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02/10/02 - Bowled Over By Branding

New England's Super Bowl XXXVI victory was a stunning upset that kept 131.7 million viewers glued to their tubes, driving up ratings to make it the fifth most watched TV program.

However, the winner among the sponsors of pricey ($1.9 million for a :30) Bowl commercials was no surprise. It was totally predictable. Once again, it was the Bud Bowl.

Budweiser bowled over the competition with a solid game plan.

First of all, they had sheer size on their side. Nine spots out of a total of 57 were Anheuser-Busch spots--no other advertiser came close.

Along with quantity, Budweiser had quality going for them. As usual, they offered up a diversified assortment of spots ranging from humorous (a falcon hunting Bud Light in a café, slippery sheets ruining a romantic evening, a Sopranos take off).

Historical (a tribute to themselves).

Patriotic (Bud's Clydesdales bow in honor to World Trade Center victims).

And a "know when to say when" responsible drinking quasi-PSA thrown in for good measure.

Most importantly, Budweiser's spots worked together to build further equity in the 125 year old brand.

They've had many ad icons in their long history, including spokesmen like Ed McMahon, Frank Sinatra, the "this Bud's for you" jingle and more recently the lizards and frogs.

To refresh viewers' memories, they dusted off a few in the historical spot just to add further coherence to their Bud brand blitz.

Another advertiser who taped into their heritage with a fraction of Bud's media buy was Pepsi. They've put new spokes singer Britney Spears in a spot that has her traveling through a retrospective of old Pepsi spots.

Nice cross generational approach harnessed to contemporary star power.

Of course, being the pop star pop has long been Pepsi's position. From Michael Jackson to Madonna to uh-huh Ray Charles (mustn't have been any acceptable young singers available) to their Halle Eisenberg "joy of cola" jingle with various celebs.

Pepsi really doesn't have any corporate icons with the longevity of the Clydesdales. The fleeting fame of the pop culture they tie-in with (they once had a pop culture sweepstakes) is the fizzy essence of their continuous quest to be the choice of a new generation.

Thank goodness they didn't attempt any sort of topical humor playing off the fact that Bin Laden serves guests to his cave chilled bottles of Pepsi.

Speaking of beverages, the Lipton Brisk Danny Devito as an angry (could he be anything else) claymation puppet seemed like a nice segue from the present campaign. But why? Were the animated spots too expensive? Or did someone at Lipton demand more product focus?

This celebrity puppet campaign (Stallone, Willis, James Brown, Bruce Lee, Babe Ruth and others), apparently inspired by MTV's Celebrity Death Match series, always seemed to be an executional style overshadowing the product.

Somehow a clay figure drinking a ice tea doesn't say "thirst quenching." Guess someone at Lipton finally figured this out.

It got off to a particularly weird start by using a young likeness of Frank Sinatra (who had a foot and a half in the grave at the time). What demographic where they shooting for, retirees?

So now they're apparently throwing out this "That's Brisk, baby" campaign for one that focuses on the new improved taste. Should have built on their foundation of claymation. Take a cue from Hawaiian Punch's long running "Punchy."

While entertaining, this overlapping, transitional campaign approach could be used by any advertiser. In a sense, E*TRADE used it during the game as well, with a spot that sent their monkey into space after a "disastrous" song and dance production number spot.

Gee with the monkey gone, what brand equity is E*TRADE left with? According to news reports, E*TRADE doesn't really even make their money trading nowadays. What's keeping them afloat is Internet banking. E*BANK? Wow, that's a real disconnect.

Though they seem like they're about the slip on the banana peel of inconsistent brand imagery, at least E*TRADE had one temporarily. That sure can't be said for web brethren Hotjobs.com and Monster.com.

They've never had any sort of consistent brand image during their short lives. Their advertising is so generic to the job search category that their ads are interchangeable.

What's more, any newspaper classified section could slap their logo at the end of their spots as well. If one of these web job search brands ever got a clue about brand differentiation, the other would be in big trouble.

Kind of like the big trouble Budweiser has put "crying in their beer" Miller in.