That’s usually the first question I ask the bartender of my favorite Manhattan biker bar but upon further reflection, that’s probably the question consumers should be asking some of our preferred brands. We buy into imagery or as some layman call it, lies, and not into the actual utility or lack thereof, of the product they’re spending their money on. Brilliant people like myself (did I just humbly call myself brilliant?) know that and we take advantage. Does the product actually do what it claims or do we, as both marketers and consumers, ignore that completely and willingly accept a fantasy? I can think of a few marketing fantasies that my colleagues have been serving with piss beer for years.
“Hello, nice to meet you. So, you can’t seem to attract women no matter what you do. You’re sexually frustrated and there’s no hope. ” Logically that conversation should descend to evaluating that persons approach, the aura they project and maybe what they’re looking for in a relationship and where they’re looking. But no, someone like me decided that making you sexually desirable had nothing to do with making yourself a better human being. No, what you need, my sexually inept friend is Axe body spray. You splash a gallon of this on you and women will start throbbing from miles away. Bras will become sling shots as they swing from lamp post to lamp post with Spider-Man type precision to attack you with violent and repeated pelvic thrusts. Sound ridiculous doesn’t it? But it’s not. Axe is a category leader in the young adult male fragrance category and they did it by playing with every man’s greatest insecurity…women. Has anyone actually done a survey to see if sexual encounters have increased after using the product? Have we measured the number of voluntary and involuntary pelvic thrusts that have been…uh…thrusted? Hell, did anyone even ask a woman if Axe encouraged her to liquidate her morals? I sound like I’m pitching a long form video for Axe that could end up being a big viral hit.
Y’know, I’m starting to think this beer really is pee. It’s so…foamy.
Nothing says bad ass more than a bad ass on a motorcycle, particularly a Harley Davidson motorcycle. It’s an image cultivated by biker behavior and myths and legend supported by Hollywood movies and recently the popular show Sons of Anarchy. Wisely enough, Harley Davidson has embraced the image as well. Recent ads feature the Harley logo and the caption reads, “Customers who purchased this also purchased…” and they have a picture of a streak, brass knuckles and a cobra. All of which aren’t exactly found in your dad’s suitcase as he goes to work in the morning unless of course your dad is a mongoose who beats up cobras before eating them for lunch after tenderizing them with raw meat. My neighbor rides a Harley and not only is he not a mongoose. He’s a vegetarian dentist with a Paris Hilton sized briefcase…I mean dog. You can’t tell him he’s not a badass because on weekends that Harley Davidson Softail comes out and that mild mannered dentist becomes a wild and wooly mild mannered weekend warrior who rides exactly five miles to the bar and wraps his meticulously manicured hands around an imported lite beer with blissful gay glee. What’s so great about the Harley brand is that even after you’re sold into the idea of being an American bad ass after you’ve purchased the product, the fantasy doesn’t die. You may be a pleated-pants wearing dentist between Monday and Friday, but come the weekend you’re the one her momma warned her about. Harley by far has cultivated their brand to transcend merely being labeled a brand; they are a cult. They are an exclusive sect who look down on others (and by others, I mean other riders with superior motorcycles) simply because they believe by wearing or riding anything that says Harley makes them a badass. It doesn’t matter that most motorcycles come with air cooling systems and Harley’s don’t. It doesn’t matter that the smallest Japanese cruiser is quicker off the line then most big Harley beasts and it certainly doesn’t matter that you get considerably more technology on almost any other bike then a Harley. None of that matters because Harley = Bad Ass and bad asses like pee in their beer.
Please understand I’m not rallying against what these brands are doing. I’m actually praising the marketers behind the brands who have identified the core emotional bond between the brand and the consumer and have woven it into credible marketing messages which have resonated with their audience. These messages speak to them knowing their brand, accepting the limitations of their product, understanding their consumer and exploiting all of it to everyone’s benefit. Brands that have the right minds on their business both internally and associated agencies will always succeed because they know people don’t care what beer you actually serve. As long as you convince them that it’s top shelf the consumer will buy it.
Other brands that have pulled this off with marvelous results include Subway which has convinced people that eating their sandwiches will produce amazing weight loss results. Newport ads have not changed their visuals in years and so we’re left to think that smoking produces big white smiles instead of yellow teeth fueled by cancer ridden throats and lungs. Nike has promised me for years that I will eventually grow up to be Michael Jordan and somewhere deep inside, I still believe that.
By now we should all have figured out we don’t need to ask the bartender if he or she peed in the glass and then served it as beer. We drink the pee all day long and if someone ever gave us “real” beer we’d probably say, “Y’know, I usually drink this served really warm.”