Headlines from the “I Guess that Makes Sense” Department

Hillenbrand to split medical, coffin units

Hilton should go to Prison

Hilton Hotels, that is. Crime: introducing a new campaign with a tagline that says nothing.

Travel should take you places

Hmmm…never quite thought of it that way!

I hate this kind of meaninglessness in marketing (does that make it a “hate crime”?) What does a statement like that have to do with distinguishing Hilton from say, Priceline? Or Hertz? Or Paris Hilton, for that matter?

Here are a few other highly descriptive taglines I’d suggest for other companies wanting to be so creative:

“Bathing should make you clean” (soap company)

“Picture-taking should create images” (camera company)

“Houses should be lived in” (real estate company)

Can you imagine some poor soul on eHarmony.com, marketing him or herself to a prospective love interest with the line, “Dating should make you happy”? How does this kind of phrase distinguish anyone?

I’ll probably never be able to forget Motel 6’s tagline, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” It’s a shame that a higher-end hotel can’t come up with a more sticky campaign than its downmarket rival!

Drink OJ for Healthy Kids

This morning, I had an intensely negative visceral reaction for a particular marketing approach, followed by a grudging admiration.

Like, I suspect, many marketers, I have a cynical streak when I look at marketing campaigns. Let’s face it, marketing has an element of…how does one say this without shooting oneself in the foot?…manipulation about it. And when I saw the orange juice carton in the kitchen this morning, I was ticked off. For a few minutes.

t-oj-kids.jpgOrange juice makers have introduced a bewildering array of formulas in an effort to gain shelf space. Lots of pulp, some pulp, no pulp, pulp fiction…fresh, semi-fresh, stale…with added vitamins, no vitamins, specially formulated for women over 30 with platinum blond hair – you get the picture.

So, I see this morning a Tropicana carton with this phrase emblazoned on the top: Healthy Kids (my wife tells me this has been around for a while; I guess I never noticed). Now all this is is OJ with some vitamins and calcium thrown in. Big deal – that mix has been around before, and it’s for “healthy” anybody. Those rotten marketers, thought cynical Steve. They are preying on mothers’ emotions! They are packaging something with a dubious but clearly targeted benefit! They are aiming at a desired end result instead of just saying, “OJ with vitamins and stuff!” They are…oops. They’re doing exactly what I’ve advocated many times. Don’t just sell a list – aim at an end result.

It still irks me somewhat. It’s easy to see right through it – this box of Tropicana isn’t likely to create healthy kids any more or less than any other box of OJ, with or without vitamins and calcium tossed in. But, they rose above the OJ aisle noise to tug at a heartstring – who doesn’t want healthy kids?

They got me. Not that I believe the claim. But, smart marketing. Now we need Healthy Kids formula with extra pulp. For oily hair. For mountain regions. For IQs over 110…

Why You Need Someone Who Can Write Good Copy

From a sign in a shop in Maine:


(from The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said Calendar, http://www.pageaday.com)

Euro-Engineered Car Advertising

Today, the Wall Street Journal has an article about Audi, seeking to get beyond its relative brand anonymity in the U.S. by introducing a new tagline.

“Truth in Engineering”

Clunk. This reminds me of a similar effort, now underway by Saab – “Born from Jets”


Maybe I’m missing something here. Do you really hope to get my blood pumping about engineering, or about the fact that a car company was started by a bunch of guys that made jets? Does that draw me closer to the brand?

Not at all. I’ve worked with European companies in the past (particularly Nordic and Germanic), and there seems to be a cultural tendency to glorify the colder, more cerebral attributes of precision, accuracy, engineering design, etc. But those things should be subordinate to a theme that grabs my heart, and makes me want to have the brand experience.

Of course, it’s a great thing to have precision engineering. BMW certainly does – but they market their car as the “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Ah – they’ve tapped into two important things – the aspirational desire to have the “ultimate,” and the desire to experience the main point of this technological package – driving!

I don’t care if you’re born from jets, from rocket ships, or from barges (well, maybe I would care about the barge pedigree). The point it, why should I WANT to drive your car?

Image credit: Flickr

Washing my Hands of the Brand

I’m not picky about “personal care” items. However, there is one brand of hand soap that has broken through the commodity of clutter; one brand that actually makes me look forward to washing my hands.

Bath and Body Works antibacterial soaps.


First of all, they look great. The packaging design is modern and nifty, and the soaps themselves typically have some color variations that add texture and interest.

Secondly, they smell great. We’ve tried several varieties, and they have all been interesting (my favorite: cucumber melon). After I wash my hands, I smell them – because the scent is wonderful.

Do I care about the antibacterial part, or about vitamins E and B5? No, not really. I just enjoy the sensory experience of the soap – far more than any other soap I’ve used.

Snap, Crackle, Pop

I’ve just started reading the recent book Brand Sense, by Martin Lindstrom (related website here), which discusses how brands are built using all five senses. Even though I’m only a chapter or so into it, seems like a great read, and I am in full agreement with the premise. I think that smell and sound (in particular) are quite underappreciated in the brand experience.

This morning, I poured a bowl of Rice Krispies (sorry – a store generic version!) and heard that familiar “snap, crackle, pop!” sound as the milk went in. Immediately, memories rushed back in of eating RKs years ago, and of their immensely effective branding campaign focusing on the sound of their cereal.

A few months ago, I was in a higher-end hotel that was pumping a very attractive scent into the lobby. For destinations such as a store or hotel, creating a signature scent seems to me to be a very smart move. The olfactory sense is quite powerful and can deepen a brand experience (and therefore, attachment). In fact, I think one of the best things a town or small city could do is encourage the presence of a coffee company that roasts its own beans, and fills the area with that lovely aroma (hello, Roanoke VA and Mill Mountain Coffee).

The Duct Tape Marketing blog also has a recent post on the sensory aspects of marketing.

What other brands have you experienced that used a multi-sensory experience to reach you?

Image credit

Am I a Blogging Felon?

Maybe I’m opening up a can of worms here. So be it.

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the immediate gratification. Think, write, post. But, of course, many of the posts are enhanced by some form of graphic or picture that relates to the theme. And therein lies the problem.

It is very easy to use Google Image Search (or similar engine) to find an appropriate photo or graphic. Or, to grab a company logo that is the subject of a post. But then what? Should there be some form of attribution for every image used? Are some images (news items, logos, Hubble images of galaxies, crowd shots, etc.) so generic as to be “understood” as usable without attribution?

Would trying to contact every possible source of an image found somewhere on another site so slow down the process of blogging as to make it overly cumbersome? What constitutes “fair use” if some image is not being re-sold?

I have found a few free/cheap image libraries – is anyone using these services with good success? Is anyone drawing from services like Flickr, contacting photographers and using images with attribution?

Most images are not necessarily the proper size – is it a bad practice to grab and re-size or crop, then store them elsewhere (so as not to use up someone else’s bandwidth by hotlinking)?

Sometimes it seems like the path of least resistance is a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but I’m wondering it that’s not just another way of playing fast and loose with copyright issues.

What do you think? How have you wrestled with and resolved these types of issues? I’d really value your input, and think that the discussion is an important one for us to have as bloggers.

(image above found at nedarc.org, and adapted)


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