In magic, misdirection is defined as the act of focusing the attention of the audience on one thing in order to distract its attention to another thing. Advertising giant BBDO used a little brand misdirection recently for their client JCDecaux–a company that sells (among other things) outdoor advertising space.
The problem is JCDecaux’s customers were buying small billboard space (for which they are known), but were going to its competition for larger formats. So BBDO crafted and sent out a mailer showing a miniature billboard that seemed to confuse the customer’s brand with its comepetitor’s. For example, they sent their contact at Pepsi a mailer featuring a “Pepsi Zero” billboard that clearly mixed the Pepsi name with a Coca-Cola brand. (See the link to an image of the campaign.)
Half-way down the page of the cover letter, they let the reader in on the joke:
“We’re convinced that your product Pepsi Zero will get all the impact it deserves.
Just like we are convinced that you are reading this letter in utter disbelief. You must be thinking: “why the hell are those imbeciles from JCDecaux mistaking us for our biggest competitor, Coca-Cola Zero? No, this is not a mistake on our part–or rather, it’s a deliberate one.
We deliberately confused you with your biggest competitor. Why? Because we wanted to let you know how we feel every day.
Most advertisers think that JCDecaux only offers 2M (a billboard size), and that they should go to our biggest competitor for other formats. This is certainly a mistake…”
The result? Demand for larger formats rose by 15%.
I would image this went to very few people and that every mailer was followed up with a personal call–to ask for an appointment AND to ensure the contact was not mislead. (You’ve got to think someone, pitched the mailer aside in disgust before they read the letter.
Certainly this is a tactic must be employed very cautiously in specific situations, but one there could be lots of riffs on.