Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Question in Mixology - Should you tie politics to your brand name?

The brand-impact question of the day...Is mixing politics with your brand name a good idea?

Example #1: The world’s largest producer of frozen potato products, McCain Foods, is making an attempt to steal market share in the U.S. from Heinz’s Ore Ida (the current National leader). How do they plan to accomplish this? Through a new, politically themed ad campaign: “Why McCain should be in the White House.” Although most people may be reached by the campaign through print ads, the home-base for the campaign is McCain's website. Below are some "direct-quote" snapshots:

Whether you are a democrat or republican, we hope you are hungry because we’re about to change the way you think about McCain.

McCain Deals with the Big Issues

  • Defense – McCain potatoes will protect mealtime from the axis of ‘evil-doers’ –namely boredom and repetition.
  • Environment – Deliciously different McCain Potatoes means a clean plate, free of leftovers that compromise the fragile ecosystem of the dining table.
  • Economy - When you buy more McCain Potatoes, it creates more jobs. For us. What did you expect? Another stimulus check?
  • Energy - We’re not afraid to tell big oil “enough is enough.” That’s why every variety of McCain Potatoes is 0g trans fat.
  • Education - With McCain Potatoes, there will be no fry left behind. We promise.
    Democracy - McCain promises to stand up against all dic-taters and produce only good, honest potatoes.
  • Ethics - McCain will stand up for right vs. wrong. And serving the same old, boring potatoes is just plain wrong.
  • Faith - If you insist on waiting for some other brand of potatoes to wow you, we suggest praying.
    Immigration - Anyone who wishes to migrate from their current brand to McCain Potatoes can do so freely, and without any red tape.

Blue Vs Red: Why you should go for the blue bag

  • We believe everyone has the right to better potatoes. Don’t sit idly by while the other guy keeps rehashing the same old spuds.
  • We stand up against big oil. Every McCain potato product is 0g trans fat, and requires zero offshore drilling.
  • We don’t believe in business as usual. With so many unique flavors and cuts, McCain is clearly the anti-establishment.
  • We believe in America’s youth. With so many fun products for kids, there will be no fry left behind.
  • We’ll never, ever go negative. One look at McCain Smiles and you’ll know we’re not mudslingers.
    We believe in family values.
  • There’s no sense living in America if you have to pay an arm and a leg for good frozen potatoes. We believe in cuts for everyone.
  • Tax cuts are great, but crinkle cuts and wedges are so much tastier.

Join McCain Potatoes in our campaign for change! We have a big challenge ahead of us, and we can’t do it without you. Sign up now to get the latest campaign updates delivered right to your inbox, including press coverage, fun photos, hilarious videos, new product info and more. It’s quick, it’s free and it’s easy.

Example 2: In another case of tying a brand to politics, just today, Ad ran an article about Captain Morgan entering the presidential race. Ad Age states "the Captain's economic message calls for five-day weekends, and he's ambivalent about global warming because he wants to 'ensure the party stays hot, hot, hot.'...The alcohol behemoth is the official wine and spirits company of the Republican National Convention and the preferred wine and spirits company of the Democratic National Convention." In a campaign I believe is similar to something they ran in 2000, Captain Morgan is "putting the party back in politics." Besides Captain and his "entourage" attending key events, the main points of contact are a Facebook page and YouTube videos.

Campaign Analysis:
So...back to the question of the day. Should you tie your brand to politics? And if so, which is the better execution - Captain Morgan's -or- McCain Foods?
McCain Foods
Let’s start with the McCain campaign. Sure, it’s a clever play on current events and an overall more creative advertising campaign. However, in my opinion, tying your brand to a political candidate is probably not the best idea for long-term brand appeal. Why? Sometimes advertising does not send the intended message. The problem here is that the brand name is too closely tied to a political figure and some ads are using an impersonator of the political figure (McCain foods plans to run video clips and a national media tour featuring professional impersonator Frank Caliendo as John McCain). Why is this an issue? Although McCain Foods is not owned by Arizona Senator John McCain, some consumers may wonder. Also, McCain could lose appeal if John McCain loses the presidential race –or- even if he becomes President. Sure there is significant name recognition that has been built up by the John McCain for President campaign. However, recognition does not mean customers will buy your product. Another reason this is a risky move for McCain Foods is due to the consumer they are intending to target. Yesterday, David Shipley from the Telegraph-Journal quoted Mike Grossman, managing partner of SCC/Grossman, the firm handling the PR portion of McCain Food’s campaign. Grossman states, "Our brand positioning is designed to surprise and delight today's active mom…She's not home watching television. She's juggling lots of things, probably a job, certainly community interests and at the same time she feels like she needs to do something special at the dinner table to surprise and delight her kids." Identifying the target customer (busy mom, probably ages 30-45), it's essential McCain Foods knows how she feels about Senator John McCain before launching this ad. According to polls by Fox News, Lifetime Television (Every Woman Counts Campaign), ABC News/Washington Post and EMILY'S List , women currently prefer Obama over McCain.
  • Fox News (late July) - Reported Obama is winning among women under 40 by 13 points.
  • EMILY'S List (early August) - Regarding women voters, "Obama leads Senator McCain by an incredible 30 points among Gen Y, 11 points among Seniors, 8 points among Gen X and 6 points among Boomers."
  • Lifetime (early August): "More than half the female electorate (53%) hold mostly positive views of Obama...Women like Obama largely because of his personal attributes (35%), such as his intelligence, youth, speaking ability, honesty and energy....31% hold unfavorable views (of McCain)....Obama also holds an advantage among Independent women, who favor him by a twelve point margin (42% for Obama)."
  • ABC News/Washington Post (late August) - Obama has a 55-37 percent lead among women .

Although on the McCain Foods website, in small, almost-camoflaged, white font they do list a disclaimer ("Disclaimer: McCain Foods is Not Affiliated with John McCain For President," the disclaimer isn't prominent enough for most readers to notice. Yet another reason the company is taking a risk of a misinterpreted message. (If the reader clicks on the disclaimer a box pops up and states: "U.S. Senator John McCain is the presumptive Republicannominee for president. We are McCain Foods, the world’s largest producer of frozen potatoes and manufacturer of other quality food products. We share the same name as Senator McCain, but the connection ends there. Founded in 1957, McCain Foods is privately-held by a Canadian family that is not connected by commerce, kinship or any other way to the U.S. senator from Arizona. If you see Senator McCain associated with our brand or products, rest assured that it is just an election year marketing spoof and nothing else. Thanks for paying attention. We’re in the business of selling potatoes, not participating in politics. And the only endorsements we’re prepared to make this election season are for the products we produce. Vote for change. Go for the blue bag: McCain Potatoes.")

Captain Morgan

Next, let's look at the Captain Morgan's campaign. Although it doesn't garner marks in creativity (repeat of previous campaign?), the brand is continuing to convey a consistant message - i.e. offering up a campaign that matches the brand image (a promise of fun times, having a "little Captain in you", etc.). Besides this, Captain Morgan's campaign doesn't tie itself to a political candidate (i.e. people won't question whether or not the company/brand is making a political statement/ recommendation), and the company knows no one will really believe "The Captain" is actually running for president. The campaign is humorous, matches the intended audience's interests (uses Facebook and YouTube, promotes partying/a good time, etc.).

Final Conclusions

After looking at these ad campaigns, we are provided with one example of how mixing politics and brand name could be fun/effective and another that could be very degrading to the brand image. On Friday, the McCain Foods campaign kicks off nationally with a print ad in USA Today. So, "Soccer Moms," who will you be voting for? Do you have a "little Captain in you?"

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