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Sage Thoughts

Today is College Colors Day.   http://www.collegecolorsday.com/   It looks like an event cooked up to sell more NCAA-licensed merchandise.  An incremental lift in t-shirt sales on this first weekend of college football.  Group shots of people wearing the names of their schools in the workplace are scattered across social media.  Lots of “my school can beat up your school” Friday chatter.

People like to affiliate, to belong to something, to join a brand. Around the world, we cluster around professional sports teams, especially soccer clubs.  Here in America we are blessed with the bigness of collegiate sports AND our pro leagues.  And here in Middle America – the towns and states without major league franchises – big college brands fill a void.

USC Trojans v Arkansas RazorbacksSome schools own their territory.  Others, not so much.  I live in Arkansas.  And here in Arkansas, the school that calls itself “Arkansas” is not just the flagship university of our state.  It’s our state’s brand. The red Razorback is worn proudly by the masses: people who went to the University of Arkansas, people who went somewhere else, and people who never went to college at all. We have other great schools here in the Natural State:  Hendrix College, Arkansas State and Arkansas Tech, to name a few.  But nobody sports those schools’ colors unless, at some point, they really went to college there.

Affiliation with a college team is easy.  Nobody asks to see your diploma.  There’s an old saying in Texas:  “Somebody who wears a Texas A&M shirt went to A&M.  Somebody who wears a Texas Longhorns shirt went to Walmart.”  I said that was an old saying.  The recent success of A&M and the phenomenon known as Johnny Football have turned the tables in the Lone Star State.  Now being an Aggie is cool, even if you aren’t really an Aggie.

As for me, even though I walk through the valley of cardinal-clad “Hogs” fans, my colors today are purple and gold for LSU, with a touch of red and blue for SMU. Because I actually went to school at those places.  Imagine that.
lsu_pennant_66591smasmu_mustangs_pennant_17232sma

Stock photography in marketing communications: It’s pointless.  It’s awful.  It’s pointawfuless.

There’s an old saying in advertising agencies and other purveyors of promotion production:  “Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two.”

Pick Any Two

Stock photography is cheap and fast.  But it’s not always good.

???????

I bought this package of Kroger potato chips because they were half the price of the Lay’s brand. Results: They taste good.

Note how Kroger’s logo sits atop the ho-hum tagline, “From our family to yours.”  That’s the connection to the photo of the happy, romping family of four:  the family is running joyfully through tall, green grass to get those delicious potato chips at their nearest Kroger store.  I can almost see the thin thread connecting brand to imagery to product. Almost.

A bland photo on a package doesn’t add or subtract anything.  It’s just there.  An excuse to print in four-color process.

You might luck out and find a stock photo that’s exactly what you want. In that case, save the money and go with stock.  But remember that same photo might show up in other places.  You didn’t take that picture. You don’t own it.

I’ll be looking for the potato-chip family to pop up in a life insurance ad.

Earlier this week longtime commissioner of Major League Baseball, 78 year-old Bud Selig, stated, “I’ve never sent an e-mail and I never will.”

What’s the matter, Bud, do you think you’re too old for e-mail?  Everybody e-mails.  And the Pope tweets.

I guess Bud can do what he wants to do, but as the head of baseball for the past 21 years, Bud Selig IS baseball.  And what does this say for the brand of baseball?  The old ballgame.  The sport without a clock or a tiebreaking system to end an endless game that trickles into the wee hours of a Wednesday morning.

Bud calls the shots, but not by email.

Bud calls the shots, but not by email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the “and I never will” part of Selig’s statement that bugs me most.  It reflects a stubbornness, an unwillingness to ramp on to the freeway of 2013, or 1995, or whenever the rest of us started e-mailing.

We do have Bud Selig to thank for interleague play, a beautiful way to break up the monotony of a 162-game season, and for putting World Series home-field advantage up for grabs in the All-Star Game.  Bud, you’re not a complete fuddy-duddy, and if you had an e-mail address I’d write you to tell you so.

This spot ran on Texas Rangers baseball last night on Fox Sports Southwest, an English-language network.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTB-QT7IaeM

Screen shot 2013-06-19 at 11.21.38 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story is performed in Spanish, but the action is so clear, so universal, that language doesn’t matter.  We’ve all been there, and we understand.

The tag at the end, both on-screen and voiceover, is all English.

It breaks through.  Unlike the Rangers.  They lost.  Again.

I just heard the news that Pat Summerall died.

I had the pleasure of spending a long, cold evening with Pat, filming a TV commercial in the parking lot of what was then called Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville in January 2005. It was uncomfortable, unglamorous work for the old veteran of football. He did not tire nor settle for anything less than the best performance he knew he could give. He had a resonant, unmistakable voice. I’ll never watch a Cowboys-Redskins game or hear a spot for True Value Hardware without thinking of Mr. Summerall.pat-summerall-new-york-giants-head-shot-autographed-photograph-3362699.

Yesterday on Slate.com, writer Matthew J.X. Malady went into great detail to tell us how uncomfortable the word “moist” makes many people feel.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_good_word/2013/04/word_aversion_hate_moist_slacks_crevice_why_do_people_hate_words.single.html

In “Why Do We Hate Certain Words? The curious phenomenon of word aversion,” Malady defines word aversion as “seemingly pedestrian, inoffensive words driving some people up the wall.” He explains that it is not the meaning of the word itself but the sound and sight of the word that make us averse to a word.  Ointment, crevice, fudge and navel also give many of us the creeps.

Back to moist.  Despite its being such a slimy word, the big three cake mix makers use moist as a key brand attribute. They’ve even turned moist into a sub-brand: Super Moist, Moist Deluxe, Moist Supreme.  Are we moist enough yet?  I can still sing the jingle from an old Duncan Hines spot : “So moist, so moistfully good, they’ll always come back for more.”  Moistfully?  It may have been slimy, but it stuck to my brain.

Do you think Betty, Duncan or the Pillsbury Doughboy will break ranks and dump moist in favor of something less offensive?

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ghk-duncan-hines-yellow-cake-mix-0410-s3-mdn1001029_051500700402_A_400 pillsbury moist

 

 

 

 

 

Last December the Huffington Post suggested five alternatives to moist: the Orwellian-Newspeaky “not dry,” along with “hydrated,” “good crumb,” “spongy,” and “divine.”  I don’t think we’ve hit the mark yet.  Let’s put that cake back in the oven and keep trying.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hate-moist-word-alternatives_n_2259254.html

Baseball and advertising have always been partners.  Long before NASCAR and the Barclays Premier League brought us sports figures decked in suits of many logos, the outfield walls of Major League Baseball stadiums were checkered with a panorama of ads.  Outfield WallAll those ads probably made it harder for players to see the ball.
Outfield Wall 2But they gave the fans something to read between innings.  Remember, they didn’t have smartphones back then.  Now we just check our email when the teams are changing sides.Outfield Wall 3

“Zelig” is a treasure of a movie.  Woody Allen directed and starred in this 1980 masterpiece mockumentary that told the story of Leonard Zelig, a man whose body, voice and personality would change in the presence of the people surrounding him.  Leonard Zelig was a chameleon, a  total conformist – everything to everybody with no individuality of his own.  Zelig was everything and nothing at the same time.

Zelig Fat
Companies can fall into a Zelig trap with their brand strategies.  The National Coffee Association once ran a campaign with the message “coffee lets you calm yourself down AND picks you up.”  It’s work that looks like an old “Saturday Night Live” bit:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3zpPZnCbE   

Seriously, Coffee, do you pick me up or calm me down?  Pick one. Good brand strategies don’t have an “AND” in them.

“That’s not a strategy.  That’s TWO strategies separated by the word ‘AND’.” – Don Draper, “Mad Men

A good brand is a single idea, a main message, one well-honed proposition formed by sacrificing other good-but-not-great options.  A good brand is not “a little pregnant” or a “both-and” arrangement.  It’s not a Zelig.

Zelig French

Zelig Black

After perpetually rebranding himself into every possible variation of human, Leonard Zelig finally stopped changing. He learned to be himself, to be constant, to be true. Zelig buried everything he was not and became his own brand.  And he was a much happier man.

Zelig himself