Noise. Branded

Riffs on brands, innovation and design

The Most Iconic Photograph Ever - On Perspectives

Lunch atop a skyscraper is believed to be one of the most iconic photographs of all time. 


The photograph shows 11 men having their lunch, seated on a crossbeam with their feet dangling some hundreds of feet above the New York City streets. Many of us might possibly remember seeing this picture over the years and sometimes even wondering if this was just a work of some smart ass CG. Else, what on earth could they possibly be doing there? 

Power of Perspective as an Evocative Device

When I think about it, this iconic shot - that was apparently taken by an unknown photographer on September 20th 1932 from the 69th floor of the RCA Building during the last months of its construction - captures our imagination precisely because it presents a unique perspective of a moment frozen in time and space to evoke a multitude of reflections (and questions) from us: historical, metaphorical and  physical. It is these very questions that an upcoming documentary Men at Lunch seeks to answer. See this trailer:

The historical significance aside, what stands out to me here is the power of ‘perspective’ to make us react to, reflect upon and realize the multiple facets of a story.In other words, the power of perspective as a compelling story telling device. 

Power of Perspective as a Provocative Device

It is known that our preferences are mostly shaped by our perceptions. Hence when we are presented with something in such a way that our perspective shifts, it challenges us, provokes us and sometimes even immerses us in new ways. 

Willow - a Belgian band has recently released a music video for their song ‘Sweater’. It is a tour-de-force in 3-D projection mapping that creates an outstanding optical illusion. Play the music video below and see your perceptions getting provoked as your perspective rapidly shifts (and possibly gets restored): 

Obviously the guy just ‘strolls’ on a treadmill in a room while the projections on the walls play with our notion of perspective every passing second. That is for me, the impact that gets created when our perspective shifts - even for a moment -  despite our best struggles to restore it.  

Power Of Perspective as a Narrative Device 

Did you see the website for 2012 Air Jordan Collection from Nike? Click on the pic below to land on the site:


(No. Seriously.  Browse through this site before reading any further)

How did you like it? Were you intrigued to scroll down till the end of the page? This is called as Parallax Scrolling Effect.  Essentially it  uses multiple backgrounds which seem to move at different speeds to create a sensation of depth and an interesting browsing experience that challenges your perspective of a web page. 

No wonder then, Parallax Scrolling can be a powerful device that can in itself become the narrative of a page. (See some brilliant examples from the WWW that employ this UI design technique.)

And lastly and more importantly the Power of ‘Perspective Restored’ 

Recently Candy Chang has envisaged an experiment called "Before I Die" in New Orleans. What followed was an extremely thought provoking story about how she has taken up a neglected wall and transformed that into a constructive space where one can restore perspective. See her soul stirring TED talk here:

'Before I Die'  has been recognized as one of the most creative and transformative community projects ever and has soon begun to expand to a number of cities around the world. 

In Summary: 

While our formative years shape up our perspectives, these certainly need to get challenged and shifted as we grow up, in order for us to learn and unlearn. But may be sometimes when we get too caught up in our day to day, perhaps we just need to take a step back and seek strength in this power of our perspective, restored. 

What is your perspective?

One Like No Other

Did you hear of 1 Like No Other?

It’s a luxury apparel brand riding on the wave of exclusivity. Each piece of ‘1 Like No Other’ shirt is produced in numbers that are just a handful assuring the wearer of its super exclusivity. Result: A business model that effortlessly commands a price premium for its products. 

Lifestyle brands occasionally try their hand at evoking this tendency in us - of possessing (or collecting) something that we deem worthy or representative of ‘our unique self’. Enter product concepts that are a mash up of ‘uniqueness’ and ‘exclusivity’

Absolut is known for its limited editions. This year it has taken this concept to a whole new level with Absolut Unique. A story of carefully orchestrated randomness powered by 35 different colors, 51 different pattern types all governed by algorithms meticulously devised to induce a method to this madness of design. Result: A first of its kind design spectacle at a massive scale resulting in over 4 million bottles where no two bottles are alike. 

These bottles are now lined up for a global launch during September/October 2012.

Another recent example of a product that mashes up the concept of uniqueness with exclusivity is 'The Cameo Ring'.

On the face of it wedding rings can just be a bunch of fancy, pricey rings. But for many people these rings are actually pieces of jewelry wrapped with a tremendous amount of emotional and symbolic value. Fired up by this insight Russell Greenberg set out to create the most personal ring in the world. Cameo by RUX

Essentially each ring is custom designed based on the photograph of the person who is to wear it. The unique curves of the individual’s silhouette are then replicated to constitute the contours of this unique and exclusive ring.

This leads to the creation of custom jewelry that one can’t help but fall in love with because the ring is literally a part of him/her. In fact it ‘is’ the person in many ways. 

As the designer puts it, this results in intimate art objects that are “beautifully discreet and timeless in design”. Interestingly he has now extended this concept to design custom baby rattles with ends shaped like profiles of the baby’s mom and dad! 

While these concepts are innovative and interesting owing to their ingenious design principles, what could be even more interesting is the consumer insight that they are based upon. Try to think of it for a moment. What is actually being sold here? What are you actually paying for?

The Uninvited Design - Agencies Beware

Entry Barrier' is soon becoming an obsolete concept.

We have seen them dropping in industry after industry - music, film, publishing and even manufacturing. The businesses of Advertising and Design are no exceptions. For e.g., even a 20 year old college student can win a marquee client like coke these days. The story goes like this:  

Almost everyone who knows Steve Jobs and is ‘net literate’ must have been captivated by this beautiful tribute going viral, hours after the legend passed away. Graham Fint, the Chief Creative Officer of O&M China was captivated too. So he tracked down the designer:  Jonathan Mak Long a 2nd year communications design student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and offered him an assignment to design a poster with a deceptively simple brief -  ”Sharing a Coke”.  The result: 

The poster went on to win a Grand Prix at Cannes in June 2012. 

Take Johanna Basford - an illustrator and ‘ink evangelist’. 

(Image Source

This story starts in the autumn of 2010, when she set her sights on working for Starbucks and  bestowed on them the title - Dream Client. She then ‘hand penned’ Starbucks cups and posted them to their offices. Again. And Again. The string of these uninvited yet meticulously designed penned cups have finally landed her an official design assignment from Starbucks.  The story ends 18 months later when she finally adds Starbucks to her ‘Clients List’.  Read the fascinating account here

Off late, many such instances of ‘Uninvited Design’ have become commonplace, thanks to the Internet. Apparently, it just takes a creative designer with a laptop and a couple of hours (or at most days) to spare to create ripples in the world of brands, advertising and design.

On 23rd August 2012, a quarter of a century after its last update, Microsoft has unveiled a new logo.    


Evidently, it did not win too many aficionados on its unveiling. But what caught on the imagination of many people around the world was a student’s version of his redesign of the Microsoft logo. Andrew Kim is  a 21 year old designer whose ‘Uninvited Designs’ for Microsoft from his 3 day personal assignment went on to become a sensation with his concept of ‘Slate’ design and how he sees it to be applicable to the Microsoft logos. 

Scroll through the full presentation here. Though I personally found his designs to be a bit ‘Apple Inspired’, these ideas have quickly gained traction online. I have a feeling that he could soon be in the news again for some good reasons. 

And then there is an even more recent example of an ‘Uninvited Design’  - this time for American Airlines, from a Cyprus based designer -  Anna Kovecses. Read the story here

And then there was Wikipedia Redesigned, and even Jeremy Lin gets an uninvited design for his logo.

While we see some graphical instances of genius coming from all around the world by way of these Uninvited Design projects, there are also graphical instances of absurdity. Don’t miss the weird history of unsolicited redesigns.  

Absurdity or Genius, one thing is for sure. The entry barriers for individual creatives to stealing the thunder from established agencies have started to crumble. In a big way. Agree?   

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - Skeuomorphs

What is common among (most) cigarette filters, copper rivets on jeans, the UI of iCal in Mac and the 89-metre pylons at each end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? 

They have design elements that serve no practical purpose.

  • Cigarette filters are printed to look like cork — an allusion to an era of carefree smoking, when the biggest worry women smokers had was smeared lipstick.
  • Most rivets that you see on jeans are just decorative and functionally useless (some even covering the functional rivets underneath).
  • The UI of iCal as seen on Macs has references to functionally useless design elements like leather stitching, torn paper etc.
  • And believe it or not, the twin 89-metre pylons at each end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge  do not support anything; they are functionally useless. They are there only to frame the structure for aesthetic reasons.  

These are examples of what are called as ’Skeuomorphs' (pronounced SKEW-a-morphs). In simple terms, Skeuomprph is an approach to design that uses design elements which serve no specific function but are purely ornamental/emotional/metaphorical in their roles.

This S-word apparently is one of the most debated trends currently in design. The interesting thing about Skeuomorphs is that, once you are aware of them, they start popping out from everywhere around like:

  • Physical Skeuomorphs: fake windows and vents that don’t open, the hubcaps on car wheels that have no functional relevance,
  • Digital Skeuomorphs: the Folder icons on your desktop, the iBooks & iCal UI in Macs,
  • 'Experiential' Skeuomorphs: digital page turning that mimics the physical experience, and
  • Aural Skeuomorphs: theshutter release sound in a digital compact camera, the recorded sound clip that gets played each time you Empty Trash on mac, etc 

Apparently most things Apple are very infamous examples of the Skeuomorphic design philosophy. Designers who hate Skeuomorphs do so as they find them distracting, and gimmicky often limiting real innovation. Proponents of Skeuomorphs however argue that they create familiarity and build a human element in our interaction.    

I tend to take both sides of the argument. While I definitely am not a big fan of designs that limit possibilities in new mediums on account of their outdated references, I tend to believe that when executed well, Skeumorphs can play a very meaningful role in fostering an effortless level of user (or viewer) interaction (or perception). 

My 3 favorite Skeumorphic design examples: 

1. The concept of a Shopping Cart in e-commerce sites: While this is obviously a reference from (a bygone?) era of brick and mortar shopping, it nevertheless makes us easy to understand and relate to what we are doing. Can you think of any other simple, logical and a more compelling way of designing this element ‘in tune with the times’? I can’t. 

2. Nest Thermostat: Touted to be the most innovative thing that ever happened to thermostats, its design is based on a deceptively simple yet alluring concept of the analog knobs. Do they necessarily need to have the ‘knob’ interface? No. But do they serve any specific purpose? You bet! See the  video here:

And lastly - my most favorite example: 

3. Skeuomorphs as a powerful metaphor in advertising: In 2009, Transitions - the first company to commercialize and manufacture plastic photochromic lenses -  had a 30s TV spot. See below. 

Do I get it? May be yes/May be no.

Now in early 2012, they introduced what they called as ‘Adaptive Lens Technology’ through a 30s ad. See below.

Do I get it? Hell yes! The concept of a ‘control knob’ is a brilliant metaphor that drives the point home with merciless clarity, engages me and potentially persuades me in just 30s- all this because I… I just get it! I understand how exactly these lenses feel like. Thanks to the obvious Skeuomorph! 

Can you think of any other brilliant/ bad examples of Skeuomorphs?

PS: I agree, they should have thought a simpler word for this :) 

Experiments in Branding - Of Buskers and Bud

CDZA is a NYC based band that creates musical video experiments. 

Short for “Collective Cadenza”, the group is composed of 3 key members - a 'video guy', an 'audio guy' and a 'music guy' who get together and weave concepts that intertwine musical genius with slapstick comedy. Result: kick ass viral marketing savvy! Every other Tuesday, the band uploads a unique musical - ‘An Opus’, that almost instantly goes super viral, gets shared phenomenally and gets talked about in blogs and pop media alike.

What keeps CDZA interesting is that no two videos have been of the same kind to date. Each performance has been a unique experiment in creativity and musical craftsmanship infused with a liberal dash of humor. (eg: NYC Phoneharmonic - A wondrous orchestral medley of the iconic ringtones belonging to cell phone companies, History of Lyrics that aren’t lyrics - that takes us through 46 years of musical history through 20 songs with no lyrics!, Zuckerberg - the Musical etc)


Their latest performance - The Human Jukebox, Opus No. 9 -  was an experiment that stood out to me for a very interesting reason: the idea of giving ‘power’ to the consumer and watch them bask in sheer delight. See their performance here:

While I salute the sheer musical genius of the artists, what appeals to me in this experiment is what it successfully brings to life -  an enterprise that enables customers to have a degree of influence over the outcome. Result: consumers themselves become the owners of the experience! 

The story can only go oneway in such circumstance - consumer delight and advocacy - every marketer’s wet dream. Let’s see another example. 

Every Beer brand loves to own the Happy Hour. But how do you do it? Especially when you are a new entrant in a market with the incumbent being present for over a 100 years? Recently, Budweiser saw itself in this position in Ecuador. So what did it do? It installed a Budclock: 

This ‘ambient execution’ brilliantly brought to life the idea of "Happy hours never end with a Bud", while empowering its consumers to stretch the Happy Hours by over 6000 minutes and thereby touched more than 50,000 people (and counting) with a phenomenal increase in sales. (source)

What again stood out for me here was the sheer delight - that ‘aha’ moment - a consumer is gifted with, each time they realize that they are able to add another minute to the Happy Hour. Result: The consumer owns the Happy Hour (not the pub). Thanks to Bud! 

In each of these examples, what stands out is the magic that unfolds when the consumer realizes that she has a degree of influence over the outcome. As a result, she almost begins to own the (branded) experience and once that happens the story can only have one ending - Consumer Delight and Brand Advocacy.  

Do you know of any other examples that brings this to life?

The IKEA Effect

Betty Crocker learnt it the hard way, but it was arguably one of the first to know it. 

It’s a classic case study - a number of years ago Betty Crocker had noticed their consumers feeling a bit guilty to be using its Instant Cake Mixes. Since all they needed to do was add water before putting in the oven in order to make a cake, it gave them a feeling of not working enough to show their love and care for their family. So what did Betty Crocker do? It made the process of cake making a ‘bit more complicated’. Betty Crocker changed its recipe in such a way that it requires the consumer to add an egg as well! Result? The mixes began to get sold like hot cakes! The secret? It was found that the consumers liked the new cake mixes better, because the slightly ‘complicated’ process (of adding an egg) made them feel that they were actually contributing something to the meal. 

The insight: Things seem better if you have to work for it. Apparently a name has been coined for this off late and it’s called The IKEA Effect -  essentially it refers to the disproportionate sense of pride and ownership that we feel for objects on which we have lavished our own labor, however intrinsically simple the work, like say assembling a piece of IKEA Furniture.

Dan Ariely from HBS is one of the co-authors of the paper titled by the same name. Following is a 5 mins video of him expounding a bit further on this theory: 

Things indeed seem better if you have to work for it. Fantastic Delites - an Australian Snack Foods brand recently used this insight to device a vending machine. The following video shows the concept it greater detail. This was part of their integrated campaign called "How Far Will You Go For Fantastic Delites?"

The IKEA Effect is busy at work in the digital sphere too. Let’s take Pinterest, the online pinboard that lets you organize and share things you love. It’s essentially a social network that is built over the concept of ‘content curation’. The thing here is that the user need not necessarily create her own content like say blogs or portfolios in order to pin it on their boards. All you need to do is:

  • Create and name a Pinboard
  • And just continue your browsing..
  • Should you find any pic/video of interest, just 'pin' it on your board

The interesting thing to note here is the process of pinning is devised to hit the sweet spot of being simple enough for anyone to follow and ‘complicated’ enough to elicit your ‘IKEA Effect’. Result? The more you pin, the more your interest, effort and time are vested in the network, making it much more valuable to you (and thereby the advertisers!). exemplifies it even more directly. It is essentially a digital scrap book and social network for kids. 

The premise? Simple. Every parent loves her kid’s creations and loves even more to flaunt these to their near and dear -  a sketch, a piece of origami, a painting, a piece of craft - virtually anything that the kids make with their own hands. Enter a fantastic concept that:

  • Gets kids on board a social network in a creative / constructive way
  • Gets parents to help their kids curate the content and share it in the social network

And that’s it! You just let the IKEA Effect lose in a parent-children equation. And the magic unfolds by itself. No wonder it is chronicled by the likes of FastCompany and PSFK and slated to be one of the most potent social networking sites to watch out for.  

Any other interesting examples of The IKEA Effect in action?

Pulling the triggers on ‘Behavior’

Influencing Human Behavior.

At a fundamental level, that’s what Marketing is all about. Think of any marketing activity  - right from the branding that you see, the product/packaging/experience (UI) design, the TV commercials, print ads, digital ads, promotions/offers - everything is essentially an effort to change our behavior in a very specific way. Given this, marketing is intricately connected to a number of other ‘behavioral disciplines’ like Behavioral Economics, Psychology, Anthropology, Neuroscience, Praxeology, Cognitive Science etc, and each year a number of research papers are published based on the intersection of one or more of these disciplines with marketing.

One such seminal research paper was recently published by Dr. BJ Fogg, (Stanford University), titled: A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design. Here he posits a simple model by name FBM (Fogg Behavior Model) that delineates 3 factors affecting human behavior: Motivation, Ability and Presence of Triggers.


(Image source: Paper by Dr. BJ Fogg)

In summary, it says, for any behavior ‘change’ (B) to occur, it needs to get the user to an activation threshold, which is a factor of:

  • Motivation: (M) Is the person high or low on motivation to perform the target behavior?
  • Ability: (A) Does the person have the requisite ability to perform the behavior (is it simple enough to be performed)?
  • Triggers: (T) Does it have the necessary triggers to instigate the target behavior?

While motivation and ability can ‘trade off’ (People with low motivation may perform a behavior if the behavior is simple enough (meaning, high on ability), and inversely, people who find a behavior being not so simple (meaning, low on ability) may perform it if they  have sufficiently high levels of motivation), triggers can happen only when they are ‘timed’ - i.e. they need to be triggered right at the moment when we have the requisite levels of motivation and ability to perform a behavior. Hence it could be instructive to qualitatively think of this relationship as: 

B = m.a.t (at the same moment)

(Image source: BehaviorModel.Org)

While he champions this model as a framework to guide persuasive design of web services, online interaction design etc I believe that it is equally if not more applicable to more traditional instances of product marketing / brick and mortar retailing etc.

For instance, one of the most direct, straightforward ‘behavior change instigating device’ that is often employed in stores is - sales/promotions/offers. These seek to change behavior in that they instigate the consumer to consider buying the product / or buying more of the product / or buying the product more often. And arguably, as long as the sale offers are attractive enough (depending upon what I define as attractive for myself) I could have substantial levels of ability and motivation to consider the sale. But what often makes a world of difference is the third factor - trigger. If the right triggers are not pulled in me at the right time and place, my motivation and ability to consider a sale are just dormant, resulting in no action being taken by me. 

Meat Pack is known to be the trendiest shoe store in Guatemala and had garnered a cult following from the youth within just 3 years given its irreverent and edgy style of branding. Recently they needed to launch a promotion that stood up to these standards characterized by innovation and surprising their customers in the most unexpected ways. So what did they do? They cleverly set out to hijack you while you are at a competitor’s store and triggered you to literally run to its stores! See this video on how it works:     

Essentially MeatPack created Hijack - an enhancement of the official Meat Pack app used by their customers. The beauty of this app is that whenever the user walks into competitors’ stores (as recognized by the users’  phone on the basis of its GPS/ GeoTagging info, that are increasingly becoming ubiquitous), it flashes a special promotion that starts at '99% off' and decreases by a percentage point with each passing second - that is till the moment you get into the nearby MeatPack store. So in effect, the sooner you run to the Meat Pack store the greater the discount that you can get. 

The results: (source: This Cannes Lions filing for 2012 Mobile)

  • More than 600 costumers were hijacked from the competitors.
  • All discounted merchandise was sold in record time.
  • Every time a discount was redeemed the persons Facebook status automatically changed informing the world about the promotion and generating a viral competitive attitude that spread like wildfire. 
The brilliant thing about this concept is that, as the video says, this is the first ever promo campaign that started the sale in the competitors’ stores! This is clearlyone of the most innovative triggers that I have come across to literally hijack the customer’s behavior, at a place and moment where it matters the most. Hats off to Meat Pack!
Any other fantastic triggers that you know of, that were known to have influenced consumer behavior?   

The ‘Do One Thing Well’ Philosophy

Tervis Tumbler is a company that specializes in insulated tumblers. It’s in fact the market leader in the business of insulated drink ware. They are made virtually indestructible so much so that the company offers unconditional life time guarantee - even if currently owned by someone other than the original owner, any Tervis tumbler is replaced free of charge in case of issues. No wonder then, Tervis even carries privileged licensing agreements with all four of the major American sports leagues (MLBNBANFL, and NHL), nearly all of the major NCAA colleges and universities, all branches of the United States Armed Forces, and many notable companies such as John Deere,Coca-Cola and Disney including Marvel Comics (source: This Wikipedia Page).  

Tervis’ secret for this success? Doing one thing well and doing it better than anyone else. Read an interesting case study on Tervis here.

Huit Denim does one thing well - makes denim. Period. This is actually enshrined on their brand story page and it goes like this: 

They had a fascinating story of leveraging upon the mastery of hundreds of people in their town who had been erstwhile artisans of a denim factory that has been subsequently closed leaving all of them jobless. It is a great example for start ups, for branding, for raising funds, for inventory management, for strategic sourcing, for pricing and most importantly for story telling. In fact a line on their page goes like this: "The competition is big, we are small. They have a marketing dept, we have a story"(Loved it!) Another noteworthy feature: Hiut Denim will be the first jeans company in the world to have a History Tag.

There are only three major items on Chipotle’s menu: burritos, tacos, and salads. Besides, one thing you won’t find at Chipotle is dessert. Restaurant analysts say a cookie or other dessert at the end of the food line could instantly boost sales by 10 percent or more there. Despite that, the Founder and CEO Steve Ells doesn’t care. Yet, Chipotle has been one of the most famous Mexican Grills across many countries. Their secret - as summed up by its founder “Focus on just a few things, and do them better than anybody else.”

In fact Chipotle has recently started an Asian concept eatery called The Shop House - the South East Asian Kitchen and all you would find there are a few options. That’s it. No fancy dishes, no chef’s recommendation, no exotic sounding Asian names. Just the basics. Executed well. And it has already won rave reviews. 

The philosophy of doing one thing well is also common with the big tech companies. Google actually has its page of ‘Ten Commandments’  titled Ten things we know to be true. And one of these says: It’s best to do one thing really, really well. And goes on to expound on this in more detail. 

Another interesting example of this philosophy in IT comes from Unix. Apparently the Unix Philosophy says just that "Write programs that do one thing and do it well". 

Finally Fred Wilson - a famed venture capitalist makes a point in this extremely insightful blog on successful mobile applications saying, "Mobile does not reward feature richness. It rewards small, application specific, feature light services." In other words, successful mobile products need to do one thing that is -  Do one thing well. 

Any interesting brand you know that focuses on just one/few things and does them better than anyone else?

100 Days of ‘Branded White’ - Experiment and Thoughts

Can a color represent a brand?

There are tons of resources out there on colors and how they influence brand identity, perception, subliminal messaging and even our day to day feelings that we experience in our lives.  In fact sites like Color in Motion and Cymbolism take this theory to a whole new level of interactive experience on color communication and color symbolism. For example, Cymbolism has a battery of questions that it has administered to thousands of people around the world on colors and their associations. The following chart aggregates this research findings:

(Image Source: UsabilityPost)

Now, that begets the question - Can a brand stand out and speak for itself despite the absence of any color? Possibly yes -  proves Andrew Miller through his 100 day project called Brand Spirit.

The thought about "capturing the essence of a subject rather than its appearance" has apparently inspired him to come up with the idea for this 100 day project. Essentially for each day for 100 days he had painted a branded object white, stripping off its visual branding elements and reducing the object to its ‘purest’ form.  The 100 day project came to an end on June 19 2012 while successfully triggering waves of discussions and debates from the online community during its course.

Each of the white ‘branded artifact’ is a fascinating commentary on product design, marketing, branding and our corresponding perceptions as consumers/users. Some of these objects are very recognizable  on account of their iconic shapes like the Tabasco and the Coke bottles here.


And there are some objects that apparently seem to be proving a point. For e.g., see the bottle below and it doesn’t take a genius to say that it is Corona. 
The commentary here is obviously on this 'branded ritual' of sticking a wedge of lime to the bottle and how deeply it is embedded in the fabric of what Corona has come to mean to us. Mark Wilson says it the best when he says  "Corona has clearly used the beer bottle to brand the lime".  
It also had an interesting reference to ‘branded commodities’ and how deeply some brand names are ingrained in our minds to refer to something as generic as fruits. Chiquita - being a major American producer and marketer of bananas, might come to be associated with this fruit for many Americans. And that’s precisely the point here. 
(1967 Chiquita Vintage Print Ad: Source)
Now that’s what I call food for thought.

Targeted Sampling

OK. For almost 3 weeks in a row, I have been raving about a single topic - sampling. Couldn’t help it, as I seem to be (inadvertently) running into very interesting examples from around the world and across categories. Latest case in point, an interesting execution of ‘targeted sampling’. 

Reports suggest that every year nearly 1 Billion USD is sunk into food sampling alone. So with ROI measures becoming ‘make or break’ metrics for most marketing initiatives, it is imperative that sampling also follows suit. Therefore an interesting challenge in sampling is:  how do you reach out and cater exclusively to your target. For eg, for an ‘adults only’ products (like Alcohol, Cigarettes, X rated stuff etc), how do you ensure that the recipients of the free samples are almost only adults? Solutions indeed come from the most unexpected quarters. This time it is the category of, believe it or not… pudding!

The story goes that Kraft has launched its line extension of Jell-O 'just for adults', under the name Temptations. What separates it from the regular Jell-O variants is that it is low in calories (the copy actually says “150 well behaved calories or less”) and available in 6 different flavors like Lemon Meringue Pie, Apple Custard Pie, French Silk Pie, Double Chocolate Pie,  Raspberry Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake.

Now, line extension to a target group that is not your regular base can be challenging. So how did Kraft try to pique the interest of ‘adults’ regarding a product that they had only known as kids? 

Well, certainly a well executed TVC was very much in their arsenal.

While the TVC arguably does a good job at making ‘adults’ (and I would bet, more kids than adults) sit up and take note; and in a number of instances peaks their curiosity just enough to merit a purchase, how do you take this to the next level at the last mile ‘the point of purchase’? Sampling, of course.

Now if Jell-O Temptations were to execute unrestricted sampling, they would be faced with a very real challenge - kids. So how would you execute sampling targeted exclusively to adults? Kraft tied up with Intel (agency: CP+B) to roll out a set of ‘first of its kind’ vending machines that dispense free Jell-O’s almost only to adults. And if you are a kid, you’d get the following message :)

Essentially the camera in the vending machine scans the user’s face and calculates the distance between the user’s eyes, ears and nose to categorize him/her as a kid or an adult. While this approach might not be 100% fool proof in all cases, it is certainly a remarkable marketing initiative - for a number of good reasons.  The following video shows the interaction in more detail. 

While being positively hilariously and deliberately tongue in cheek in its approach, I have a feeling that Jell-O successfully crosses the chasm and cements that bond with their new target group.

Extending to new target groups can indeed be challenging, interesting and sometimes frustrating. Reminds me of Lego’s recent bid to woo girls, AXE recent foray into deos for her and the brilliant examples of Harley Davidson’s targeting of women bikers. But more about these cases in a later post.

Do you know of any interesting instances of brands extending to the "other 50%"?