Tag Archives: Brands

7-11 Creates Fun Chill Without Causing Brain Freeze

Some brands have the ability to inherently place a flag in a date that makes sense for marketing purposes.  We’ve covered McDonald’s fries on 11.11.11 and now we’ve come to 7.11.  7-Eleven convenience stores have gone all Summer silly to celebrate Slurpees on 7.11 and it seems they’ve done a good job at having fun with a seasonal marketing campaign.

Slurpee

The 7-Eleven folks have created a number of pieces to be able to celebrate 7-Eleven day on 7.11 – from a dance tutorial to downloadable party favors to a bizarre “motivational” chinchilla. It all forms a bit of silliness that actually makes sense for the brand. It has never taken itself too seriously and has had fun with the Slurpee product in the past.  A big recent example that comes to mind is Slurpee Summit 2010 – where they latched on to the political scrum between President Obama and Republicans with a Purple For The People Slurpee and a tour from Dallas to Washington D.C.

SO, 7-Eleven has set up what seems to be a solid agile team for both the stores and their Slurpees. But what issues might there be with their preparation for 7.11.13 and the 7-Eleven Dance Party?

The set up is consistent with the brand with a fun site and campaign announcing free Slurpees and all the bits to make up a party.  The party prep is nothing new, but 7-Eleven has put their spin on it – for better or for worse. Starting with the dance video, it is good fun to see a dance begun by brain freeze and the kaleidoscopic colors, unicorns & rainbows and a decent dance tune. I’m still trying to figure out if the dancer in the gold shorts falls under the better or worse category, but one thing is certain – it is consistent with the brand.

The microsite does include a “how to” dance video and entices fans to create their own dance video and post them online with the hash-tag #Slurpeedance, but who knows how many will do it. Where they might have gone astray with this is that they showed the behind-the-scenes making of for the dance video – which beyond removing some of the magic of the video, shows that this wasn’t a simple production that anyone could do.  It almost turns people off to do their own thing. Perhaps that BTS video would have been better served as a follow-up piece to help keep the tail going on the campaign.

We are already seeing #Overkill and its no surprise that 7-Eleven has introduced  a silly one here – with Laura Gordon, vice president of marketing and brand innovation stating, “We promised an #Awesummer this year with more fun, more free stuff and more surprises, and summer is far from over. There’s lots more to come.” Awesummer? Really? Perhaps the good thing is that they are also doing programming to drag this through the Summer rather than just 7.11 with an app that provides specials throughout the coming months.

The only elements that are questionable are: the Nikki Reed beach bash on 7.9 that seemed to have few people in attendance (much less stars); and, the fact that the free Slurpees are only available on 7.11 from 11AM-7PM (shouldn’t it be the other way around?)

When you look at the whole, the 7-Eleven team has done a good job at being consistent in their brand and being able to pounce when the timing is right. Shouldn’t they now be working to make 7.11 a national holiday?

Don’t forget to pick up your free Slurpee and remember to pace yourself lest you get brain freeze!

Brands and Ramifications of Earth Day’s Collateral Damage

Earth Day has always been a peculiar holiday when it comes to marketing and promotional ties that are made to a day reminding us to honor the planet. Even though the tie to honoring nature was clearly evident in the film AVATAR, I still had a concern when we were promoting it for release on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.  I totally appreciated the strong message in the film and how it related to the holiday – I just wondered how people would react to the additional physical needs required for releasing on Earth Day (it fell on a Thursday rather than the traditional Tuesday release day and the amount of packaging manufactured was huge for the highest selling BD/DVD of all time.)  Surprisingly, there wasn’t as much of a backlash as I thought.  There was barely any. So, for all of the hubbub about Earth Day and the interests of brands in promoting their products in the spirit of the day, there is quite a bit of collateral damage.

Heading into Earth Day this Sunday, there are a number of companies tying themselves to the holiday – with Target being among the largest.  They are giving away 1.5 Million re-usable bags on Sunday and promoting a bunch of their ecologically sound products.  Other companies are doing their own twist on the theme with Disney Stores allowing guests to trade in 5 disposable shopping bags for a themed re-usable one, Origins is offering the opportunity to trade in existing skin care product for one of two Earth-friendly products at Macy’s stores, and Pottery Barn Kids providing sunflower seed packets.

The value and awareness that is brought by large retailers and brands doing their own bit to celebrate the day are great and definitely needed.  Perhaps it could become the exception when a company is NOT doing something in support of the day. Partnerships with eco-organizations are the easiest ways to both make a statement and increase awareness.  There are definitely a large amount of non-profits that fit the bill.

The bizarre thing is what I refer to when mentioning Collateral Damage – the ill effect that some programs have on the environment.  While Target is doing their huge program and increasing awareness by fostering a strong partnership with Recyclebank, an organization that is working towards a world without waste by rewarding people for taking everyday green actions – like recycling and reducing water use – Target has created a huge opportunity for waste.  Don’t get me wrong.  They are doing something for the better good and they are not new to the game – they have been giving $.05 discounts to consumers who use their own bags since November of 2009.

Their true good has been made murky by the fact that they have created 1.5 MILLION bags – objects that would not have existed otherwise – and brought them into the marketplace.  The message is strong about helping the ecology, but what about the message of all the materials that went into that manufacturing?  Additionally, their promotion of savings on numerous eco-friendly products requires consumers to print out coupons on pieces of paper.  Couldn’t they just say that all those items are on sale on Sunday – no coupon/waste required?

Ultimately, it’s a challenge.  How do products that require manufacturing of some sort ever even themselves against any real or perceived destruction of the ecology?  I’m not saying that brands and retailers should throw up their hands and say its no use. It’s just the opposite.  They should be looking deeper into how they can make a statement – whether through packaging, year-long practices and the simple things like having items be on sale without requiring paper to be wasted in order to redeem the savings.

To some extent, we will always be playing a zero-sum game with the idea of consumption and preservation.  Perhaps we will get to the point where we are actually preserving and recycling at a greater rate than what we are wasting.  It is baby steps and we can only hope to keep the damage to a minimum – especially as we celebrate Earth Day.

Wanted: Strong Guidance In Slicing the Digital Video Pie

The first night of iMedia’s Video Everywhere Summit was a mess – and that’s not because of the organizers.  The mess was actually a welcome change to the norm at these types of things.  The problem was the “norm” that the mess was illustrating.  Vindico’s President, Matt Timothy, got everyone in the room to simultaneously throw “stress cubes” toward the front of the room near the beginning of his presentation.  He didn’t have to ask twice and the amount of cubes that missed the garbage cans signified what the video model is for television advertising.  In that model there’s not a real way to evaluate how many impressions were wasted (the many cubes on the floor) and how many hit their target (the few in the cans.)  He then asked everyone to do the repeat the exercise, but this time the attendees were asked to throw them randomly around the room.  This version exemplified what online video advertising impressions are like – with a lot of information going back and forth in two-way communication.  The key is tapping into that information and formulating better ways to connect with people.  All in, the example illustrated that there is so many ways we can slice the digital video distribution data pie, but there are too many people who are still looking for the cutter to slice it with.

Even with the additional data that can be culled from video campaigns – and the optimization that can come from that – the “norm” referred to above is that there is still a lot that is left on the table.  Perhaps it’s because there is too much confusion about the data, or that clients and planners just don’t have the vision to see what’s possible.  In many instances, we’re running into an issue of the chicken or the egg.  We’re not trying things because the client or their agency doesn’t deliver creative executions that would effectively enable the research, or the vendors aren’t presenting examples of solutions to the challenges the clients might not even know they have.

Many brands or advertisers are still looking for the click-through as signifiers as success, but that doesn’t work completely in the realm of video.  When you look at what companies like Vindico can do with the data, those who only look at click-through are just drinking the punch and not getting all they could be through digital video media.  In the image above, the slide is showcasing the point that those who click-through the video (represented by gray blocks) are not interacting with the brand/content as strongly as those who visit the site within 30 days of viewing a banner (red blocks.)  It’s not to say that click-throughs are bad, but they are only part of the picture. The straight click-through that might have really been an errant click while trying to close the unit result in much less interaction on the back-end. Again, this requires more knowledge on the client side and more education from the media agencies (and vendors) who are booking these media solutions.

Vindico is one of numerous video ad serving companies and they offer the support and knowledge to be able to optimize not only impressions and interaction but creative. In reality, the ad serving companies really need to become the de-facto educators for marketers and media planners about what the possibilities are. Whether through partnerships with creative vendors or just visionaries who can clearly convey what is possible, they need to be actively presenting solutions because we can’t just rely on clients or planners to package it the right way for success on their own.

The last slide of Matt’s deck had a few things of importance regarding buying video media.  The one that stuck out to me was Storytelling Innovation.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Video is the strongest storytelling format. The digital platforms only increase those storytelling mechanics through interaction. I also see huge opportunities innovation, but am frustrated because we go back to the chicken or the egg conundrum.  When I asked Matt in front of everyone to elaborate on those wonderful buzzwords – Storytelling Innovation – he did a little dance.  I understand the dancing a bit because of client sensitivities in presenting specific examples. In the end, he squeezed out a little bit of the essence by talking about branching opportunities, iterative messaging and interactivity.

After the presentation, somebody came up to me and intimated that it isn’t the job of someone like Matt to provide the examples of Storytelling Innovation – that it was up to creative agencies or media planners or the clients themselves to do that.  I whole-heartedly disagree.  Even if there were some mapped out samples with fictitious products to prove some past successes or even dreamed ones, the examples have to be drawn out.  Sadly, media planners are not built to envision those types of things and I would argue that even creatives and marketing executives don’t have a strong enough vision for matching technical capabilities with innovative storytelling.

With all of the successes that I have had in the past, I was only able to get them launched because the providers talked about possible solutions that led me to believe they could pull it off in partnership with my vendors.  I was able to crystallize the stories (and the mechanics behind them) and sell them within the company because of that shared knowledge.  If the providers don’t do a good enough job of laying the kernels of imagination and innovation in digital video media — hell, even just the basics of what can be tracked — we’ll all be destined to forever be collectively looking for that thing to slice the video pie with.

Provocation Does Not Require A Kiss – Just Relevance

Talk about provocation… the Italian Benetton clothing brand could be considered Supreme Provocateurs.  With a long history of placing shocking photos in ads since they were one of the hottest brands in the late 80s with stores around the world, Benetton’s UNHATE campaign follows suit closely.  The campaign features fake photos of world leaders kissing each other smack-dab on the lips. The nemeses include President Barack Obama and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas. France’s Nicolas Sarkoczy and Germany’s Angela Merkel – and another one of Obama with China’s Hu Jintao.  But it was the Vatican who raised the biggest stink about the image of Pope Benedict kissing Egyptian Imam Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb.

Due to the pressure from the Vatican, the ad above and others were removed from publications and walls immediately – almost as if Benetton were expecting it.

While it can not be said that sensational imagery and provocation are new for Benetton, their choices for imagery and “partners” in support of the Unhate Foundation they began leave a bit to be desired. If the foundation is all about tolerance, they are truly pushing people’s buttons and boundaries for it.

If they were serious about an ongoing campaign, it wouldn’t make sense for them to select imagery that would force removals in a day.  I get how they are trying to provoke, but perhaps the action in the images took things to an extreme that don’t make sense for the cause.  Love is not the opposite of hate, indifference is.  If they were really trying to get people to think in terms of not hating, why not show the leaders in a sports stadium rooting for the same team?  They could have done a better job promoting unity or friendship as the opposite of hate – not a vulgarity like this.

Back in the late 80s when the brand was actually much more popular, they were doing the provocative images, but they had a bit more “street cred.”  The images were eye-catching and once you knew that the image was related to the “United Colors” of Benetton, it was more understandable.  At this point, it seems like a misguided attempt to grab some of that old glory.  Campaigns like this might generate momentary buzz – like they are receiving in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Washington Post, and the BBC – but sometimes the flash is too quick in the pan, and this could be one of those time.

By taking quite a stretch, the more you’ve got to have behind it to support the reach.  As a brand, you can provoke, but you’ve got to weigh that provocation against what you’ll get in return.  With how much the world has changed since Benetton first started provoking the world with shocking photos, you’ve got to wonder what they were thinking.  With the saying “no matter how much things change, they remain the same”, the only thing here that’s remained the same is the type of response from the vatican.

“We are sorry that the use of an image of the pontiff and the imam should have offended the sensibilities of the faithful in this way,” Benetton said in a statement.

If anything, we’re sorry that Benetton felt they would not get a response like this or that they are surprised they offended the sensibilities of the faithful.  It is unclear who Benetton’s audience – or faithful – are with this campaign. The provocation begs the question of how much is too much and when is it right to provoke just for the effect of provocation.  Time will tell if this helps bring the brand back or if it ends up kicking it further into obscurity.  At this point, it provides that uncomfortable feeling like seeing the rock star from the 70s or 80s making a comeback tour and – while their grandiose ego is the same – they’re performing in small pubs instead of arenas.

MTV Shows a Sexy Model for Web Events

It’s rare to see a media outlet that does not either create exclusive shorts or post highlights for web and mobile in order to support on-air properties.  It’s even rarer to see a media outlet putting all their eggs in the online basket in the hopes of generating more buzz for the channel or brand.  MTV just pulled off that rarer feat last week with their MTV O Music Awards online-only program celebrating music and the use of digital to drive fan engagement.  With the infrastructure many organizations have to activate and record events like this, what MTV has done is a model for others moving into the future.

While it is still too early to measure analytics comparable to on-air, the opportunities gained from programming like this are strong enough to carry through to that future time when the numbers could actually hold their own against broadcast. There were a few interesting elements of the OMAs.  The first was the voting process – which was done through Twitter and Facebook.  In a report at CNN Money, they cite eleven million people voting through Twitter.

There was another point that the CNN article brought up that was key.  Having events like this online allows for the inclusion of advertisers who either can’t afford spots on-air or don’t want to be that broad to begin with. The point was made that the real key for advertisers is whether viewers were buzzing about certain parts of the show or actual advertisements.  For that element, it seems that just airing the content in and of itself might not be enough.  There should be communication and connectivity features surrounding the video player.  By doing this, its much easier to track what’s going on in real-time and then port those elements out via Twitter or Facebook regardless of the form the communications were made – generating even more interest for viewing repeats of the show or highlights.

As we’ve seen with basic cable and even network news before, they have done a good job of capturing a bunch of content and either repurposing elements (like ESPN and X-Games) or drawing elements out across multiple programs to drive viewership of other shows (like Presidential or celebrity interviews.)  By doing these lower-cost events, there could be opportunities for cost-effective content creation that could actually make it on-air within the right packaging.

These are just a few of the benefits of this type of programming. Certainly, MTV’s execution might have left something to be desired – I wish they had shown the examples of the nominees’ work (especially for the Digital Genius award) rather than just show their names – but they have time to iron their programming out.  Online and Mobile is still considered a medium where people don’t pay as much attention, so time can be taken to refine mechanics. 

With the resources broadcast and cable companies have and the growing trend for viewers to watch content via outlets other than televisions, this is the future and it would be a huge miss for the established outlets to not take advantage of what web-specific events have to offer in broadening their reach, providing additional advertising inventory and generating content that can be repurposed cost-effectively.

Design is Great But Not Everything

Lisa Wehr posted a solid listing of The 7 Deadly Sins of Facebook Page Design on iMediaConnection today.  There are a number of valuable tips and, while it is clear that the focus is on design, don’t forget that content is key.  There is the ubiquitous question regarding all forms of media as to what is more important – presentation/delivery or content.  In reality, it is not an either/or question, but a matter of both.  You can have the most beautiful page that conveys nothing.  You can have the secrets of the universe on a page that is not designed well that also, effectively, conveys nothing.

The only point that is missing from the post – other than the fact that it does not clearly call out the need for strong, relevant content (and the strategic communication that lays out its release)  – is some guidance on the best treatment to highlight the newest, most important information on your page.  Her strong suggestion regarding not pointing to the wall, but to a landing page is perfect when you have a large promotion like Ben & Jerry’s Schweddy Balls promo. But, what if your brand or company is in-between those big promotions – or your company is not the type to have those types of programs to begin with?

Using major brands as examples of the right thing to do is fine for broad explanations, but what about the smaller companies or brands – the ones that comfortably list 10,000 fans or likes and not 1,000,000 or more?  Those large brands have one or more people specifically assigned to social (and perhaps to Facebook only).  They also have the resources to build out great design. The trick is how the smaller entities program to keep the interaction and community fresh.

For those who have no internal or external resources to do this, it might take even a few hours to brainstorm with whatever departments exist to throw out all the different forms of communication are available and set up the release strategy.  By having all (or most) of the content laid out ahead of time, the structure (both release schedule and design) becomes that much more solid.  You can then have a groundplan for releases so you don’t inundate fans with waste and you can also lay out relevance.   This exercise also helps guide the design or layout that will best highlight what you want highlighted – which could be any of the 7 keys Wehr laid out or others.

As it is becoming clear across the board, fans don’t really mean much unless the numbers in themselves are press-worthy.  The real value is found in engagement and interaction.  I would even take that a step further – emotion.  With that, there are few ways that are better at achieving emotion than the seamless marriage of strong design and content. 

Whether it is in company updates, insights, videos, images, testimonials or any other things that can be effectively placed in your Facebook page, well-executed weaving of design and content are sublime, effective and necessary.

Valuing Brand Ambassadors

At the Digital Hollywood conference yesterday, there was a solid panel titled, Who’s Running Your Brand.  Of course, the main point of the panel was the fact that nowadays, much is left in the hands of fans.  Certainly, brands can do as much as possible to get their talking points and product information out, but the fans are gaining more and more control every day.  It doesn’t do a company any good to police what is being said and try to combat the bad press.  They should be doing whatever they can to enter the environment in a natural way.  The rules of “natural” differ slightly from vertical to vertical, but it should always be thought of as being an enabler, not a dictator or pusher.  In all ways, though, the natural thing is to be relevant and add value.

What many of the panelists talked about was the need to engage influential bloggers and social media trend-setters.  Each one had examples of how they had done it well or how others were doing it well.  There were also a couple of examples of how they were being done horribly – providing a reminder to not under-estimate influencers.

The biggest opportunity for brands to position their social is to engage or entice influencers (or even just active social participants) with opportunities to get something relevantly valuable in return.

For a time, there were incentives to engage that were sort of simple and dumb – “get this ticky-tacky item by participating” or “jump through these hoops for the chance to get something huge.”  Those things worked until there was too much of the same glutting the social market.  Influencers are smart AND have a lot to do in their lives, so they don’t just jump at any carrot that is put before them. But, in either case, they aren’t always simple, dumb or bad.  The determination of whether they are lame or not really relies on relevancy and the target user.  As a brand, you owe it to your fans to offer something of value if you want them to be ambassadors (and your actual product doesn’t lend itself to that all by itself.)

Some examples discussed were Fox Theatrical’s invitation of key X-Men bloggers to an event in Cannes where they were able to interview the cast and production team on the same level of the traditional outlets – leading to much more coverage and excitement than initially expected.  The same basic idea was used for the release of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – where more types of influencers were invited to meet with filmmakers to find out more about the film’s emotional core.  In the APES example, the film opened extremely well because of the buzz surrounding the fact that it was not just a sci-fi movie.  The same ideas had been mentioned for the music industry as well as for tires and other CPG brands.

In all examples, there was a true value add for people to participate.  It was not just a lazy offering in the hopes that people would bite and blog or tweet about it. Engaging and honest interactions between brands and influencers will lead to much bigger returns.  (We’ve already covered this in the blog from September 7th.)

They also refered to the program that Lenovo just launched targeting teenagers in the hopes that it will drive brand identity for future consumers.  In their Spacelab program, they are generating community and content by offering the opportunity for students to present their ideas for experiments in space.  Not only do the 2 winners have their experiments completed in space, but there are other prizes such as training at the Cosmonaut training center or flights on the zero-gravity planes.  This just launched, so only time will tell if it works, but it seems that they’ve offered something of real value to their participants that will drive higher engagement.

There are other examples where all it took was a moment of clear thinking and not a “rush-to-market” on a program that led to absolutely cost-effective fan and ambassador engagement.  The lack of proper consideration and planning is just plain dumb.