Color was one of the most talked-about startups of the last few years, and not always in a good way. A whopping $41 million in launch funding and an ensuing round of collective head scratching on the purpose and functionality of the product made Color famous for the wrong reasons. But, still, it was famous, and people were eager to see what Color would do next.
Now, Color has returned and it’s.. well, based on its glossy new ad, it’s hard to say what it is. A dating service? A reseller of American Apparel underwear? A public service warning against social media sharing while you’re breaking the law in your American Apparel underwear? A waterproofing system for your iPhone?
Color has launched a post-pivot campaign consisting of music- and youthful hijinks-driven commercials. The latest is "Pool Hopping," which shows a group of young adults breaking into a neighborhood backyard on a warm night. As the camera lingers on the stripping-down process and underwater clinches, a member of the party, bathed in a creepy blue light, captures the action and is shown posting imagery from the future golden memories on Facebook. The spot is trying for a sort of cross between a Vice video and a wistful Arcade Fire (or, to take it back a bit, Smashing Pumpkins "1979") feel. But it doesn’t make it. But more important, it doesn’t tell anyone anything about Color 2.0.
The new Color app is actually sort of interesting—it addresses the previous chirping crickets issue by linking with Facebook and allows users to share clips of in-the-moment video. But there’s nothing in "Pool Hopping" that helps convey that interestingness, or, really, anything about the new app. There’s an attempt to capture the "sharing spontaneous moments" function of the app, but any sense of that functionality is lost in what is, in the end, a labored narrative format.
That’s not to suggest that every tech-related ad has to be a straight-up product demo, though it’s tended to work well for others (Google’s done a bang-up job of creating simple, effective narratives and visual spectacles while still demonstrating its wares). But this spot seems to be an attempt at "the big brand spot." And, to make the big brand spot work, you need a brand, or you need to have a well-honed sensibility for simply making a video that will stand on its own as something great to share and talk about. Ideally you need both. Color has neither.
The tech/media marketing space has become more interesting lately as companies that built brands based on product start doing more brand advertising. Here, Color has leapfrogged the usual startup mode of product-led marketing and started doing big ticket "ads," seeking to reinvent its brand at the same time it’s rethought its product.
It’s a tough trick to pull off for anyone, and, if we know the people running Color (and we do), it’s even tougher for this brand. Here, it seems like a distraction and a demonstration that a brand needs to stand for something before it can start telling stories about itself.