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Hardcore Marketing Strategies in History

If you’re going to go looking for marketing jobs, it’s safe to say you’ll have to have some pretty big cojones. To succeed in marketing you need to have original ideas, a great understanding of your target market and a good grasp on what makes your product saleable, but more than that, it helps to be absolutely fearless.

Here are a few historic advertising campaigns that showed some serious moxie.

BMW Wins the Game

Audi and BMW are longstanding rivals. Both are German car manufacturers who’ve made their way through two world wars to sell cars to Americans. They is not much love between these companies. I’m not saying that when executives from both brands meet they have to engage in a West Side Story style dance off, but I’m totally saying that.

In 2006 Audi went on the offensive, putting up a billboard in California. This billboard simply showed an image of Audi’s A4 on a white background, with “Your move, BMW” written across it.

Now, as every rap battler and competitive street dancer knows, if you get called out, you have to respond or people won’t have no respect for you. So a local BMW dealership, Santa Monica BMW, responded with one of the most legendary marketing zingers in history.

They bought a billboard next to Audi’s attack ad. It was an all-black billboard, with an image of the BMW M3 Coupe and one word written underneath it. That word was “Checkmate”.

God Is My Viral Marketing Campaign

You may remember a few years ago there was a big furore in the US over the display of a large stone Ten Commandments monument in an Alabama courthouse. It was alternately a battle to defend the separation of church and state, or another step in the on-going persecution of Christians by militant secularism, depending on your point of view.

Of course, both sides would look really stupid if this argument was over the equivalent of a courthouse displaying a McDonalds Happy Meal Disney toy, or a life-size Nicholas Cage cardboard cut-out to promote the National Treasure.

Yeah, they’re both about to look pretty stupid.

Back in 1955 a judge in Minnesota was working with a Christian group to send framed copies of the Ten Commandments to schools and public buildings for display, because he felt people needed more Christian values in their lives and the beatitudes sounded kind of communist.

Meanwhile, a man called Cecil B. DeMille was making a film. It was a biblical epic starring Charlton Heston that you might have heard of called “The Ten Commandments”. Hearing about this Minnesota judge Cecil decided it could be a neat way to drum up publicity for his film, so got in touch with him offering to replace the framed, paper copies of the commandments with bronze tablets.

The judge, being something of a Bible fanboy, said no way, because the original tablets had been granite. So it was that Cecil ended up providing funding for 150 granite tablets to be carved and sent around the country. To make them extra holy, Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner turned up to dedicate some of them in person.

Incidentally, The Ten Commandments went on to gross $80 million.

Lucky Strikes Tells You to Go Green

In the annals of advertising history, tobacco will go down as the maverick, not give a damn badass of marketing history. There are two reasons for this. One is that they have historically put a tonne of money into selling things that have been scientifically proven to give you cancer. The other is that over the years various governments have put regulation after regulation in place restricting the ways that you can advertise tobacco, because of how it gives you cancer.

You remember that scene in Mad Men where, frustrated that they weren’t allowed to make health claims for cigarettes anymore, Don Draper came up with the idea of tell people Lucky Strikes were “toasted”? That actually was their slogan. Although in reality they’d been using it since 1917.

However, to see some real Machiavellian genius at work, you have to jump forward to the 1930s. The first thing they did was forget all that rubbish about trying to tell people about your product or persuade them your brand was better than anyone else’s brand. That kind of stuff was for amateurs!

Instead, Bernays, they’re advertisers, got in touch with fashion designers, interior designers and women of society, and in all their conversations they didn’t talk about Lucky Strikes at all. They didn’t even mention cigarettes. They just suggested that maybe, perhaps, forest green was going to be the “in” colour of 1934.

Coincidentally, forest green was the colour of Lucky Strikes packets back then.

Before long, without being prompted, women realised that there was a brand of cigarettes that went with just about everything

J.J Abrams Doesn’t Need To Tell You About His Film

There’s an old South Park episode where Cartman (the fat one) inherits a load of money and uses to buy an amusement park, just for himself. He refuses to let anyone else in, it’s all his. He even goes so far as to put out TV advertisements, telling people they weren’t allowed in his amusement park. As a result, everybody wanted to go to it.

It’s possible director and producer J.J. Abrams saw that episode, because it bore a striking resemblance to his campaign for Cloverfield in 2008.

Now most people, when advertising a movie will do several things. They’ll tell you what the film’s about, hoping that the concept will intrigue you enough to make you want to see it. They’ll tell you what actors are in it, so that if there’s anyone you like you’ll turn up to see them. They’ll show you loads of trailers and photos from filming to give you an idea of what you might expect.

Most people are amateurs. J.J. Abrams, who once kept a TV show at the top of the ratings by making people wonder what was in a hole in the ground, told us the release date of his next film, and that was it. He didn’t even give us a title, because, why bother?

You see, what Abrams understood, and learned more about while he was making Lost, was Nerds. You give them a mysterious and enigmatic message and immediately they’ll rush back to the Internet and start comparing theories. We’re talking about a group of people who saw trees shaking in the background in Lost, and came up with a theory that they had epilepsy. No, really.

The buzz was everywhere, but obviously Abrams wasn’t going to try and sell a film with just a release date. He also put up some websites that had… nothing to do with the film. There were some websites about a Japanese soft drink. Some stuff about drilling procedures. That was it. On its opened weekend Cloverfield (as it eventually turned out to be called) was grossed $40 million, and went on to take in over $170 million at the box office.

Barry Magennis is an SEO executive working with Haymarket Business Media. In his spare time, he writes about numerous subjects, including marketing jobs and jobs in media. 


Landrover Donation to British Red Cross vs Zara Phillips Advert

The Top Banana team are always keen to pass on good news when a brand or manufacturer goes the extra mile to give something back. In May we reported the plans for celebrating 60 years of Land Rover which began with Land Rover World Festival at Eastnor Castle in June – now we are delighted to report the charitable donation of 60 Defenders to the British Red Cross – one for each year of the anniversary.

It was disappointing to see this gesture was overlooked by marketing agencies who instead considered using Posh Totty Zara Phillips and a hay fever afflicted horse to create what they hoped would be a viral video to promote the British Olympic Eventing team at the same time as raising brand awareness for Land Rover

Zara is no stranger to online video promotion – see Youtube Zara Phillips Equestrian Princess which attracts hundreds of views and many complimentary comments – 199 at 15 July 2008.

The reception to this “viral video” is one of dismay – tagged “amateur” “snobbish” “disgraceful” it seems to be gaining notoriety for the wrong reasons.

However as any good marketeing BS’tter will gleefully claim – ALL publicity is good publicity.

Zara has featured in commercials before – astride a Freelander and the face of Rolex watches.

Countdown Clocks: Code for countdown and count up clocks

Ha Ha Haaaaa – I like to count!

With full respect to Richard Whitely – who opened Channel 4 in 1980 with its first programme, Countdown.

Count Down

Often you’ll come across “Count Down Clocks” which tick away and display days, hours, minutes and seconds until a specific event. Usually these countdown clocks are an integrated part of fund raising or event awareness as seen on National No Smoking Day where the Marketeers expect visitors to return again and again to see just how long they have to wait until the great day.

Top banana thought an interesting twist would be for sites to prominently display how long overdue and event was. The completion of Wembley Stadium ran way over time and budget and as such would have been ideal high profile Count Up Clock opportunity.

Even individuals with a gripe can utilise a count-up clock to emphasise their dismay. Take a. It was with a wry smile TB noticed that an employee of a large digital media agency who has been waiting for a personal development review that is planned to be a regular six monthly event falling in October and April each year posted a count up clock onto the companies web blog to highlight the time elapsed.

<script language="JavaScript">
TargetDate = "12/31/2020 5:00 AM";
BackColor = "palegreen";
ForeColor = "navy";
CountActive = true;
CountStepper = -1;
LeadingZero = true;
DisplayFormat = "%%D%% Days, %%H%% Hours, %%M%% Minutes, %%S%% Seconds.";
FinishMessage = "It is finally here!";
<script language="JavaScript" src="">

However wordpress hosted sites can’t display the result of the script – Bah – so see the original source of the countdown code

Call Free Directory Enquiries

Free Directory Enquiry Calls

The UK Directory Enquiry Service became free again this month.

An official report by the National Audit Office said the switch to 118 from the old 192 service was an expensive flop that left consumers out of pocket and failed to improve service.

Free calls to directory enquiriesHopefully the launch of 0800 100 100 will be the first nail in the coffin for rip-off 118 so-called providers that replaced the original free British Telecom 192 directory enquiry service. although BT have offered free directory enquiries online for at since the abolition of the 192 service which has been reasonably fast if you have a reasonable broadband connection.

You are required to listen to a 20-second advert but that is a small price to pay considering the long delays experienced on pay per second sevices – 40% of users thought 118 operators unnecessarily prolonged conversations to boost revenues.

Calls from landlines, cable networks and even mobiles will be free and answered by real people based in the UK rather than machines and international call centres.

Update see Comment by john smith — March 12, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

Have you tried it? “We are sorry this site is currently over subscribed but you can call our sister company on 118 ……” At 20:38hrs on a Thursday evening? How many calls does it take to “over subscribe” their system?? Clearly a rip off.

The service will be sustained by advertising. Enquirers will be expected to listen to a short message – twenty seconds – before they receive their information however top banana thinks this much better than the existing average call cost of 78p – over 378 million calls to directory enquiries in the UK annually – you do the maths.

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