Exploiting ChaosIn his book ‘Exploiting Chaos’, Jeremy Gutsche of TrendHunter.com tells this story:

In 1986 actors, sports heroes, and other icons appeared in TV commercials and shouted, “Don’t mess with Texas!”

One of the first commercials featured two Dallas Cowboy football players, Ed Jones and Randy White, picking up trash on the side of the road. Ed Jones grabs a can and bellows with anger, “Did you see the guy who threw this out of his window — you tell him I got a message for him!”

He then crushes the can on the side of his head and says, “Don’t mess with Texas.”

Tim McClure, GSD&M’s executive creative director, noted, “It was an attempt to get away from the ‘Crying Indian’ and look at things from the consumer’s view.”

Today the phrase can be found on bumper stickers, t-shirts, and in the vernacular of Texans across the state. Yet this is a trademarked slogan, used for the first time as part of an ad campaign.

Market from the perspective of the customer, not the advertiser.

“Don’t mess with Texas” was so effective that it became part of Texan culture and the challenge became keeping the slogan connected to its original purpose. To ensure this, the litter campaign relies on celebrity endorsements from Texan stars like Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Love Hewitt, George Foreman, Owen Wilson, the rapper Chamillionaire, and Chuck Norris.

If you knew the Chuck Norris jokes, you’d surely stop littering:

  • Chuck Norris doesn’t do push ups, he pushes the world down.
  • Chuck Norris can kill two stones with one dead bird.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a watch, he decides what time it is.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep. He waits.

The celebrity messages keep the slogan in the limelight, but it can be even more insightful (if not shocking) to observe the user-generated videos on YouTube.

One video features a young man assembling a rifle in a park. When he spots a kid littering, he takes the shot and the credit denote, “Don’t Mess With Texas.” The user who made the video, firedragon15309, explains, “This is [an ad[ that I made for a competition last year. It got disqualified…”

Really? What a shocker. The user also notes that Matthew McConaughey was a judge and this video was allegedly his favorite.

You might object to this videos’ content, but it exemplifies the cultural connection made by “Don’t Mess With Texas.” In comparison to the crying actor, it’s pretty clear which campaign is more effective.

The Institute of Applied Research suggested that a reduction in littering of 10% would be above average; a reduction of 15% would be remarkable. In the five years that followed the launch (1986 – 1990), litter was reduced by 72%.

What would it take to convert your customers into advocates of your brand?

A cultural connection can have an astounding impact.