Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why GPS will change advertising

GPS units are becoming cheaper and cheaper, which means more than saving a hundred bucks on a Christmas present. Since GPS units are essentially just receivers that can do math (to triangulate your position, basically), when the chips' cost falls that's a big share of the cost of the unit.

But what happens when the chips move out of the GPS units and into cell phones (obvious applications), cameras (Flickr geo-tagged pics), and of course advertising. Business Week points out that a company named is putting GPS-enabled ads on the sides of London buses. This lets them serve ads based on where they are.

Look for 2008 to be the year that we started to see GPS technology really change our lives as it moves out of the car and into a lot of unusual places. The marketing implications are huge.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Make the logo bigger!

If you've ever worked in an advertising agency or worked with an advertising agency, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. (As long as you can laugh a bit at yourself.)

Full credit to World Wide Wadio for the creativity. I mean, the writing is good, but the effort to assemble a choir to sing it and to find that footage... That makes it priceless.

Agency/client relationships always have a natural tension to them, but the good relationships can make magic. Here's to a great Christmas season and a coming year filled with discussions about strategy, not logos. Ho ho ho...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Sweet & Sour Marketing

I had Chinese food for dinner last night. (It was pretty tasty--thanks for asking.)

And then I opened my fortune cookie. This is exactly what it said:

How disappointing! I mean, fortune cookies don't drive my life or anything, but they are the classic end to a nice meal eaten out of a paperboard box with metal handles. They are sometimes brilliantly clever. Sometimes poignant. Sometimes hysterical (particularly if you add the words "in bed" to the end of their phrases).

But what the hell was this? "Did you enjoy your meal? Get one to go!" Whose bright idea was this? That's not marketing. That's just dumb.

I don't know who made this fortune cookie (but Wonton Foods in Brooklyn is the world's largest maker of them, so I link to them in the hopes that they can ensure this kind of nonsense stops).

Now, get back to giving me my lucky lottery numbers and funny expressions like, "The world looks better from a new position (in bed)."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Airline Safety Video Enhances Brand Experience

Like Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic has worked hard to brand their unique flying experience. Not in terms of logos and stuff, but the actual experience.

Now, thanks to the Experience Curve blog, we have a look at their airplane safety video. It's not amazing (they have a job to do), but it's very cleverly and subtly different and Virgin branded.

Just goes to show, branding limitations are often not all that limiting...

Thanks to Ignite Lisa for pointing it out to me.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Brutal Honesty, the new marketing advantage?

Two companies have used marketing tactics recently that whipped my head around (figuratively, fortunately). Both were brutally honest. It was amazing, funny and rereshing.

Remember that 1990 movie with Dustin Hoffman and Darryl Hannah called Crazy People? He was an ad exec that went crazy and started writing lines like, "Metamucil. It helps you go to the toilet. If you don't use it, you get cancer and die." and "United, most of our passengers get there alive." These two companies suggest he might have been on to something.

The first,, offers only one product every day at a deep discount. When it's sold out, you're out of luck. When it's the next day, you're out of luck. What I really like is their FAQ section. Here are some excerpts:

I want to talk to a live person there, can I call you?
No. We are busy sourcing new products and shipping orders. You can post a comment to our community board, but we don't guarantee we'll respond. You should Google for the manufacturer contact to get product answers – we suggest a dating service, magic 8 ball, or ouija board for general life solutions.
Will I receive customer support like I'm used to?
No. Well, not really. If you buy something you don't end up liking or you have what marketing people call "buyer's remorse," sell it on eBay. It's likely you'll make money doing this and save everyone a hassle. If the item doesn't work, find out what you're doing wrong. Yes, we know you think the item is bad, but it's probably your fault. Google your problem, or come back to that product discussion in our community and ask other people if they know.
Maybe I'll just wait until this item becomes more widely available, so I know what other users think of it.
If that's how you want to live your life, sure. Fine. There are those who would say that your type will inherit the earth. Until then, though, the rest of us will have all the coolest gizmos.
Boom. Loved the company instantly. I now check it daily and yes, I wooted and bought something... Cool.

The other is Buckley's Cough Medicine. Their ads compare the taste of their product to the liquid that collects at the bottom of a garbage can. Apparently, they've been doing this shtick in Canada for years, but now they're rolling out down here. Reminds me of Listerine's brilliant campaign to battle Scope by acknowledging that it tasted bad, but it worked.

I haven't tried Buckley's yet, but I think ALL cough medicine is horrible, so might as well suffer a bit extra to get something that works...

What do you think, is brutal honesty a trend? Probably not, but it's giving these two companies an edge.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fat (Phat?) Marketing Idea

Let's say you work for a state agency charged with keeping obesity down. You have limited marketing funds. Oh, and it's the holidays, where the American dream is an overstuffed belly and a blissful turkey-induced nap.

You can give up, or you can get clever. My client, the NC Dept of Health and Human Services, got clever. Check this out (and maybe join up). I think this is a pretty good idea:

Sign up for the Eat Smart, Move More...Maintain, don't gain! Holiday Challenge!

Pumpkin pie, turkey with stuffing, fruit cake, fudge....the holidays are here bringing all sorts of delicious foods with them. Unfortunately for most, those holiday sweets and treats mean a couple of extra pounds gained. But we have a solution!

The second annual Eat Smart, Move More...Maintain, don't gain! Holiday Challenge begins on November 19. Registration is now open at Participation is free.

Your goal for the holiday challenge is to maintain your pre-holiday weight. You will not try to lose weight; just avoid gaining any during the remainder of the year. This can be tough, especially with all of those holiday goodies!

To help you do this, we will send you a weekly newsletter that includes tips, strategies and advice for dealing with one of the many triggers that can cause holiday weight gain. Recipes and a quick and easy menu idea will also be included.

During the Challenge, you are encouraged to download an activity log, food diary, and weight log from our website to track how much activity you do, what you eat, and your weight each week. In addition, you will be able to read a blog with expert advice on avoiding gaining weight during the season.

Be sure to sign up now! We hope you will join us in the challenge to maintain your weight over the holidays.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Can't Fight Tivo? Use it...

Let's say that you're a local car dealer in Utah and you fear that everyone is using Tivo to skip over your TV ads. You can fight it, whine about, move your TV budget elsewhere, or get clever.

Tony Divino Toyota decided to place two 15-second "bookends", spots that run at the beginning and end of a commercial break. Check them out. (There are two sets below, each of which would ordinarily be split by other commercials. )

Pretty clever. Can't do it forever, but it will likely get good buzz for them for a couple of months.

Monday, October 22, 2007

And so come the parodies...

Remember the Dove posts I did earlier about their great Campaign for Real Beauty?

Well, you didn't think guys would sit around quietly forever on that topic, did you? And so come the parodies. Here is Slob Evolution, from the Campaign Against Real Life...

That is really funny. As for Dove, being heckled with a high-end parody like this is the ultimate complement.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Power of a Brand, Demonstrated

People get confused as to what a "brand" is. It's not a logo, not a color scheme, not your CEO, not any ad campaign you've done or will do. A brand is totality of all the thoughts and feelings people associate with your product, your company, or even you.

A brand can be articulated any number of ways. This video is a funny example showing just how different Microsoft's brand is from Apple's brand. It's demonstrated based on design changes that are oh so accurate, but I think it also shows the dramatic difference in how MS and Apple approach the world.

What would happen if Microsoft redesigned the iPod packaging? Here's the answer. Enjoy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Ikea Commercial That Won't Run In America

Other countries are a bit more liberal in their sensibilities as to what can be shown on TV and what can't. Ikea's "Tidy up" campaign is just enough off-color that I don't think we'll be seeing these in the States any time soon... This one is being called "Always Pick Up Your Toys."

And this one... We'll call it spaghetti, for lack of a better name.

There are much more twisted ones in this campaign. If you'd like to see more, check out this link.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dove's OnSlaught Video Nearly as Powerful as "Evolution"

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty is back again, with a new viral video. A follow-up to their wildly popular "Evolution" video (Remember that one? Average looking woman sits in a chair and is transformed over about 75 seconds into a supermodel on a billboard? If not, see below).

The new video, called OnSlaught, is compelling to anyone who has daughters. (I have 3, so I'm paying attention.)

Check it out:

IMHO, this video is excellent, on message, compelling and will be shared. It's just 5-10% short of the Evolution video. Here's why:

  • Evolution came first. Sequels are almost never as interesting because you already know generally where they are going with it. You didn't know where Evolution was going when it started to play the first time.
  • Evolution was more subtle. This one makes a great point. It's well produced, but it's like it's trying harder to be hard-hitting. The other hit us when we weren't looking. This one still hits us, we're just looking for it in this case.
What do you think? (If you don't remember the Evolution video, watch it below... It's great.)

Which one do you like better?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

What if Google AdWords Could Listen to Your Phone Calls?

We all know how Google AdWords works, right? Whether on the search engine results page of a Google search or even from the text of your Gmail emails, Google is constantly evaluating content and serving up relevant text-based ads.

Now, a company called Pudding is looking to do the same thing, by electronically listening for keywords you say during the free VOIP phone calls they provide you. If you know what Skype is, then you're on the right track.

Basically, Pudding is like Skype except it's designed to be free instead of really, really close to free. And in exchange for giving you free calls, Pudding listens for words you might say like "pizza" or "vacation" and serves up ads relevant to what you are talking about.

Some, like the video below, are squawking about privacy concerns. One relevant point they make: Do BOTH parties to the phone call know that they are being recorded?

Because our research at Brogan & Partners has shown that people value relevant ads. These could be relevant ads. This newscast seems to be a bit of a hatchet job on this CEO, who is poorly prepared to defend himself. What do you think?

Friday, September 28, 2007

New Ideas for Commercial Theme Songs

This is a great video. Self explanatory. Very funny. The comedian is Eric O'Shea. He's talking about new ideas for putting theme songs into television commercials.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

TV "Events" Are Compelling Media Buying Opportunities

Cross-published on Brogan Blog

I think I watched about 1 hour of TV over the last 3 months. There was nothing on. I've got stuff to do. I didn't really miss it. Heroes

But then Monday: Wham! TV was back, and it wasn't playing around. How I Met Your Mother, Heroes, the new weird show Chuck. Tuesday with Two and Half Men. All of sudden TV was back. And I watched some Monday and <<gasp>> even a bit more on Tuesday. (Completely coincidentally, someone in my office just said to someone else: "Isn't tomorrow the Office premiere? Boom. Done. I'm there.")

There's been lots written about fragmentation of TV channels, the proliferation of DVRs like Tivo, the rise of alternative entertainment choices (online, gaming, etc.) and much of it is true. But let's remember that TV can still be an event that brings people together.

These events are advertising opportunities, and they are getting more valuable. Think season premieres, season finales, award shows, big sporting events... We've bought the Oscars for clients and been very happy with it. TV has problems, but to reach the world quickly, there are still opportunities.

What do you think? Leave a quick comment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Original Design Gangsta Video is Classic

This video is a number of things that marketing people will appreciate. It is:
a) hilarious, particularly to any designers/art directors out there, and those who work closely with designers; and
b) an absolutely great example of social media marketing on a shoestring budget. Enjoy.

I'm particularly proud that he's a fellow North Carolinian, and worked "North Cackalack"into the video...

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Friday, September 14, 2007

Michael Vick Apology Believability Varied Moment by Moment

After my earlier post on Michael Vick and his apology, I was contacted by the folks at HCD Research about some interesting research they did on the believability of Michael's apology moment by moment.

Turns out that HCD got a panel of 300 folks to watch the apology and to move their mouse either left or right to indicate how much they believed or did not believe Vick as he apologized. As you can see in the video, he was doing fairly well when he was saying he was wrong straight up.

But when he said he'd come to realize that dog fighting was wrong, people didn't believe him. And when he said he'd found Jesus, his credibility fell to near zero.

This sort of "dial testing" has been used for years to test ads and the like. I wasn't aware of MediaCurves using an online panel and a mouse to do it before they reached out. This is a fascinating way to analyze what "works" and doesn't work in public relations.

If you look at the MediaCurves channel in YouTube, you can watch similar panels about American Idol, Barry Bonds, and the apology of Cardinal Roger Mahony. Great stuff.

Thanks to Marcella Inserra at HCD Research for reaching out to me. A) It's the first time I've been "pitched" as a blogger, so I feel all grown up now and B) It was really interesting.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Google Moves toward Behavior-Based Targeting

First of all, apologies for my less than prolific output recently. Working on a book on social media marketing and it's taking a lot of time. Hope to have it finished in the next 30 days.

In the meantime, news out of Google that they are working to introduce behavior-based ad targeting. They made the announcement very quietly. Perhaps they fear a backlash from privacy advocates.

I could see that backlash coming, but frankly I don't get it. As a marketer, I look at behavior-based targeting as sort of the holy grail. Advertisers get to reach the people they really care about, but equally important, the ad recipient sees ads that are most likely to interest them. Lots of surveys have shown that people use ads to help them make purchase decisions. They like ads about stuff they like. They don't like ads about stuff they don't like. Easy enough. Behavior-based targeting does exactly that.

Maybe privacy advocates don't realize that they are already leaving big, giant, easy-to-find tracks all over the web. (Look at all the murder trials where they go back and reconstruct exactly what the person did on their computer after the crime.)

Good for Google. We can already do behavior-based targeting in TV, radio, print and direct mail. A few firms have it for the web. Good to see Google in the game.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Michael Vick's Apology, Crisis PR and the Analysts

Michael Vick apologized today for his role in the dogfighting scandal. In a press conference, he stood up, without notes, and accepted responsibility. Does it make it right? Of course not. But it's been a while since we've heard a complete apology from a public figure who has been busted. Take a look:

PR experts were saying he's toast (and maybe he is), but going up there, without notes and just talking for a few minutes was the best possible thing he could do.

Lots of people think crisis PR people can get you out of a jam. They can't get you out of this. When you've done wrong, and as wrong as he has, this was the best possible thing he could've done in the hopes of salvaging his career in a year or so.

My two cents. What are yours?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Creativity" in Ads May Be Linked to Media Buying

In an earlier post, I've talked about how important the media buyer is to the creative team. No matter how creative the ad, it does no good if it's in the wrong place. Now, new data from Tivo is providing further proof that the "right" ad in the "wrong" place is not worth much.

Would you believe that the top three least skipped ads among 20,000 Tivo families were for:

Not particularly "creative", not funny, not touching and not big budget, the Cort Furniture Rental spot shared these attributes with other winners. They tended to be straight forward and, most importantly, relevant to their viewers (that's where media buying savvy comes in).

A Bowflex commercial running during professional wrestling was one good example.

Watch for more segmentation to come, not just among stations, but WITHIN INDIVIDUAL SHOWS. Digital signals will allow one type of household to get one TV spot, while another type of household can get another TV spot, even during the exact same show, at the exact same moment.

Yeah, best be nice to your media buyers...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Disposable Branding: Pepsi's Ice Cucumber

Brand managers often think in terms of slowly building a brand, nurturing it, trying to get it to permeate the public consciousness and then protecting it at all costs. Nothing wrong with that.

But there's a growing number of experiments in the power of limited editions. Most recently, Pepsi unveiled a pale green drink in Japanese convenience stores called Pepsi Ice Cucumber.

Within weeks, all 4.8 million bottles of the "summer beverage" had sold out.

Pepsi didn't make anymore. They "kill[ed] off a product at the peak of its popularity" to quote Business Week.

It seems to me that in an age where Starbucks permeates every corner, where Wal-Mart in Scranton, PA looks chillingly like a Wal-Mart in San Fran, we're all hungry for something that's different and unique.

Pepsi spent two years developing this soda flavor and, right now, they have no plans to launch it again. But with Pepsi Ice Cucumbers selling on eBay for $4.50 a bottle, this type of fad marketing could do as much to help Pepsi's overall brand as any TV campaign could. It's also very good to have something like this for PR coverage and to generate blog buzz.

What do you think?

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Thursday, August 16, 2007

4 Fun Ads for a Friday

Sorry for the fewer postings recently, but I've been swamped the last couple weeks. I did want to do a quick post showing four fun print ads for you to enjoy on a Friday morning, to make up for the four horrible TV ads we looked at last week. Here goes:Full credit to Technospot, who collected all of these and 11 more. Check them out. Have a great Friday.

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Marketing is about much more than ads

I've been on the road a lot these last few days--including today. The other day, I dropped off my rental car at Enterprise in Romulus, near the Detroit Airport. Not only was I greeted nicely, but it was about 2:00 p.m., I had a flight to catch and I'd not eaten.

The woman told me to board the second shuttle, which was on it's way, but then pointed me to a grill where they were grilling hot dogs. They offered all the customers hot dogs, with all the fixings and bottles of water to take with them to the airport.

This is not only marketing, this is really good marketing. Despite the fact that I just got the American Express Platinum and that gives me free club access to some other rental companies, I keep going back to this Enterprise, because they always greet you quickly, offer you a bottle of water and get you on your way.

Congratulations to the Enterprise team for making sure that marketing goes right through to the customer experience.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Worst Recent Advertising?

Slate has a recent post in which they suggest the worst ads currently out there. Here are a few of them. Which one do you think is the worst?

"Filet-o-Fish": McDonalds

"Chicks with Swords":

"Blowfish, Lobster, Skunk": Vagisil

"Oreo Pizza Mustache": Domino's

Take the poll on the right hand side of the screen? Which ad is the worst of the worst?

~Jim Tobin
Life is Marketing

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Revenge of the Media Buyers

In a lot of agencies, the creative team gets all the glory. They create the spots that make people cry, make them laugh, make them buy... They write the ads that win at Cannes, that win Addys, that win Tellys.

But often it's the media buyers who have the real power. If they buy the right shows, the right space, the right type of media, the great creative gets its chance to shine. But now the website Oddee shared these examples of ads where the media buying was probably not as careful as it could've been. And the creative message definitely changed as a result.

So remember, be nice to your media team... Or your creative might end up licking a garbage can... You can see more of these at Oddee.

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Volkswagen's Latest Crossover is Bourne Spot

A "crossover" used to mean a cross between an SUV and a minivan, but the new VW spot for the Touareg 2 may redefine the word. 80% of the spot is a movie trailer for "The Bourne Ultimatum" featuring footage of Matt Damon running from crooked police in, of course, a Touareg. But then, there's a brilliant 2 second shot of another guy, looking at the car and uttering the "Holy..." This is, of course, the signature line of VW's powerful earlier Safety Happens campaign.

The ad, done by Crispin Porter out of Miami is part of a much larger $40 million deal between VW and NBC Universal. That's why you've seen VW's in movies from "You, Me and Dupree" to knocked up, but the team is doing more. VW has movies on their website showing how the stunts in the Bourne movie were done, and much more.

The ad is a great surprise with VW going from subtle product placement to movie star in a couple of seconds. This is a great example of outside-the-box cross promotion thinking, and it's getting some good attention in the blogosphere around the globe: Link 1, Link 2.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Only 12 Kinds of Advertisements: True or False?

Slate is reporting today on the findings of Donald Gunn, former creative director at Leo Burnett who is claiming that there are 12 kinds of advertisements. If you watch carefully, he argues, all ads will fall into one (or potentially a couple) of these 12 categories:

  1. The "Demo" Ad: These ads show you the product in action, like an informercial, or the new iPhone ads, that show you the features of the product during the spot.

  2. The "Show the Need" Ad: During this type of ad, you show how something is wrong with someone's life, and then show (or say) how your product fixes it.
  3. The "Symbol, Analogy or Exaggerated Graphic Problem" Ad: Similar to the show the need ads, these typically overdue it in demonstrating a problem, often with comedy. Or they may use a symbol or an analogy. Slate notes the erectile pill where the guy just can't seem to throw the football through a tire swing, until suddenly, bam...
  4. The "Comparison" Ad: In these ads, you specifically call out the problems with your competitors, either specifically or as a group. Car dealer radio ads often do this, as in "Other car dealers try to fast talk you, but at Chris Leith we talk straight."
  5. The "Exemplary Story" Ad: In this group of ads, you create a story in which the product can really shine, showing people how they really will benefit if they had such a product at such a time. (Full disclosure: This spot is a Brogan ad--and one of my faves.)
  6. The "Benefit Causes..." Ad: This is sort of like the exemplary story ad, but in this case rather than telling the story and showing the benefit at the end, you show the benefit first, ostensibly piquing the interest of the viewer/listener, who is trying to figure out what wonder product caused this great benefit.
  7. The "Presenter" Ad: In this case, a presenter or talking head or person dressed as a researcher or some such will explain to you the benefits of the product.
  8. The "Ongoing Characters" Ad: This one is easy, think Geico Caveman, Budweiser lizards, or Jared, etc. Create a character and stick with it for a while as the character tells us about the product, usually using humor.
  9. The "Symbol/Exaggerated Graphic Benefit" Ad: Just like number two, in which the advertisers exaggerate the problem they can fix, these ads exaggerate (or symbolize) the benefit that the product offers.
  10. The "Associated User Imagery" Ad: In these ads, you convince people they want to be like Mike, but usually in more subtle ways. By showing the types of people that use the product (and, of course, their highly toned abs), people who want to be like them will buy the product. (Laugh, if you will, but it works.)
  11. The "Unique Personality Property" Ad: These ads point out something that is a characteristic of the product and highlight it. This could be a bad name, like Smuckers, or a German engineering, like BMW.
  12. The "Parody" Ad: Very popular today, these ads take pop culture, twist them and put them into ads. These ads can be very funny, or not so much.
So the big question: Is this true and accurate? Gunn believes knowing the 12 types can be helpful to the harried creative struggling for an idea to pitch. Perhaps. The first comment on Slate was from someone adding two more, including "oddvertising" and "self-aware" advertising (like Joe Isuzu). Putting aside the fact that Joe Isuzu ads didn't really sell cars very well, I believe they were comparison ads wrapped in humor.

At the same time, arguing that there are only so many 'big ideas' is not limited to advertising. In novel writing (an area with much more license than you can find in a 30-second spot), some claim there are only 36 unique plot lines. In fact, I own writing software based generally on these limitations of ideas.

My thoughts: These are pretty big categories. I suspect that just about every ad I've ever seen could fall into one of them. At the same time, I don't believe that limits the profession. There can still be highly effective types within each category, just like there are bombs within each category. So to me, it boils down to a fun way to watch the TV and critique the ads--but weren't we all doing that already?

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Look at Old Friend in German Commercial

This is just a really fun spot. Watch it first, and then we'll chat.

There's so much to like about this spot.

  • First of all, the long format (2 minutes) is brilliant. I'm assuming this ran on German TV, and I'm not at all familiar with their commercial breaks, but it seems clear that this was longer than normal. The payback includes, among other things, over 600,000 views on YouTube so far.
  • Secondly, the documentary style. Classic.
  • The scenes of him just messing with people. Of course, that's great.
  • But most of all, how the agency took an assignment that could've led to the same ole same ole green power, save the world creative. And they twisted it, but not just for a gratuitous joke. The twisting amplified the message instead of taking it away, as it usually does in a beer commercial, for example.
Congrats to Epuron, who just won the coveted Golden Lion at Cannes for this ad. Great casting, too. The guy who plays the Wind is excellent. There is likely must celebrating at Nordpol+ Hamburg, the agency that created the ad. They deserve it. Brilliant.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Interactive Advertising Without A Computer

The advertising community has been excited for years about interactive advertising--online advertising that can engage the consumer. The theory is that engaging people in your brand is the single best way to built brand equity.

Today I stumbled across some great examples of truly interactive advertising that take place offline--out in the real world. Good fun stuff. The first campaign is for Quicksilver, a maker of surf and skate wear.

This Quicksilver campaign is a good example of really thinking about what your target audience wants , particularly right when they are seeing your ad. In an urban environment, skateboarders are looking for some place to ride and rails they can grind on.

This next example is for an undetermined brand, but it's funny and gets people to spend time with the ad. And it made me laugh, so it's in the post. Enjoy...Credit to Boredstop for the finds.

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rats, My Product Tie-In Killed My Sales

It's a proven formula, take a well-known movie, particularly a kid's movie and tie your product to it. McDonald's has done it with Shrek. Burger King is aligned with the Simpson's movie.

This summer's hot Disney-Pixar movie is Ratatouille (pronounced Rat-a-too-eee), about a Rat named Remy who dreams of being a big-time fancy chef. Ok, cute movie. My daughter has the Wii video game.

Now let's say you're the maker of a new Chardonnay and your marketing person brings you the idea to name your new product, Ratatouille and put a picture of a rat on the label. Do you:

  1. Fire your marketing person; or
  2. Yell, ahah, and start sketching the new label.
Oh, and you're selling the wine at Costco...

Seems like a questionable strategy to me, but they are certainly getting coverage out of it. And Fat Bastard Wines continues to do well even if it makes me think of the Austin Powers movie, so quirky can work. But Rat wine, at Costco... I don't know... Take the poll on the right hand side and let me know what you think.

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Saturday, July 21, 2007

On email trash, guerilla marketing and cool stuff

So the title of this post is a search engine optimization no-no, but I just literally stumbled upon a cool web application that made me think three things at once:

  1. This is a cool solution to a minor annoyance;
  2. I can actually use this to avoid spam; and
  3. What a nifty little way to use social media to market it.
The website is called GuerrillaMail. They offer free, disposal email addresses that expire in 15 minutes (unless you ask for more time). But in that 15 minutes you can read and reply to whatever you get.

Why would you want a disposable email address? I wondered that, too... Ever go to a website that requires you to sign up for something and you have to input your email address? But it won't activate for you unless you click on a link, proving that you put in a real email address?

You want what they're offering, but don't want all their spam, or a lifetime commitment? That's when you use GuerrillaMail.

Ok, so that's cool. I bookmarked it. I'm going to use it.

What's the marketing lesson? They are getting the word out in part by using the social media website Stumble Upon. On that website, nearly 3 million people have signed up and downloaded a little toolbar that let's you Stumble Upon sites that other people think are cool. You hit "Stumble" and it loads a random web page in one of the categories you find interesting.

If you like it, you give it a thumbs up (like I did), and they serve it to more Stumblers. If you don't like it, thumbs down and it goes up less often. So it uses the power of social media to help people find interesting web pages.

A neat alternative marketing tactic that costs nothing. And hey, I found a neat way to stick it to the man...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Faux Social Media: Another Giant Corporation Fizzles in Web 2.0

AT&T is rolling out their U-verse product in select markets. The product allows people to get television over the Internet (along with high speed service). Now the potential for that is interesting, although as cable companies such as Time Warner Cable and Comcast have improved their service offerings and their service over the years, the argument for change is not a clear one.

To promote U-verse in Norwalk, CT, AT&T has a campaign under which they supposedly award free U-verse for a year to go named, conveniently enough, Bobby Choice. Get it, you have a choice. Uh yeah... They've put a bunch of videos on YouTube. Here's one.

Ok, so did that nauseate anyone else? We discovered it here in the office off of YouTube, and we immediately agreed that it was fake and cheezy. So why pretend that it's real? To AT&T's credit, they've admitted in the media that it's a campaign. But why pretend he's "won" this service? It deflates it, it minimizes it. He could've been just a funny spokesperson.

Ironically, in some ways it's better more in-depth information than is on the rest of the U-verse website, but the whole "faux social media" attempt just feels like another Wal-mart like mistake by a big company trying to understand the new rules of marketing.

Guerilla Marketing And Great Targeting Combined

Yesterday's post on guerilla marketing left some folks wanting some more. I've long believed that the more you know about your target audience and how they live their lives, the better your marketing campaigns are going to be.

I don't know anything about this campaign other than the pictures, but I'm assuming the folks at this Chilean beer company did their homework and found that their targets had a high propensity to ride the bus. If so, what a great idea.Makes me thirsty...

Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Great Guerilla Advertising from Mini

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a great outdoor ad from the folks at Mini involving a subway stop. That one was about the car's surprising interior room.

Today a colleague sent me this bathroom advertising campaign for the Mini. This one focuses on the exceptional handling of the Mini around curves. I'm not sure what kind of person came up with this campaign, but they are both twisted and brilliant.The agency I work for invented urinal mat advertising in the 1980s, for an anti-AIDS campaign. That involved printing a clever message ("Use a Condom: Your Life is In Your Hands") directly after on a urinal mat. But this takes it to a brilliant new level.

And while we're on the subject, here's another fun bit of urinal mat advertising, this one for ESPN Brazil.
One of the guys in my office was jealous of this last one. He indicated he'd drink a lot more water if we had it here. I don't think I'll be putting that on my to-do list, although I appreciate how clever these ads are. More importantly, I think the target audiences in both cases will appreciate them.

~Jim Tobin
Life is Marketing

Monday, July 9, 2007

Simpsons Movie Uses Surprisingly Few Tie-Ins for Marketing

The Simpsons Movie is getting a lot of buzz already, and with a huge promotion budget they could've chosen lots of partners for tie-ins--partners that would've spent millions more promoting the movie.

But they did not. They chose only 4:

  • Burger King
  • Jet Blue
  • 7-Eleven; and
  • Vans (shoes)
Even more interesting, according to Hollywood Reporter, is that only one of them has a big advertising budget. Instead, they will use non-traditional marketing to reach the target audience.

Some believe this was to further the Simpsons irreverent personality. Others believe that the power of non-traditional marketing is growing enough that the Simpsons folks felt they could score with it. I tend to think it's a little of both.

(As for me, I'm on vacation the rest of this week, so no more posts for me! See you next week. I'll try to lure some guest commentary later this week...)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wii: Today's Hot Game Console Pays Homage to Old School Game Favorites

I continue to love playing the Wii. We're starting to amass a number of games, which makes it more fun, of course. And I've been a fan of their mix of traditional and social media marketing for a while.

Now, the Coolhunter points us to an ad in Italy for the Wii that pays homage to the old games, like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. This ad is made of Post-It notes, which create a great visual for those old pixelated characters.And if you make an ad out of Post-It notes, people are going to take notes off of it over time, effectively destroying the ad (or spreading the word, depending on your perspective).

These notes talk about the classic video games and how fun they are to play new versions on the Wii. The headline: "Wii'll not forget."

Good stuff.

Jim Tobin
Life is Marketing

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Facebook for Richer, MySpace for Poorer?

A new article by a University of California researcher is creating quite the buzz in the blogosphere. Danah Boyd is suggesting that there are significant class divisions between users of Facebook and users of MySpace. In her essay "Viewing American class division through Facebook and MySpace", Boyd suggests that Facebook is for better educated, higher income folks, while MySpace is for, well, the opposite.

As you can imagine, MySpace is pretty miffed and they are claiming to Business Week that over 20% of their folks make over $100,000.

And Facebook is sort of quietly enjoying their position. No doubt this article has already raced through their offices...

But what Boyd also notes that is getting less attention is why this may have happened, and she points to the formation of the sites for some clues. Lots of interesting stuff to consider. Check it out for yourself.

~Jim Tobin
Life Is Marketing

Sunday, July 1, 2007

"Thank you, come again!" 7-Eleven and Simpsons are a great match

I'm amazed by 7-Eleven's recent moves to turn about a dozen of their stores into Kwik-E-Marts. They're going to even sell Simpson's related-products, like Krusty-Os, and Squishees and Buzz Cola. They've decorated the outsides of the stores to make them look just like Kwik-E-Marts as part of a promotion for the upcoming Simpsons Movie.The amazing part is not that someone thought of the tie-in. That's a no brainer in this case.

  • What's amazing is that they're laughing at themselves.
  • What's amazing is that they're willing to cover up their brand temporarily.
  • What's amazing is the fact that Apu is a stereotype didn't stop them from doing it.
After decades of carefully packaging messages, the companies that are going to thrive in a Web 2.0 world are the ones that can be real. 7-Eleven is going to get a lot of benefit from this promotion. It's a great way to increase the value of the brand, don't you think?

Jim Tobin
Life is Marketing

Friday, June 29, 2007

Apple's iPhone Now in Hand, But How Big a Hand?

Further proof that no detail is too small to worry about... Apple has obviously put great thought into the size of their hand models. Check out these early shots as compared with the later shots:Nope, the phone didn't change size, but it sure looks like it did.

Strangest thing is, it really does make a difference in how you think about the phone, doesn't it?

Credit to Boing Boing for finding this.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hilton's "Be Hospitable" Campaign Tied to Paris' Bad Reputation?

Paris Hilton told Larry King tonight that she spent time in jail reading the Bible, although she couldn't cite her favorite verse. Yeah... I'm thinking she made that one up.

But my sister pointed out something interesting. The Hilton family of hotels launched their feel good "Be Hospitable" campaign around the same time that Paris' frivolity was starting to catch up with her. Could it be that Paris' is having such a negative impact on the brand image of Hilton Hotels that the firm felt compelled to reply?

After all, they'd run another campaign about getting from Point A to Point B before they started this.

Here's a version of their ad campaign. Check it out.

Feel better about "Hilton" than you did watching Larry King tonight? What do you think? Coincidence, or fixing some brand damage?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wired Let's 5,000 Subscribers Appear on Custom Covers

Did you ever go to the amusement park when you were a kid and pose for those phony magazine covers, like National Lampoon or Sports Illustrated. Great fun at the time.

Now Wired magazine has taken it a step forward. They invited the first 5,000 subscribers to sign up at their website to get their copy of the magazine delivered to them with their picture on it. Very cool mashup of personalized marketing, digital work flow and the use of a digital production press. An example is to the right.

So, of course, I'm flipping through Wired tonight and see it, and I'm bummed that I missed out on the invite. But to bring the point home, and leverage their brand positioning from this offline effort in the online world so it can live longer, they have a website where you can play too.

Not as cool, but fun nevertheless. Create and share your own wired cover. Here's mine. And if you're wondering if I know I'm a dork...yeah, I know. But hey, I feel a bit like I'm back at the amusement park...Go ahead, play with it. You know you want to... You don't have to share it, but you know you sort of want to try it... Or maybe that's just me...

MySpace enters the Fashion Space

MySpace Fashion has launched, an effort by MySpace to chunk their massive user network into groups that advertisers will pay for. So far, they have 50,000 friends on the network. Look for it to become its own tab along with "music" and videos.

But the real reason is to find a way to host banner ads from fashion companies. Here's the challenge: Ads from which companies?

As AdAge points out in a good article, MySpace Fashion is currently running a banner ad for Bratz, which is a decidedly young demo. Is that the niche, or is it more mature, or more upscale. And will upscale brands advertise on MySpace, which isn't exactly a luxury brand., on the other hand, has it right. They are serving up buckets of content via MySpace Fashion (the average visitor to MySpace Fashion reads 26 pages of InStyle's content), which helps extend their brand.

While MySpace works out the wrinkles, the fact remains that marketing via social media sites is here to stay. Let's hope some smart folks realize it's much more than banner ads.

Monday, June 25, 2007

When the iPhone Flops, What's Next for Apple?

Perhaps this is heresy, particularly as I type this four days pre-launch on an iMac that I love, but I suspect the iPhone is going to be a bust. You can watch the zoomy video below, but the fact is that the iPhone has a touch screen keyboard, does not support corporate email apparently, doesn't have attachments support (it seems), apparently has a tinny speaker in it, and much more.

So now Apple has hyped this product with videos like this one that have the technorati all aflutter:

But when the bad reviews come in from real users, I suspect that people who fork over $500 and sign up for a two-year deal to do it are going to be pissed.

And Apple's been on a real tear recently, with great new product offerings. It's like they've started to really gain traction. You know the iMac and the iPod are great. But does anyone remember the Apple Lisa? Or the Apple Newton? Huge flops.

Maybe it's counter-intuitive, but I think that the way they hyped this phone is going to damage the Apple brand. The best it can do is live up to the hype. But it's not going to, and that's going to pierce their veil of infallibility--and that, my friends, is brand damage... Perhaps they would've been better off taking a somewhat more humble marketing approach to this. It still would be huge--the bloggers still would've gone nuts, but they wouldn't have fanned the flames.

It's like seeing a new movie when all your friends told you it's awesome, but it's only really good... You end up disappointed. If they'd said nothing, you probably would've liked it... That's what we're going to see with the iPhone, I predict.

What do you think? Is it going to take off?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mini-Creative is Maxi-Idea

I can almost see the creative brief that was written for this one. "We want to demonstrate the fact that the Mini, despite it's small size, is actually rather roomy on the inside."

What I can't imagine is personally making the leap to come up with this rather brilliant creative from a subway stop in Zurich, Switzerland.There's a growing trend toward "invasive advertising." The thinking, I guess, is that agencies should spend more time finding ads that can't be Tivo'd. That leads to a lot of junk. But everyone once in a while, it leads to a lot of creativity, like this. Nicely done. Credit to for the find.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Most Hated Internet Words Have an Impact on Marketing

Apparently every time you say "blog," you're driving some people nuts. And if you say something like "be sure to use your netiquette when you're on my wiki," that's a recipe for disaster.

A new poll released the most irritating words that came from the Internet. The top five must hated web words are:

  1. folksonomy (web classification system using tags)
  2. Blogosphere (the universe of blogs)
  3. blog (uh, what you're reading)
  4. netiquette (rules of behavior on the web)
  5. blook (a book that came from a blog)
This clearly has marketing ramifications. Some people would love to have an online community where they could quickly post content and read what people thought about it. But those same people don't want a blog. People may want to know what all the blogs are saying about them, but they feel like a dork saying blogosphere.

Words matter. If you don't know that and appreciate that, then marketing is probably not a good career choice. And while some people no doubt admire your mad web 2.0 skills, Obi Wan, another percentage think you're being a dork.

It's easy to think everyone is talking about blogs. And they are. Just some people are making fun of it...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why Brand Loyalty is Vaporizing

One of the general rules of marketing is that the leading brand doesn't have to "enter the fray." Let the second and third tier brands fight it out. Let them make comparisons, because after all, they'll be comparing themselves to you.

But Advertising Age is reporting that huge companies (Apple, Subway, Pizza Hut and Diet Pepsi specifically) are now taking the gloves off and doing comparative advertising.

The reason: brand loyalty is down...

As much as it's my job to build brands, to support brands and to encourage brand loyalty, it is sort of a funny concept. Some act like brand loyalty should be a function of history and previous practice. Like you had a commitment ceremony with Coke because you bought it six times.

But brand loyalty is diminishing for a few reasons, among them:

  • Brands are doing too many line extensions. What is Bayer, for example? Aspirin, of course. But as Ries and Ries point out, Bayer introduced their own brand of "non-aspirin pain reliever." How dumb was that? It's like holding a sign up on their flagship product saying, "We're really just a commodity, buy the store brand."
  • Brands don't earn loyalty. You spend billions to get me to buy your product and 50 cents on the call center. And then you're surprised that I don't come back to buy?
  • Product innovation and promise delivery generate brand loyalty. I got a Mac a year ago. My next computer will be a Mac. It costs 3 times what a comparable PC costs, and I'm sorta cheap. Don't care. The thing just works. It's simple to use. It's fast... That's brand loyalty building...
You can do comparative ads. Many may be better than some of the nonsense out there today in the big ad world... But look inward big brands... I bet your ad agencies will look smarter, and consumer loyalty will increase, when you start being loyal to your own brands first.

What do you think? How can brands build their loyalty?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Did Snap, Crackle and Pop Surrender to the Fat Police?

Kellogg's is making big changes in how they market breakfast cereal to kids. They're also making big changes to certain breakfast cereals formulas to ensure they meet some new health guidelines. (Kellogg's created the guidelines themselves.)

Apparently, Tony the Tiger is ok... (Well, actually, he's great, but you know what I mean.) But Toucan Sam and Snap, Crackle and Pop may be on the unemployment line if Kellogg's can't find a new recipe for them by 2008.

While nutritionists can debate the merits of their "complete breakfast", the question for marketers is did Kellogg's capitulate to pressures too soon, too late or just in time? Animated cereal characters have been on TV for a generation, so are they really the cause of obesity?

As a marketer, can you reinvent an iconic brand relatively quickly? Does Froot Loops even exist without Toucan Sam?

My thoughts:

  • It was time to change the formulas. They are one small part of the obesity epidemic, but they can help a bit. They would have been punished in sales if they'd resisted too long;
  • If they can get Froot Loops to taste close to the way they taste, stick with Toucan Sam. If it's a dramatically different flavor, then invent a new brand and a new way to market it. Let Toucan Sam live and die with his product.
Those are my two cents... Yours??

Honda Minisodes Clever, Subtle, On Brand

One of the tenets of new marketing--meaning marketing in an era of Web 2.0--is that sales efforts should be more subtle. Treat people as if they are intelligent and they'll respond to your product if it meets their needs and interests.

MySpace Minisodes, which are sponsored by the Honda Fit, are a edited versions of old, once popular sitcoms. The 30 minute shows have been stripped of commercials and extraneous detail to tell the story in 4-5 minutes. They'll go live on MySpace this week.

  • Clever, because they're fun to watch.
  • On brand, because the Honda Fit is a small car from a reputable company.
  • Subtle, because the commercial message is only 8 seconds long, which is tolerable in a web environment.
Nice work all around...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

New Tool is Old School

So, you want to use that DVR to fast forward past the commercials, eh? How high tech of you, Mr. Tivo.

Proving that what's old is new again, advertisers are weaving their products more tightly into the show's plot. Clunky product placement, like when Jeff shills for the latest Ford F-150 he's giving away on Survivor, may evolve into more seamless integration.

A new series called Mad Men will appear on AMC this year. It's about Madison Avenue in the 1960s glory days. Those were the days when products were blatantly part of the show. Anyone remember when Fred and Barney were sponsored by Winston, and actually took a break on the show to enjoy a smoke? True.

Mad Men will be sponsored in part by Jack Daniels, with integration on and off the show. Here's the funny part. The Brand Director at Jack Daniels is taking credit for finding "the next new thing." Uh, yeah, not so new champ...


Sunday, June 10, 2007

CMOs get fired quickly in publicly traded firms

If I ever take a job as the Chief Marketing Officer of a publicly traded company, somebody shoot me. Because if you don't, odds are that company will, usually in 18 months of less.

In fact, 83% of CMOs at public companies say they've considered a move to a privately owned firm.

Why? Because good marketing is patient. Good marketing builds brands, and that takes years. I remember the day I realized the dot com craze was being driven by knuckleheads. It was when I read a quote from a marketing guy saying, "We're building a brand. If it doesn't work, we'll just invest another $50 million and another 18 months and we'll be there." Huh? Pretty sure that guys out of a job--and certainly before he vested in his 401k.

Macy's just fired their CMO, after only 13 months on the job. Why? She wanted to build a brand, while Macy's wanted to see quarterly revenues grow. And how do you grow quarterly revenues? COUPONS! Woo hoo... How do you grow a brand? (I'll give a hint. It's not with coupons...)

I've always thought that working for a publicly traded company would be awful, and Sarbanes-Oxley made it worse. Now we see the CMOs getting axed...

Just like all agencies can't be bad, neither can this many CMOs... Beware the scourge of going public...

Friday, June 8, 2007

How Does McDonald's Spell Success?...S-H-R-E-K!

Guest author Scott Werner back again --

Forget Grimace, the Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and Ronald McDonald, the real dollars are in cross-promotional partnerships. Just ask the execs and bean counters at McDonald's who today reported that their May promotion with the movie "Shrek the Third" helped increase U.S. same stores sales by 7.9%.

But the interesting part of McDonald's Shrek promotion isn't really the promotion itself (fast food and entertainment cross-promotion isn't new), but how McDonald's chose to execute the program. With childhood obesity, and criticism of fast food restaurants on the topic, gaining momentum over recent years, McDonald's (with maybe a little prodding from DreamWorks Animation, the studio behind Shrek) made a decision to feature healthier food items like its salads, milk, apple slices with the Happy Meal promotion. Note that Happy Meals are marketed to children between the ages of 3 and 9, and a meal with a cheeseburger, small fries and Sprite totals 670 calories, with 26 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of trans fat — the fat type that experts say is particularly dangerous.

These latest sales figures are great news on a marketing tactic that had the potential to really hurt McDonald's sales big time! Especially after last year's news that Disney Pictures decided not to renew its cross-promotion program with the famed arches, partially over the concern the company had over childhood obesity topic and the assault being forged on fast food restaurants.

Now, McDonald's didn't release sales figures of their healthier food items versus their more famous, and less healthy, alternatives. But it appears that as long as they continue to find cross-promotions that interest the consumer, McDonald's execs won't have to worry too much about losing any sleep over declining sales.

So however you feel about fast food and childhood obesity, you've got to give some kudos to the McDonald's marketing team for the smart strategy behind their marketing for the this promotion. What will they think of next?

P.S. My child, like many other American children, is fascinated by the Shrek movies and thus encouraged me to make numerous trips to McDonald's for Happy Meals. I will admit that we probably didn't order many healthy items, but I did have one happy child who collected all but one of the ten Shrek toys. (If anyone happens to have an extra boy Ogre baby, the #8 toy, I'd be happy to send you a buck or two for it!)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Balancing Interesting and Offensive

Guest Author...Deidre Bounds here...

The challenge of being heard in an extremely cluttered marketplace has many marketers searching for over the top clutter-cutting ideas. In some cases what seems like a great, idea can turn into an unintended flop (just ask Cartoon Network about their Aqua Teen Hunger Force fiasco that cost Turner Broadcasting a $2 million earlier this year .) Another recent example of a questionable marketing campaign involves a controversial cursing landlord, Pearl McKay (aka the Toddler Smack Talking Landlord). By the way, Pearl is 2 years old. This viral video has made its way around the web and back as a hot topic of discussion. It showed up as recent as this morning’s Today Show. Did Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (aka BabyDaddy) go too far in an effort to promote their new viral video site You be the judge:

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever exploited your little one for the sake of humor. Admit it, you’ve laughed when little Johnny repeated the naughty words you screamed as you were cut off on the highway or stubbed your toe. Maybe you didn’t laugh right then. But surely as you recounted the event to friends and family tears of laughter streamed down your face.

Whether you think the Toddler Smack Talking Landlord is funny or not, it is probably highly unlikely to have a lasting impact on little Pearl McKay's character…but the impact on remains to be seen…Stay tuned!