It’s great when you can create a theme for a campaign that actually works – a through-line that effectively strings messages together and makes the audience recognize your “look” almost immediately. But, like every positive in marketing, there’s a potential negative. And right now, we’re seeing that negative big time in the relentless run of ads from T-Mobile.
It started innocently enough: a semi-cute ad that presented a simple analogy for T-Mobile’s alleged network speed in the form of a woman in a pink jumpsuit on a super-fast motorcycle. When I first saw the spot, I kind of liked it –
1.) Plain-looking guy (representing other, slower networks) on a dated motorcycle gets passed by a pink blur:
2.) The “film” is rewound and then slowed down so we can see what happened in that blink of an eye – the T-Mobile woman raises her visor, smiles, flashes a peace sign, and the guy looks stunned.
3.) The “film” returns to normal speed, T-Mobile woman speeds off, end of spot.
And there you have it – simple analogy with a bit of a clever “wink”. Nothing wrong with that, especially when the production values are high, as is the case here.
….but, unbeknownst to me, this is where the trouble was just beginning. It turns out that, with this ad, we had just witnessed the birth of “Carly”, the T-Mobile icon that would soon return to us again and again. And again. Since the premier of this innocent-enough ad, we’ve seen Carly browsing apps, then speeding off on her bike. Choosing her outfit, then speeding off on her bike. Flying in a helicopter, then speeding off on her bike.
It’s gone from simple and sweet to repetitive and annoying. Why? Because the visual analogy that TMobile has established involves one note. There’s nowhere to go! With every new message, you can see them trying to take this simple speed analogy to new and different places, but the end result is the same tired note.
The takeaway for me here is that, if you’re trying to work a recurring theme into your marketing, make sure it has legs. Think of all of those other campaigns we know and love that did this successfully…here are a few hints –