In college I took at sculpting class as a general education requirement. One day we were sitting in class evaluating and discussing each other’s work. One student had made a piece that I loved at the time, but now I can’t recall what the piece was. One thing I do remember though, is announcing to the class that I wanted to steal his idea and make it my own. Instead of my professor admonishing me for not using my own innate creative impulses to produce my work he simply replied by saying, “Einstein said that ‘the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
I’ve always thought about the advertising business as the industry of creativity. Whether that be making clever commercials to sell new products or coming up with catchy slogans to persuade the masses into adopting new public policy. In full disclosure, for example, I have never watched the Super Bowl with an ounce of enthusiasm for which team is going to win the game, but I do get a rush of adrenaline whenever it is commercial time because that is when the best of the best in advertising and marketing showcase their creativity. I have wondered where these inspirational ideas come from, what do marketers know about leveraging creativity to inevitably get the results they want? Are they creative geniuses or are they taking a cue from Einstein and cleverly disguising their sources?
Recently though, it seems as if the marketing world is no longer trying to come up with the newest and most original work but rather taking existing and well recognized fictional brands and using them to sell existing products. Yesterday when I went to restock the printer paper I opened up the cabinet to reams of white copy paper, emblazed with the name ‘Dunder Mifflin’. I immediately took a picture of it and sent it to my friend with the caption, “is this for real?” My incredulity over a paper company name may seem obscure or trivial unless one is aware of the TV show “The Office”, a show which centers around the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin.
Apparently the product managers behind this at Staples Inc. disagree with Mr. Einstein and made it apparent in their blatant rip-off of a fictional brand. Will this help them sell more paper? It seems that only time will tell. But this isn’t the first time that companies have done this. The Jelly Belly Company sells, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, a candy from the Harry Potter books. This has also been seen in the formation of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant chain, which was inspired by the movie Forrest Gump.
While using this type of marketing strategy may make for short term enthusiasm I wonder if it has the staying power to hold up a product?
Account Services Intern