UPS Really Delivers on Its Message

Sep 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster

Special to TelevisionWeek

United Parcel Service does it well; UPS television campaigns are congruent.

Exactly what is congruent television advertising?

It’s a television message that “feels real” to you when you think about the brand experience that you may have in the future, or, already have had with the company airing the message.

Congruency in television advertising is a very powerful concept and has been proven to initiate a “real world” emotional response in the mind of the viewer.

Did you ever notice that in beer commercials the actors never actually drink any beer? Why? Because this actual “live” image has been deemed to be highly influential to the emotions of the viewer. So much concern exists about the power of this congruent mental image that our government and also the broadcast industry that they have removed these images from television messages.

In short, they feel that the visual image of someone drinking an actual glass of beer could cause immediate “excessive consumption” by beer drinkers.

Wow! That’s the power of television congruency!

In the case of United Parcel Service, congruent television marketing results in a television message that is directly reflective of what businesspeople think about, and about how they really want to feel, when shipping a package.

In our conversations with UPS about its “What Can Brown Do for You?” television campaign, here’s what Steve Holmes, spokesperson for UPS, said about the comapny’s successful television effort:

TelevisionWeek: How did the “Brown” campaign begin?

Steve Holmes: There’s no big secret to the effectiveness of our advertising messaging, but there is a lot of research. The “Brown” campaign was researched for a nearly a year before we arrived at the creative concept of using the color of brown as a platform to deliver key messages about UPS. We found that audiences have very positive associations with brown when it is in the context of UPS. One of those attributes is trust, reliability and credibility, so it led us to the approach of using brown as a platform to educate audiences about the expanded capabilities, technology and global reach they had not always associated with the company before.

TVWeek: What do you want the “Brown” television messages to accomplish?

Mr. Holmes: We always want to remind people that UPS is a reliable business partner, but we also want them to walk away with new understandings of UPS and how we can help them grow and improve their business on a global scale through our expanded services, global reach and industry-leading technology.

TVWeek: How is the “Brown” campaign working?

Mr. Holmes: Our tracking of the UPS “What Can Brown Do for You?” campaign shows not only unprecedented recall, but we’ve also seen business results that correspond.

As the Miami Herald put it: “UPS made Brown a noun.”

Extending the brand from a media message “ad” to an emotional “feeling”-that’s what congruent TV ads are all about!

In short, UPS plans and executes television campaigns that make a simple promise to a consumer-a promise UPS knows it can stand on. UPS campaigns may not win any awards for cleverness. They might not be funny like Miller beer ads or as cool as iPod commercials. But the results are award enough. UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company. Today, it serves 1.8 million shipping customers a day and successful congruency in its television campaign is a major factor in its resounding success.

So what builds an effective congruent television campaign?

We feel that there are many factors but in essence the following are necessary:

  • Consistent logo design and color for instant consumer identification: Brown for UPS!
  • Television images that reflect the “Real World” experience when using the product.
  • “Real-World” scenes that reflect the actual company/consumer experiences.
  • Phrasing in the TV script.
  • Words that reflect how people currently speak about the service.
  • Correct Media scheduling.
  • Media plan that reflects the actual “purchase window” of the service. Example: In the case of UPS its media target could include both top business leaders and well as administrative assistants and mid-level employees who may be doing the actual shipping, the latter via a secondary campaign.
  • Web site creative images identical to those in the television commercial.
  • Ease of use; television ads need to be simple if the experience is easy and simple.
  • High-quality personal communication; the tone of the ads need to be similar to the actual experience between company and its customers via phone and Internet channels.

    If these congruent factors are respected in the design and media planning, a consumer begins to quickly develop a sense of trust in your current and in your future television messages.

    If the promise you make in the television commercial is honest and forthright, then it makes sense that in the future when a consumer sees one of your commercials, they think to themselves: “Yes, that company really did deliver on what they promised in that ad”.

    This reaffirms the positive image of your brand and creates even more of a sense of loyalty on the part of this consumer.

    It’s easy to see that when designing a television campaign for maximum long-term success, we need to carefully manage the client promise made in the commercial.

    If we over-promise and under-deliver, we not only mislead a consumer but we damage the credibility of all of our future marketing to consumers.

    So next time that familiar UPS truck rolls down your street, think about how the look and sound of the truck is actually the final step in one of America’s most effective congruent campaigns.

    Congruency-make it an element in your next campaign plan and enjoy the powerful positive results.

    Adam Armbruster is a partner in the retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Company located in Red Bank, N.J. (adam@esacompany.com).