Copy, Creative, Themes & Tactics That Need To Go Away Part IV

The “Challenge” © Paul Edgewater All Rights Reserved

    When Pepsi launched the Pepsi Challenge in 1975, it was novel; it was different. It was perceived as gutsy and adventurous, which it was. The distant, number two fiddle in the cola wars (Pepsi) was taking on the number one fiddle (Coca-Cola). As far as an ad campaign, it worked. Whatever your preference is, be it Coca Cola or Pepsi (mine is Coke—hands down), the campaign was memorable. It took on a life of its own. It was re-launched every few years and for the most part, was a successful ad campaign every time it was implemented. It may have lost some of its luster over the years, but it was still honest & effective every time it was introduced to a new, well—Pepsi generation—of consumers (see how annoying that is? Just making sure you’re still paying attention. See: The last time I was aware of it being pushed hard was in 2000. There was a little 10’X 10’ tent set up at a few of the events our company was executing that year. It was great to see the challenge live and participate in it. However a little challenge goes a long way. Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get through a day where we don’t hear of the latest “challenge”. More often than not however, it isn’t a company pitting itself against its arch rival in an honest blind taste test with consumers as it was with the Pepsi campaign. It is the company challenging the consumer to find flaw with its own product or offering. It goes something like this:
“The Blowhard Box Spring Challenge; if you find the same mattress priced lower anywhere else, we’ll refund you double the difference in price”.
Allow me to translate:
“We’re a mattress store & like all mattress stores, we sell a proprietary line of mattresses that can’t be found anywhere else. You see, when ACME Mattress makes this beauty sleep 2000 for Blowhard Box Spring, they call it something else at the Mattress Monster down the street. In other words, we’re challenging you to a game where you the consumer, can never win. Since nobody else sells the Beauty Sleep 2000, you won’t be able to find a better price anywhere-guaranteed.”
It’s this kind of underhanded marketing that has jaded consumers look the other way when the word “challenge” is thrown into the equation. Think about it; when you are home from work, tire and kicking back on the sofa after dinner, are you watching television itching for a challenge? Do you want to throw down every time you’re challenged to find a better price? If so, you have a lot of spare time and energy and do not represent the average consumer. I can assure you, when you need tires for your car you aren’t looking to face off with the service manager at the local new car dealer in a bout of mixed martial arts because his company challenged you to find a better deal on a set of tires that are unavailable anywhere else. You just want new tires and want to end up on the winning side of the limited-shaft-principle. I know when I’m veggin’ at home watching television, I’m not looking for a challenge. I want to relax and be entertained. I’ve worked hard all day and I don’t need to take the Oreck challenge. I already know my vacuum cleaner sucks (notice: no “well” If I took on the challenge, I would end up feeling like a dumb dumb for buying what I bought. You want a real challenge? I challenge Mr. Oreck to get in the ring for 18 rounds of bare fisted, early 19th century pugilism with Gentleman Jim Colbert. That would be more entertaining than to give Mr. Oreck the opportunity to rub it in my face that his vacuum is better than my SUX2002, thank you. If the goal of these faux challenges is to actually chastise the consumer, then it’s mission accomplished for 90% of these “challenges”. If on the other hand the goal is to sell more products or create new customers, then its definitely mission-not-accomplished. Just give us the features and benefits then go away. If you can do that, while at the same time being mildly entertaining, funny, memorable and motivational, then more power—and—money to you. When Pepsi challenged us, there was the very real possibility that people would choose the competitor’s product-and they often did. Fortunately for Pepsi, when the cameras were rolling, more people chose Pepsi than Coca Cola and the rest is history. What’s more, if Coca Cola was picked 2 to 1 over Pepsi in those early Pepsi Challenges, those ads never would have seen the light of day. Of course, that victory only represented an increased market share for Pepsi and little else. Coca Cola is still king in the world market as a recognized brand, but eating into their market share at any level can be considered success, but I digress. That was the only simple and pure “challenge” this author knows of.
To recap: If you have a product or service that your are comfortable would defeat your competition, go ahead and put together some sort of challenge. Just make sure it’s a challenge where not only you company wins, but more importantly, where the customer wins.

Thank you for your time!

Check back soon for part V!

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