Blast from past makes comeback for Sherwin-Williams
In a campaign now under way,¬†Sherwin-Williams¬†is restoring the phrase ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äù to a starring role in its advertising. The campaign, with a budget estimated at $40 million, presents the Sherwin-Williams stores as the best places puzzled people can go to find answers to all their questions about paint and painting.
The campaign is the first work from McKinney in Durham, N.C., since it was hired last fall to be the creative agency for the Sherwin-Williams Paint Stores Group division of the Sherwin-Willliams Company.
The campaign includes television commercials, print advertisements and ads online. There is also a presence on the¬†Sherwin-Williams Web site.
The comeback for ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äù is indicative of the fascination marketers have long had with encouraging consumers to find out information through questions, which makes what they are told less likely to seem like a sales pitch. It echoes the admonition of teachers and parents, ‚ÄúIf you don‚Äôt ask questions, how are you ever going to learn anything?‚Äù
For instance, Packard cars were advertised with the theme ‚ÄúAsk the man who owns one,‚Äù which was later paraphrased by American Suzuki as ‚ÄúAsk anyone who owns one.‚Äù Merrill Lynch used ‚ÄúAsk Merrill‚Äù as its slogan for several years, and Pennzoil was ‚Äúthe ‚Äòask-for‚Äô motor oil.‚Äù
Many baby boomers are still able to sing this jingle: ‚ÄúAsk any mermaid you happen to see, what‚Äôs the best tuna? Chicken of the Sea.‚Äù Commercials using that jingle may have even appeared during episodes of the TV series ‚ÄúYou Asked for It.‚Äù
Sweet Caporal cigarettes used the slogan ‚ÄúAsk Dad he knows‚Äù; a sign bearing those words appears in a scene set in Mr. Gower‚Äôs drug store in the classic movie ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a Wonderful Life.‚Äù Computer users may want to look that up on ask.com.
The return of ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äù also offers another example of a trend that has gain traction during the economic downturn: nostalgia. Marketers are rummaging through corporate vaults for vintage ad themes, and songs and characters, which can reassure consumers during uncertain times.
Among those playing ‚ÄúRemember when‚Äù with consumers are Bumble Bee tuna, Diet Coke, General Mills cereals, Nationwide insurance and PepsiCo soft drinks like Mountain Dew and Pepsi-Cola.
‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äù has been ‚Äúa part of our campaign for 25-plus years,‚Äù says Karl Schmitt, vice president for marketing and merchandising at the Sherwin-Williams Paint Stores Group in Cleveland, which oversees 3,300 retail outlets in North America.
Most recently, it was ‚Äúa tag line,‚Äù he adds, as campaigns sought to establish Sherwin-Williams as ‚Äúa specialty store‚Äù for paint.
The decision to make the phrase ‚Äúa much more prominent part of the campaign‚Äù represents more than auld lang syne, Mr. Schmitt says.
‚ÄúWe feel it speaks to our greatest benefit, our point of difference,‚Äù he adds, which is ‚Äúthe service we can provide‚Äù through the employees of the Sherwin-Williams stores.
‚Äú‚ÄòAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äô pays it off by saying, ‚ÄòIf you really want to get the job done right and have the expertise to support you, the Sherwin-Williams store is where you go,‚Äô ‚Äù Mr. Schmitt says.
‚ÄúPeople might think of painting as grabbing a bucket and a brush, but maybe they‚Äôre not sure what primer is or they‚Äôre not sure how to do trim,‚Äù he adds. ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôve got questions, we‚Äôve got the answers.‚Äù
The centerpiece of the reintroduction is a 60-second television commercial, with an upbeat, high-energy rock tune on the soundtrack, that is meant to be the anthem of the campaign. The song ‚Äî ‚ÄúThe Weakest Shade of Blue‚Äù by the Pernice Brothers ‚Äî signals a shift in the demographic targeting for Sherwin-Williams, Mr. Schmitt says.
The brand is continuing to seek customers ages 25 to 54, he explains, but is ‚Äúputting a greater concentration on the 25-to-35‚Äù age group, which may be more likely to buy paint at a big-box store like Home Depot or Lowe‚Äôs than at a Sherwin-Williams store.
‚ÄúAsk us about small projects,‚Äù the commercial says, showing a chair on screen, or ‚Äúreally big ones,‚Äù showing the Golden Gate Bridge.
‚ÄúAsk us about paint removal,‚Äù the spot says, showing paint-made footsteps tracked along a floor, ‚Äúand patience,‚Äù showing two children making a mess of a room and themselves with paint.
‚ÄúAsk us about the shaker,‚Äù the commercial offers, ‚Äúbut don‚Äôt ask us for a ride on it.‚Äù
‚ÄúAsk how before becomes after and how we turn people into painters,‚Äù the spot concludes. ‚ÄúAll you have to do is ask.‚Äù
That approach is reinforced with other, shorter commercials. In two spots, consumers inside Sherwin-Williams stores ask questions, one after the other, as if they were all part of one long, nonsensical sentence. ‚ÄúA better paint job is an answer away‚Äù is the promise.
In two other commercials, Sherwin-Williams employees answer questions, again one after the other in the fashion of a run-on sentence.
A sample follows: ‚ÄúOnly if it‚Äôs not too humid … You gotta let it dry first… Sure, if you‚Äôre a lefty … No, no, never do that … Ever… You can‚Äôt just glob it on thicker … Ooh … Ooh … Hmmm. That‚Äôs a new one.‚Äù Again, the promise is, ‚ÄúA better paint job is an answer away.‚Äù
A radio commercial takes a similar tack. ‚ÄúWhat is the best way to tape a wall,‚Äù a man‚Äôs voice asks, ‚Äúand how do I diaper this baby?‚Äù
An announcer replies by answering both questions at once. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs easy,‚Äù he begins. ‚ÄúStart at the bottom, make sure the surface is clean and dry.‚Äù He concludes this way: ‚ÄúOr just stop into your neighborhood Sherwin-Williams paint store for the advice you need to do the job right. And mess-free.‚Äù
The print ads carry headlines that invoke famous questions or how-to advice. For instance, one suggests, ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams where babies come from.‚Äù Another carries the headline ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams how to win friends and influence people.‚Äù
A third print ad advises, ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams if your breath smells.‚Äù And a fourth says, ‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams where you left your car keys.‚Äù
Banner ads on Web sites take advantage of the medium‚Äôs ability to show movement by presenting humorous ‚Äúcolor wars.‚Äù
For example, in one banner ad, computer users first see a color for a ‚Äúman cave.‚Äù Then they see a color for a ‚Äúyoga studio.‚Äù The two colors clash a bit on the banner before a winner is declared: a color for ‚Äúgrandma‚Äôs room.‚Äù
‚ÄúAsk Sherwin-Williams to help plan your spare room,‚Äù the banner ad concludes.
The goal is to present Sherwin-Williams as ‚Äúaccessible, youthful, energetic,‚Äù says Jonathan Cude, chief creative officer at McKinney, while at the same time underline the brand‚Äôs authenticity and ‚Äúgenuineness.‚Äù
‚ÄúSherwin-Williams is obviously a brand with a tremendous heritage and history,‚Äù Mr. Cude says, which was ‚Äúnot being leveraged enough.‚Äù
‚ÄúWe saw an opportunity to make ‚ÄòAsk Sherwin-Williams‚Äô the idea of the brand,‚Äù he adds, by focusing on ‚Äúsomething they‚Äôve always had with ‚ÄòAsk Sherwin-Williams,‚Äô that they‚Äôre painting experts.‚Äù
The campaign also seeks to ‚Äúcommunicate that sense of accomplishment‚Äù that comes with completing a paint job, Mr. Cude says.
‚ÄúYou do get a bit of the aspirational or inspirational vibe off the anthem spot,‚Äù he adds, referring to the 60-second commercial. ‚ÄúPeople see it and it‚Äôs, ‚ÄòI want to go paint something.‚Äô And it feels good to do it.‚Äù
The TV commercials are running on cable channels that include ABC Family, A&E, Discovery, Discovery Health, ESPN, Fine Living, Food Network, Style, Travel Channel and Weather Channel.
The print ads are appearing in titles that are ‚Äúnot just home-d√©cor magazines,‚Äù Mr. Cude says, but also in publications ‚Äúthat leverage the idea of expertise by bringing in other experts‚Äù in areas like fashion, food, parenting and sports.
So while the media schedule includes the likes of Architectural Digest, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Real Simple, Southern Living and This Old House, the ads are also running in magazines like Bon App√©tit, Cookie, Food Network Magazine, Glamour, GQ, Health, Lucky, Money, O: The Oprah Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
There is a similar strategy for the online ads. Some are running where you might expect, like Web sites including archdigest.com, countryliving.com, hgtv.com and housebeautiful.com. Others are appearing on Web sites like about.com, epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com, luckymag.com, men.style.com, oprah.com, weather.com and yahoo.com.
There is also what Mr. Cude calls ‚Äúan integrated online hub‚Äù on three related informational Web sites: theknot.com, thenest.com and thebump.com.
‚ÄúThose are painting triggers,‚Äù he says, referring to the activities to which those sites are devoted: getting married, settling into a home and having a baby.
Visitors to the three sites will be able to take part in a contest by submitting photographs of makeover projects that went horribly wrong. The winner will receive paint and paint supplies from Sherwin-Williams ‚Äî along with some expert advice for the next project.
There will also be hubs on Apartment Therapy (apartmenttherapy.com) and iVillage (ivillage.com) where visitors can submit questions to be answered by expert editors and experts at Sherwin-Williams.