This week I must begin with a disclaimer or mea culpa, I’m not sure which is more appropriate. I’ve spent the last twenty-five-plus years writing advertising copy for clients as large and well-known as Nissan, the LA Dodgers, Blue Cross, Carnation Foods, Lockheed Martin, Baskin-Robbins and well, I’ll just say that I can be blamed for thousands of TV and radio commercials, print ads, web sites and direct mail campaigns. Sorry.
I know far too intimately how the creative side of effective marketing works – specifically, how to use words, images and cultural attitudes to create something called “perceived value” for any given product or service. This is especially important when marketing what we in the business call a parity product, or something that is almost identical to its competition. Advertisers of parity products try to convince consumers that there are valuable differences between their – whatever – and all others. Buy ours, not theirs. Why? Because we’re brighter, whiter, newer, fresher, cooler, more hip, more fun, a better value, more impressive, less polluting, faster … you get the idea. Parity products include beer, banks, dairy, grocery stores, soft drinks and that mother of all perceived value marketing magic – bottled water.
Case in point; there is a TV spot running now for a popular brand of bottled water whose slogan is, Bottled At The Source. The TV commercial for this particular water shows a kid at home asking his Mom for the water by name (as all kids do, right?). Mom turns to a store keeper (through the magic of green screen) and repeats the request. The store keeper turns and asks a warehouseman with a hand cart, who then turns toward a beautiful, panoramic vista with a snow-covered mountain peak in the background and lush, verdant rolling hills in the foreground punctuated by a forest of majestic pines in between. He speaks to what must be the great Spirit of Mountain Water in the Sky and calls out, “Crystal Geyser, please!” Makes you crave a cold, tall glass of this nectar of Nature, doesn’t it?
Now, I’ve crossed swords with enough Standards and Practices guardians at the various networks to know that you can’t say things in a TV commercial that aren’t technically true (political and environmental advocacy ads not withstanding). And I happen to know that this particular water is, indeed, “bottled at the source.” But here’s the thing: the source for this particular brand of bottled water is actually about 185 miles north of the Crescenta Valley, just beyond Olancha, California, a teeny tiny town on the edge of the dry and dusty Owens Dry Lake bed. Makes you thirsty just thinking about it, right?
So, why don’t they show the real source in the TV spots for the brand? Because the Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water bottling plant is in reality a few massive, nondescript corrugated metal buildings that squat alongside the ribbon of asphalt that is Highway 395. There are huge windows on the side of the buildings facing the thousands of cars, RVs and trucks that scream by every day on their way to Mammoth, Reno and beyond. In between the massive metallic structures is a vast parking lot that is typically occupied by dozens of tractor trailer rigs and forests of wooden pallet stacks. Not a verdant valley or cascading waterfall in sight.
As it is with most parity product marketing, it’s the implication of purity, or superiority or better performance/ enjoyment/whatever that makes consumers part with their hard-earned dollars. The blatant marketing sleight of hand used in the Crystal Geyser commercials, however, only makes me want to take a drink – but not of water. Which reminds me of a much better campaign for yet another parity product, the brilliantly executed “Most Interesting Man in the World” commercials for Dos Equis beer. Of this type of smart advertising I can only say, cheers!
I’ll see you ‘round town.
© 2011 WordChaser, Inc.
Jim Chase is an awardwinning
advertising copywriter and
native of Southern California. Readers are
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