Good Vs. What Works

July 12, 2011 / by Michael K. Redman

“Beware, this may mess with your sense of what is effective marketing and advertising!”


Good isn’t always the same as what works or as a friend of mine said to me recently, “Is it Good or do you just like it?" In my business, the business of marketing, we talk about this concept a lot.  Is a commercial “Good” or do we just like it?  Most people assume that if an advertisement is entertaining or has a  certain level of “Quality” then it must be effective; it must work.  It’s soooo NOT true!



It goes like this, “That commercial was great” or “It is so professional, not a small town commercial at all” or “It was so cool," and the worst word of all, Good." What does Good, or all these other adjectives really mean?  Do we really know what we are saying is good?"  My experience is that we don’t and it really doesn’t matter until we confuse the fact that “Good” does not always mean “It Works."  This becomes really important in regards to marketing what you want people to remember.  Lets look quickly at three video ads that are “Good” but had no appreciable effect on the bottom line of the companies.

Three famous companies - Cadbury, Nissan and Taco Bell -  each created really entertaining commercials. In fact when I saw these  many years ago I was convinced they were brilliant.

The Cadbury Commercial is with a gorilla sitting at a drum set playing to Phil Collins’ song “In the Air Tonight."  You can feel the passion oozing out of this gorilla and if you like the song at all you can be sure to find this one enthralling.

The Nissan Commercial was actually a major one within a larger campaign.  You may remember the Asian man with the little dog who showed up in all the commercials and this specific one was an animated spot with GI Joe, Barbie and Ken dolls.  I’m sure that someone was insisting that the old man and dog was a memory hook, guaranteed to make people remember Nissan.  If that didn’t do it the sheer uniqueness and comedy would.

The third is none other than the  "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" campaign with the famous Chihuahua.  Yes everyone loved them and talked about them but ….it didn't work. Based on a July 19, 2000 article in the LA Times, Over the coarse of the campaign the popularity of Chihuahuas grew, but Taco Bell profits dropped 6%. One major theory is that they focused on the dog and not the food. In a company like Taco Bell 6% is a big bummer and not good business.

Go ahead, watch them.  Be entertained and enjoy them for what they are - well crafted, well produced mini forms of “Good” that DID NOT WORK.  It’s true.  Cadbury continued its course into the toilet as far as value and tried to sell.  Taco Bell’s business didn’t increase at all from the use of the commercials and Nissan’s business actually decreased during this campaign.

When we are evaluating commercials in the future it is ok to call them “Good” but please remember the question my friend asked, “Is it good or do you just like it?”  For some people the answer is the difference between success and failure at the cash register.

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