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Target: Small Business Owners
A bone-carrying Caveman walks through a prehistoric landscape with craggy mountains in the background. We see a pterodactyl flying in the air and then landed in close-up. The Caveman attaches a bone to the pterodactyl’s leg. The pterodactyl takes off and the Caveman screams as a T-Rex suddenly clamps down on the pterodactyl, sending the bone flying back to the Caveman. We next see the Caveman back in a cave, grunting to another caveman. “Package didn’t make it,” the subtitles say. The Boss caveman grunts back, “Did you use FedEx?” “No,” replies the Caveman. “Then you’re fired,” grunts the Boss. “But FedEx doesn’t exist yet,” protests the Caveman. “Not my problem,” says the boss. Then the Caveman leaves the cave in disgust. As he is walking outside, he kicks a small dinosaur in disgust and he is instantly crushed by the foot of a Brontosaurus. “Next time, use FedEx,” says the voiceover. The spot closes with a shot of the FedEx logo.
This was one of the breakout hits of Super Bowl XL, scoring high in both likeability and brand memorability (#2 and #8, respectively) in the IAG Consumer Survey. This Advertising Blog concurs because it reinforces the core brand attribute of FedEx – reliability – and uses a time-honored device to do it.
FedEx originally positioned itself as the reliable alternative to the uncertain delivery times of the U.S. Postal Service. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” helped FedEx own ‘reliability’ as a brand attribute (even though the slogan at the time seemed to be a paranoid statement of non-competition with the U.S.P.S. which has a legal monopoly on normal-delivery mail.)
‘Next Time Use FedEx’ as a campaign reinforces the same attribute and we like it both for the positioning and continuity. The persuasiveness in this ad comes from a technique pioneered in advertising by an older American company – I.B.M. ‘Nobody ever got fired for buying I.B.M.’ was the slogan of a generation of information managers in the sixties and seventies in the U.S. FedEx is reminding us that using FedEx is the prudent thing to do. By creating a prehistoric spot with an actual firing, FedEx does a nice job in creating a ‘back story’ for the FedEx rationale.
In fact, this line of argument is even older. French philosopher Blaise Pascal made much the same argument for religion in Pensees, suggesting the prudent course was to observe religion because if God doesn’t exist it will not matter, but if he does it will matter a great deal. Just as with Pascal’s argument, FedEx accomplishes a neat slight of hand. Pascal assumes Christianity is the only reliable religious alternative just as FedEx proposes itself as the only safe shipping alternative. In evaluating the importance of prudence, we assign it to FedEx, forgetting that there are alternatives.
This spot is a good Super Bowl execution as well. It uses both big production values (with very good animation and visual effects) and humor to good effect. As this Advertising Blog has often noted, humor is a very tricky tool for the advertiser and most often derails spots. To FedEx’s credity, it does not happen here. FedEx also bumps up the branding in this spot with the mention of the FedEx name just after the halfway mark. The positioning also makes this spot hard to imagine as a UPS or DHL execution.
Reliability is an important category benefit but FedEx may not be doing enough to own it. In UPS, Fedex faces a fierce competitor which is also one of the best logistics companies in the world. It is not enough to own reliability in the advertising battle. To maintain this positioning over the long term, FedEx needs to own it in performance as well. This spot is conspicuously lacking in a ‘reason why’ to believe that FedEx is the most reliable. Because this is the general belief of consumers the spot works, but UPS can erode this equity unless FedEx can show superiority in this area.
Branding Bottom Line:
Great spot. Now if FedEx would only stop linking its name to those 18-year-old slackers at FedEx Kinko’s.