At our house, we watch some delightfully dumb TV shows.
Among them is Beat Bobby Flay. This is another silly competition show on The Food Network that doesn't make a lot of sense. No doubt, it's profitable. Just 25 seasons and counting. It's maybe not as profitable as Worst Cooks In America. We're talking 20 seasons of a show that could be called Shameless Kitchen Idiots Bang Spatulas On Their Heads And Cry. But we don't watch that. For some inexplicable reason, we enjoy watching Bobby Flay get thrashed.
What's that? You don't know this icon of "unscripted" food-TV goodness?
Here's how it works: for 20 minutes, two frenzied challenger chefs conduct a kitchen haboob against each other using an ingredient chosen by Bobby. The winner of that first round gets to face off against Bobby in round two. In that round, Bobby and the challenger have 45 minutes to cook a challenger-specified "signature dish." Three professional judges (who are clearly not smart enough to figure out which dish came from one of the most famous chefs in America) choose the winner in a blind taste test. All throughout, there's trash talking against Bobby. Benign hilarity ensues.
Bobby's got a 62.5% winning record. There's almost 100% universal desire to see Bobby get spanked on national basic cable television. Whee!
Anyway, here's where the marketing fun comes in...
In a recent new-to-us rerun of this guilty pleasure, Bobby had to face-off against a chef who challenged him to make cacio e pepe.
Whassat? You no know how to say? Pronounce it like "catch-eeo ay pay-pay" and you're close enough. It's a traditional Roman dish of spaghetti, pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. It was once a staple food of Italian shepherds because it's practical and easy. The ingredients keep well for a long time. Besides being stupidly simple to make, it offers the bonus of being really tasty. You can use it to impress a first date with your kitchen prowess. (Just keep your time amongst the sheep out of the story.)
It was clear: this challenger was ready to crush Bobby with her signature dish.
She was cocky in announcing the cacio e pepe challenge. During the bout, she was over in her station making fresh pasta. She was making a special parmigiano-Reggiano stock for cooking the pasta. She was making special parmesan cheese toast crisps to go with.
What was Bobby doing over in his station with his 45 minutes? Making a traditional cacio e pepe with dried spaghetti. Three basic ingredients. It doesn't take 45 minutes to make. So he did something interesting: he made the dish twice. The first time was a test run to make sure his dish was sound and competitive. The second time was his dish for the judges.
Fresh, fresh, fresh means win, win, win! Right?
The clever version of the dish had all kinds of problems for the judges-not the least of which was: it doesn't taste traditional.
And the fancy stock made for cooking the fresh pasta? It made the fresh pasta gloppy.
The parmesan toast crisps, well...did the Italian shepherds make those, too?
But Bobby's simple, pedestrian edition of a favorite staple food was admired by the judges.
Bottom line: the chef who didn't get clever and ran a test run of his dish crushed it.
So, are your advertising dishes getting too clever?
Or are they sticking to a proven model? Are you doing test runs against the proven dishes? Maybe most important, are they accused of being too clever? Are you just not listening to that feedback and testing it anyway? I've done that. Sometimes, the ad you'd thought would work simply doesn't. And sometimes, the ostensibly too-clever ad outperforms the proven dishes by 4:1.
Bottom line: there are good ideas, and ideas that aren't as good. And occasionally, there are going to be ideas that crush it by a factor of four to one. Sometimes, you don't know you've made a gloppy, over-fancy cacio e pepe. And once in a while, you'll know you've made a classic. But only the judges will confirm it when they vote with their dollars. Let them judge.
Now, about that free book and a few other things...
The Fabulous Honey Parker and I have a new book called, Lightning Branding: How To Generate Revenue Faster With An Electrified New Brand. It's yours free by clicking here.
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Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.