Jul 20, 2009

The Moon Landing: A Friendly Reminder

The day the man arrived to the moon is a very special day in my native country, Argentina: ror us, it is Friend's Day.

An Argentine teacher, musician, and dentist, Enrique Febbraro, lobbied to turn the anniversary of the first moon landing into an international day of friendship. He argued that on this particular day, the whole world had been friends of the three astronauts.

From my point of view he was very accurate in his assesment. Not so many events in modern history were so celebrated by people in every corner of the world.

He never got his wish in the sense that this day became Friend's Day just in Argentina and Uruguay, but in both countries is a big day. In Argentina, Friend's Day is a good excuse for a common friendly gathering, though people also employ the day to get in contact with old and seldom-met friends and greet them.

For that reason, brands tend to have special campaigns just for this date and they are either heart-touching or extremely funny. I prefer the last ones, of course.

So here is a recent ad from Fernet Branca celebrating friends. I picked this one not only because it is hilarious but also because it represents pretty well how I think about friendship....

My friends know what to expect from me. Ninety-nine percent of the time, simply the truth. Sometimes... well..., I could soooo easily be the one laughing in the commercial!

Happy Friend's Day, chicuelos, wherever you are!


Jul 13, 2009

Intel & Cisco, Branding the Invisible

Not so long ago (well, maybe 30 or 40 years) we already have a differentiation between products and services and when it came to advertising the difference was -basically-, that you could "touch" the former but you could just "experience" the latter.

Coca-Cola, Toyota or Tupperware were clearly products, that you could touch, feel, taste. Thirty years ago, services were things like American Express, StateFarm or Bank of America. Services were also called the intangibles.

Computers, and later on the internet, change this quite a bit. Companies selling their products directly online now were in need of branding their products but also to take care of their online service. On the other hand, software is at the same time a service and a product. It is not by chance that a lot of software out there allows you to have a free trial: it is their way of allowing us to interact with the product, to measure it against similar ones or against our own expectations.

And then there is the hardware. We can argue that hardware is a product because we can touch it, but that is not so true when it boils down to things like chips or processors. We can touch a processor, yeah, but... how many of us has ever touch one? Processors for us end up being more of a service as they translate into performance.

The intangibles are not easy to work with in advertising. They can be easy (or not) to explain, to show in action or to talk about, but not to so easy to position in a catchy, short, non-boring way.

Maybe that is why I truly love the new campaign from Intel "Our Rock Stars Aren't Like Your Rock stars". It's simply brilliant. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

What makes this campaign so good? To start with it's catchy, it easily gets your attention. Also, they make fun of themselves ("yes, we are geeks") but without getting to the extreme ("we know what rock stars are and how to react to them").But the true genius is that they are able to communicate a philosophy in a very simple way. They are positioning the company in a way that not also is good for the products but for the brand beyond the products. What I mean is that -for example-, it may also help in attracting more candidates to any job opening they may have. And they are talking in plain English.

Not so brilliant, but good enough, is the Cisco campaign for their "Collaboration Technologies" a follow up from another good enough campaign "The Human Network". My favorite ad from this campaign (due to personal and professional reasons) is without doubt, this one:

Anyone that knows me, knows already the personal reasons. "I Will Survive" is one of my favorites songs ever. But from a professional viewpoint, I think that choosing that song was a great idea and not only because it "translated" well to what they were trying to say but mostly because it is a song that resonates with most of the target they are talking to. Kids are not afraid of new technologies changing the way they communicate but as we get older, we tend to resist these new ways. The commercial succeeds in both getting the attention and delivering the message.

They are both exceptions to the rule. Online services (like websites or services delivered online) and computer products (with the exception of Mac), normally can't avoid the trap of overexplaining themselves and they end up being boring even for their own target.

Intel and Cisco have successfully managed to talk to their target in a really different way. Hat tip to both the ad agencies involved and the companies' management that decided to go this way!


Jul 6, 2009

This Dog is Not Dead (Yet)

Alfred Hitchcock by Andres CascioliAt least here in the US, the "news" are still babbling about Michael Jackson's death. Not that is not a small tragedy, considering he was relatively young with 3 kids and with a possible big comeback in the very near future, but sometimes it seems like that is the only thing they can talk about.

Anyway. June has been kind of a tragic month when it comes to public figures, specially for someone like me, with my dual interest into what happens here in the US and in my native country, Argentina.

It started on June 3rd with David Carradine (not making the news anymore even when it is still not clear how that happened).

Then, on June 17th, Fernando Peña died, at just 46. With him, a lot of people died: Milagritos Lopez, Martin Revoira Lynch, and Cristina Patricia Megahertz among others (Peña was a great impersonator and these were the names of some of his creations).

Some days later, here in the US, Ed Mc Mahon died. Back to Argentina, on June 24, Andres Cascioli passed away. He was a great caricaturist and the founder of the magazine "Humor", a magazine that at some point was the only outlet for people that "think different" during our military years. Years later he also founded "Fierro" a great magazine for comic lovers.

Or course, here it comes June 25, with the news all over the death of Farrah Fawcett until the news of Michael Jackson came in. Since then, it seems like it has been all about MJ, but another "public figure" died, on June 28, Billy Myers. He may not have been an actor or a musician or even an artist but he was for sure "seen on TV".

To top it off, on July 1st Karl Maden died too. As I say before, what a month!

Now, around those days, someone else died. Not a person and not a public figure, but pretty close to me... I am talking about one of my computers.

So between one less computer and my new job (that has all my body aching for more sleep) I blog less and emailed less. What translated in emails from friends and foes asking "what's going on". Is the blog dead? What happened to the Ugly Doggy?

So let me be clear. No, this blog is not dead. It has not succumbed to the "June 2009 jinx". It just slowed down against my will, but it is still alive (and hopefully, biting)

There are more posts to come, I promise.

Now, about all these deaths... I have to admit that they make me feel a bit older. I watched Charlie's Angels and The Streets of San Francisco when I was a teen. I enjoyed David Carradine's performance as Kung-Fu and years later in Kill Bill. I was an avid reader of the magazine Humor, SexHumor and Fierro. I also danced my share of Michael Jackson's songs and I simply loved to hear "Milagritos Lopez" on the radio, with her Cuban accent and her Cuban attitude.

Man. A part of me feels like I am still 25 years old but..., maybe I am not!