Does Obama think Hugo Chavez is a good kisser?

Did the headline get your attention? I hope so, because that was the goal. When Italian fashion company Benetton showed a picture of President Obama laying one on Hugo Chavez, it got people’s attention.

My question to you is: Are you getting the attention you want, or is your approach just like the others?

Benetton didn't shy away from controversy with its "Unhate" campaign.

I read that, as consumers, we are exposed to anywhere from 1,500-3,000 media impressions a day. If that’s true, how important is it to break through clutter so you are not wasting time and money? Yes, this applies to advertising. But, breaking through also applies to your e-mail subject lines, a tweet, something you say in a meeting, or a slide in your presentation. The question you need to ask is, “What kind of IMPACT do I want to make?”

Take the recent ad from Herman Cain where his campaign manager takes a long drag off a cigarette. There was plenty of conversation in the media and it was great for name recognition, but maybe not the kind of attention he wanted.

I have to wonder if Benetton likes the attention it is getting from the controversial ad campaign where Obama is kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? There is no doubt you will stop and look, but what does that do for the Benetton brand? What does it do to their brand? Is the downside of the negative commentary more than it’s worth? I realize that the immediate response to this question is probably YES, the negative outweighs the positive. However, consider all of the media exposure Benetton is getting and then realize what is happening to their web traffic and sales. (They sell more than 150 million garments every year at more than 6,000 stores worldwide.)

Back to the headline. Here are three ideas I gleaned from the presidents kissing campaign:

1. Shock then recover (on purpose). Negative press can be great for name recognition, but a real problem in terms of sentiment and connection to your brand or event. If you go big with an idea that swings to the negative side, it might be worth it if you can rebound with an excellent recovery plan! When McDonald’s fails with campaigns like this one, they just rally back with the trusty McRib:

Unfortunately, not all McDonald's campaigns hit the mark.

2. My devotion to emotion. In my last blog, I talked about standing out and avoiding the middle. You want an emotional reaction because that is when the real magic happens. A mediocre response gets you marginal results. Anybody can create a product that follows others in the market, or put together an ad that looks like the rest of the industry. How can you get people talking about you and your products?

3. Breaking through with good vs. bad. Unfortunately, it is much harder to break through clutter with something that is crazy good versus something that is crazy bad. You have to love what a big donation to a charity can do for you in terms of media coverage and sentiment, but it just doesn’t get the buzz of something scandalous. My point here is that you can absolutely break out with something good, but it’s definitely more challenging. It is, however, a great chance to test your team’s creativity.

Now, don’t walk away from this hearing me tell you to go do something crazy, but I am telling you to not be boring. Make a splash! If you think it’s going to help your businesses, Photoshop some presidents making out. Boring is bland, so add some color and watch the neon glow.

What’s the biggest advertising or PR risk your company has taken? Did it work? Tell me in the comments section below.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the thinking of the company I work for, or anyone else with whom I am affiliated. Except my wife of course, who is good at telling me what not to say.

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