Advertising – The Client

Two of my favorite quotes about advertising:

“Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol, which is the brand image.” David Ogilvy (O&M)

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes…” Phil Dusenberry (BBDO)

Years ago when I was in marketing research, the CEO of a midsized company and a good friend asked me to conduct some focus groups on a new campaign his ad agency had developed. After doing the work, I came back with the recommendation that he proceed – the message was in line with the strategy and consumers liked the creative effort.

He kept challenging me on each and every positive insight I shared with him. Finally, in exasperation I asked my friend/client what is the problem. He looked at me and said, “Arthur, there is nothing you can tell me that will change how I feel. I hate the campaign.” “So why did you bother to hire me to test it,” I asked. “I was hoping consumers would hate it as well. Now I’ll just kill it on my own.”

Our debate continued. “What don’t you like about it?” “I just don’t like it,” was the reply. “Well why not give your agency some guidelines for what you’re looking for?”

“Listen” he said, “I’ll know good advertising when I see it.”

Oh, it’s good to be the CEO.

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Find a hole and fill it

This blog has given me the opportunity to re-connect with friends and to make new ones like David van de Velde whose business motto is the headline for this posting.

In addition to being a very smart and affable fellow, David is an interesting entrepreneur and created Ketel One and Van Gogh Vodkas. In that regard, he changed the spirits industry.

I hope one day to write his full story but here are a few things that make him so interesting.

Let’s start with the motto. In an age of me-tooism, finding a hole and filling it speaks volumes about brand development strategies.

Not long after Seagram got Absolut Vodka, I kept hearing about this new brand, Ketel One, which was unique in its packaging, name, underlying concept and one other “outrageous” factor… a price at a significant premium to the category.

In addition, they concentrated on bartenders and servers and used videos and events to tell the story and even special olives for a martini. Everywhere I went at the time, all I heard was how we needed to learn from the Ketel One folks.

Many people think that the ultra premium vodka market was created by Grey Goose when, in fact, by the time Grey Goose came along, Ketel was already doing 200,000 cases.

David’s understanding of consumers is very impressive. He describes the target customer for high-end vodkas at that time as someone who wears Armani suits without pockets. Someone who walks into a bar and is holding the following – car keys with a Mercedes or BMW logo, an expensive cell phone and a wallet chocked full of goodies. No pockets. The question he asked himself is – would this person drink anything but a top shelf brand?

After Ketel One, he created Van Gogh vodka and brought the flavored category to new levels.

A little birdie told me he will be celebrating a milestone birthday this week so congratulations and keep finding and filling those holes.

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Crown Royal Part 2

The Crown Royal posting generated many emails and calls with additional comments, anecdotes and stories about the brand. I thought I would share a few.

They all amount to the same thing – the brand was built on creativity and consumer engagement with a large dose of cleverness.

Crown was one of the first brands to have outdoor ads that were “spectaculars,” defined as clever, out of the ordinary, with potentially strong stopping power. The most well known was an oversized, full dimensional bottle that filled an entire billboard. The caption on top of the bottle read “Not Actual Size.”  On the bottom it read “Too Bad.”

To gild the lily a bit a local team in the south decided to add two mannequins rappelling down the board as though trying to get into the bottle. Shortly after they went up they were stolen. Rather than get upset or simply replace them, a full-page ad was run in the local papers with the headline “Who are the dummies that stole our dummies?” The ad went on to explain that, “why would you risk your life to steal a mannequin when there was a giant bottle on the same billboard?” The result was great PR for the brand.

For many years Crown sponsored rodeo finals in Las Vegas until the cost of sponsorship became much too high. The event, with signage all over the arena, went to Jack Daniel’s. Not to be outdone, Reichardt and company decided that they were going to invest the cost of sponsorship they had been paying into ads and promotional activity and surround the event.  The result was that everywhere in Vegas that week – from airport signage to cab tops to billboards to bars – it was all about Crown not Jack. All at a fraction of what the event would have cost.

Finally, at one time Crown had trouble getting traction in California and the pressure was on. Cleverly, some local sales managers decided that moving product with just an attractive price to the trade was limiting. So instead they focused on a large Korean store, which resulted in massive window displays that came to the attention of Korean bottle club owners. They liked the package and price and started buying for their clubs. Next thing you know, Crown Royal is the number one item in Korean bottle clubs.

Moral of the stories… creativity and cleverness are byproducts of having fun with a brand and thinking outside the box.

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