sly : marketing

Want attention? Add zombies and make kids watch them

painted car

I want to step back in time and take a short look at what life used to be like when I was a kid. It might be very different from what you remember, depending on how old you are and the country you live in. I am 40 years old, and I live in Norway. When I was a kid we had two TV channels, one Norwegian and, because I live close to the border of Sweden, we had access to a Swedish channel as well. A few years later, we had access to two Swedish channels. And we all know what happened. We got TV via satellite and via cable, and it didn’t just add one or two extra channels, but hundreds.

It used to be that in order to get attention, and increase sales, you created a TV commercial and aired it on one of the few TV channels available. The price you had to paid was high, but you had a warranty in many viewers. This is what we can refer to as shelf space. The warranty was shelf space for your products, and if you made it to the shelf, you made sales. It was the same in grocery stores, or book stores, or music stores, or any kind of store. It used to be that we had just a few stores where I live, and if you had your products on the shelf inside the store, you had the attention of the customers.

But, now, it’s different. We have access to everything from everywhere. And…

There is enough shelf space for everyone

It’s still not that hard to get attention. What’s hard is that we have to earn attention in order to get customers. This brings me to the latest commercial of XXL, the fastest growing sportsretailer in Norway. They understand that it’s enough shelf space for everyone. They understand that in order to get attention, they have to be creative and they have to be different.

That’s why they created a new commercial, and it’s been showing on TV when kids are still up and watching (I watched it during the TV show Norway’s Got Talent):

I am not sure what my first reaction was. But I remember my second reaction; I was happy that my kids didn’t sit next to me.

XXL certainly got my attention. And it seems that they’ve got the attention of a lot of people in Norway. I’ve talked to friends about it, and I have read about it in the media. The commercial is of high quality, no doubt about it. The actors are great, the zombies are looking awesome (almost as good as The Walking Dead).

But, is attention enough?

Attention vs relationships

I keep asking myself the question; why aren’t big brands focusing on building relationships? I believe that, in the long run, a brand will get more customers and earn more money by focusing on building relationships than by creating expensive (and creative) advertisements.

I enjoy watching new and creative commercials, but it doesn’t turn me into a customer. And, usually, I don’t watch commercials on TV anymore, I just skip them.

30 responses to “Want attention? Add zombies and make kids watch them”

  1. Rogier Noort says:

    I’m sure most companies, by now, know that building relationships trump TV ads. But there is always the old way and a lot of people sticking to it, it probably still has a worthy ROI.
    And lets face it, it’s much easier to just have an agency create a commercial (probably cheaper too).
    Setting up a customer care team that knows the product, knows the company, knows the customer and is able to communicate in a timely and responsible manner is not something you just do.
    But.., in the long run.., you’d have to ask which will be more valuable…

    • I agree with you Rogier. Most companies knows that building relationships trump TV ads. I believe the reasons why they are still doing TV ads, is because it’s so much easier and it’s traditionally the right thing to do. It’s hard to switch to the new type of marketing. They’re probably going to do it one (small) step at a time 🙂

  2. Mys Palmer says:

    Jens you make a really stellar point.

    Who even watches commercials on TV anymore? I catch most of em online (by being forced to suffer through video ads). I think that they feel that awareness is their first step to creating relationships. As with any sales funnel.

    But, then how are they nurturing that awareness and caputring your attention as opposed to just holding it for 90 seconds? Usually you’ll check out a company website if an advertisement for something you’re already interested in buying moves you.

    There aren’t many brands I feel like I have a relationship with. I continue to purchase because of the product quality, price point and need for the product. With social being prominent I think that’s what brands are doing to get in touch with their customers.

    • I usually do something completely different when the commercials are on, or I just skip them, because I hardly watch “live” TV anymore. I record close to everything I watch, so I can skip all commercials. But, when I watch them, it’s mostly because I’m interested in marketing and I want to know what’s going on.

      The only brand I probably have a relationship with is Apple, and that’s mostly because I use many of their products and the guys in the local apple store are awesome. They’ve built a relationship with me, and that has nothing to do with Apple, but they’re selling the “right” products 🙂

  3. Lisa says:

    I’m with you on the commercials Jens. I remember we had 3 channels and in black and white too. We could not interact with brands there like we can on Twitter or other social networks. You had to call and wait. No answering machines or voice mails either.
    TV most work for some still since they spend so much. I suppose if they have the money it’s easier to make commercials then to spend time building relationships. Sad but true.

    • That’s probably it Lisa. If you have the money it’s so much easier to tell an agency to make commercials on air them on national TV. People will see them and people will talk about them, and they will eventually help them sell. But in the long run, they’ll be a lot better off if they spend time and money building relationships.

  4. Sapna says:

    Hi Jens

    I believe that big companies have fat budget and they can spend that on ads to get the quick ROI. They are really SELLING the product, they are not marketing their brand.
    But for long term planning every company has to rely on building long term relationship with their customers.
    Some companies in India have started working towards that, but they are far from achieving that in short term.
    My belief is that the companies should start focussing on building long term relationship and should start taking the baby step towards that.

    Thanks for that .

  5. Hi Jens, That’s pretty insightful looking at the past media environment compared to the 24/7 flood we see from every direction today. That’s probably why we haven’t seen many household names like “Saran” Wrap, “Scotch” Tape, Jacuzzi or Band-Aid. The only one I can think of off hand is Google. I hear “Google it” more than “search for it”. I think that’s because mass marketing isn’t as powerful as it was when there were just one or two large manufacturers for popular products with little competition. I’m sure social media will play a roll in future household names. Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to build relationships with tv commercials but it is pretty cool to watch a big brand get super creative on social media.

    Like you and Lisa, I don’t both with commercials. When I’m not watching recorded shows on the DVR, I hit the mute button within seconds of a commercial. Even the Super Bowl commercials sucked this year.

    Those were some killer zombies. lol

    • That’s exactly it. I don’t think that big brands are thinking about building relationships. They’re probably receiving enough ROI as short term effects on big campaigns. I’m not sure, but it seems to be easier.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Hi Jens, I love that commercial! If all commercials were like that then I would probably watch them. But the problem with that commercial is brand identification. As you say, it’s important to tell a story, which that ad did. But I didn’t finish watching the commercial and remember what the product was.

    In the US the Super Bowl is the time for commercials and that ad would do very well for the Super Bowl.

  7. Adrienne says:

    It’s really kind of sad these days Jens but few people even watch commercials anymore. If they haven’t taped the shows then that’s when they take their breaks. I haven’t watched a commercial in over five years so you’ll definitely not get my attention that way.

    Come online and make a splash and you’ll probably get more attention that way. Just showing me something though won’t make me an instant customer. Get me something to entice me in and then treat me well and you have a much better shot.


    • Absolutely. I’m watching commercials just when I want to see what’s going on. Usually I just record the shows. I can’t believe why they are spending that much money on things that are not part of building relationships.

  8. Veronica says:

    This is a funny video. Companies today have big budgets for advertisement. This is a wonderful insight you have shared here. Thanks, Jens.

  9. Tim Bonner says:

    Hi Jens

    That’s a pretty cool ad, although I’m surprised it was being aired before the watershed!

    It wasn’t particularly clear which brand the ad was for (other than you told us in your post). Yes it mentions the name right at the end but I think I would have been inclined to get the zombies in XXL T-shirts or something.

    Like you, I do tend to watch a lot of recorded stuff these days. I remember when there were only a couple of channels and we only had a black and white TV. Now we have satellite TV and there are far too many channels to choose from!

    I watch the BBC quite a lot, which is ad-free and I like that, although with that comes a license fee. No TV license though and you’ll get a hefty fine.

    • That’s exactly the problem with the ad. Well, paying a lot of money for an ad is a problem in the first place, since it’s not doing such a good job of building strong relationships with people. I would have spent the cost of the ad by giving away stuff to the customers instead, or building a “thank you department” like Gary Vaynerchuck talks about in his book. That makes a lot more sence, especially as we’re living in a world where attention has to be earned.

      I actually had a black and white TV in my bedroom when I was a youth. I was the luckiest boy alive when I got the old TV into my bedroom. Now, I don’t think my kids would have wanted it even if they received it along with a brand new XBox 🙂

  10. Kristine says:

    In today’s most competitive atmosphere, it is critical for retailers to maintain and build on their brand awareness, as well as reinforce the value proposition of their market.I’m a huge fan of ads that are persuasive and attention grabbing at the same time. Neat! Thanks!

    • Hey Kristine,

      The ad is great, and I love watching creative and attention grabbing ads. But, there are not as many as I would like. To me, it seems that most ads are close to identical. It’s hard to remember what I’ve watched just five minutes after I’ve watched them.

  11. Emilia says:

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on branding or brand messages given the chance to start a new business. Yes, you need a brand, but that will evolve with time. For now, just make sure you present yourself with a name appropriate to what you do and in an appropriately elegant way. You’ll get a higher return for your time and energy if you spend it creating a proposition that the market wants and getting known by people who can help you get in touch with potential clients, rather than expensive branding exercises. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much much into ads and getting lured into buying stuff just because a commercial made a strong impact 🙂 Thanks!

    • I believe you’re absolutely right Emilia. I really enjoy watching high quality ads as well, but I usually don’t end up buying anything after watching it. On the other hand, I might get a better impression about the company, or I’ll remember the company the next time I’m going shopping or maybe I’ll share information about the ad or the company with friends. But, the money is better spent building relationships.

  12. Kelly says:

    First off I’d like to say that the commercial was highly entertaing despite my horror for zombies and other living dead creatures. But it did catch my attention. Then again that’s what marketing is all about catching attention, then giving the details.

    • It’s hard to get peoples attention, so the ad does a great job doing that. But, I don’t believe it’s doing a good job at building a relationship. That’s where I believe ads are struggling.

  13. Calra says:

    I was pretty hesitant to watch the video but you certainly tickled my curiosity bone. Thank you for sharing your insights on this.

  14. Sandra says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the video. I get a little squimish around zombies, but this certain video was just amusing. Apparently the marketing strategy we have today is; get their attention THEN shove the product down their throats.

    • It sure is attention grabbing, and that’s what marketing has become for most of the big brands. They have enough money to spend on creative ad agencies, and by watching ads like this, I feel like I’m living in the Mad Men era 🙂

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