Marius on Strategy and Communication

What it says on the tin

“Extreme Impact”

Today Ecco set a new world record for the world’s longest catwalk in Darling Harbour, the idea being to demonstrate that a high-heeled shoe can be both stylish and comfortable. It provides an interesting case-study into what constitutes efficiency in advertising according to my RADICAL principles.

eccoOn the surface it seems like a great idea. A long walk (2.7 kms) on high heels in a fashion context addresses the top two drivers of the category – comfort (rational benefit) and style (emotional benefit) – and arguably suggests that Ecco provides both. The campaign has already generated a large amount of publicity, and is set to continue to milk the holy cow that is a world record. While Guinness record attempts are, in my opinion, only marginally higher on the innovation-scale than a flash mob, it is potentially a pretty good media idea for the brand. However, I question the brand-level thinking that led to this execution.

It assumes that wearing high heels is rational in the first place. Since when did women care about comfort when it comes to shoes? Sure, they would’ve loved their seven inch heels to be less painful, but discomfort has come to be accepted as an unfortunate side-effect of looking good. It takes either a category leader like Manolo Blahnik, or a gutsy challenger which directly challenges our aesthetic ideas or culture of vanity, to change this sentiment. Not a bland dinosaur like Ecco.

Ecco is a follower brand, a mirror brand; instead of upsetting the status quo, they attempt to appeal to everyone – those who prioritise style and those who prioritise comfort – while adhering to current conventions. According to these conventions we know that high heels can’t be both comfortable and stylish, and we must therefore conclude that Ecco has compromised on both. And so they end up appealing to no one.

When promoting style, the number one rule must surely be: Don’t say you’re stylish; let people make up their own minds. Not only are claims of their style credentials spelt out for us in the press release, an Ecco saleswoman even appeared in an infomercial on Channel 7’s morning show to tell us all about it! Fashion is the one of the least rationally driven product categories, and dropping “style and comfort” into every sentence is as appealing as a Tony Abbot anti-carbon tax rant. Saying “I’m stylish” doesn’t make it so, but rather suggests that Ecco is highly insecure and knows deep inside they’re anything but; telling us about “revolutionary production techniques” is hardly the way to grab fashion conscious women. On a brighter note, their grandmothers probably love the shoes, provided they lower the price enough.

The communications director at UM, the agency behind the campaign, says in a press release: “We believe this is an extremely impactful way to prove to women that ECCO shoes are both stylish and comfortable”. I would like to learn more about his idea of extreme impact.

So quickly assessing the campaign according to the rules of RADICAL:

  • Relevant – Yes, women having to choose between comfort and style is a problem
  • Authentic – No, Ecco is not the brand that can solve this problem (and the entire campaign is thus based on a fallacy)
  • Different – Yes, although hardly revolutionary, a Guinness record still generates publicity, plus few fashion brands appear on Sunrise for some reason
  • Interesting – No, although this is subjective. Sure, the record is mildly interesting, but a one-off and soon forgotten. An infomercial is very far away from interesting
  • Consistency – No, a cat-walk show and an infomercial is highly schizophrenic behaviour
  • Ask questions – No, if they had, they would’ve prevented the above No’s
  • Lead the way – No, they superficially and falsely claim to provide what people think they want
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This entry was posted on May 26, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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