We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the importance of “look for” advertising when a brand owner wants to legally own a non-traditional trademark like a single color, or perhaps the shape of a product, or even product packaging or containers, among other potential non-traditional marks.

So, when I discovered three billboard ads within a 2 mile stretch of Interstate 94 East on the way into Minneapolis — each focused on “new looks” — my curiosity about the brand owner’s possible motivation for these ads got the best of me (marketing types, how about a little help here?):

The purpose of Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Golden Light billboard seems to be focused primarily on managing the expectations of existing consumers. It informs of a “new look” to the label, but it clearly doesn’t want happy existing consumers concerned that the change in appearance also signals a change in the product’s taste, it doesn’t: Same Smooth Taste.

By depicting the product on ice, and given the time of year, it also might function as a demand enhancement ad, if I’m correctly following Seth Godin’s post from earlier this morning about three kinds of advertising: Direct response ads, trust ads, and demand enhancement ads.

And, if there was something remarkable or unique about the non-verbal portions of the beer label, drawing attention to the “new look” also could serve a powerful “look for” benefit to enhance legal protection, but given the rather typical non-verbal elements here, I’m thinking it serves little “look for” benefit for the trademark types in the crowd.

Goodness knows, when Anheuser-Busch wants to own a non-traditional trademark it knows how to go about it, remember the bowtie Budweiser can, launched last year? It became federally-registered, just two weeks ago.

With respect to the Home Depot WeatherShield billboard ad, the idea of treated lumber for my outdoor deck project that doesn’t have the typical green hue is enough to get me into Home Depot this summer to check it out, so my experience definitely supports the demand enhancement purpose. Since the “new look” of this lumber is purely functional, however, I’m seeing no non-traditional trademark ownership potential for this new look. Even perfect non-traditional trademark look-for advertising can’t remove functional features or product attributes from the public domain.

The Diet Coke billboard ad seems to share similar purposes to the Anheuser-Busch Michelob Golden Light billboard ad, but it has more potential, it seems to me, to perform a solid “look for” function to enhance legal protection of the non-verbal, incomplete, or partial elements of the new Diet Coke can. Recall that Coca-Cola is the master of executing partial branding: Bits and Pieces of Brands = Trademarks.

Although it is possible to try to accomplish too much in a single advertisement, as Godin’s post from this morning implies, brand owners should look for opportunitites to build a “look for” purpose into existing ads that might serve other primary purposes, especially those where the “new look” can be owned, not only from a marketing perspective, but from a legal perspective too.

Finally, what about this one, doesn’t this one say, look for, without saying look for? This strikes me as a very creative way to communicate a packaging change. Well done Summit.

Can you believe it was on the same stretch of I 94 East outside downtown Minneapolis?

How do you see the purpose(s) of these billboard ads? Effective?


After posting the above in the morning, I was hauntingly delayed in the protein bar aisle at Target, until I finally located my favorite breakfast bar, then enjoying comfort that the NEW LOOK doesn’t mean a different taste:

  • Randall Hull

    I suppose if you were predisposed to buying the product, the subtle and not-so of the “look for” imperative might work. It does smack of the heavy handed advertising of the ’50s — “Hey kids, always look for the Union Label and be sure you are buying American!” In today’s decidedly cynical and over-saturated marketing environment I don’t know that it has the same impact. Only the USPTO seems to give weight to “look for” imperatives.

  • stevebaird

    Randall, Happy Memorial Day!
    You’re right, the USPTO loves “look for” ads to support non-traditional trademarks.

  • James Mahoney

    I have a different view, Randall. Companies don’t want their loyal consumers “hauntingly delayed” by not recognizing what they’re after. So look-for advertising can be a significant factor in smoothly introducing an evolved packaging and minimizing a hiccup in sales till the new stuff becomes familiar.

    This is different from the “Look for the union label” advertising that you mentioned, which is unrelated to any particular brand or company.

    Couple of random points:

    I wonder how many travelers miss that Golden Light is Michelob? Certainly, the words Golden Light overpower Michelob on the label, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some people will see Golden as the brewery and Light as the particular product. I s’pose that Michelob Golden Light drinkers would recognize and respond to the new information, and that’s as it should be since protecting the loyal base is the main purpose of ads like this.

    Full disclosure: I don’t know what the “old” packaging looked like, nor do I care, being a craft-beer kinda guy. So it’s possible that Golden Light has always overpowered Michelob on the packaging. And I’m pretty sure that Anheuser-Busch knows a little more about beer packaging than I do.

    The Summit headline is quite clever and effective. Yet the presentation of it is a fairly harmless example of something that I see regularly: the designer selecting a few words or a phrase to make substantially larger or more noticeable than the rest. Most times, as in this case, the designer probably doesn’t consider what someone will take away at a first or casual glance (Bottled Up Forever). This is because designers generally see copy as a design element that’s subordinate to the overall, immediate impression/impact that the designer’s planning.

    When assessing the design recommendation, it’s a good idea to take a moment to remember, “We know what this is supposed to say,” and then ask, “But what would someone see who hasn’t seen it before?”