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6 Degrees of Marketing Strategy: Lessons from Kevin Bacon

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6 Degrees of Marketing Strategy: Lessons from Kevin Bacon

The new TV ad for Logitech starring Kevin Bacon as a fan obsessed with Kevin Bacon is brilliantly creative advertising. It’s also a big hit on YouTube with more than 750,000 views.

But is it good marketing? And is building an elaborate creative concept around a star – and giving your product less than 15 seconds of airtime in a 60-second spot – a smart marketing strategy?

For all its creative cleverness, this new ad campaign succeeds in one way but fails in another. Here’s why the Kevin Bacon spot works, yet doesn’t work – and what a smart marketer can learn from it.

Kevin Bacon Plays Himself – to the Hilt

Kevin Bacon is an excellent actor. His performance in HBO’s Taking Chance was exceptional. His role in Animal House (“Thank you, sir, may I have another?”) helped make the film a comedy classic.

Of course, Bacon is most famous for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, the parlor game that claims anyone can be connected to the actor through six other people. He’s become a cultural icon as a result.

When I first saw the new TV spot starring Kevin Bacon, I laughed out loud. Each time the spot appears on TV, I watch it, because it’s very funny.

But what I don’t think about when I see this ad is the product.

Bacon is advertising the Logitech Revue, a device that works with Google TV. But I can’t tell you exactly what the product does because the product demo – essential to marketing a new technology device – is brief. The product is mentioned only twice in the ad. Most important, it gets lost in the creative focus on Kevin Bacon.

Breaking a Classic Rule of Effective Advertising

Any marketing expert will tell you that the first rule of effective advertising is to get attention. The Bacon ad succeeds brilliantly there.

But marketing experts also know that the second rule of effective advertising is never to let the vehicle overpower the message. I can still hear my professor at Ohio University emphasizing this time-tested advertising principle in the Introduction to Advertising class.

In the Logitech marketing campaign, the vehicle is Kevin Bacon playing Kevin Bacon. It’s attention-getting and very cute. But in my view, the creative went too far in the wrong direction. The product is not what you remember after seeing the ad. You remember the vehicle, not the message.

The Challenge of Marketing Technology Products

Granted, marketing personal technology products is no easy task. It’s hard to differentiate one device from all the other cool stuff out there in an advertising campaign. Just ask the marketers of smart phones.

But when you have a real marketing advantage – a new type of technology that you’re introducing to the market – your creative concept has to successfully show the product in action. People need to understand what a technology product is and how it works to want to buy it.

Apple’s simple iPad ads are an excellent example of how to do it right. The product is the star of the ads and there’s no question in the viewer’s mind about what the iPad does.

Lessons for a Smart Marketing Strategy

Landing a major star to endorse your product in advertising can be a blessing and a curse. There’s a fine balance between capitalizing on the star’s power and giving proper attention to the product.

Most marketers struggle with this. Take the perfume ad featuring actress Charlize Theron stripping seductively as she walks down a hallway, probably toward a bedroom. It’s attention-getting for sure, and Theron is beautiful. But which perfume brand was that? Do you remember the vehicle – Theron – or the message?

The Kevin Bacon campaign gets my attention. But it fails to deliver a message about the product that makes me understand it and want to buy it.

Do you agree? The next time you see the Kevin Bacon spot, ask yourself two simple questions: What do you pay attention to in this ad and what do you remember after watching it?

Is it the product? Or are you wondering, like me, whether Kevin Bacon’s hair has receded that much or he’s wearing an exceptionally good wig?

If it’s the latter, the ad will surely boost Kevin Bacon’s career and get lots of views on YouTube. But it may not be a smart marketing strategy.

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