Tuesday, July 16

Billboard Safety

I was supposed to appear on a morning news show this week to talk about this, but I got bumped by both the Zimmerman decision and Cory Monteith's death.  So be it, these stories were far far far more important.

But there was a fairly interesting example of disruptive marketing that is causing quite a stir, and I'd love to get your take on it.

There's an outdoor billboard from a BMW Dealership in Cincinnati that features a mannequin sitting on top of it, seemingly looking like he's deciding if he should make a jump.  People viewing it are quite upset, and in many cases calling 911 to help save him.

Many are asking if this is disruptive marketing going too far.  Is it ok to shock people to the point of upset?

To me the answer lies in the brand equity.  If it is consistent for the brand to be so disruptive and if the consumer expects it from the brand, then it may be ok.  But if it's disruptive just to be disruptive, and inconsistent with the brand in the making, then I'd say it's not ok.

While I don't know the dealership in this case, but I doubt this is in keeping with the BMW brand.  I used to be an owner myself, and I've never thought about the brand in this manner.  Sure, it's the "ultimate driving machine," but does that mean that it has to offend.  Not nearly.

I'm afraid this is a case of "creativity for creativity's sake," which is not the hallmark of a great brand.  I'm all for being out of the box creative, but it has to align with what the brand is all about and with what your consumers want.

So I would have to side with those that are calling for it to come down.  If it's causing a stir on the roads, which is potentially dangerous, and there's no real branded reason to it, then don't do it at all.

Now some would argue that this BMW dealership has every right to market as it wishes, and that would be true to some extent.  But in this the golden age of marketing, consumers are not only voicing their opinions on products but also on how they are being marketed.  And those voices are getting amplified.

But what do you think?  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
- President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
- Author, The Experience Effect series
- Professor, NYU
- Contributor, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post


  1. I think advertising without logic or consideration is reckless and for me, makes me boycott.....

  2. You do have a voice, so use it! Jim.