The Body Shop takes on self-image

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I stole this image from someone’s Facebook profile. Attached to it was the dubious claim that Mattel had sent a cease-and-desist order (possibly true) and had the posters removed from all Body Shop locations (unlikely). Whether this image bears enough resemblance to the Barbie doll to constitute trademark infringement warrants a whole separate legal discussion. For the sake of this discussion, I will assume that the story is true—because if so, it marks a tremendous blunder for both brands.

For Mattel, the company’s alleged demand to remove this poster does more damage than it prevents. The doll clearly isn’t an actual Barbie, but Mattel is now (even more) associated with perpetuating unhealthy attitudes in young women. I’ve seen this story passed around virally among the very audience Mattel needs to connect with the most—mothers.

For the Body Shop, any sign of capitulation would send a weak and dispirited message. Actually, the company probably has a pretty good case to fight for fair use of the image. But even if it loses, the fight is still worth fighting—especially if the Body Shop really wants to present a positive body-image message (a la Dove). When you give up without a fight, it says that you’re disingenuous about your branding efforts. You end up looking phoney, which is probably the worst thing you could do when trying to make money off an earnest message like this.

Of course, all of this assumes that the story is true, which I doubt—especially the part about Mattel “banning” the posters. A few minutes of Google-fu didn’t turn up much, except this New York Times article about the campaign from 1997. Aside from that, I could only find a multitude of blog posts, each one parroting the same story. I remain skeptical.

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Brand differentiation done really well

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The Alamo Drafthouse is an independent cinema chain in Texas that has a strict “no talking, no texting” policy. Recently a customer was ejected from the theatre (no refund was given) for repeatedly texting during the movie despite warnings. She called and left a long, rambling NSFW message detailing her experience. And then things took an awesome turn:

The theatre has turned it into a commercial!

It helps that the patron doesn’t come across very well, so she’s easy to dislike. The theatre pulls off this execution brilliantly.

You can’t watch it and not love the vibe you get from the theatre. A quick perusal of its Wikipedia page suggests that the cinema does a lot of other really interesting things to build the culture around its brand, and to separate itself from the competition. I would love to visit these guys—they seem to really have things figured out.

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Now Hiring?

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I stumbled across this photo, and it made me chuckle. While whoever created the sign obviously had a sense of humour, I’m always amazed at how many organizations communicate with really poor English. My rule of thumb is that regardless of how “hip” you want your brand to be, always use full and proper English in all of your communications.

 

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What if America wasn’t America?

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzj1Td7Vwt0
Library


I just came across this series of ads from the venerable Ad Council. I missed these ads when they first aired (in 2002?), probably because I watch very little network TV. They’re quite chilling, especially considering that the U.S. just extended the Patriot Act for an additional four years, which makes much of this discussion practical, not theoretical.

The noteworthy thing about these ads is that their use of mostly white “Christian” actors makes them seem ridiculous. Watch the church ad below and imagine it redone as a mosque instead. It really seems a lot more plausible now, doesn’t it? In fact, the same exercise applied to any of the ads works equally well to reveal our own prejudices.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0t-MUD7Ow4
Church

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEvRznYcjgU
Diner

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Billboard vandalism or just social commentary?

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Click to see it in all its glory.

I stumbled across this collection of humourously defaced billboards and thought it was good enough to share.

The funny thing about outdoor media (like billboards) is that despite it being intended as a monologue, advertisers end up opening themselves up to some very public feedback, as we can see above.

Plus, advertisers also risk attacks from other outdoor media, as is the case in this example:

For more examples of the audience pushing back on advertisers in outdoor media, have a look at The Sharpie Image.

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Are the Yellow Pages still relevant?

/Observations/

phone-book-pile

I came across this image a while ago, and it made me chuckle. I took a similar picture (albeit without the clever sign) a few years ago at my old office. The new phone books were delivered, and everyone was sort of nonplussed about the whole event. These giant books don’t mean much anymore, but no one is quite sure what to do with them. The volumes sat in a pile outside of every office for a few days before people started bringing them in because they looked bad just sitting in the hallway.

I recently spoke to a client about her ad in the phone book. She pays about $600/month, which is pretty small for the Yellow Pages but still got her the largest ad in her section. I challenged her to measure how many new clients she gets from this listing, so she tracked the numbers for three months. She found that she received, on average, about 3 new clients a month from the Yellow Pages. Each client brought in about $80. Therefore, she was spending $600 a month to get $240 of business. What was her number one source of new clients? People seeing her building or pylon signage.

Dropping Yellow Pages ads may not be for every business, but it’s certainly worth looking into.

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The Exorcist

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A really clever little spot for XXXX (company name removed so as not to spoil the twist). This is the kind of fun work that inspires people to get into the industry. The kind of work that makes people in the industry shake their head at and say “I wish my clients would let me do work like that.”

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We don’t want to be associated with tragedy

/Observations/,

Last night I ran into a colleague in the ad industry, and she told me this story.

On May 16, 2011, a wildfire tore through the town of Slave Lake, Alberta. One-third of the city was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was reported hurt.

My friend thought that one of her clients, a home builder who does a lot of business in the Slave Lake area, should do something simple to help the people of Slave Lake. She came up with a great plan to have the client set up donation boxes at show homes across the province. It seemed like a real win-win-win for all: It would be easy to set up, wouldn’t cost much, would get the client some additional traffic into the show homes, and would help people affected by the tragedy.

The client scoffed, however. “We don’t want to be associated with tragedy,” my friend was told.

 

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