Is the Martin Agency (GEICO's ad agency) nuts? I think so. They created arguably one of the most memorable franchises in recent advertising history -- the GEICO gecko -- and now they're using the critter to ridicule GEICO itself. I'm referring of course to the new round of ads that pits the "clever creature" against a fictional GEICO executive. We see bad idea after bad idea come from the hapless exec -- from falling on the gecko "to show trust" to creating miniature 3-piece suits. Really makes me confident in GEICO as a company.
While the approach probably tests well with 20-somethings and gets written off internally as "cheeky", I think making your own management look stupid is just flat out bad strategy. In the current environment, people already have a profound mistrust of insurance and financial companies. Does making your green gecko spokesperson look smarter than your executive team help?
Some may say, what about Jack in the Box's commercials? Jack is often surrounded by corporate idiots isn't he? The difference, and I think it's a big one, is that Jack represents the CEO spot as hip, smart and in-charge. It's still snarky and still pokes fun at the company but in a much less brand destructive manner.
Call me old school. While this new direction for the gecko may be fun and games for the agency, I think it's bad for business in the long run. There are better targets than your own upper management.
Comments (7) 03.18.2009. 22:24
I've been through the process of naming and branding with many organizations over my checkered career, including several as a client. While this topic could take up an entire book, I have a few key points worth sharing.
Know where you're going.
It sounds simple but it's often difficult to put into practice. Basically it means -- "what does your organization want to be when it grows up?" What do you want to be known for? What business will you be in 5 years from now? For example, "Gidget's Widgets" might have sounded cute and descriptive when you started, but now that you're manufacturing widgets, gadgets and whatzits, does the name still work? Probably not. So think ahead. Look out 5, 10 even 20 years. Try to have your name and brand match your long-range vision, not your short-term wants.
Don't be descriptive or generic
Many startup businesses think the best way for customers to remember who they are and what they sell is to "describe" their business in the name. In fact, this is one of the worst things to do. Calling yourself "Discount Pool Supplies" or something equally generic is poor practice on several levels.
First, because the name itself is descriptive, it's next to impossible to protect from a trademark perspective. Someone literally could open up a business right next door to yours with the same name and you could do little or nothing about it aside from racking up expensive legal fees. Yes, you can often get a trademark from a state or even the federal government but that doesn't ensure protection. It only discourages usage. Anyone can challenge a trademark even if it has the stamp of government approval. Plus state trademarks are only good within the state issued. It's much better to have a solid, non-descriptive mark to begin with.
I read a few articles in a back issue of "Marketing Management", which, if correct, may throw a lot of what many marketing experts think they know about branding out the window!
In the past, marketeers have often tried to "personalize" or "humanize" products through branding and identity campaigns. The goal is to make products connect with people on an emotional / personal level. The theory is that it's easier to sell the product and build additional awareness -- sort of like a programmatic approach to turning someone into a "Ford" guy or a "Chevy" guy.
Well, well. It's turning out that our brains may not be WIRED for this sort of cognitive connection. Based on some very sophisticated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research, people seem to form their opinions about products completely independently from any warm and fuzzy feeling they might have toward the BRAND of the product. Even such commonly practiced marketing theories like "positioning" may become dinosaurs as we learn more about how the brain forms relationships to "things". As a student of Ries & Trout, this comes as a bit of shock to me.
Unfortunately, the research doesn't tell us what will work. (Darn.) But, some of it suggests that the product itself (quality, features, usability, price, etc.) may be more important than companies would care to admit. Who'd a thunk it? I'll bet the engineers are laughing their heads off.
There's a lot to be learned yet and branding will always have it's place. Volvo = safe comes to mind. But, it sure will make the new frontiers of marketing more interesting!
Comments (0) 08.14.2007. 01:25