Years ago, Al Ries and Jack Trout wrote a little book called Positioning, about choosing one brand attribute and "owning" it. Great idea. Lots of successful brands have used the practice to build brand equity—Kodak and memories. Nordstrom and service. Volvo and safety. Rozerem and beavers playing jump rope with Abraham Lincoln in some guy's kitchen.
A few months ago I noticed a very weird ad featuring Abraham Lincoln and a beaver sitting at a kitchen table with a chess board. In the background is an obviously tired guy sitting on his bed. The headline: "your dreams miss you" in small type. In even smaller type, the payoff: "when you can't sleep, you can't dream." Other ads show them jumping rope and sitting on a teeter-totter.
The copy introduces a new kind of sleep aid. Apparently it's the first ever proven in clinical studies to have no potential for abuse or dependence. (Talk about burying the lede.) And that's it. No explanation of Lincoln, the beaver, or the chess set. I don't get it.
Now before anyone comments that the ad obviously worked, because I remembered it, you should know that I read ads for a living. Heck, I read my junk mail. I saw the ad, but didn't bother to read the copy for weeks until after I saw the television version. It took the extra dialog between the man, Abe and the beaver to let me in on the gimmick. Apparently this is all a dream. There's a bus board too. And a podcast. How did I miss those?
There are so many things wrong with these ads, it's hard to know where to begin. Does anyone you know dream about Lincoln, rodents, or chess? What's the deal with the astronaut? Is this a common dream I've been missing out on? Choosing a metaphor that nobody understands is a bad idea. Frankly, if this is how my dreams will go with Rozerem, I'll take insomnia.
Thanks to DVR, I rarely take the time to watch ads any more. It was a fluke I saw this one. Does Takeda Pharmaceuticals really want to bet the ad budget that I'll see both the print and television ads to get what's going on? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. How many people have skipped over the ad (or the bus board), thinking WTF?
And what about the killer point of difference? Unlike Ambien and Lunestra, Rozerem isn't habit forming. And it works. That's your brand story. But you have to look pretty hard to find this benefit. In fact, it's hard to find any benefits at all. Instead we've got honest Abe and a beaver. Not only do I not get a reason to buy, I don't even get a reason to investigate.
I'm the first to admit, you can tell a very compelling brand story with advertising. But if you choose to do this with your brand, don't make your advertising the story. There's a difference. Your story is bigger than the ad. It has to last longer than the latest campaign.
What will people remember after Honest Abe and the beaver are retired? My guess is, not much. And that should cause a few people in Rozerem's marketing department to lose a lot of sleep.