Response: Vanilla Ice, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and Reaching Kids Through Their Parents

As the lone branding and humor blog in my class full of PR blogs, I couldn’t believe the bone my professor Kathryn Thier threw me this week in our options for this week’s response post. This one was even labelled “branding and humor.” No wiggling or maneuvering this week. This one’s right up my alley.

Although it took me a read through Brian Koerber’s Mashable post about Vanilla Ice’s new campaign with Kraft promoting the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mac and cheese to understand the love story between the rapper and the noodles, my initial reaction to the new commercial was utter confusion.

What does an outdated rapper have to do with snacks, kids who want snacks, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Don’t worry, I didn’t get it right on the first try either. The answer? The parents.

Maybe I’m already a 21-year-old geezer, making “back in my day” references, but when I was that kid’s age, Vanilla Ice was already “old school.” Now, I haven’t seen any of these new TMNT movies, but I think I would know if Ice was relevant again. (Although apparently he is.)

Kraft went smart here, though, while going funny. They don’t need to make the kids laugh. The kids want the TMNT mac and cheese because they like the show now. Unfortunately for them, mom and dad do the grocery shopping. BUT, fortunately for them, not only was Vanilla Ice still on the mic when they were younger, but TMNT was the latest craze. Kraft went for the wallet on this one, and by wallet, I actually mean the holder of the wallet.

I’ve heard a few places that the first rule of marketing is that sex sells. I’d like to motion that the second rule of marketing be that nostalgia sells. I may be a few years to young to have a kid who wants mac and cheese (or let alone have a kid), but nothing gets me jonesing for that cheesy goodness, an already nostalgic experience, like noodles in the shape of childhood TV show characters. I’m just waiting for Kraft to release some Rocket Power shapes, and I’ll be good to go.

What do you think? Can nostalgia be the way to our hearts and wallets?


New Strategies Arise to Communicate with Super Bowl Audience

Buying an expensive Super Bowl ad isn’t the only way to get people talking about you on the biggest Sunday in February. While the game itself turned out to be a blowout, the audience still stuck around. Whether we wanted to see more commercials, or just didn’t have anything else to do, we kept watching. I, for one, multitasked and turned to Twitter and other online platforms to find out the latest buzz. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

JCPenney’s #TweetingWithMittens

To my generation, JCPenney is a forgotten brand, but when the JCPenney Twitter account started tweeting out what looked like drunken tweets, the Twittersphere exploded. As people’s attention moved away from the game, the buzz became about JCPenney’s odd tweets.

Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 2, 2014

Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014

They soon followed it with this.

Oops…Sorry for the typos. We were #TweetingWithMittens. Wasn’t it supposed to be colder? Enjoy the game! #GoTeamUSA

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014

Although many thought that this wasn’t a planned effort or just didn’t like it in general, I loved it. This cost them next to nothing and got EVERYONE talking about it. Maybe the humor wasn’t on point, but while it may not make everyone laugh, it got us all paying attention.

JCPenney has long been a supporter of the US Olympic team, and this was a great way to get people talking about them again. I may just go get myself some USA mittens!

Newcastle’s Mega Huge Football Game Ad

I don’t want to beat a dead horse with Newcastle’s Super Bowl campaign, so I’ll talk about their game day strategy. Newcastle didn’t buy a Super Bowl ad, so instead, they piggybacked on everyone else’s commercials.

.@jaguar see the mega huge version of your british villain ad the way we would’ve made it: #IfWeMadeIt #GoodToBeBad

— Newcastle Brown Ale (@Newcastle) February 3, 2014

Riding off the success of the earlier parts of this campaign, they kept people talking about them. Using some clever, quick-working storyboard artists and a Twitter account, Newcastle played the real time marketing game well.


By choosing the ad spot immediately after the Super Bowl instead of one during it, Esurance saved $1.5 million and decided to give it to the people!

This may not be the funniest commercial of the Super Bowl, but they had EVERYONE talking about them. I’m not usually one for social media competitions that have users create content that doesn’t have create anything else, but for free money, I’ll give it a try.

It’s very interesting to see companies move away from the main spots to communicate their messages and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Pushing the Boundaries: Go Daddy

Given that we’re a week out from the Super Bowl (even though my Niners didn’t quite make it there), I can’t help but start to dream of what wonders lie ahead of us. With the whole nation watching, the highly coveted Super Bowl ad spots are really a chance for companies to shine. I have countless friends who only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. With all that pressure, it can also be a moment where companies stumble.

Although some commercials go the serious route, such as Dodge’s phenomenal “Farmer” ad last year, most take their 15 seconds and try to be the funniest commercial of the entire game – the one you’ll quote on Monday with your friends. As a serious sports fan, I’ll admit that we definitely need this humor to get the tension created by the game. Okay, it’s often needed to make me laugh when I can’t stand either of the two teams playing. I’ll laugh at the good ones and forget the bad ones, but sometimes an ad can go a little too far.

Internet domain name vendor (I guess that’s what we’ll call them) Go Daddy, known for it’s racy commercials starring racecar driver Danica Patrick, pushed the boundaries with it’s Super Bowl commercial last year featuring a close up kissing scene between model Bar Rafaeli and Walter, some nerdy kid with glasses and overgrown curly hair. Although I personally thought it was hysterical (which made me concerned at my comfort level with PDA), many were repulsed, with the Wall Street Journal even calling the ad an “epic fail.”

By simply asking why this didn’t work, I’d be doing critical thinking an injustice. It wasn’t just that it was a makeout session in full zoom. Obviously, many people at Go Daddy had to have believed it would be a good idea otherwise they wouldn’t have spent the enormous amount of money it takes to buy a Super Bowl ad. Maybe they didn’t want it to “work.” Maybe the point was to have the audience feel so passionately about the content of the commercial, that they would be forced to remember Go Daddy’s name. After all, in order to get their name known in the first place, they followed one of the cardinal rules of advertising: sex sells.

Maybe we don’t all know exactly what Go Daddy does, but I think it’s fair to say that the average citizen knows it has something to do with the Internet. And that’s fine, because most of us aren’t out there buying domain names. Maybe for Go Daddy, they’re okay with not everyone finding the Bar and Walter spot funny. I guess I’m in that minority here. Since humor is different to everyone, in this case, Go Daddy chose to overdo it so much that you would HAVE to notice.

As one of the more memorable ads that year, it’s interesting that it wasn’t the funniest (per average opinion, though I sure thought it was a riot) that resonated. In fact, it was the ad that purposely overstepped humor’s boundaries in order to make a lasting impression. We shouldn’t be too surprised it was Go Daddy, after all. Their ads have been pushing the boundaries every year, and that’s their brand. That’s their angle.