Monday, April 18, 2022

Bi-Polar Brands.

About thirty years ago, I came up with my very own metric.

I created it before the rise of the Web (whatever number Web we were on back then) and certainly before the proliferation of social. When advertising channels were basically two: "above-the- line" and "below-the-line."

I was seeing everywhere a certain elevation to above-the-line work--TV commercials and print ads and outdoor. And a resolute cheapness and shill-ness to below-the-line work. They'd have starbursts and exclamation points and rude imperatives to act now!!!

I had a thought. Not a brilliant one. But in a world where most everyone just accepts the status quo, sometimes just saying "that feels off," can pass as wise.

Remarking on this dichotomy, I said, "that can't be right." The consumer doesn't say, "that's direct marketing, it's further down the funnel and to be effective they use exclamation points like the Russian army uses cluster bombs." Likewise, people don't say, "that's a brand spot. I'm glad the brand's been placed on a pedestal. I hope I'm good enough to buy it."

No, I think people say, "sometimes the brand says they're classy. Sometimes they scream 'hot, steaming deals.' I'm confused." 

Confusion--more so even than oil-spills and corporate greed--cancels brands. Or at least leads to consumer inertia.

So, I developed a metric--a bit of patter really, I called the "Brand Depreciation Cost."

Basically, think of car companies. 

Multi-million dollar high-concept ads with sallow models or sallow quasi-celebrities staring out of car windows as they course down windy windswept traffic-less roads and ooze about sumptuous vinyl appointments.

Then comes the ______athon ads. Usually balloons and bimbos and bargains. And smiles! And handshakes! And happy wives with one knee bent kissing their husbands. Kids. Ice cream. A golden retriever. And more balloons. 

I don't know what to think. Look at the two spots above. They're from the same brand. But there's no shared anything. Values, aesthetic, voice. Nothing.

So, Brand Depreciation Cost.

You spend $1 billion saying you're building the world's greatest network--the network the world relies on. And another $1 billion saying, unlimited flatulence, just $49.99 a month with an OED's worth of legal copy on the screen and people--the people you're trying to influence--are left with nothing.

They don't know what to think.

You've canceled everything out.

So, they think nothing. They don't care. Worse, they're annoyed.

That advertising meant to get people to act canceled the advertising meant to get people to love your brand. And vice-versa.

You see a lot of this nowadays reflected in more than just where an ad is supposed to "intersect the target on the sales funnel." You see it with regard to production values.

On the one-hand you'll see a cinematic production shot by LA's best, cast with LA's best, cut and scored by the best. On the other you'll see something shot on a dime at the in-house production facility of a cost-cutting holding company with studios stuffed in a basement just barely on the Jersey-side of Manhattan. Think paint-by-numbers by Caravaggio, blindfolded. 

Where's your impression of the brand?

Not your MBA/CMO/OTA (over-thinking-ass) impression, your limbic lizard reflection?

That dichotomy costs money.

The same way an airline that makes plebeian coach passengers walk through the Lucullan precincts of first-class to get to their crappy cramped space costs carriers good-will, loyalty and respect. 

Bi-polar is bad for people, yes?

It's just as bad for brands.

That's Brand Depreciation Cost.


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