Monday, July 30, 2012

A Less Respected Profession

Advertising isn't exactly known as being the most respected profession in the world.  However, one professional that often trumps advertisers for the "less deserving of respect" award would have to be politicians.

Political campaigns are even more notorious for distributing their own selective brand of the truth to the masses.  But regardless of which brand of the truth you subscribe to, it's unanimous that the high-road isn't exactly the one most traveled along the campaign trail.

So imagine my surprise when I read that both Presidential candidates vowed to tone down their campaigns in Colorado following the mass-shootings in Aurora.  Obviously, it shouldn't take twelve dead for this to happen.         

Advertising with class and dignity should be the rule and not selectively reserved for times of mourning.  Candidates should have the same respect for the voting public and even their opponent as they do citizens who are grieving a loss. 

That's the level of respectability we should demand from our leaders; some might even call it Presidential.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

British Petroleum's Branding Without Basis

With the Opening Ceremony for the London games this week, brands sporting their Olympic tie-ins are in full campaign mode.   A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Coca-Cola's "active lifestyle" Olympic platform, questioning the believability of connecting a sugary soft drink to healthy lifestyle position.     

This week, I was struck by the British Petroleum's Olympic campaign here in America.  The new  campaign profiles the hard work and determination of the athletes who will be competing in the games, who are then graced with support from BP in the ad.  Although the ads share an interesting story of the athlete, there isn't an authentic connection to the oil company.  Naturally, BP's strategy is to connect their brand to the feel-good stories of Olympians; however, such tactics are a lazy attempt at brand marketing.  That's becoming a predictable trend for oil companies who are resigned to the idea that they sell a commodity. Last year, I questioned the brand marketing of ExxonMobil, who runs a similar bogus campaign in support of math and science education.

The problem I have is that both campaigns are irrelevant to the brand.  They're strategic public relations moves designed to make consumers feel better about the brand as opposed to convincing them with the merit of their product.  Neither the Olympic platform or the education platform are essential brand propositions that have anything to with differentiating their oil (or the delivery and sale of it). 

Differentiation should be the focus of their ads, especially since the product is increasing relegated to commodity status.  A commodity product negates the purpose of a brand.  It's essentially becomes generic.

There are a lot of ways oil companies could differentiate their brand beyond a price point a couple cents cheaper than their neighbor.  The origin of the fuel, the quality/cleanliness service stations, how their unique chemical make up and additives are good for your engine or even number of convenient locations to fill up at.  I would suggest environmental impact, however, considering the public environmental catastrophes that companies have on their records, a campaign of this nature would be pushing the bounds of believability.

Perhaps British Petroleum could build on this by continuing their post-Gulf of Mexico oil spill campaign.  The company did a lot of environmental branding work before the spill.  After the spill, they apologized and then were quick to tout that the Gulf region is back and tourism is booming once again.  They should go a several steps beyond saying sorry.

The rig that exploded was improperly inspected- not enough Federal inspectors.  However, maybe BP could develop a position of being the safest oil company.  They could hire independent inspectors to oversee all of their operations and tout that in their commercials.  Their positions would be supported with hard facts, as the best positions are.  

Oil companies have many disbelievers and even detractors passionate enough to deface their ads.  Thus, convincing people of the contrary (or just getting them consider it) will require nothing less than facts backing a unique and meaningful marketing position. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Simultaneously The Solution and The Problem

For any company who generates revenue from advertising, such as magazines, newspapers, television networks, websites or sports leagues, the answer to all of their budget-crunching problems appears, at least on the surface, to be more ads.  In order to make more money, you must sell more ads.

However, there is a self-defeating side to this under-analyzed equation.  The more ads you sell, the less effective they become.  That's because your client, who is paying for the space, now has more competition for the attention of the audience being delivered.  In turn, the price should drop along with the client's returns.     

Back in December, I wrote about this exact problematic advertising cycle while discussing Facebook's decision to sell advertising in newsfeeds of its users. It also explains why seven months ago, Facebook increased its limit of ads per page from six to seven and now, only seven months later, is testing ten ads per page.

See the trend?

Many advertisers consider sports a holy grail of returns. They garner a lot of attention from desired demographics and with rapid escalating costs, sports teams are also desperate for the money.  So it's no surprise that stadiums and arena's have become cluttered with advertising over the past twenty to twenty-five years.  They even pioneered the practice of selling the name of the building.

So it comes as very little surprise that today, with very little valuable space left to sell, the National Basketball Association announced a tentative plan to sell advertising on team uniforms, thus becoming the first major professional sport to take the plunge for game uniforms.  A "final decision" on uniform advertising is expected to be made in September. 

Although it's being reported slightly differently by some people, the advertisement will be about two square inches and located over the heart on the uniform.

But when you understand that in advertising, more is simultaneously the problem and the solution, then you know better than to believe that.  Instead, it recreates the problem its supposed to solve.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eight Million Stories

New York City has a earned reputation for being a place that can challenge a person, a fact that is most beautifully captured by the in the old adage "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere." Everyday, eight million people test their fortitude by overcoming obstacles that only this city can throw their way. Whether the challenge is as big as a skyscraper or simply making a rent payment with a little left over, overcoming these challenges can feel like pulling off a minor miracle.

On my trip to New York this past weekend, the city lived up to its well-deserved reputation.  As I waited in the airport on Sunday night, panic began to spread throughout the terminal as one flight after another was canceled.  Around 10 p.m., my 8 p.m. flight home was the grounded as well. 

Typically, this isn't a huge hurdle.  However, I lost my cell phone this weekend and had no way to communicate, so obviously, the cancellation put me in a serious bind.   

I was being forced to find a place to stay at the last minute without any way communicate.  Thankfully, I wasn't the only one facing this big apple-esque test on Sunday.  With the help of two other stranded travelers, I was able to find a room back in the city for the night. 

In a city of eight million stories, I am truly grateful to have shared this one with such perfect strangers. 

Thank you for sharing this New York moment.   

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Peanut Persuasion

Although the campaign is already a few months old, I saw this Planters Peanut commercial for the first time last night.  What struck me about the ad was their use of an endorsement from Men's Health Magazine.  Planters seemed proud; even going as far as to change the color of their packaging and include a Men's Health logo side-by-side with Mr. Peanut.  Obviously, the brand really ran with their endorsement from Men's Health Magazine.

For the peanut producers, receiving the "healthy" endorsement is a positive, especially as calorie-cutting consumers are seeking healthier alternatives or at least (marketer provided) healthy reasons to justify their current snack selections.

However, any reasonable consumer should question the cross-promotional baggage that ensued.  Men's Health didn't just endorse peanuts as a great source of protein, a fact that isn't exactly breaking news, they specifically endorsed Planters Peanuts as a great source of protein.  Obviously, Planters isn't the only peanut packing the protein.  Therefore, consumers walk away with the feeling that any genuine sentiment that may have existed when endorsing peanuts is overshadowed by a partnership between deceitful marketers and journalists willing to jeopardize their credibility.

Unfortunately,  their execution may make this a moot point anyway.  In the ad, the viewer must sift through a ridiculous side story loaded with unnecessary and obviously questionable proclamations about "manliness" before Planters ever gets to the important part - the protein.  That's the whole key.  

Peanuts (and other types of nuts) are packed with protein.  It's a fact that can be supported by real evidence, as opposed to the to weak linkage of peanuts and masculine machismo.  Even though Planters isn't the only nut with healthy protein (they all do), but it's the most popular peanut.  Peanuts will gain the perception of healthy and when people think peanuts, they already think Planters first.

It's the luxury of being the category leader.  And that's real peanut persuasion.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


You have a choice.  You can either take great pride in your work or you can let it be what prevents you from ever trying.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rethink Social

If you would like you're brand's message to be read more than once (so it's actually absorbed by the listener), then maybe social media isn't the best channel for you. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Coke's Unbelievable Branding

The opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games is less than month away.  Athletes from all over the world will be competing for gold medals, while marketers blessed with budgets big enough will be there to fulfill a different type of golden opportunity.

A brand that always makes the trip to the Olympics is Coca-Cola.  According to a report from AdAge, Coke's strategy is to use the global athletic platform to debunk the perception that Coca-Cola is bad for your health by connecting Coca-Cola with the athletes who are representing the United States in the games and who, if I may go out on a limb, don't include Cokes as part of their training regimen.

Coca-Cola executive Katie Bayne explains their Olympic pitch to consumers by saying "We have a timeless commitment to enhance well-being in all of its forms. Encouraging people to get active, and providing them with opportunities to do so, has always been at the heart of our brand values."  

When I read the quote, I hear a lot more crisis management than great reasons we all should be drinking Coke.  It's a defensive quote because people don't associate Coke with active and healthy.  Can you blame them when Coke is the number one option complementing every high-calorie fast food meal and their doctor recommends they cut back on the drink?

Connecting Coke to healthy is just not believable at all.  Therefore, Coca-Cola attempting to do so, with or without the backdrop of the Olympics, is a bad idea and won't benefit the brand. In fact, engaging in a dialogue they're sure to lose, will actually be destructive to the brand.  Their marketing should tell people why they made the right choice by reaching for a Coke, not reminding them that it's only a small part of what's making them fat. 

The obvious connection Coca-Cola should be making on the Olympic stage is one of patriotism.  Coca-Cola is classically American.  Who's going to argue that that's a bad thing, especially during the Olympics?  And get this, it's true too.  

In fact, patriotism should be Coca-Cola's response to critics who blame it for society's health problems.  Like freedom itself, Coca-Cola is a pillar of American society.  Their rebuttal should be that in the land that protects freedom at all costs, people should have the right to choose for themselves something as simple as what they want to drink.  Even if that means reaching for something as innocuous as a little Coca-Cola.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Target's Supermarket Strategy Misses The Mark

Its been a long time since I have found an advertisement as annoying as the Target jingle that regularly interrupts my Pandora radio.  The comments posted on the article linked above echo my annoyed frustration with the jingle, so I take some comfort in knowing that I'm not alone.

Yet, despite my annoyance, I know the tactic Target is using is sound.  The ads are very consistent and their high frequency is a good thing in marketing.  However, Target's new market strategy is missing the mark. 

Their new strategy focusing on adding fresh foods seem like a very logical move for the retailer.  In a 2010 New York Times article, Target executives Tim Murray and Will Setliff summarize such logic. "We focus on mom and she’s quite busy, dinner is ticking in the back of her mind every day."  So, says Setliff, "the concept is built around the notion of fill-in trips and convenience trips. There’s a real need for convenient and affordable grocery options."  After all, it's very logical see how one-stop shopping would be very convenient.

Unfortunately, human behavior consistently proves otherwise.  The specialists who own a singular position in our minds have the most success and Target's grocery initiative takes a step back from that focus.  Although that's not exactly a logical defense, 'll also remind skeptics that consumer behavior rarely ever is. 

Maybe I can logically explain why Target's combination retail/supermarket concept won't work long term.  According to statistics from the Food Marketing Institute, the average supermarket in 2010 carried almost 39,000 items.  If Target cannot stock 39,000 items like the grocery store down the street does, then Target is at a big disadvantage in terms of product selection.  Consequently, consumers will discover that shopping at Target isn't exactly one-stop after all.

Thus, Target's grocery-centric strategy is actually advertising a weakness and not a strength; and that's a marketing strategy that's way off-the-mark.