Marketing About Nothing
My life is a running Seinfeld reference. For almost everything I experience in life, I find a parallel to an episode of the 90's sitcom. It makes it impossible to order soup, return a library book, or even throw out junk mail without at least a snicker.
But the "show about nothing" can offer lessons for marketers. In the episode titled "The Pool Guy," Kramer finds himself getting calls from people trying to reach a theater information service. Rather than another course of action, he tries to be all things to all people, helping them find the movie times they're looking for. That goes great until George tries to use the service, and winds up at the wrong theater.
The lesson: trying to cover too many bases with your communications will eventually lead to confusion, and a negative result.
I can't help but think of that every time I see a spot for the energy supplement 5 Hour Energy. I absolutely swear by the product, but the advertising campaign has been a rabbit trail of relatively weak – or plain bizarre – messages.
I first noticed spots for 5 Hour Energy featuring a young man in an office environment, inviting cubicle-dwellers to conquer the "2:30 feeling" with the product. They were simplistic, and seemingly of low production value, but at least they communicated an identifiable problem – the mid-afternoon lag felt by the working world.
Then the ads shifted on a dime to feature a character named the "5 Hour Energy Sheriff" who apparently threatened to seek retribution on people who chose coffee over the longer-lasting benefits of his product. The attempted humor is too subtle to be noticed, and the anachronistic quality of the character is truly puzzling. It remains the most confused and confusing spot I've ever seen. (Well, with the exception of this one.)
Now the 5 Hour marketers believe solid, scientific testimonials are the way to go. Their latest spot features a woman quoting results of a survey of doctors conducted to seek support for 5 Hour Energy use. It rings slightly hollow, especially for folks like me who are half-expecting the sheriff to slap the cuffs on our spokesperson mid-sentence for being too boring.
You can view all these spots here.
The question I have, is the target audience for 5 Hour Energy really so diverse that they can't be reached with a single, unifying message? Somewhere along the line, I believe one of 5 Hour spots featured the tagline, "5 Hour Energy fixes tired." To me that message is universal enough to be communicated in multiple scenarios and in several styles without losing substance. Instead we get half-attempts at messaging strategies that ultimately lead nowhere.
Memorable advertising contains a mix of relevance and artistry, but also a good deal of clarity. When these three elements combine, they produce something that more resembles a show than a commercial. When marketers fail to incorporate one or more of these features, they wind up with a show…about nothing.
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