Marketing Innovation: The Unification Tool on a Grand Scale

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March 12, 2012
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March 26, 2012

Marketing Innovation: The Unification Tool on a Grand Scale

The Unification Tool is a tricky but effective advertising tool. Unification recruits an existing resource and forces it to carry the advertising message. That resource can come from within the medium itself or within the environment of the medium. In other words, the tool uses an existing component of the medium or of its environment in a way that demonstrates the problem or the promise to be delivered.

The Unification Tool is a tricky but effective advertising tool. Unification recruits an existing resource and forces it to carry the advertising message. That resource can come from within the medium itself or within the environment of the medium.  In other words, the tool uses an existing component of the medium or of its environment in a way that demonstrates the problem or the promise to be delivered.

The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials.  Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” and provide a step-by-step approach to using them.  The tools are:
1. Unification
2. Activation
3. Metaphor
4. Subtraction
5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
7. Inversion
8. Extreme Effort

There are two ways to use Unification. First, take the medium (television, billboard, radio, and so on) and manipulate it so that some feature or aspect of the medium carries the message in a unique way.  The second approach works in the other direction – start with the message, then look at the components in the consumer’s environment and recruit one to carry the message in a clever way.

KitkatThis park bench promotes Nestle’s KitKat candy bar by turning the back and seat into the familiar chocolate bars. The bench has been “unified” to the product and brand.  The advertiser started with the advertising medium (park bench) and recruited a feature of it to deliver the message.

McdonaldsThis McDonald billboard takes the other approach.  The advertisement features a sundial that points to different menu items as the sun passes overhead.  The advertiser started with the message (“meal options all day”) and recruited a new component – the sun – to do the work of promoting the message.

Boeing787Using the sun is quite bold.  How far can you take it?  Consider this clever use of the Unification Tool on a grand scale.  Aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, tested its new 787 and took advantage of a unique component, the Earth, to convey its brand.  As part of that testing, it painted the sky — specifically, the northern tier of the continental United States, from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They drew a flight plan that spelled out “787″ and then the Boeing logo.