Recently, a member of one of my LinkedIn groups posted a couple of ads that sparked a great deal of discussion. The videos and subsequent conversation gave me enough material for a few articles… this is the first in the series.
Let’s start at the beginning. Both videos — This is a special Time and Love Lickers — were posted to LinkedIn under the heading “The Creepiest Ice Cream Ads Ever Produced.” That title was so fitting.
Who is Little Baby’s?
Little Baby’s Ice Cream is a local, small-batch ice cream producer in Philadelphia. According to the Little Baby’s website, the company was founded “in the winter of 2011 with former musicians and company founders Pete Angevine, Martin Brown, and Jeffrey Ziga. They conceived the idea of an Ice Cream company as the nexus between their past creative lives and their future.”
They specialize in creating unique flavor combinations like “Balsamic Banana”, “Earl Grey Sriracha”, and “Bourbon Bourbon Vanilla”, along with non-dairy and vegan options. And their largest distribution vehicle is actually a tricycle push cart.
Okay I get it, they’re different. A key component of any branding effort is differentiation. But being different for the sake of being different is not brand marketing… it’s just different.
So who’s the creative genius?
These ads were produced by director, Doug Garth Williams. Doug is somewhat famous for shooting quirky little art videos. In an interview with Little Black Book, he is quoted as saying “They are a very innovative and unconventional small business with their own strong interest in subverting expectations and creating original experiences. That’s why they felt good about approving such a twisted video.”
In that same interview, the director stated “The reason the owners approached me in the first place was that they knew if they gave me freedom on this project I would give them a concept that would stand out and have a good possibility of going viral on a tight budget.” Viral is great, but I contend that almost any teenager with a smart phone can create something viral. Creating something effective requires hard work.
It’s apparent that this director was more interested in extending his own brand rather than the client’s. As a design professional, it’s my job to persuade the client to produce something which will elevate their brand, not distort it.
The mistakes… at least as I see them.
I’m assuming that none of these guys has a business or marketing background… and that’s okay. You don’t need a business degree to hang out a shingle. In fact, some of the most successful businesses in the world – Apple, Microsoft and Facebook — were all started by college drop-outs. But the owners of Little Baby’s made a couple of mistakes here: first giving the director carte blanche; secondly — and more importantly — not knowing their audience. A classic mistake I’ve seen countless times.
So often a client assumes that because he or she loves something — in this case, mushrooms and acid — their customers will love it as well. Just because this director was well-known in their warped little circle, they trusted that he would know how to reach their target demographic. BIG MISTAKE!
Who is Little Baby’s audience?
Watching these ads, one would assume that the Little Baby’s target audience is dope smoking Phish fans with cannibalistic tendencies. Fortunately for us, that’s a very small demographic. But if Little Baby’s is trying to attract a broader audience and increase market share, then I don’t think these ads work.
I enjoy playing golf — I’m not very good — but I still enjoy playing. However, most of my clients don’t play and probably don’t understand the game. So I would be foolish to waste my money on a campaign, featuring Phil Mickelson riding on the back of a chimpanzee. Yes, the ads would probably garner a lot of attention and maybe even win an award or two. But I don’t believe they would have relevance to my current client base or increase my revenue. Besides that, who can afford Phil Mickelson and a chimp?
So what should we learn?
I’m not saying that every creative undertaking needs to undergo the scrutiny of a focus group. There should always be room for creativity and thinking “outside the box.” In fact, Steve Jobs famously said in an Inc. Magazine interview “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” What I am saying is that you can’t allow your personal preferences to override your brand image and common sense.
Every market or “audience” comes with certain built-in expectations. Understanding audience expectations and living up to those expectations is crucial to the success of your brand. After all, you wouldn’t go to a Lady GaGa concert and expect to hear her singing country ballads. The same goes for your audience. They expect certain things from your brand, and you need to deliver.
In the case of Little Baby’s, I don’t believe they delivered on audience expectations. I realize that was partly the intention, but subjecting your audience to the deepest, darkest recesses of your warped mind is no way to build a relationship. In fact it’s a great way to destroy one.
Look for the next article in this series… coming soon.
Tags: acid, Advertising, Apple, audience, Brand Management, Branding, Business, business degree, cannibalistic, chimpanzee, country ballads, demographic, Design, Doug Garth Williams, Facebook, golf, ice cream, Inc. Magazine, Lady GaGa, Little Baby’s, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Little Black Book, Microsoft, mushrooms, outside the box, Phil Mickelson, Phish, Steve Jobs, Video