Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wagging the dog.

Rendered redundant following the 2011 federal election, campaign strategy gurus decide to form an ad agency. How hard can it be, they reason. If we can sell the Four Horsemen of the Whateverlypse, surely we can sell Tide. Let’s listen in as they make their first presentation…

“We recommend that you go negative right away. The polls… er, market research says that people are getting soft on Oxi-Clean. They see it as a real option. It’s important that we nip this in the bud. A preemptive strike.”

“I see. But, well, that’s not really how we do things here. We prefer to promote the benefits of Ti…”

“Sure, fine. You could go that way. If you want to be the Jimmy Carter of laundry detergents. But if you want to win, the gloves have to come off. Now, our research people have discovered that some of the people who make Oxi-Clean are vegans. We think we can leverage this against the silent meat majority. Vegetables grow in dirt. How can you credibly promise laundry detergent when you eat things that grow in dirt?”

“Well, I see where you’re going, here. But Tide gets clothes clean, as we like to say in Cincinnati. Check out these socks. Blood, mustard, grass… gone. No matter how violent your barbecues get, you’re going to look good on laundry day. That’s some differentiating benefits right there…”

“Oh, socks. That’s just great. That’s really going to rock the vote. What do you think this is, a Mickey Rooney movie? Look , if you don’t have the stomach for this…”

“No, no, fine. Carry on.”

“Thank you.” Heavy sigh. ”Now, on to the matter of personal branding. We think Tide should wear denim shirts and look concerned all the time. With the sleeves partly rolled up. Rurals and Sun readers love this stuff. It’s, like, all authentic and whatnot. And do you think it can drive a backhoe?”

“Look, this is really about getting stains out. Moms feel good about sending their kids to school in clean clothes. That’s what we…”

“Oh, listen to Norman Rockwell, here. Adorable. Really. Anyway, moving on to messaging. We want you to take your promise just a little further, give it some zing. Some above-the-fold magic. Instead of saying that Tide gets out blood, mustard and grass, you should say, ‘Tide will prevent crime, feed the hungry and cut your lawn.’”

“But that’s not actually true…”

“I feel like I’m talking to a wall. ‘True’? Really? True? Read my lips: It doesn’t matter. It just has to look true. For a week. Then, when we win and they do their first load of socks, we’ll say, ‘the previous laundry detergent left things in a worse mess than we feared and covered it up, the fascist bastards. This is going to take some time, patience and sacrifice. And public consultation. Maybe a study. Which we’d be happy to conduct for you. For a fee. And a senate seat. ”

Something to consider the next time you're worried marketing is becoming too cynical. Kind of makes you nostalgic for the Super Bowl. And branding consultants.

Heavy sigh…

Photo by Joe Hardy