this mean they have sold out? Absolutely not, it means that they have recognized the need to continue to stay relevant to their ever-changing customer base. If you look at other brands that have stood the test of time, this ethos continues to ring true. They all stay honest to their brand and their consumers, but still manage to adapt by leveraging change as an opportunity to further interact with their customers, responding to their questions, while also reaching new generations of consumers.

Does this really make sense? To this day, whenever I need a pick me up, where do I go? Even though Starbucks may be next door, I walk the few extra minutes to the Dunkin Donuts down the block, to get my medium regular with milk and four sugars

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Does Sex Sell?

November 12, 2008

Before I delve into this charged and heavily argued subject, let me just start by asking you to think back. Try to remember the brand behind the commercial that I am going to try and describe to you now. It begins with a rock guitar solo and a scene of guys playing football. It then cuts to different scenes of guys roughhousing, quarterbacks getting tackled and other masculine imagery. All the while there is a voice in the background narrating and describing the different scenes that are depicted. For example, “I love… playing two hand touch, eating way too much… watching my team win… with the twins!” After he says “twins,” two scantily clad beautiful blondes jump up with pom-poms in their hands. This ad was continued in a series for…were you able to remember?

Coors Light. coors-light-twins2

If you were able to remember then congratulations. If you weren’t, this begs the question, were you more interested in the girls, or the beer? How about the commercial with Paris Hilton washing the car? Or, the commercial with the two voluptuous women fighting and tearing their clothes off over the taste of the beer? Maybe you remembered the brands, maybe you didn’t. After I polled a few guys, I soon realized that a lot of these commercials left a lasting effect on them because of the models in the commercials. When asked what the brand was behind the commercial many times they were not able to remember. This shows us that although many brands are using sex as a tool, the effect of this has been blunted by a disconnect that the advertisers may not be aware of or even ever considered. It’s that sex can overwhelm the message and easily dilute the essence of a brand if not used carefully.

How about the ads with the three frogs hanging out by the bar near the lagoon? Yeah, you’ve got it, it’s Budweiser! This commercial had no models and did not objectify women in any way. Yet, it accomplished its goal by holding the audience’s attention and has been regarded as one of the most memorable ads in history.

Does this mean then that we can write off sex as a way to garner a select demographics attention? No, not at all. When a brand has been built around this theme then it can only reinforce the message. For example, Hooters, Playboy, etc… Well, you might say that these don’t count as they are obviously linked and might be a no-brainer. But, it has been shown that sex also reinforces brands that ultimately have to do with attraction; like colognes, perfumes, clothing, etc. An example of this would be the Acqua Di Gio model who became the face and body of the brand for years and successfully reinforced the core essence of the brand; sex and attraction. Also, Fcuk, a clever way to utilize French connection’s U.K. brand by deliberately confusing the audience into thinking the brand is a more commonly used four-letter word. The campaign that was launched behind this idea was a huge success and Fcuk went on to generate a huge leap in revenue sales. And, what about the Axe Effect commercials? There is another example of how sex reinforces a brand that is ultimately built around the idea of attraction.

What can we take from this? In the digital age that we live, we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements on a daily basis and advertising agencies are struggling to fight for our attention. This means that some believe the easiest way to do this, even if for just a few seconds, is to appeal to our base desires. What many agencies don’t realize is that this could lead to the deconstruction of a brand by confusing the viewer or not reaching them at all. It is important to remember the core of the brand and to never forget that the easiest way out is not always the best.