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Monday, September 29, 2008

Are you a PC?

What do you think was the challenge posed to the creative team for Microsoft's new ad campaign, I'm a PC?

Did they deliver?

Ironically, the I'm a PC message is similar to the Apple message. Apple says - one brand expresses the uniquely unique individual you are; MS says - one brand does not define the uniquely unique individual you are.

I'm a PC. ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Building Relationships with Ads

It's become common place these days for us to emphasize new media and interactivity in brand strategies - the implication being that to engage consumers, a brand must embrace engaging communication tactics.

Brands seek to do more than make a promise for functional competence in meeting customer needs. They want relationships and the loyalty and fondness that are outcomes of such relationships. Relationships develop over shared experiences. For this reason, branding today has taken on an experiential flavor - with the goal that the experiences created by the brand can serve to strengthen the brand-consumer relationship.

But traditional advertising can still leverage experiences, by reminding consumers of the past or helping them dream of the future.

Two ads launched recently - Macy's and Chevy Traverse - successfully nurture relationships.

The Macy's ad reminds consumers of a shared history. It resonates fond memories filled with emotion. In a few seconds, it does what a Thanksgiving dinner with family can do for socializing new family members into the family's collective history and reinforcing family bonds.

The Chevy Traverse ad incites a dream. Brands build relationships best when they can illustrate legitimacy in understanding its target market. Many do okay, using symbols from our respective sub cultures to express a belonging to the group in question. Some simply fail - because they don't quite get it, or can't find the right mix of symbols and signs to relay belonging.

Clearly, Chevy is targeting me with this one, and Chevy SO gets it. Not just shoes - because lots of brands have teased women about shoe fetishes - everything in this ad works - the music (especially the music), the dream of raining shoes, the look of the guy watching as the event unfolds.

Both ads connect - one with the past (memories), one with the future (dreams come true).

Traditional ads can facilitate shared experiences.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tidbits: Hundred Pushups and Vegas

It's me again - some days I just see so much I want to share with you! So here's a hodgepodge of marketing tidbits. Well 2 tidbits anyway - not quite a hodgepodge.

Look here for some crazy genius marketing - this guy (girl?) wants a VW bus and has figured out a way to make advertising work on a small scale. Not only that but he has leveraged something of value to drive traffic to the IWantAVolkswagonBus site.

By now you must be wondering how I know about this fellow who has figured out a brilliant promotional scheme to fund a VW. It's because I have accepted the 100 pushups challenge.

That's right - my dear friend and colleague, Liz, challenged me to the hundred pushups training program. (Join me and you too will be able to do 100 pushups in a mere 6 weeks!) Aside from the health and strength benefits of the training program, the hundred pushups program is its own social media success. Bloggers and tweeters around the globe have accepted the challenge and update readers on their successes (and failures).

The genius behind the hundred pushups program realized that with such social media success, it could be leveraged for other objectives - hence we have the IWantaVolkswagenbug ad space site.

Why is all this important? It illustrates the power of social media and the accessibility to large numbers afforded by the Web. Without buzz and online access, promotions such as these would be slow to start and rarely gain a critical mass. But by harnessing the "long tail" of the Internet and spreading communications virally, look what can be done!

One last tidbit. My friend, Melissa, got married this past weekend! Our first tidbit was on modern day consumption, our last on good old fashioned Vegas fun. In a nod towards sustainable consumption, they were married in a drive-thru chapel in Vegas. Congratulations to you both!

In the Zone - Contact Comfort

There's a notion called contact comfort that is used to express how we feel when we know our social network is or isn't easily accessible. When we feel very alone, our degree of contact comfort enters a danger zone - we feel angst and experience a drive to return to our contact comfort zone. For many, the presence of a working mobile phone with signal strength and text messaging enabled serves to keep us "in the zone". That's why when you can't find your phone, or your battery is dead you feel that bit of panic. You aren't in the zone anymore.

Today I realized Gmail is another communications device that keeps its users in the zone.

Anyone who communicates with me via email knows that I'm a gmail user and fan.

Gmail uses those delightful lights to communicate a status to others - green for I'm here and ready to chat, yield yellow for I've gone inactive, and red for not now please. If you need privacy, gmail offers an invisibility cloak too.

The most important people in my social network are on gmail and I can check their status anytime I'm online. Seeing their lights keeps me in my comfort zone. No light, no comfort.

What are your communication comfort "blankets"? What technological advances, tools, widgets, and gadgets keep you in the zone?

Measuring Engagement

The iMedia Summit (sigh - there are SO many things happening this month. Dear Students, please make life interesting for me here at school so I am not tempted to regret missing the Summit or AdWeek or DC AdWeek or MIXX) is in progress and yesterday iMedia Connection offered an overview on exploding myths in the industry.

Lots of myths were challenged but one that caught my eye is on the issue of measuring engagement.

It seems everyone agrees these days that brands must engage consumers and interactive marketing is a tool for engagement. Planning up engaging antics is surely great fun (like building interactive displays in Second Life or tweeting in character), but how do we know if we are actually accomplishing anything?

Some have suggested that engagement is THE metric. Others say engagement should be one of many key performance indicators marketers use to assess the effectiveness of their promotional strategies. Once upon a time, someone really smart said - "if it ain't measured, it ain't managed." In other words, if we aren't measuring, it's not really important - it isn't strategic, and it certainly can't be controlled, improved, or utilised properly.

The real issue here is not which measure - but how to measure. First, any campaign should plan for measurement up front. Second, as an industry, we need to come to define some key performance indicators that can be used for brand engagement devices. Some starters (see Advertising 2.0 for more): 1) return on impressions model, 2) return on media impact model, 3) return on target influence model, and a 4) return on earned media model.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wendy's Baconator and The Online Video Space

Wendy's has entered the world of Advertising 2.o with its viral video promoting its Baconator.

You can see it on YouTube here.

This is one I want your feedback on - I'm not the target market.

There is enormous potential in the social media space. Online video is a primary growth area, with MTV's and HP's "Engine Room" a perfect example of how online video, consumer-generated video, and branding can interact to create value.

The goal of a video like this one? Generate pass alongs. It must be so funny, sad, cute, stupid, (you get the picture) to incent people to share it with others. It should also get rated and friended to establish social credibility.

Wendy's took a step in the right space - but has it created something that has viral potential? Is the message consistent with its positioning strategy for the brand and the Baconator?

You tell me.... (more to come on this one).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sexual Stereotyping: The Advertising Dilemma

In today's New York Times advertising column, Doreen Carvajal highlights a dilemma that has long plagued advertising strategy - stereotyping.

Why are stereotypes so prevalent in advertising? It's a storytelling heuristic. Ads tell a story, but they have a matter of seconds in which to do it. The faster the audience can get up to speed on the backstory, the more time the piece has to share the benefits of the brand being promoted. Stereotypes, by definition, are a culturally-recognized depiction of an iconic character. There's the backstory and the creatives can then go about building a brand message.

That's the good news about stereotypes in advertising.

Problem is - as a society, we should seek to eliminate many of these stereotypes. They don't tell a backstory so much as degradate the group in question and promote misconceptions.

Carvajal reports that the European Parliament recently adopted a position to encourage marketers to be more responsible in their depictions of gender stereotypes. Her piece highlights many of the most agregious examples of stereotyping in advertising and public and government response. Dolce & Gabbana's fantasy rape advert shows just how far the line can be pushed.

Dolce & Gabbana's example seems clear cut - surely depicting rape in an advert designed to build brand image take artistic expression in marketing too far. Other stereotypes are less pronounced - is it wrong to feature thin models in fashion ads? does it promote misconceptions to illustrate a housewife cleaning and cooking?

This article features common gender stereotypes - submissive women in sexually abusive scenes, domesticated women, strong men (the poor guys - it must be tough to be seen as strong, successful, career-driven over and over in advertising) don't get me started on the gender disparity in the sheer number of negative stereotypes for women versus men).

But these are not the only examples of stereotypes in advertising.

Any demographic group can be used as the basis of a stereotype - college kids, jocks, blondes, yuppies, soccer moms... these are all stereotypical profiles that we use in advertising. Many of these are not considered offensive or problematic in terms of continuing negative stereotypes or promoting unhealthy images.

Others represent a concern for individuals and society at large because they promote unhealthy self-images, discrimination, and are just downright rude.

The European Parliament has taken a positive step forward with its action on gender stereotypes.

The LGBT segment faces similar challenges with stereotyping in advertising. We see this with stereotypes of lipstick lesbians, queens, and leathermen.

Commercial Closet provides a stellar collection of stereotyping of gays and lesbians. Its database is complemented with a summary of what makes the use of the stereotype acceptable or not with an Ad Respect Score. Its AdRespect Training Program offers corporate training on how marketers can build campaigns that avoid negative stereotyping - (disclosure: I am on its Academic Advisory Board, and conducted some research on just this issue, but seriously, it's great training). This is training that could benefit the industry as it seeks to be more responsible in the depiction of ALL stereotypical characters.

What can we do as consumers? Make your opinion known. If a brand uses a stereotype inappropriately, don't buy its products. Post comments expressing your views online. Contact the company and make a statement. But don't just accept it and go on about your business - if you do, the agencies won't know that more harm than good can come from stealing a backstory from a stereotype.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Know my brand, know me update

In addition to these (from Miles, Rachel, Corrine, and Paul), many, many Days in Brands are now posted on Scribd.

The brand days are all shown on the page so you can see easily the absolute infiltration of brands in all of our lives!

Take a look back at your day in brands and reflect on these questions:

Do you have love mark brands that are missing from your map? Why aren't they there?
Are there brands you are dissatisfied with but continue to use reflected in your map? If so, why are you still consuming these brands?
Which brands are visible to others? Did their visibility to your social network affect your choice of brands?

Which brands are aspirational? Which brands are primarily functional in the role they serve?

If you were using the brand days as data in a qualitative study, what observations would you make about the brand days?

These are "teaser" questions for some of the upcoming topics in our class.

Now, on an unrelated note (except that the ECU Pirates is a lovemark in my Brand Portrait), ECU topped WVU 24-3. :)

Brandjacking: The Next Step in Democratizing Brands

Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet wrote a brilliant piece on brandjacking last week.

Hijacking is a security attack in which the perp takes control of communications. Brandjacking is similar - the attacker assumes control of a brand's communications (or some other brand assets) and continues communication as though the brand.

To date, common knowledge has assumed that brandjacking is bad and, as marketers, we must protect our brands. Leggio points out in this piece that our brand fans (and brandjackers) might actually be adding value to our brand equity with their fun and games.

Are you watching Mad Men? Are you as enthralled with the characters as I am? Many are, and they get their Mad Men fix tweeting and twittering with the characters. What a brilliant use of social media marketing! But, alas, it was not sanctioned marketing for the vehicle.

The characters were brandjacked - to the great benefit of AMC.

Of course, the issue is CONTROL. Sometimes brandjacking can be positive (as we see here), but it can also be negative and all the while someone else is driving the brand's direction, visible to customers, without the benefit of knowing the brand's strategy.

What's your position? When it comes to online opinions and product reviews, brands are increasingly accepting that we must let customers vent and rave for the raves to have credibility and legitimacy. Further, we believe that negative reviews have value for marketing decision-making. Is brandjacking similar? If we embrace social media (and the concept of brand democratization), must we also accept the sacrifice of control that occurs with brandjacking?

Whose brand is it anyway?