Do you remember the Staples® Easy Button™?
It’s a big red button that signifies how easy Staples makes everything. It was so popular that they even make one to sell (I understand they have sold millions of them, with some of the proceeds going to charity – you can buy one from Staples here.)
Picture = Copyright Staples. Don’t sue me.
Not to be outdone, competitor Office Depot came up with an odd campaign that they called a “helping hand” – a disembodied hand that helped people around the office. The campaign was nothing short of “astonishingly creepy”, and in my eyes, had no redeeming quality other than to provide a royalty check to Thing from the Addams Family. At least I hope they sent him (her?) a few bucks.
Staples is still selling Easy Buttons a decade later. Helping Hand? It was a pretty big failure, and it was so creepy, I’m guessing the company had it scrubbed from the internet – you can hardly find any mention of it, and nary a picture.
It was also a classic example of “me too”. Some higher up at Office Depot caught wind of what Staples was doing and said “we have to have a cute ‘thing’ (heh) that signifies how we can help, and we have to have it fast”. And this person then locked the marketing underlings in a room and wouldn’t let them out until they came up with something. I made that part up, but it seems plausible that this “hand” idea was as much a result of dehydration as it was marketing chops. How else do you explain it?
I’m not saying you can’t be inspired by competition. I am saying that quickly jumping on “me too” for fear of being left out never, ever, ever works. The hand thing felt blatantly forced, and in the rush to be “me too”, the company released something that was pretty embarrassing.
Anyway, there’s my thought for today.