Thursday, June 4, 2009

Old School Thursday - Lil' Penny

In honor of the Lebron James/Kobe Bryant Nike commercials being made irrelevant by the Orland Magic knocking the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the playoffs, I thought I would take a look at the original Nike puppet commercial, Lil’ Penny. These series of commercials were full of star power and humor. While they were light on in your face promotion of Nike products, they stuck in the minds of the target audience. Very similar to the Lebron/Kobe commercials, Nike benefits from attaching their logo to the star power of the people/puppets in their commercials.

This commercial was everything I wanted when I was 10 years old. Penny Hardaway was a great basketball player, had a hilarious side kick constantly cracking jokes, beautiful women and most importantly the hottest shoes around. I remember running around the playground yelling “the secret service couldn’t guard me” as I made a lay up. Now that I look at it from an advertising perspective these commercials did a great job of creating an emotional connection. There isn’t a very big rational connection because they don’t need one. The emotional connection was strong enough to make me want to be Penny and wear his shoes.

The Lebron/Kobe commercials are very similar to the Lil’ Penny originals. These commercials also rely on the emotional connection over the rational. The commercial doesn’t contain any technology or value messages that give you a reason to buy Nike products. They are relying on that same emotional connection they made with me when I was 10 years old. I can imagine a 10-year-old kid running around a playground in Cleveland yelling “playoffs” as he puts up jumpers. It doesn’t matter that the only shoe shown in the entire commercial is a puppet shoe. The consumer connects Nike, Lebron and Kobe together in their memory. Not because Nike reminds the consumer of Lebron and Kobe, because Lebron and Kobe reminds the consumer of Nike.

I’ve said before, that in down economic times, companies need to give consumers a rational benefit, be it value or other, if they expect someone to spend the money they are so dearly holding on to. These commercials don’t do that so I don’t think they are exceptional commercials for this current economy. If Nike is willing to ride out this down time and focus on the emotional connection with their consumers, these commercials do a great job of that.

As for the Lil’ Penny commercials, they will forever be ingrained in my mind as a fond memory from my childhood and as an argument in favor of a strong emotional connection lasting a long time.

What do you think about these commercials? Does the emotional connection work like it did with me?


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