Can You Define Chutzpah?


Spring is almost here. And after a very cold winter, we are all ready for it. It’s time for breaking out of our winter doldrums and for trying new things. Baby birds will hatch into an uncertain future and flee the nest. Cubs will leave the den and the warm safety of Mama to set off on their own. Even the lowly dandelion will burst through the ground in acts of futile bravery only to be mowed down again and again.

We admire these springtime acts of courage. Animals and plants who have made it through the long winter don’t question IF they should grow, hunt, fly and take chances to survive and prosper -- they just do, even in this uncertain world. That takes guts. 

With that bravery in mind, we have put together our springtime list of Passover the Chutzpah: Our Favorite Craziest, Bravest Marketing Campaigns of All Time. These are the campaigns which you may love or hate – but either way they get people talking. You may think they are brilliant or stupid, but you recognize them and have probably debated about them. Without question, each of these campaigns took chutzpah to pull off. And we at Trevelino/Keller respect a good dose of chutzpah. 

1. Whopper Sacrifice Campaign: The gist of this campaign from Burger King was to promote a new version of the company’s flagship sandwich called the Angry Whopper. To earn their free burger, users download the Whopper Sacrifice Facebook application and dump 10 unlucky friends deemed to be unworthy of their weight in beef. After completing the purge, users are prompted to enter their addresses and the coupons are sent out via snail mail. The application sends a note to each of the banished friends, bluntly alerting them that they were abandoned for a free hamburger. Nearly 200,000 Facebookers have been de-friended for the sake of a hamburger and national press was all over the campaign. Brian Gies, vice president of marketing for the fast-food chain, said in a New York Times article, “Before this, there was no polite way to de-friend someone. And ultimately, the reward is a Whopper.” Love it.


2. Taco Bell Offers Free Tacos If Mir Hits Bull’s-Eye: In 2001, Taco Bell offered a free taco to every American if the core of the Mir, the aging Russian space station, spacecraft hit a 40-foot-by-40-foot Taco Bell logo floating in the South Pacific. This took so much chutzpah that the fast food chain had to purchase a multi-million dollar insurance policy to cover costs should the spacecraft actually hit the logo – feeding every American could have gotten pricey. Yo quiero gahones.

3.Volkswagon’s Safety Campaign: These TV commercials make you cringe, look away and feel very uncomfortable. The campaign showed friends in a car minding their own business, talking about the mundane, then WHAM! They crash head on (and survive unscathed). It got your attention by quickly scaring the bee-jesus out of you. And it proved to be a great branding exercise for Volkswagon. They weren’t trying to be the fastest, coolest, sexiest or toughest car on the road . . . just the safest. And we got the message loud and clear.

4. I’m a Mac campaign vs. I’m a P.C.: For this campaign, Apple directly accuses their competition of being complete dorks. Mac is portrayed as the cute, lovable cool dude, while the PC is a preppy dweeb who just can’t fit in with the cool kids or talk to girls (The one titled "Network" has a funny bit where "that new digital camera from Japan" is represented by a Japanese woman in a minidress. While the PC character has trouble talking with the woman, the Mac character speaks Japanese and shares giggles with her because "everything just kind of works with a Mac."). That takes guts. And it worked. People either love or are offended by these ads (no PC user wants to be called a dufus) and everyone talks about them . . . the ads are known worldwide. NOTE: Phil Morrison directed these ads, the same person who directed the Volkswagon crash commercials mentioned above.

5. Captain D’s is Better Than Red Lobster: Here’s another example of a company going straight for the competition’s throat. Known for their inexpensive seafood, Captain D’s Seafood showed Red Lobster customers the difference between their meals and Red Lobsters’. Their point was to prove that customers pay a lot more at Red Lobster, but that the food is equal in taste and quality. Red Lobster came back at them and sent a formal “cease and desist” letter to take the campaign down – but THEN Captain D’s tore up the letter, said they would refuse to cease and desist and filmed the whole thing right in front of a Red Lobster restaurant, in a successful viral video. Serious chutzpah!

6. TRUTH Campaigns – These aren’t funny. But they are brave. This anti-smoking campaign set out to tell the “truth about smoking and tobacco, directly taking on the gigantic tobacco industry. Stunts in major U.S. cities were filmed for online and TV commercials to “expose how the tobacco industry has been manipulating our generation and others before it. And it’s working .In 2002, there were more than 300,000 fewer youth smokers due to TRUTH, which translates into 100,000 lives saved. And with social media applications such as Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc. they are spreading the message faster all the time.

7. Las Vegas "What Happens Here, Stays Here": For years Las Vegas tried to entice families to come visit, promoting itself as a family-friendly destination. After failing miserably, Las Vegas decided to embrace its Sin City image. Its "What happens here, stays here" advertising campaign, launched in 2003, is still going strong. 2007 marked the city's fourth consecutive year of busting tourism records. Lesson: don’t try to be who you’re not. If you’re naughty, admit it. It might work. Even the stuffiest walk-the-liners want to feel like bad boys and girls every now and then.


8. Blendtec's "Will It Blend?": Go ahead, put nails in your blender at home and hit the “on” button. Or a pair of shoes. We dare you. Blendtec, a maker of high-end blenders, created a series of online YouTube videos that depict founder Tom Dickson using his durable machine to smash everything from snow skis to small electronics to sneakers to credit cards. Some videos have been viewed more than 5.5 million times. It shows people are interestedand Blendtec didn't pay for all that bandwidth, so the campaign was extremely cost effective.

9. Nathan’s Hot Dogs: This is an oldie, but a classic example of a last-ditch, brave marketing effort to survive. In 1915 Coney Island, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker worked as a hotdog bun slicer at Feltman’s Beer Garden. Dismayed that he and his fellow immigrant workers couldn’t afford to buy a Feltman’s hot dog, he decided to make his own reasonably priced dogs and in 1916 he opened “Nathan’s Famous Frankfurter & Soft Drink Stand.” Things didn’t start out so good for Nathan. The public was already growing weary of they spicy mystery meat tubes and Nathan’s low 5-cent price fueled rumors that his dogs were made from inferior dog and horse meat. In a move to win the public’s trust, Nathan hired people wearing lab coats and stethoscopes to stand in front of his restaurant eating hotdogs. The public bought it and he capitalized on it with signs that boasted “If doctors eat our hot dogs, you know they’re good!” So instead of fading from the streets of Coney Island, he was able to generate the momentum that lead to a Hot Dog empire and household name today.

10. Taco Liberty Bell: Taco Bell makes it twice onto our list. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell bought newspaper ads with a picture of the national treasure, The Liberty Bell, announcing that they bought and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” The ad copy read: “Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’ and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.” Of course outrage ensued and people, not realizing that it was April Fool’s Day, began bombarding Liberty Bell Center and Taco Bell with irate complaints. At about noon, Taco Bell released a statement explaining the prank and the outrage turned to hungry laughter as the media outlets ate it up and Taco Bell experienced a $1.1 million increase in sales over the next two days.

By Kira Perdue, Dana Mark and Kelly Ronna


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