Give us this day our Daily, One-of-a-Kind, World-Famous, Awesome Magic Brand Bread

September 27, 2010 | 26 comments
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By Adrienne Cardon [Adrienne sent me the following submission.]

I was just a Beehive when those rosy, soft around the edges Homefront commercials rolled out on late-night television. These iconic spots featured families in motion, well-coifed moms and busy pops who metamorphosed from 90’s corporate dads to storyteller/ballplayer dads in 30 seconds.

Family, isn’t it about time? asked the ads. They were a bit schmaltzy, they were a bit dewy, they were a bit, well backlit. But here’s much forgotten takeaway – they were effective.

This little tagline, this bookend to each commercial was extremely successful. Little by little, public perceptions started to change. People started to pair the word “Mormon” with the word “Family.” Congratulations, branding team. Mission(ary) accomplished.

So, seeing the newest efforts is a bit puzzling to me, because the takeaway word I’m hearing this time around is “same.”

“I’m an artist.”

“I’m a surfer.”

“I’m a fashion designer.”

“I’m a public relations manager.”

“ . . . . . and, I’m a Mormon.”

Of course, there is no official tagline to these spots, but the implied one I hear with the fade to black is: “Mormons. We’re just like you.”

Or perhaps “Mormons. We’re cool.”

Or more pessimistically: “Mormons – we’re not as weird as you think.” And it’s said in a normal, 30-year-old female voice (not in a Lloyd D. Newell voice).

The Mormon in me sees these slick new ads, is affirmed and excited by what feels like a big step in the right direction, and says “Yeah! We are normal!”

The creative director in me sees this and says “heh?”

This messaging strategy goes against everything I have learned in ad school (yes, BYU ad school, I was an early Ad lab alum) and also everything I have learned from working at some of the biggest and most-hyped ad agencies.

Advertising 101: Same will get you no where.

Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate. In branding, the message should not be ”we’re just like you,” A) because this is never entirely true, and B) because this is a fundamentally bad way to brand.

This principle in marketing-speak is called Unique Selling Proposition. It layman’s terms: What is the thing that makes your brand better than every other brand?

I’m an advertiser. I work better in metaphor.

Let’s say you own a bakery. You have the invented a new bread recipe – what is easily the best bread recipe in the world. It’s packed full of fiber and whole grains, it’s nearly universally delicious, it’s inexpensive, eating it actually makes you lose weight – you may even say this bread is magic. You ask an ad agency to market it for you, your Awesome Magic Bread.

It’s time for the pitch and you hear the following:

“Buy Awesome Magic Brand Bread: It’s regular tasting, it’s sliced, you can even use it to make grilled cheese sandwiches! Awesome Magic Brand Bread is just like your bread!”

You know what that sounds like to a consumer? “If it’s just like my bread, why on earth do I need yours? I’ll keep using mine.”

Such a reductive message! If it’s exactly the same, there is no reason for any consumer to take action. Wouldn’t you grab your ad man (or woman!) by the throat, and say “Tell people how different my bread is! Tell them how much better it is!?”

The new “Mormons are regular people” ads suffer from the same issue. We have such a rich gospel, a gospel makes us different than others, even in spite of the similar hobbies and opinions we may share with those not of our faith.

So why not put the emphasis on “Mormon” in our advertising, instead of on “skateboarder?”

The fundamental problem it seems (the very problem these ads – I think – are trying to address) is that people still have misconceptions about Mormons. They still don’t know what the word “Mormon” means. “Surfer?” They know what that means. “Fashion designer?” They know what that means. But “Mormon?” Nope. And these ads are not really doing anything to further define the most important word in the equation.

In the same way that the cutesy Homefront ads told people that “Family” was important to us, can’t our latest outreaches do the same by pushing phrases like “Modern Revelation” “Modern Prophet” “Tithing” and “Word of Wisdom?” A former advertising professor of mine points out that this is what the “Truth Restored” campaign attempted in a semi-whitewashed way. The results weren’t so great. The strategy was right. The execution missed the mark. There weren’t specifics. It wasn’t memorable.

Advertising 201: Make it memorable.

We believe God talks through a modern-day prophet. We believe God has a body. We believe in baptizing the dead. Pretty weird? Maybe. Pretty provocative? Perhaps. Memorable? Definitely. And when it comes to branding, if you can get people to remember your message, to form an association, you’re more than halfway there.

That’s not to say these newest ads are without value, but I do think that they suffer from an unfortunate decrescendo. All the focus is up front, and “Mormon” is still as diluted and undefined as it ever was. The Unique Selling Proposition is simply not there.

What if we were to get over our fear and do something like this?

My name is Adrienne Cardon.

I’m a copywriter.

I’m a jewelry designer.

I’m a cheese-of-the-month club member.

I’m a big fan of the movie Spinal Tap.

And I believe that God talks to our prophet Thomas S. Monson the same way that he talked to Moses thousands of years ago.

And I am a Mormon.

The time for insecurity is over. We cannot be afraid that people will hear phrases like “Modern Revelation” and tune out. As a Mormon I wonder, “Why hide something so glorious?” As an advertiser I wonder “Why hide something so memorable?”

So let’s be memorable. If we put these messaging strategies to work, people will at least know what it is we believe, whether or not they choose to buy it. Help people understand who Mormons are by defining them by their most uniquely Mormon characteristics – their Mormon beliefs.

I think it’s about time.

Bio:

Adrienne Aggen Cardon started her advertising career at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky working as as copywriter, moved to Ogilvy and Mather NYC for 2 years, and is currently the Creative Director of advertising at BYU Broadcasting. She is married to filmmaker Jared Cardon and belongs to a Cheese of the Month Club.

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26 Responses to Give us this day our Daily, One-of-a-Kind, World-Famous, Awesome Magic Brand Bread

  1. Ben S on September 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    (Read with jovial tone)
    “Mormons: Just Like you, but Better”? Does that differentiate? Too much?

    Actually, I was thinking about Mormonism as the Apple of religion (minus the black turtleneck): small market-share, organized, narrow message, lots of fanboys and haters, shiny, occasionally arrogant, more secrecy than normal but generally gets things done.

  2. Jim Donaldson on September 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Nicely put, Ben.

    I think that it matters where you are and where you want to go. I think, at this point, the Church is a little below ground, the first step is to get even, then go up. I view this as the ‘stop digging’ solution to the problem of holes. If we can get rid of some of the negative impressions that are obviously out there, we can then build some positive ones. I think that whomever came up with these thought going from ‘the worst’ to ‘the best’ in one jump would strain credibility past the breaking point.

    But I know nothing of advertising, so….

  3. queuno on September 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I just don’t understand the obsession with making us like anyone else…

  4. Danna Tanner on September 27, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I beg to differ with Mrs. Cardon’s opinion. In marketing and advertising there are many types of campaigns. What Mrs. Cardon is describing are campaigns meant to drive sales. Whereas the new “Mormon Ads” follow a type of campaign that is meant to create curiosity and/or drive individuals to seek out more information. In other words, ‘get a foot in the door’. I don’t know if Mrs. Cardon served a mission or not, but one of the challenges of a mission is just getting people to listen and to talk to missionaries. A lot of people won’t because of their perceptions that Mormons are NOT normal and like everyone else. These ads are intended to change those misconceptions, not sell Mormonism. Thus allowing the missionaries to get their feet in more doors, teach the gospel and allow the Spirit to whisper to the individual. Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s the Spirit that “sells” the gospel. Not well produced ads, not even the missionaries. And that can’t happen if people won’t open their literal and figurative doors. This is a brilliant campaign!

  5. Sarah on September 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Even though I really like these ads, I have to agree with you. I remember when Truth Restored was in the making while we were at BYU and it felt so aggressive and powerful. My understanding was that all of our research indicated that we’ve been establishing ourselves as “normal” people in our PR efforts for 30+ years… and it was time to step out and speak up about those powerful messages that make us different. This feels like a huge retreat, so why does it also feel so perfect?

  6. Matt Evans on September 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I realize that the purpose of the campaign is to break stereotypes, but what I dislike is the suggestion that there’s something meaningful to the trivial and superficial.

  7. Julie M. Smith on September 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I don’t think the problem is that Americans think that Mormons can’t be skateboarders, or artists, or whatever. The problem is that they associate us with words like polygamy, uptight, close-minded, sheep-like, etc.

    What do the advertising gurus have to say about _breaking_ associations?

  8. Adam Greenwood on September 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Adrienne C.’s is the most intelligent criticism I’ve seen of the new ads. It moderates my enthusiasm.

    The only counterpoint is that politicians invariably run soft-focus ads touting their regular-joe family man status, and I assume there’s a reason for it, which may also be the reason behind the Church’s new ads. Of course, those soft-focus ads aren’t the only ads politicians run.

    In my own mormon.org page I tried to put a little edge on my answers.

  9. Adam Greenwood on September 27, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I realize that the purpose of the campaign is to break stereotypes, but what I dislike is the suggestion that there’s something meaningful to the trivial and superficial.

    Don’t be close-minded, Matt E. Really, we should incorporate the new approach into our tracting.

    Scene–a front door.

    Elder 1: Hi, I’m Elder 1.

    Elder 2: And I’m Elder 2.

    Elder 1: I’m a calligrapher.

    Elder 2: I’m a recovering experimenter with the milder illegal drugs.

    Householder: I’m closing the door.

  10. Jonathan Green on September 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Adrienne, I really like your approach.

  11. Aaron on September 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    This is nicely written. From a complete brand image perspective though, I believe these and ALL ads ever made will always be ineffective in changing “misconceptions” (i.e., current perceptions).

    Ads can only play a small part in the effectiveness of the brand image of a product. To last and survive the product must always speak for itself. Frankly, for the general public, history (polygamy & race cards) and current practices (closed to the public temple, conversion by conquest [in image at least], and a male dominated hierarchy) all contribute to the public’s perception of the brand. These items are the main contributing factors to negative perceptions. People were very concerned about Mitt Romney’s allegiance to the Prophet, and still are. These issues cannot change with ads.

    Ford and GM and Chrysler found out the hard way.

    It’s not the marketing, its the product.

  12. Forret Phelps-Cook on September 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I agree with the author in many ways but I also believe that, since these ads ARE church sponsored, they are also inspired. So if they are inspired, then they will work. The uniqueness of our beliefs will come later…when it’s time. Don’t feed them meat when they can only digest milk.

  13. Adam Greenwood on September 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    One possibility is that the ‘unique’ elements of our brand are already widely known, so we can afford to broadcast that we are skateboardin’ fools.

  14. Owen on September 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    [quote]I agree with the author in many ways but I also believe that, since these ads ARE church sponsored, they are also inspired. So if they are inspired, then they will work. The uniqueness of our beliefs will come later…when it’s time. Don’t feed them meat when they can only digest milk.[/quote]

    Now there’s some awesome logic for ya. So what happened to the old missionary discussions, singing practice time after sacrament meeting, the priesthood ban, polygamy, Joseph Smith’s run for president, that bank thingy in Kirtland, early Utah communes, and on and on… Just because the church is doing something, and even just because that action is inspired, doesn’t mean it’s gonna work out.

  15. Zealot on September 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I dislike the ads for a very different reason. I ponder the loss of ‘oneness’ that used to upheld as a goal. Scripute talks about us being of ONE heart and ONE mind, with the builing of Zion as our goal. In fact we still make a covenant to build it with those qualities of oneness.

    These ads just highlight the point to me that Mormons have no desire to be ONE, or to be “peculiar”. It says, “you can be a Mormon without becoming different.” But the whole point of the gospel is to make us different, unique, peculiar. But as that has been rejected by Mormon culture at large the demographics of Mormons become more and more similar to those of “the world.”

    With each passing decade, and in every measurable way, the Saints have gotten closer and closer to Babylon and further and further from the Zion and oneness they espouse. These ads just highlight that drift! We are now just like everyone else.

  16. Zealot on September 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Right on queue I after my last post I went to SLTrib and found this as the headline. “Utah is unique, but becoming more like nation” Which highlights the fact the Utah (also read Mormons) are becoming more and more like the world and less and less than their stated goal!

    From the article: “Utah will continue to be unique for some time,” said Tennert. “While we are slowly becoming more like the rest of the nation, we still won’t be getting to the national averages in any of those [family-related] categories anytime soon.”

    Still slightly different, but now running an ad campaign to show just how opposed we are to living our covenants! Disgraceful!

  17. erp on September 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I’m not sure these ads portray Mormons as normal. How many professional surfers, cool mom artists, etc. do you know? To me these ads portray Mormons as being unusually successful/happy in life, as living aspirational lives.

    The ads pick up on a perception of Mormons that is not uncommon among people who have interacted with a lot of Mormons: that Mormons do well in the things they undertake, whether career, family, etc.

    I wonder if these ads are directed at those people in particular. Those who may have had some good interactions with Mormons, who wondered what made Mormons tick. Now they see the ads and think, “Mormons ARE cool/different/someone I want to be like. Why?” It gets the people who are positively disposed toward Mormons already to ask more questions. I think it’s brilliant.

  18. J.A.T. on September 28, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Adrienne- excellent points. Erp, I think you answer her questions right on target. That’s the first thing I noticed about the ads . . . everyone was fairly attractive/successful/cool/happy, etc. When I see the conference edition of the Ensign, I usually wonder whether I’m the only LDS on earth with crooked teeth, pimples, circles under eyes, sore feet from high heels, wrinkled clothes, and no backlit halo in soft focus.

    I think the message of the new campaign is . . . ‘you weren’t necessarily looking for God when you clicked on this, but we know you want to be cool, good looking, athletic and successful. We do that! First, watch us surf/paint/skateboard/etc. If you are curious as to our awesomeness, we’ll tell you more about our average-joe-achievable things we do which you probably want to do too right now.’

    I know the schlepy commercials of yesteryear were sappy, but people remembered them for being heart-warming public service announcements. I think we still need that today and I’d rather see a message about spending time together, being different is being great, or talking to your teeenager than the skateboarding surfing cool-art dude. Does the skateboarding-surfer-doc spend time with his/her kids? Some of them said it, but they aren’t showing it . . . instead we hear of people who spend enormous amounts of time being successful with personal hobbies and careers. The emphasis is on YOUR success.

    Amen to Zealot.

  19. Matt Evans on September 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Adam, love your door approach! Nicely captures the campaign’s off-target meta-message.

  20. Paul on September 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    What is a cheese-of-the-month club?

  21. Josh on September 30, 2010 at 1:39 am

    In response to Zealot: I think we need to ask ourselves in what way we want to be one. I yearn for Zion oneness but worry that some of our efforts to be one have actually interfered with that goal. As a ward mission leader in Utah, I have struggled because people who visit our utah ward who don’t have that utah mormon polished white shirt look don’t feel like they fit in and it makes it hard for them to feel the love of Zion. I have lots of issues with these new ads but feel that one thing they do is show that people with lots of different looks (some of which are very different from the very-conservative look we usually associate with Mormonness) can be a part of the lds community. I wish we’d focus more on being united in our doctrine and hearts and less on being united in our look, mannerisms, vocab, politics, etc.

    For Forrest Phelps-Cook: I’m grateful we have a God who lets all of his children, even those in Church headquarters, struggle and make mistakes in our efforts to do his work. God lets all His servants, even the prophets, try and fail and get up again in order to learn the best way to accomplish His purposes.

    Of course, revelation is involved along the way too. But it’s important to understand that God’s servants are not radio-receptors for God who continually know and transmit His perfect will. They are imperfect children of God like all the rest of us who need to progress like all the rest of us but who have a unique calling and stewardship that allows them to receive revelation on behalf of more than just themselves (in the prophet’s case on behalf of the whole world) but the process of receiving the revelation is not passive but requires a lot of effort and sometimes some trial and error just like the rest of us.

  22. Stephanie on September 30, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Insightful post.

  23. Zealot on September 30, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Josh

    I don’t care how people look. Or what their IQ is. Or what occupation they have. But how about we unite in goals? I just moved from UT into “the mission field” where I am now a mission leader. the single biggest hinderance to missionary work is the fact the members aren’t united in goals. they don’t want to be ONE. this group spends time with video games, that one on the lake, the other just trying to make ends meet. No one sharing burdens, building others up. They just unite in different ways to waste their time rather than dedicating it to the establishment of the goals they say they want.

    If there were even a small branch that would work toward building a zion, would actually sit down together and talk through the difficulties in establishing an actual community where all were taken care of and all had responsibilities and privileges, then missionary work would explode. If the “Saints” would set themselves apart from the world according to revelation, then the world could see the light that radiates from those differences and many would come running; especially in times of such darkness and trouble as these!!! But these ads don’t show that side of us. WHY? because it isn’t there unfortunately.

  24. Adrienne Cardon on September 30, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Great to see I’m not alone here, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the responses.

    I do wish to stress that I don’t think this campaign is necessarily 100% flawed. I got very excited when I first saw it, just like I’m sure many LDS members did. For instance, I think it’s great that the Church is trying to encourage members to tell the world who Mormons are, instead of it leaving that to the Church alone.

    Nevertheless, I would like to see more Mormonness in the ads that are designed to, at the end of the day, (yes, Danna) sell Mormonism.

    Try the following thought experiment – imagine this campaign is exactly the same only it’s about a Baptist skateboarder/surfer/etc. Or a Muslim. What would be your reaction. Personally, I would think “okay. so what?” There is no real claim or call-to-action or addressing of a “feature” or “benefit” of being this person of faith. (Much like these Microsoft ads, which feel like an inspiration for this current mormon.org campaign – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V7NoRjI0H0).

    I do think the gospel is inspired. I don’t think the Church always is. There are plenty of Church funded organizations that don’t always get it quite right.

    I have faith and will keep my fingers crossed that the next step will be one that is confident and will more boldly tell the world why being a Mormon is different, and maybe, better.

  25. grego on September 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Wow, an actual advertising person! Cool! (I’ve been complaining–no, make that whining and crying–for years about the LDS Church’s advertising, especially for trying to sell Mormonism.)

    I believe the most important part of an ad was talked about in #17, by erp: the intended target audience. You can’t be all things to all people, so you have to be something to someone; what is that something, and who is that someone?

    What people are most likely to show some type of interest in the gospel? Who is already “presold” to a degree? What are they “presold” on (all those “interesting” things? Probably not…)? How do you get them interested enough to take action/ allow themselves to be acted upon?

    If it’s true that these ads were made with the intended target audience of those with the following: “a perception of Mormons that is not uncommon among people who have interacted with a lot of Mormons: that Mormons do well in the things they undertake, whether career, family, etc.
    I wonder if these ads are directed at those people in particular. Those who may have had some good interactions with Mormons, who wondered what made Mormons tick. Now they see the ads and think, “Mormons ARE cool/different/someone I want to be like. Why?” It gets the people who are positively disposed toward Mormons already to ask more questions.”
    could the ads have been done better?

    Are these Church ads moving from “throwing nets” to “casting lines”? Is the Church interested in getting successful, cool people into the Church?

  26. Living in zion on October 1, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I respond to all ads that promise happiness and success. That’s why I like the latest Church ads. I also like beer, prescription drug, and dessert commercials.

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