Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pushing Past Propriety

Some marketers go far beyond the bounds of good taste - does it matter?
In this day and age of boundary pushing (if, indeed, any boundaries any longer exist to be pushed or crossed!), it is not terribly unusual to find "viral" advertising efforts being released into the wild as it were, with little (if any!) regard for the effects they might have on the health and image of the brand being "touted" or otherwise portrayed.

Is this wise? Is this prudent?

We here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC have undertaken a weeks-long foray into the heart of darkness to investigate - and to answer! - those very queries.

For the purposes of this newsletter, we shall limit ourselves to a single instance of this phenomenon.

Perhaps you've heard of Belgium? It's a smallish country located in Europe in the general vicinity of France (and Germany!). Despite its somewhat nondescript nature and near-anonymity, Belgium is the source of much of the world's finest beers and chocolates (I can vouch for the former from personal experience, and Francis in our comestibles practice assures me that the latter is no less true!).

¡¡Good Taste Threshold Warning!!
potentially-distressing details below

In addition to these two products (and perhaps in part due to the former!), this nation has created a new promotional opportunity - a cross between a urinal and a videogame. By directing one's "stream" onto strategically-placed sensor pads, one is able to interact with a game on a screen placed directly above the urinal-proper.

This cleverly named Place to PeeTM is the brain-child (so to speak!) of a pair of Belgians (an electrical engineer and a software developer) who apparently thought that time spent at the wall was wasted when one could be playing video games at the same time. (Apparently they are still working out how to make it more "gender neutral" as the design is quite misogynistic to-date.)

"But what," you no doubt ask, "has this to do with marketers pushing the boundaries of taste?" Ah, let me explicate and so forth.

This Place to PeeTM is meant as a promotional attraction to be set up at, for example, a product demonstration for a new vehicle. Suppose one were launching a new, high-performance vehicle, and suppose part of that launch activity to be a demonstration of that vehicle's capabilities at a some-what remote location. Part of the accoutrements of this demonstration would (no doubt!) be tasty beverages - likely of the non-alcoholic persuasion, given the whole drinking and driving thing. Still, even Pepsi® products or Iced Tea tend not to stay locked up forever (if you'll pardon the imagery), and having an entertaining way to relieve one's customers might be seen as a value-added proposition.

The question remains, however - how will this affect the brand perception? will there be a positive (or negative!) rub-off from the recreational micturating?

Our research indicates that the amount, and direction, of brand association varies with both age and sex. Young men tend to see this as "cool" and "hip" and "with it," while older women tend to see it as "vulgar" or "disgusting." Those between these two poles tend to have reactions between the poles as well.

So, returning to our hypothetical product demonstration, the appropriateness of this kind of value-add seems to be based mainly on the target audience of the marketer's product. Were this a family vehicle (e.g. a mini-van or other station-wagon-esque vehicle) with a significant appeal to families and women, the risk would seem far too high, while in the case of a lower-priced, two-seat sporty car aimed at young men, there might be no problem at all.

This all stands (no pun intended!) in stark contrast to a smoothly rendered full-motion video (with stereophonic sound-track accompaniment!) playing on a CoollMisstTM equipped beverage dispenser. Without being too self-serving (at any rate, attempting to avoid such appearance!), we also would like to pass on the fact that our research indicates that all ages, sexes, and ethnicities are equally receptive to such a machine and such an exposure.

As with all marketing quandaries and conundra, the wise seller will consult a professional before beginning any program. We await your comments (and enquiries!).

Last time, Jay wrote about the wisdom of playing tricks on one's customers:
George Parker responded:
"Not only are you one of the dumbest @$$#013$ I've ever seen, if a company played a trick on me I'd either congratulate them or tell them to go f..."

George, you seem to have a little trouble expressing yourself in the Queen's own English. Calm down, take a few deep breaths, and try again when your vocabulary returns.

-- Jay


Biff Barkley said...

Interesting premise, Jay, but you really didn't go anywhere with the topic.
I enjoyed the article about the "game" and all, but where's the beef? You didn't really tell us much, other than that there's a game that some will find not in good taste, and that we should be careful in associating our brands with it.
So what? Where's the analysis we've come to expect?
Perhaps Pat was the real genius behind Jay Standish - you know what they say about who's behind every great man ....

Jay Standish said...

Mr. Barkley -
Thanks for your comments (or some of them at any rate!).
As you no doubt know, we here at Jay Standish, Inc. LLC are in no wise in the business of "giving away the store" at every opportunity. These newsletters and blog posts are meant to "whet" your "appetite" for more - the which may be purchased from us at extraordinarily reasonable hourly rates.

As to raising the possibility of a ghost from the past having been a ghost writer in the past, I can only say that was clever, but a hurtful and cutting foray into a past best left to fester (I mustn't obsess).

Excelsior nonetheless!

Charlie van Becelaere said...

Perhaps I've heard of Belgium?

Are you nuts? Next you'll probably ask if we know that there's a place called New Mexico - and it's not even a foreign country.

good grief, man, get a grip on reality!

Jay Standish said...

Mr. Becelaere -
First, based on your name, I must say that I am impressed at how well you speak English - excellent job, my friend. I understand that the average European is fluent in ten to twelve languages, so perhaps it's not as remarkable as it might otherwise seem, but still, well done.

Next, let me apologize for my little "jape" at the expense of Belgium. I was really trying to keep things light here, and as the Pythons seemed to find great joy in humorously poking fun at the Belgians, I thought I'd join in the fun.
Again, I apologize.

Finally, I must congratulate you once more - this time for your knowledge of North American political geography. I feel quite certain that there are actual U.S. citizens who don't know that New Mexico is now a part of our great nation - and has been for quite a number of years, as it appears.