5 popular brands that have laid low on TV ad campaigns

I was watching TV the other day and flipping between channels when a Starbucks commercial came on for the company’s new coffee-based, customizable Frappucinos. It was then that it occurred to me: I haven’t seen a Starbucks ad on television since the DoubleShot commercials in 2005.

It’s interesting to think about the commercial prevalence of other widespread brand names; McDonalds, Coca Cola, Wendy’s and Best Western, just to name a few. I can immediately recall ads from these companies, not to mention I see their names and logos multiple times almost every day.

But I wonder how some big-name brands made it with almost no advertising on one of the most popular communications channels available.

1. Starbucks

Starbucks put out several ads in support of its DoubleShot drink, available in convenience stores and supermarkets throughout the country.

The coffee giant’s next ad campaign was in 2006, in which they promoted the new pre-mixed Frappuccino in a bottle, a product that like the DoubleShot, would also become available out-of-stores.

Starbucks’ has historically sponsored very few television commercials. Why? Well as a viewer, it seems obvious. The company is normally very consistent. Customers rely on baristas to create the perfect customized concoction with each visit. So why tell consumers what they already know? Instead, Starbucks waits until something changes.

When the company released its new VIA instant coffee in September 2009, the television ads used to promote the product were the first ever TV ads for the company in Europe.

Most recently, Starbucks has sponsored a campaign to promote an in-store drink for the first time: The new-and-improved Frappuccino. Check it out:

We will likely see more ads from Starbucks if sales continue to dwindle. Over the past couple of years, it has been reported that customer traffic is dropping. Starbucks announced a three-point plan to try and reverse this trend, including the launch of a national television advertising campaign.

2. Bed Bath & Beyond

After scouring YouTube and the rest of the Internet for Bed Bath & Beyond commercials, I was unsuccessful at finding a single made-for-TV ad. This is most likely due to several things:

  • The company is a store that sells necessity goods. Many of the store locations have most items that a regular drug store would carry, not to mention towels, sheets, drapery and much more.  So I would really equate the company’s scarce TV presence with that of Rite Aid.
  • Given the consumer base for Bed Bath & Beyond, the company is able to market themselves via the mail (either traditional or electronic). The company’s policy to accept multiple 20%-off coupons per order (despite expiration date), make it an attractive shopping destination).

3. Chipotle

Chipotle chose the Internet as its advertising medium. In 2009, the company launched the MyChipotle campaign, in which users could create videos to post online about their favorite dishes. The winner was given $10,000.

This campaign encouraged fun, create consumer participation, while educating consumers about the menu and the many different meal possibilities. After much consumer research, it was determined that the majority of consumers ordered the same thing every time they came to Chipotle. This ad competition aimed to solve that problem by allowing consumers to educate one another.

Read more about Chipotle’s online campaign here.

4. American Eagle

American Eagle recently released this ad for Spring 2010:


But beyond that, the company hasn’t devoted much of its advertising dollars to TV. The outfitter uses its YouTube channel to post behind the scenes footage from photo shoots or fashion shows. Any TV ads are also promoted on the channel, but the bulk of the videos available are not from TV commercials.

Also, American Eagle stores are normally accessible via shopping malls. Most of the company’s advertising dollars are better spent on store window photos and promotional materials to attract customers into the store as they pass by and window shop.

In addition, American Eagle has the advantage of the fact that all of its clothes have the brand logo on them. Customers who wear the clothes engage in some sort of company promotion—a bit like word of mouth.

5. Barnes & Noble

The company has come a long way since this 1976 ad:

In 2009, B&N released the following video to promote its new reader, the Nook:

But the company really hasn’t had to rely on TV ads. One of the most obvious reasons is probably because its most devout customers really don’t spend a lot of time watching television.

In addition, B&N has seen a lot of success with its online division. According to a recent report, the release of the Nook drove the company’s online sales up 67 percent.

The company will likely put most of its advertising dollars into online marketing, due to its immediate success with its online store, as well as a much larger customer base.


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