Maybe your small business can’t run an ad campaign during the Super Bowl. But you can take lessons from a couple of big brands that did – and in doing so, offended the environmental community, all of Brazil, a huge chunk of the black community and anyone who is sympathetic to the Dali Lama.
Groupon removed their not-so-funny commercials from YouTube, so if you missed them, Conan O’Brien will explain.
Here’s one lesson you can take from Groupon’s mistake: If you want to grow your business, it’s best not to portray your customers as twits, boobs, morons, ignoramuses or jerks. (I probably forgot a few categories, but you get the drift.)
Ad agencies and other marketers usually fall into this trap by trying to emulate what other agencies are doing for other clients, or trying to win awards. They live in an industry echo-chamber that blocks out the voice of actual customers. The result isn’t creative, interesting or compelling, and it doesn’t build a connection between the customer and the client.
Here’s another appeal to morons, this time from Pepsi Max:
[UPDATE: As you can see, Pepsi was so embarrassed they removed the video from YouTube. Just as well.]
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called the ad “demeaning” on the floor of the House of Representatives. I think she meant that it demeaned African Americans. I think it demeans all people who identify with any of the Pepsi brands: Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi One, and on and on. It makes you appreciate Coke’s recents efforts (“Open Happiness”) all the more.
Here’s a second lesson for small businesses and all businesses: Don’t begin by trying to make a “great commercial,” a “great ad” or a “great website.” Begin with the goal of amazing your customers by connecting with them in an unexpected way, whether you’re building a website, working in social media, creating a promotion, or re-doing your email signature.
In Groupon and Pepsi Max efforts, the agencies (and maybe the clients) seem to be trying to connect with the advertising community – the brands’ communities of actual customers be damned.