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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts on Obama's Infomercial

According to Nielsen Media Research, about 21% of US households viewed Barack Obama's infomercial last night. While that suggests that many refrained from watching, perhaps having already made up their minds or just being sick and tired of 24-7 political speak, a substantial number of people tuned in. When compared to ratings earned by other shows, the most viewed show of the previous week was Dancing with the Stars, which earned a rating of just 12!

If a network sold ad space on Obama's show, a 21 rating would be considered a raging success. To put it in perspective, last year's Super Bowl rated 57 - but hey, that's the Super Bowl.

Here's a question - estimates of the cost to air that 30 MINUTE commercial on prime time television on 5 networks are running at $4 million plus. Why was it only $4 million?? The price to air on CBS and NBC ran under a million each. Yet ad units are estimated at over $100,000 on prime time networks. Obama's ad buy should have hit $4 million just on NBC and CBS alone. Why the price break? What would McCain have been asked to pay for those ad units?

Was it effective? Only time (and votes) will tell. But I hope it sent a very startling message to everyone. Obama meant the ad as a well-scripted, heavily produced pitch. But he also gave his critics ammunition.

I cringed when I heard his say "I am my brother's keeper." We are a free country and a capitalistic society. We decide each for ourselves whether to serve in the capacity of keeper and for whom we will extend these kindnesses.

This article from the AP lays out point by point the misrepresentations present in Obama's infomercial. Like any ad, one should not accept each assertion as truth. We must ask whether the motives of the source and the past behavior of the source warrant our trust that the assertions made are true.

Media analysts are mixed on their assessments of the ad. Some say it was overscripted, over produced, and will alienate voters. Others way it was moving and emotional - just like the best in advertising.

Many times I've heard ad execs say that the only way to the heart of a consumer (and his or her wallet) is through emotion. Obama is a product and a brand, but this is the highest risk buying decision we will make for some time to come. Make your purchase decision with logic over emotion, with reason over affect.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brand Fan or Consumerist?

Brand Fan? That's what Oprah's people consider Robin Okrant - a social experimenter of sorts. Okrant blogs at

That's right - the blog is called Living Oprah and Okrant's mission has been to follow Oprah's directives on purchases.

Brands strive to engage consumers and Oprah has absolutely mastered the art of engagement! One reason for the power behind her suggestions is her refusal to endorse products for financial gain. In addition to our admiration for Oprah as a celebrity, journalist, philanthropist, and woman, we can listen knowing that there's no alterior motive behind her recommendations. We can trust her which adds a lot of strength to her persuasiveness.

Okrant is no 'Oprah' brand evangelist though. She points out that while Oprah makes a lot of good calls on what to buy, some of her recommendations are right for Oprah but not necessarily right for everyone. She's a brand fan with a keen sense of consumerism. In fact, her blog is a bit like "Oprah Meets The Consumer Society."

A special thanks to Vicki for pointing this story out to me!

I'm a PC - Part 2

hmmm - I have to wonder if Microsoft's I'm a PC campaign is getting to Apple. It recently released new ads designed as a retort to Microsoft.

You can view the ads on Apple's site or at YouTube.

This one - Bean Counter - is a humorous yet pointed jab. The bean counter allocates funds to either advertising or fixing Vista. Advertising wins the budget allocation game.

Clearly both brands are great marketers. Both use advertising and other marketing communications to build their brands. But these latest ads suggest that maybe Microsoft's I'm a PC got under Apple's skin...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Simplifying Web 2.0

Yesterday I participated in a webinar from B2B Online along with Robert Rose of CrownPeak.

It was on simplifying marketing in a Web 2.0 overwhelmed world. CrownPeak manages content for brands using the social media space. Rob explained the challenges companies face as they try to add yet another component into the promotional mix in the form of social media. I "set the stage" with the social media tools brands have at their disposal and a process for evaluating whether social media is right for a brand.

The webinar is now archived and available on the B2B Online website.

The Challenges of Brand Naming

It's been a bit since my last post and it all stems from a naming challenge!

This blog has been the Marketing Nazi. I named it that because it was a term of endearment (seriously!) used by my students. It also had the breadth to enable me to write on anything related to marketing without overstepping the bounds of the name.

I gave thought to whether the phrase would be offensive and decided 'nazi' had been sufficiently pop culturized to make the name a non-issue. I was wrong.

And so off I went on the long, arduous process of finding a new brand name for the blog!

Several friends and public relations experts helped - James Brown, Scott Sherman, David Jones, and Liz Shields and Christian Munson of CRT-Tanaka and Dennis Sercombe, PR at Longwood. You listened to me whine over names, propose all kinds of silly variations, and threw back several for me to consider. Dear Readers, we must have evaluated over 100 brand names! One of my personal favorites that didn't make the cut was ROCK BrAND. :)

Brand naming is a challenge. One has to come across that special name that captures the passion of what the brand seeks to do in its space. The name needs to have meaning. It needs to be distinctively identifiable (there are so many blogs on branding and marketing; this was a major challenge!). It needs to memorable and easy to spell. For me, it was tempting to develop a name related to the title of my book - but I don't only write about social media. I needed a name that would reflect my opinions throughout the realm of branding.

Well, you see - we landed on Brandacity. Why? I'm tenacity - if one brands with tenacity = brandacity.

There were two very close runner-ups: 1) MediaShrugged and 2) Brandwitched.

MediaShrugged is a nod to my favorite book, Atlas Shrugged. As an objectivist, my philosophy provides a foundation to my analysis of everything I experience. Ultimately, MediaShrugged was eliminated because it emphasized MEDIA, as opposed to branding and media's role in branding.

Brandwitched sought to capture the notion of being bewitched with brands. I still love this one too. But my team of brand name analysts had mixed feelings - bewitched with brands is good; sandwiched brands is bad. It also has the potential for misspellings, given the sandwiched interpretation. Lastly, some thought it was too cutesy to be serious.

Imagine going through 100 names trying to find the one that captures who I am, what I do, what I have to say, isn't similar to another blog name out there, is easy to spell, is memorable, and credible. Eeek!

Does this sound like all gut reaction and faith? It is. Branding decisions are often times about what feels right for a brand and the road ahead for the brand.

Welcome to Brandacity!