Improper Use Of Packaging

Remember the guy from Arizona who built his own furniture from FedEx boxes? FedEx sued him for improper use of their packaging.
Now, we have a new case of improper use of packaging. Two MIT students built a raft made from Gatorade bottles and paddled it across the the Charles River. After getting Gatorade’s attention, they received a nice letter and some coupons—a much better repsonse than litigation. However, this man thinks they were shortchanged. He wants the brand to get on board the cluetrain and feature the students in a TV spot.
Mack Simpson of Adverb believes such a spot would be off strategy.

Anyone who’s read this blog longer than a week or two knows I have some issues with consumer-generated content. Actually, I don’t have issues with consumer-generated content, I have issues with the people who profess to be thoughtful, cutting edge marketers who don’t think through the issues surrounding CGC and how it intersects with the brand before launching a smug tirade on how they are the ones who “get it” and how every brand should jump in with both feet and launch a CGC campaign now, damn the consequences (it’s all good) and damn the rationale for why (“come on, this is hot, you should do it”—or worse, “you should do it because it validates my consultancy”).
Don’t tell me Gatorade needs to get on the cluetrain. They’re one of the few brands out there who consistently get it right when it comes to speaking to their core consumer (those athletes I mentioned earlier) in a voice that rings perfect-pitch true.

I don’t know why the students built the raft, but if it was for any other reason that to have fun, or to see if they could make it float, it cheapens the activity in my eyes. Consumers have a right to do what they please with a product, but expecting the brand to pick up their oddball antics and shower them with gratitude is unrealistic. In the ideal world it would also be beside the point.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. theo kie says:

    Making this the focus of even the smallest marketing efffort would have absolutely nothing to do with the brand character, which Gatorade has spent years honing and owning. I totally agree with Mack.
    Or…as dear ol’ Mom always said, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

  2. I don’t think the students did it for any reason other than to have fun – and I agree that if they did, it was a waste of time.
    However, that doesn’t mean I think that Gatorade should “feature the kids in a TV spot.”
    What I actually said was:
    “It’s different. It’s unboring. It’s real. It’s remarkable. It deserves something more than a couple of coupons in the mail.”
    Exactly what I left as an exercise for the reader.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, John.
    I think the whole “Cluetrain thing” is what got Mack’s ire up.
    Personally, I enjoyed reading the book, but it’s just a collection of ideas (like any book). Pointers to keep in mind, if you will. It’s not the law of the internet land, as some make it out to be.