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One Original TV Spot, Oh So Many Imitators

Posted on Mar 6, 2011 by in advertising, design, furniture, marketing

Two years ago Ethan Allen came out with an arresting new TV commerical.  It consisted of quick cuts of stills featuring beautiful architecture, beautiful people, some beautiful  furniture, and words such as “hip, cool, pretty, elegant, chic, sexy, fresh and modern.”   The words appeared in white on a black background in a modern sans serif font. The spot did not use any voice over,  only quick rhythmic music which matched the quick cuts.  The spot ended with a question under the store name: got an appointment?


To my reading of it, it was an attempt to update their brand positioning. The mainstay of traditional high-end custom design wanted a younger, hipper client base. This coordinated with their ads in other channels which seemed to feature models and rock stars with lots of money and style.  Who wouldn’t aspire to live like that? All you had to do as call for an appointment…

The spot spawned immediate imitators. I have seen more than one small independent retailer make their own version of the spot with varying degrees of success.  The early copy cats served a similar clientele: high end custom furnishings with personal design service.

Two years later, the approach of this break-through spot has drifted and been diluted by lower-end home furnishings companies, and even a mattress specialty shop. I’m sure these companies went to their advertising teams and said that “We need something like that Ethan Allen commercial…”  Utter lack of imagination (either by the advertising creatives or their clients) led to commercials that imitate the technique, without the same style impact. Please note the use of the word advertising, not marketing in this context.  Yes, there is a difference. Advertising is a subset of the marketing function.  Imitating the look of another company’s ad without understanding the strategic underpinnings shows a lack marketing acumen.

What it comes down to is that companies need to better understand what they stand for in the marketplace, and what their customers want. Creating an authentic brand voice isn’t easy; it takes work, but it is worthwhile. After all, who will stand the test of time the original or the imitator?

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