George Clooney and Effective Marketing

Now, hold on one second. There will be Clooney photos. I promise. No drooling.

I ran across an image the other day on Facebook which used George Clooney to promote rescue and I thought it was interesting enough to post. Here’s what it looked like:

Now before I get started here, let me say that I don’t think Mr. Clooney had anything to do with this graphic. I know he has a rescued dog and talks about him in the press and talks about how great shelter dogs are and I’m not saying anything bad about that. I think someone grabbed a bit of photography they found and, knowing he was a rescue advocate, decided to make a graphic out of it to put on Facebook.

But here’s the thing: it’s terrible marketing. It’s straight up guilt. It’s saying, fairly blatantly, that if you don’t have a rescue dog, you’re not a good person like George Clooney is. You’re not Clooney-worthy. That’s just bad advertising and bad marketing – you don’t sell a product or an idea by telling people that they’re inadequate. It’s like Milwaukee’s Best trying to sell beer with the tag line “It’s All You Deserve”.

I posted the image on Facebook with a little blurb about what a missed opportunity it was and one person vehemently disagreed with me – so much so that she immediately unfriended me. She, like so many in rescue, believe that negative marketing works and that people can be guilted or shamed into adopting. So I made a quick little test.

I found a photo of the same subject, Mr. Clooney and added a tag line to it that was positive and warm. Here’s what I came up with – please excuse the crude execution as I was working quickly in order to make my point. I know that it’s not a terribly scientific test, but the results were quite dramatic.

More warm, more fuzzy. Kinda makes you want to be that famous movie actor with his dog on his lap and a drink in his hand, just chilling with his best friend.

The first image which used guilt and shame to motivate got 11 “likes” and was shared by 5 people (and had an hour head start).

The second image which used positive language, warm fuzzies, and general cuteness to motivate got 645 “likes” and 281 shares as of this writing.

Still think negative messaging works?

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  • Marilyn

    I confess that I may have been guilty of sharing that first photo. But, come on. It’s a picture of George Clooney. However, I do agree with the marketing message. Perhaps you can try redoing photo #1 with a more positive caption. Because, well, it’s a photo of George Clooney.

  • Jen

    Love those stats! Warm fuzzies for the win! Not to mention… hawt :)

  • sunny

    I LOVE your ad. I think Clooney would LOVE your ad. However, I do not hate the first ad. I think many people DO get a certain kind of dog as a status symbol. Why else would we have language floating around there like “the new IT breed.” we are also barraged with images of people like Paris Hilton and their pure bred pooches as status symbols, so it is nice to see someone awesome like Clooney associated with the counter argument. What I do not like about the first ad is the second line. It does seem like an attack. Had they left the second line off, i do think the ad would be more effective.

  • I think the second one is a far superior marketing message, because it actually addresses the aspirations of people to “live the good life” like Clooney, but with no guilt attached whatsoever. We see Clooney just chilling and enjoying life. He doesn’t need to preach to us, he’s just going to be his own guy. With his adopted dog. Life is good.

    Here’s a test: Imagine the ads being for Timex watches. (I know, dogs are not products, but when you are thinking in marketing terms it can be a helpful analogy.) Still think the first ad is better?

  • Excellent post. I think most people in the animal rescue world would recommend using positive reinforcement,not punishment, with animals. But when it comes to dealing with people, that flies right out the window. I wish some people could be as patient, kind and positive with other people as they are with animals.

  • Pia

    It seems to me that first off the ads are directed at different audiences, ergo they’ll get different responses, if any. The first one is directed at thoughtless shitheads and nobody wants to admit they’re a shithead. It’s point blank confrontational and nobody likes a self righteous finger pointer, even if it’s George Clooney doing the pointing. The second ad is safe, we loooooooooove safety. Everyone loves a happy, comfortable scene, nobody wants to be associated with a scene which frankly makes us uncomfortable.

    What do clicky thumbs-ups mean in a medium where most “friends” aren’t actually friends with each other anyways? I saw as many clicky thumbs-ups on Robert’s cart-wheelie video as a posting a (semi) friend made about their mother dying. Colour me stupid but why are people thumbs uping a post about their “friend’s” mother dying?

    When it comes to controversial images, there appears to be some division when it comes to what’s acceptable to “like” (again, whatever THAT means) and what’s not, but neither does that make it right to applaud the masses when everyone nods and smiles at the obvious, either. Difficult decisions are .. difficult! Look, a picture of a flower *clicky thumbs up!* Ooo a puppy *clicky thumbs up!* oh no, hmm a rainshower, hey wait, double rainbow! *clicky thumbs up* Oceania is at war with *clicky* wait what?

    The masses aren’t always wrong, but that doesn’t mean the negative ad doesn’t have any impact. It just means nobody wants to admit it.

    • jbsibley

      Shares are the currency of social media. You may believe that the first ad would be just as effective with a different audience, but because few like it enough to share it, very few will see it, making it an ineffective way to spread a message.

      Can you name a major marketing campaign based on negative messaging? You said it yourself, nobody likes a self righteous finger pointer, which is why they don’t get a lot of play in ad campaigns.

  • You are BEYOND awesome. This is being cited in all my public speaking and PowerPoints for ever from now on.

  • Hey! I’M not good enough for George Clooney! I wonder if I’m not good enough for me?

    (great experiment in this entry, btw.)

  • I too would prefer to use positive messaging.

    However, the message I care about is the one which will convince more people to adopt from a shelter. Maybe that is the one that gets more “likes”… but maybe it is not.

    Is it possible to reach fewer people with a message, but have better success with those you are reaching? That’s the question I always ask myself when this topic comes up.

    After all, negative and guilt based advertising have long and successful track records in everything from politics to fundraising for all sorts of charities.

    I would love to see some data, one way or another, as to how messaging relates to the currency we should really be concerned with… adoptions.

  • Brie

    Excellent post. I’m all about the positive message as a way of encouraging people to do the right thing. Most people I know steer clear of the “doom and gloom” (many cringe at any song by a certain Canadian songstress for that very reason) or the “guilt spots.” I’m working on one now which is pretty much the canine version of a personal ad. It’s designed to get people’s attention using some humor but not inappropriate humor. I often joke that petfinder.com is like online dating for dogs so I figured why not take it to a TV spot? You’re terrific John. I hope we meet some fine day.