Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In the epic battle of Worm Poop vs. Miracle-Gro, who's the winner?

It was the epic battle of Worm Poop vs. Corporate Giant. Last week, TerraCycle Inc. and The Scotts Company announced the agreed settlement of their legal dispute regarding false advertising claims and trade dress infringement. In this rather nasty battle, Scotts claimed that TerraCycle, the upstart company founded in 2001 by two Princeton University Freshmen, was infringing on its Miracle-Gro brand. In the end, TerraCycle agreed to change certain advertising claims and its package design to avoid possible consumer confusion, and Scotts agreed to dismiss its false advertising and infringement claims. A September 21 news release by the two companies announcing that they'd resolved their differences made it all sound very proper, with predictable, carefully crafted quotes from Tom Szaky, the founder and CEO of TerraCycle and a Scotts spokesperson.

Is there a clear winner and loser in this battle? Seems to me the Worm Poop guys come out on top. The suit can only be a good thing for TerraCycle, who prior to the suit, didnt even show up on the consumer radar screen. Although there isn't much chance this will become a standard tactic by upstart marketers, you have to admit; the whole mess certainly put TerraCycle on the map.

The bigger picture? I'm old-fashioned enough to think that marketers should use the best and brightest original thinking in product development, branding and media executions. On the other hand, I'm enough of a realist to admit that making your product look like the established big "Brand X" to intentionally confuse the consumer might bring you some degree of short-term success. Enough to charm the buyers at the big mass merchandisers. For them, it's all about the numbers. They don't care how much time, talent, creativity and sweat has gone into a brand. I'm compelled to root for the little guy in this battle, but at the end of the day you have to respect the fact that Scotts has made a huge investment in the brand and has every right to protect it. The guys who use copycat tactics may get some short-term results, but they don't build strong brands. They're perceived as knock-offs, and the consumer has a very short attention span.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What's your favorite icon and slogan? Celebrate Advertising Week 2007 and cast your vote.

The best and brightest in the advertising industry will be getting together September 24th-28th in New York City for Advertising Week. Even if you can't make it to the Big Apple for all the fun, you can cast your vote for America’s Favorite Advertising Icon and Slogan now through September 24th. This year, two icons and two slogans will join the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. Click over to to cast your vote.

Previous winners include Colonel Sanders, Juan Valdez, Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
If it all seems a little silly - well that's the very reason many of us are in this crazy business to begin with. It's fun. If you can have some fun and make the client's product sell better at the same time, then you've really got something. And when the business stops being fun, then it's game over.

Can Wal-Mart change its story with new campaign from Martin?

David Kiley's post about the Wal-Mart campaign breaking this week is interesting. On the Brand New Day blog he describes Wal-Mart's first work from The Martin Agency. I encourage you to check it out at The new slogan is "Save money. Live better." Wal-Mart bashing has become a favorite past-time in this country. I know it has for me - for very good reasons. My feeling is this - can Wal-Mart really believe that it can promise to make the American consumer's life better? What about the typical Wal-Mart employee? Is he or she basking in the glow of the American dream, or working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet? And does having more cheap stuff make your life better?

If ever there was an accurate advertising slogan, it was "Always Low Prices." Not the most poetic, but certainly accurate. I think Wal-Mart should have stuck with that one.