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08/28/00 - Thinking Inside The Box

While Apple and IBM have received plenty of accolades for their advertising, the branding efforts of their peers seem to be continually crashing. To date, the most noteworthy branding effort any of them has put forth has been Gateway's cow-spotted boxes.

Unfortunately, even they have failed to milk a consistent marketing message out of this packaging. Recently, Gateway and rival Dell, both ran simultaneous campaigns featuring The Who's "Who Are You?" and "We Won't Get Fooled Again," respectively. How does that happen?

This sort of marketing counsel seems as if it came from The Who's deaf, dumb and blind boy Tommy. As noted before, using the same song as another advertiser, let alone competitor, is no way to build a brand. Gateway and Dell have basically canceled out each others campaigns and left consumers asking "Who Are You?" One can only hope they won't get fooled again.

Of course, when it comes to misguided computer brand building, they have plenty of company. An extreme example is Global PC's blatant theft of Apple's famous "1984" commercial to introduce their new computer line.

However, Micron Computers pioneered this larcenous approach to marketing communications by swiping another well-known, award-winning ad campaign. A comparison of the Time campaign (which began in the mid-90s) and Micron's big 1998 ad campaign shows obvious similarities.

Micron's contribution to the format that Time still uses is to change the red square (which represented the magazine's famous cover) to a meaningless red circle. So, all they've accomplished is snatching a style. As was the case with Global PC, this computer manufacturer chose to build their brand on borrowed advertising.

As you can see from these samples, Time's campaign is currently providing a creative transfusion to the new Blue Cross Blue Shield campaign. Their twist on the format is to change the rectangle's outline to--what else?--blue. The fact that the box is meant to look like a Blue Cross card makes the ad similar to the Novus ad pictured here.

It's a shame that so many companies that could use out of the box thinking settle for prepackaged solutions.