On November 19th, actor Dick Wilson, who portrayed Mr. Whipple in the long-running Charmin TV commercials, died at the age of 91.
Wilson appeared in more than 500 commercials as Mr. Whipple from 1964 to 1985.
For those of you who never saw these commercials, Mr. Whipple was an annoying little store manager who would sneak around to catch his female customers fondling the toilet paper and then chastise them with the phrase, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”
The Charmin commercials are classic TV commercials to be sure, although I am guessing this status is more for their longevity than their creativity.
There was simply nothing creative, clever or even enjoyable about these commercials. They were silly and annoying.
Even back then, I suspect creative people throughout the ad industry would cringe at the mere mention of Mr. Whipple.
But I think those ads worked.
Although I can’t prove it (because nothing is measureable in branding), I think this campaign was very effective for two reasons.
The perfect tag line
The first reason is the tag line. Charmin has the perfect tag line.
“Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” is effective because in one simple, memorable line, it conveyed both the product name (Charmin) and the benefit of the product (softness).
Most taglines don’t do that.
“Ring around the collar” conveys a benefit, but which product does it represent? Answer: Wisk.
“I could have had a V-8” conveys the product name, but what is the benefit?
In branding, name recognition is critical but it’s most effective when you can link the product name to a specific (and hopefully, the most important) benefit.
Consistency is the key
The second reason – and one that is completely ignored these days – is consistency.
In advertising today, consistency is nowhere to be found. It is all about change – new ideas, new campaigns, new tag lines, new packaging.
You see it most often, of course, when there is a change in the marketing director or marketing team.
But even when there is no change in leadership, advertisers can quickly tire of their own commercials, ads, direct mail and websites – understandably, because they see them every day.
They forget that their audience isn’t paying as close attention as they are. Unfortunately, I suspect that many campaigns are cancelled just about the time their audience is starting to notice them.
Brand marketing is a long-term commitment. It takes time (not months, but years) for your messages to sink in. And it takes a great deal of patience – something that is in short order in the advertising industry today.
Don’t expect to see too many ad campaigns that run as long as the Charmin commercials.
The need to change is irresistable.
So unless there is some measureable way to show marketers how their ads are working (direct response), “trying something new” is likely to remain a very popular strategy.
Written by Bob McCarthy
This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is www.mccarthyandking.com. He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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