Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Over-Managed Brand

While I don't normally get my ideas for blog topics from the Colbert Report, I saw something on the show last week that is truly worth a mention.

On his Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert gave special attention during his show to one of its sponsors, Wheat Thins; for what Colbert calls a "sponsortunity." However, the sponsortunity evolved into 6 minutes of well-deserved jabs at the marketers of Wheat Thins when Colbert highlighted some of the more ridiculous "core values" of the Wheat Thins brand, which were spelled out for him by the brand managers at Nabisco in an official memo sent to the show.

In the words of their marketers, Wheat Thins is "a snack for anyone seeking experiences; a connector of like-minded people, encouraging sharing" as well as a snack that "keeps you on the path to, and proud of, doing what you love to do, no matter what that is."

However, Wheat Thins doesn't consider itself a "rebel brand" and strongly discouraged Colbert from any displays of over-consumption, recommending that "if shown out of the box, [Colbert] can only show a max of 16."

Whether or not Wheat Thins, who has shown a sense of humor in their Family Guy spots, was actually in on the joke or not, the memo from their marketers was indicative of how it can be problematic to over-mange your brand.

Only a marketer could dream up that a wheat cracker would "keep you on the path to doing what you love." In fact, as a consumer, I wonder how wheat crackers even have "core values." The impossibly vague and cliche "values" of the Wheat Thins brand were the subject of satire on The Colbert Report because they really are wacky. I don't know anyone who holds Wheat Thins in such high regard. Such connections simply don't exist for consumers and brands.

And yet, marketers are in love with vague generalities to describe their brand. For instance, Wheat Thins competitor Chex Mix is "a bag of interesting." Taco Bell is now calling customers to "Live Mas."

What on earth do these things mean? Nothing. At least to those not on the payroll.

To these marketers, I'd like to remind them that advertising isn't a vehicle for telling people what they should believe. People are going to believe what they believe regardless for what the ad men tell them. Advertising is most effective when it highlights the tangible and relevant advantages that actually exist with one product or service when compared to the competition.

No comments: