The Ironic Man: Dos Equis Crafts Viral Campaign

Avi Dan helped conceive the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” viral campaign, though he left the advertising agency before the Man was driven to the hospital for delivery.

The agency that dreamt the Man up was Euro RSCG, where Dan served as global head of business development. As one of the few modern marketing marvels to blossom on television, the giant success of the “Most Interesting Man” was unexpected—it took years for the Dos Equis brand manager to approve the campaign and say yes to the Man—but it resulted in a grand payoff for the original concept.

Sales of Dos Equis doubled between 2006, when the campaign launched, and 2011, when the brand posted 25 percent sales growth even while owner Heineken’s numbers slipped, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

“It was very unusual in the sense that, if you look at 99 percent of beer advertising, it’s all about young men and women in a bar,” Dan said. “It’s very formulaic. And we came up with something that completely went against the formula.”

“The Most Interesting Man in the World” is a brazen series of television commercials that illustrates a 60-something hero with a grey beard and even darker diversions. He is a womanizer with a daredevil complex, and when he occasionally indulges in a beer, he says, “I prefer Dos Equis.”

The advertisements, accented by lines like, “The police often question him—just because they find him interesting,” bolstered consumer support and drove Dos Equis to No. 6 on the list of import beers, according to Ad Age.

Heineken marketing and selling expenses are approximately 12.5 percent of its revenue, or nearly $1.5 billion, as reported in the company’s 2012 Q2 report. Dan estimated a marginal amount of that, perhaps a fifth, goes to Dos Equis branding.

While the campaign did not influence the “big boys” such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller because it is a small player in the category, it did influence a slew of copycats in the industry, “because the clients are saying, ‘Why don’t you do something similar to that?’” Dan explained.

The Man found traction with audiences, and particularly the young demographic, because he acted sardonically. As proof, Dan pointed to the Sept. 22 season premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” in which host Joseph Gordon-Levitt spoofed the campaign in a bit called “Tres Equis” in which he played the son of the Man.

“When ‘Saturday Night Live’ starts making fun of commercials, that’s good,” Dan said. “Because that means it’s penetrating culture.”

Another example of the Man’s influence in culture is his prevalence in the world of memes, or satirical videos, hash tags, and photos that provide commentary on the Internet. “The Most Interesting Man” is a popular go-to for average users to build their own jokes from templates on websites such as MemeGenerator.net and QuickMeme.com.

Memes are effective for both humor and meaningful observations, said Olivia Gonzalez, a senior at NYU studying comparative literature and philosophy. “A lot of people use them to perpetuate important things, like political memes, or things that can be really relevant commentary to what’s going on in pop culture,” she said. “Other memes can just be stupid and funny things that go viral on the Internet. Both are fun and have their own uses.”

Memes featuring the Man are as ironic as the campaign set out to be, reinforcing the principle with which Euro RSCG created the movement.

“The irony that was built into the campaign is the buffer that protects the campaign from people trying to make fun of it,” Dan said. “Young people love irony, and it wasn’t trying to hit them over the head with ‘buy this beer’ or some sort of a personality.”

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#PendingLarryQuote

  1. On Thursday, Google’s Q3 earnings premiered on the SEC website hours earlier than planned. Whoops. But the bigger shocker? In place of an obligatory quote from Mr. Page, the report read: PENDING LARRY QUOTE. The Twitterverse, as you can imagine, enjoyed suggesting what that quote might be.
  2. scotthensley
    RT @inbaggiowetrust: “Hey at least we aren’t Facebook, right? Riiiiiiiiight?” #pendinglarryquote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:18:02
  3. cloggiefx
    $GOOG blaming the printer, it is always someone elses fault #pendinglarryquote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:23:11
  4. JakeScottIII
    Googles taking a hit after that unfortunate misfire. I might even buy some stock but that’s #PendingLarryQuote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:24:31
  5. hainsworthtv
    Shares of $RRD extend decline after $GOOG blames firm for early SEC 8K release that sent shares -9% (still HALTED). #PendingLarryQuote $$
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:24:41
  6. DonitaPrakash
    “Oops, I didn’t really do that did I?”, says Page, with his finger on the send key. #pendingLarryquote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:26:06
  7. srabil
    Apparently Google says RR Donnelley is to blame for premature earnings release … someone’s having a very bad day #pendinglarryquote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:38:25
  8. ryanbatty
    Feeling 4 #PR colleagues @ $goog. New or experienced, we all fear a #pendinglarryquote moment. Old process collides w/ 24/7 networked world
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:43:30
  9. savitz
    Google’s Q3 miss just cost Larry Page $1.8 billion. Maybe he had a quote, but they couldn’t print it. #google $goog #pendinglarryquote
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:58:20
  10. ldignan
    RT @savitz: Stock market meme du jour: #pendinglarryquote. Thanks, Google!
    $goog #google http://pic.twitter.com/UChdgp7G
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 10:58:39
  11. aram
    Whew, Mitt lucked out. It seems that #pendinglarryquote is the new #bindersfullofwomen.
    Thu, Oct 18 2012 11:43:16

Will You Try Pepsi’s Latest Diet Drink if Pepsi Does Your Chores?

First, Pepsi announced it would team up with the estate of the King of Pop, coinciding with this year’s 25th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album.

Now, Pepsi is introducing a campaign called “The Extra Hour” to promote Pepsi Next, its new 60-calorie variety. The soda brand is joining forces with TaskRabbit, a startup in which people enlist community members to help perform daily chores. Fans go to the website, sign up, and Pepsi will hand out 50 task helpers for one hour to winners for the next four weeks. The “Extra Hour” continues through Nov. 12.

Will people take Pepsi up on this? Yes! This is a great idea for a campaign. The winners get a free soda and a free task. Who doesn’t want to skip washing the dishes or scooting to the dry cleaner for a night, and just lay on the couch, drink soda, and watch “Nashville” instead?

I wonder about the longevity of this campaign, however. It ends in four weeks with 200 ultimate winners. While it may gain good press for the brand, especially if the winners use word-of-mouth to spread their like of TaskRabbit and/or Pepsi Next, where does the promotion for the diet drink go from here? While Pepsi dream up another partnership or turn to a generic online, television, and print campaign?

If it doesn’t gain the traction Pepsi desires, I won’t be surprised to see Pepsi Next go the failed route of Pepsi Blue (2002-2004), Sprite Remix (2003-2005), and Coca-Cola’s Surge (1996-2002).

Breakout Brands: An Ironic, Yet Necessary, Concept to Apply to the Election

A PR firm in Coral Gables, Florida, called rbb Public Relations has defined a new concept called “breakout brands,” according to Forbes.

Breakout Brands – brands that “focus on the customer and customer’s needs rather than imitating or downgrading the competition.”

That definition comes straight from rbb CEO Christine Barney. Rbb’s examples include McDonald’s, Apple, Toyota, Exxon, and Caterpillar.

More interesting is how rbb applied its new concept to the presidential election. It surveyed 2,141 adults between Aug. 20–22 and asked them 25 questions about these brands, probing how they interact with the companies. The survey also asked about who they plan to vote for.

Credit: Forbes

Romney supporters’ top five brands were: Walmart, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, ExxonMobil, and UPS.

Obama supporters’ top five brands were: Google, Whole Foods, Volkswagon, Starbucks, and GE.

How ironic that a survey based on a concept “that (doesn’t) try to challenge or attack other brands, but rather stand on their own merits” asks about who you’re voting for. I think we can all agree the presidential election has been nothing if not a schmearfest of inaccurate and often trivial ads and claims (need I point you to Obama’s latest Big Bird ad campaign below?), or in other words, the exact opposite of breakout branding.

According to rbb, three elements define a breakout brand:

  1. It forgets chasing and focuses on leading: “Breakout Brands are companies of all sizes and sometimes are already the owners of the top slot.”
  2. Create the future: “They are original, groundbreaking, and inventive.”
  3. Communication first, second, and third: “Consider how many companies try to promote customer service as a differentiator but are loathe to give out a customer support phone number in favor of pushing online FAQ.”

Neither of our presidential candidates have focused on leading. They’ve focused on attacking the other, as witnessed during their presidential debate last week, and while they believe this is the way to win us over, it’s not. If I wanted to watch little boys fight over who tells more lies, I’d become a kindergarten teacher.

As to creating a future, I also haven’t heard much in terms of specific policy that Obama or Romney is going to offer. I know Romney says he will cut taxes, get rid of PBS, and re-erect the white picket fences of the “Leave it to Beaver” era. I’d like to know what Obama has planned, but when I went to his website to investigate, I was only offered posts explaining why Paul Ryan is a liar:

I thought Obama’s website would tell me his plans for the future, but I was limited to a parade of Romney’s and Ryan’s falsities. As a voter who is trying to be as informed as possible, I’m disappointed and more than a bit insulted that the Obama campaign assumes I’d rather read schmear blog posts than a careful analysis of his policies.

And this sums up how both campaigns have failed to communicate anything valuable to voters.

I love the idea of breakout branding. I think companies that do it well know that good branding does not arise from attacking competitors but rather comparing yourself to them.

Remember Apple’s ad campaign from 2005–2007 with Justin Long? Long acted as a Mac and another actor was a PC. While a dainty piano ditty played in the background, they compared themselves. I don’t think any PC users felt ashamed to own a PC after watching these ads. But they did find out something valuable and informative about Macs. And that was all.

How revolutionary.

Library Pivot: The Long Game

The south facade of Bobst Library.

Michael Stoller recalls the cusp of the library industry’s pivot toward digitizing.

It was 1995, when he wrote an article for the Library Trends periodical about electronic journals—and struggled to find any to talk about.

“Most of them were little operations coming out in ascii text form [without formatting] from guys in Colorado in log cabins and what have you,” said the director of collections and research services at NYU Libraries.

In contrast, upwards of 90 percent of journal content today is in electronic form, evidence of a major shift in the library industry as it turns toward digital content.

The electronic pivot is absolutely necessary for libraries, according to Marty Zwillig, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, Inc., which provides entrepreneur assistance to startups and small businesses. He said libraries risk extinction as they squander patrons to the Internet.

“Libraries, in the traditional sense, are obsolete and rapidly dying, sort of like the train industry after the advent of automobiles and airplanes,” Zwillig wrote in an email. “Some people will always hang on to the old ways, but digital data on the Internet has so many advantages for most requirements.”

Despite the convenience of the Internet, library use remains generally unchanged, according to an annual survey conducted by Harris Interactive. In both 2007 and 2011, 62 percent of respondents surveyed said they had visited a library in the past year, indicating sustained interest in the services.

“As anyone can tell as they’ve walked through the atrium of Bobst Library during the academic year, we’re not wanting for people coming through the front door,” Stoller said. “We’ve got lots of people in this building.”

Libraries are digitizing to keep up with demand. The largest transformation at NYUL, Stoller said, has been a boost in the paper-to-electronic ratio in acquired content such as periodicals and books. Other major shifts involve the creation of a digital video library and bolstered reference functions.

Though the library industry pivot has picked up measurably in the past 10 years, Zwillig said it may not be enough, “since most are run by local governments and institutions, which are notoriously slow to change … Witness also the recent bankruptcy of Blockbuster, trying to hang onto movie rentals, when the world was changing to streaming video.”

Stoller disagrees. “Virtually, all we do is respond to what patrons’ needs are,” he said. “We do with paper when we need to, but people do increasingly expect to see information in digital form.”

Lydia Vasquez, a junior at NYU, said she uses the library not for its electronic resources but as both a study spot and for its book collection, which is five million volumes strong.

The fundamental nature of libraries is—and always will be—to connect people with information and scholarship, Stoller said, adding that the pivot may be slow, but it is ultimately beneficial.

“Technology obviously has substantially shifted, and for the most part overwhelmingly enhanced our ability to do that, to build those connections for people.”

Click below to listen to my conversation with Michael Stoller!

Redbox: the Hot Ticket

Redbox announced last week that it plans to test selling tickets to live events through its groovy DVD stands. As the WSJ article points out, we’re not talking front-row seats to Kanye and Lil’ Wayne having a riff off. The tickets will likely be nosebleeds or those last-minute seats that have yet to sell out.

The move proves how Redbox is unafraid to offer something customers want—cheap, easy to access entertainment—in an easy manner. Building on its $1 DVD rentals is a good move for Redbox in a style that allows the brand to remain top-of-mind with its core, looking-for-cheap-fun customer base.

The company will roll out its ticketing service in select cities, beginning with Philadelphia. First up is a Nov. 28 Carrie Underwood concert in the area. The Wells Fargo Center arena has 19,500 seats total, though Redbox spokespeople declined to affirm how many of those seats would be doled out by their signature rectangular DVD stands.

Also important is the fact that Redbox will charge only $1 in services charges, which is a steal compared to LiveNation, which can often tack on $15+ on service fees—a vaguely titled fine that makes ticketing ever more expensive and frustrating for consumers who don’t quite understand why they’re being charged for “service.” This isn’t a restaurant.

In the WSJ article, Mark Achler, Redbox’s VP of new business and strategy, says the move exemplifies how Redbox rentals are often an impulse purchase.

I think this is a brilliant strategy on Redbox’s part. The brand proved it is successful in DVD rentals and has helped put Blockbuster and other brick-and-mortar rentals move their business models into the Netflix/online arena. What if it could help do the same for concerts and sports shows?

Carrie Underwood could stand for more than just country music come Nov. 28, when her concert affirms or denies Redbox’s new strategy.

 

 

When Your Credit Card Company Discriminates Against You

American Express announced Monday that it plans to reimburse $85 million to approximately 250,000 customers, according to the New York Times, for multiple violations. The company will also pay $27.5 million in fines to regulators.

The penalties come as a result of accusations, “that the company violated federal law in its marketing, billing and debt collection practices,” reports the NYT. A Business Insider article detailed how American Express was called out on multiple misbehaviors, including:

  • Age discrimination—the system intentionally disregarded applicants older than 35 for a period of time.
  • Violated the Credit CARD Act‘s rules on late fees by billing late fees based on a percentage of the debt owed
  • Failing to follow through on $300 promised to customers in the Blue Sky credit card program
  • Asking customers to overpay debt payments: “Consumers were wrongly told that if they paid off the old debt, the payment would be reported to credit bureaus and could improve their credit scores. In fact, American Express was not reporting the payments and the debts were so old that even if they had tried to report them, many of the payments would not have appeared on these consumers’ credit reports or affected their credit scores.”

Refunds to customers will materialize in March 2013.

What will be the fall out from this? Will American Express users switch to a new credit card company? What’s more, the $112.5 million fine seems rather lax. How much money do you think American Express scammed customers out of or didn’t cough up when it promised to?

With many banking institutions still feeling the heat from the public over the 2008 financial crisis (re: Occupy Wall Street), a credit card company denying customers their rights does not feel like the proper way for citizens to restore their faith in the country’s institutions or business leaders.