Would a Gnome by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

by , , May 19, 2005, 8:15 AM
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A recent Travelocity placement featured their friendly, upbeat, and likeable little gnome as part of a reality show treasure hunt. To the manner born, the gnome joins the likes of Tony the Tiger, the California Raisins, and the Jolly Green Giant as a surrogate brand figure that can be used in a variety of ways to advance the brand message or communication.

With all due respect to our little friend, is the Travelocity gnome 'iconic' enough to stand on his own? Would Travelocity and non-Travelocity users alike recognize him out of context in the midst of a reality television show?

A similar situation occurred in the late 1940s in a Gene Kelly musical where Gene danced with an animated character. Originally, the producers asked Walt Disney to 'let' Mickey Mouse do it. Disney declined, saying that the appearance would, essentially, be detrimental to the Disney franchise. Ironically, the scene in the movie was an incredible success and greatly benefited the animated character's recognition. The problem was that the character was never established in the movie, and thus, today very few know who it is.

The Changing Nature of Brand Communication If indeed the pundits are correct, consumers and viewers will be less and less likely to attend to traditional brand building gestures, such as TV commercials. This makes it all the more critical that the use of brand 'icons,' particularly in new or emerging categories of product or service, be adequately established and re-established in product placement efforts.

Take a look at the Travelocity clip again, and note the lack of clarity in establishing the gnome and Travelocity in some places of the show. Imagine you came into the show in the middle - how long would it take for you to realize that this was the 'Travelocity' gnome? Would it be the same if it were Mickey Mouse?

These seemingly subtle elements need to be addressed for effective product placements. It is no longer business as usual, but an unusual business where little things can have a big impact. Smart companies and their iconic brands will keep the creative fires alive, and make sure the viewer knows who and what is running on our TV shows and movie screens.

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