Is “Normal” the new different?
The other day I walked by a bus stop with a photo of Elisabeth Moss walking down a beach in jeans and flats, feeding a flock of seagulls. On the bottom corner of the ad was the GAP logo and the phrase “Dress Normal.”
What on earth is that supposed to mean?
Normal? It’s such a loaded word. What defines the term? What’s the baseline for normal? What “normal” is tends to vary from person to person.
Instead of guessing, we went straight to the source. According to GAP’s press release, “’Dress Normal’ boldly instructs individuals to shape their own authentic, personal style—and intentionally challenges every one of us to dress for ourselves.” Oh, now I get it. Sort of. But I view GAP as the place to grab the “normal” pieces of my wardrobe—jeans, t-shirts, anything striped. I don’t go there to find my flair.
What seems most ironic is that GAP is pulling from social trends (Hipster and Normcore) that are anything but normal to attract its middle America “normal” audience. With phrases from the campaign like “The uniform of rebellion and conformity,” and “Simple clothes for you to complicate,” it kind of sounds like a hipster walked into GAP headquarters and had his brain explode. To their credit, GAP was the rebellious jean company in 1969–but to us in SF, they’re just the norm.
Here’s the thing about ad campaigns–they’re not as effective if you have to explain them. And it seems like GAP has had to do a lot of explaining about this campaign. This campaign has sparked a lot of discussion in the marketing world, which may a good thing, because at least people are talking about the brand (including us). But is their intended message getting across?
What do you think? Does the GAP “Dress Normal” campaign seem to be promoting individuality (AHH) or conformity (BLAH)?
I DON’T THINK ABOUT WHAT I’M GOING TO DO, I JUST DO IT
That’s the claim made by the dancer in her impassioned voiceover, but it might also apply to the creative team behind this advertisement for Free People’s dancewear line.
While the model was referring to the way she expresses herself through movement, the team behind this spot didn’t seem to be thinking when they chose not to cast a seemingly-trained ballerina for their campaign. Way to alienate your target audience, Free People – major advertising fail.
The online reaction has been overwhelmingly negative, with dancers calling the ad offensive, disrespectful, and even dangerous for its poor portrayal of ballet and en pointe technique. Many contrasted it with Under Armour’s well-received endorsement deal with Misty Copeland, an American Ballet Theatre soloist, and have accused Free People of basing their casting decision only on aesthetics, not talent.
Only four days after posting the unpopular ad on YouTube, Free People announced a re-launch of their FP Movement line, and published images of their collaboration with Ballet Zaida and Oliver Endahl. A ballet photographer and former dancer, Endahl writes on his website that “I know what proper classical ballet technique looks like, and that is what you will always see in my photos & videos.” Wow! With professional dancers and a photographer who is knowledgeable about ballet, it’s the perfect response to their critics. Why didn’t they launch their campaign with this in the first place?
Did Free People plan to stir up some press and garner attention for their dancewear line by releasing a spot that was destined, maybe designed, to be controversial (BLAH)? Or did they make an honest misstep with their first video, and respond well to the criticism with a brilliant re-launch (AHH)? Let us know what you think!
If you haven’t seen Old Navy’s most recent marketing campaign featuring the queen of comedy herself, Amy Poehler, I recommend you watch. You’ll probably laugh and most likely be a little confused. The days of garrulous mannequins and cheap price tags flashing across the television screen are over (phew). It seems that Old Navy took a look in the mirror, realized the 90s are over and decided to jump on the celebrity endorsement bandwagon.
Poehler’s premise of a law firm interview featuring Old Navy’s Pixie pants seems a little far-fetched, even for satire. The camera angle portrays Poehler in the background while the backside of the candidate is in the foreground. And by backside I mean a very accentuated butt in tight pants. It’s hard to believe any professional would wear this curve-hugging outfit to a law firm interview. Furthermore, this voyeuristic angle seems very unlike Old Navy branding, one that traditionally targets families.
For those of us in advertising, Old Navy seems to be stuck in an identity crisis. Either the brand picks a lane—and markets the hell out of that lane—or it runs the risk of losing any semblance of a brand point of view. But what do you think? Will the inconsistency between Old Navy’s traditional brand and new commercial brand confuse their target audience (BLAH)? Or is the female comedienne endorsement the Old Navy wave of the future—a marketing strategy intent on attracting a new and sophisticated female segment (AHH)?
BUD LIGHT PUMPS THINGS UP THIS SUPER BOWL
With over 100 million eyes on the television, brands use Super Bowl Sunday as an opportunity to go big or go home. This year, Bud Light got off to an early start by premiering pre-Super Bowl teaser ads during the NFC and AFC Championship games. The ads are very ambiguous, giving little reference to beer and featuring A-list celebrities Arnold Schwarzenegger and Don Cheadle, doing ridiculous things, like suiting up for an intense game of ping-pong or hanging out with a llama….
While watching the NFC Championship game, I saw the teaser featuring the iron-pumping-terminating-ex-governator Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was in a room filled with older highly educated, female professionals clutching their red wine and cheering for the 49ers. (Clearly not Bud Light’s target market.) When the commercial came on the ladies were confused— no one caught what brand or product was being marketed. And the room began to fill with discussions about the distasteful choice of Arnold due to his controversial past. However, the next time Arnold’s sweatband bearing face appeared on the screen, silence was called in the room. Everyone watched intently to figure out what the ad was for. In other words, the ladies were hooked.
The teaser is no doubt creating buzz. Does it even matter if it’s partly due to a controversial character like Arnie? Maybe today you have to make some people mad to get attention (see previous posts on Miley Cyrus and Kmart). What do you think? Is controversy a new marketing tactic that should be used to create brand awareness (ahh)? Or is it the lazy man’s way to drum up attention and lack creativity (blah)?
Apparently, the combination of 6 attractive men dressed in tuxedo tops and boxers, playing jingle bells by shaking their butts and their… bells, doesn’t make everyone laugh. Kmart’s recent “Show Your Joe” Joe Boxer Christmas commercial features just this. And for such a simple commercial, there sure has been a lot of controversy.
Why? Because Kmart is a family friendly brand, and is causing concerned parents to lash out because they feel this material is too “disgusting” for their children to watch. But Kmart is used to this reaction by now and doesn’t seem to care. Their past 2 commercials this year (“Ship My Pants” and “Evil Boardroom”) had very mixed reviews—causing both to go viral. And Kmart does not intend to take “Show Your Joe” off air, alluding to their strategy of producing edgy commercials that result in buzz and word of mouth marketing.
So what do you think? Is it bad for a brand to step away from its traditional consumer audience (blah)? Or does creating a fun commercial with some sizzle keep consumers interested and draw even more individuals to the brand (ahh)?