For decades, he was on the Castello Branco highway, there by kilometer 50 driving west in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Beaver, symbol of the Beaver mattresses, on a billboard that always fascinated me for some reason. As a child, I wondered if the mattresses were upholstered with Beaver’s hair – they must be very expensive, imagine the size of the pile of hair! What happened to the shaven beavers? Were they left naked or, poor things, sacrificed in the name of good sleep?
Doubts followed over the years: who chose this name for the brand of mattresses? Beavers are animals that sleep well or hibernate? Why Not Bear Mattresses? Is there anyone I know who bought a Beaver mattress?
I became fond of the Beaver after numerous trips to Sorocaba in Sao Paulo, where my family lives. It was comforting to see him smiling at the wheel of a truck, reminding me: “Do not sleep at the wheel! Sleep on a Beaver Mattress. ” It was also a message of public utility. How many lives were saved by the Beaver by reminding us not to sleep at the wheel?
Then a few years ago I did not find the Beaver anymore. There was still a billboard that I thought was from the mattress (the logo was not very visible for those who pass a 70 miles per hour) with a girl lying down (later I discovered it was Ivete Sangalo, the famous singer from Bahia), stating that “life begs fo …. ” I could not read, darn small print.
Well, this story also fascinates me from the point of view of Marketing and Advertising for evidencing 3 mistakes often made by Product Marketing Managers:
- Discarding cartoon characters who have conquered expressive “share of mind” or “share of heart” in the name of campaign “humanization”
I myself made this very mistake as a Cepacol Mouthwash Product Marketing Manager some 20 years ago. Aiming to speed up the consumption of Cepacol, I decided to leave the fantasy world of the Bond Boca character for a “humanized” TV campaign with teenagers, and create the slogan “who kisses, uses”. Rational was perfect, commercial was pre-tested , sales results were disappointing . Okay, okay, you can accuse me of killing Bond Boca that’s true, but I had accomplices like Eric and Eduardo from the Caio Domingues, advertising agency. Bond Boca did not die, just hibernated (like, perhaps, a beaver) and his “share of mind” is still impressive. A few years ago Bond Boca was brought back in 3D, with modest sales results, as far as I know. Many brands avoided this mistake: the Michelin Man (born in 1894) and Pillsbury Doughboy (50 years old last year) are examples.
- The Celebrity Trap
Celebrities sell and Ivete Sangalo could even sell fakir mattresses. Not so fast, Skippy, this may be true in some cases, but using celebrities involves risks. If the celebrity brings good sales results, there is a risk that the brand will be held hostage and the cost of the “endorsement” will rise more and more.
Characters, cartoons can have their destiny controlled. The Beaver would never sleep at the wheel, nor have insomnia. The Coca-Cola white bear will never be caught drinking Pepsi. But “human” celebrities have a mind of their own. Remember the (legend?) cause of death of the Marlboro man? What if Usain Bolt throws up after drinking Gatorade and someone takes a picture??
- Forgetting the Customer’s Point of View
Just drive along the Castello Branco highway and you will realize that the billboard does not work. You cannot see the brand well, neither who the girl is, nor the slogan “life begs for a Beaver moment ” – which sounds a little disturbing in English.
Please, Mr. Product Marketing Manager, drive around the roads of São Paulo and tell me if you can see anything in the billboard. In fact, take advantage and ask someone to repaint the it because it is already well faded.
Okay, okay, you’re going to ask how many mattresses the billboard sold, huh? Only the Beaver Mattress Marketing team can tell, but that’s not the point here since billboards are brand reminders used to increase share of mind, and usually not a persuasion tool such as a magazine advertisement.
And in terms of brand recall our dear Beaver fulfilled his role with remarkable distinction.