Cold Shoulder to a Warm Brand Story

December 8th, 2008


If you live or work in Center City, chances are you noticed Tylenol-branded cars riding around advertising free rides last week. The concept seems simple enough: lure pedestrians out of the cold with free rides to promote new Tylenol Warming Liquids. The execution, however, fell flat. Here’s why:


For starters, the white Tylenol taxi cabs appeared out of thin air on the Monday after Thanksgiving, with little fanfare or explanation. (Sorry, sending out the release on PR Newswire does not suffice). As a first indication of the campaign’s impact – or lack thereof – no coverage appeared in any of Philly’s top news sources. The initiative did emerge in water cooler conversation but the buzz was laced with confusion. A full week later, I still was not fully certain what the promotion was all about or what exactly Tylenol Warming Liquids are. For the purpose of this blog entry, I had to dig around online for the corporate press release  to better understand.


In addition, the terms of taxi use were unintentionally structured to create more irate customers than grateful passengers. How so? Because you are only able to hail a warming taxi from two CVS locations on any given day. Good thing I didn’t try to flag one down off of the street – I would have been summarily rejected and left in the cold. I imagine many would-be passengers received the cold shoulder in precisely this way.


So… kudos to McNeil Consumer Healthcare for an out-of-the-box promotion to brand a new product, but if a tree falls in the forest, blah blah blah. Guerilla marketing is not enough without a supporting cast of communications tactics and proper messaging to accompany it.

Posted Under: Viral & Guerilla Marketing
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