Monday, April 18, 2011

New SiteproNews - Avoiding the Blindingly Obvious

This advertisement is something of an Internet legend at this point. Now, I'll go out on a limb here and say that Intel isn't actually racist. But just look at the image and try to imagine it in any other context. There is very little else that six black gentlemen bowing to a white person can evoke in most peoples' minds.
There is the obvious connection to speed, but even a single image of the sprinter - after all, the same guy has been Photoshopped in six times - would have been fine, especially by itself. Instead, the obvious athleticism of the "sprinters" works against the picture, because it's six very strong and muscular looking men doing homage to a nerdy office type.

The thing is, this should have been painfully obvious. It certainly was to consumers. The moment this thing was shown, the backlash was incredible. It actually prompted Intel to pull the ad and apologize for the obvious blunder. The public figured it out, the Internet still laughs about it and, all in all, the whole thing raises the question of just what in the world happened. It's pretty clear that either Intel didn't do a focus group test, or that their focus group is just as insulated from the real world as the people who came up with the ad in general.

Advertising isn't the only part of branding, of course, but this incident in particular brings up an issue that is important to all branding efforts. Specifically, it involves getting away from the idea of marketing, and getting to know your market.

Markets are made up of people, and their value to a branding campaign is the word-of-mouth they can provide. Be it genuine face-to-face discussions or a video going viral, getting people to talk about a product is the best way to make it a success. Conversely, it's also the best way to kill a product.

Take a similar, more recent incident. Sony was attempting to market its PSP handheld gaming console. Given the recent success of low-budget, clever independent productions, the company decided to give this style a try. They started a guerilla marketing campaign, spray painting graffiti style images of kids holding and playing PSP handhelds. Then they began a campaign about their new, white-framed model of the device, and attempted to portray it with billboards of a black woman and a white woman fighting. Finally, they had an actor pose as a 'random' user of the PSP and promote it on video sites such as YouTube.

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