Thursday, June 20, 2013

LEGO. Action. Movie. Do these pieces click together?

I think I was old enough to drive before I stopped playing LEGOs on a regular basis.

And I must have almost 100 minifigures spread across my 6x6 office cube today. Look, I’m a kid at heart; what can I say? It’s part of my quirky charm. :P

But even as a loud and proud adult fan of LEGO (AFOL) – yes, such a moniker exists –I had reservations when I first heard Lego intended on making a movie.  
LEGO, the Movie?! WHY?!

Movie THEN toys. Isn’t that the usual way of it?

You’re thinking; “Barbie did it!” Sure, but Barbie is a toy tycoon centered on a core set of timeless characters. LEGO doesn’t have a central story/cast – they have 10s of product categories/genres, 100s of sets to support and 1000s (no, MILLIONS) of characters!

You’re thinking; “But Toy Story was EPIC!” Ok, first of all, the first and third, for sure (but I digress). Every kid and kid-turned-adult wants to believe their toys come/came to life when no one was around. The franchise thrived on that dream and nostalgia. This isn’t a movie about toys coming to life – this is a movie where the “toys” ARE real life – in an alternate reality.

You’re thinking; “But what about Disney’s Cars franchise?” A bit like anthropomorphic Hot Wheels, (although no affiliation to the brand) – each vehicle capable of developing and sustaining unique, net-new story arcs all their own. Why can’t LEGO?

Look, I don’t want to fight anymore.

All I’m saying is I was skeptical that a century-old, traditionally male-targeted building block toy could make the safe (read: profitable) transition to the big screen.  

And, my skepticism reached a peak earlier this week when a friend tipped me off to the Lego Movie’s official trailer release. Take a look:
Maybe I’m still reeling from the impressive list of voice over actors recruited to the project.

But, with a 2 minute, 15 second teaser, I’m on board!

LEGO, the Movie. Why NOT?!

The trailer doesn’t give away much.

It seems we can expect a galactic-themed, everyday superhero/budding romance all wrapped into one (set to the tune of PG).

But the preview does established heart and soul.

It pokes fun of the motley crew amalgamation of characters LEGO has amassed over time (licensed 
characters and mermaids, historic figures and NBA all-stars). It animates pieces in a magnetizing way; both shattering apart and reconfiguring in ways that both boggle and delight the mind.

What do you think?

Can LEGO be a hit in theaters?

Would you go see this movie?

A LEGO Movie Blockbuster; just one more piece in building Brand Equity that lasts.

Who would have thought a toy founded on the premise of building blocks could even survive a century+ of competition and progress?

That it would be able to grow beyond simple relatability among infants and toddlers and be admired by the entire K-12 span?

That it could keep pace with (even translate to) the rise in popularity of video games?

That after decades of being sold in traditional mall and big box toy stores, not only able to open stores of their own, but barely manage to keep lines of fanatic customers at bay? (Seriously, have you ever been inside a LEGO Store? PACKED. TO THE. HILT.).

All with an ultra-premium pricing model (don’t even think about asking LEGO to build you a coupon).

Seriously, if LEGO can build a mega movie hit, it will be the ultimate story of enduring escalating Brand Equity.

With a successful movie franchise, LEGO will have assembled an iron-clad brand stronger than their $200 TECNIC 4x4 Crawler.

What are you doing February 7? Let’s go to the movies. :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If Kraft wants us to "Get Zesty," they'll have to do better than this.

Have you met this guy?

Kraft is just one of the latest to join the already crowded bandwagon of companies looking to reinvigorate stale brands with nonsensical characters that toe a line between creepy and cute.

The Evolution of the Always Silly (Sometimes Sexy) Front Man; 3 Simple Examples.

Sample One – Fabio for “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter”

Fabio made us (read: primarily the female population) believe ‘it’s not butter’ during his mid-nineties stint as the butter substitute’s front man. Acquired by Unilever in the late 1980s, “I can’t believe” rose to fame and an eventual lead in the category on the broad, bronze shoulders of the Italian supermodel.

Silly: Yes, in ways that would make a soccer mom blush. | Sexy: Absolutely; but in a corny fantasy sort of way.

Sample Two – The King for “Burger King”

A decade later, and Burger King’s King was an omnipresent, (omnisilent) front man hired to woo a different demographic; men. Lingering and lost without a voice somewhere between McDonald’s and Wendy’s, it was the King’s aloof, almost stalking nature that hooked audiences…provided one could shake the fear of finding him back home waiting with a knife.

Silly: Yes, in a creepy, lock your doors sort of way | Sexy: Not quite (unless you’re into clowns).

Sample Three – Isaiah Mustafa for “Old Spice”

And in the last few years, we’ve got to know Isaiah Mustafa; “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.” Seriously, Old Spice owes its second chance at life to Isaiah; the product was on life support at P&G. The spots’ are a living, breathing game of advertising Mousetrap and Isaiah’s the marble. Scene by scene, he soars through a non-sequential maze of slapstick comedy that leaves your eyes satisfied and wanting another go-round.

Silly: Yes, product attributes and benefits are laced with hyperbole but no one seems to care. | Sexy: Yes; but subtle and not over-reaching.

It’s time to Get Zesty.

And now, Kraft’s attempt to make salad dressing sexy again (or would it be for the first time)?
Either way, something’s missing. It just doesn’t feel right.

Too sexy? –
Maybe it’s that the actor is too good looking to play a light hearted goof?

Sexy doesn’t pair well with corny. While Isaiah is certainly attractive, he’s got rounded edges that make him more realistic and humble. That’s the kind of build we’re comfortable receiving slap-stick comedy from. It’s like Kraft’s Zesty Guy wants to twist us a balloon animal after just stepping off a swimsuit runway walk.  We can’t shift gears that quickly.

Weak setup?
РSlicing a pepper with the simple draw of a knife; the dissolve of a shirt with the quick stoking of a sauté fire. Maybe the nonsensical elements are just too boring?

Seriously, if you’re going to employ non-realistic story-lines, why stay so tame? Conjure up some elaborate expos√© of how the Zesty Dressing’s ingredients were found/harvested/brought together. Have our Zesty hero walk/run/crawl/climb us through some visually stimulating, faster-paced story board.

Poor Delivery?
The flat effect of Zesty’s voice sucks any life out of the lines.

With Fabio, you had a distinct accent; with Isaiah, you have a highly articulate, booming voice. Kraft’s Zesty Guy couldn’t have a more indistinct method of speech. It’s kinda innocent and bashful, kinda muffled and weak.

Maybe it’s a mixture of all three.   

Am I the only one not feeling it?

Maybe I’m in the minority of those finding the character/sequence impossible to connect with. After all, he’s pretty popular on social media (facebook, YouTube, twitter + virtual postcard sharing).

What do you think of Kraft’s Zesty Guy?

(a bonus that surfaced only after I had assembled this post) One demo he’s not resonating with is One Million Moms. The ultra-conservative group is outraged at the blatant sexuality in the dressing's latest creative:
Seriously though, there's some creative photoshopping on that table cloth...