i'm with the brand

I like my gateaux like I like my Van Gogh: on display
April 2, 2010, 10:06 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , , , , ,


Coolhunter brings us mouthwatering images of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a Parisian bakery which displays their tantalizing wares in gallery form throughout the store. So it’s not really a bakery per se–it’s a pastry boutique, and the presentation suggests true artistry.

The best ideas are those that solve business, branding, and audience problems simultaneously, and this execution would definitely qualify: from a branding perspective, the unique presentation is a differentiator amongst the myriad bakeries dotting Paris; from a business perspective, it moves traffic more efficiently through the store and speeds transactions, relieving congestion at the counter where throngs of customers would normally mob the bakery case; and from an audience perspective, it allows patrons to unhurriedly peruse the merchandise in a playful atmosphere that elevates the various trifles from mundane commodities to little works of art, infusing pastry purchase with a sense of occasion.

It’s cool when businesses seize fresh ideas by conceiving of themselves as another type of business, a business in some other industry or category. For example, in some ways, Mini is a car company that behaves like a toy company; Virgin Air is an airline company that behaves like an entertainment company–obviously in part because the larger Virgin brand informs how they approach their airline business, but still.

This particular instance isn’t anything drastic or revolutionary, but it’s an example of how we can revitalize ourselves and learn from other disparate industries, businesses, and brands by retooling the way we think of our own, and by being open to the idea that our “best practices” may not really be the best practices.


Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet presents: Lessons in Credibility
January 4, 2010, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , ,

Drive-Thru Diet

Taco Bell’s latest effort, a Subway-aping bid for health-food status entitled the “Drive-Thru Diet,” is an exercise in total nonsense and insults the intelligence of the even the most modestly commonsensical. Siezing upon the stray story of one Jared-eat-alike Christine, who claims she lost 54 pounds eating Taco Bell (read: lost 54 pounds eating 1250 calories a day and exercising regularly for 2 years), Taco Bell seems eager to insidiously dupe the logically-lacking and detail-oblivious into believing nonstop Taco Bell-chomping specifically and not a calorically-diminished diet (regardless of content) more generally contributed to Christine’s astounding progress. 

While technically true and laden with small-print disclaimers, Taco Bell’s claims smack of intellectual dishonesty and strain credulity as mightily as their lard-laced concoctions a moderately-cinched belt. Taco Bell is not a health food, and per their own admission on the campaign site, neither is it a low-calorie food. Taco Bell is cheap, it’s fast, it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s a food of convenience, of desperation—not of strategy—and I think that’s why this is such a ludicrous campaign and absurd strategic move on the company’s part. I’m not sure if they misunderstand their brand proposition, or if they’re stretching too much in an attempt to be something new, but either way, they’re at best underestimating and at worst attempting to trick their audience, and that is quite a dangerous branding rule to break. 

For Subway it sort of made more sense to claim health benefits, and it seemed plausible that their subs would make a more sensible and sustainable fats food choice (the typo stays) for someone with a currently-abysmal diet—the bread is fresh-ish, the vegetables look real, the calorie count can’t be that bad, especially when compared to your average fried McDonald’s fare. But Taco Bell? Come on. I love it, I’m not going to lie. But at least I have some awareness that I am about to eat a burrito-shaped object some sad stooge in back whittled from a solid block of saturated fat. 

I say, know what you are and play that game well (a la 4th meal). It’s not that a brand can never change, or that it should let others determine its identity for it, but it’s pretty obvious why something this far-fetched rings false. It seems deceptive even though it’s technically not; brands should not build campaigns on technicalities.

The blow to credibility the campaign deals makes Taco Bell look foolish and desperate, and it can take a while to undo the damage of undermined trust. (“Who are they kidding?” is never a response to look forward to in audiences.) So next time, friends, think it through—who are you, who do you want to be, and how will you demonstrate this authentically, respectfully, and intelligently?

UPDATE: Incidentally, it seems AdFreak did a post on this very campaign today, aptly titled “Are they kidding me with the Taco Bell diet?” (proves my point, right?) in which they make the keen observation that Taco Bell’s concurrently-running (and more brand-aware, as I had mentioned earlier) 4th Meal campaign is totally at odds with the Drive-Thru Diet campaign, making the latter even more dubious. Good point, AdFreak. So there, Taco Bell.