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Marketing Note April 21, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I’m always interested in creative advertising (or innovative, as the case may be). We often feel bombarded by marketing, and indeed it can rapidly reach annoying levels. That makes it all the more fun when an advertisement manages to make a connection through the noise. I saw one this morning that did just that.

Like many aspects of change itself, we find humor in the many overused words, phrases, and even different forms of media that make their way to our senses. Many of the most humorous ads are those that manage to make fun of themselves, their respective industries, or a current fad. A day spent watching the Super Bowl (often for just this very reason) yields many similar examples. In today’s case, the ad made fun of the much overused word “innovation”.

It was a Shredded Wheat bit, with the gist that the cereal has not changed in a hundred years and was afraid of innovation and change. Basically, progress leads to nothing but more problems, so the slogan was, “We put the NO in innovation.” Hilarious – and on so many levels.

It’s funny just on the face of it due to its uniqueness. It’s a quite novel approach to a philosophy that has only a few adherents. In fact, it takes a special product and company to even use such intentional stability as a selling point.

But the humor goes on for anyone (like me) willing to take it apart. Of course, the ad itself is innovative, which contradicts its own stated “goals”. Beyond that, I picked up a very subtle reference to such past flubs as New Coke, where a company makes a seemingly minor change and creates near-disaster. The closing line of the ad talks about the change to the “spoon-sized” product (of course, now many decades old) and questions whether that may have been too bold.

Going further, consider that the cereal company makes many different products. Some may have been innovative, some not. It makes for an interesting comparison, since selling the non-change of Shredded Wheat is different (and to a different market) than selling one of its other products. But yet, the same company must do both. I think they did a good job.

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