July 27, 2009

The Flame of Fame

30air600We live in the era of fame. Everyone seems to want to be famous. From Octomum to the girl on the bus dressed as Lady Gaga. The internet has amplified this desire and given everyone a chance to make a name for themselves through blogging, tweeting and sharing photos or videos. The Warhol 15 minutes of fame prediction is now a reality.

Needless to say, brands have jumped onto this phenomenon like flees onto a dog. Of course it is the job of agencies to tap into cultural trends but sometimes you wonder if the search for fame is just a little short sighted. Getting a lot of attention in a short space of time may not turn into more sales or loyal customers.

Air New Zealand decided to show their staff naked with their uniforms painted on – since they have nothing to hide. Is this a real differentiation or just an attention-grabbing ploy? No such doubts about their pink flight. What will they come up with next to rack up views of viral videos? Not all attempts to grab eyeballs work out though. Many brands use viral videos for instant fame only for it to fall flat. This blog post gathers a few of the worst recent offenders.

At the same time there are brands that recognise how fickle fame can be and are focusing on utility. Giving the customer something valuable and useful can often be a stronger argument for brand engagement. Fiat’s Eco:Drive or the Nike + platform (interesting article here) show how branded utilities can be the reason why customers choose one brand over another. A new iPhone app for Mastercard is another example of a brand offering a tangible benefit for customers allowing them to bookmark their favourite shops or restaurants then share them with their social network. Great idea (even though I’m annoyed since I proposed the same idea to another card company a year ago). Read about Priceless Picks on this blog post.

I’m not saying that fame is all bad. The biggest brands are famous ones. They just didn’t become famous because they sought fame. They had great products that were marketed to the right people in the right way. Advertising agencies that don’t make their clients famous are not doing their job properly. But an agency that just offers fame and nothing more (like delivering results)? Fame, like any flame, can easily sputter out.

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