Friday, August 08, 2008

The Anacin Syndrome

Is your business suffering from The Anacin Syndrome? And what is The Anacin Syndrome? The Anacin Syndrome is my metaphore for all that has to do with the dropping of standards. During the 50's, when brands like Anacin were at their peak, words like "competent" meant that you were just one step above moron. Now the word competent means you practically own a Ph.D. Well these days being "average" has gotten so bad that you can go to the head of the class just by showing up. But why did things change? How did these lax standards come about? Well, about the time brands like Anacin were popular, moms had just started going into the workforce for the first time. They'd come home tired, stressed and hungry - and still faced a home and family to manage! Hence Anacin's most memorable ads. Moms snapping at little children! Close up on mom: hand to forehead: Voiceover: "Sure you have a headache. You're tense and irritable. But don't take it out on her!" Why if you ran that ad today you'd be accused of depicting child abuse. Back then it was just reality TV. Well, more moms and dads are working today than ever before. They don't have time for all this. Hell, I've even had marketers tell me I'm damn good. But the problem is, I make them think. Too hard. They don't have time for this. I maintain that all great minds like a good think. They just don't exercise the muscle often enough to maintain its competency.

Hence the current trend to hurry up the maturing of kids faster - or the growth of brands. As workers, we don't have the time to correctly nurture the majority of children or brands. Well nurtured children and brands are now in the minority. Hence, Vanessa Hudgins posing nude for Disney when just 18. Miley Cirus partially nude at 14 or 15. You get the picture. Pretty soon you could run the same Anacin ad depicting 13 year olds in place of mom! "Sure school's tough. You're tense, your irritable. But don't take it out on your little brother!" So many people self-prescribe, who would stop the kids? And that's why companies can't fix themselves.

And that's what's happened in marketing. We no longer sell brands. It's too hard to find an ownable brand specific reason for being that substantively differentiates one product from another. Though I have the know how I can't find a brand in any category that says anything different than their rival. They just say it in a different way. Guess it's called commoditization and it's the price brands pay for not taking the time to do their homework. As a result we are inundated with category sells and not brand sells. It's too hard to find something different to say about your product - so we invented branding - it's what you do when you don't have anything important to say. Sure Starbucks has a headache. Howard Schultz is tense and irritable, but don't take it out on the business! And that's The Anacin Syndrome.

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