Monday, December 23, 2013

Give someone a Christmas they'll never forget.

My goodness did this December fly! I guess that’s what a late Thanksgiving we’ll do to ya (and everyone likes to complain about Christmas creeping on Thanksgiving!). :P

For me, between work and play and some gift-giving along the way, there was never quite enough time to sit down and assemble my thoughts on this, the latest installment of marketing/retail holiday tactics. (In a nutshell: everyone is WAY too desperate).

And so, I leave you with an ad that caught my attention at the season’s onset.

The Bear & The Hare | John Lewis
I must have watched this 4-5x that first day. I have since played it a dozen or so more and downloaded the song (#1 in the UK! – how’s that for marketing?!).

While I’ve no doubt John Lewis had a slew of product- and price-specific spots too numerous to mention, I’m always impressed when a retailer opts to invent a feel-good, superfluous story rather than pitch a common bauble (especially at Christmas).

If this doesn’t tug at your heart strings, nothing will!

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.
See you all in 2014. :)


Friday, November 15, 2013

Marketing Breathes LIFE into Insurance…but HOW?!

Lately it seems like every other commercial is for insurance.

Sounds boring in theory, doesn’t it? Insurance, ICK – who even wants to buy it?

And yet, not ick.

Seriously, is anyone else amazed at how all these managers of risk have been able to differentiate themselves? A marketer of services by day, I constantly struggle to position our intangible, otherwise homogeneous solutions against a myriad of competitors.


All State

Mayhem is everywhere
, are you in good hands?

If ‘Mayhem’ were human, we’re pretty sure it’d go by the name of Dean Winters. Grizzly but suave, stern, and rough around the edges, Winters helped All State take the tangibility of freak accidents one step further, anthropomorphic!
Explosions of smoke and fire, homes and vehicles in shambles – each spot, its own action-packed mini feature. Grab your popcorn.

Farmers Insurance

“We are Farmers. Bum-ba-bu-bum-bum bum-bum-bum!”

7 dwarfs be proud! It’s a modern day “Heigh-ho” with twice the power to get stuck-in-your-head.
The spots are simple, stripped-down “did you know?” info-tainment. With their calm, collected, and totally sweet professor front man, they're nonsensical enough to elicit a laugh or two.


Arguably best in the biz (insurance or otherwise), is there a character Geico can’t make into a star?

The Gecko might headline, but Geico’s got a whole cast of characters equally capable of stealing the show (heck, the Cavemen even got their own sitcom on ABC).

There’s Maxwell the pig – first introduced in the Rhetorical Question series (turns out the little piggy does cry 'wee wee wee' all the way home).

There’s the happiest-on-hump-day camel – from Geico’s bluegrass pickers Ronny and Jimmy’s “Get Happy” campaign.

There’s a male owl that just can’t seem to commit his female counterpart’s friend Megan to memory in the “Did You Know?” campaign. (“Hoo?” “Megan! Seriously, you’ve met her like five times.” …Hoo?)
There’s NOTHING Geico can’t make work – even with a near $1B annual ad spend, money WELL spent.

Liberty Mutual

Responsibility: What’s Your Policy?

The ‘humans’ campaign is all about relateability.  Think you’ve made some pretty stupid mistakes? The subjects in these spots have one on you.
Played out over the smooth sounds of Human Leagues’ song by the same name, these scenarios are ones you could actually see yourself or “that friend” doing.


Nationwide is on YOUR side…

They put members first, because they don’t have shareholders. Ooh – ok, another jab at the perceived pitfalls of doing biz with big biz.  We ARE the 1%! Rage against the machine! Etc...
Their “Brand New Belongings” spot makes getting burgled seem more glamorous than Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and their latest “#meetmybaby” campaign is SPOT. ON. for the auto-obsessed.


Now THAT’S Progressive.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Flo (Progressive’s always happy-to-help insurance clerk), but Ad Age’s 2012 “Top 10 female ad icons of all time” would seem to disagree. Flo loves insurance. She’s been tangibilizing the shopping experience since 2008 and with50+ commercials under her belt and a cool 5 million+ followers on facebook, Flo must be a middle name cuz’ this girl’s first is CASH (get it, Cash ‘Flo’)? :)
Queen of the Insurance Kingdom!

State Farm

Get to a better state.

Transforming the civilian, local agent into a personal super hero – all you need to do is sing the jingle; “like a good neighbor”…and State Farm is THERE!
…riding shotgun, assisting roadside, or even just helping you spend the money you saved by switching to State Farm.

The series builds brand from the personal appeal of a local agent who knows you by name. And with many competitors hell bent on pushing a centralized (read: virtual) agent model, it is refreshing to still see State Farm peppering the facade of brick and mortar – you almost believe your agent could be THIS COOL.

So there you have it. Seven companies touting the exact same (BASIC, BORING, DULL) wares – each, in their own effective way.

Some better than others, but all in ways far more thrilling than the actual products they sell.

Allow me to take my creative hat off and bow to thee, b2b service marketing masters! ::bows::

Which is your favorite?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Are we having 'FUN' yet, Hallmark?

Damned if you do and damned if you don't...

WAIT. Now that it’s November 1; can I talk about the holidays without an onslaught of verbal spars from my “IT'S TOO SOON” crew?

...Even still, don't.
The card slinger found itself in hot water this week for creative liberties taken with ‘Deck the Halls.’

Fun? FUN apparel?! It’s Christmas time and I want my apparel GAY!

What took so long, news media?

Seriously, a friend and I saw this ornament back in September, shook our heads at the blatant attempt to play it safe, turned and said to one another, “you KNOW there’s gonna be a shit-storm!”

Just when I thought they were in the clear BAM! It’s everywhere on social media.

So Hallmark spoke up, pointing out that the lyrics for "Deck the Halls" were translated from the Gaelic long ago and that the "gay" of the 1800s isn't the "gay" of 2013.  Such "multiple meanings," the company said in a statement, "could leave our intent open to misinterpretation."

Well excuse me, but today’s holly-jollies don’t use the terms “don” or “apparel” either. By that logic, let’s REALLY refresh the line for modern idioms:

Now we wear our festive clothes!

But that wouldn’t sell ornaments, now would it?

I don’t blame Hallmark.

All too often we hear stories of brands offending one group or another through omission, mixed meanings, or varied interpretation – and every time I ask myself “how could NO ONE have seen this coming? Seriously, NOT A SINGLE PERSON challenged this in the design phase?!”

Hallmark went to the other end of the spectrum, but in doing so, is being accused of the same – homophobia (through omission).

What’s offensive (and what’s not).

When people see something they don’t like and say “that’s gay” – THAT’S offensive. Because ‘gay’ is being substituted in negative connotation for ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’.  But ‘gay’ for ‘fun’? I can live with being fun – and besides, IT’S STILL WHAT EVERYONE SINGS. Even little kids at the school Christmas program.

You want to sell a piece of holiday memorabilia but first you want to CHANGE everything that makes it authentic?! You are now marketing a typo.

If I were Hallmark…

And boy, don’t I wish I were! (Seriously, when I’m done working for the man, I’m opening up a small card and gift shop; it’s my favorite type of retail).

…I would have retooled the whole project.
The very first moment the lyric was brought up for discussion I would have scrapped words all together (it’s a sweater, it says apparel – get it? Cute, right? No – it’s weak anyways).

Instead, I’dve played up the garish embellishments. It’s a tacky sweater, right? Well then, let’s make it as tacky as possible! Ugly sweater parties are all the rage these days – people will buy it to commemorate parties both attended and thrown. And who knows? If the inventory flies from the shelves, it might be the start of a new annual “ugly sweater collection!” Each year, one tackier than before! Ones that light up and play music, the opportunity for product line extension would be ENDLESS.

…But no.

Instead, it’s a cheap resin footnote on the 2013 “Holiday DON’T” list.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What the FK, BK?

Same King, new Kingdom.

That’s right. The King of Burgers (if only by name), just a few weeks deep in unveiling their new HEALTHIER SatisfriesTM, is taking promotion to a whole new (read: confusing) level!

I guess their #WTFF guerrilla campaign didn’t gain the momentum BK had hoped?
Chicago - W. Wacker Drive
Their latest cry for attention, a faux re-branding from “Burger” to “Fries” King, began to unfold Tuesday via social media.

And they’re dead serious! (At least at one location)...
Fries King -- As seen through Social Media...
To set the record straight, the 3rd-string fast food kingdom is NOT really changing its name. Apt at garnering attention on the many realms of social media, the hubbub tucks nicely with BK’s raucous, counter-culture personality.

And while it definitely generated buzz, we remain skeptical of the results.

Man, they REALLY want us to try these fries!

Let’s face it; the fast food burger market is as stale and mature as they come.

Everyone knows the Whopper; they either like it or they don’t. And while the introduction of new bacon sundaes may have intrigued, they aren’t the type of stuff you can build a sustainable business on.

Robin to the sandwich’s Batman, fries are the full-time side item, part-time snack that can bring new business! Seriously, there’s like 15 choices for sandwiches, but only 1 side item EVERYONE wants (and it’s not those mushy apple slices).

The change in monikers is BK’s plea with the most skeptical McDonald’s and Wendy’s loyalists that have yet to try the new fry – (and that fry better BLOW minds if it hopes to secure repeat traffic).

“We couldn’t make it in burgers, so we’re focused on fries!”

But flip that burger and you’ve got yourself a real pickle of a marketing dilemma (HA!).

By saying they’re king of fries, is BK conceding to burgers that aren’t all that stellar? What about all the efforts made to reinvent the sandwich side of the menu board last year? Quality ingredients, flame broiled this and that? All lies? You aren’t home of the fry unless the burger moves out.

Wait, what was that about a Bacon Sundaes?

That’s right, we blogged about BK last summer when they were amidst a significant overhaul of their menu; BBQ burgers and pork, and bacon dropped on top of everything (including sundaes). While competing chains were focused on attracting the more health-conscious, it was as if BK was bucking the trend, opting to make a direct appeal to calorie junkies and cholesterol addicts everywhere.

Not even a year later, they’re touting the healthiest fry? Which market are you after? Because you can’t be all things to all people (that’s Marketing 101).

And lastly, (or perhaps it should have been FIRST and foremost), you NEVER toy with the LOGO!

The LOGO is sacred! It’s like America’s flag; don’t tread!!

Aside from MAYBE April Fools, you don’t change your brand “just for fun”.

First, it dilutes the impact of a real change (ain’t that right, Yahoo!?). And second, it’s just confusing. We are a dumb people, U.S. consumers. Give us one thing to look at. That’s it, that’s you. Now don’t change it unless you want us thinking you weak.

Note: BK was on our
New Logo Wish List for 2013 – (this is NOT what we had in mind).


Has anyone tasted ‘em? Chicago is a golden arches town, so I have yet to walk myself over to the one, single location downtown. Let me know what you think! (I swear the advertising didn’t work on me). :P

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kmart Breaks the Seal on Christmas 2013 Advertising

…and just like that, the love affair with Kmart advertising ended.

The retail bottom-feeder has recently enjoyed a run of accolades over its refreshing commercial spots. <<Quick Rewind: First it was ‘Ship my Pants’ and ‘Big-Gas Discounts’ – then a string of Back-to-School spots featuring playground rhymes and crimes of retro 90s fame (The “Yo-Mama” dis spots being my personal favorite).
First to climb up the 2013 tree!
But with over 100 days till Christmas (that’s right, the countdown still beats in the TRIPLE digits) the same army of “Don’t rush the season!” scrooges that usually have to wait until early-October to rise up are absolutely LOSING IT!

Here’s the spot:

Cool it, perma-bah humbugs.

I can’t imagine the piles of coal Santa must have left in your childhood stockings; y’all are NEVER happy to see the holidays! The spot doesn’t reek of holiday cheer – just a few faint bells and a scantily clad cookie. It’s not an overrun exposé of buy, BUY, BUY! but a subtler, non-specific “calm before the storm” reminder to start planning now so that you (and your wallet) aren’t over extended closer to year-end.

And, you gotta understand Kmart’s position.

The retailer has been playing second fiddle to Target and Walmart for far too long (wait – that analogy doesn’t even begin to describe the magnitude of the situation… more like trying to play a microscopic fiddle without a bow and the fiddle has been stepped on a few times). Now, for the first time in years ever people are actually taking notice of their ads, they’ve got to make the first appeal to holiday shoppers; opportunity knocks!

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 12% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before September, 6% during and another 20% kick it off in October.

And while the stock market continues to surge, consumers are still wary from a frugal 2009/2010.

Getting out in front of the others with a campaign that reminds shoppers of expanded layaway promotions isn’t just smart; it’s k(s)mart!

…No? I’ve used that corny play on words too many times before?
OK, it’s brilliant!

While Kmart’s ad sets a new high-watermark for “Christmas Creep” – they’re expanding the retailer role in providing joy under the tree. Kmart doesn’t just want to be the place you run for door-busting specials, they want to work with you and help budget throughout the entire holiday shopping process.

Great move, guys. (The spot could have been just a bit funnier, though. The cookie’s creep factor is at 3 – it needs to be at like a 7-8 (aka Burger King ‘King’-creepy)). :P