Branding without humour

Jackie Huba contrasts how two brands responded to some creativity by customers. Lots of people have discovered the fun to be had by dropping Mentos sweets into diet coke – apparently it gets quite explosive. Here’s Jackie’s report:

Mentos: “We are tickled pink by it ” says Pete Healy vice president of marketing for the company’s U.S. division. The company spends less than $20 million on U.S. advertising annually and estimates the value of online buzz to be “over $10 million.”

Coke: “We would hope people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it ” says Coke spokeswoman Susan McDermott. She adds that the “craziness with Mentos … doesn’t fit with the brand personality” of Diet Coke.

That line about not fitting the brand personality is a classic bit of old-style brand thinking. It strikes me as rather lame not to be able to summon up a playful response to the inventiveness of your customers. And does its marketing department truly believe it gets to control what is, or isn’t, the Coke personality?

For more brand-lunacy, look no further than the World Cup.

Hundreds of Dutch fans had to watch their team’s 2-1 win over the Ivory Coast in their underwear in Stuttgart on Friday after stewards at entry points to the stadium rumbled an ambush marketing ploy.

The Netherlands supporters all turned up in garish orange lederhosen displaying the name of Dutch brewery Bavaria and were ordered to remove them by stewards before being allowed to enter the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion.

They then went into the match and watched it in their underwear.

Anheuser Busch’s Budweiser is the official beer for the tournament and world soccer’s governing body fiercely protects its sponsors from brands which are not FIFA partners.

That, as we English are fond of saying, “is pants”. Brands that show so little appetite for playfulness can expect to be mocked.

For added irony, apparently Budweiser doesn’t really qualify as a beer at all in some Germans’ eyes – which is pretty bizarre for the “official beer” (!) of the tournament:

…what most upsets the fans is that Budweiser advertised as the King of Beers in the US fails to meet the ancient German standards for purity, which stipulate that beer can be brewed only from malt, hops and water. Budweiser uses rice in its production process and therefore does not qualify as a beer in the German sense.

3 thoughts on “Branding without humour

  1. Neil T.

    I seem to remember a lot of German football fans complaining that Budweiser would be the only beer sold at World Cup matches. Now I think they’re also selling Hoegarden, but in unlabelled bottles.

  2. Trine-Maria

    I remember one year, at The Roskilde Festival (music, rock, 100.000 people).

    Marlboro was the officiel cigarette sponsor – and here in DK we don’t EVER smoke american cigarettes – we all smoke local brands like Prince or Kings from the local tobacco company – and local brands weren’t sold anywhere on the festival. Marlboro hence made the festival DIFFICULT for people with their sponsorship.

    During the 5 days I were there, an underground economy was established – and most people had their prefered cigarette brand anyway.

    But today when I see the Marlboro “brand” I still think of that story! (this was more than 10 years ago – and I quit cigarettes 6 years ago! I am not even a smoker anymore – and I still think “they were lame then – they are probably still lame!”)

    I guess cluelessnes is just hard to forget?


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