06 November, 2008

Marketer of the Year? Whatever.

While brainstorming in our “brilliance pit,” I stumbled across an issue of Ad Age from a couple weeks ago. For those even more behind the times than I am, the Association of National Advertisers named Barack Obama Marketer of the Year for 2008. The Top 5 were rounded out by Apple, Zappos, Nike and Coors.

There’s no argument. All of those companies have marketed themselves well and experienced great success because of it, but seriously, did these guys really have the toughest product to market? There was presidential buzz around Obama the night he was elected to the Senate in 2004.

Apple’s been cool since the iPod was released six years ago. And Nike? Michael Jordan strapped on his Airs back in 1985, and no sneaker has been more recognizable over the past 25 years. Kids literally line up outside shoe stores when a new pair of Nikes comes out. These were not difficult products to market.

Let's talk challenges. You know who I think had to work a political miracle? The people behind David Duke. A former Grand wizard of the freakin' KKK and considered by many to be one of the most detestable political wannabes in America, he ran for office half a dozen times! He was a State Representative for Louisiana, and even ran for President in 1988, receiving more than 47,000 votes. Now, that was a guy who needed some serious marketing help.

A shoe company that’s done some great work—Crocs. They’ve convinced people to buy footwear, which the first time I saw I thought were disposal shoes. Sure, they have minimal support, are made of the same material as hot glue sticks, and have been known to get caught in escalators. So buy two. Buy three. There’s a good chance you’ll need a new pair provided your foot doesn’t get taken off along with the Croc.

You want to talk about technology? Let’s talk Blu-ray. These days you hear an advertisement for Blu-ray discs with every movie coming out on DVD, but do you actually know anyone with a Blu-ray player? Probably not, because people don’t want to pay for a DVD player that’s more expensive than their entire entertainment center. Yet some marketers convinced studios that during a recession was the perfect time to heavily market movies on Blu-ray, even though no one owns something to play them on. Nice work.

And beer? Maybe Coors has done some great advertising, but when it comes to beer, where’s that going to get you—other than reminding Coors drinkers to drink Coors. When it comes to beer, I’ve had so many different kinds, from Meister Brau and Busch to fancy IPAs and Stouts served in wine bottles. And with beer, you’re not going to sway someone’s opinion on whether a beer is “good” or not. People like what they like, and that’s it. You want to talk about a little beverage that could—how about Clamato juice? The refreshing combination of tomato juice and reconstituted dried clam broth. It’s like V8 mixed with just a hint of the Dead Sea.
Did they do some brilliant, head-turning advertising? Absolutely, but it’s easy to market products people already like. How about next year we dig a little deeper and look for products that were actually difficult to market—poison, evil, beating up puppies (Michael Vick will be looking for some new representation), and how about a nice Kaczynski/Gargamel ticket in 2012?

My point is, advertising can be pretty hard, and most companies and agencies aren’t advertising products that are all peaches and cream. Why not acknowledge the marketers who turn a tricky product into a success? Like in one year taking the Renegade Agency Confessional inside the Internet’s 767,444 most popular sites (according to Alexa), to the Top 600 of Ad Age’s Power 150, and making us the 69th most popular agency blog in all of the UK.

You know, sometimes I really love me.

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