Tag Archives: Brands

Becoming Numb to the Screaming and Welcoming the Whisper

Back when I was developing movies and miniseries for television, I lamented how the broadcast products were being placed against premium cable products during awards season as they had a fundamental difference – broadcast movies had to have a seven act format that required some heightened element to draw people through the commercial break while cable movies were able to maintain a traditional three act format.  When comparing the two, I even felt that the traditional was more palpable as there was no annoying manufactured cliff-hangers or “Fake High” leading into each commercial break.  Looking at other forms of storytelling, I enjoyed and had emotional connections to the instances where they were able to convey narrative, and just plain breathe. 

Now, it seems like everything is reliant on the ultra-kinetic energy that was witnessed in those days of longform television.  Even watching television shows on pay cable that have no commercials has become exhausting as it feels like they’re afraid you’re going to walk away or change to another show that’s saved in your DVR.  Maybe its not because of our collective ADD, but because of our collective desensitization to all things shocking.  We’re not just talking graphic elements, but storyline as well.  Some of our favorite protagonists are serial killers, drug dealers, meth manufacturers, vampires and they just get zanier by the season. Images of death, destruction, sexuality, insanity and grossness just don’t register as being different or exceptional like it used to. 

We’re also seeing this type of reaction to the general population’s higher threshhold for advertising gimmicks and attention grabbers.  Just a few years ago, there was an outrage when Calvin Klein posted billboards with the following image:

Now, those types of images are standard in billboards.  It seems that there might be a fuss when one campaign does something shocking, but then we all forget about it and it becomes the norm.

But this isn’t about billboards.  It’s about the drive to just do something that will grab people’s attention but with seemingly no attempt to even convey what the product is – either through storytelling or description.

One such example of late is the commercial for Toshiba’s Thrive Tablet.  It is all about noise with giving no details about the product other than saying its the “First one to get it right.”  Huh?  With iPad being the leader nowadays and the the fact that they convey the multiple uses of their tablet in every outlet possible, why would Toshiba think this is a good use of their advertising dollars?

We’ve always seen the same thing in TV, Movie and Home Entertainment Television spots – where the emphasis is on breathtaking images and review lines without conveying much, if any part, of the story.  The thing I hear as being so good about RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is the humanity and storytelling.  It is almost like the special effects are just an assist to that instead of the main focus.  If you watch any of the spots on TV, all it shows is action, reviews and one out-of-context intimate moment between two apes.  I’ll see it because I am a fan of the franchise, but my intent is not helped by the spots.

There is so much emphasis put on “New” and “Groundbreaking” when it comes to marketing these days that it is collectively losing any meaning or power.  It reminds me of the early days of the internet when ads were just made to flash on and off or have a starburst around it or some lights or more lights.  it all became just a bunch of nothing.  We’re seeing it today where the rich media expandable ads provide no additional experience or connection that a standard unit could not have smartly shown.  There is such a drive for data but no real push for analysis and real strategy.

I recognize that Social Media is still relatively nascent, but many people are looking at it as their bully pulpit by just shooting stuff out into the ether with no real plan for enhancing engagement or community. 

This post is all over the place – just like all of the media exploding at consumers – it all just seems like noise.  The true challenge is to just take a breath and begin the connection to the audience or consumer.  The communication does not need to be loud – just thoughtful and well targeted.

It is much more easily said than done, but we’ve got to find a way to make our screams matter and our whispers mean even more.

He’s Mad As Hell And Not Going To Take It Anymore

Steve Smith’s post are enjoyable – especially when he gets pissed and goes on a rant.  It’s what many people do amongst friends, but not as part of their regular blog.

Most of Steve’s rant centers on the incredulousness that marketers seemingly expect consumers to jump through hoops to engage with brands – often with very little to show for it.  We sadly see this more often than not, and really, marketers should know better.  Perhaps it’s because of laziness, lack of concern or greater interest in just telling superiors they did something rather than do it well.

In the one post that focuses solely on mobile issues while he was waiting in airports, the targets of Steve’s wrath vary from “Like”ing faceless corporations, horrible banner creative, poor mobile ad design, cheesy film promotional partnerships, bad UI commerce linking, pain-in-the-butt sweepstakes entries and requests made of the consumer that don’t take the act of using mobile phones into account. 

There’s more and it just adds to the fun of reading this post that seems like it could have been so much longer.

While I don’t agree with Steve’s conceit that Brands should be working for me, not me for them, is my policy – Brands should be working WITH in addition to for the consumer – please feel free to read his post as 98% of it is spot on.

Sometimes, airports just suck…

Making a Farce of Satire and Whiffing on Marketing and PR…

In the growing Blogosphere with anyone having he opportunity to post thoughts to a site, the opportunity for brands to have challenging relationships with those bloggers and social media in general.

One that caught my eye was the case of Forever 21 and their antithesis, wtforever21.com,  There is a bit of coverage over the past few days about the site that uses its snide humor to mock Forever 21’s products since Forever 21 sent a Cease & Desist letter to the blog’s owner, Rachel Kane.  They claim copyright and Intelectual Property (IP) infringment and have asked for wtfforever21 to be taken down.  You can check some of the coverage on the Village Voice Blog .

Forget for a moment that Forever 21 is in the business of copying more expensive fashions to make them available to the masses.  If the reproduction element was not such a huge part of the fashion industry, Forever 21 would have been sued into submission so long ago.

Rachel Kane is defending her site as satire – which it is by definition in the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, etc in exposing, denouncing or ridiculing something. Satire is such a huge part of culture since long before William Shakespeare was around.  Sure, it can be a little mean-spirited at times, but it does fall under First Ammendment protection.  Ultimately, the site will most likely be taken down due to the fear (and Kane’s lack of funding) for a legal defense. So, that’s too bad, but it seems Kane has a paying gig and doesn’t have as much time to write daily about Forever 21.

Now, let’s look at Forever 21 huge marketing, PR and social media miss.  They could have taken an entirely different tack and not have come off as idiots for raising a stink (and awareness) about wtforever21.com.  They could have turned it into a huge win.

Rather than combatting Kane and her blog, they should have opened a dialog.  In the least, they could have had her as an advocate by welcoming her to visit or give input directly to the buyers and designers.  Scratch that – they wouldn’t even have to bring her into the fold – they could have just commented in a good natured way about what she was saying.  They could have had someone on their staff take on a good-natured personae and responded with comments on her site – not in a combative way, but as a mea culpa.  Remember, they are in the business of cheaper knock-offs!  They are, by nature, less than the original designs’ atandard they sell.

They should have also known their customers better and taken advantage of the characteristics and mentality of those teen and early 20-something consumers.  There certainly could have been some way to incorporate Kane’s critiques and humor into their marketing.  I agree that the term WTF would be a barrier to doing so, but even that is open to interpretation. What’s so bad about What The Forever? You get the point… Ultimately, its an epic fail as there’s got to be a way to turn someone who has made their name and had an influence due to their blog about your store into a voice for your brand and not against it.  The psychograph of their consumer is PRIME for the sort of tongue in cheek marketing, communication and social outreach that could have ensued.

There will be no poking of fun at the attorney’s signature on the Cease and Desist that you can see at Tech Dirt in how huge and almost farcical it is – is that really how a lawyer signs documents? seriously? – but one could strongly question the marketing, PR business decisions in this whole thing. There can certainly be something learned here in the opportunites that can come to brands even in adversity if level and creative heads prevail.


Almost Something Great, But Not There Yet…

Over breakfast with Ted Cohen this morning, he showed me an app on his iPad called Tour Wrist.  I had seen a video of the offering before, but it didn’t convey how cool it really is.  It seemed like the other 360 degree views that have been around for years with widely varying executional success.  Upon seeing it on Ted’s iPad, I was excited because I thought it was a function of anyone taking their iPad out and capturing all the imagery so that they could share it and others move their iPad to see exactly what the phtographer saw. Alas, I was thinking in a blue-sky dreamland. It requires a 360 camera set up, so unless you have an app and extension for that, you won’t be sharing your images from your trip to Hawaii in this fashion.

When viewing on an iPad or other mobile device, it is truly cool as you pivot yourself and the device and it looks as if it is a window into the other location.  It’s something that has been talked about with AR apps for iOS, but this one works really nicely – having nothing to do with setting anchor points in the live environment like many mobile AR executions require.

Here’s the thing, if you go to their site, it does a bad job of showcasing the user experience.  It shows people moving around with their iPads and iPhones, but it doesn’t take the time to show how they truly interact with the content on the devices. While it does go into more detail about the interface, it doesn’t convey the interaction and the people shown at the beginning and end of the slick video come off as seemingly “off-balanced”, excessively happy people.

There are already a number of companies using the app to show off locations, cars, etc. and they look nice, but here’s where the Tour Wrist can take it to the next level:

  • Effectively create an API so that this feature can be embedded in a company’s existing app or site – where the gyrometer functionality can still be used.  It’s too daunting to try to get consumers to download an app that just shows images this way – it’s not worth it to most…Make it an offering that does not require another app download.
  • Allow brands/advertisers to add notes to elements of the image to provide further details.  An example would be for the automaker to add tech specs close to the speedometer. Or, a hotel pointing out the included free snack bar amenities.
  • Hopefully, complete the development required for capturing the entire image from the device for the sharing of home-made experiences.

This could be quite successful for some larger brands and events, but a much slower uptake for use in general marketing.  Granted, if Peter Jackson were to do this with some of the set pieces of the HOBBIT that he is filming right now, I am sure there will be a HUGE spike in downloads of the app…

Check out details at Tour Wrist and make your own judgements.