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'It was a dark and scary night, then...Jello! Aaaaaahhh.....!"

Been crazy busy as of late – both on the work front and in my off time when I’ve been doing final edits on a novel that needs to get off of my desk so I can write the next one; somewhere along the line, something had to give – apparently this blog (for a little while, anyway). On the up side, I am finally using Twitter a bit more, so maybe there’s something…or not.

Anyway, it’s not that I haven’t been thinking and noticing, and one of the things that keeps jumping out at me is the remarkable and oddly simultaneous brand implosion from our friends at Jello, and the explosion of solid brand strategy from the folks at Microsoft, of all places.

On the Jello front, I’m amazed at the misfire otherwise known as the Jello Temptations campaign.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s the elevator pitch: parents scaring the hell out o their children either via ghost story or implying that their favorite stuffed animal will go bye bye if the children dare touch the Jello Temptations concoction that is apparently some sort of uber-dessert for adults.  Trust me, these spots are a little too intense.

And Microsoft?  Well, even though I dig my iPhone, I absolutely love their approach to their late-to-the-game Windows phone.  The campaign is about integrating technology into your life, not letting it dominate it (a theme that also comes across in the Bing/Search Overload spots).  Nice.  Insidious even, which is nice in BrandWorld.

And now, like Master Chief, they’ve begun targeting the all important 18+ demo and future educated consumer (read: carrier of disposable income) by bundling an Xbox 360 with any PC purchase over $699 – now ’til September 3rd if I’m not mistaken.  This is a good thing.  Integration – entertainment and education.  More lifestyle touch-points being subtly filled by Microsoft product.

But this campaign does more, I think.  It pushes Microsoft out of the stodgy channel – old guard tech, mainstream – not sexy like Apple or even the Android stuff – and back into relevance.  How?  By recognizing that gamers are important, and by validating gaming as an acceptable adult form of entertainment.  Wrap the practical with the gaming – brilliant.  Plus, given the soc-media aspect of the Xbox Live experience, and the vast entrenched Msoft user base (a sleeping giant in need of some caffeine), this brand strategy in a holistic sense could well be a winner.  Let’s hope they stay with it this time, and give it some time to evolve a bit instead of abandoning it at the first sign of shareholder unease (their initial tablet concept, which was far better than the actuality of even the iPad, was killed off far too soon).

Jello, by contrast, is sorely lacking in foresight with the rollout of this ‘edgy’ series of Temptations spots.  I’m thinking what a far and unfortunate step we’ve taken away from the Cosby Jello era.  Those spots were sort of funny, innocent, kid-centric and accessible.  It was feel good.  You made the association between product and positive feeling, even before you tried the actual product. This is big – it resonates over the long haul, and I’ll argue that the ‘long haul’ here is generational.  New parents probably think back to Jello as a positive experience, feel safe in serving their own children, and thus sow seeds for continual growth.

And while I get that the Temptations spots are supposed to target parents and other adults in a wink-and-nod sort of way, the reality here is that it just doesn’t work. As a parent, I find it pretty aggressive and off-putting.  My children, who are in the traditional Jello demographic sweet spot, absolutely dislike the ads and have – and this is most important – made the connection that ‘Jello is scary’. They don’t see the line that divides the Temptations line from the iconic Jello brand concept.  They likely won’t be eating Jello of their own volition anytime soon, and I’ll bet that when it’s time introduce their own kids to it, they’ll think twice.  Call it a generational snip – and a brand move that illustrates a considerable lack of foresight.

So there you have it: Microsoft finally gets that a soft, multi-channel lifestyle sell, no matter how insidious (and I say that in a good, brandish sort of way) sets the stage for wide and long-term success while Jello, long associated with childhood and all that is wholesome and fun, abandons their long-built brand equity for a shot at the hip and edgy adult segment.

Who’d a thunk it?