Why Direct Marketers Hate Beer Commercials and Branding

I’m going to take some heat for this next statement: I’m not a big football fan. OK, I said it!

I grew up playing and watching hockey, and never really “got” football.

But usually I love the Super Bowl. Actually, I should say that I usually love the Super Bowl’s commercials. They’re usually clever, funny and make my annual trip to my friend’s Super Bowl party much better.

But I’m not really sure what happened this year. Ninety percent of the commercials were just plain stupid, other than Brett Favre’s spot for Hyundai, Volkswagen’s punch buggy ad and the Letterman/Oprah/Leno commercial for CBS’ “Late Show.” And I loved the sheer perfection of Google’s spot. It told a story and made you feel it.

Seeing Betty White and Abe Vigoda playing football was funny, but I have no idea the following morning what was being sold in the ad. All in all, this year’s trend seemed to be men in underwear and condescending beer spots.

If You Build it (Brand it), Will They Come?

I’ve also never been a big branding guy. I’ve always believed that branding is something you do while you’re stimulating orders and leads via direct marketing. To me, making someone laugh while watching a commercial doesn’t exactly cause new customer acquisition. You do that with great offers, calls to action, superior guarantees and, of course, products that measure up to and exceed expectations.

Direct marketing is immediate, purposeful, in your face and compels you to take action. It’s not about creating a funny TV spot and the eventual purchase of a product based on message recall. Direct marketing is about measurability.

And while I admit that general branding agencies are getting better at using direct marketing principles, it’s not enough. Just slapping a URL on a TV commercial doesn’t make it direct marketing.

Take Names and Kick Butt … A Prescription for Commercial AdAgencies

Here are four ways that I would’ve rewritten the scripts of all the commercials I saw (and a select few actually did this):

1. Drive people online for more info (or to a Chevy Chase video to continue the brand interaction.  Remember time interacting with a brand means more brand loyalty).

2. Get prospects to raise their hands and take action — i.e., identify themselves as wanting to continue interacting with your brand.

3. Build a database of these prospects, and do something creative or make them an offer, etc.

4. Start a contest to drive prospects to your Facebook page or your blog.

In short, don’t just create ads for a later response (you hope) and/or message retention and brand recall. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come … or even remember. Create commercials that build brand engagement and stimulate action.

3 thoughts on “Why Direct Marketers Hate Beer Commercials and Branding

  1. Donnie says:

    Jim, you’re dead on with this post.

    Hopkins, Caples and Kennedy would probably “roll over in their graves” thinking about a company spending $3 million on an ad that doesn’t even TRY to sell anything.

    Many of them don’t even do a good job in branding, because the product/service is overshadowed by the entertainment factor.

    I can sell 10,000 times more “widgets” for 1/10,000th of the price with direct mail and sales letters….

  2. Whelan says:

    Agree completely, Jim.
    And hopefully any DM-er would agree with you.

    Particularly — I agree with your straight, simple take on the Google spot. One of the most effective “show-the-product” campaigns I’ve ever seen.

    Thanks for the post.

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