I was going through the posts on my Facebook page when I came across a post by Infinix Mobile with a capture and a caption (see image above). What captured my attention at first was the caption that read: Remember, Hard work beats Talent when Talent does not work Hard. I was busy ruminating on the validity of the quote when, all of a sudden, the relevance of the capture to the caption came to mind.
The capture is an iconic representation of two household names in the world of football. Football fans will definitely recognise them at a first glance. The character in the background is Lionel Messi while the character whose is image is foregrounded is Christiano Ronaldo. Currently, in the game of football, both names are the major point of reference. However, each player – and by extension – his club, has a fan base and loyalist. In most cases, supporters of Messi rate him higher than Ronaldo and vice versa.
The purpose of this critique is not to pitch the players against each other. For all its worth, both are fantastic players who have put in a lot of effort to achieve greatness. I am however interested in the significance of the interplay between the caption and caption as used by the brand Infinix Mobile. I also intend to ascertain if the interplay of the caption and the capture was a marketing strategy by the brand. If so, would such strategy result in goodwill or backlash for the brand?
Infinix Mobile brand is currently one of the most sought after smart phones in the country. The brand did not achieve this status by sheer luck. It is definitely not the most dominant smart phone brands as there are other solid brands competing for the smart phone market in Nigeria. it has however come to stay relevant because, among other things, it annexes the power of advertising in its drive for commercial success. It has not only engaged the print and online platforms in its advert campaign but also tapped into the vibrancy of the social media of which Facebook is prominent.
In the Facebook post in question, Infinix Mobile passes its message across to its target audience in the guise of a quote that offers a piece of advice. This approach is a smart rhetorical strategy in advertising. It takes an observant audience to read between the lines in order to decode the main message the advertiser is trying to pass across. One should note that the primary aim of any form of advert by a brand is amass goodwill and get the audience to patronise its service(s). While the advert may appear to be insightful/instructive, the brand craftily laces it with elements that would make the message accomplish its set target.
The post by Infinix has a capture that foregrounds the image of Christiano Ronaldo who is seen bearing a trophy and sets Lionel Messi’s image in the background. It caption then reads “Remember, Hard work beats Talent when Talent does not work hard”. What the brand has done is to engage both the verbal and visual elements to pass their message across. The visual element is the caption while the quote represents the verbal element of the post. It should be stated that each element is unique and contributes its quota to the success or otherwise of the advert/post. While the visual element has a more profound influence on the customers’ emotion, verbal elements engender a more favourable attitude towards the advert or the brand. In sum, both the capture (visual figure) and the caption (verbal figure) work together to pass s message across.
When the quote is read in isolation (without recourse to the images), it makes an objective and general meaning to whoever reds it. for instance, the general message the quote sends is that though talent is a huge plus, hard work pays more. Also, talent isn’t everything as a man who is talented but lazy will simply remain in a spot. On its own, the verbal content can pass for an axiom. Although not everyone may agree with it, it doesn’t stand to breathe any negative response.
The visual content used with the caption/quote however gives the post a new ramification and alter its essence. The brand posts a meaningful statement: Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard. It then complements the message with the images of two controversial footballers. Foa almost a decade, the battle for the world best footballer has always between the two – either one wins in a particular year and the other takes second place and vice-versa. Ronaldo happens to be the current winner (2016). He is therefore foregrounded and seen bearing a trophy while the first runner-up Messi is set in the background in the capture. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to decipher the fact that the image of Ronaldo is being projected while that of Messi is being shaded.
By the virtue of the image used, the brand induces the quote with a n intended meaning. Although the quote has an original meaning, its essence and impart is lost on the kind of image that accompanies it. A perceptive audience can put the puzzles together and connect the verbal and visual elements to make deductions. One can safely posit that ‘hard work”, as used in the post, refers to Ronaldo while “talent” is used to refer to Messi. The message can thus be interpreted to mean “Although Messi has the talent, Ronaldo beats him to the trophy because he his hardworking”. While the original message of the quote is reasonable, the visual content used waters don its essence. Again I need to restate the fact that I am no fan of any of the players hence my critique is far from being subjective.
Reading the comments generated by the post, some commentators counsel that people should focus on the wordings and overlook the capture. While it is wrong to throw the baby away along with the bathwater, it is equally wrong to taint a neutral message with a controversial capture. In my course of my research in the field of rhetoric and advertisement, I have come to understand that, in an average advert, images speak louder than words. Advertisers communicate much more effectively and accurately with the use of visual figures. This is so because visual figures often have positive effects on imagery higher than the verbal figures. When the audience is exposed to an advert rich in visual elements, he tends to be influenced by its multi-dimensional aspects, which then determines how he reacts to it. If the brand (Infinix) wanted the audience to focus only on the message of the quote, it would have used a neutral capture rather than a controversial one.
The choice of both verbal and visual elements may appear to be a blunder on the part of whoever designed the post for the brand. I am however of the opinion that the move is a premeditated marketing strategy by the brand. Nevertheless, that strategy may turn out to be a blunder or a positive game changer for the brand.
The most probable logic for this move by Infinix is to draw the attention of the audience. Many adverts thrive on controversies. This style of advertising is called “shock advertising” or “shockvertising”. Such adverts are deliberately designed to startle the target audience by upsetting their beliefs and opinions. The content of the advert is situated within highly sensitive subjects. Like the advert in question, shock advertising employ controversial graphic imagery to highlight a service or product.
Infinix Mobile has successfully identified its target audience who happen to be mostly young adults and youths. These set of audience are known to be gadget lovers – especially phones – a product Infinix deals in. Next, the brand looks for something these audiences can easily relate with – sports, especially football. Football happens to be most controversial and keenly supported among the youth, especially the males. Infinix singles out two most outstanding and controversial footballers with divergent supporters. It then looks for an ordinarily incisive message and craftily situates the players in it. The audience reads the message, ruminate on it but on realising the connection between the message and the image, they get fired up. The brand successfully incites the supports of the two football phenomena and watch traffic rush to its page while it still get to pass it message across. Infinix wanted attention and got it!
A brand does not desire to draw the attention of its target audience for no reason. It draws attention in order to send a message that says something about the product. Infinix Mobile had a message they intended for the audience. The quote has both a surface and deeper levels of meaning. The surface level has a neutral and instructive meaning. Anyone who reads it can relate with and learn from it. However, the deeper level of the message is what Infinix intends to pass across. Infinix actually means to say that it is hard to beat a smartphone brand that has worked hard to make its way to the top. Infinix happens to be one of the late comers to the smart phone market in Nigeria. While other brands like Samsung and Tecno have an edge by being early comers. These early comers have amassed significant goodwill among smartphone lovers. They therefore have the tendency to relax a little on their marketing campaign. For the Infinix brand to meet up with and perhaps beat the other brands to the top, it had to work extra hard on selling the uniqueness of its product to its target audience in order to gain their goodwill. The capture (images) only serve as attention grabbers.
Having looked at the idea behind the strategy used by the brand, I’ll proceed to examine its implications.
Infinix Mobile, a supposedly giant smart phone brand, seems to have violated image rights. Has football has grown to become one of the most vibrant and marketable sport in the world, brands are beginning to associate with clubs and their high-profile players in order to stay relevant and grow their revenue base. In order to accomplish these goals, they enter into an agreement with the clubs/players to acquire image rights. This right gives them the ability to use the image, photograph, signature, statements or physical details in their adverts. Infinix Mobile used the images of two prominent footballers who play for top European teams in their post/advert. However, the last time I checked, the brand has no business relationship with either the players or their teams. This, in my opinion is a way of using cheap but illegal publicity. Going by the reactions the past garnered, it is obvious the brand has pulled traffic by adopting prominent players who have large fan bases although it has no form of mutual agreement with them.
The brand Infinix Mobile not only uses a controversial capture for its post/advert, it has perpetrated grand style plagiarism by using a quote without crediting its source. The quote “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard” was made by the American professional basketball player Kevin Wayne Durant. Infinix Mobile availed itself of the essence of the quote yet failed to reference its source. By so doing, the brand has succeeded in wrongfully appropriating the idea of Kevin as its own idea.
As regards the commercial implication of the strategy for the brand, it has more to lose than gain. Infinix Mobile has successfully captured the attention of its target audience – most of whom are die-hard football fans. It craftily pitches two great footballers against each other. Meanwhile, these footballers have fans that are passionate about them. Any form of perceived discredit by any brand against any of the footballer will most likely result in the lack of goodwill of the brand by his supporter. As observed by the comments generated by the post, most Messi/Barcelona fans seem to view his positioning by the brand as a personal insult. Such people are unlikely to want to buy the Infinix products in the future. On the other hand, supporters of Ronaldo/RealMadrid feel the brand picked sides with them and may likely shower their goodwill on it. Either way, the brand would fare better if it had been discrete with its choice of capture. In a market with many competing brands, every single goodwill by a customer should be treated as invaluable.
Great businesses think and plan ahead of time. As a vibrant and growing brand, every single advert carries far and can be consequential. The internet and of course the social media the social media has made information readily accessible to anyone all over the world. Also, other smart phone brands are beginning to partner with top football clubs. Tecno for instance is now an official sponsor of Manchester City. With such a controversial post as this, one wonders what impact the Infinix strategy will make on a business deal with Barcelona Football Club (FCB) should such an opportunity present itself in the nearest future.
Adverts are products of verbal and visual figures or the combination of both. Their success/effectiveness or otherwise is determined by how advertisers use them.
Image credit: Infinix Mobile