MK 354 Spring 2010

February 16, 2010

concrete: the red umbrella

Filed under: blog #3 — Tags: , , — marissagkelley @ 12:49 pm

According to Chip & Dan Heath’s Made to Stick, the stickiest concrete idea will function in the same way as a piece of Velcro. No messy, complex concepts…just hooks and holes. This involves the transformation of abstract concepts into concrete messages.

Take Travelers Insurance, for example. According to their very thorough fact sheet, Travelers is the third largest writer of commercial U.S. property casualty insurance. Their at-a-glance blurb reads, “Travelers offers a wide variety of insurance and surety products, as well as risk management services, to numerous types of businesses, organizations and individuals. Our products are distributed primarily through U.S. independent insurance agents and brokers.”

To me, a college student still covered under my parent’s insurance, this fact sheet reads like a foreign dictionary. It is not relevant to my needs, it is confusing, and it certainly does not stick like Velcro. My personal reaction to this fact sheet illustrates a problem that faces companies like Travelers: they offer intangible services that often require explanation and serious consideration before a purchase is made. In the words of the Heath brothers, they offer an abstract service. So how does a company like Traveler’s make their message more concrete?

First, Travelers developed a simple and meaningful core message:

We help people protect the things they care about.

Then, they launched their red umbrella campaign. The clever creative team at British ad agency Fallon London took a concrete object, a red umbrella, and used it as a symbol for the Travelers service.  The commercials flow as follows: a red umbrella suspended in mid air floats whimsically above the objects that people value the most: a house, a car, a new business, and most famously, a dog’s bone. In the dog bone commercial, the adorable pooch is plagued by the fear that his most prized possession, his bone, is unprotected. The dog will not rest until, finally, Travelers insurance saves his bone and the day.

Fallon London and Travelers managed to develop a memorable and simple solution to creating a more concrete service. The red umbrella is now synonymous with Travelers core message: protecting the things you love. The end result of their efforts is a brilliant campaign and a distinct brand image.

February 14, 2010

Run Faster, Jump Higher

Filed under: blog #3 — Tags: , , , , — Zach Cole @ 3:33 pm

The year was 1982. Basketball players were stronger and faster than ever, and they needed a sneaker that could keep up. Their tattered Converse Weapons and Chuck Taylors could no longer withstand the NBA’s furious pace while still providing the comfort that players demanded. Enter the Nike Air Force 1.

Promising a sneaker that would make players run faster and jump higher was a seductive pitch, and the fact that the sneakers were supposedly more comfortable and lightweight than others was equally advantageous. However, simply suggesting that a sneaker will provide players with a more comfy ride down the court and a cushioned landing atop the hardwood floors was not enough. Nike had to find a concrete way to show that the Air Force 1s would meet expectations.

It was rumored that Nike’s new shoes were so far ahead of the competition because the soles were infused with air. This was a great idea on Nike’s part because saying that running in these sneakers is like running on air is more concrete than simply saying that the shoes are comfortable. But who could be sure the air was really there? Was the idea concrete enough?

When The Nature Conservancy campaigned to save a certain region of somewhat unattractive wildlife, it found that giving the area a concrete name was enormously effective. Naming things gives people something they can wrap their minds around, thus making the named entity sticky (Heath, 103).  Nike took the same approach with the Air Force 1. Not only is the air in the sole suggested in the title of the shoe, but the word air is also physically legible on the back of the sneaker’s sole.

By having the word air written in concrete, tangible letters, Nike gave consumers an idea of what was inside the shoe that made it superior. Of course Nike eventually grew to create sneakers that showed an actual air pocket in the sole, which is just another step of concreteness that consumers could see, feel and touch. The reason that Nike’s idea of creating a visual representation of the air in the sole works so well is that it relates back to the core message about their products. Their products stand for the finest in performance athletic equipment, and air fits within that message perfectly. The concrete representation of air in the sneaker made Nike’s claims believable, launching Nike into the sneaker market’s elite.

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