Monday, April 06, 2009

Bringing the Brand Heat: Branding as the Butt of a Joke

The long running competition for your entertainment/telephone/internet/TV dollar has seen some serious twists and turns. Cable companies promise phone service, phone companies promise television, Internet companies tell you to pull the plug on both...and everyone wants to tell you what you already know: that you have a choice.

Direct TV and Dish Network, the satellite contingent, have a long history of using their ads to create fun friction in the competitive space. Some of the ads are entertaining (louder ads anyone?). Some obtuse. (See here for ad gallery). But one caught my attention during March Madness for the way it used  'brand' as the butt of the joke...while serving up useful and usable benefits as differentiators.

[You'll want to ignore the lame image manipulation at the end as they are not part of the original spot and we're added by someone claiming to find subliminal messaging in the spot]

In the Direct TV spot, a fictional cable company executive team at Cable HQ reviews the functional benefits of Direct TVs web-accessible DVR service (aka...I can set my DVR from anywhere, at anytime). It's about a Functional Feature + Benefit. The cable company's response to competitive differentation is to...conjure the forces of 'brand heat'.

The team, including CEO Character Ed Begley Jr.,  congratulates each other on the brilliance of the idea: which is invoked using the noun 'youth' and the latinized ending '-ize' to create a brand response promising to "youthenize America'.

So What?

It's entertaining (though your mileage may vary)....and it points out something obvious if not always apparent: if the basic offering isn't differentiating, then the functional benefits (i.e., usability) can be. In this socially networked world, customer-centered service innovation can become the PR...and the advertising.

The Deutsch/LA agency (the latest agency to dish the dirt in these campaigns) has done a nice job of making brand heat the butt of the joke in this ad, proving that irony can, in fact, be pretty ironic sometimes.  Of course, Direct TV's 30-second skip forward feature is also pretty ironic...given the investment they've made in producing their TV advertising with big name stars.

That an ad agency and their client would use useful and usable service innovation as competitive differentiation against the vague concept of 'brand heat' a TV certainly a gallows humor sort of way?

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