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Making stuff up

November 27, 2008 Leave a comment

So there’s the right way to make stuff up in advertising, and the wrong way.

Many years ago, Certs dropped their “two, two, two mints in one” marketing campaign and began promoting the heck out of their special ingredient, Retsyn®. The ads strongly hinted that Retsyn was the special ingredient that freshened one’s breath much better than other mints could. And for children of the 70’s, Retsyn seemed to be scientific–and with Retsyn only available in Certs, it was definitely a competitive advantage.

However, Retsyn® is nothing more than a patented combination of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, copper gluconate, and flavoring. It doesn’t do anything to freshen your breath. (Although the copper gluconate makes the green flecks in Certs.) So, while this was probably some diabolical scheme from a marketing weasel, it pushed many of the right buttons with the audience.

Unlike Bud Light, whose “The Difference Is Drinkability” campaign has to be one of the most ludicrous, insulting advertising efforts in memory. Not being able to own anything about low carbs or being less filling, Bud Light makes up a word that is so totally obvious in its madeuppedness that Noah Webster is spinning in his grave. Apparently, Anheuser-Busch got pissed off at Miller’s claim of “More Taste.”

“Dammit, Barbara,” the COO of A-B said to the CMO, “there is no freakin’ way Miller is going to have a more ludicrous advertising claim than we are! I want you to come up with an equally ridiculous concept, but then I want you to make up a word to describe it! Those freaks in Milwaukee are going to rue the day they thought they could outridiculous us!”

I hope most consumers can see right through the claim of “drinkability.” It’s a made-up word for a made-up concept that is meaningless and unmeasurable–but that’s not the problem. The problem is that it is so obvious in its attempt to mislead. Retsyn misled the consumer–but effectively.

The takeaway from all this, however, is that marketers need actual competitive advantages to market. Bud Light would probably get much farther with “America’s #1 Light Beer” than with the “drinkability” nonsense. And Certs had such success with its “two, two, two mints in one” campaign that 40 years later people are still parodying it.

Consumers are much better at seeing through BS than they were even five years ago. With every piece of information and trivia just a Google search away, advertisers and marketers are running a big risk with anything that smacks of dishonesty. Creating campaigns that are both catchy and authentic will always be the marketer’s biggest challenge, but now more than ever it is a job requirement.

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