Do You Suffer From Brand Detachment Disorder?

February 7, 2017

by Carla Johnson

Super Bowl ads are the mother lode of creativity. They’re the most watched show on television every year and the buzz of marketers for weeks on end – potentially years.

From this year’s National Geographic spot for its upcoming show Genius and Audi’s ad about equal opportunity and equal pay for women, it’s the one time a year when brands pull out all the stops.

National Geographic perfectly played off of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance for its Super Bowl announcement of its upcoming series on Albert Einstein. 

Audi shares an emotional message from a father about what he sees ahead for equality for his daughter. 

But I notice that I’m guilty of something. I watch these fabulous ads and, as a marketer, I start to check out on a certain level. I don’t believe that my clients would every go for anything like this. They don’t have the budget. They never have the time to pull it off. There’s too much bureaucracy. They’re control freaks. Or what they sell is downright boring.

I dug into my feelings a bit – with a runaway score, it was easy for my mind to wander – and realized I actually suffer from a fairly serious disease. Because this happens nearly every time I hear people talk about the amazing work that comes out of great brands.

And here’s my diagnosis.

I have Brand Detachment Disorder.

And it’s not just me.

I guarantee that every person who sees great work from other brands also checks out on some level. Dismissing why these ideas are over the top. Ridiculous. Too emotional, serious, expensive, low-budget, broad, niche and a million other excuses. It’s why they look at the creative work that Audi, National Geographic or Honda did and say  that it’d never apply to what they sell.

Let’s face it. It’s easy to do cool ads and marketing stunts when you sell cool products and have big budgets. But for most marketers this level of creativity is like a unicorn. Awesome to imagine. Not something we’ll wake up to.

When Oreo did their infamous Dunk in the Dark tweet a couple of years ago, people went crazy. It was brilliant. Perfectly timed. Pure genius. But if I’m the CMO of the world’s largest forensic accounting firm, this would never fly. Could you imagine what the legal team would do if a marketer shot off random, opportunistic tweets like that?

Or what about Mountain Dew’s PuppyMonkeyBaby ad?  If I sell heart catheters, there’s no way this is gonna fly.

It’s not just consumer companies. We see this in B2B, too. Take GE, for example. I could never get approval to spend $5 million for an ad that makes kids feel good about their mom, do a TV series or fly drones into a volcano.

Is it just me who tunes out when most of America tunes in?

How about you…do you suffer from Brand Detachment Disorder?

Photo credit: Gratisography

About Carla Johnson


Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.