Are Controversial Ads Worth It?

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The battle for attention in the advertising world is intense. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from the competition. What is a company to do when the good ideas are either: taken, over-used, or cliché. How do they breakthrough, without breaking?

The growing trend to enter the consumer’s mind is to use controversy to excite, whether it means using humor or anger to grab attention. Controversial campaigns are high risk, high reward, so caution should be used when employing such tactics.

The recent viral advertisement campaign by Kmart, dubbed the #shipmypants ad, uses word play to promote Kmart’s shipping service. The responses have been between calling this ad, a smart, hilarious campaign, to sophomoric and cheap. Regardless, the numbers don’t lie, people are talking. Whether it’s good or bad, is still up for discussion.

Do you believe that any press is good press?

If you intend to use controversy to jumpstart a campaign here are some questions for you to answer. Since controversy evokes strong emotions:

1.Are you being controversial just to be controversial, or does it have a specific link to your brands purpose?
2.Does the dialog relate to your brand message and positioning, or is just a quick hit to highlight something new?
3. Have you prepared for the backlash and unexpected consequences?

When controversial marketing campaigns work, they usually have a high initial response rate but die off as quickly as they rise. So to sum this all up, are controversial ads worth it? In the short run, maybe, in the long run, no, unless you have a plan to continue the conversation. And if you’re going to go this route, do it sparingly as you cannot reliably gauge the response.

At the end of the day, if you are having trouble breaking through the white noise, what will you do? Play it safe or go for it?

Branding is a Matter of Public Opinion

Remember this logo?

The colorful depiction of the 2012 Summer Olympics logo depicted above was infamously met with confusion and controversy and for most, will go down as a major branding mistake.

What was supposed to look like a stylized version of the numbers 2012 turned into a media circus from how people “didn’t get it” to flat out laughter and even a petition of over 48,000 citizens to get rid of the design.

What was the big deal?

Despite the internal support for the design, the masses agreed with Jonathan Glancey of the Guardian art blog, who wrote “The logo fails the Olympics spirit completely. Its component parts are broken apart, while the Olympics are all about athletes, spectators and nations joining together.”

Whether you are a fan of the logo or not, it’s not what we think of our brand that matters but what others believe our brand to be that matters.

Because of all the brand damage and bad press, the Olympic committee started to require Olympic logo designs to follow stricter brand guidelines.

The result has been a more cohesive visual language as illustrated by Rio2016, PyeongChang2018, and Tokyo 2020.

Design is a matter of taste but Branding is a matter of public opinion. What’s your take on this? Leave a comment below.

Creatures of Habit

Brands and marketers spend a lot of time and money with “new and exciting” initiatives based purely on trends that are influencing their consumers. But what they should be doing is improving their existing products and marketing efforts based on consumer habits.

As consumers, we are programmed to intuitively select the products and brands we need based on what looks familiar (e.g., the easiest decision to make). And as marketers, “the goal is to make consumers repeat their purchases by matching the value proposition to their needs.” Consumers don’t want to spend the mental energy when shopping (online or in-store for that matter), so why make them?

Branding, Design, Advertising, MarketingThe solution for brands lies within understanding the habits of their consumers, and evolving or improving upon them based on what their brains are programmed to be looking for. And unless consumers are absolutely screaming for a change, and the return is solid for your business, then making a dramatic change is no bueno.

Brands like Coke, Tropicana, GAP, and many more have undergone redesigns in some capacity over the years. Consumers didn’t demand it. They weren’t educated on the change, nor provided a real rationale. The result was backlash, and even a decline in sales, which pushed the brands to quickly go back to the original. A lot of time and money lost. However, sometimes it pays off (only if the demand is there), but often times it doesn’t.

There are more examples and insights we could share, but we simply don’t have the time, nor blog post space to do so. That said, we want to leave you with this very simple message: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if you decide to fix it, make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the habits of your consumers.

Write On

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While reminiscing about your childhood I’m sure you have fond memories of digging through the biggest Crayola box to find that perfect color. Now, as an adult, you may not be digging through that same crayon box, but if you’re a designer we’re sure you wish you could.

Scribble is the pen that changes how we interact with color. All you do is hold the back of the pen up to a surface and the pen will scan and reproduce the color within seconds. Most graphic designers would love this capability to be digital in order to replicate the color onto their computer rather than paper. No problem, there is a scribble stylus that functions the same way to easily translate the colors from the world around you, digitally. This pen makes designing and recreating colors easy. The scribble also has an associated app where you can find colors you previously scanned to use again, or share with others.

The Scribble recently started funding on Kickstarter, so if you’re ready to bring some more color into your life, go ahead and contribute.

What Sparks our Fire: A great design tool that is fun and easy to use.

What’s your favorite color?

Keeping Cool

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A few weeks ago we wrote about The Coolest, a cooler that does just about everything you’d imagine a cooler could do. Well, we were wrong. The IcyBreeze cooler doesn’t have all of the features of The Coolest, but it does have one that sets it apart.

This cooler doesn’t just keep your drinks cold, it also cools you with a built in air conditioner. Now when you’re enjoying your summer weekend on the beach you can easily cool off without having to get wet. Simply fill the cooler with two quarts of water, ice, and beverages and the rechargeable battery will keep you cool for up to seven hours.

This summer the cooler really seems to be the center of everyone’s attention. The Coolest is now the third most funded Kickstarter project ever hauling in over $7.5 million dollars as I write this with 31 days left. The IcyBreeze isn’t fundraising and is the basic cooler ($279) is available for pre-order.

What Sparks our Fire: Even more innovation in an area that has lacked for decades.

Which do you prefer – The Coolest or The IcyBreeze?