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October 25, 2005

What You Do vs. What You Did

Via the WOMWatch blog

In a worthy read ClickZ article, Mark Kingdon, Organic CEO, shares thoughts about what to do when a client requests a Subservient Chicken-like viral campaign. Mark writes …

My advice is simple: take a (calculated) risk. Christian Haas, our group director of online advertising and our viral expert, says, "Stay consistent with what your brand stands for, but remember that sometimes the edgier the content, the higher the viral factor. You have to stretch beyond your brand comfort zone to capitalize on the power of viral."

I have a different take. As a student of Sethology, my advice to clients is to spend dollars to make the product more remarkable, not to make the word of mouth tactic more remarkable. Otherwise, all people will be talking about is what your company did and not what your company does.

When working with clients, I stress the importance of TELLING THE STORY and not Making Up a Story.

TELLING THE STORY is about designing marketing communications to deliver on the promise all the while being clever, savvy, authentic, and true to the brand. It’s about treating consumers as being interesting and interested.

While, Making Up a Story is when marketers engage in outrageously gimmicky attention-grabbing antics that over-promise and woefully under-deliver. These marketers treat consumers as being boring, indifferent, and brainlessly gullible.

To me, the Subservient Chicken, Ugoff, Dr. Angus, and The King are diversionary marketing actions designed to get consumers to focus on the kooky creative Burger King did and not on the food Burger King does.

Sure, people are talking about The King on blogs and such … but no one is talking about the breakfast goodies The King is hawking. As a marketer, I want people talking about what a company does and not what they did. Dig?

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Comments

I couldn't agree more with your comment on authenticity. I recently posted a comment on my blog stating that prospects don't care if your marketing is cool, they simply care how you can solve their problems (in a b2b world). I also think it's important to keep it simple. Simplicity is far too under-rated. (see today's post on my blog for more thoughts on simplicity http://fromthemarketingtrenches.typepad.com/).

Jonathan Dampier
SVP Marketing
Newgistics, Inc (an Austin based company)

I agree that the Subservient Chicken campaign (as well as its entertaining follow-ups) missed the target. At the time, I was wondering if they created SC for a different purpose -- to tell embittered franchisees and shareholders (and I guess customers too), “hey, the BK brand isn’t dead yet!”

But based on their Dr. Angus campaign, the so-censored-it-became-irrelevant Coq Rock campaign, etc., it seems like they’re trying to create buzz about unconventional ad strategies rather than the BK experience. I’m glad for the agency that they’re winning industry awards, but they don’t seem to be moving product. I’m curious how long the struggling franchisees will allow these expensive experiments to continue.

I completely agree that you should put more money on the product and less on the buzz. However, you have to be remarkable (Seth again) in anything you do, including advertising and buzz! And the Subservient Chicken did create a remarkable impact, putting the brand on the map again; now, the burgers have to fulfil those expectations.

I think you nailed the issue on the head John. Being honest with who you are and telling the story of how it is, is so under-rated and not appreciated, so much so that sometimes when it happens it's either too good to be true or taken for granted.

I work at a Strategic Brand and Marketing Consultancy and we are all about consistent communication that conveys what the company does well, not what they did well.

Brilliant!

Great post John! Thanks. And Juanjo Rodríguez's comment adds the true food for thought (pun intended). He wrote:

"And the Subservient Chicken did create a remarkable impact, putting the brand on the map again; now, the burgers have to fulfil those expectations."

Precisely what expectations did the SC create? Yes indeed, create expectations with remarkable coomunications. But make sure those expectations are highly relevant to the paying customers.

Great little post. I am doing some research on the concept of Being vs Doing, after being inspired by something I read in Levitt's Freakonomics, and you hit the nail on the head here.

In general, I agree with you. However, I think you missed the point of campaigns such as the Subservient Chicken. I'm not part of the BK team, so I can't exactly tell you what they were thinking, but I think it was a success. It might not make you think that BK's chicken burger is delicious; however, it does wonders for its image. As we know, teens and young adults like to hang out in cool establishments. The Subservient Chicken is allowing BK to move it's brand into a much cooler area. It gives it an edgy feel. It's not your parents fast food place.

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