We all have guilty pleasures. Mine is getting up early in the morning and listening to the tail-end of Coast-to-Coast with George Noory. This is a forum for the weird. Everything from UFOs to vampires to shadow people are fair game for a national discussion among people with insomnia and a wild imagination—a scary but entertaining combination.
One morning last week I was only half-listening to a discussion about Bigfoot sightings—until I heard a familiar name drop. It was FLIR, one of our clients. FLIR makes thermal imaging cameras. In fact they just about own the field. You know you own the field when people use your brand as a generic term for the technology—which is just what this Bigfoot expert did when Noory asked him about how he spotted his quarry. He didn’t use an infrared camera, he used a FLIR.
I’ve since learned that a FLIR camera is a common tool not only among Bigfoot followers, but Ghostbusters as well. If I were managing their advertising, I’d get a spot on Noory’s show right away. If Orson Welles were still alive, his would be the menacing voice intoning “If it goes bump in the night, FLIR wants you to see it.”
Is it true that all publicity is good publicity? That may be the case for FLIR the camera, but after hearing the Noory show I wondered if FLIR the client would agree.
Before I could ask them, the very next day I happened to be interviewing a more “conventional” FLIR client about their use of the technology to detect fires—via Internet—and then put them out via a remote control fire hose. So cool! Anyway, during the interview the client didn’t refer to the camera as the A310F, but as the FLIR. Immediately I thought of Bigfoot.
Should that make FLIR happy? It’s not my job to judge. My job is to put the A310F in the proper perspective with the help of this company’s super users. Sure, it would be great to channel the golden voice of Orson Welles to tell us to “FLIR the FOOT.” In fact many will argue that the most successful ads are those that turn a product into a brand. But success has its consequences. Ask Kimberly-Clark, makers of Kleenex, on the consumer side, and Rockwell Automation (formerly Allen-Bradley), makers of programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, on the industrial side. Kleenex and PLCs are perfect examples of brands that grew so successful they became part of our language. When you have a cold, what do you ask for? A Kleenex. If you’re planning your next plant automation upgrade, you talk about applying PLCs. When this happens, you’re in danger of leaving your reputation in the hands of your least talented imitators.
At this stage of FLIR’s life, they may be happy becoming part of the English language. But competition is bound to grow, even if it’s only a bunch of Chinese imitators. If cheap knockoffs wind up in the hands of more users who insist on calling them FLIRs, imitation may cease being the sincerest form of flattery—especially when poor performance threatens to define the brand.
Paying lawyers to issue cease and desist notices is not as effective as taking early control of your brand’s context. That’s why the brand preferred by Bigfoot Hunters all over the country is working with us to develop case histories of how leading companies in prominent industries are using not just a FLIR, but a Flir A310F, or a T1K, or a GF320—or any of the other application-specific cameras the company offers.
As I said in our last blog, p.r. is more than just press releases. It’s about establishing the proper context for your products and services and taking command of that message—no matter how big and hairy the creatures are who would try to wrestle it away from you.
Written by Tom Andel:
Goldstein Group agency account manager and content creator who writes with an editor’s mind, a writer’s soul and our clients’ best interests at heart.