Friday, January 25, 2013

The Inevitable Chanel N°5 Post

I wanted to throw my two contrarian cents in before everyone forgets this story. It seems that everybody and their grandmother has an opinion on Brad Pitt's spot for Chanel's iconic perfume last year. I'm sure you've seen it already, but here it is again, in case you wish to use it for... uhh... reference (who are we kidding, love it or hate it, you know you can't look away). It's been widely discussed (was even an exam question in my brand management class) and parodied enough times to warrant a top 10 list on mashable

I think Chanel did a well-executed spot with a strategic concept and it was genius. After all, it's generated much more media attention and views than any scantily clad Natalie Portman. They could have easily dressed clean-shaven Brad in a tux, and not garnered all that attention. The script itself was heavily criticized, but it definitely conjures mystery, with a hint of novelty, a more challenging feat during the growing trend of using nonsensical combinations to get desensitized consumers' attention (and novelty is definitely a factor in viral videos). I think the spot was exactly what Chanel intended: controversial (after all, Brad is the first male ambassador in the brand's almost century-old history). And it almost begs to be satirized, with the simple backdrop and monologue style (any Joe Blow with a webcam, in his mother's basement, can make a parody).

The only thing I don't understand is why Part 2 has the same voice over as Part 1, and is not a continuation of the cryptic, poetic riddle. In fact, I guarantee that if there was a Part 3, and Part 4, and each spot added to the story (regardless of it making sense), people would be hooked on trying to guess the real meaning/conclusion of the film. Parodies or not, people spent a lot of time thinking about the spot (anything from "Is this what Angelina feels like?" to "I got it! It's a metaphor for his shadow!") and the brand's awareness shot through the roof. If you go out on the street and ask 50 people to name a perfume, how many will say Chanel N°5? In terms of brand image, there's no way a few laughs will topple the Chanel Empire, guarded by decades of brand building.

Despite being named Part 2, this spot is just another (possibly even weirder) version of the ad, but I think it's crucial because it depicts women (the end user). I bring this up because I think the only mistake Chanel made with the first spot is that it was ambiguous as to whether it was a perfume or, in fact, a cologne! Now, I definitely didn't come up with that after watching the video (countless times) myself, because I (like many other women) could not possibly imagine Chanel N°5 to be anything but the iconic woman's perfume that it is.  However, I was told a story by someone who works for Chanel.

Apparently, after the ad aired, a few men came up to Chanel counters in stores to spray the perfume on themselves, before realizing it's not actually for men. This is possibly an unanticipated issue for the brand directly resulting from Brad's ($7 million) sponsorship. Although it's probably not too widespread, it still creates confusion in the mind of some consumers, perhaps those exposed to Chanel N°5 for the first time with this ad. If the second "version" was actually a continuation of the story, the script could have referred to a woman (and her scent) with the same abstract visuals of women they used here. They could have minimized the perfume/cologne confusion somewhat, since more people would actually watch the second half. For the rest of the population, the perfume has been around forever, and this was a brilliant move to create new hype around an old product.

If you're still not convinced that Chanel knows what they're doing, watch this beautiful film they released soon after the Brad controversy (which definitely increased exposure). Even the critics will agree, the combination of videos still leaves Chanel on top. The Brad spot served its purpose as a viral hit, and it was no mistake or accident. Laugh now, but no one will forget Chanel N°5 for a long time.

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