I posted one of the billboards from this campaign by Rethink Canada last week on LinkedIn and asked the question, “Do you know the brand?”
The result was impressive. Over 8,000 views, which for a guy who spends his time on LinkedIn talking about creative briefs, blew my mind. It didn’t go to my head, just rattled it around a lot.
(Note: If you don’t know the brand, be patient, or skip ahead. I’ll reveal it in a minute.)
Most of the people who answered the question were inside baseball types: copywriters, art directors, designers, creative directors, ECDs, VPs, CEOs, marketers. Industry folks. That’s who populates my world on LinkedIn.
Many of them got it, and knew the brand, but not everyone got it. And even those who got it did not like the idea.
And herein lies my dilemma.
As a creative, I always preached and practiced taking readers/viewers outside their comfort zones. Challenge them. Tom Jordon, my boss at Hoffman York in Milwaukee in the 1980s, told me something I never forgot:
Draw the circle, but don’t complete it.
Trust the customer to figure things out. It’s a variation on a line by David Ogilvy, who said this in the 1940s:
Never underestimate the intelligence of your audience. She’s your wife.
You’ll have to forgive him his sexism. He lived in a different world.
But his point remains true today.
So given these wise comments, why do I object to the oddly shaped double cheeseburger?
Because it falls victim to one of the oldest cognitive biases: the Curse of Knowledge.
This bias states that once you acquire a piece of information, it is exceedingly difficult for you to remember or believe that others don’t know what you know. You must be mindful of what you know so that you don’t make this mistake.
Doctors make this mistake every time they speak to you as if you, too, are a physician and assume you know Greek or Latin terms, or the newest bit of pharma-lingo.
The ad folks at Rethink Canada took a huge gamble, and I tip my hat to them for stretching. But they stretched too far.
(An admission: I don’t have scientifically verifiable evidence that consumers don’t understand which brand is being advertised. I have anecdotal evidence from sampling diners at Kerby’s Lane in Austin on Sunday morning. I also have more than a quarter-century of experience as an advertising professional. Plus, I’m now old enough to have acquired a degree of intellectual humility I lacked as a young, know-it-all, prima donna copywriter, who was 30 when I landed my first agency gig.)
Did you know the brand? It is Heinz ketchup. The cheeseburger is shaped to resemble the medallion-like label on the Heinz bottle. Clever, yes?
Well, maybe. Not if no one sees it. Not if the people you’re communicating with don’t see it.
I’ve known this brand since I was a boy in the 1960s. You’d think that makes me more than a little familiar with the product. But I did not see the connection. I stared and stared and stared, and all I could do was scratch my head and say, “Huh?”
This creative is not designed to sell more Heinz. It’s purpose is to impress creatives, to win awards, and trumpet to the world, “Look how clever I am.”
Selling was not part of its purpose.
That makes this campaign a failure. Very pretty, but a failure.
And to all the creatives out there who loved this campaign, and who got it instantly, remember what you’re forgetting: You know more than the average Joe and Jane on the street, who don’t care about what you know.