advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hey, they’re doing cool stuff with tools.

Sears is one of those odd stories. A brand once made up of its own exclusive brands like Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore. No news there. Many retailers have had their own *house* brand. But then came big box mixapalooza and before you knew it, you could buy almost any brand at Sears, and then so much for exclusive. Those names still had real recognition though, and still do.

Recently, Craftsman has been running some spots doubling as virals. The new one has dudes with various tools creating different noises all edited together. Think Stomp with cordless drills. In addition, you can make your own remix version here. Yea integration! It’s a very basic mash site to say the least, but okay, it gets you spending time with the brand as you share it with friends.

As a user of Craftsman tools and power tools in general however, I wondered how many people in the audience this resonated with. Not people who like clever gimmicks and stunts; that alone is a broad demo. I mean people who would actually use Craftsman.

TV blasts a message to the widest possible audience in one shot; no news there either. Maybe this is more about planning and strategy. Yes it’s cool to watch, and yes it creates a puts a stamp on tool ads, but it could be for any tool brand. If people are calling into question the sales effectiveness of Old Spice ads, what about the basic awareness of the brand in this case.

The line of tools they’re showing is for renovation and construction work, even though Craftsman tools have traditionally been synonymous with auto repair. (Shhh. No, it’s okay, they have been.) As a tool guy, I use or own Black & Decker, DeWalt, Makita, Ryobi, Stanley, and yes, even a few Craftsman tools.* While I don’t favor one brand over the other, I always knew that if I ever needed a socket, then I’m using Craftsman or Snap-on.

Without access to the brief, all I can guess is that the brand wanted to penetrate the weekend warrior demo and create awareness of Craftsman as more than just an automotive choice. Maybe there was an element of this is not your dad’s Craftsman anymore too.

Branching off on that point for a second, if that is the case here, I’d have to disagree. How do you walk away from the heritage of a name just because you want to freshen it up? That may work for Old Spice, but tools are rites of passage. Something you learn about from your dad. That’s a heritage dynamic you find in few categories.

Tools also brought to bear this mindset of American Made. If your old man was showing you the right way to use certain tools, you can bet it also came with a rant on the quality of American tools and the inferiority of everything else. It’s a message Detroit and others like Levi’s have been trying to hammer home these days (no pun).

Tradition isn’t something to always walk away from; it has value. Peers may matter, but you’ll listen to dad before you listen to anyone else. Now, is the national pride dynamic less of an issue these days? It is for me. I know plenty of contractors who use non-American made tools.

That’s not to say it still isn’t a huge issue. It underscores a duality in advertising that hasn’t been resolved: Are we global or aren’t we? If we are, then stfu and let’s just buy the best tool no matter who makes it or where it comes from. If we aren’t, then hello consumer isolationism because Made In America is back, RAH!

Well, which is it?

You can’t confuse customers with a commercial about a hybrid telling you to love the planet on one hand, and then turn around and give a hi-performance finger to the fuel economy of imports. What’s an import anymore? The Toyota your dad once railed against is now built in Indiana and driven by moms full of swagger. LA soccer moms represent, yo.

Getting back to the spot, what reinforces the Craftsman name for people beyond using a lot of red and associating it with a few memorable tricks? Not to single out Sears either, because this is done by nearly all agencies at some point when they can’t find a way into a brand. They either look to *own* a general aspect of a given category the way Kleenex owned therapy with couch conversations, or like Craftsman here, they just do something cool with the product.

This works as long as you don’t always depend on the technique. Even though Red Bull is a stunt brand, its general market campaign could easily be at home for a Dunkin’ Donuts. DieHard also does the stunt ad thing but then, tests under extreme conditions have always been a part of their heritage. Reggie Watts works because he’s still showing the product’s dependability in a unique way.

This is just guys throwing tools around. I might as well be throwing shit into the back of an F-150.

Someone anonymous commented recently about the relevance of TV and the changing consumer dynamic, and while I don’t recall the specific blog, their point was this: Build the campaign around the experiences of your audience by listening to what they need. Don’t blast them with your product message and all its shiny new features. Old news for some, but is it? How many brands still ignore that and go right for the close-up product porn, as if you’ll run out and buy it just because they show it.

Like the drill in that cool new Stanley Tools music spot.

*A cordless 18v drill and circular saw, bitches.


Jeff said...

With regards to the F-150, aren't all car commercials pretty much "just people driving around in a car?"

I rarely see tv ads that focus directly on the benefits instead of the features. As far as building the campaign around the experiences of your audiences, is the #1 rule of marketing:
avoid trying to sell people something they don't want?

Perhaps the coming age of Google TV will change things (as they've changed nearly everything else).

mtlb said...

Yep, that’s the point-most spots in the same category are generic and say a lot of the same things.

To clarify re: benefits/features, I don’t need spots with a laundry list of what the product/service does, nor do I like a generic approach. You can put any tool in this spot because any tool can make those sounds. (Just like the Honda musical road. Any car could have “made” the same song, Honda just got there first.)

As for the #1 rule, I focus on selling them what they want. Others will say getting attention is the #1 rule.