Digital conglomerate Comcast has pulled a page out of the branding textbook, and hopes to humanize itself by running its first "brand advertising" campaign. I think the spots are spooky...and pointless.Called "Dream Big," the spots take the viewer on an updated version of Richard Scarry's Busytown -- here called Comcast Town -- in which cartoon characters and objects do strange, surreal things while real people stroll along and chant the merits of using digital services. It's a monotone rap, accompanied by a ukulele, and surrounded with a phantasmagoric cityscape that kinda gets under your skin in a way that is at once both engaging and frightening.
What does it have to do with Comcast? Absolutely nothing, and that's the point, according to the branding gurus responsible for the campaign. It's supposed to make the company seem friendlier and more hip. An associated web site lets consumers "visit" Comcast Town, design their own virtual spaces, and download songs.
The idea that brands can be above or separate from functional reality has been discredited in a variety of industries. It's why premium consumer brands can't charge extra for what people now know were imaginary benefits, or why glitzy celebrity spokesmodels and sponsorships can't overcome the real brand attributes that folks learn through experience (or via communities).
In the technology world, brands have always been defined more by function and support, and less by image (which makes it funny when marketers continue to misread Apple's success, and competitors waste money knocking-off its ad approach instead of addressing the underlying reality).
So is it credible to expect that people will think things about their cable company brand that are disassociated from their experience?
I doubt it. Customer service, clarity in billing, technical house calls...functional reality provides the needs and tools by which Comcast's brand is defined. It could declare that it also aspires to world peace, using whatever insanely creative advertising it chooses, but not before first addressing these qualities.
Dreaming of doing the latter without the former is simply a nightmare.