It’s been almost two months since I posted my first observation of the UPS brand repositioning. Sadly my first opinion hasn’t changed. If anything, it’s been reinforced through repeated viewings of subsequent creative efforts by the package delivery industry’s version of Avis. The ‘love’ thing still rings semi-generic, uplifted by the outstanding production values of each spot. They almost make you forget the idea driving them.
“We love logistics.” makes me pine for the demonstrative ‘Whiteboard’ campaign by way of Richmond’s Martin agency. Instantly and uniquely recognizable for both brand and benefit. OK, like many others I kept shouting “Get a haircut” every time I saw a spot, but, let’s not forget that the campaign became so iconic it was even spoofed on Saturday Night Live and in dozens of YouTube parodies . Talk about becoming part of America’s social fabric… not bad one of the color wheel’s tertiary colors. The campaign made the UPS brand position of partnership and simplicity a powerful one. “What can brown do for you?” Miss ya.
UPS “Logistics” commercials work hard and look good demonstrating the functional aspects of the lengths to which they’ll go to demonstrate their love, but it all still comes off as a generic exercise in creativity. I even imagined a FedEx logo in place of the UPS shield and everything made sense as a campaign for FedEx, sans the love. Unique brand position? Not in my book.
Why explain in excrutiating detail (a brown smart car, even) what you spent the entire last campaign simplifying? It’s as if UPS was saying “We make it really, really simple, but look how complicated it all is and see how hard we all work to make it really, really simple for you! And it’s all because we love what we do!”
AND… we do it internationally!
Love ya Brown. But you’re giving me lessons in logistics that I already know. And that love thing, sorry. I like logistics.
Current advertising campaigns driven by big ideas are about as plentiful today as plug-in stations for electric cars. Geico’s the one big exception that comes to mind. And it’s no wonder they’re an endangered species. Ideas, really good, honkin’-big ideas that take a brand “on their shoulders” and powerfully position them, are seldom recognized or truly understood by today’s crop of marketing mavens. Hey, it’s a tough balancing act making that sales chart grow in the right direction and keeping the bloggers from flaming your product at the same time.
Warning: 20 tweets and a well-liked fan page do not a big idea make.
Fortunately, there is still a real need today for big ideas that adhere like velcro to your brain. Great ones do that. They take a product, make it water-in-the-desert desirable and create a rabid community of brand lovers. They drive brand leadership and bottom line sales. And they spawn legions of imitators. And they’ve been doing it long before the Internet. The stickiness of Bartles and Jaymes and Miller Lite’s “Less Filling/Tastes Great” campaigns (Google ’em) are good examples of iconic, powerful concepts from the late 20th century.
In contrast, Apple’s recent “Mac vs PC” campaign may have been memorable and entertaining but upon closer examination reveals itself to be an excellent example of an execution substituting for a concept. And so is the original iPod television campaign. Visually compelling? Absolutely. Great product demonstration? Dead on. Strategic? Yep. Big idea? Uh-uh>
And when it comes to ideas don’t confuse consistency with concept. Progressive Insurance relies on their sales concierge, Flo, to deliver their brand message but I challenge you to tell me what their big difference is.
When they do surface, big, duct-tape-sticky ideas barely have the time to drive brand equity or positioning in today’s viral, solar-flair-hot, crash and burn, social media online environment. Instead, replacing them is an avalanche of lukewarm, interchangeable, post-it note ideas. Hardly sticky. Easily forgettable. A classic case of quantity over quality. Like technology inmates running the idea asylum. Think Transformers II.
Think it’s a crazy point of view? Well, this big-idea aversion is even infecting some of the big NY agencies. The recent exodus of top several creative directors from top New York shops underscores my point. Most recent is the departure of BBH New York Creative Chief Kevin Roddy. Here’s what he had to say in a story that ran in last week’s ad age: “Creativity used to be put on a pedestal, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” he said. “Creative people have become more of a commodity, and I think that takes the wind out of them. The creative ego is a very important thing, because it drives talent. But it’s also a very fragile thing.”
An interesting brand change occurred this week as UPS refreshed their entire brand position and strategy. It’s best exemplified by their new brand line. You may remember the tag “What can brown do for you?” Well, its been replaced by the new more consumer-ish “We [heart] logistics.” Check out their website to see how the new positioning plays out.