Tag Archives: Campaign

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?

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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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Lessons From SXSW About Authenticity

At the SXSW Tech Conference, downtown Austin was flush with participants pitching their products and more people clamoring for and chasing insights into those products and more. Steve Smith points to the search for Authenticity in his MediaPost blog – Chasing Authenticity At SXSW.  While he was talking about Authenticity in relation to products and their intended users, the same lessons hold true for communication.

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Essentially, Smith captured statements from Walgreens and HBO executives about the development of their companies’ Apps.  In the case of Walgreens, they found that people didn’t care about games – they just wanted to do core activities like simple filling of prescriptions. At HBO, consumers wanted to view original content on the HBO Go App.  In both instances, the companies were able to build user-base solely on the core features and then they were able to expand to other functionality. They realized that they couldn’t hide their “authentic” product to build excitement for something that didn’t make sense for their intended audience right off the bat.

Too often in marketing, we see messaging that is spun too far from the truth.  Or, we see products from publishers, companies and organizations that just don’t ring true to what we believe them to be. We’ve all been there – where we might be too heavily immersed in a product to take a step back and ask the right questions. The right question is not always “Will anyone care/buy?”, but “Does this product make sense coming from us?”

We’ve referenced the common occurrence of utilizing campaign products that are the shiny-object-du-jour and how marketers should really analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet to present what management asks for.  But, we should all be striving to present the authentic core of what our companies represent. The litmus test for any product development or campaign is whether people will immediately understand why you’re releasing/communicating this.  If its not immediately clear to the end user, then you might need to reconsider.

The business world is awash with terms like “optimize” and “leverage” and that’s for a reason.  Sadly, many don’t follow through with the core elements of each. Subsequent campaigns and communications are that much easier when they are derivative of the core values or message.  Through that authentic development and communication, you’ll make bring the right products and campaigns to market with the strongest economic benefit and upside.

The Growing Pains Of Vision

Last week, NPR ran a piece on the challenges that JC Penney is facing while they shift the way they do business under (relatively) new CEO, Ron Johnson. While listening, it brought to mind some of the factors we often deal with when working with clients, management, and teams to institute new programs, processes and functions. Regardless of vision or how great we believe that change will be in the name of growth or optimization, those growing pains cannot be overlooked in either the planning or the execution.

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Regardless of how strong your vision is, the ability to convey that vision to all participants is paramount. In some cases, it even requires that solutions for bypassing participant buy-in should they can not see what the company is trying to do. But, you’ve got to make sure the vision is realistic – and without taking a moment to consider any move from most sides is a recipe for disaster.

In the case of JC Penney, we don’t know how things will play out in the end.  But, the NPR report highlights how the regular JC Penney customers were less than thrilled.  The environment that was created for those consumers was one that they connected with emotionally – to the point you would think they’ve lost a loved one when talking about how it used to be. Though sales were down 30% in Q4 ’12 from ’11, could that be tied to disgruntled regulars?  Or, is it tied to the pains of shifting from one client type to another? By reading the comments below the NPR report, you can see there are enough counter examples pointing to the change being positive for JC Penney.

Recent work with one of my clients has brought the same challenge to light.  How do you bring vision, instill new processes and get buy-in from the people who are key to turning those changes into company success.  Interestingly, the most important people to get buy-in from are not the C-Levels (though they do give the approval on the spend) – it is the people who will be carrying out these new processes. A broken record comes to mind when thinking about how much communication is required to convey what you are intending to do.

Sometimes the illustration of the new versus the old can offend those who are fine with the way that might not be truly effective – so you can’t just rely on illustrating the benefits in light of the situation they are now in. The element of democracy that is prevalent in the workforce these days requires something akin to a PR campaign just to put those new processes in place. Again, you can have the strongest vision and product in place, but if there’s no buy-in, you’ve wasted time and resources. Even with the installation of automated processes, if there’s a human that needs to interact with that process, you need to negotiate and guide them through those growing pains.

Hopefully, JC Penney and Johnson’s team will be given the leeway to work this transition through. Far too many changes are abandoned at the first glimmer of failure. But as with any challenge, there is a sliver of failure, you’ve just got to push through smartly. Because, ultimately, a smart vision and strategic growth always has growing pains as a byproduct. You’ve just got to guide that pain into profit and not breakage.

Executing the Scarcity Tactic in Marketing Can Do Harm

I can understand a company wanting to generate the buzz that Apple has been getting with their product scarcity tactic, but it’s getting out of hand. But the past couple of days, there’s been a major instance of a product release coming when stores aren’t even open or the product is not available online and in only one store in the country in daily limited supply. Both products have strong stories to tell, but they’re not stories that consumers are actively seeking out – like they do for Apple products. When there is a demand for 4 million units in the first weeks of a product release (New iPad) you can deal with some folks being upset they can’t get their hands on the product.  When there is very little demand, you can’t risk people being upset that the product is not available. As such, the scarcity tactic does more harm than good.

The bigger fail of the two is AT&T’s launch with Microsoft of the Lumia 900 Windows 7 phone. They supposedly spent $150M to promote the product’s launch date on April 8th. That would be fine if the 8th was not Easter Sunday. Did they think that people would separate from family to buy products – even if stores were open?  The NY Times did their own research to find that there were just no units to be found in the few Manhattan stores that were open. I personally don’t buy that it was smart marketing to launch a big product on a commercially dead day. There certainly is not any buzz that’s coming from the lack of found product.

They had to have spent a pretty penny on the Nicki Minaj performance in Times Square.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have drafted any of that into sales through the weekend at those 30+ stores within five miles of Times Square.

Nike also did something weird with its marketing schedule. They launched a video yesterday on YouTube that stands as their key video campaign element for the Nike+ FuelBand product. The “Make It Count” campaign centerpiece conveys a great Nike spirit:

Whether the production was as clandestine as they would lead you to believe – with the director, Casey Neistat, taking the entire budget to travel around the world with his best friend – doesn’t really matter.  With nearly 150K views in just over a day, they are doing pretty nicely from a numbers sense. It is a great long form piece if you want to capture the Nike Brand, but I don’t know if it does a great job at conveying what the FuelBand actually is.  When I went to the site to find out, its features made me interested but there was no price and they didn’t have any in stock.  They do point out that stock is updated on the site as it becomes available and each morning the NYC Niketown gets an extremely limited quantity.

I don’t know that I would be interested in checking back regularly for this product as I don’t have to have it and can stand to wait for a while. But I would imagine both Nike and AT&T/Microsoft/Nokia dearly hope that people will feel they must have it in order to drive the opening weekend numbers.

The problem in both instances is that they have executed big bangs for the product launches with no way to leverage the excitement to drive conversions to purchase. I know I’m being cynical when comparing the scarcity “theory” between these products and Apple products, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that there is such a huge disconnect between marketing decisions and distribution capabilities. If this new marketing phenomenon is all about a press release, then it certainly will do harm to many bottom lines.

A Bold Campaign By A Bold Brand

There are some brands that are of a certain ilk that make you wonder whether they really need to do any marketing at all.  They are the ones that everyone who would ever covet their product knows exactly who they are and can either get their products or just dream about them.  Some, like Tiffany, are forever embedded in the psyche as key parts of movies – or their opulence speaks for itself. Another example is that we don’t see a lot of commercials, banners or other for Bentleys, Ferraris or Lamborghinis.  In these cases, one might even think that the companies would be in trouble if they started doing mass advertising.  Cartier could be considered one such company with a history of selling to royalty, celebrities and the elite.  Granted, we do see advertising for high-end clothing lines and jewelry brands, but they are very specific and not as large-scale as this. With Cartier’s jewelery and designs celebrated in museums, it is commendable that they should launch their new “L’Odyssée de Cartier” campaign as a bold celebration of the brand.

The centerpiece is a three-and-a-half minute film that fantastically evokes the 165 year history of the company.  It uses a central icon of the company’s design, the panther, and really had fun with it. Around that film, they built a site and advertising campaign that retains the exclusive feel that would ordinarily be expressed through private parties or elaborate mailers through its tasteful execution. Expense did not seem to be an object with the elaborate and elegant production and full page color ads in Sunday papers.

The video treatment was not completely out of the ordinary as you can see many product videos that evoke the same whimsy on their YouTube channel. Most everything there is of a longform video nature, but not at this scale. The fact that they did this provided the opportunity to not only promote it more than their previous campaigns and create a source of content that can continue to be re-packaged for many shorter pieces and needs.

They’ve even gone so far as to include bonus features –  a “making of”, discussion of the score and a piece on the panther and its place in the company – in the L’Odyssée site.

By making everything effectively larger than life with all parts, it seems like they really hit the mark by doing mainstream advertising and maintaining the exclusive feel of the brand.

All in, its great to be able to see a well orchestrated execution work so beautifully when a brand mounts a big and bold campaign that stays true to it’s core and invites consumers to join it’s odyssée.

One Video Does Not A Success Make – A Strong Campaign Does

In the rush to place video online, many companies and their planners are quick to take video elements from TV and just slap them into online inventory. Seemingly without a care about the platform and what its users relate to or interact with, the easy solution is usually just to place an on-air spot online and it is usually a wasted opportunity.  While most video placements are of the pre-roll variety, it is so easy to tune out those versions of what’s on TV.  It may be cost-effective from a production standpoint, but it ends up just ticking a box if you only use your TV ads to fill that space.  In these cases, it’s not about video alone to create successful campaigns – it’s about strong campaigns to help guide video creation for effective placement and ROI.

Kraft just launched a new campaign for their Wheat Thins product that exemplifies the strength in creating a whole campaign and then allowing for different video creatives for different placement.  They are using the umbrella theme of “Do What You Do” to inform one on-air spot that features characters from the animated TV show, FAMILY GUY,  debating the pronunciation of Wheat Thins and online only “pep talks” from a mustachioed man calling himself “The Do-Minatrix.”  Time will tell whether the online versions resonate with consumers, but there are a number of reasons – in this case and others – that creating different creatives for different platforms tied to the same campaign is smart.

It remains heavily dependent on the planning and creative execution, but exploring platform specific executions should be in play.  In the case of Kraft, I think they’ve got a very funny spot with the FAMILY GUY characters.  But, the broadcast/cable placements could make or break it.  Luckily, the FG fans are active and there’s a good chance they will be directing friends to the video on YouTube, thereby negating the specific need to really do online spends.

I’m not entirely sold on the messaging of the Do-Minatrix pieces (created by the agency, AKQA) and whether their use of new year’s resolutions will tie the consumer to Wheat Thins as it really is about the Do What You Do campaign with only graphic callouts.  If a person doesn’t know about the larger campaign, will it make sense?  At least the creative was certainly done in such a way that will capture the attention of online users so even if users don’t get auto-sound (in display placements), their attention will be grabbed and they will hopefully turn the audio on. 

As far as it can be seen through what was reported, they are mainly placing the Do-Minatrix videos on their Facebook page – which has over 400K users.  If they only place them on their Facebook and YouTube, it won’t be as effective as it could be.  While a nice diversion for their existing fans, they have already drunk the proverbial punch.  They might not have had to do so many iterations just to keep their fans happy.

An interesting component of this campaign is the fact that the Do What You Do idea was originated by the social activity of Wheat Thin customers who were sharing what they were doing while imbibing the product.  Effectively, Kraft is taking what the fans are giving them, putting a spin on it and getting it right back out to them in a fresh (and hopefully entertaining) way.

With how easy and cost-effective it is these days to get multiple web-ready videos from numerous sources – as seen by providers such as Poptent or Playkast – cost is no longer an excuse and it then comes down to placement.  With a solid campaign theme and structure, the pieces come into place that much more easily. 

All in, the platforms need to be looked at strategically to formulate whether they need specific creative or can re-use on-air creative.  Will the campaigns be bombs if they just use existing content? Of course not.  But they could be so much bigger – especially if you have a clear campaign theme and objective.  Be sure not to optimize your creative, planning and platforms to get the best ROI out of your video campaigns.

A Twitter Account’s Legal Questions Lead to Ground Rules for Social Branding

A legal story that broke last week in reference to a Twitter account and its ownership brings up some interesting questions about how brands and companies should consider or engage Twitter – or perhaps all of social media.  The specific lawsuit that was written about in outlets like the New York Times and BBC focuses on the legal challenge and its possible precedents in relation to a user’s 17,000+ followers that were initially generated while he was working for a company.  Upon leaving the company (phonedog.com) eight months ago, he was given permission to maintain the account and even changed the name to be completely his own.  The parameters of the suit are seemingly too convoluted to focus on whether the ruling will set any clear legal precedence, but those same questions provide a solid basis for ground rules on social branding.

Before getting into assigning a worth to your tweets, let’s look at a couple of the main foundations for your social outreach. There are a number of routes you can take with the two most popular being an official voice of the company or the use of a personality – either within or outside of the company.  Both offer strong opportunities but both are also rife with challenges.

The official voice of the company works because it is always supposedly from you (the company).  Maybe one of its values is that it can never up and leave you – taking its followers along – but depending on the platform, the company voice might not be considered as authentic or it might be thought of as too dry and unimportant.  It takes more than just posting to engage a large base and only consistent communication complemented by other outreach can build a passionate following.  Knowing that, social outreach is not a medium to fly into without a strategy and discussion of tone, frequency and communication.  It also cannot be considered as something that you can constantly change.

The option of working through other entities might work for you if your goal is to reach a large group of people quickly – perhaps via someone they trust.  There is an element of control you will be lacking in this engagement, but with the proper partner, it can lead to quick engagement of larger groups if that is what you are looking for.  Of course, you are effectively leveraging an individual’s personae to communicate with readers or consumers who will relate positively with you company or product. It’s all great when the positives line up nicely with your product or releases, but you won’t have total control over it.

With either of these – and all other forms and formats – there is strong value that is completely dependent on what you are trying to convey and how you want to convey it.  Either way, strategy is the most important and shouldn’t rely on your hiring of someone to just write.  If you hire anyone, it should be a social strategist and they should formulate the strategy only have a bunch of meetings with the marketing, publicity groups or whatever combination makes sense for your organization.  Perhaps only after you’ve defined the strategy can you place a hard value on the elements of your social campaign.  Unfortunately, there is no one metric that correlates with everyone’s needs.

In the case of Noah Kravitz, there is no way his readers are worth $2.50 each – the amount Phonedog is seeking from Kravitz) and I personally don’t believe the company can lay claim to anything he has done with that list because it has always been just him – even with his old user name being both his name and the company’s name, the company was not represented without Noah’s name in there. As we don’t know the specifics, we can’t fully judge, but I don’t see grounds for the company to get any compensation.  They didn’t hire him specifically to start-up a Twitter feed for them and there didn’t seem to be any bespoke characteristics they might have developed for Kravitz to speak of when representing the business full and not himself.

While this legal wrangling will most likely not set any precedent, there are some things companies should do to protect themselves when it comes to social IP and the off-chance of it flying away if an employee (or more)  should leave:

  • Establish a clear social strategy for official communications and also for other employees who might invoke the company’s business when tweeting on their own behalf.  Besides mitigating PR issues, not setting clear parameters for employees discussing company issues (or not) there may be competitive or SEC issues that could arise if they share too much.  Make sure your internal and external strategies are clear and consistent.
  • If you start a social presence from scratch, make sure it has a specific POV or narrative that is consistent with your brand.  Whether in tone of voice, personality or whatever, that specific element effectively instills what could be considered social IP.  Even if you are engaging a person to create a following, establish it as a work-for-hire so that ownership is still in the control of the company if that person decides to bolt.
  • If going the route of bootstrapping on existing outlets, ensure that they work with your communication, but also make sure that there is no confusion who’s doing the communicating for who.  In this case, an outside source is communicating on the company’s behalf – so the company cannot expect to have ownership and control of the outside source.  Clear expectations are key – especially when determining if you want to transition this quick-reach solution to the long-term. As there are complexities related to the long-term when using outside sources, its one more reason to have a clear strategy prior to engaging social outreach.

Sadly, there are many more questions than answers when it comes to social and that’s why its imperative to lay a solid foundation or ground rules for your social branding. Whether it is corporate updates, product information, help or just the weather that you want to provide for your social minions, keep yourself out of a legal quandary by laying down strong ground rules for your business and employees.