Starburst: A Pack of Contradictions

The latest news on the Starburst brand is that Starburst has launched a new campaign where it focuses on “contradictions.” The most recent Starburst commercial plays on the candy’s “contradiction” of solid, yet with a juicy consistency. The company’s new commercials come off to be very strange, which is exactly the point. With all of the commercials that are constantly played throughout the world, more specifically the United States, it is getting increasingly difficult for advertisements to stand out among the others. In an effort to stand out, companies are creating commercials that seem to be strange but memorable. An example of one of these weird Starburst commercials is the commercial where a Korean man is portrayed as a Scottish man due to the bagpipes and kilt he is wearing. This man is standing with a child who is dressed the same way but eating a Starburst and states, “One contradiction eating another!” Another commercial consists of a screaming mime that is supposed to portray a contradiction. Clearly mimes are not supposed to talk. The most famous of these Starburst commercials though, is a commercial where a dog is riding in the car with a group of men. The dog has its back side sticking out of the window of the moving car, and one guy in the car claims that the dog is a contradiction for doing so, since normal dogs stick their heads out of windows. It is clear that this commercial was effective in at least making a memorable impact on consumers, whether the impact was positive or negative. The commercial’s growing popularity is displayed through the 43,900 results that appear on Google after searching “Starburst your dog is a contradiction”.

ImageThis Starburst commercial was very successful; however there is much scrutiny that is coming from it. There are many articles and blogs published about how the people shown in these Starburst ­­commercials are not actually a contradiction. One article specifically, titled “Ass-Backwards Starburst Dog Isn’t Really a Contradiction” discusses how the people in these commercials have traits that deem to be opposites, but are not actual contradictions. Author Tim Nudd states, “Now, we get this new spot with a dog who likes to hang his ass out a car window—and he’s called a contradiction. Isn’t he really just a dog with an unusual preference?” There are numerous articles similar to Nudd’s, claiming that these commercials do not actually portray contradictions at all. Therefore, their whole message is distorted and their credibility is in question. Both sides can be argued extensively due to the fact that the word contradiction has many different definitions.

Under the Dictionary.com definition, a contradiction is a “person, thing, or situation in which inconsistent elements are present”. Based off of this definition, these commercials would correctly portray contradictions. However, under other definitions such as, “a contradiction is two propositions used in combination where one makes the other impossible. It is something that is A and non-A at the same time. A contradiction, therefore, cannot exist in reality, since existence exists” would not consider the people or the dog in the Starburst commercials to be contradictions. These commercials are being closely examined for the accurate or inaccurate usage of the word “contradiction” by many viewers all over the world; however, this brand of candy’s new campaign theme, “Celebrating the contradictions that make life so interesting,” is capturing thousands and thousands of fans daily. The Starburst brand has also created an online “Contradictions Project,” which is seeking to involve fans all around the nation to log on to the Starburst Facebook page and submit common contradictions of their choice. For every contradiction a fan lists, that person will be added to the $250,000 donation, which is partnered with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, to restore music programs across the country. Whether these new Starburst commercials are considered to be weird, incorrect, humorous, or just plain stupid, the reality of it is, their new theme is making the Starburst brand even more popular than it already was.

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Sasha De Vecchi, Lindsay Gallagher, Jay Reilly, Cary Welborn

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11 thoughts on “Starburst: A Pack of Contradictions

  1. So what’s a contradiction? Seems to be based in the definition of a thing, it’s ontology or essence, not simply habits. A fierce linebacker being nice to an old lady crossing the street is not a contradiction. A fierce linebacker helping an opposing running back cross the goal line as if he were an old lady crossing the street is a contradiction. Thus we see that even “goofy” or “weird” campaigns need to be carefullly thought out and terms need to be defined. What is truly contradictory dog behavior? Can we make THAT funny? That’s when a campaign moves to another level. That said, the larger question is whether this approach works for Starburst and why or why not. They seem to be a quirky company based on past campaigns. Also, their primary audience is also young which may also help.

  2. I think this post was very interesting. I have seen many of these starburst commercials and always watch them because whether or not the different situations they portray are contradictions or not you cant argue that they dont catch your attention. As you all have pointed out the commercial about the dog sticking his backside out the window I thought about the many times that commercial has been on television while I was watching a program. Although I have seen it numerous times I find myself still watching it when it comes on becuase of the strangeness of the commercial. Although I am sure many people would argue that it is not a contradiction the attraction to the unique commercial is still present and encourages many to not only watch the commercial but also go out and buy the actual product.

  3. Starburst is a classic example of how the 4 P’s can become the 4 C’s. For example, promotion becomes communication. Although people are debating whether Starburst is doing a good job of defining what a contradiction is, at the end of the day they are creating more and more communication over their brand, which is a positive thing for their brand. They communicate with customers by asking them to go online and name a contradiction they see in their everyday lives. The communication lies in that an incentive is given to the customers, which creates a two-way communication effect. The incentive that for every contradiction a fan lists, the person will be added to the $250,000 donation for VH1 shows that Starbursts is trying to create a two-way communication in that customers can create discussion with Starbursts through their website.

  4. I definitely found this post interesting because Starburt is one of those brands that is known to almost everybody. With their new campaign of “contradictions,” we are forced to think deeper as to what their message is trying to convey. With marketing campaigns today, it is important to stand out and be different. With this strange new idea of a candy being a juicy contradiction, Starburt is doing just that. While some people may find this campaign too outrageous, I think it is just fine that they went outside the box and stepped into a strange zone.

  5. The starbursts commericial always stood out to me due to the fact everything was just so odd about them. After reading this post I now understand how the “oddness” that attracted my attention, was the advertising of the contradictions. Starburst commercials always stand out to the consumer, which in todays society – a place where most people fastforward through commericials – it is very important to capture the viewer/consumers attention. I believe that starbursts advertising strategies through their odd commercials do just that and are very successful.

  6. Regardless of whether or not these starburst commercials truly do represent a real contradiction is irrelevant as you stated. The ads have managed to be humorous enough to obtain and retain the audience’s attention. In advertisement today, a catchy, humorous commercial/logo/catch phrase has become important in the spread and reception of a brand. A majority of people will not watch one of these starburst commercials and be outraged that it is not a true contradiction, they will be slightly amused and more likely to remember the commercial and thus the brand. Even, if the viewer does respond that it is not a true contradiction, they still are remembering the commercial and the brand.

  7. Regardless of whether or not these starburst commercials truly do represent a real contradiction is irrelevant as you stated. The ads have managed to be humorous enough to obtain and retain the audience’s attention. In advertisement today, a catchy, humorous commercial/logo/catch phrase has become important in the spread and reception of a brand. A majority of people will not watch one of these starburst commercials and be outraged that it is not a true contradiction, they will be slightly amused and more likely to remember the commercial and thus the brand. Even, if the viewer does respond that it is not a true contradiction, they still are remembering the commercial and the brand.

  8. I really don’t care if these commercials are accurate depictions of contradictions or not. I believe the soul purpose of these commercials is to create brand recognition and to entertain. These commercials are certainly memorable and unique. I believe Starburst is effective in reaching the target audiences that the product intends to sell to, The fact that I remember these advertisements fondly and the images are burned into my brain attest to the entertaining nature of these ads. The fact that people are responding to the technicality of the word contradiction is missing the whole aim of these advertisements. I don’t think Starburst made these commercials to be scientifically correct, the company just wanted to entertain and make an original commercial. This originality makes these commercials stand out and the commercials make Starburst a household name. The people that are hung up on dictionary definitions must not have a very exciting life. Advertisements don’t have to be completely correct, as long as they make an impact on their audience.

  9. Like many others, I do not believe that Starburst is doing anything wrong. Yes they may not be politically correct, but many commercials are not. Brands have such a hard time these days grabbing the consumers attention, so they do have to think of different ways to do so. Starburst did just that, they thought creatively, produced something unique, and makes the audience think. Now when people see dogs sticking their heads out the window, there is a better chance that they will remember that commercial, which can then lead them to craving starbursts. It is something that works, some just need to stop reading so far into it.

  10. I think that when it comes to products like Starburst and Coca-Cola that have been around for forever companies have to continue to think of creative commercials that leave a lasting impression on viewers. These recent Starburst commercials were created to be different than previous commercials and to still make an impact on viewers. They want the viewers to see the deeper meaning and to make it known that Starburst is still around to purchase in stores. They are communicating the “oddness” through these commercials to make viewers realize that it leaves a more lasting impression, a strong communication tactic.

  11. I think that the way Starburst is trying to re-invent their marketing strategy to stand out is understandable. I think they made a good point in this article that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for advertising companies to stand out because ads just keep becoming more extreme. I think it is a little ridiculous people are focusing on it so much saying that because some of their commercials aren’t technically defined as contradictory that it is not valid. It is simply a technique in order for viewers to remember the commercial, therefore remembering their brand.

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