I can’t wait for Iron Man 2 to come out! Have I mentioned that I’m a comic-geek? In fact, I get stoked whenever I hear about another super hero movie coming out. And if it’s anywhere as cool as the first one, well…. ssshhhhyaww!

Being born in the early-70’s primed me to be one of those uber-excited chumps who salivates at seeing a preview for an upcoming superhero movie, courtesy of Mr. Stan Lee and his Marvel Universe (have I mentioned that I’m a big nerd?).

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet

Billy Van as Grizelda the Ghastly Gourmet - my fave charater from Frightenstein

In an earlier life I was an extra on a number of TV shows, movies and commercials, and also helped the agency that represented me by working in their office assisting with casting. I got to meet a couple really big stars (Adam Sandler, Tim Allen, and the immortal Billy Van [RIP]) and some then-not-so-big stars (Jim J Bullock, Monika Schnarre, & James Marsden on the set of Boogie’s Diner to name a few) and got to understand the importance of continuity – ensuring that people, props, environment and storyline are consistent from shot to shot, and from camera setup to camera setup (i.e. Same amount of milk in the glass in the right hand from cut to cut – you get the idea).

Which brings me back to Iron Man.

WARNING! If you haven’t seen the movie, well, I don’t give a shit. It was really good and you’ve had plenty of time to see it before now, so tough noogie.

Near the beginning of the movie, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is injured in a terrorist explosion and wakes to find himself a hostage in a cave with a big glowing, humming, metal thing implanted in his chest attached to a car battery. The nuclear physicist/doctor/surgeon who put it in (also a hostage), tells him that it’s an electromagnet that is preventing the shrapnel in his body from entering his heart and killing him. Ok, sure, whatever, it’s a comic book story and that’s totally acceptable in my books and besides, the glowing chest thing is part of Iron Man’s identity, part of his brand, part of his story and reason for becoming Iron Man.

Robert Downey as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man)

See? There it is! It's the only thing keeping him alive! And it was built and installed in a cave!

Trouble is that was the ONLY time in the movie that shrapnel-part was mentioned. Later on, Stark upgrades this unit a couple times and even unplugs it at one point, but in doing so the only side-effect is a slowing heart rate (or so the audio illustrated)… no excruciating pain from little bits of metal being pumped around his veins or anything! And sure, he could have probably had all the pieces removed, but again, that wasn’t covered, and if he DID get them removed, why does he still need the chest thing at all?

That’s an inconsistent message and at the end of the movie, it stuck in my mind as something I didn’t quite like. It felt like they threw in the whole shrapnel thing to explain away why he has this thing in his chest, and then forgot they said it.

Now you might be thinking that this is a bit trivial and nit-picky and one of those things that the serious comic-book-geeks would get their mom’s on the phone to rant about and get the support they need to make a posting on the Marvel Complaint Board or some damn thing, but my point is this: if the thing in his chest was put there for a reason shouldn’t that reason be consistent throughout the story?

And that got me thinking about marketing messages and advertising. Notice anything lately that has struck you as being inconsistent with a brand or incongruous with what their brand stands for or that just plumb didn’t make sense?

Take Bell’s new-ish (ok, 2007-ish, but it still sucks) advertising and branding: wtf is with the words ending in er? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not tied into ANYTHING. So what’s the point? Where’s the link? Why do I have to think about the point or the link? And where the hell is this going? As with Iron Man’s chest thing, it looks like Bell just wanted to get a new something out there and forgot to explain it to the rest of us.

Compare that to Harley Davidson. They’ve been making bikes for over 100 years and they haven’t tried to tell anybody anything different or obfuscate their core message one bit. They create loud-ass, kick-ass, time-tested, well-built bikes and their evangelical tribe is fiercely loyal. Sure, they’ve dabbled into other verticals (take Buell, for example), but even then they still maintain a consistent and familial message, voice and theme.

Harley Davidson Iron 883

"Honey! How much room do we have on the line?!"

If there’s a reason for saying what you’ve said in an ad, great, but please don’t make me try and figure it out. And if you’re going to create a string of ads leveraging this same concept, even better! Repetition works, David. Repetition works, David. But again, please make it tie in somehow to your product/brand/solution/company/industry/tag/washing instructions, anything!

Look at your website, your ads, collateral, sales tool-kits, slide decks and anything else with your logo/brand on it and ask yourself this question: Does it all go together? Is there a consistent message or theme? And if there isn’t, where and when did the train leave the tracks, and how much damage did it cause?

Memories may be short for most things, but if you’re hoping for loyalty and return business from your customers, bank on that memory extending past the last 6-12 months worth of ad messaging (or in HD’s case, decades).

The last thing a company needs is a customer coming back to them with an invoice in their hand saying, “Remember when I bought this you said…”.

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To completely discredit this post, I plan on seeing Iron Man 2 opening night. I’ll be standing next to the guy whose shirt says: “I’m with stupid”

Long live Stan Lee.

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