If we listen to advertising, consumers have to decide whether we’re one of society’s cool people or humbly accept that we’re not. Well, I’ll just be over here with the uncool people. You know, the party-poopers. The nay-sayers. The “I’m going home” people opposed to the “I’m staying out” people. The warm tea – not the Jolt Cola – of life.
More and more, brands want us to declare which side we’re on. Are we on Team A who’s crazy fun, ultra confident, incredibly free, and comfortable with who they are or on Team B, a squad filled with the sweater vests of civilization? There’s no grey area, either. No place where we can be both. We’re either A or B.
It all started a few years ago with Diesel Clothing and their “Be Stupid” campaign. In their Official Be Stupid Philosophy they point out that, in the world of the two opposing forces, “Smart may have the brains but Stupid has the balls.” Oh. I guess I can’t be ballsy and smart. Damn. Who should I side with? “Be Stupid”, they respond.
Bud Light extended the thinking by explaining the difference between “I’m out” and “I’m in ” be walking us through scenarios like, “I’m out is bright and early while I’m in is still out.” Geez. I love when I channel my inner “up-bright-and-early” self even though it doesn’t happen that often. Naturally, they finish it with, “I’m in has way better stories… and it’s own beer.”
Recently, Hertz launched a campaign where they opted for a metaphor to define the two types of people instead of a catch phrase: “In life, you’re either the gas or the brake.” And if we didn’t get it, they actually showed a split screen of one kid jumping off a high diving board while the other lies terrified, clutching the end.
They justify the comparison in the end: “You may be flying by the seat of your pants or following a plan. But take it from me, with Hertz, you’ll always find your way. We’re at the airport and in your neighbourhood. The gas or the brake. Which are you?”
Well, does the gas person pick up their car at the airport? Or in their neighbourhood? I don’t know. So I guess I’m not sure which one I am but I hope I’m the gas.
Finally, we can’t wander into this territory without mentioning the grand-daddy of all of this. Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign (which really should have been called the “Be a Mac” campaign) launched in May, 2006 and divided the world into Macs vs. PCs. Obviously, we all want to be a Mac especially when you see how PC is personified. Even that guy doesn’t want to be that guy. Here’s the very first spot of the campaign that aired.
I don’t know why this side-by- side human comparison thing bugs me so much. Maybe it’s because it just seems so polar with no wiggle room in the middle. And I guess I don’t enjoy having to pledge my allegiance to either one. Sure, I’m adventurous and all but I don’t want people think I’m THAT idiot. And while I turn up my nose at most of what the uncool people apparently stand for, I also find some peace in being totally uncool (as they define it) at times.
Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying these are bad commercials. Hell, Mac’s campaign is legendary and I do like the grit of the others. They’re wonderful pieces of communication. I guess I just think the strategy is off. I think I’m different people at different times so neither depiction really resonates. The premise is choose a side. And I usually can’t choose.
Upcoming Events: I’ll be hosting the Art of Leadership (Toronto) on May 6 and the Art of Marketing (Vancouver) on May 9th. On June 15th, I’ll join Darryl Sittler, and senior executives from Allstream, Ciena, and Sun Life to moderate a discussion on Protecting your Network through Diversity.