Monday, August 25, 2008

Klimpton: hotel as playground for adult fun

Why should the folks at the W have all the fun?

An in-room closet hanger recently suggested guests unleash their 'wild side'; to put on the robes - a wrap for men and a camisole for the ladies - and follow their instincts.

Permission to play is an inventing part of Kimpton's suggestive selling. There's a time and place for adults to step outside of the boundaries of what they know and experience something new. They might even learn something about themselves in the process.

If couples leave with that kind of experience, the memory must certainly halo back to the brand. Not a bad accomplishment in mid-priced hotels segment offering a mostly undifferentiated fare.

Running towards what you should be avoiding

So this is a mighty confusing sign. And one with potentially fatal consequences.

Imagine for a moment you can't read English.

What does the image suggest to you?

The reasonable take-away is that one should AVOID the stairs in a fire. It suggests that it will bring you closer to the very thing that you should be running away from.

The opposite interpretation is of course intended: that the elevator should be avoided and the stairs used in this kind of situation.

All of which goes to show it matters where you put the flames. Would it have been that hard to put them over the shoulder of our universally recognized stick figure?

An attempt to encourage virtuous behavior backfires

An ad on the side of the Muni subway in San Francisco. It seeks to create a little more social harmony by giving people a reason why they should be nice, in this instance, road users being more courteous to each others.

It seems reasonable. Give as good as you get. A cosmic harmony of goodwill will be returned. But that's precisely the flaw. It creates an unsustainable expectation. If we are encouraged to behave in a specific way from a literal expectation of reciprocity, then when it doesn't happen the behavior will collapse.

The strategically smarter approach would have been to create value that's not so literally dependent on other people's cooperation.

The Liberty Mutual Campaign in a case in point. (Let's put aside the issue of how feasible it is for an insurance company to build its business on a platform of responsibility when the underlying format of a policy and the claim resolution experience are destined to violate it and therefore dash expectations it has helped create.) If this kind of approach had been leveraged for 'social issue' communication, we at OFD think it would have been more compelling.

The premise of the Liberty Mutual commercial is of people doing some small act of good for the sake of it, which happens to be seen and inspires people to copy, in a 'Pay It Forward' kind of way. Enacting the behavior does not require reciprocity. The motivation to give comes from an acknowledgment and understanding of life's interdependency, one in which we might not be aware of how the connections are made, but taps into the truth that they are, and that it benefits us. So it gracefully dodges the flat-footed rationality of literal reciprocity which the 'social issue' communication is rooted in and which trips it up.

Message perfectly fits the medium: Part Two

Jet Blue telling people not to fly?

Has the brand gone mad?

It has not. It's an example of great placement, the nature of which contributes to the message and compels engagement. Positioned by the side of the road - where traffic is destined to fly by - provides a counter-point against which the communication works even harder.

It's part of Jet's Blue marketing campaign to create an aspirational identity for people who use the brand. These passengers don't fly. They have more traveling discretion, for they are jetting. The merits of the strategy aside, this is delightful placement indeed.

Message perfectly fits the medium: Part One

There is something inherently alternative about wildpostings. The term “guerrilla’ is applied to this medium after all.

So it made our OFD culture spotter smile to see this communication recently during the Olympics.

It features a man hurling an incendiary device at some unknown destination, housed in what very much looks like a coke bottle. The sporting apparel he wears bears the Nike logo suggests he’s an athlete, one which resemblance discus throwing from a distance.

Nike is known for its guerrilla marketing at sports events whose sponsorship it is locked out of. But this must sure be parody, a brand hijacking one presumes.

Couched as chocolate

What a visual treat this outdoor board delivers.

Who would have thought that associations from these two categories could be combined so effectively? There is something succulent and tantalizing about the way the couch is half wrapped, suggesting a thrill in the reveal.

Removing packaging is a sensual part of consuming the product. Several companies understand this. Apple in its superbly crafted boxes that laptops are packed in. GM puts a ribbon over the handle of its used cars so the buyer must break the seal before getting in.

Perhaps this furniture brand could benefit from such thinking and enhance the consumption experience of its product before it's even sat upon.