Is Copy Dying? (2)

[August 22, 2009]

As I continue my survey of the state of Copy, I should acknowledge that I’m only addressing the state of Copy in the United States. While a large part of US marketing has a global reach, that hardly covers everything that’s going on in the field in other parts of the world.

I next arrived at the U.S. version of the Coca-Cola home page, a slideshow of graphic-links to each of 9 satellite sites. Here, the umbrella theme “Open Happiness,” was reasonably effective: The implied parallel between “open” and “click” made sense as an invitation to open the links.

Now, one could easily write a book about Coca-Cola’s elaborate marketing practice, but I’ll just stick to a few points that caught my eye. For example, at the sight of “My Coke” and “My Coke Rewards,” I almost called in the CDC.

Here are two instances of the “My-opia” pandemic, a peculiar failure of marketing vision, which continues to sweep the nation. While I understand the appeal of this approach, I believe it’s fundamentally flawed.

My-opia misuses a powerful subtext (“We’re the brand just for you”) by bringing it up to the surface, where it dies from over exposure. If we agree that differentiation is a key goal of branding, then My-opia is a terrible scourge—because it makes every product or program sound the same. See how many victims My-opia has claimed:

• My iTunes
MyAmerican Heart
• MyYahoo

…and that’s just the beginning. As I see it, the disease stems from a misguided quest for simplicity. While my-themed names are easy to remember, they say nothing about the value of the program or product. They are the final triumph of Marketing Anxiety, in their literal attempt to jumpstart consumer identification.

In contrast, the recently revived Diet Coke tagline: “Just for the Taste of It” works precisely because text and subtext are kept in their proper relationship. This enables the line to sum up a long list of brand attributes in one everyday phrase. That’s simplicity.

More importantly, the line positions Diet Coke as a separate experience from Coke proper, something you can enjoy for its own sake, whether or not it actually makes you skinny. That’s why this campaign from the 80s still resonates today, even without help from pop stars like Paula Abdul/Elton John or Whitney Houston. It addresses the basic human need for simple pleasures.

I’ll have more to say about the beverage brand Web sites I visited, in my next post.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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