Tag Archives: Disney

8 Examples How To Build Brands Through Audience Participation

SW_DarthWhere it was once taboo to allow normal folks to play with and publish content based on a brand’s product, the opposite now stands when looking at a key factor of Audience Development. It wasn’t too long ago that brands might have shuddered if their IP was manipulated in a way like Wacky Packages did,  but most of those survived – and it was only a precursor to what audiences have the capability to do now with creative tools and the low cost of distribution and sharing. Those tools and abilities further strengthen the abilities for brands to build audience through allowing full participation.

So, in the spirit of Wacky Packs, the truth of the title above was fudged a little bit. Included are not 8 separate examples, but 8 different iterations of one example where a brand is allowing the audience to participate. That brand is STAR WARS – which is now managed by Disney – and these examples are how the characters were inserted by a fan (or fans) into the Tinder social platform.  A compelling dilemma about the brand is that they didn’t foster or celebrate that audience participation for years. Instead, choosing to control everything and any fan-generated content was done on the outskirts, completely pulled off with a rebel intent like the heroes of the series. When Disney took over, that spirit of community celebration and the welcoming of un-“official” creatives really started to take it’s rightful place.

All that is needed is the positive space in which to allow the audience to play – if the audience shares the same passion for the brand as the brand obviously does, they will make it happen. In addition, with proper Audience Development, they will self-regulate due to their affinity for the brand and bring the brand to heights that might have previously been unimaginable. The proof of just such a thing can be seen above and below with the classic STAR WARS characters trying to find a little love on Tinder…


SW_Lando SW_Droids SW_Leia SW_Han SW_Luke


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.


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…

Native Advertising By Any Other Name

While reading an interview in Forbes with former NY Times Editor, Bill Keller, there was a feeling of deja vu – or at least just the feeling we’ve seen this all before.  The interview was wrapped in the blanket of technology and how that’s affected traditional media stalwarts like the NY Times.  One of the lead-off questions related to Native Advertising – the creation and placement of editorial-like content by advertisers on news or editorially driven sites. The thing that’s clear is that Native Advertising is just a catchy new name for something that’s been around forever – it’s just a bit blurrier.

Nielsen Goof

For decades – if not centuries or millennia – content has been pitched for sponsorship. What more recently was considered advertorial – where a company could write content and have it show up in a publication with clear demarkation as advertising – has become easier to pull off and produce within digital media.

This form of advertising through “legitimate” means goes back to patrons of religion, gifts for kings and even the holy of holies, Disney – you didn’t think that the Carnation Cafe is on Main Street just because it fit the them, did you? The problem is that many of the leading digital news outlets and even some traditionals are allowing pure advertising to be pay-for-play while misleading many readers about its origins.

Again, we’ve known this type of thing has gone on forever, but maybe we’ve gotten too lazy about it in the search for bigger dollars.  Maybe we’re OK with changing our ways from selling the advertising surrounding good content to just selling the content – good or bad.

Where there was a clearer delineation between advertising and publicity – with the only correlation was that the more content people read, the more it attracted advertisers.  Now, advertisers are trying to be both sides of the coin and it causes problems that time will tell whether it makes a difference or not.

One of those problems is that it is up to the reader to figure out whether they are reading unbiased news or corporate spin. It might have been easier before, but it is no longer.  Some trade blogs and sites are almost completely populated with thinly veiled advertisements.

The other problem – and one that certainly hits far fewer people – is the way these practices have shifted the very form of publicity. What may have been the challenge of pitching a compelling story that a reporter would cover, shifted first to being included as a value-add to a media spend – and finally to just a matter of having a piece written and receiving paid-placement on a publisher site with little to no editorial involvement. It becomes a problematic when companies feel that they can just post releases on the wire and reporters are waiting at the ready to write about them.

As money becomes harder to come by and the ability to keep commerce and sound reporting separate, opportunity arises for advertisers to benefit.  But, regardless of the name you might want to affix, is Native Advertising the way to go? If history is any proof, it’s the only way it’s ever really been – just a little more shrouded in technology.

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.

Can Good Come From Celebrity Resurrection Through Technology?

Since we first saw Princess Leia appear in a hologram projected from R2-D2’s projector – if not before – we’ve been waiting for holographic projections to come into their own.  In some ways, they have been around and put to use.  One that has been around is the ghostly figure saying goodbye as you leave any of the Disney Parks’ Haunted Mansion rides. But, there was the need for even more than that simple loop. I had heard Peter Guber talk about his experience at Sony’s corporate headquarters in Japan – where he had an interaction with a holograph without realizing it. So, fuller-functioning hologram’s been nearing reality for a while. Tupac Shakur’s performance in death at Coachella may have been the coming out party for hologram technology, but is it what we really wanted?

Courtesy of AV Concepts

In my blog from a few days ago, I mentioned the appearance of Tupac during Dre and Snoop’s set to close during the Coachella music festival. I mentioned that his holographic representation was cool, but also somewhat freaky.  Perhaps the better sentiment was macabre. MTV.com captures the essence of the performance and brings up questions about future iterations of this technology in the concert realm.  I think they were right in saying that it might work in short spurts – and in the right context – but it’s not something that could deliver in a longer format. The novelty can definitely wear thin after the first few moments of wonder. A lot of the factors of acceptance will rely on who the performer is and how they are represented.

The bigger issue is whether we, or their families, are comfortable with the representation holograms provide.  Beyond the fact that they are obviously not real, there can be discomfort in the “actions” they take.  The celebrities’ families are usually the ones who have control over whether their likeness is used.  If you look at one of the things I was most impressed with regarding the Tupac “performance,” the sound design was great.  Its easier to take recordings of past performances, but Coachella didn’t even exist when Tupac was killed in 1996. But, he started his performance by yelling out. “What the (expletive) is up, Coachella?!” The utterance of Coachella and many other utterances throughout were uncanny.

What happens when deceased celebrities start saying things they would have never said in real life? There are enough issues with celebrity endorsements (direct or implied) among those who are living.  I can only imagine the murky water we can get into by giving others control – even if it is the deceased’ loved ones who are making the decisions.

There was a seeming run on deceased celebrities endorsing products in the last decade of the 20th century – Fred Astaire dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner, Louis Armstrong, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant Groucho Marx and Gene Kelly for Diet Coke, and John Wayne stumping for Coors Light. There was some backlash about those and they haven’t been seen much since the turn of the century.  Perhaps it was because they lost the wow factor.  Or, maybe it was because families and brands recognized it was certainly not a genuine endorsement. This newly  realized hologram technology can cause a run on some uncomfortable endorsements.

There is certainly much to laud companies like Digital Domain and AV Concepts(who pulled this execution off) as it can lead to some truly engaging experiences in the future. Maybe the best use of the technology – when related to celebrities or other famous people – will be for historical or educational purposes. Going back to the Disney park sphere, the comparison to the Hall Of Presidents in their Florida park would be most relevant.  When it first came out, the animatronics were captivating, but it was just a matter of time within the show that it became old.  Holograms would take it to the next level, but how long would the still-lifeless characters maintain our attention?

As entertainers, content providers and marketers, we just really need to be smart about how we use the technology so it doesn’t enter the realm of 3D films – where most instances are a waste.  We definitely don’t want any depiction to turn people off to the celebrities or brands they might represent or “endorse.”

There may be some other great opportunities for holograms in the future for communication – like Leia did in STAR WARS. We just have to be judicious when using the technology as a resurrection tool for the celebrities we love.

Dear John, If Only You’d Told Your Story, We Might Have Come

It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone that JOHN CARTER opened so poorly at just over $30 million.  Disney marketers can take some solace from the markets outside of the US, where the take was around $70 million with the biggest opening ever in Russia.  The shame is that it probably didn’t have to be that bad.  Because there were so many challenges inserted by the marketing team themselves, they lost sight of the story.  If they had focused more on that, perhaps more people might have come to see it.

I can understand their reported concern about mentioning Mars in the title due to some concerns – perhaps unfounded – about people’s perceptions of titles with Mars in it.  But the Mars comps I was hearing were kid’s animated titles – not epic ones like this?  And, with the change to a name like John Carter, isn’t it a no-brainer that you would/should focus everything on conveying who he is?  Even with the fan-made trailer that was better than anything the marketing team put out doesn’t really provide any emotional connection to the character.  It does provide context of where he’s from and, possibly, how he got there, but not much more.

From my understanding, Disney was floundering with how to promote it and became wishy-washy about placement and focus and even relied more on lamenting its qualities.  I don’t buy that hinging a huge picture on a less-recognizable name or less-known source is what the main problem was. In some markets, the blame game had already begun, leaving me to shake my head at the larger international numbers. The marketing seemed to become a grabbing of straws – do we go after kids and show the dog-looking character?  Do we go after the action fan and show battle sequences?  Do we post humongous billboards with battle scenes and retro B-movie design motif or humongous billboard with a four-armed alien amidst an entirely different design motif?

Amidst all of that, there was still nothing about John Carter, the character- or anything that people cared about.  During the same opening weekend, a small film opened with very direct marketing to gain $7 million at the box office.  SILENT HOUSE didn’t hide what it was and went after that crowd with a vengeance.  They’ve got to be pretty happy with the opening weekend return.  Did Disney think they had an epic, so therefore they just needed to be big and hammer at no-one in particular? If you’re going to be sci-fi, tell a sci-fi story.  If you’re going to be an otherworldly fish-out-of-the-water love story, tell it. Paralysis is not an option for storytelling and maybe the testing and second-guessing internally led to that paralysis here.

The books by Edgar Rice Burroughs a century ago were the forefront and inspiration of so many of our beloved stories – from STAR WARS to AVATAR and more. It is truly sad that the story so many storytellers derived their stories from could do no better than seem like a derivative of all those who came after it.  The campaign tried to do everything but tell its own story and it will have nothing to show for it other than the piling on about what the marketing group did or didn’t do – and that isn’t good for anybody in the industry. Just tell the damn story…

Thankful For a Green Thanksgiving

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, there are many thing to be thankful for. A great family, exciting times and Muppets.  OK, there’s other things to be thankful for, but one of those smaller joys is the opportunity to share something that I loved as a child with my own child.  As times have changed and very little seems the same as it used to be, sports and the arts are some of the few things that are still very similar – if not just more expensive.  With that, we look forward to going to see THE MUPPETS on Friday with our daughter.

It will be interesting to see how well it does.  There is certainly a phenomenal marketing and PR campaign.  The buzz and other elements that Disney has less control over are even running rampant.  Our friends at Oskoui+Oskoui went so far as to create some magazine covers – as if there weren’t enough images of Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal staring out from the newstand already.

What’s interesting is that Jim Henson started the deal with Disney prior to his untimely passing because he thought they would be the best suited to manage the brand and characters, yet the company has seemingly just dabbled with the brand.  There are features at the theme parks and they released a couple of new pieces of content in the way of TV shows and the like, but they never seemed to feel fully comfortable with the property.

Now, they have gone full-bore with the property and have – for the most part – kept with its satirical roots. With a fun set of satirical videos created by the agency, BuddhaJones, and the treatment of the characters as “real” across numerous Disney-owned properties like ESPN, it seems like they’re nailing it.  Perhaps there was a timidity in deference to Jim Henson or the original creators themselves.  Frank Oz, Henson’s partner in the creation of the property, respectfully stepped away from the project and there was rumored to have been some challenges in having non-puppeteer crews work effectively with the puppeteers.  One recount of filming that I’ve heard is that there were process conflicts throughout principal photography and they did not really get into a rhythm until  re-shoots.

I’m hoping the fact that someone (Jason Segel) who grew up watching and loving the show as a kid actually wrote and stars in this version makes for a strong movie.  It certainly seems that Segel’s involvement reinforced the idea to just go for it – and it seems to have worked.  The franchise is one that I’ve always loved.  I was so happy to watch THE MUPPET MOVIE with my daughter and to hear her laugh at the same things I did.  Now, every time she sees one of the characters, she calls out that its “one of Daddy’s favorites.”  Whether they are a favorite or not, it’s still pretty cool to hear your child say that.  I was happy for a friend of mine, who is one of the film’s producers, that he was able to participate in a franchise like this one as the opportunity does not come around often.

Perhaps the songs might not be as memorable as “Rainbow Connection” or “Movin’ Right Along.” Or, maybe the characters won’t act or sound exactly like we remember.  But, the chance for adults to share something like this with their kids is special. 

From a marketing perspective, it will be interesting to see how it does at the box office.  As stated before, the promotion of this film has been top-notch and the team couldn’t be faulted for low numbers. For the sake of the franchise, this will do phenomenally well at the box-office with Black Friday becoming Green Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving!