“Schizophrenic behavior dilutes core brand equity. While it may help in the short term, knee-jerk reactions to the immediate environment can prove detrimental to the long-term value of the brand, especially if they don’t link up to what a brand represents or the bigger brand idea.”

Defying The Genericizing of Brands – BSI

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KFC is a cysts on the ass of American culture…

OK, I apologize for the graphic language, but we should all be reminded of the enormous role KFC and all the YUM! Brands continue to play in the perpetuation of gluttony and unhealithness around the world.  And, as much as I hate the product KFC injects into global societies, their brand strategy, which has become increasingly disillusioned, has me more concerned.

First, the “Re-Freshed by KFC” idea, where a man dressed up as Colonel Sanders (and a professional crew) fixed potholes around five US cities, was one of the strangest ideas I’d ever heard.  Did they really think people would get hungry and/or be reminded of “freshness” when they starred at and smelled freshly laid gravel? eh…

More recently, the TV spots focusing on KFC’s new grilled chicken recipe seem even more off beat to me.  They show KFC President, Roger Eaton, front and center professing his love for the grilled bird.  This spot is supplemented by spots that feature well-known chefs (i.e. Sandra Lee) explaining how delicious the new recipe is –this was smart.  But who thought it was a smart to use the blantently Austrailian (non-American, non-Kentuckian) Roger Eaton, as the spokesman?  For me this screams “phoney, corporate, mass-produced, chain food.”  KFC still stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken, right?  “Kentucky” and “Fried” have clearly begun to fade from the brand.  The next step will likely be the introduction of a KFC burger.

UPDATE: A brilliant piece from The Onion on how KFC will no longer be allowed to use the word “eat” in any of their advertisements…

“KFC’s claim that its fried offerings have ‘that taste you’ll just love to eat’ is in direct violation of federal regulations,” acting FCC chairman Michael Copps said. “The word ‘eat’ is legally permissible only in reference to substances appropriate for human consumption. Any implication that a consumer could or should ‘enjoy’ a KFC Crispy Strip fails to meet these standards, and presents an unlawful deception to consumers.”

“Any future appeals by KFC for the public to ingest its products will be met with swift legal action,” he added.

Working in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission to defend consumers from what they call “blatant untruths regarding the edibility of KFC menu items,” officials at the FCC have issued a list of acceptable words and phrases the restaurant can use in its television and print ads. While “eat,” “feast on,” and “taste” remain off-limits, the FCC has approved the use of “purchase,” “be near to,” “look at,” and “hold.”\

…In keeping with the false advertising subchapter of the FTC Act of 1914, the fast food chain is prohibited from setting its commercials in a kitchen, dining room, or any space generally associated with the act of eating. It is also not permitted to show people chewing, rubbing their stomachs contentedly, or exiting a bathroom stall with a look of relief that suggests they have digested the product. Utensils of any kind are also expressly forbidden, even when held by an animated character.

Rob Walker points out a great video mash-up, created by  Matti Niinimäki, with audio repurposed from the Anti-Advertising Agency Portable Sound Unit project.

As someone who rarely finds “advertising”–both in message and method–effective, the argument here could not be more on-point.

One of my roommates, mentioned last night that he “hates [these] commercials.”

Not being in the marketing/branding/communications/whatever the hell you want to call it-industry,  I know Tommy doesn’t scrutinize branding efforts like I do.  So, the fact that we disagreed wasn’t entirely surprising, but it did make me question the difference between people in the industry and those of the general public and what consider to be “good.”  Obviously, Tommy’s opinion is far more important than mine (for the same reason people in the marketing world are not supposed to participate in focus groups and/or interviews), but I wonder, who’s missing something here? Me or him?

For me, “Dead Zone” is good.  It’s effective, because it works as another great extender of Verizon’s primary brand-differentiator, “The Network.”  As much as the “You’re good!” guy annoys me, he is probably one of the most recognizable faces in advertising and he and his “posse” are part of Verizon’s essence.  They symbolize reliability, signal-strength and speed, and overall customer care.  Every time I see or hear him, I am reminded of “The Network” and those UNIQUE characteristics.

Even though the “Dead Zone” spots are a little corny, they reinforce the brand’s positioning and are undeniably distinct, memorable and consistent.  Consistency is huge.  You recognize the music and the mood it creates and, even with the ones you haven’t seen, you can anticipate exactly what the happy Verizon customer will say in the end…”I have the Verizon Network”…so HA!

I think my Tommy, like most people of the general public, tend to judge commercials on their entertainment value without taking into account the cores messages they are actually taking away from them.  Tommy was annoyed by the ridiculousness of the spots and the repetition of them–he had ceased to be entertained.  “Yeah, yeah , yeah, I get it, Verizon has a great network, but show me something new…I AM watching TV.  Entertain me!”  While I sympathizes with the desire for commercial breaks to be on par with the entertainment value of, say, The Office, I don’t think he could deny that Verizon’s positioning HAD been seared into his mind.

Entertainment value in commercials, is often given priority by people in the ad industry, but, in my opinion, this is only a “nice to have,” not a necessity.  Having a strong, relevant, recognizable, CONSISTENT brand message is what really sets your brand apart.  More brands need to work on this, and worry less about how funny or titillating their work is.  It would end up being far more effective.