Yes, I borrowed that line from Hans & Franz. And in a way, that's exactly the kind of misguided thinking that this screed is about…
DISMAY. ANGER. DISAPPOINTMENT.
Just a few words to describe how the new Sprint campaign makes me feel.
Well, not on an epic scale or anything like that.
More like on the scale of, say, realizing you're holding mismatched socks and need to go back to the dresser drawer.
Nonetheless, if how one feels about a particular business's advertising determines how a prospect is going to feel about the business, Sprint has made a blistering miscalculation.
Don't know what we're talking about?
In a nutshell: Sprint has hired the former Verizon Test Man, the "Can you hear me now?" guy, to talk about how Sprint's network is now better than Verizon's.
It's a real slap in the face to the Verizon faithful--and it drags down Sprint.
IN ONE FELL SWOOP, BOTH SPRINT AND THE VERIZON GUY BECOME UTTERLY UNLIKABLE
Because for years, Verizon's friendly, "Can you hear me now guy" was always there, making us like Verizon and being the affable, friendly face of the brand.
Yes, Verizon moved on from Mr. Can You Hear Me Now in 2011.
But he remains an indelible part of the advertising landscape and, to a degree, a part of the culture. "Can you hear me now" continues to be a catch phrase for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.
And IMHO, it's a serious miscalculation on the part of both Sprint and Paul Marcarelli, the actor who plays Test Man.
Here's a character, iconic in his own right, who was a part of the zeitgeist.
AND BOTH HE AND SPRINT ARE SHOOTING THEMSELVES IN THE COLLECTIVE FOOT
What if suddenly, Poppin' Fresh, the Pillsbury doughboy, appears as the face of Sara Lee?
"Don't bake it yourself. Double-blind taste tests prove that everybody doesn't like Sara Lee--including your family!"
What if suddenly, Tom Bodett, the iconic personality and pitchman for Motel 6 for over 30 years, suddenly started appearing in TV commercials for Holiday Inn Express?
"I just saved a bunch of money at a Holiday Inn Express--and it was a lot more comfortable than that barebones Motel 6."
What if suddenly, Steve Jobs (rest his soul), the iconic human being who changed the face of personal computing, suddenly appeared in an ad with Michael Dell?
What if Mr. Black Mock Turtleneck said, "Ya know, Dell's machines cost about a third of what Apple computers cost, and they are every bit as good. Reliable. Solid.
"No, they're not as sexy, but really--who are we fooling? You're just going to use the damn thing to send email and watch cat videos anyway. Who really needs a MacBook Pro for that?"
EACH BRAND HAS WORKED FOR YEARS TO ESTABLISH A FEELING
Each of those advertising icons has been an integral and calculated part of that feeling.
Each icon has been created by people tasked with making it the personification of the brand.
An icon well managed becomes a welcome guest in our homes.
For an extreme (and highly unlikely) example of the betrayal that is taking place, consider this: there are people who are die-hard Disney fanatics.
These are the people who buy season passes to their theme parks and collect the memorabilia.
The Walt Disney brand is so calculated and so controlled, each character is so well defined, that Disney has a bible for each character.
We're talking thick, thick books of detailed notes about what each character will do and won't do.
WHAT IF DISNEY CHARACTERS SUDDENLY STARTED STUMPING FOR SIX FLAGS?
What if they went completely off-character and started drinking heavily and sexting?
How good is anyone going to feel about Disney--or Six Flags?
No, that's not the degree of betrayal we're talking about with Verizon v. Sprint.
But in a world gone mad, it's the ultimate slippery slope death spiral of marketing undone.
In a way, Sprint has committed one of the worst possible acts of borrowed interest possible.
They're trying to draft off of a competitor's ad campaign without doing anything at all to be actually original and relevant.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO MAKE THIS POINT--AND DO IT IN A PITHY, RELEVANT WAY
If we're talking about giving a big ol' middle-finger salute to Verizon, do it in a way that recalls "Can you hear me now?", but takes actual ownership of the message instead of just being tangential to it.
Need a character? Create your own.
Need to take down the Test Man?
Then mock him and take him down.
But just parading him out and letting him make snide comments about his old employer merely makes everyone involved look lame.
It certainly doesn't make anyone involved look good.
As a friend of ours said about that campaign, "Have you seen that? It is so stupid."
This is not an ad guy. This is a guy who, like most people, has a non-analytical, visceral reaction to advertising.
IT'LL BE INTERESTING TO SEE HOW THIS PLAYS OUT FOR SPRINT
It might just be a stunt, a way for them to get a lot of press quickly, and they'll abandon it shortly.
But until then (if it even works out that way), it's not witty, it's not interesting, and there's very little reason to pay attention to it.
In the meantime, it reflects the experience we've had around these parts: it's just a bunch of BS.
Several people who've moved to our neighborhood in the sticks say that a Sprint rep told them the coverage here was fantastic.
Of course, they get here with the new phone and suddenly find that, until they drive back into a coverage area, they're trying to talk to people through an incredibly expensive digital paperweight.
Can you hear me now, Sprint?
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.