A full-page ad in USA Today on Friday and in the New York Times today marks the next chapter of the never-ending “the conversation is your brand” saga. Trident, the chewing gum maker, bought the placements, and instead of using them to promote its latest product (Trident Layers) with the usual mix of emotionally resonant narrative, sharp copy, and persuasive imagery, it chose to feature select tweets about the product under the tagline “The people have Tweeted."
Trident says that the ten tweets featured were discovered by the Trident team using Twitter Search, and that they used Twitter to contact each party to secure their approval, but it is hard to suppress the perception of them being fabricated. Notwithstanding the question of whether or not the ad deserves the notion of authenticity, it presents an interesting twist in the democratization of brands. We‘ve seen Skittles (introducing the “Interweb," an aggregation of third-party conversations about Skittles, on its homepage), creative shop Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, social CRM provider Get Satisfaction, or Seth Godin’s Brands in Public embrace real-time web branded conversations – on the web.Trident, however, can now pride itself with being the first brand to apply this principle in a mainstream print ad.
But not only that: The "People have Tweeted” ad mashes up the Trident brand by not so subtly borrowing iconography from other brands. The first thing you notice is that it leads with an oversize “hero shot” of the “naked” gum, staging it like a slickly designed consumer electronics device and making you wonder if this is indeed just a gum or the next, much-awaited Apple product. Moreover, the ad not only features content from Twitter but also somewhat overtly leans on Twitter’s brand, citing recognizable brand elements such as font and colors while downplaying those of Trident (there is no display of a Trident logo whatsoever). It is almost as if Twitter, Apple, and Trident merged and became one super-convergent uber-product – which is, one would suspect, exactly the impression the advertisers aimed for.
Perhaps this ushers in the next era of advertising, one that is fuelled by the paradigms of the social web but applicable across all media: Brands that understand and capitalize on the insight that they’re not only shaped by the conversations of their consumers (fans and followers, that is) but also increasingly by the personas of other brands. Social, in this sense, means not only inviting employees and customers to co-create your brand, but also, openly or discretely, hybridizing, mashing up, or collaborating with other brands.