Tag Seen in the Wild

Copy-cat advertising

I often have small businesses tell me, “I’d like to have an ad like So-and-so’s.” That’s almost always a mistake. You want to stand out and be different in the minds of potential customers. You certainly don’t want to bring to mind your competition, unless you can do so in a way that shows off your product’s or service’s superiority.

That’s why I was surprised to see this Super Bowl ad from Motorola:

The ad introduces a new tablet computer from Motorola, the Xoom. The biggest problem with the ad? Everything about it reminds you of Apple.

The ad itself is a knock-off of arguably the most famous Super Bowl ad in history, the Apple Macintosh “1984” ad.

The Motorola ad has similar imagery, with identically dressed workers lined up in massive hallways catatonically walking to their destinations, and one lead character who doesn’t fit. That lead character is seen reading George Orwell’s 1984 on his tablet computer.

Even if you haven’t seen Apple’s original ad, when the lead character turns the page of the 1984 e-book, I bet you thought of the iPad. That’s not a great way to launch your new tablet. Everything about this ad reminds you of Apple and does nothing to differentiate the Xoom from the iPad.

It leaves you with the impression that this is just a knock-off, sort of like those watches people sell on street corners. Anyone want a “Roleks?” How about a “Guchi?”

I’ve shared this quote before, but it’s good advice from one the the greatest advertising minds ever:

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

– William Bernbach

You want to differentiate yourself from your competitors? Then don’t copy them. Be original.

Vancouver Island University’s logo

We’re visiting my wife’s family in Washington state and British Columbia for Christmas. On the ferry heading to Vancouver Island, I saw an ad for Vancouver Island University. They have a great logo and I thought I’d share it with you.

I like how the logo brings to mind both a maple leaf and the island. Having a literal icon isn’t necessary for a logo, but it’s really nice when the execution is subtle and not overstated.

Mixed messages

I’ve mentioned before that a good advertisement will say one thing and say it well. You have such a short slice of time to communicate your message and you don’t want to muddle things up by trying to say too many things.

With that in mind, it is possible to inadvertently send a mixed or conflicting message through your advertising. This billboard was running a while back near where I live, and illustrates what I mean by a mixed or conflicting message:

BurgerFresh Billboard

I hate to pick on these guys, because they really do serve great hamburgers. But this billboard doesn’t do their product justice.

I love the colors and the logo, but the product shot is a mess. There is nothing “fresh” about it. It looks as if someone dropped the hamburger on the floor, hastily put it back together and snapped a quick picture. While their name and their message attempts to say they have really good, fresh-made hamburgers, their product shot says the hamburgers are thrown together and are unappetizing.

It didn’t need to be this way. They could have hired a professional photographer experienced in product shots, taken the time to really dress up the burger, even hire a food stylist (yes, just like a hair stylist, only for food) so their product would look its absolute best. The results would have been vastly different.

I’m also curious if they took the picture themselves, as the lighting is poor and the colors are washed out. I think they would have been well-served to call in a professional. Based on the design, the graphic artist who did the billboard appears to know what they were doing, but they were hindered by an amateurish photo that communicates a message that is in direct opposition to the one that is supposedly presented.

It takes a lot of skill and hard work to match the look and tone of an ad to its message. Don’t cut any corners. You dress yourself nicely when you want to stand out and make an impression. Why wouldn’t you do the same with your advertising?

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