Thursday, March 27, 2014

Advertisers Bemoan The Broken System They Created

Dig just a tad deeper into AdAge's fluffy commentary on a "Day of Reckoning" for sports leagues and their broadcast partners and the story it tells about adland and its clientele is not a happy one.  The CliffNotes version is a group of bewildered advertisers publicly threatening sports leagues with their diminished returns from choosing live sports and its ever-skyrocketing costs as their preferred medium of communication.  But this is truly the equivalent of the addict threatening his dealer.

Thus far, broadcasters haven't had too much of a problem finding an advertiser to pay what they tell them to for a television spot during live sporting events.  Obviously, advertisers' eager willingness to pay whatever it costs to talk to the always dependable sports viewer is the very reason for the ever-escalating premium. Perhaps if advertisers' had the courage to say no to broadcasters, then they wouldn't overpay for the right to pass on the cost to their willing client.  Until that starts happens, they're will be no day of reckoning.  

However, the crux of this problem is the product itself; no one wakes up each morning hoping to have their attention interrupted by another irrelevant advertisement.  So, not surprisingly, the ability to zap through any and all annoying interruptions to one's television consumption is, depending on who you ask, either the most wonderful thing ever or a serious threat to a once cozy ecosystem that was maintained by large captive audiences.     

Interestingly, the article in AdAge covers the symptoms of the problem but never comes close to diagnosing the disease or finding its cure.  The author, who is simply reporting on the panel discussion, suggests that advertisers might find better bargains with digital and social mediums - both places that are attracting more eyeballs than ever.

This is flat out wrong however.  The medium cannot dictate whether an audience is captive one; rather it's the work of a marketer to connect in a meaningful way with those who choose to listen them. 

It's never been good policy to simply hijack the attention of your audience. 

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art or Advertising

Wren is a small clothing company that you've probably never heard of before, but after last week, there is a good chance that you've seen their work and don't even know it.  Their video, "First Kiss," recently became the latest YouTube sensation, racking up a fast 42 million views and is now approaching 61 million views.  The artistic film features 20 strangers who meet for the first time and then kiss.

First Kiss is a truly a beautiful video.  It's black-and-white simplicity sweeps an ever-expanding audience off their feet and convinces them of an ideology of love at first sight.

According to the video's director Tatia Pilieva, the video “felt so real and sincere" as audiences witness the strangers "shed all these layers in front of our eyes and in front of the cameras."  This sentiment really resonates, as the innocence of watching nervous strangers before they kiss reminds us of our own first kisses.

However, it didn't take long for some of that audience to lose their innocence with "First Kiss.  The video was proclaimed a "fake" when it was discovered that models were used to make the video and that Wren clothing is featured in it.  Suddenly, First Kiss appeared as something a lot less pure; it felt like advertising.    

I think it's an interesting debate whether or not First Kiss is actually a good advertisement.  It's a fantastic advertisement from the standpoint of return on investment; 61 million views and counting with a reported $1,300 budget.  And it's only natural that this led to "significant bump" in exposure and sales, the significance of which cannot be understated at a four-person company.

On the other hand, while First Kiss momentarily catapulted Wren to the top of mind for many, the brand and it's clothing are barely even bit actors in the video.  The brand's only mention is at the very beginning of the three-minute film as "Wren presents" flashes on the screen while also never explicitly saying who designed the clothes.  Thus, Wren seems to make the conscience decision to downplay the very brand that they're trying to establish in order to achieve the purity necessary to create such an appealing video.  That fact surely obfuscates the high-efficiency of their $1,300 investment as it's difficult to derive brand equity from a video with so little actual branding.  It's similar to hitting a home run to the moon but only getting to second base.  

Ultimately, I believe the real victory for Wren is still to come.  First Kiss may not have done much to build a brand by itself, but I presume will drive the more opportunities to do so than ever before...which is the whole point after all.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Be Different

Every newsletter or mailer I receive goes directly into the trash.  However, this week, I pulled from my mailbox this awesome newsletter from Kiehl's.  It opened up into a full newspaper.   

First of all, it's a unique ad that grabs your attention.  Second, if a company is willing to put a little extra TLC into their advertising, it's fitting that they will do the same with their products and customer experiences. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Black Keys Show How To Be In The Big Leagues

The Black Keys are a band from Akron, Ohio.  Last year, they received a lot of well-deserved publicity for a their team sponsorship of the West Akron Little League's Orioles.  They grew up playing Little League baseball in Akron and saw it as a great way to get kids "having fun outside."  A $300 donation to ignited a great national news story.    

This season the band has enlisted the help of their fans - they're selling t-shirts and hoodies through their website and giving all of the profit to the West Akron Little League to help them pay for uniforms, equipment, repair the backstops and benches as well as offset participation fees for the kids.

And judging by the number of "out of stocks" on their website, I think it's safe to say their effort is well received by the public.

The Black Keys are a great example a big name brand doing a very human thing - supporting their hometown and a cause that they care about.  Further, they are a great example of what can happen when a big brand demonstrates they care about the community just as much as the local hardware store does; the surprisingly human behavior is so captivating that people cannot help but talk about it.  

 As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Your Words Matter

Earlier this week, I stopped at a deli for lunch and the clerk behind the counter asked "Do you need a bag for that?"  I hesitated... then replied, "sure, I'll take a bag."

Although this might seem like a harmless overture, they way it came out, I felt slightly uncomfortable replying yes. Of course I didn't actually need one. 

But in this situation, a small gesture that would make a world of difference would be, "let me get you a bag for this?"  The customer can refuse the offer but won't feel like its a burden to accept it. 

Such subtly might sound nitpicky; but it's also the difference between hospitality as opposed to customer service. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How Geico Overtook Allstate

"Geico passes Allstate to become No. 2 U.S. auto insurer."

To a smart marketer, a headline like this one jumps straight off the page, understanding the magnitude of such a story. Brand movement within a category, especially a mature one like auto insurance, is a rare feat; category rankings simply don't move that easily. 

But, what makes this an even more interesting case is that Geico has achieved this with, and I say this kindly, some of the worst advertising ever created.  For the most part, Geico's ads are for completely undifferentiated and don't say squat about the actual insurance - except for one exquisite takeaway they park at the end of every ad.

"15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance" 

This one simple sentence is truly the driving force behind the Geico brand. The reason it's so powerful is that it has differentiated the brand from their competition in a very real way.  Geico could have chosen to challenged the "good hands" team with a "better hands" strategy, but they understood that doing the same thing as an established competitor is a recipe for sure-fire failure.  Instead, they positioned themselves differently; as a cheap and convenient alternative to other auto insurers.  Of course, this is a very attractive alternative for many consumers who hate shopping around as much as they hate overpaying for it.  

Furthermore, it's important to acknowledge Geico's branding discipline; they've stuck to their "15 minutes" position for nearly two decades and it's paid off.  They insure the second most cars in the country that owns more vehicles than any other in the world.  But it doesn't hurt to spend over a billion dollars a year on advertising either. 

Naturally, when you're marketing strategy is as successful as Geico's, you don't just make headlines for jumping past the competition, the competition makes headlines for emulating you.  Recently, Esurance launched their "better hands" strategy against Geico, offering to cut their quote time in half.

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Jack Daniel's Toasts To Frank Sinatra

In June of this year, the famous whiskey brand will begin national distribution of a $165 premium bottle of whiskey, nostalgically named "Sinatra Select."  The company is paying homage to one of its biggest fans, "Ol' Blue Eyes."  Although it may not seem so, the connection between Jack Daniel's is as authentic as it gets, as Sinatra used to toast to Jack Daniel's on stage and is even buried with a flask of his drink of choice.  In fact, Sinatra's public endorsement of Jack Daniel's in the 1950's helped lift the brand to national prominence.    

But despite this natural pairing, the partnership between Frank Sinatra and Jack Daniel's struck me as odd.  Jack Daniel's has a much more rugged, every-man image today - selling bottles of it's no. 7 brand for around $25 and previously sponsoring a car in the NASCAR Series.  A Sinatra-branded bottle of whiskey for $165 is a deep departure from such a demographic, suddenly placing the brand on the highest shelf next to the "finest single-malt whiskey's." Will today's connoisseurs, who enjoy more choices than ever before, believe Jack Daniel's is the nector of the gods the way Sinatra once did? 

I have my doubts.  While paying homage to Frank Sinatra is a nice idea, the ultra-high price tag is a liability.  Jack Daniel's is positioning itself at the high-end and the low-end of the market; but a brand really must choose one.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing.