Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tragedy And The Brand Collateral Damage

Upon seeing the horrible replays of the horrible event during last week’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, I couldn’t help but notice the surrounding banners and logos that seared themselves into my memory.  Though neither John Hancock Financial nor Adidas had absolutely anything to do with the disastrous events, those images of banners and apparel logos are forever connected.  Of course, the idea of this happening at a sponsored event never crossed the marketers minds – and hopefully it never will – to dictate whether they should participate. But, what if it did?  Would brands evaluate terror risk before sponsoring an event for fear of the collateral damage of repeated impressions shrouded in tragedy?

BostonLogos

I realize that, in the larger scheme of things surrounding tragic events, this topic is irrelevant and possibly tasteless, but it is absolutely real. The question is whether the represented brands do anything in response specifically because of the connection, or do they shy away from continuing the connection for fear of getting into a no-win situation.

To illustrate that thin line between good and opportunistic – what if Adidas were to do a campaign to raise funds for the survivors or even promote the fact that they might provide funding toward prosthesis for those who lost limbs? Either one is worthy at its core ( Adidas is already doing a fundraising campaign and John Hancock seeded One Fund with $1Million) but it becomes a matter of how one chooses to promote either one. Again, is the goal to place your brand in a positive light, in light of the fact that it was so connected to negative?  Or, is the goal to do good and the positive light will be a byproduct and not the goal… It really comes down to intention and messaging.

In a little side note, beyond what Adidas is doing in response, Nike actually had to remove Boston Massacre products that they had already created in celebration of the storied NY Yankees/Boston Red Sox rivalry. In Nike’s case, they weren’t even involved in the marathon, but were still affected by a branding and taste issue.

My hope is that Adidas, John Hancock and even New Balance can afford to do even more to help those most deeply affected by the bombing.  Of course, it can’t be expected.  But, if Adidas provided apparel or prosthesis for the injured; NB provided apparel or prosthesis for the injured and Hancock provided financial resources for the injured and the families of the deceased that would be very cool.

In this case, who knows if it will be more financial support to the grieving and the survivors beyond what we’re already seeing. In the spirit of the event, the city and the aftermath, all of the sponsors will most likely come out even stronger next year. And, hopefully, nobody will make the wrong move and be conveyed as opportunistic or scared.

And even more hopefully, this kind of tragedy will never happen again and the question will not arise for brands in considering their sponsorship of events and whether there might ever be a negative connection with their brand.

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Tesco’s American Invasion Was DOA

UK grocery company, Tesco, has decided to pull out of their American Invasion and take a $1.8 Billion write-off (with the favorable UK exchange rate – only 1.2 Billion Pounds – it still doesn’t soften the blow of the astounding loss.) Tiffany Hsu’s LA Times article points to Tesco’s misunderstanding of what the public wants and the dire consequences of trying to compete with the Wal-Marts, Costcos, Trader Joes and the like. If Tesco believed those were their competition, their analysis was very off – regardless of recession or not. Tesco saw themselves as something they were not – and in America, it’s foolish to think that customers will save bad branding by finding the hidden gems behind whatever facade is presented. Any way you slice it, its unfortunate that Tesco’s invasion of the American market was dead on arrival.

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

Courtesy: Freshneasybuzz

It had a lot more to do with branding, design and store locations than what Americans do or do not want. Admittedly, my exposure is limited to their locations in the Los Angeles market, but it quickly became very clear how Fresh & Easy was positioned counter-intuitively and ineffectively.

The first store I visited was a huge space on heavily trafficked tourist destination Hollywood Boulevard. It was large, dark and depressing. Another location was also in midtown on a heavily trafficked car artery with no abundance of parking spaces. And the last one I was in a week ago was probably the best model of what they should have been doing all along – a small, bright and colorful store in a heavy pedestrian area near USC.

Beyond their questionable locations and early dreary decor, they should have positioned themselves as the perfect last minute spot to pick up quality prepared meals and sundry items on the way to work or on the way home for dinner. They couldn’t/shouldn’t have felt they could compete with the established big markets.

The article compares them to a Wal-Mart, but Tesco should have positioned Fresh & Healthy as more akin to a refined and healthier 7-11 – like their own Tesco Metros back in the UK. That healthy option would have been the right aspirational touch – especially in Southern California.

Fresh & Easy might have worked if they had stronger positioning. It seems they were even unclear on who they were meant to be. Because of that, their marketing never worked. It’s a shame, because if you look at their location near USC, they could have focused on smaller spaces in higher foot-traffic (or more easily accessible) areas to create something akin to the Marks & Spencer Simply Food product in the UK. Another similarity to M&S in the USC location was the automated tellers that allowed staff to be focused around the store to help out in ways you certainly don’t see in a 7-11.

The promise of getting in and out of a market in five minutes with inexpensive essentials and healthy prepared meals would have been something that might have made it a success.

Short of that, its another example of a move that a company should have never ventured in the first place. Or, its an example of a good thing that never had the required clarity and forethought to drive success. Fresh & Easy is Dead. Long Live Fresh & Easy.

Best Annual Map Of The Web! Now, Just Find The Time…

While we all wish we could just troll the web to check out the coolest sites, the most exhilarating use of technology, or the most elegant online animation, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with those hours, it would be hard to find what is really cool and not just what has the most money going toward promotion of those online elements. So, there still aren’t enough hours in the day, but we’ve come to the time where everyone has a guide – The Webby Award Nominees… Again, it will take a very long time to get through everything, but at least there’s the semblance of a map of the web and some of this past year’s strongest offerings.

CenturyMOMA

The site itself could possibly put itself up for an award. With smooth movement and simple voting mechanisms, it’s easy – though I sometimes wish it had a more elegant solution to jump in and out of details, live sites, voting and more.

As we’re constantly working to output product ourselves, there never is enough of a chance to see what else what’s out there – especially in other verticals. Without a set determination or rule of who gets to develop better experiences on the web – remember back in the day when Auto sites and porn subscriptions were at the vanguard of web development – you’re losing ground if you’re only checking out what your competitors have published. Events/sites like the Webbys remove any excuses for that research.

Remember, these are awards, so electioneering definitely plays a part.  Some offerings may not be there while others with deeper pockets and promotions teams are.  But, for the most part, everything that we’ve seen major buzz for throughout the year is in there to provide credence to these being the best of the year.

There used to be less categories for easier reviewing – but just like the web, there’s so many permutations of content that call for more categories. If you were to consider all of the entries in every category and vote on them, I imagine you would derive a lot of pride and deeper understanding of what’s out there.  I’ll just be happy if I can get through half of it.

What excites me the most are sites that convey its purpose – marketing, news, commerce – in an elegant way. For me, that means I check out the Arts and Entertainment categories first. And with that, I fell in love with MOMA’s site on the Century of the Child. I really feel that the way users can move from one part to another fluidly is the way everything should be moving, and the content is extremely fun regardless of interface.

The showcase of products by category also illuminates how some things stay similar to how they’ve always been (check the two Disney films with almost identical navigation to what is usually seen for Disney titles and the beautiful BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD site that has long downloads for beautiful pictures but very little content.) The cool thing is finding the specific nuances that tweak typical offerings in just the right way.

Ultimately, the voting part takes away from what I like the most about the annual announcement of the nominees – the exploration.  Spending time to figure out what is best when there are so many differences even within same category nominees seems to diminish what we can truly get out of this. There is just so much to see in sites, advertising, video and more.

With that being said, I’m stopping this entry that went longer than I hoped for so that I can jump back to my map of the web and continue exploring – there’s not much time…

Question Using Technology Just Because It’s There

Sometimes even those trying to do a good deed are questionable in how they do it – especially when the use or presentation of technology come into play.  In the case of the charity, Obra do Berço in Rio, they devised what seems to be an alternate way to give money than through panhandlers in cars. You can see in the YouTube video how they showcase the technology and more questions arise than answers.

Courtesy of Obra do Berço

Courtesy of Obra do Berço

The technology they present as a form to raise funds for homeless kids is an SMS program – THE SOS SMS – that enables drivers to shut their windows on kids at street corners who are looking for change and make the donation quickly through their phones.  Seems simple enough – but there are so many issues in this setup – beyond the fact that it seems everyone has been hired for this video through Brazil’s version of Central Casting.

1) Its a shame that there are so many homeless children in the 6th Largest economy in the world. Is it more shameful that they are supporting the adults to ignore them in human terms? It seems bizarre that closing windows and turning away to donate to an organization would be thought of as being humane.

2) With their concept of hiding an SMS transmitter at an intersection, that does not lead to automatically being able to generate the mobile number to allow for an SMS communication.  The privacy issues on that alone would be enough to cause major concern.  Perhaps their better solution is through Bluetooth communications.  But, this would also rely on users turning that feature on and would not be automatic.

3) The utilization of high technology to solve a problem that is anything but high technology would cause concern for most people.  What is at its core a humanitarian action becomes a seemingly corporate one. It could be somewhat effective, but might it turn off more people than it turns on?

We could go on, but it seems pretty set and dried.  Sadly, I cannot read Portuguese, so I couldn’t find any supporting literature on their site as to how many locations have this technology or even if it is real.

Ultimately, the hope is that they were just trying to make a social statement with this campaign and not actually roll-out a non-solution like this. They did have some very engaging copy at the end of the video:

Obra_IgnoreSadly, it has become too easy to be enamored with our technology and ignore more important things around us. Even if we don’t get stuck in this perplexing situation at a Rio street corner, hopefully we can take something away from this and realize that high technology is not always the solution just because its available.

Have The Dodgers Found Their Magic Sports Marketing Mix?

There may be no other entertainment property that can match Sports’ ability to trade on both nostalgia and hope.  Politicians may hope that they can – perhaps they have to work a lot harder to convince their fans that, however bad they were the year before, there is a chance they might become better. For that reason, it is impressive when a team’s sports marketing shines above the rest. They may be talking about different marketing angles at theSports Marketing Association Conference in October, but the true magic comes from the mix of talent and entertainment – which the Los Angeles Dodgers now have in spades.

Koufax

There’s a 24/7 machine of sports information across radio-waves and numerous cable or network channels. Home cinemas bringing viewers closer to the action than they could by spending more than their plasma screens cost in the first place. Yet some franchises are able to fill their stadiums or arenas time and time again.

The Dodgers have historically brought league leading numbers (or close) to the park until they ran into an issue caused by their previous ownership – apathy. That fan apathy plus the availability of games on TV led many fans to stay away or not even pay attention. It was something that was unheard of for a perennially solid team with a rabid fan base. Other teams (like the Marlins) might have won more championships recently, but their fans were getting burned by the ups and downs that lesser franchises find in the balance between owners making money and fielding winners. But, the Dodgers (thankfully) got out of a bad situation by being sold to a collective of people who seemed to care more about winning and fielding a solid team for the fans.  The fact that the face of the ownership is local legend, Magic Johnson.

The team struggled in the first year under the new ownership and I think I might be representative of the general public when I only attended one game after attending a lot more per season prior to the bad owner’s “regime.”  I was thinking this year that it might take a few years before I go as many times as I used to.

That thought change immediately directly before the Opening Day game on Monday. This change was because of something the team did to draw upon that mix of nostalgia and hope – again,  as only sports teams are able to. They leveraged both to drive excitement about the possibilities in an opening video that saw the ball passed from local sports heroes to entertainers and finally to Magic Johnson.  Not satisfied in having Magic throw the first pitch, they threw some drama by having the Dodger manager call for a pitching change – to one of the best pitchers in baseball history, Sandy Koufax. It was well written and perfect genius.

The excitement it generated fed into the belief that everything can happen – and that is sure to fill the seats and get more people to tune in.  It didn’t hurt that the team beat their rivals on that opening day game.  It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers repackage and build upon that video footage through the course of the year.  If done right, fans can remain excited without regard for the fact that the team proceeded to lose the next two games to the Giants. The beauty of sports is that there is always a point that we can look forward to next year.  Hopefully the Dodgers don’t drop the ball on the field or in their media plan and allow for any gains to be lost.