Who is BASF and why are they talking to me?
February 4, 2005 2:19 PM   Subscribe

"At BASF, we don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better." Okay, then. I have no idea whch, if any of the products that I buy (or opt not to) are touched by your company. Why the hell do you keep advertising to end users like myself?
posted by Ufez Jones to Society & Culture (28 answers total)
 
I was wondering the same thing about ADM and Boeing, among others.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:22 PM on February 4, 2005


Many companies undertake broad media campaigns for building their brand awareness beyond their target customers and markets...especially if they are publicly traded. Such awareness campaigns are used to reinforce corporate messages and positioning to current and potential investors, business partners and employees.
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on February 4, 2005


Picture the demographic that would be watching the show you're watching when these commercials are shown.

For example, with Boeing and ADM, you often find these played during Sunday news and discussion programs. This is when the power elite, for lack of a better word, watch the tube.

Like all good advertising, it plants mental seeds as far as contracts and investments go. High-level food and military stuff. Washington-level stuff.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:27 PM on February 4, 2005


The only time it's turned out a company had a good reason for this, it was when NTL launched themselves as a consumer brand, and ran a load of adverts introducing themselves and what they do behind the scenes.
posted by cillit bang at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2005


I thought of that, ericb and AlexReynolds, but I most often see the BASF commercials in between Coors "look! Drunken boobies" and say, Pizza Hut commercials during sports on Sundays as opposed to, you know, that 70's Show reruns. I understand that Executives and Investment Bankers probably enjoy football games as much as janitors do, I just have a really hard time believing that they get a substantial return on investment for the spots themselves.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:33 PM on February 4, 2005


BASF makes plastic, right?
posted by odinsdream at 2:41 PM on February 4, 2005


BASF makes audio tapes too, or atleast did back in the '90s
posted by riffola at 2:43 PM on February 4, 2005


They're the world's largest chemical company, odinsdream. A lot of what they do is plastic-related, but not all of it.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:47 PM on February 4, 2005


Brand recognition. Whether or not their products are directly consumable is not an outward factor. It is an important goal of many companies to have capital in this sense. Your question means their goal has been achieved.
posted by sled at 2:47 PM on February 4, 2005


BASF is a pretty big polluter in a number of areas - they run a lot of chemical plants. Part of the idea behind the "making things better" campaign could be to temper some of the outrage when environmental reports are released.
posted by milkrate at 2:53 PM on February 4, 2005


As far as I know BASF are now EmTec. They make, or at least used to, the best if not the only 5 hour (PAL) VHS tapes. 10 if you use Long Play. I bought a heap back when I had cable.

If they'd never produced these long tapes, or someone had produced better ones, I probably wouldn't recognise the brand at all. I certainly haven't ever seen the ads mentioned. Good to know all that marketing is so effective.
posted by krisjohn at 3:04 PM on February 4, 2005


tangential... I've always been amused at the adverts in the Atlantic Monthly, as they are so far from my demographic it's scary. I'm too cheap to fly Cathay Pacific. Lockheed-Martin, as a whole, is quite inconsequential in my daily activities. I don't buy rail road diesel locomotives. I'm not terribly worried about trust management for my children due to a lack of both "trust" and "children". I guess I'd like those Bose noise cancelling earphones, but then they screw it all up and try and sell Tilly Hats.

I always wondered about those ads that normal consumers would have little use for.
posted by sleslie at 3:33 PM on February 4, 2005


Brand recognition.

What good is brand recognition though if the only time I hear of the brand is in the commercials? Not only that, but I have no idea who their competitors are (nor what their end products are) and BASF isn't offering any valid way that their chemicals are more worth my money than their competitors, just an empty promise of "better".

Without it affecting me when I'm spending my dollars or comparing products, you can have all the brand recognition in the world, but any difference you can quantify from it would be merely coincidental, and therefore worthless.

If anything, in this particular case, it seems to me that it'd be easier for someone (say, the Sierra Club or AdBusters) to take what milkrate said and publish a list of products that BASF is associated with thereby turning all of their brand recognition into a negative.

All of this is in an end-user case though. I do agree with the investor/business partner aspect. I just struggle with the fact that they see positive returns for running the ads. (sorry, this has bothered me off and on for a *long* time).
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:37 PM on February 4, 2005


part of what happens when you market to businesses instead of consumers is understanding that the purchaser at any given business is someone like you and me who listens to the radio each morning, not a giant robot.
posted by judith at 4:18 PM on February 4, 2005


I admit, a lot of it is tangential. Perhaps the same way it's good to hear, "Oh, you went to Purdue, I've been following their football team for years," even though it has nothing to do with your position or the interview, you know you have a leg up.

I do admit this might be a lot more complicated than this goal only. Perhaps as mentioned above, forgiveness of cultural debt, strange tax laws, weird off shoot subsidiaries, etc.
posted by sled at 4:33 PM on February 4, 2005


I've always associated BASF with its 30's and 40's name: IG Farben. Even after 50 years, I think that this is still their fundamental image problem. They make great tapes though.
posted by monocyte at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2005


milkrate has it.

It's for future juries that are going to be deciding if they are responsible for paying for all the environmental mess they have created.

A nicer way to put it is that by attaching positive general sentiment to the brand, consumers are less likely to only get "one side" of the story, the side coming from news reports talking about environmental destruction, etc. This is why BP and Shell and Chevron and International Paper run ads about the environment, and why Defense Contractors, Altria (Philip Morris) global food giants, chemical companies, etc. do it as well.

The other effects such as the ones mentioned by Judith and Sled, etc. are tangential and help justify the budget. But they have specific ways of reaching people like buyers, etc. that are much more effective.

But I used to work for a firm which did advertising of this type, and it's pretty clear that the primary motivation is to counter negative associations with the company based on news reports or general knowledge of the industry or company.
posted by chaz at 5:28 PM on February 4, 2005


I've always associated BASF with its 30's and 40's name: IG Farben. Even after 50 years, I think that this is still their fundamental image problem. They make great tapes though.

That's not exactly correct. BASF was only one of the companies that merged to form I.G. Farben (the other big ones were Bayer, Hoescht, and AGFA). After WWII, I.G. Farben was split back up into its component companies, so while BASF was part of I.G. Farben, it certainly wasn't all of it.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 6:09 PM on February 4, 2005


Two words: Stock Price
posted by pwb503 at 6:37 PM on February 4, 2005


Yes, and all of these companies still bear a stain on their reputation from their close involvement with the Nazi regime. The modern BASF and its sisters have at least made gestures of confronting their past through the Holocaust compensation fund, but there's a level of blame that these companies will probably not be able to escape until at least the first post-Holocaust generation is gone. You can see this in the outcry that arose over the Degussa-supplied paint for the Berlin Holocaust memorial, or even in the national embarassment that followed I.G. Farben until its insolvency (in 2003!)
posted by monocyte at 6:42 PM on February 4, 2005


"ADM, evil genetically altered soybean provider to the world."
posted by ParisParamus at 7:52 PM on February 4, 2005


A nicer way to put it is that by attaching positive general sentiment to the brand, consumers are less likely to only get "one side" of the story, the side coming from news reports talking about environmental destruction, etc. This is why BP and Shell and Chevron and International Paper run ads about the environment, and why Defense Contractors, Altria (Philip Morris) global food giants, chemical companies, etc. do it as well.

I understand that, but BP, Shell, and Chevron all have storefronts that I can pull into and purchase their products. Altria is broken up into many different brands (Kraft, Nabisco, etc.) that advertise on their own. I've never seen a commercial for Altria™. But the brand rec. point is moot with BASF. The end users don't ever see it, and therefore, I posit, have no emotional connect with them other than the commercials. They derive no happiness from using their products, and therefore - I wouldn't think - wouldn't be more amenable to them when they're up for whatever litigation.

Two words: Stock Price

If that's the case, and it works (and presumably it does), then why aren't we faced with so many more commercials of companies that are producers/middle-men than the average joe doesn't know exist?

I can't really speak for the Nazi tip, although I think it's very interesting.

I may be looking for an answer that's far too esoteric/business philosophy for my strictly quantifiable Econ-trained mind (and if so I apologize). And, just in case I err on the side of moderation, I'll step outside of this thread for the rest of the night, but I look forward to anything else that arises, and may resume posting tomorrow afternoon.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2005


Gah.

They derive no happiness from using their products, and therefore - I wouldn't think - wouldn't be more amenable to them when they're up for whatever litigation.

They derive no happiness from using their products, and therefore - I should think - wouldn't be more amenable to them when they're up for whatever litigation.

companies that are producers/middle-men than the average joe doesn't know exist?

companies that are producers/middle-men that the average joe doesn't know exist?

Bah! Sorry.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:07 PM on February 4, 2005


Well, there was the antitrust brouhaha in which ADM was implicated in 1996 and sentenced to pay a $100 million fine for its participation in the lysine and citric acid price-fixing conspiracies.
posted by ericb at 8:08 PM on February 4, 2005


And then there's the story of FBI informant and ADM employee, Mark Whitacre who was the whistleblower that broke the case wide open - chronicled by Kurt Eichenwald in his book "The Informant".
posted by ericb at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2005


It's to encourage private & small investors to buy their stock.
/economist
posted by ruelle at 12:57 AM on February 5, 2005


Many of you are correct. It's a broad public relations plan that is justified by stock price, influencing jury pools, establishing positive associations with Congress, the public, and regulators. I heard an ad for Wal-mart on NPR recently.
posted by norm at 7:22 AM on February 5, 2005


I've also thought about this issue for a long time. Somewhere, I can't remember where, I read something that suggested that large corporations do this kind of marketing to influence the newscasts that may mention their company on that network.

A news producer would theoretically be more likely to show the company in a positive light if they were a big advertising client.

I have no knowledge of how big TV networks work or how closely tied the news and advertising parts of the company are. Anyone think this is plausible? I guess it could influence newspaper editors also if they were under the same corporate umbrella.
posted by jacobsee at 2:29 PM on February 7, 2005


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