When he ruled the world of tennis in the 1970s and '80s, the abrasive John McEnroe (once dubbed SuperBrat by the British press, BTW) was famous for questioning a linesman's call by screaming at the top of his lungs, “You cannot be serious!”
I had a SuperBrat reaction of my own after reading the comments made by chief marketing officers at the recent annual meeting of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers).
According to Ad Age, the marketers focus du jour is to tell a story that defines their brand while reinforcing its contributions to the greater good. That may work for, say, the United Way. But, for some brands, it's akin to Mitt Romney's trying to convince the 47 percent he really does care about them.
A few mega brand sharpies shared their new, feel-good taglines with attendees. Some were OK, a few were laughable and at least one was patently absurd. To wit:
– P&G proclaimed itself a 'proud sponsor of moms' as the result of the money it shelled out at the recent London Olympics. An Ad Age reporter who covered the ANA conference said the P&G video caused at least one viewer to cry. You cannot be serious!
– J&J's worldwide VP of global marketing told attendees the beleaguered pharmaceutical company is now positioning itself as a brand that “…connects people who are suffering.” That actually rings true, considering all the suffering the corporation's poor product quality control has caused over the past few years.
– The real jaw-dropper, though, came from my personal bete noire: McDonald's. Get this: McDonald's says its role in society is to be a nutrition education advocate. I say again: a nutrition education advocate. You cannot be serious!
Mickey D's SVP and CMO, Neil Golden, justified the new cause-related branding by noting that Ronald & Co. now includes apple slices in Happy Meals. Gee, that really makes a huge difference. So now, after inhaling a calorie-laden, artery-clogging concoction of goo, consumers can feel better about their food choice because McDonald's has tossed in a few apple slices. You cannot be serious!
Corporations can't expect consumers to buy this good guy speak when they continue to peddle bad things.
If McDonald's REALLY wants to be a nutrition education advocate, they should follow the lead of Luta, a sportswear marketing company that told ANA attendees it earmarks 50 percent of its profit to battle youth violence! I'd like to see McDonald's pony up 50 percent of its profit to better educate consumers about proper nutrition.
If they ever did, and if the SuperBrat ever heard about it, I believe Johnny Mac would still scream his signature line, but this time he'd be smiling.