We’ve all seen them, and probably have a few favourites – evergreen marketing campaigns that seem to last across generations. But do they? Or do they eventually run out of steam?
What happens when a message that once stood as the poster child for great marketing suddenly becomes stale and out of date? Or, even worse, alienates the very audience they were so in touch with originally?
In this week’s episode of Marketing on Tap, we look at once-great marketing messages that have done just that, and what it means for the brands behind them. Can they win back their audience, or are apologies not enough?
Settle back and enjoy this week’s topic, brought to you in the usual unscripted manner that you’ve come to expect when Sam and Danny take the mic.
If you prefer to listen on the go, the audio version of this week’s episode can be listened to below.
Intro: Welcome to Marketing On Tap, a weekly podcast in which marketing pros and authors, Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown serve up the latest marketing hot topics, campaigns, and trends, all washed down with a great craft beer. Join in for the fun as they debate the pros and cons of the topic of the week, wealthy trained popular or up and coming microbreweries. Topics include influence marketing, brand campaigns’ successes and misses, customer advocacy programs and marketing challenges facing businesses and agencies. It’s the marketing podcast to listen to for CMOs, senior sales executives, and key decision makers at mid-to-enterprise level organizations And, with their good natured bashing of each other, each episode promises to entertain and educate in equal measure. Welcome to Marketing On Tap.
Sam: Everyone, welcome back to in-
Danny: Well, look at that. Marketing On Tap. You were going to say the wrong thing!
Sam: No I was-
Danny: I don’t know why you’re doing the finger-[crosstalk 00:00:56]
Sam: Why was I doing the air guns? Like, I don’t know why-
Danny: For the podcast listeners, he’s doing air guns. Good grief!
Sam: Robert’s killing himself laughing over there. This is really-
Danny: No beer for you today.
Sam: I just … There’s something wrong … You know what it is? I’ve started to exercise again, and the pain in my legs, I think, is so bad that it’s effecting my brain, and I’m starting to do air guns. Anyway, welcome back to Marketing On Tap. I am Sam Fiorella. This is my mate, Danny Brown.
Sam: Today, Danny, I would like to … I think this is one of my favorite types of shows because I want to bitch about campaigns.
Sam: And, I have a proclivity for bitching about campaigns.
Danny: Is that a [inaudible 00:01:37]? I really can’t get this can.
Sam: Get out of here! Seriously?
Danny: Well, I have no nails. I’m a really bad [inaudible 00:01:41] nail-biter.
Sam: Whoa, spilling there!
Danny: Thank you.
Sam: Yeah, here’s a low budget show. Anyway, so what we’re doing today is I want to talk about-
Danny: [inaudible 00:01:51][crosstalk 00:01:51]
Sam: That’s what she said. What are you … Seriously? For those of you not watching this, it’s probably a very good thing if you’re listening on podcast.
Sam: So, when should a marketing campaign be retired? Think about it. Have you guys just seen campaigns on social media, or on television, or on billboards, or in magazines, that you’re just completely and totally sick of. I know one of the ones that I … that bothers me is this idea of Pepsi. Now, this is not one of the ones I had to talk about today, but Pepsi, back in the day, like Michael Jackson hey-day, they used to do the Michael Jackson and the Pepsi onstage.
Sam: I think they had Mariah Carey do it, I think they might have had Madonna do it, or Brittney Spears did it.
Sam: And, they were trying to … You know, the Pepsi Generation, and they were trying to associate their brand with music, and they’re still doing that. They’re still trying to do it, but they haven’t had a lot of success in the last 15 years doing it, but they just still keep trying.
Danny: They keep trying.
Sam: Enough already! So, we’re going to talk a little bit about that. But, before we do that, I also … Actually, before we talk about beer, which is probably the most important part of this entire thing, I want to talk about the influence marketing workshop.
Danny: Oh, yeah. Yep.
Sam: I want to do one last plug. October 24th, if you guys are in Toronto, check out senseimarketing.com. We’re doing a one-day, intensive influence marketing workshop for executives. We’re going to focus on B-to-B industries. So, if you’re interested in that, or know anybody that is, please send them our way.
Sam: So, what did you pour?
Danny: So, this is actually one of my all-time favorite beers, period. It’s a three-point Saison.
Sam: Yeah, I’ve heard about that.
Danny: I love Collingwood Brewery. I think they make some really awesome beers. This one, it’s different. It’s a Saison, so that means you normally think a lot, a bit … It’s not as heavy.
Danny: Right? But, this is a seven percent Saison.
Sam: Seven percent?
Danny: But, it’s only, get this, 20 IBUs, so it’s really smooth.
Sam: Oh, I like that.
Danny: So, this is one of my go-to Summer/Fall drinks at the cottage.
Sam: Seven percent? I like it. Cheers.
Sam: Oh, I like that.
Danny: Yeah, it’s got a whole bunch of flavors coming through there.
Sam: Rob, you would hate this. I actually really like this.
Danny: So, this has got [inaudible 00:04:08] citrus in there, you know, as usual.
Danny: There’s a bit of malt coming through as well.
Sam: I’m tasting-
Danny: A lot of tropical fruit, and [inaudible 00:04:14].
Danny: But, like I said, 20 IBU, it keeps it real easy drinking, but the seven percent is a kicker.
Sam: I’m liking the seven percent already.
Danny: Collingwood Brewery in Ontario. Really good. If you can get a chance to go up there, or order online, get the three-point Saison.
Sam: I like this one. Thanks, mate. How many of these did you buy?
Danny: They’re just from this morning.
Sam: Oh, man. I want to … I think we’re going to have to have a few of those before we’re done here today.
Sam: Okay, so let’s get back to what we’re talking about, which is brands that really should retire.
Sam: The reason that I want to talk about this is I saw a campaign that just was one of those face-palm kind of moments. And, it’s the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Now, typically, for those of you that are in marketing, you know that the Dove Real Beauty campaign is actually one of the best, all time marketing campaigns ever created, hands down.
Danny: Outstanding, yeah.
Sam: Drop the mic, the whole bit. And, I use it in my influence marketing class at Seneca College all the time.
Sam: Because in the era of supermodels, when supermodels were really big, like the holy trinity: Belinda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell, and that was the standard of beauty, that, you know … And, women were rejecting that, they really stepped in and said, “This is what real beauty is,” and they showed women in white bras and underwear in all different shapes and sizes, with freckles, young, old, and it was great! And, it really did well, and it made [inaudible 00:05:39] It made millions and millions of dollars on that product.
Sam: Loved it. Great, great campaign. But, then, we’re what now, 15 years later?
Danny: Too much, yeah.
Sam: And, they’re still running … They’re still trying to find ways to milk life out of this, and the campaign that I saw was … There’s actually two that really missed the mark. Both of them were done in the U.K. We’ve had a couple of U.K. fails lately. One is new soap bottle shapes. They said, “Women come in all shapes and sizes, and we should celebrate that. And, so we’re going to create soap bottles in different shapes representing different shapes of women, and you can buy the one that you feel comfortable with.” Right? Rob’s shaking his head.
Sam: Yeah, right? Already, I can say, who even thought this was a good enough idea to spit out of their mouth, let alone actually approve and get into production? Well, of course, they came up with only a handful.[crosstalk 00:06:36] I think it was five or seven different shapes. So, what ended up happening? You know, women go into the store, they don’t see-
Danny: Their shape.
Sam: They don’t see their shape there! Or, their color.
Danny: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, exactly.
Sam: You know what I mean? So, instead of celebrating the diversity-
Danny: You’re highlighting it now.
Sam: You’re highlighting “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I fit into one of the standard shapes?” So, they’re basically making women feel more anxious, and more self-conscious about their body, and it had exactly the opposite effect and goodwill that this campaign has been driving for so long.
Sam: So, for me, this campaign is a great example of one that should have been retired. [crosstalk 00:07:14] When is too much? When should they have stopped this thing? Or, is there a different way that they could have done that?
Danny: Yeah, I think there’s a different way. I mean, if a campaign works, you do want to milk it because it’s successful for your client.
Danny: And, for you as an agency, so you do want to keep it going. Maybe milking is not the right word, but you do want to keep it going in some form. But, at some stage, you do start to lose the audience, because if you’re not getting a new audience, your older one’s just going to stick with you, but you’re not actually expanding to a new audience. Right? So, I can see them trying to take different approaches to get, say, a younger, newer generation from the one they had 15 years ago.
Danny: But, at some stage, the message does have to change, and that should … The medium has to change. And, if you’re sort of stoke with shapes of a shampoo bottle, or a bath bottle, whatever it was, sorry, that’s kind of saying, “We’re running out of ideas here.” And, especially, if you’ve got so many different shapes and races and cultures that you’ve already gone after, to limit it to five or six is kind of thinking, “You’ve run out of ideas,” and maybe it’s time to move on to a different one-
Sam: Yeah, I don’t understand how you let the agency even get away with that. I know with our clients … We have status meetings every week. If we don’t come up with a new idea every week, they’re already looking for another agency.
Danny: Ah, yeah.
Sam: So, I just don’t know how … Maybe because it was so successful, they just bought them a lot of years of goodwill.
Sam: But, then that wasn’t it! I mean, if that was it, that would be one thing, but then they came up with another brilliant idea.
Danny: Dove, the sequel.
Sam: Which was a Facebook ad. Or, actually, no, it was a … Yes, it was a Facebook ad. And, it had four panels, and the first three panels of this four-panel picture was a black woman slowly taking off her shirt. So, it was like one-two-three, various stages of undress. But, then the fourth picture was a topless white woman. So, it was like, “Here’s our soap. Here’s three pictures of a black woman taking off her shirt, but when she takes off her shirt, she’s white.”
Danny: I really didn’t get that message at all. [crosstalk 00:09:17] Why are you trying to say-
Sam: I mean, it’s so … Whether they intended this or not … And, actually, I can almost guarantee they didn’t intend it.
Danny: What, the cleaning?
Sam: Yeah. But, what they’re saying is that if … While you’re dirty, you’re black, and when you’re clean, you’re white.
Sam: So, black people are dirty, white people are clean. That’s how people interpreted it, and rightly so. There was an incredible amount of backlash in social media. Another example of tone deaf marketing, which we talked about last week.
Sam: But, I think it goes well beyond that.
Sam: I think this is just pure stupidity.
Danny: It is, yeah.
Sam: You know what I mean?
Sam: Another example of this whole idea of real beauty, that’s fine! If you want this Real Beauty campaign to keep going, if that’s basically the ethos of your brand, great! But, you have to start being innovative. You can’t keep up with the same themes of showing that. [crosstalk 00:10:11] Or, maybe it was good enough … We need to move on, we need to retire that idea, have it always be fond in our memories, and then just move on to something different.
Danny: Well, I mean, one of the things they could have taken if they wanted to keep going with the Real Beauty is just to show pictures of X-rays. You know, women’s X-rays, like skeletons.
Sam: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Danny: We’re all the same inside.
Sam: We’re all the same inside, yeah.
Danny: And, that’s your campaign, right? Then, there’s no color, size, getting it wrong, getting the message wrong-
Sam: Again, it goes back to understanding what’s happening in the world right now. I mean, race relations has become a really big thing. Why even venture? Why even take a risk with something like that?
Sam: You know what I mean? It just makes no sense to me.
Sam: You know, another really good example of this is Gap.
Danny: Ah, yeah.
Sam: Right, so, there’s a … I don’t know if anybody understands … Well, if they’re old like I am, you remember definitely in the 90’s, when Gap was in their hey-day.
Sam: Right? And, one of the ways that they grew their business was through some very iconic photography of celebrities, black-and-white, sepia photos of celebrities wearing their favorite piece of Gap clothing. Basically, they’re saying, “Look, it’s something so basic (like a pair of khakis, or just a tank top), but if this celebrity looks this hot wearing it, it’s clearly good enough for you.”
Sam: And, they did well, because their stock price went up, they opened up Baby Gap-
Danny: Yeah, Kids Gap, yeah.
Sam: And, then they opened up … There was all kinds of … I think there was a couple of other spinoff stores that they did. I don’t remember the names of them now. So, basically, they did quite well with that.
Sam: But, then they kept going! And, I actually did some research on this one.
Danny: As opposed to the other one?
Sam: Well, typically this is really unscripted, and we kind of go off the cuff.
Danny: Yeah, yeah.
Sam: But, this time, this one was really fascinating for me, so I did a little bit of research. And, one of the things that I looked at was the history of their advertising, and I found it fascinating because way back in the day … Again, if you go to the 90’s, they had al these famous celebrities, and they did that for a while, but then it started to get boring, and they started having less effect.
Sam: So, what they did is they said, “Let’s go to doing some cause marketing.”
Danny: Yeah, yeah.
Sam: But, to do cause marketing, again, photography … What they did is they got Christy Turlington, Penelope Cruz, John Legend, and a bunch of other celebrities to support their Red campaign. Right? Which was, again, pictures of the various … I think they were promoting safe water in Africa.
Sam: And, so they had all these pictures of celebrities with these African children. Didn’t work. People just weren’t responding to it.
Sam: That was in 2006, and their stock price was continuing to go down. So, then they went back to what they call redefining classics. Right? And, again … In 2007, and they got some of these … Who are the Charlie’s Angels? The reboot of Charlie’s Angels?
Danny: Ah, yeah.
Sam: Lucy Liu?
Danny: Lucy Liu.
Sam: You know, which is just-
Danny: Drew Barrymore.
Sam: A stunningly beautiful woman. So, they got her in black-and-white pictures with basics. Like, a basic black dress.
Sam: Simple shorts and a t-shirt. Trying to get back to that, and again failed. It was a huge campaign, it was in every magazine, everywhere you turned across 2007, 2008.
Sam: But, it didn’t resonate. People still weren’t going into the stores. So, what I thought was really interesting … Actually, after that in 2008, 2009, they went back to the original ads. They did this whole retro thing.
Sam: And, they pulled back Brooke Shields in her Gap and stuff like that. They brought that back, and that didn’t resonate. Their stock price still kept going down. What I found interesting is they just would not shake this idea that we have to use celebrities wearing simple clothing as our way to get to today’s marketplace.
Sam: They just don’t understand how the audience has shifted, and how celebrity influence just isn’t what it once used to be.
Sam: So, what would you … Obviously, we understand what was wrong with that. They didn’t shake it. They didn’t let a good campaign go, and come up with something new. What could they have done differently? What should they have done differently to appeal to today’s audience?
Danny: Well, if you look at … And, I think it was about the same time as this, actually, maybe a couple of years after it, there was a huge sneakers brand, and I can’t remember who it was. Nike, someone like that, that used celebrity influence to sell their shoes, their basketball shoes. And, that made sense, but they were starting to plateau.
Danny: So, they thought, “What can we do now?” So, they got a bunch of kids, street kids, that played street basketball to actually help with the design of new shoes, and got the kids to play it.
Sam: Oh, I see
Danny: Sam just took my drink, for the podcast listeners.
Sam: Keep going.
Danny: Anywho! So, they got a bunch of kids that were playing on the streets of Harlem in New York on the basketball courts to actually design and work with the shoe designers, to come up with sneakers for kids. And, the ads featured these real kids playing basketball.
Danny: And, to me, that was awesome.
Danny: That goes back to the Dove initially, the Real Beauty, real people, real women. This was real kids, like you at high school, making their own shoes and wearing them as opposed to the ones that cost six, 700 dollars because, you know … Whoever, basketball players … I know nothing about basketball, but whoever the big player was-
Sam: Or, speaking clear English apparently.
Danny: Or, speaking clear English. So, anywho! I think, again, back to relevance, think who is your audience this time and are these people from ten years ago still relevant to that?
Danny: And, you do want to use influencers. Who’s relevant to that tribe now in the movies, in the music industry now?
Sam: Yeah, no, I agree, and right now-
Danny: You’re taking them all.
Sam: I know. I probably should be cut off, actually.
Sam: Definitely, that celebrity influence is waning, and understanding influence isn’t necessarily about who has got the most eyeballs.
Sam: Right? Because there’s a huge risk with celebrities. Like we talked about last week with the Kardashians. You really run the risk of having that backlash. Today’s audience, especially younger audiences, relates more to maybe the Instagram celebrities, or everyday people.
Sam: Right? Which, again, going back to the Dove Real Beauty Campaign-
Danny: Right, exactly.
Sam: It’s what made it popular in the first place. But, what I’m noticing … This is a trend that’s happening in digital as well, and social media. How many times … I’m just going to give you a couple of examples. How many times have you seen people trying to copy the water bucket challenge?
Danny: Ah, yeah.
Sam: That viral challenge, where you challenge three friends to do something and then raise awareness to donate.
Danny: Copy/paste this on your-
Sam: Yeah, exactly, copy and paste this campaign. Or, those stupid carousels that force you … You know, they give you five celebrities who’ve lost 50 pounds or more, or whatever. But, they don’t give them to you. You have to click through a carousel because they want you [crosstalk 00:16:43] to see an ad every time to get their clicks up, or their ad views up for … To make some money!
Sam: Or, the click bait. “You’ll never believe what happened next!”
Sam: You know, these are just campaigns that worked for, like, a month. You know, whatever the time period was, now everybody’s jumping on it, everybody’s doing them. And, it’s just too much.
Sam: Right? I mean, you have to let it go at a certain point, and understand that people start to reject that. I now … Whenever I go to a … If I’m going to go to an ad, or to an article, and I see these carousels, they want to give me bite-sized listicles, but they want to give it to me in 50 slides instead of one article that lists all 50, or maybe on two pages, I immediately block that site.
Danny: Yeah. Same.
Sam: And, I just will never go back to that site again because it pissed me off.
Sam: I did it the first time. I did it the second time. It was annoying, everybody says, “It’s annoying.” Right? And, what’s another one? Oh! One that’s bothering me today more than anything else: that stupid ad in the middle of a video.
Danny: Yeah. Facebook’s getting really bad for that.
Sam: Oh, man. But, I’ve noticed even Google has started to do that. I’ve only seen it very recently on Google. But, yeah, Facebook has been doing it for a while now. You know, they give you good content, so that’s great. [inaudible 00:17:57] You’re watching a video, and then all of a sudden, they throw in … On a four minute video, they throw in a 30 second commercial in the middle of it. The first thing I do? Off!
Sam: I don’t even … Even if I’m interested in that content, I refuse to watch the rest of it just because it pisses me off. So, again, one of these ideas … Marketers out there, brands out there, if you’re hiring marketers, understand that what was once great, whether it was … It may have been a gimmick, so please stop it.
Danny: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sam: Listen to what people are saying. Right? So, that’s a thing. So, I’m getting a sign of the bell. Maybe, that’s the … Thank you, Steven! We have a bell. Last call!
Sam: Alright. So, I think I just gave away my last call. So, this time … I normally start with you, I’m going to start because I actually just went into that.
Sam: Brands: stop! Let it go! It worked. Be thankful that you had a campaign that really, really worked. Don’t try and beat a dead horse. Really. I’m going to get hate mail from equestrians out there.
Sam: Let it go. Listen … I’m telling you, we get all kinds of crazy stuff coming in-
Danny: Well, we will now!
Sam: So, just understand that your audience changes. This whole idea of nostalgia and going back to bringing what was old is new again doesn’t necessarily work. 99% of the time, it doesn’t work when it comes to marketing. Innovate, understand where your audience is, and go there.
Sam: How about you? Last call advice for marketers?
Danny: Yeah, I think just really piggy-backing on that, and I know we speak on our weekly client call, et cetera … Staying one step ahead of your competitors. If you’re continuing to go down the path of the same market message for one, five, ten years, that’s going to get stale, and your competitors are going to start beating you at your own game. They’re going to be chasing you, and seeing what works for your clients, and then they’re going to try and innovate and throw more money at it, to try to beat you.
Danny: So, staying one step ahead, knowing that it has to change up, and the audience changes as well. So, if you’re not staying with your audience, then you’re going to start being stale like these guys.
Sam: Yeah, no, I agree. That idea of … Yeah, becoming stale is a powerful thing. No matter how successful a campaign is, it eventually does become stale. Your audience will tire.
Sam: Anyway, that’s this week’s episode of Marketing On Tap. Thank you, everybody … I did it again!
Danny: Right, with the fingers. I’m going to start the closing now-
Sam: You know what? Yeah, I’m going to let you do the closing.
Danny: Anyhoo! I think what Sam was trying to say … Thanks for watching as always. Thanks for listening on the podcast. If you’re enjoying this, make sure to hit the like, subscribe, and share.
Sam: I got a drink.
Danny: Notifications on YouTube, and subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. And, by all means, if you have a topic that you want us to discuss or whatever, send us in a topic, and we will happily tear that apart, piece-by-piece.
Sam: See you later, everybody. Cheers! Thank you.
Sam: I’ve got to shut up and drink now.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Marketing on Tap with Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. And, please, feel free to leave a show review. That’s always worth a cheers!