Friday, February 24, 2012

Who's your AOR, Space Exploration?

So last week a friend sent me this article. Pretty cool, right?

“I don’t know, I guess?”

That was my response.

Shocked at my apathy towards space exploration, my galactic-obsessed pal demanded to understand why.

I don’t care because no one is telling me to care.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – space exploration needs better marketing – any marketing, really.

I know, I know – as a Congressional-controlled budget, NASA isn’t afforded the luxury of a robust team of branding professionals. (Have you seen a logo more in need of a refresh?!) Still, let me rant hypothetically.

Space should be far more popular than it is.

Why? --

It’s cool:

Did you know that the light hitting the Earth right now is 30,000 years old? Or that some scientists predict our galaxy to be moving at more than 330 miles per second? Or how about that Saturn is so light that if placed in water it could float?

It’s useful:

Much of what we use every day can be traced back (in-part) to space exploration; the GPS in our cars and watches, hand-held power tools and cell phones, shoe insoles, even water pitchers.

-- But no one knows it.

50 years ago, people knew it.

President Kennedy was the space program’s biggest advocate. “Put a man on the moon before the decade is out” – that’s what he said. A decree turned mantra with a sprinkling of Cold War politics and patriotism and voila! – a marketing strategy that everyone could get behind was born!

We got to the moon. Hoorah! Mission accomplished!!!
…Now what?

From a marketing standpoint, the lunar mission was such a perfectly executed campaign that people had a hard time seeing past it. It was as if the Apollo program was the embodiment of Space exploration in total and nothing beyond existed.

A wildly successful product or idea makes marketing easy – unless it carries a certain expiration date. In such instances, marketing is burdened with the task of figuring out how to keep up the momentum once a marque product has reached its end.

Without Marketing,

The aging public once preoccupied with getting to the moon remains under the false pre-tense that we’ve accomplished the bulk of our goals. Younger generations are left with only the news from which to form their opinions. Here’s what I gather:

It’s expensive, it’s slow, its goals are often based on conjecture and it doesn’t always work when it gets there. And, at its worst, it kills. (See Challenger and Columbia)

If I were NASA’s AOR…

I’d recommend an awareness-generating campaign. One that re-educates the public on all the things they take for granted that are only possible (in part) by space exploration. I would build out a series of vignettes that depict everyday tasks absent specific modern-day conveniences – calling out the dent in productivity left in their absence. Each would end with a similarly constructed tagline:
[Everyday Luxury X]. Brought to you by space exploration. What more can we discover?

Some of the biggest blockbusters have been sci-fi. Aliens or not, there’s an inherent interest in exploring the unknown. NASA just needs a little help reconnecting with its civil advocates.

When you think about it, the blasé image of all government-run institutions is sad. Take the USPS for example (you remember, the United States Postal Service?). Absent competition for years, they needn’t bother infusing the magic of marketing. And now, the Post Office is dull and lethargic – they didn’t have a chance when it came time to competing with the likes of UPS and FedEx in the free market.

You’ve been warned, NASA - breathe some life into that brand of yours before private sector players like Virgin Galactic stake further claim!

Ok. Rant concluded. Happy Friday, everyone! ::steps off soapbox::

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Embrace Your Haters

Wait, didn’t we just celebrate Valentine’s Day? Why the emotional roller-coaster?

The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference (thank you, Elie Wiesel).  So cool it, we’re still in the same ballpark.

As marketing and PR professionals, we like to pretend our haters don’t exist. But things are changing, and pleading ignorance has become more difficult. As humans, we possess a heightened sense of awareness for drama. But the proliferation of an increasingly negative news network puts bad press in the hands of our aggressors. Social media makes 1-to-1 communication with customers easy, but also provides haters with a platform for voice amplification.

Your Response:

Erase it?

No. Best practice shows it’s not a good idea to censor brand page participants. Deleting negative posts only aggravates posters further; they will retaliate. If it’s not totally inappropriate, leave it.

Ignore it?

You can, and most do. Being negative is hard work. It takes plenty of wit and requires one do their homework. Focus on providing brand advocates with real value (both on and offline). Numbers will stack in your favor and you’ll find that brand backers are willing to squelch naysayers for you.

But why not take it a step further?

When you think about it, we’ve already come a long way. On the defense, we’ve moved from ignoring and censoring to allowing haters to trash us on our own social media turf.

Go on the offense.

Don’t just give your antagonists a voice; include it in your promotions! Yes, promote your haters! With the right audience and brand chemistry, you might find it packs an honest and heartfelt punch.

And now, two examples of where promoting one’s haters seemed to resonate:

Family Guy
Market Penetration: New Zealand
Here’s a franchise that knows its target demo and isn’t interested in appealing to the other side.

Family Guy knows there is a portion of the population that will never understand them, and that’s o-k. With liberal and conservative agendas more polarized than ever, FG is taking advantage. They promote seething reviews by iconic politicians and groups for two reasons:

1.     Targeted persons will instantly relate via their disagreement in ideologies with the subject, thereby associating the show’s values with their own.
“Wait, Sarah Palin hates this? That means I’ll probably love it!”

2.      Wearing someone’s negative review like a badge of honor will no doubt piss the quoted off. (A bit childish, but an effective tactic for the children of the revolution!)
               “You don’t like us?! Good! We don’t want you to like us!”

It’s subtle reverse psychology that works.

Domino’s Pizza
Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

Well, Domino’s applied that logic in “Pizza Turnaround;” a multi-channel ad campaign executed in 2010. The series of print/television spots depicted corporate staff facing customer complaints head-on. Videos showcased raw emotion, frustration and sympathy at the notion that Domino’s had let its customers down. 

Part 1: Truth
By airing their dirty laundry, Domino’s showed the world they were serious about starting over. Part two of the campaign invoked a similar “reality TV” feel – showcasing disenchanted customers falling back in love with Domino’s after tasting their new pizza.

It wasn’t ALL advertising.

Domino’s completely overhauled their pizza with new, higher quality ingredients. But without specifically calling out their previous short-comings, who would have believed them? “New and improved” is so overplayed. If you’re really serious about re-inventing your marquee product, get creative with the message! Get humble and face your demons.
Part 2: Proof

Why It Works

For Family Guy, promoting haters is designed to attract polar opposite viewers. For Domino’s, the goal was to convert haters back into believers.
In both cases, the style of marketing works. Why?

It breaks tradition. Everyone is expecting your ad to tout your good graces (after all, you paid for it). Why not zig when we’re expecting you to zag?

It comes across as more genuine. We’re living in a time ripe with conspiracy and greed. Main Street is sick of being duped by corporate America. Reality/truth campaigns feel good. They convey respect over our intelligence.

What can promoting/owning up to your harshest critics do for you?

Think about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chipotle Proves You Can Be Both Cool & Kind

They broke through the clutter and rose to fame on the backs of short, cheeky billboard messages; the punk-alternative, skater-boy of the fast food industry. But even then, their belief in “food with integrity” showed through.

“Back to the Start”

This past weekend, Chipotle served up their first national TV spot. In it, the growing (alternative to) fast-food chain dropped the cool-kid act, opting to take a more serious tone. The 2-minute spot was a visually stimulating bird’s eye view that time-lines the increasing industrialization of American agriculture.

From green and lush open pastures, to gray and damp crowded factories, kudos to Chipotle for devising a non-gory way to depict the horror animals endure during processing. We liked the subtle inclusion of growth hormones and factory by-product pollutants, less violent but still serious pitfalls of the highly-mechanized alternative to traditional farming.

Watch it here:

A playful, yet powerful illustration of an industry that’s all too quick to drop humane practices in exchange for efficiencies gained with mass-production and greed. By painting a dark picture of the industry majority, Chipotle reminds viewers of its stead-fast commitment to sustainability and the ethical treatment of animals.

Way to go, Chipotle! You’ve got hip, cool and kind together in perfect harmony – not an easy task.

Note: This is not the only long-form, pro-traditional farming ad Chipotle has released. Back in October, the chain unveiled Abandoned which brought to life the hardships many American farmers face today as their industry bends more and more to the competitive pressures of big-business.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Novelty Coke Machine Boasts Over 100 Choices…

Do you remember mixing soda fountain flavors as a kid? You’d scamper over to the self-serve machine, determined to fill your cup with equal parts Coke, Sprite, Root Beer, and, if you were feeling really adventurous, Pink Lemonade.

Oh, you still do that as an adult? I’m not the only one? Phew!

You’ll be happy to know that Coca-Cola has made soda-mixology a whole lot easier (all the while maintaining perceptions of our maturity).

Introduced back in 2009, the Coca-Cola freestyle machines are finally beginning to surface in select fast-food chains and drugstores.
How can the machines offer so much variety?

Instead of drawing its ingredients from bulky 5-gallon boxes of syrup, Freestyle breaks tradition and employs compact flavor cartridges. The machine builds beverage selections using micro-dispensing and PurePour technologies originally developed to deliver extremely precise doses of drugs. The process blends the highly-concentrated ingredients with water and sweetener at the point where the beverage is dispensed. Genius.

What’s Available?
What isn't!?
As you can see, all colors of soda, energy and fruit drinks, waters, and seltzers. If you want it and Coke owns it, it’s here.

For users – Freestyle offers novelty and a break from the mundane.

Tired of regular Diet Coke? How about infusing it with lime, vanilla or orange? By all means, get creative – pair original diet with varying parts of raspberry and vanilla.

For Coke – Freestyle offers real-time data and field reporting.

The machines are RFID enabled. Chips detect when ingredients are low and radio suppliers to refill. Freestyle also transmits daily reports including brands/flavor combinations sold, foot-traffic trends, troubleshooting information and service data.

Ooh, a long line! Try again later. Like any new technology, there is a learning curve to get through before efficiency can be achieved. The machine, albeit intuitive, can be intimidating to first-time users. The selection process can be time-consuming as new users combat information overload.

More than Just a Pretty Face…
Seriously, I love this thing...
Sure, the machines are sexy and fun to use. And yeah, they are more efficient and easier to maintain than traditional soda fountains. But what Coke is really banking on is their ability to see into the future; crystal balls for the beverage industry, if you will.

With so many choices and combinations, Freestyle is field research!

Its ability to log and report consumption trends back to corporate serves as an R&D primer to product development. Data trends may help identify the rising popularity of certain flavor pairings or totally new genres (coconut water, anyone?). And so, rather than strict product distribution, Freestyle is a vital tool in Coke’s ability to sustain its competitive advantage.

What will your favorite flavor combo be?

Monday, February 6, 2012

More to Love this Valentine’s Day at Starbucks

Cupid’s arrow must have hit Starbucks hard – they can’t seem to forget about augmented reality. Do you remember last year’s Holiday Magic promo?

The red cups may be gone, but the traditional white is now dressed for Valentine’s Day.
We hope you didn’t uninstall your Cup Magic app from Christmas. Between now and February 16th, your daily latte has more to L-O-V-E.

What’s Different?
The holiday promo launched in November was more complex and a bit clunky. This time around, things are:

Simpler - Instead of three different cups boasting three separate enchanted vignettes, there is only one.

SmootherInstead of taking users out of the camera function and into separate winter scenes, Valentine’s Day magic occurs within camera view, appearing to play out on the user’s actual cup.

And, perhaps the biggest leap in innovation:

Shareable!And now, the ability to send augmented realities to the people you love (or even just ‘like’).  
iPhone app UI
With its latest iteration, Magic Cup not only enables users to gift beverages on Valentine’s Day, but craft and deliver special messages as well –messages only viewable when gifted parties are in-store and point their cameras at limited Valentine’s Day cups.

Finally! A real business-driving hook! With Augmented Reality, Starbucks proves it subscribes to the three-date rule before really getting serious - (we knew you’d be worth the wait)!!

Head down to your corner Starbucks and interact with the Valentine’s Cup today!

Check out the Valentine’s Day Promotion in action:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Coca-Cola Bears are Coming out of Hibernation...!

I knew something was missing last Christmas, but couldn’t put my finger on it until now - the Coca-Cola Polar Bears!

They’re back…

They must have been resting up for the Super Bowl. As if shooting 30- and 60-second commercials weren’t taxing enough, this year Coke is streaming its beloved mascots live from the North Pole for the entire game. 

That’s right; at we humans can experience Super Bowl XLVI alongside our arctic counterparts.  Conceived by Coca-Cola’s digital AOR, Wieden+Kennedy, the website will boast live reactions to on-field activity. Cloaked with team-specific scarves (Giants vs. Patriots) and with the help of game-day puppeteers, the polar bears will show approval, frustration, and other appropriate, up-to-the-minute emotions throughout the telecast.

But don’t just watch the bears; follow them on Twitter (@NY_Bear and @NE_Bear). To provide a truly interactive experience, Coca-Cola has asked its furry mascots to tweet their thoughts as well. Look for them to interact with followers throughout the night via their animated tablets (“BearPads”) and smartphones. 

Nice catch!
In addition to their live Arctic broadcast, Coke will also be debuting two traditional commercial spots. The specific version set to air will depend on game play and the score up through halftime.

Cool, but where’s the sizzle?

So the bears will cheer whenever their favorite team performs well and “boo” for the opposite; that’s cool with a chance of cute for a couple of plays. Then what?

Did we mention they’ll be reacting to the commercial spots as well? Now were talking!

Coca-Cola has changed the Rules of the Game…

Who doesn’t want to see how Coke’s beloved mascots will react to a Pepsi ad?! While game play responses are logical, real-time reactions to commercial spots will be a riot. ::sizzle::

What’s more, by giving us a reason to check in on the bears after each competing advertisement, Coke brings viewer attention back to their own brand (on competing brands’ dime).

Absolutely brilliant.

Note: This year’s 30-second commercial spot is going for upwards of $3.5M. 

RSVP and be sure to drop in on the “snow-fa” (sofa) to catch some of the antics come Sunday.
It looks like there will be a few ornery penguins to boot...
Plus, with each RSVP Coca-Cola will donate $1 to the World Wildlife Fund to help polar bears and their Arctic home – we applaud thee, Coke!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Facelift | Faceoff: JCPenney

Tons of Change (but no more Penney’s) for JCP…

Today marks a significant turning point in the world of JCPenney (allegedly).

The retailer is sporting a radical new look; their third branding shake-up in less than two years. That’s a lot for an established retail brand. Generally, companies that go through frequent redesigns just end up confusing customers, losing any and all brand familiarity they are trying to achieve.
But this time, JCP isn’t just revealing a radical new look, they are ushering in a brand new strategy to retailing! (allegedly).

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it/what sticks.

Let’s kick off February and continue our Facelift | Faceoff series with a review of a retailer that’s no stranger to re-branding!

Before the facelift:
Its life was so short, let’s discuss the last two, shall we?

Last year’s revision was drastic, yet familiar – the brand was left possessing a brighter, more flat and powerful red. By dropping the casing and allowing the bulk of the name to break free from the box, JCPenney breathed new life into what had become a stodgy, dull brand. It was all part of JCPenney’s intent to focus on younger demographics. The 2011 logo’s “jcp” red square lent itself well to social media avatars, and became the brand’s identity on both Facebook and Twitter.

So there you have it: jcp of 2011 was young, hip and in place for less than a year. Which makes one wonder, was it always an intended step 1 in a 2-prong re-branding effort?

After (this year’s) surgery:
Stand up and salute your American jcp flag!

The new logo screams “America!” and what’s more patriotic than mass retailing? Although the red remains, it takes a backseat to a new focus on royal blue. We should have known when JCPenney pushed the “enney” part out of the square last year that it was only a matter of time. Now, just “jcp” remains, and it’s sporting a bulkier type-face (it’s hard work carrying an entire brand on the back of just three letters, you know).

A square within a square, the new logo is the marque of a massive overhaul at JCP, whose CEO Ron Johnson says is, “fundamentally re-imagining every aspect of the Company’s Business. ”At the center of this change is the launch of a new pricing strategy, dubbed “Fair and Square” pricing. 

Sales Confusion Madness Stops Now.

In recent spots, JCP mocked the complex and all too often painful reality of competing retail promotions (and let's be honest, they were a major part of the culprit).

“Enough. Is. Enough.” – sayeth JCP.

Why wait for rock bottom pricing when starting Feb. 1, JCP will offer “pretty good” pricing every day? "Fair and Square" pricing promises to make it simple, offering: 

They said "simple" right?
The new return policy is great, but will fair and square be enough to pull the retailer out of its tired funk? Not likely.

With products that are fairly homogeneous, the only way to garner additional sales is to provide higher discounts. What’s JCP going to do when its competitors drop their prices on similar goods? The new pricing model could very well leave their hands tied.

But, back to the logo…

30k Ft Weighs In:

Lined up, it’s as if 2011 was a stepping stone to 2012 all along.  

And with lingering memories of Gap and Tropicana’s epic re-branding failures, it stands to reason that JCPenney would opt to make a drastic shift more gradual.

That being said, I’m not sold on the new look.

I can’t decide if it’s better suited to represent the next iteration of Tommy Hilfiger cologne or Playskool. It’s a step too far; a curious dichotomy of equal parts patriotic and playful.

I think the big-picture changes in strategy could have been made under the guise of last year’s brand. It was hip enough – recall as evidence the innovation and “wow” factor of JCP’s Santa Tag.”

This further interpretation feels reductive (if I may borrow a word coined last month by Madonna).

Which do you prefer?

Will jcp’s new look be a success - or come tomorrow, will it see its shadow and leave JCPenney with 6 weeks of bad press? Weigh in...