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The American Dream stereotype, yesterday and today

Is our advertising any different from the “laughable” campaigns of the 1950s on its use of stereotypes and views?

As Jean Kilbourn points out : “Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be.”

In fact, the “American dream” faith has been used as a powerful and persuasive tool through yesterday’s and today’s advertising works.The American dream stereotype is “the belief that everyone in the US has the chance to be successful,rich, and happy if they work hard” and this definition perfectly reflects how Americans have shaped their way of thinking, their life perspective and expectations from the 50s till nowadays.

For example, let’s analyse how the American dream stereotype has been used within the American (dream) car campaign yesterday and today. It is a known fact that Americans love their cars and the 1950s were the pinnacle of American automotive manufacturing. American cars stood out from the rest for their unique style and cutting-edge design. Thanks to the growing productivity that had brought a rise in the standard of living, and the phenomenon of suburbanisation, the American’s sense of belonging, pride and car sales perfectly blended together.

The above image shows a1950’s ad depicting different brands from General Motors. As the copywriting suggests, GM are selling “dreams on wheels” and the image illustrates what the American dream has brought into US society: happiness, wealth and fabulous cars.

Today the automobile industry still represents one of the biggest American industries. However, even though more than 60 years have passed since the incredible 1950’s, advertisers keep using similar persuasion techniques. The research of the personal and intimate cultural sense of belonging as a unique selling point is still one of advertisers’ strongest strategies, and sometimes they even draw on the good old American Dream.

During last year’s Super Bowl, the most important American mainstream event, Chrysler released a perfect example of how contemporary patriotism would look like.

The voice of the commercial is from the American rock god Bob Dylan, that after a few seconds appears on the screen as the main narrator of the ad.

It should be pointed out that the Italian car company FIAT has recently acquired Chrysler. As a consequence of the fusion, Chrysler, which was a symbol of the American car manufacturing industry, had to reinforce and reinvigorate its own image and sense of belonging among the American target audience.

 

Detroit, once the cornerstone of America’s economic resonance, was a city badly hit by the economic recession. In this context, the incredibly expensive commercial (part of a campaign that cost Chrysler $16million) represents a heavy-hand investment in terms of cultural values and national recognitions.

Chrysler resuscitated the traditional advertising campaign where “American-made cars represent the idea of the American dream”.

I do not see people questioning and trying to modify stereotypes, I see people embracing the certainties, which modern stereotypes represent as they give them a sense of security. People today are being persuaded by the same techniques that have been used in the 1950s’. All in all, I would not laugh at yesterday’s society.

Sex sells, but maybe not for train tickets

They say the “Sex sells” but this summer it seems that things got a little too heated in France. In July SNCF, the state-owned company that manages the French railway system, launched a steamy digital campaign that was promptly shut down days after going live. Created with the help of Proximity BBDO, the campaign promoted the company’s special offers for young travelers (less than 28 years old) through a faux-porn website (www.28max.com). The site played on the design codes for video sharing sites, including blurred images and having to state your age before entering. With taglines like “Girls experience new sensations…together”, “How far will she go for just ten euros?”, and “You’ve never seen this on a bus”, who knew that train travel could be so exciting?

A bold move for the government-owned company, the SNCF was forced to modify the site after several feminist organisations lodged serious, public complaints about the content. However, the SNCF is not the first company to play with the pornsite esthetic to sell their wares. IKEA pulled a nearly identical stunt to sell beds, Renault used a similar tactic to sell their Twingo car, and, my personal favourite, even Oasis looked to porn sites for inspiration. So is the conclusion that sex can sell everything from ugly cars to juice except train tickets? It may be more astute to say the line between daring and bad taste is much less set in stone for private companies than for public ones.

28max screenshot TDLY SNCF

Will a rebrand save the Malaysia Airlines? I don’t think so!

After facing two disastrous plane crashes in less than six months, Malaysia Airlines is considering changing its name in an effort to rebrand itself. It is clear that something must be done to turn the airline around, but will a rebrand save the Malaysia Airlines? I don’t think so!

A brand is what people think of you when you are not in the room. And want to guess what people think of the Malaysia Airlines at the moment? I doubt so. Travellers like myself are dreading to even gaze at their logo. And yes, I know that the probabilities of dying in an airplane crash are 1 in 11 million, whereas in a car accident only 1 in 5000, but after not one, but two fatal accidents it is understandable for people to be scared. Don’t you think so?  In the case of Malaysia Airlines the fact that the airline cannot attribute the fault to human error adds to the creation of fear. As consumers, the only information we have is that hostile forces shot down the MH17 whereas flight MH370 is still missing. This uncertainty has made maintaining trust with the brand an even greater challenge.

Rebranding, whether it is about modifying a product name and logo or undertaking a campaign to alter people’s perceptions is a common corporate strategy to revitalise a troubled brand. Old Spice for example through a rebrand managed to reinvent itself from a “cologne for grandfathers” to a “cool, hipster fragrance”. Yet, you would agree with me that an aviation brand is not comparable to an aftershave. The feelings associated with an airline are more complicated and much more crucial to the brand’s success. As Shghashank Nigam, CEO of an aviation marketing strategy firm said, ‘If an airline is perceived as unsafe people will avoid it at all costs’. Changing name, repainting the airplanes and ordering new employee uniforms will not easily take away the feeling of fear that consumers have attached to the brand.

I suspect that Malaysia Airlines may be considering a rebrand, as few collapsed aviation firms have managed to survive because of it. Value Jet for example after an accident in 1996 closed and successfully re-opened changing its name to Air Tran. Yet, there are many reasons to believe that this will not be the case for Malaysia Airlines. Value Jet was not a flagship airline like the Malaysia Airlines, but rather a small, not very well known air carrier. This made it possible for Value Jet to partner with Air Tran Airways and take advantage of it by leveraging secondary brand associations to win back their lost brand equity.

So, the Air Tran merger did not just rebrand the airline; it set up a new organisation that addressed the internal problems. Their success did not lie in their new brand name, but I would say that it was attributable to the merger with Air Tran. Would the Malaysia Airlines be able to follow a similar strategy? In the current transparent world, where information can go viral in milliseconds and taking into account Malaysia Airlines’ size and the publicity stunt already generated, I doubt that such a move would go unnoticed. What is more, If Malaysia Airlines cannot even attribute the problem internally, how can they promise to resolve it?

I strongly believe that simply a re-brand will not save the Malaysia Airlines. Merely changing its brand name and logo will be a form of bad marketing and will not bring the positive results that Malaysia Airlines is desperately hoping for. As the problem does not lie on the Malaysia Airlines’ service or product, but rather on external factors that caused the planes to crash, Malaysia Airlines will need help from industry expects. They could perhaps get the support of institutions to emphasise that the government will be more careful in order to keep skies clear and safe, reducing thus the risk associated with flying in general.

The transition for Malaysia Airlines even if well planned and executed will be both timely and costly. A potential re-brand will take many years, as the problem must be treated from its roots. Malaysia Airlines could partner with other brands in order to leverage secondary brand associations and strengthen this way their own brand. They should also remember to focus not only on changing perceptions of their external customers, but also of their internal. Employees not only need reassurance too, but they are also narrators of the brand story and can significantly help restore belief in the brand. Above all however, Malaysia Airlines must be transparent in everything they do and communicate with customers and the public what steps they are taking.

The task for the Malaysia Airlines to turn the airline around is not an easy one, but I am positive that  simply changing its name and logo will not work.

Lottery game Scratch transforms the subway into a beach!

Have you ever boarded on the tube and wished you were by the beach? The advertising campaign, which is used to launch the new Greek lottery game Scratch, has transformed selected carriages of the Athens subway into an endless beach with golden sand and refreshing waves.

Ad campaigns on the tube are common, but this is more than just another advertisement. “The campaign aims to positively change people’s mood and remind them that holidays are just a ‘scratch’ away” reported a respondent from Newtons Laboratory, the  ad agency that created the campaign. The campaign definitely served its goal of generating buzz with hundreds of surprised passengers taking pictures and sharing them on social media. In addition to the tube transformation, the campaign also consists of TV and radio ad spots, features in magazines, web banners and other digital activities.