Whining, Dining, and Other Unpaid Observations

Wrangler Rebranding: E for Effort?

Posted in advertising by KP on September 21, 2009

Businesses are hurting. Retail is struggling. Non-essential, non-luxury products have taken a nose-dive. So it makes sense that certain brands would like to increase their consumer base  to include new, different, more demographics.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “when you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” And in most cases, it’s true. Many brands are afraid to get old and die, so they make sweeping efforts to shift their images into something more appealing, more modern, more upscale, more desirable, more sellable.

We’ve seen it happen with Target Stores and Levi-Strauss. But does it always work? Nope. Case in point: New Coke.

Now it’s Wrangler’s turn to pull out a new direction. It’s too soon to speak for its success or failure, but it’s safe to say that Wrangler is one of our country’s more iconic brands, possessed of a concrete, steadfast and well-known image. What do you think of when you hear Wrangler? Cowboy. Rugged. Rustic. Rural. Western. Man’s man.

I’m not implying that it is impossible to alter this image, to make it something different. But it will be tough. There may be a resistance to accept a new connotation for Wrangler. It may be nearly impossible to rid its original image from many consumers. Current Wrangler customers may be put off by its posturing to a different market. Said different market may scoff at Wrangler’s attempts to reach them.

The Wrangler brand makes a statement, and it’s been a consistent statement since its inception.

Wrangler.com still features rugged spokesmen Brett Favre, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Stran Smith. But their new ‘WE ARE ANIMALS’ campaign, masterminded by French ad agency Fred & Farid, speaks to a different audience altogether.

In this “Stop Thinking” spot, manly activities are still present, but my, what a tone. Who and where are these ominous, philosophical tough guys to which they’re trying to appeal here? I can’t help but like the aesthetics of it, although the copy quickly becomes redundant and the guttural voice-over is rather off-putting (and reminescent of Christian Bale’s ridiculous Batman growl in The Dark Knight). But the strategy? Not exactly kissing cousins with the typical Wrangler ad fare. And although that’s the point, the rebranding effort feels much too forced, too extreme, to stick.

The other commercials, one featuring the existentialist question “Why do we live when we know we will die?” and the other, a :14 home video-style shot of a crawling baby, have been removed from YouTube due to terms of use violations. But we still have this haunting beauty which is, I believe, the first of the series: http://adsoftheworld.com/media/tv/wrangler_animals.

Okay. If you’re going to go that far off the lam from traditional Wrangler, why keep the cowboy-western-rope-typeface? It’s such an odd, jarring, nonsensical juxtaposition.

But that’s not the biggest issue here. The cinematography is, admittedly, gorgeous, but it’s so abstract, so far removed from the beaten path that it comes across as silly and try-hard. Creative for creative’s sake does not always translate into higher sales and a bigger bottom line; there has to be a strong, purposeful strategy running parallel. This new campaign will certainly get press and word-of-mouth, but will it rustle up a new generation of Wrangler-wearers? At this point, it’s looking like a negative, cowboy.


Pabst Blue Ribbon: The Hip, Recessionomic Choice

Posted in advertising by KP on September 19, 2009

Hey you. Yeah, you. Would you like to be drinking a trendy, authentic beer that says “irony” and “anti-establishment,” all in one inexpensive, unassuming bottle? Pabst Blue Ribbon is your answer, friend.

Ad Age reports a 25% sales increase in the brand, despite a higher price point than other “below premium” brews and a seeming flat-out refusal to advertise.

You know, I like this. I don’t think I’ve ever even had a PBR, yet I feel it has much more of a personality–both homey and a little hipster, which is a hard combination to pull off–than, say, Natty Light or Busch. Miller High Life is climbing its way up the ladder of distinctive brand images with its brilliant advertising and the whole¬† “The Champagne of Beer” thing, but it’s spending 4.7 mil (for just the first half of 2009, by the way) to do it.

PBR has gone rogue, and it’s paying off.

Based on principle, I would never encourage a brand to just do away with advertising. First, it usually spells decreased awareness, preference and sales. Second, it kills the lifeblood of all the good folks in the ad biz, and no one should want that. We’re nice people.

But: I find it fascinating that PBR is capitalizing on the recession without the use of advertising. Current advertising. Because the rise in PBR’s sales is not only attributed to the economy. Their word-of-mouth campaign in 2004–that’s 5 years ago–is being hailed as the consumer’s motivating factor.

Here, Jeremy Mullman will tell you:

Back in 2004, Pabst executed a highly effective word-of-mouth campaign that made the long-declining brand an “ironic downscale chic” choice for bike messengers and other younger drinkers who viewed the beer as a statement of non-mainstream taste. PBR sales surged by nearly 17% that year, and have climbed at single-digit rates since, until this year, when the recession sent its sales soaring as more drinkers were pushed into the subpremium category.

And that is something I like. A struggling brand rebranded itself, and that new, more desirable image stuck.

Bravo, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Radio Shack? Take some notes.