–Dan Kelly, Attorney
I have a good friend who, on point of principle, eschews endorsing large corporations. Consequently, when he comes to possess t-shirts that bear corporate logos, he wears them inside out, so as to defeat the nominal marketing power they may have. He gets a bit of a thrill knowing that he will not be a pawn in that game. I once ran some errands with him in such a condition, and just about every person that saw him told him that he was wearing his shirt inside-out. To each one, he briefly preached his gospel, “No corporate sponsorships, ma’am!”
He hasn’t converted me yet (and he may be a trendsetter), but his antics are an apt background to those who are at the opposite pole: consumers who voluntarily create marketing materials for major brands. The Internet has amplified this considerably. I recently hit upon an illustrative case: Johnsonville Sausage. About a month ago, I saw a billboard with an enlarged photo of some bratwurst cooking on a grill with a simple white word overlay: TASTYVILLE. I salivated like Pavlov’s dog. Just last week, I saw a second, similar billboard, and the word was SUMMERVILLE. Then it occurred to me: I bet the Johnsonville website is carrying this theme as well.
Not only is the Johnsoville website playing off of this theme, but the company is conducting a contest in which users can create their own _______VILLE advertisements. I realize that this marketing concept is hardly novel, but it really struck me how far technology has enabled us to go when it comes to customer-created advertising.