Brand Modesty: When Throwaway App Tchotchkes Work

“Charlie looks like his master just blew a circuit,” my wife muses.

“Technically, I don’t think cats have masters,” I offer. “They serve no one. And they have no sense of humor. Charlie doesn’t seem to appreciate the joke of a dog snout mistaking him for bacon.”

To be fair to the family cat, the “Beggin Nosecam” app from Purina probably was not made for him. In the weird anthropomorphism that is modern American pet ownership, I don’t think we yet project our human love of bacon onto cats.

But you know it is coming.

But at least Purina is having fun with it. The very cute TV ad launch of Beggin bacon-flavored dog treats has a pooch-eye view of the house dog chasing the aroma of bacon, doggishly repeating “Bacon, bacon, bacon.”

There is something intrinsically funny to me about a mock dog voice. I still break into Scooby-speak for no particular reason myself, and much to my family’s chagrin when the mood hits me in the mall.

“Ruh-Roh, Raggy. Ra Rig Is Rup!”

This is when the family starts scattering and leaves me to roam alone.

“Rook! A Rarbucks.”

And for some reason we have decided that dogs all have OCD. The “bacon” rant makes sense to us somehow.

So you know I am a total sucker for the well-conceived Beggin’ Nosecam app. It is simple and a perfect extension of the TV spot because it lets you make one of your own. It overlays the dog nose onto the camera so you can shoot and save a :30 of your own.

This is the sort of throwaway branded tchotchke that makes sense to me because of its modest ambitions. The brand has a cute, not brilliant, ad spot. This is a way to extend it just long enough to immerse people in the brand message and feature set. The video is shareable, but they aren’t pretending to start a brand community around their product. I don’t even think they expect people to come back to use it more than once. In other words, this is one branded app that doesn’t have marketer delusion written all over it. It doesn’t embarrass itself by aspiring to be anything more than a few minutes of engagement in exchange for a grin.

I think a lot of brands overbuilt their first rounds of apps and expected a kind of devotion that actually makes the user feel a bit uncomfortable. As the polarity of media shifts and brands are chasing people via social media, they position themselves as almost desperate to be liked, literally and figuratively. I have heard marketers address this delusion head on and admit in public they know no one really “loves” their car company, their beer maker, their gas station, their jeans provider. Only the senior-level management who make $400,000 and more a year or the board members who get $100,000 a year just for showing up a few times actually have any reason to “love” what your company represents -- namely their wealth. And yet I see marketing from these same executives that nullify their seemingly savvy sentiments and continue the brand fantasy that people really love them.

Instead of wanting so much to be loved, most marketers are better off lowering the bar for themselves and thus take some of the pressure off of us, the consumers. Stop asking to be loved. Instead just give us something we will like. That is more than most people do for us on any given day.  

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