There has been this great video of Danny MacAskill getting a ton of hits lately. I've seen it many times before, but on my last trip to Drunkcyclist, where Gnome included it in a post, I couldn't help but watch it again and again. Here it is, but you really should just watch it in high quality on YouTube.
Completely fuckin' brilliant. Almost as brilliant is, in these days when advertisers and agencies struggle to find ways to get and hold your attention for 30 seconds, millions are clicking away to watch a five-and-a-half minute commercial. A soft sell, to be sure, with only a brief glimpse of the Inspired logo early on and at the end, but most definitely a commercial.
That's nothing new. Skate companies have been promoting their products through videos of their riders for years. If you totaled up all the hits from all the numbers of times this classic Rodney Mullen clip from Globe's Opinion DVD has been posted, you would have tens of millions of views.
Opinion sold a lot on VHS, and even more on DVD, and 15 years later is still popular on YouTube. When all is said and done, it's producer, Globe, was and is all about selling shoes. Bottom line, Opinion was a commercial.
Last year, Fallen, another footwear company, premiered the feature-length Ride the Sky in theaters. Here in Philly it played in some suburban multiplex, which for a lot of kids meant a 40 minute train ride, and 20 more on the bus, then $8.00 for admission. The did all that to see what was basically a commercial for shoes.
Think about the best commercial you ever saw or made. Would you buy it on DVD? Would you spend an hour going across town, then pay to watch it? Yeah, I didn't think so. Neither would I. By the standard of would you pay to watch it the vast majority of ads fail. Most ads fail because most brands fail.
Most brands fail because of a failed assumption. While it is true the essence of a brand is the relationship between the consumer and the product, there is a failure to understand who controls that relationship. The marketing department and the agency and the creatives all operate under the illusion that the brand is something they create and control, but the reality is it is the consumer that makes the brand.
Brands like Inspired, Globe and Fallen understand the consumer, because they are the consumer. The companies are founded and run by riders and skaters. They understand that you don't buy the product for the name, or the logo, but for what it does, so they have guys like Danny MacAskill, Rodney Mullen and Jamie Thomas (Fallen's owner) show you what is possible. They make you want to do something spectacular, incomprehensible or just plan stupid fun. The brand isn't in the bike or the board or the shoes, it's in the ride.
Whenever a big, stupid brand like Pepsi or Gatorade responds to flagging market shares with a new logo, name or slogan, it shows how badly they don't get it. It's not the packing consumers are turning away from, it's what's inside the package. It's the experience. A new logo won't fix that. That they don't get it suggests they haven't spoken to a real consumer, or used their own products for a very long time.
You can't really rebrand your product. Only your customers can do that. All you can do is make them want to try it.