Hi there. I'm Matt. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.1

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Feb 13, 2009 | Comments

Recently, a couple of my favorite bloggers argued that TV commercials and logos do not ultimately affect purchasing behavior. Same can be said about banners, print ads, and billboards. After all, isn’t it the product that ultimately sells, not something superficially crafted for a brand campaign?

I want to call attention to a type of branding, one the most antiquated of them all : Subway’s 5-dollar footlong jingle. Links:

  • The Jingle (and Commercial)–for those who haven’t heard it.
  • Over 2,000 remixes, commercial re-posts, music videos of the Jingle on YouTube.
  • The $5 Curse.

This jingle impacted my life. Given the economy, high-cost of food in NYC, and personal distance from a grocery store, Subway sandwiches now comprise a sizable portion of my diet. I see a Subway–the jingle replays in my head. It’s an advertisers wet dream. (awesome write-up from Slate Magazine).

But I’m not suggesting that the jingle be added to every marketer’s toolbox. Most jingles suck. “When a jingle’s bad, it’s very bad…done wrong, it can make your eyes bleed” (via Slate).

But with enough luck, creativity, and strategy, there will be a few successes in a sea of failures (and go Black Swan-esque).

Your Facebook app will probably fail. No one will follow you on Twitter. The corporate blog has no subscribers. The authors of such company efforts probably looked at Whopper Sacrifice or Zappos’s Twitter and assumed a mediocre job would lead to similar success.

In Short: discounting marketing tactics that historically performed poorly overlooks the few companies that innovate and serve as the future industry model. But a half-ass, imitative effort will definitely not get you there.

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  • Hi Matt - good post.

    I agree that these things (TV spots, logos) don't work in isolation to affect purchase. They function as awareness plays, and it's the job of other channels to turn awareness into purchase, ultimately. Companies don't re-brand because they're bored, they do it to get people to re-notice them, or get a different group of people to notice them for a first time, and doing that involves showing that your personality is different (logo), and getting people's attention to tell them about it (TV, or other mass channels).

    I think that the efforts in newer channels that seem to work so well - like the Zappos twitter - do so because they were tailored specifically to the nature of the brand and the needs of the customer. Buying shoes online became way more popular when sites started to offer free shipping and free returns, and suddenly people were buying into the site's customer service, not just the pair of shoes. Having a way to engage in a dialogue with Zappos made sense, because people want to be heard ( and I think listening to customer service phone calls is one of the best ways to gain insights).

    as you said, simply copying this approach won't work, because it's unique to Zappos brand and their audience. It made sense for them.

    I read that post analyzing the super bowl ads - I think it's hard as a marketer to generalize our opinions on ads to the rest of the world because we read so much more into them than consumers who don't do this for a living. The fact is that most people are paying about 10% attention to your piece of communication when they're exposed to it, not sitting there taking notes. And as we know, all these impressions add up, even subliminally, and contribute to decisions at shelf. Definitely works on me...

  • @Amber

    Regarding awareness, to Noah/Alan's point, most of the companies tinkering with their logo or directing a cutting-edge commercial already have mature brands. I wouldn't think that Pepsi (which just redesigned their logo) had any issues with awareness. I do agree with the personality thing--a logo, like a person's clothes, tells a lot to the consumer about what they stand for.

    I like that you mention Twitter as a more efficacious channel. Of the 4 Marketing P's, Twitter is closer to "product" rather than "promotion" for a brand. It's tough to compare Twitter to everything else because, IMO, it's apples and oranges. And you're right--the company I work for, AXP, should never look to Hsieh as a guide on how to use Twitter. This is an isolated success.

    TV has great scale--that's why companies continue to support the 30 second spot. For a medium that does not have "measurable" results, it's still one of the only channels that can show an aggregate blip on product sales.

  • You're absolutely right, you had not mentioned packaging--I'll revise my post. I read a bit too deeply into your comment, "Do I think any of this [logos] has any real impact on the sales of the product?" It's an idea I've been pondering for a couple days: how efficacious is all of the marketing that is non-measurable, especially the brand garbage, on consumer behavior?

  • Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that package design and branding have no affect on purchase behavior. I actually think package design is probably the single biggest factor. More what I was suggesting was that so called "good design" doesn't always lead to higher sales and that most of the things people critique logos on are dumb.

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