Oh boy. It’s only December 11 and I’m already in the throes of holiday-related mirth overload. It’s all too much, the twinkly music and the innocent young faces lighting up with delight and the oversized novelty bows on the roofs of imported autos purchased by white people with bedazzling teeth. Can anyone share with me YouTube footage of, say, a choleric turtle mauling a cat dressed like Rudolph (the Reindeer or the Giuliani, whichever is available)? That’d put a skip in my step. Thanks.
It goes without saying that similarly spirit-deficient cranks should avoid the world of brand video about now. Because really, if there’s a time where brands have free license to douse us in the most sugary of syrups, it’s the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Hell, owing to marketing overload, they can more or less do whatever they want, assuming it’s not thoughtless or offensive (anthropomorphic tweeting brand persona: the best time to weigh in on current events unrelated to your product or service isnevero’clock).
For today’s exercise, then, I set out to find a piece of brand video whose approach to the upcoming holidays might be described as “sardonic,” “contemptuous towards those who would consume conspicuously” or “evidence of an imminent psychotic break in its creator.” After an hour or two of clicking and then recoiling in horror upon hearing the first lite-jazz notes of a Starbucks-ified holiday classic, I gave up.
If it’s sugar you want, it’s sugar you shall receive. And the early leader in the diabetes-inducement clubhouse is UPS, thanks to the unbearable cuteness of its “Your Wishes Delivered” clips.
It’s impossible to hate “Driver For a Day,” of course. It’s impossible, in fact, to get past the 30-second mark without an emotion-choked “awwwwwwww!” escaping your lips (seriously - I tried clamping my facehole shut with clothespins; it didn’t take). The featured kid, Carson, who loves all things UPS - he is to cuteness what Gandhi was to passive resistance, what Chamberlain was to height, what Jerry was to mouse-empowerment and feline-disembowelment.
Watching the joy Carson derives from the daily appearance of UPS driver “Mr. Ernie” is soul-nourishing enough in its own right; watching the joy that radiates from his slight frame when he learns about his temp gig as a UPS driver is almost too much. Ten seconds after my introduction to him, I was ready to contribute to a Kickstarter to fund his college education and/or buy him a fully operational UPS truck of his own.
What I wasn’t ready to do was attempt to make sense of the strategy underlining the video, nor of UPS’s stubbornness in attempting to get consumers to care about tertiary aspects of its business. Remember “we [heart] logistics”? It sure was nice of UPS to throw B2B customers some love, but the great majority of people touched day in and day out by UPS don’t give a hoot about the company’s back-end technology. Similarly, while “Your Wishes Delivered” does a fine job of humanizing UPS’s drivers, their ability to bond with young children and belt out R&B covers doesn’t rank among the traits I demand in a delivery person.
Too, the timing for this kind of brand re-definition seems way off, doesn’t it? The message I want to hear from UPS at this point in the year, especially as a guy who thrives on clicking “place order” at 11:57 p.m. on Last Possible Day To Ensure Holiday Arrival, is “we will deliver your crap on time.” In fact, that’d be my preferred tagline for all subsequent UPS campaigns. It’s relevant, it’s edgy and it gets its primary selling point across in a manner that cannot be misunderstood.
I’m fond of UPS as a brand - perhaps not as fond as Artie’s kid, but quite fond nonetheless. Its drivers display a stunning amount of common sense in package deployment during lousy weather; rarely does any box arrive looking like it’s gone a few rounds with Sonny Liston. But as skillfully as it’s constructed, “Your Wishes Delivered” provides artificial uplift and little else. Nothing UPS is selling here is central to its brand promise.