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January 7, 2010

Weatherproof Blows a Presidential Naming And Branding Opportunity

obama_weatherproof.jpgThe blogosphere is lit up with comments about the way the apparel company, Weatherproof, has appropriated President Obama's image for a massive billboard in Times Square.

The President was apparently wearing a Weatherpoof brand jacket when an AP photographer snapped a shot of him striking a thoughtful pose on the Great Wall. Weatherproof duly acquired rights to the image and turned it into an advertisement. The president of the company (somewhat cynically) commented, "We did this in good faith. This is an image that we thought would enhance the President of the United States.'

The White house has tartly commented that it "disapproves" of the billboard and most mainline newspapers and mags would not run the ad.

This kind of advertising, I think, is ultimately detrimental to the brand. While I will concede that Weatherproof has found a great image to use, it's pretty obvious that the President isn't a pitchman for any clothing company. One blogger reacted in "shock" at the photo, and then asked "Besides, what are we in China?".

Yes, this gets lots of attention but I'd say it's the wrong kind.

The company briefly sold this item as the "Obama Jacket" alongside the image. This is murky water in the legal sense, and according to at least one attorney, a "fight not worth fighting".

To me it smacks of sleaziness and makes the company look tawdry. I think there are better ways to associate your brand with a President - using PR, for instance, or possibly limiting the association between President Obama and the jacket to the online and offline catalogue.

President Clinton, for instance, will always be remembered for wearing a Timex Ironman watch, which he donated to the Smithsonian. Timex was very careful to not exploit the Clinton's image in such a crass way and the presidential association has lasted.

Why didn't Weatherproof simply place a few articles commenting on the fact that Obama traveled to China wearing an American made, inexpensive, dependable garment?

The company boasts on their web site about using "avant garde" marketing strategies but this is just dumb. The irony is that, right now, as a consumer, I don't even know which coat is the one Obama wore and I wouldn't mind checking it out. I'm sure I could spend another ten minutes figuring it out, but why bother?

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Posted by William Lozito at January 7, 2010 10:18 AM
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