Big Brands Innovate the Product Demo

By Anthony Vengrove

Source: Bounty

Source: Bounty

Is it me or is the product demo making a comeback in television advertising?  They’ve come a long way since the ‘classic’ product demonstrations utilized back in the 1970’s and 80’s, and seem to be all around at the moment.  Thanks to a bit of creative and innovative thinking, today’s modern versions are quite engaging and effective.

Back in the day, product demos were utilized in a fairly generic manner and many were often portrayed in sterile and ‘scientific’ environments.  Think back to Bounty’s “quicker, picker-upper” demos that often cut to a laboratory-like setting.  I’m not implying such demos are ineffective — just a little boring, perhaps.

Here’s an example of a ‘traditional’ but very effective demo that I worked on back in the 1990’s at Grey Advertising.  Why was it so impactful?  Because it combined a relevant insight (that consumers were mistreating their gas pain with antacids) with a powerful product demonstration that communicated efficacy in a compelling and believable way.  Phazyme was a distant #3 in the anti-gas category until this campaign broke; eventually hitting #1 brand status for a period of time after steady support.

Today’s demos have evolved and may look a bit different, but they are still quite effective at ‘validating’ efficacy or communicating a key benefit.  In addition, some brands use the device simply to activate an insight or encourage their target consumer to take action. Below are four examples that recently caught my eye and engaged my curiosity.

Prudential:  How do you grab people’s attention in the cluttered retirement planning market that constantly bombards with a “start to save now” message?  You take a fairly ordinary piece of data and bring it to life in a visually engaging way.  Did you know that the brain works much more efficiently when it can visualize information?

Febreze:  How do you get people to believe a room deodorizer actually works to cover up the toughest odors?  Shock them into thinking, “Could that really be true?”   

Ally Bank:  How do you get anyone to believe anything a bank promises?  You surprise them by doing (and saying) the completely unexpected.  “If your bank takes more money than a stranger, you need an Ally.”  Hard to oppose that proposition!

Toyota Tundra:  Domestic pick-up trucks are born from American blue-collar toughness.  So how does Toyota demonstrate it belongs in the same league?  By a brute, physical display of strength:  it tows a national symbol of American exploration and adventure.  (Be sure to listen 45 seconds in for the crowd shouting, “USA” subtly in background.)

Such examples suggest product demos can serve a role greater than communicating efficacy or some other rational benefit.  They have permission to show the human condition, be visually dynamic, trigger curiosity, and stir emotion.  By doing so, they increase the odds of delivering a “Wow!”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind watching some of the above spots multiple times (can you say that about a paper towel ad?)

The growth of design thinkers, infographic illustrators, and storytellers provide new lenses to look through when attempting to create a novel concept.  As such, there remains much more opportunity to innovate this time-tested tool and capture the imagination of your consumers.  It’s an opportune moment to not only show-off what your product can do, but to demonstrate that you understand your consumers.

The Toyota Jump & Power of Objective-Based Leadership

By Anthony Vengrove

Toyota Jump

This is a photograph of my father, Steve Vengrove. He wrote the “Oh What a Feeling!” campaign for Toyota back in the 1980s. The story of the campaign and the famous “Toyota Jump” is an inspiring one and actually involves my late dog Kelley and yours truly. I share this story often with colleagues to teach the importance of objective-based communication.

My father was a creative director at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample in New York City—now part of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency and part of the creative team that flew out to California to present to Toyota’s U.S. leadership team. One of the several campaigns they pitched was “Oh What a Feeling!” However, that campaign in its infancy did not include the iconic leap into the air. The presentation went great. Everyone instantly fell in love with the “Oh What a Feeling!” campaign and wanted to proceed. Except…one senior executive had an issue with the closing shot.

The executive said, “I love the campaign; however the final shot is really dull. You’re ending the spot on a static shot of the car with a super [the superimposed onscreen words] that reads ‘Oh what a feeling!’ It would be great if there was a visual way to convey what ‘Oh what a feeling!’ actually feels like.”

“That’s a great objective!” my father jumped in. “I really get what you’re asking for. I don’t have a solution off the top of my head, but we’ll think about it and get back to you.”

Back home in Connecticut, our family had just taken in a stray puppy; we suspected she was a mix of Whippet and Black Lab. After failing to find her owner, we eventually adopted her and named her Kelley. She looked fast and was fast! I was determined to train her to become the next great champion Frisbee dog!

On a Saturday afternoon after lunch, I took Kelley outside to start training. Long story short—I failed miserably. What began as training, quickly turned to teasing—I held the Frisbee high up in the air, just out of her reach. I was amused as Kelley enthusiastically kept leaping for it.

Meanwhile, my father, who was at the kitchen sink washing dishes, peered out the window and saw Kelley eagerly jumping for the Frisbee. Aha! Connection made: a leap into the air was the perfect way to visualize “Oh what a feeling!” The rest is advertising Legend.

Lessons for objective-based communication:

  1. Ask for solutions in the form of objectives, rather than simply requesting a specific solution.Had the Toyota executive tried to solve the problem himself, it’s safe to say the Toyota Jump would never have been realized. Asking for creative ideas using objectives encourages teams to think of innovative solutions. Most often the ideas will be above and beyond what the client would have come up with on his own.
  1. Avoid the same old routine. Get out of the office and create diverse experiences, which allow you to see the world differently.Creativity often entails making connections from unexpected or unrelated concepts, thoughts, or experiences. These trigger curiosity, imagination and create the conditions for serendipity.
  1. Don’t fall into the trap that you must solve problems on the spot.It’s okay to admit you don’t have a brilliant solution at the moment. Ask for some time to think it over. “We’ll get back to you” is a perfectly acceptable response.
  1. Objective-based communication is a great way to lead teams and manage direct reports.Providing team members with clear objectives empowers them to think on their own, develop solutions to problems, and grow. It may be tempting to take the easy approach and simply ask for what you want. But I’ve found life gets a lot easier when your team becomes adept at generating creative solutions that are better than your own.

I encourage you to think of ways to apply these insights to your organization. If you do, you may find yourself jumping for joy at the quality of ideas your team brings to the table.

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation.  We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges.  We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership.  Email us or call us at 203-788-2665 to learn how we can help you unlock the creative potential of your employees.