How can you be in two places at once and not be anywhere at all?,” the classic Firesign Theater comedy group once queried. To find out, just ask Cindy Crawford.
Those of us who trudged through the Oscar Awards on Sunday night—no thanks to Cablevision and ABC—were treated to a running marathon of J.C. Penney commercials, one of which featured Cindy Crawford hawking her collection of home goods at the store. After idyllic visions of Cindy rolling down the runway and then romping around at home with some kids (maybe her’s, maybe not), we were told, “Available exclusively at J.C. Penney.”
How strange it must have seemed to those not familiar with the bizarro workings of the licensed-brand industry to see just a few minutes later a spot for Raymour & Flanigan, the Northeast-based furniture retailer that has inherited the spirits of Seaman’s, Levitz, Huffman Koos and every other dead furniture store in the area. Lo and behold, there was Cindy again, rolling down a different runway and romping around a different home, hawking her furniture line which the store sells. A line, by the way, the voice over told us, was “Available exclusively at Raymour & Flanigan.”
What to make of all of this mutual exclusivity? No other explanation was possible for the great unupholstered masses of the TV audience than the fact that Cindy was clearly two-timing these retailers. Did one know what the other was up to? Was there enough Cindy to go around? Did anyone want to buy Cindy Crawford home products in the first place? Did anyone care about any of this?
In the world of branding, the Cindy Crawford doppelganger is not all that unusual. Martha Stewart has been in Kmart and Macy’s—not to mention Home Depot and Costco—at the same time with so-called exclusive products. Ralph Lauren is all over the place. There are plenty more double daters out there, don’t you worry.
It’s just this exclusive thing that seems to be the problem. I’m sure the same products don’t turn up in both Penney and Raymour. But at a quick glance and an even quicker 30-second spot, all the consumer hears is exclusivity that’s not so exclusive.
There’s plenty of B-list celebrities out there, boys, more than enough to go around for everyone. The consumer is already confused enough when it comes to buying home stuff. Don’t make it any harder.