Category Archives: Marketing

Racist or Borderline Brilliant?

EquinoxLast night, while doing some insomnia-induced Facebook feed flipping, I came across a piece of Equinox Gym’s “Commit To Something” campaign as a sponsored ad. It showed up in my feed because 6 of my Friends “like” Equinox. My eyebrows were raised by seeing a bunch of white folks with somewhat unimpeachable looks being touted by two black, three asian and one hispanic friends of mine. Of course, they had no active part in the image presented with their names attached, but it struck me. To be fair, the “Commit To Something” campaign shows diversity, but it also leaves a lot of room to interpretation. Oddly, when I read about the thinking behind the campaign, provocation seemed to be the core driver when it needn’t be.

Perhaps subconsciously, Equinox and Weiden & Kennedy tapped into a conceit that has pervaded their perfect audience for centuries – exclusive and unattainable beauty as conveyed in the fashion industry for…ever. The high-end fashion industry parades clothes on catwalks around the world revealing clothing that can neither be afforded or worn by nearly all humans. Luckily for Equinox, their audience profile fills a larger percentage of the population, and Equinox extends their exclusive feel through this campaign. Additionally, it seems that they have smartly already primped the pipeline of content to consistently feed the campaign with videos, #committosomething social content and more.

So, while many may ask why a gym doesn’t show normal people sweating on treadmills, Equinox is strong in it’s brand awareness and holds fast to their place in the industry as the purveyors of high-end gym offerings for exclusive individuals. I don’t know that they need to provoke anyone in order to convey who they are, but at least they’re having fun with it.

Say It Ain’t So! More Great Cup ‘a Joe Tech?

This morning, while putting gas in my car, I pulled out my mobile device and placed a mobile order for a Venti Latte (1% Milk and No Foam) with around 5 button presses on the Starbucks mobile app. When the gas was filled, I jumped in the car and drove 100 yards to the nearest Starbucks (I live in Los Angeles, after all…) and walked past a line of 18 people transfixed by their mobile devices while standing in line to grab my coffee that was just popping up on the counter. I still don’t get it. How can so many people not be using this great piece of technology?

What Starbucks has done – and Dunkin Donuts is following suit – by advancing a use of an app that is absolutely helpful in getting through your day rather than just being an occasional doldrums distraction, is a model for companies of all verticals to follow. By utilizing connectivity and UX in a hyper-intuitive way, they have not just made lives easier for people who only have the time to jump in and out for a coffee, they have used the available technologies to increase loyalty and gain an even stronger source of data to make their customers happier while boosting business practices. *Starbucks also gains a huge financial advantage as the customer has to have a balance in their app in order to participate – allowing the company to take on a huge amount of capital before they have to deliver the goods.

We’ll have to see if their latest program marrying the mobile ordering component of their app with a delivery service  delivers the goods that can scale. The great and innovative learning in this is they are piloting ideas that take industrial knowledge one step further to keep moving forward. I don’t know how many people will want to pay a multi-$$ surcharge for a cup of coffee to be delivered, or how many markets it would actually work in. But, if they can figure out how to provide the service in areas that make sense and are profitable… even better.

Of course, once more of the world catches on to the mobile ordering and goes straight to the counter, Starbucks will have to figure out how to deliver on greatly expanded expectations. But that’s a good problem to have. Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy walking past the line at the register while shaking my head in wonderment of when more people will make the jump.

A New Form Of Superstar Athlete? A Little Bit Of Content Will Do…

eSports

It wasn’t so long ago that people would provide a quizzical stare when presented the concept of eSports as an industry and an even shorter time since people would laugh at the thought of eSports becoming big business with a huge following. Now, adding to the list of new generational tastes and trends that bucked the naysayers of older generations, eSporting continues to crystallize itself as a huge opportunity for both entertainment and commerce. Turner Broadcasting and major entertainment/sports agency, WME/IMG have announced their ELeague and 30 weekly hours of coverage that will be coming with it on a grand scale.

For those who don’t know about eSports, it has been brewing for a few years – where video game players (both single and team) compete against each other in leagues and championships with the action streaming much in the same way we’re used to seeing other professional sports around the world. Here’s the huge opportunity — as FIFA benefits from the accessibility of Football/Soccer to make it’s sport the largest in the world, the same could be said for video games and the leagues that have formed to support them. The players you see in these leagues are the cream of the crop, but the opportunity is attainable with hard work – and these teams work hard.

Just looking at Riot Games’ LEAGUE OF LEGENDS, their competitive teams are able to focus on practice and competing 24/7 with strong sponsorship packages. Their championships sell out around the world and the demand continues to grow.

Now that the first regular linear presentation of these sports is arriving on Turner in 2016, the opportunity for growth is even stronger. What is key though – for the strength of the leagues and their competitors – is that the production is treated as strongly as those of the recognized major sports. There is no excuse not to. And, with the opportunity to highlight players that are more like the every-man through solid content development and storytelling, there is every possibility that strong competitors/personalities will be able to reach fans and consumers in ways that not even our present top athletes can.

Hopefully, the sneers and jeers will be muted early enough to allow for enough talented people to get in on something special before the opportunity passes them by.

Don’t Let Your Brand Name Fall Flat On Your Audience

Often, there’s a name that really sticks among the founders of the company. There’s a ring to it… It makes people smile… It seems obviously right… Or, frequently, in these times, the cute omission of vowels in a product name is just plain cool. Unfortunately, some of those names get lost in translation. The BBC’s Justin Rowlatt captures the pitfalls of naming beautifully in his column of how context can change a brand’s inflection.

Plopp

Whether the ownership is too close to the product, doesn’t think beyond their initial market or just has bad luck with other things going on in the world, sometimes the brand name just leaves you wondering what they were thinking. This isn’t to say that you’ve got got neuter your brand name to make it work without offending anyone – it’s just that you should take the opportunity to get to know your audience well in order to name the brand as best as possible.

Of course, you should only have the problem of being so successful that changing your brand’s name is a major hassle. Otherwise, be sharp on the front end and strongly consider your brand name so you don’t have egg on your brand later.

5 Facts That Affect GREAT Social

PancakeSelfie

Holiday Inn Express has just gotten past the hump of their nine city, SelfiePancake Express truck tour and there’s already a few pieces of learning to be gained from this strong social content event. Signing Rob Riggle as the “Creative Director” for this campaign touting Holiday Inn Express’ newly launched 60-second pancake maker that includes a food truck outfitted with quirky and cool technology placing visitors’ selfies on the pancake themselves was very smart. The concept is a good one, but both wins and losses are showing in the middle of the campaign that makes a stop in Los Angeles this weekend. Here’s five of them…

CONTENT STRATEGY DOESN’T HAVE TO BE ON-THE-NOSE – This campaign doesn’t blatantly tout the things you usually associate with hotel stays – hospitality, comfort, etc. – to engender conversion. They key on a secondary offering in this content – their included breakfasts and spiffy pancake maker – to add to the aura while having some fun. It’s definitely not a hard sell to stay at their locations, but its a meaningful one.

HASHTAG STRATEGY SHOULD CLARIFY, NOT CONFUSE – Looking at just some of the collateral for this campaign, there’s not one, not two, but three hashtags presented. The most beneficial to this campaign is the #PancakeSelfie tag due to the content and context. The second one – #StaySmart – makes sense as it is their current corporate hashtag. But, that general tag should not have the prominence it does on this campaign and one can wonder why they chose such a generally vague tag when other hotel chains and organizations use the same tag. When choosing a hashtag, you should know you’ll be able to completely own it (again, no confusion.) And, the third hashtag is the most confusing – #DontWaffle. Besides the obvious point that a waffle is not a pancake, it just bifurcates the audience and certainly does not inspire by leading with a negative – a sentiment not aligned with their overall branding or this campaign.

POSITIONING CELEBRITY IN CREATIVE WAYS IS A WIN – They made a smart move by incorporating talent (Rob Riggle) as not just a spokesperson, but an executive of the company. We’re not sure if he’s being anything more than creative for the company, but it puts a different spin that alludes to the fun the chain is poking at themselves. As Riggle proves, the change in perspective allows more flexibility in storytelling and relate-ability. There’s a number of videos that were created and, with Riggle’s talent, there probably was enough content on the cutting room floor to complete a half-dozen more.

AUDIENCES NEED AN INCENTIVE – OR TO BE INSPIRED – TO POST TO THE SOCIAL NETWORKS – This is absolutely not scientific (due to just being a quick look at hashtags to get a sense of how many people were tagging posts properly), but there are an incredibly low number of people posting pictures of their #PancakeSelfies. Pardon the pun, but the table was set with plates that had all the right branding printed to surround the pancake and the participants just didn’t bite. Either they felt it was not cool enough to post without prodding, or an incentive like a “post to win” mechanism was needed. In this case, the chain could have offered a lucky person(s) a few free nights.

PR AND OUTREACH IS ESSENTIAL TO EVENT SOCIAL PROGRAMMING – When reviewing location mentions, the actual locations were surprisingly not posted with the hashtag – as far as we could see. And we definitely couldn’t find exact location call-outs from the official social feeds. The location announcements were found through local media outlets. Without knowing how many people showed up at each location, we can’t tell how effective they were, but it does show that events need tight integration with the communications teams to activate all outlets. In the case of this campaign, the fact that we don’t know where the truck is going to be in Los Angeles – and there’s nothing in the feeds about past locations (except Long Beach), there’s a hole in the plan.

So, Holiday Inn Express has done a great job with the Social Content Concept and execution on a good number of the pieces. It just highlights that all of a campaigns components (social or otherwise) really need to be addressed and aligned to see holistic success and a return on the efforts of a hard-working team.

The Best Brand Social Communication

SocialDisarray

Far too many brands fail by using social as arms of their PR team – where they announce and tell rather than join in a conversation. The reality is that probably less than 10% are doing their brand communication on social effectively. MediaPost’s post on Sprout Social’s recent study of brand response to their audience (or consumers) through social shows a dismal upward trend of not responding to social queries. More audiences are expecting more customer service capabilities via social, yet brands continue to send many more posts than replies. In the case of media and entertainment, they send 8.5X more posts than replies and, in the real estate vertical, nearly 12X. Some of the brands that better understand not only the power in responding, but the need to, are those in travel/hospitality and some in everyday-use package goods. Virgin Atlantic is one company that set the tone early in the use of social media in how they handled travel disruptions caused by volcano ash that hampered travel throughout Europe in 2010. Where other airlines completely let their customers down, Virgin Atlantic served their customers well through constant communication and grew loyalty in the process. The thing is, your brand should determine how involved you are in social communication with your audience – not the vertical.

Of equal importance is that responding to your audience via social is only part of the equation in good brand social communication. That often overlooked component is the brand voice. As with the other pieces of brand experience that are moving to the forefront of Audience Development is the consistent portrayal of your brand’s voice. Especially when maneuvering the social realm, consistency is even more important as it will usually be the most “human” relationship the audience has with the brand. The voice needs to factor the following at minimum:

Purpose – Why are you on Social platforms in the first place? What services will you serve via social and what will you not? If, for example, you have no intention of delivering customer service via social, that will greatly affect the voice.

Character – What does your brand “sound like”? As this is the must human interaction, what do you want your audience to take away from the brand socially?

Tone – What is the general vibe of the brand? If this is not consistent with character and your overall brand, your social is DOA.

Language – Determining the kind of words you use and the style of language is completely dependent on who your audience is. If you don’t have that understanding of your audience, you can find yourself actually hindering growth by using the wrong language.

All of these considerations – along with your brand’s consistent dedication to providing the needed resources – can lead to great brand social communication. Being clear and consistent with your social strategy and execution will not only lead to streamlined resources, but also consistent growth.

The Path to Success In The Face Of Ad-Blocking Technology

AdBlock

Many publishers and planners alike are lamenting the adoption of ad-blocking technology and the growth in its use by consumers. Even with the race to the lower end of costs per impression/action/conversion/whatever, there are strong revenue models in place where many businesses are reliant on those traditional methods for survival. The thing is, there’s a way to shift those dollars while also providing real value to the brands and the consumers they are looking to draw near. Unfortunately, many (like Barry Lowenthal  and the commentors on his Tech Insider post on this very subject) are choosing to believe that the sky is not falling and there is still a huge audience that still cares, so they are not paying attention to the shifts that are available directly in front of them. Luckily, we all have examples of this new (old) form of revenue all around us – integrated sponsorship.

What isn’t addressed in the space between skipping ads via ad-blocking, fast-forwarding or flat-out ignoring them – as we grapple with ways to maintain revenue – is that the consumers advertisers look to attract are searching for, and finding, value in other ways. Those consumers find that sponsorship of content that helps them learn, explore and discover resonates more strongly than programmatic advertising – which might only bombard them with innocuous advertising that either doesn’t provide relevant value or wastes their space with places/companies/communications they’ve already experienced.

We’re seeing the ad-blocking workaround online, on television, in music, within gaming and even overlaid in out-of-home. Monies that are diverted to the integrated presentation of content are more valuable if done properly than if just purchased at the scale that we have been seeing. When you look at the changes in browsers, the user engagement experience within mobile devices and the new announcements by Apple, the same-old, same-old is daunting. Yes, the shift might require different skill sets, reporting, integration and no easy way out. But, if the right steps are taken, the sky might not fall. Actually, the audience will see and, more importantly, care.