February 12, 2024

Our Expert Eye on Super Bowl Ads

Like sweet and spicy, bourbon and water, the Super Bowl/advertising experience is about entertainment that balances 3 ½ hours of immersive content. Humor, when done well, challenges nostalgia (the ads were rife with it) and emotionality as a core response. The KingFish team collaborated to share their perspectives on the brands that successfully took advantage of their Super Bowl commercial limelight, and others that missed the mark.

What Caught our Eye...

State Farm: Like a Good Neighbaa

By: Julio Colon, Digital Account Manager

State Farm could not have chosen a better celebrity to play Agent State Farm in the Agent State Farm movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger's inability to nail the slogan offers several moments of laughter throughout the :60 spot due to his thick Austrian accent. State Farm’s slogan, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” has been made memorable in recent years by the brands series of unfortunate event commercials featuring now Golden State Warriors, Point Guard, Chris Paul. This year's Super Bowl spot continues to convey the brand's commitment to reassurance in the face of adversity by pivoting from Arnold as the lead star in the film and having Danny Devito step in and save the day, like a good neighbaa.  

Verizon - Can't B Broken

By: Cam Brown, Founder & CEO

Verizon’s offering with Beyonce featured an epic production that was worth the watch even without the dry responses of straight-man Tony Hale. But he’s Buster, and everyone knows it. Which is why it worked. Verizon wins. 

Dunkin' Donuts - The DunKings

By: Scot Forbes, Creative Director

Maybe we’re biased here in New England, but the latest Dunkin’ saga featuring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez stole the show for me, solidifying Dunkin' Donuts' position as not just a purveyor of coffee and donuts, but also a key player in pop culture.

In this glorious spectacle, Ben Affleck crashes into the recording studio to surprise his singer-songwriter wife, Jennifer Lopez. But this wasn’t just any recording session—it was the birth of “the DunKings”. Wearing matching outrageous pink, orange, and white Dunkin’ tracksuits (complete with Red Sox logos), this boy band supergroup is revealed to include other Boston legends. No, not the New Kids on the Block, but Tom Brady spinning beats as “Touchdown Tommy” and Matt Damon offering his reluctant support (with a nod to his Good Will Hunting days)—with a Dunkin’ beverage in hand, of course. Lopez, playing along perfectly as the annoyed wife, was not impressed with the dismal performance. Hilariously, she offers Brady to stay after Affleck and Damon leave in shame. 

Dunkin' advertising seems to effortlessly capture the essence of its Boston heritage, wit, and charm, seamlessly intertwining the city's rich cultural fabric with its brand identity.

As promised in Affleck’s final words, the DunKings’ signature beverage, a real iced coffee, hits stores today, prompting many, myself included, to make a run to the nearest Dunkin' to purchase. As a surprise bonus, exclusive “DunKings” merch (including the hideous track suits!) were made available on shopdunkin.com which immediately sold out within an hour of release. I hate to admit it, but had I scored one, I would totally wear that jacket. Kudos to Dunkin’ for yet another vital hit.

Disney+ - Well Said

By: Erica Lashua, Account Management Intern

Disney+ kept it sweet & simple for this year’s Super Bowl spot. The :30 commercial was nostalgic to viewers typing out some of the most classic Disney movie quotes and ended with a subtle nod to all the Swifties tuning in. Changing from a white to black background featuring “...Ready for It?” remarking on Swift’s popular track of the reputation album. The streaming service was recently announced to be hosting the highly acclaimed Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour movie. Disney+ was strategic in recognizing the new audience of young fans watching while also noting others may be over the Taylor talk. For Disney+, the commercial immediately created buzz for online debate regarding if the clip is a possible easter egg teasing at the highly anticipated reputation (Taylor’s Version). The “if you know you know” moment was well executed for the brand and highly enjoyed by many.

Dove - It's the Hard Knock Life

By: Maria Hanchuk, Project Manager

Every year, Dove continues to resonate emotionally with its body positivity campaign, and two decades after the campaign's launch they have secured a spot in the Super Bowl. The use of what seems to be authentic videos captured by the public, Dove showcases young girls' ability to fail in their respective sport but ultimately conveys that failure is not the reason for young girls quittingBy leveraging the iconic song "It's The Hard Knock Life" from the musical Annie, Dove exposes the reality of young girls quitting sports due to poor body image and low self-esteem 
This was a clever tactic not only to align with the theme of their past commercials but also to connect with a younger demographic audience and their parents. It is also important to note that this was a way to launch their partnership with Nike and the ‘Body Confident Sport’ program. Dove's emotional strategy positions them to garner greater customer loyalty compared to their competitors while also conveying a positive and, in some cases, life-changing message. 

Budweiser - Old School Delivery

By: Rosemary Poppe, Digital Account Manager

Budweiser’s Old School Delivery, set in a snow-covered mountain town, makes you warm and fuzzy all over. The return of Budweiser’s signature Clydesdales and their best bud (pun intended), a friendly yellow lab, pull on our nostalgic heartstrings. The eagerness of the animals to help sends a clear message that Bud, and its customers, are worth any harrowing journey. 

The drivers receive a hero’s welcome when they arrive at the bar with a wagon full of Bud, allowing Budweiser to convey its appreciation for its distributors.  The perspective into the Budweiser supply chain encourages viewers to see Budweiser as more than just a beer or a brand – but as a sum of many hardworking parts (people) – and thus, quintessentially American.  

From a marketing perspective, viewers absorb over 10 clear impressions of the Budweiser name and the chosen song reminds us that Bud is exactly what we need to “take a load off” and relax. In direct comparison to many of the Super Bowl commercials featuring well known human celebrities, Budweiser’s celebrities are its Clydesdales – four-legged friends who are guaranteed to please viewers.   

Fun fact: the yellow lab featured in this commercial is named Roy Hawn Russel and belongs to none other than celebrity couple, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russel. 

Bud Light - Easy Night Out

By: Ariele Lee, Lead Designer

This commercial had a lot of potential to be incredibly clever. The ad itself was a standard, run-of-the-mill premise including a wish-granting-genie that ends with the characters wishing to go to the Super Bowl. However, at the conclusion of the ad they cut to a live feed of the game and a few of the actors/celebrities were in the stands in character and costume, continuing the concept as if the story were actually happening. The moment was surprising and clever, bleeding a silly idea into the real word for added impact.

However, the shot didn’t linger enough for the other people at my super bowl party to recognize the characters or understand the concept was continuing to play out. Seemed like a missed opportunity to do some sort of real-world PR, experiential story design to the campaign, maybe cutting back and forth between the real world and the ad world, or ending the ad story within the stands itself, or even just lingering on each character a little longer. However, the cut was a little too unmemorable, and a little too short. Props to the creative team for the idea! It just needed a little extra push at execution which is where they probably ran into logistical issues that inhibited the final outcome. 

November 27, 2023

The Taylor Swift Effect

It’s difficult to come across news articles these days that don’t mention Taylor Swift in some record-breaking way. Whether it’s multiple tracks of her album dominating the Billboard 100s, concerts selling out shows – breaking Ticketmaster to the point of policy change and entirely shifting/boosting the American economy – concert movies breaking theater records in an era where the movie theater industry has been struggling to fill seats, or her dating life with football star Travis Kelce revitalizing interest in the NFL for a new demographic, Taylor Swift has become somewhat mythic in the pantheon of American idols. The simple authenticity that permeates her songs about crushes, love, and imagination have remained resonate across ages, and it’s come to the point where Taylor Swift’s presence has developed into an homage to girlhood, to Americana-core, and to the sort of long-standing powerful nostalgia that is difficult to find in an era where trends come and go faster than water.

It's difficult to know what an ordinary individual can learn from this level of superstardom. We as consumers can only marvel as spectators, enjoy her music or her shows, or simply nod passively in acknowledgement at the name if we’ve never really resonated with her material.

But what I think is interesting about the Taylor Swift Effect is that it brings to attention the power that loving a thing can not only have on an individual, but on an entire community.

America is in a period of deconstruction. Deconstruction of once long held American values, of religion, of identity, of politics, of media, of society, and the list goes on. The tentpoles of what used to easily hold our American ideologies together under a neat bow come into question daily as the world undergoes intense changes and diverse challenges. Changes and challenges that are now more visible and accessible than ever with social media and the internet. And while change is not only necessary but inevitable, one disheartening side effect of it becoming such a spectacle is the loss of belief.

The loss of belief is the loss of easily loving a thing for not only what it means to you but what it means to a collective. It’s the loss of being in awe of a symbol, and for being in awe in general. It’s a moving experience that can reorient a person in the direction of purpose and motivation and joy. But it’s also a simple experience, unencumbered with the complexity and nuance we often ask of our leaders, our teachers, and ourselves especially as media bombards us with a million new views. So, to choose into the experience of simple joys especially in an age where everything is visible, we must find ourselves indulging all the way, incautiously, wholly, and deeply into things that bring us together.

Something important to remember when it comes to the work we do, no matter the industry we’re in, the role we have, the person we are, is to enjoy and pay attention to things that cause this kind of unity and excitement. Even if you don’t listen to her music, it’s hard to ignore her impact. And maybe you don’t even like Taylor Swift, her personality, or her music. Because again, so many others do.

So, to find the Taylor Swift effect in our ordinary lives is to be excited about the shows everyone is watching at the office, to talk about the commercial at the Superbowl everyone remembered, the meme circulating social media, the trend we decided to participate in, the client everyone loved, or even the day at work where everyone was on the same wavelength. To find the Taylor Swift effect is to find anything that collectively revitalized our beliefs in what it means to find lively meaning, together. Even if on a much smaller scale.

When we all do this, we not only revitalize our personal economies, communities, and experiences, but we also allow significance to re-enter the daily grind. Maybe not at Ticketmaster-breaking-box-office-smashing levels. But levels, nonetheless. Deeply personal levels that make you remember what you like about your job, the people in your life, or the little rituals of your day.

When we do this, we allow ourselves to be excited by the value of it all, to celebrate that we don’t only exist in vacuums of lonely existential consciousness but exist among other people whose experiences are just as actual as ours. We allow ourselves to be a fan in the back row of a Taylor Swift concert, screaming about the agony of an unrequited crush at the top of our lungs among a sold-out show of tens of thousands, in total admiration that everyone out there is fully present.

Just like us.



May 31, 2023

Design Isn’t Just Aesthetics

Something unique about working for a marketing agency is that all forms of creativity must be tethered to an objective. Here, art isn’t just expression – it’s precise strategy.

As an artist, at the very least your baseline knowledge of design, color, typography, composition, geometry, white space, aesthetics, trending styles, etc. needs to be top of class. That knowledge is why you’re getting hired. However, good design is only the foundation. You are more than just an artist. You are a marketer, a thinker, a strategist.

Aside from aesthetics, here are a few principles I employ when designing a brand:

Be Memorable

  • Solid brand identity achieves recognizability at “first glance.” Many times, brands have limited time, real estate, and budgets to pull off making a name for themselves. Every second counts. This means designs must combine elegant simplicity with complex messaging into a single punchy product. From colors, to the form, to resonating visual themes, designs must stand out. And stand out well.

Think Like a Consumer

  • As an artist it may be natural to think about designs from a solely aesthetic perspective. But designers also need to think about how a consumer may be interacting, interpreting, or remembering these designs. Consumers don’t always have an artistic eye. So, if your design is too abstract without being clear in its messaging, or is hard to read, or doesn’t resonate with the target audience, the designer may need to rethink “how can I help my audience appreciate what they’re seeing?” It may mean adjusting, simplifying, or clarifying your vision.

Achieve Multiple Goals

  • Good design should be able to juggle multiple things at once with precision. Is your brand identity elegant? Representing the industry well? Standing out against the industry well? Achieving the tone and goals of the client? Easy for other designers to utilize? Good design balances all without blinking an eye.

Designing a brand isn’t only about creativity. It’s about understanding some of the most abstract parts of the human experience and then turning them into concrete products. Good designs are beautiful. But the best designs achieve goals.

May 25, 2023

Brand Activism: Deterrent or Loyalty-Builder?

Anheuser-Busch's recent collaboration with transgender social media influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, sought to generate publicity for Bud Light during the NCAA March madness tournament this spring. What resulted was an enormous controversy that sparked a mass call to boycott the brand. The overwhelming backlash that Anheuser-Busch received for working with Mulvaney will undoubtedly have significant repercussions into the future as corporations weigh the outcomes of explicitly promoting their values in marketing campaigns, or even just implicating their values as was done with this recent collaboration with Mulvaney. With a backdrop of increasingly divisive politics in the US, brands must decide whether to advocate for social issues and risk alienating some of their consumer base or remain neutral in the face of heated current events.

Brand activism isn’t new

Partisan politics appearing in marketing is not a new phenomenon. Issues like abortion rights, BLM, LGBTQ+ visibility, and gun laws are just several of the hotly debated topics that have surfaced over the past couple decades as businesses engage with brand activism. Over ten years ago, JC Penney launched a campaign that featured a lesbian couple and their daughter. The campaign was met with outrage from some, including the conservative mother’s group One Million Moms who protested the company on the basis of “protecting their children” (Block, 2012). Other brands have similarly incited controversy due to treading in political waters. For example, Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek explicitly opposed Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill,’ resulting in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempt to revoke the corporation’s special land tax status. In 2018, Nike featured Colin Kaepernick in their Just Do It campaign with the message “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything” after the football quarterback kneeled in protest during the National Anthem. Nike initially lost 3% in its share prices, but within four days the brand’s online sales increased by 31% (Birch, 2022).

Consumer Brand Identification: a theoretical framework

So, is the risk of controversy and negative press worth it for these companies to engage in brand activism that could potentially generate stronger customer loyalty? From a theoretical perspective, Consumer Brand Identification Theory explains how self-identification affects loyalty (and disloyalty) to certain brands. This framework posits that agreement/disagreement between the self and the brand is the basis for consumers’ decision-making in supporting or renouncing a brand. Researchers Sourjo Mukherjee and Niek Althuzien found that brand-identification produces an asymmetric effect, contrary to previous studies demonstrating that self-brand agreement generally leads to positive marketing results (2020). That is, while self-brand disagreement regarding a brand’s values produces negative attitudes toward the brand, self-brand agreement did not generate a significant change in attitude toward the brand. This asymmetric effect on consumer attitudes and behaviors would suggest that taking a social stance only results in negative outcomes, and not vice versa.

Behaviors and attitudes in the real world

Consumer brand-identification is a strong theoretical foundation, but real people seem to have different perspectives about brand activism. According to a 2018 study by Sprout Social, almost two-thirds of consumers want brands to connect with them, regardless of political affiliation. On top of that, the survey found that 78% want brands to use their social presence to bring people together.Despite the seemingly asymmetric effects of brand-identification theory, real consumers want and expect brands to use their social platforms to spread positive values and connect people. Data from the 2023 Edelman Trust survey corroborates these results with 63% of consumers saying that they buy or advocate for brands based on beliefs and values. Consumers recognize the power of social media and are looking for companies to speak about relevant socio-political issues on their platforms.

The jury’s out…

The jury’s still out on whether activism in marketing is advantageous in the long term or if it risks driving away consumers. Some argue that brands’ addressing social issues only exacerbates political polarization and alienates customers with opposing views (Zahn, 2022). However, there is also evidence supporting the idea that taking a stance can lead to increased consumer loyalty. The Edelman survey found that when customers felt connected to brands, more than half would increase their spending with the brand and 76% would buy from them over a competitor (2023). With all this said, brands need to prioritize the issues important to their customer base to build stronger connections and ultimately increase sales. Aerie, for example, has incorporated #AerieREAL into their branding which celebrates body inclusivity and fosters much stronger customer relationships. There’s a lot to consider when connecting with and appealing to a certain consumer base – customer expectations and age demographics just to name a couple of things. Ultimately, the choice to engage in socio-political brand activism relies on building a connection with consumers, leading to greater brand loyalty and increased sales for the company.

March 13, 2023

When Emotions and Experiences Are Sacrificed

We're throwing it back to 2018 — when Target celebrated the opening of its new storefront on the Lower East Side, Target — and when production partner, David Stark, created fake storefront facades mirroring the street as it was in the 70s. Included was an “homage” to famed NYC dive bar/music venue CBGB (the venue was shuttered in 2006). CBGB is considered the mecca of punk rock and new-wave, the place where bands like Blondie and the Ramones cut their teeth. The installation featured Target-branded exercise bands, and band-aids (get it?), as well as a poster inscribed with “The Resistance”. The installation was met with the expected outrage and ire, forcing Target to issue an apology.  

Why were people so miffed about a squeaky-clean brand co-opting the likeness of a dingy, dirty, club? It comes down to authenticity, or the lack thereof.  

Among many things, the internet has afforded us the opportunity to find our tribes, and our identities as individuals are linked to these groups — and to be honest, brands toe a fine line when trying to connect with these communities. Whether you are a yogi or a gearhead, you can sniff out fraud from a mile away.  

As a brand, you must be aware of the emotional connections that people have to their tribes. If you do not take that into consideration, the results are cringe-worthy and can derail your standing within that group. Trust us, you will know when you missed the mark. (One should never underestimate the power of the comments section. People can be savage.) Musicians, fitness buffs, makeup artists and nerds are all passionate about their niches. Everyone knows you are trying to sell them something. How do you execute on that pitch? Well, therein lies a world of subtlety. As an agency, our role is to help brands understand what makes tribes tick, and then to find the best ways to speak their language.  

But language extends beyond words. Color, photography, and tone of voice must be in lockstep with each other. Not only do you have to create an emotional connection, you must position yourself as an insider, someone who has been in the trenches with your customer. You saw the Talking Heads play at CBGB. You, too, get up at 5 AM to flip tractor tires. You know the best drug-store mascara. These kinds of insights are revealed through talking with your customers, and most importantly, listening to them. It must feel real, and that is hard.  

As a creative partner, and as members of many different tribes, we bring a diverse set of beliefs and experiences to the table. We can be that objective eye. Let us help you understand your customers and deliver creative that truly connects. The last thing you want is to be the TRGT of an angry tribe. 

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