Piotr Jakubowski – Mind over Marketing

Phelps – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
November 26, 2008, 5:15 pm
Filed under: advantage, advertising, at&t, guitar hero, michael phelps, phelps, Uncategorized

In conjunction with my previous post about overstretching the Michael Phelps brand, I decided this week it’d be a great opportunity to feature these spots that he’s in.

The Good


Everytime I watch this spot, it definitely makes me chuckle. How in the world could Bill Curtis, this old guy in a suit, ever be faster than Michael Phelps. He challenges him to a race, and beats him. The entire concept is a great parody on the fact that Michael Phelps is not invincible, and that there are things faster than him. Memorable spot – now the question is does the product follow through on the promise?


So here’s an ad for a product that Phelps probably actually uses. And if anyone watched any of his races in August, you’d notice that he does. Although the FastSkin itself isn’t accessible to the average day-to-day swimmer, the endorsement is legitimate. Like LeBron pimping his basketball shoes and Ronaldinho his football boots, Michael Phelps should be promoting Speedo. 

The Bad

Guitar Hero 

I really don’t know what Guitar Hero has to do with any of the people in the spots, except that the money paid to the 4 athletes in the commercial probably eclipsed the rest of the production costs. Phelps is already large and awkward as it is, and his 1-2 second closeup doesn’t do him any justice either. Seems to me like just another “throw some money at a celebrity” act. The product, with its gameplay and record sales is fantastic already. There have to be other ways to show it. 


The Ugly

Rosetta Stone

Ever since I first saw this spot I was quite disappointed with it. I don’t know how much I believe that learning Chinese was the first thing Phelps thought about when going to Beijing for 3 weeks. I can’t imagine anyone taking this type of approach to learning languages. It gives off the vibe that you can learn a language in a month, or even five months – without being in that country. Now maybe there are some geniuses out there who are capable of doing that, but for the general population – I think the spot is misleading. It tries to capitalize on the Phelps is Phast mania, and in my opinion – fails. I’m sure Rosetta Stone is a great product, but don’t get me wrong, I don’t think anyone can legitimately admit to speaking a language “after just a few minutes”.


What do you think?


Exhausting Your Brand
November 24, 2008, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Golden Boy

Golden Boy

What do Kellogg, Visa, Speedo, Omega, PowerBar, Nike, AT&T and Rosetta Stone have in common?

A young man with 14 Olympic medals to his name. Yes. Michael Phelps. And just last week, Subway jumped on the bandwagon as well.

It was no secret before Beijing, that with great success the coffers would open and Phelps would become one of the most marketable people in the world. Some predicted $50 million, some $100 million. But did people jump onto the bandwagon too quickly?

There is nothing wrong with Michael Phelps. Fantastic athlete, a great spokesperson and a strong role model for the younger generation. There are, however, a few problems with companies throwing money in his direction to represent their brands.

Short Term
 As with many large scale events – The Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, World Cup, World Series of Poker – in the immediate time period before and after the events, people’s excitement reaches amazing levels. Flags, t-shirts and bobbleheads fly off the shelves as fans join the fever. Even with yearly events such as the Super Bowl, interest wanes extremely fast as people move on to the next events going on in the world. For a few weeks last February, Eli Manning was a household name for hoisting the Giants to the SuperBowl. But those days have come and gone, and the with the new season more than halfway through, he’s already been forgotten. And the Olympics only occur once every 4 years.

As much as we all love watching swimming on TV once every 4 years, the facts prove that it is not a marketable sport. Not too many people participate, the races are over relatively quickly (depending on the distances) and although there may be races going on every few weeks – there is only a certain amount of swimming that people can watch. It can be an exciting sport, but we live in a time where home runs, touchdowns and goals fuel the fans’ stats-crazed desires. The nature of the sport and its lack of accessibility for everybody (pools and talent) plays a factor in the marketability of an icon.

Spreading Too Thin 
Michael Phelps and his agent made absolutely no mistake in jumping into his personal brand, even before the Olympics. Even in the middle of the games, as Phelps won his 10th medal, Visa adjusted their advertising to present their new gem. On the advertiser front, however, the dogpile of sponsors spreads each of their messages thin. The advertiser with the most ad dollars, repetition and exposure lucks out – as they will be the most associated with the Michael Phelps brand. In this case, it’s AT&T – with the “superfan” and “finding the internet” spots.


Subway Diet?

Choosing The Right Brand
Although Phelps is endorsing everything from credit cards to language learning software, there are two brands which seem a little out of place – Nike and Subway. Nike pays athletes like LeBron James or Ronaldinho ridiculous sums of money to wear their shoes, which in sports like basketball and soccer is quite easy. Phelps is a swimmer, and unless Nike was using him to endorse their swimline (oh wait, too late – Speedo), then why throw a massive check at someone who doesn’t even use your product in their success. Secondly, there is Subway. Most people remember one of the highlights of Phelps-mania was when he admitted to eating 10,000 – 15,000 calories a day while in training. With Jared and the trend low calorie meals, Subway was promoting eating healthy and fresh food while keeping off the pounds. Where is the connection? The only reason Phelps looks like he does is because he spends hours on end training for it. It seems that Phelps (who loves Subway) was brought in simply to put a famous person in the picture. On another note, I think I would pay to see Michael Phelps eat 25 Footlong Roast Beef subs to meet his quota – giving Takeru Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut a run for their Nathan’s Golden Belts.

Whether Phelps mania will last or not is simply a question of time. Three months after the end of the Olympics, his image still graces the TV screen on a daily basis. The winners in this equation? Phelps and his agent. At the end of the day, they don’t really have to care whether or not their endorsement has helped the brand. The brands themselves need to evaluate whether the dollars they spent on the Golden Boy’s approval really had an effect on their own image.

Gather ‘Round The Good Stuff
November 14, 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: advertising, facebook, innovation, pizza, pizza hut, social media, technology

coc-pizza-photo_finalAs innovation and technology blazea a trail through our society, various companies have been trying their best to jump onto the bandwagon in reaching out to their customers. When the telephone became more and more common, restaurants started taking orders over the phone. For the past few years, many food establishments have been using the Internet to place orders. Without leaving your computer, you can order your pizza, sandwich or other meal, track its progress (Domino’s Pizza Tracker) and even get notified through text message that your order is ready. The recent explosion of social media on the internet has taken this even further.

According to a recent article on AdAge.com, Pizza Hut has created a Facebook application through which users can order their Pizza without even leaving their profile page. Lazy or not, Pizza Hut is really taking advantage of technology. Not only are customers able to order their food without leaving one of the most visited pages of the Internet, the brand creates an omnipresence in its users’ minds. Without having to spend extra dollars on advertising, Pizza Hut will always be there – right in the profile – waiting for you to complete your next order.
There are two reasons I think this idea is brilliant.

  • First of all, brands should strive to aid in making their customers’ lives easier. How much easier can it get than ordering food without leaving your Facebook profile page? Not only does the presence of the application help remind people about Pizza Hut, the applications’ possibilities allow people to associate fast ordering and delivery with the brand. 
  • Secondly, one of the hidden beauties of adding applications is collecting data. Users who add applications opt-in to the application having access to their profile – a marketer’s dream.

Not only does Pizza Hut help make the college guy’s life that much easier, but it collects as much information as possible to get an insight into what its customer likes. Using this information, it can tailor future campaigns, promotions and even prepare targeted advertising for certain sections of its demographic. All this while still making fantastic large supreme pizza pies.

This is Sportscenter
November 12, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: advertising, branding, commercials, ESPN, sportscenter

Tapping into a seemingly endless supply of sports icons, the team at ESPN has consistently delivered entertaining short ads for their prime show – Sportscenter. Time practically stops in most men’s lives around 5PM, 10PM and/or midnight as they tune in to watch the day’s sports highlights. Pairing the Sportscenter anchors in awkward situations with known athletes, ESPN succeeds in bringing these superstars down from superhuman levels – in many cases at the expense of the anchors themselves.

The Boston Three Party

The Boston Three Party


Through quick, witty humor the sports channels effectively reinforces the Sportscenter brand. The images of LeBron James, Maria Sharapova or Peyton Manning being pranked, working at the office or wreaking havoc on its employees is a great reminder of just who will be featured on the next highlights show. Who could forget the image of Jimmy Rollins critiquing Scott Van Pelt’s presenting skills, or Dwayne Wade editing his own highlights. 

A staple of the ESPN brand since its launch in 1979, Sportscenter is the foundation of a network that is recognized in practically every household in the US and multiple countries  worldwide. With its already strong brand image, these commercials are there simply to remind the viewers why they are watching – to see Kobe, Manny or Eli do their real jobs. 


Here’s a few of my favorites: 


Tony Romo 

Boston Celtics 

Roger Federer 

Maria Sharapova

The Man with the Scraggly Beard
November 10, 2008, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Business, marketing, mystery, passion, richard branson, spontaneous, virgin


Richard Branson

Richard Branson - CEO in Spandex

Yes. Richard Branson.

I recently finished yet another book about the ways of this entrepreneur, adventurer, business man and family man. The first book I read was an autobiography called Losing My Virginity and I most recently finished Business The Richard Branson Waya foray into his style of work.

One thing that really caught my attention was Branson’s ability to garner extremely large amounts of publicity, without spending money. That fact goes hand in hand with the idea that you don’t necessarily have to be the leader in any one category in order to rise through the ranks and gain attention. And you sure don’t have to have a multimillion dollar budget to achieve it.

Richard Branson’s forays into the world of adventure – his attempts to cross the Atlantic in a speedboat, circumnavigate the world in a balloon and fly into space have placed him on the map. And with it, his company. There are not very many CEOs in the world as recognizable – Gates, Jobs and maybe Welch being the select few. There are certainly not very many CEOs in the world recognized for their endeavors outside the business world. Could you even imagine Bill Gates suspended in a hot air balloon, or Jack Welch trying to sail across the Atlantic? Neither could I.  

Now what effect has this had on the Virgin brand? Branson is known as the image of Virgin, and every time he goes out on one of his adventures, it is associated with the Virgin name. Instead of spending extremely large amounts of money on advertising against Coke and Pepsi in the US, he rolled out Virgin Cola by driving a tank into Times Square and firing at a Coke vending machine. For the price of renting a tank and setting up the scene, Virgin graced newspapers worldwide.


Through a well-developed P.R. strategy, taking extreme (but relatively calculated risks) and just being a die-hard child of the 60’s, Branson has single-handedly created one of the most successful and interesting conglomerates in the world.

Baby Come Back
November 2, 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: advertising, commercials, marketing

Wet Jet


Swiffer 360


Sometimes all it takes is the right music to really put the exclamation mark on a great campaign. These two ads have been running on TV for the past few weeks, and there’s something about the soundtrack that adds that extra something that makes the track memorable. In this case, it’s the personification of the mop or the duster. The line “From Mr. um Mop” is the punchline. You’ve moved on to someone better, and dumped Mr. Mop and Mr. Duster out the door. Great emotional addition to an otherwise brilliant concept!