Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sprint’s Simply Unlimited Plan + iPhone 6 Ad: Brilliant or Bogus?

Is it bad that the first time I saw this ad I wasn’t sure if it was for or against Apple’s latest?

Maybe it’s the over-characterization of a stereotypical gaggle of clueless girlfriends screaming that put the authenticity of the ad in question.

Me, mouth hanging open: “There’s NO WAY Apple would approve this – the characters are over the top and precisely the type of demo iPhone does NOT want to be associated with.”

Halfway through and I was still scanning the deck for some super-sophisticated, ultra-annoyed female archetype friend, aggravated and eye-rolling as she thumbs her Samsung Galaxy Note Edge – punchline, PLEASE! (Don’t you know the next big thing is already here?!)

Even after the rounds of shattering glass I held out hope that maybe, just MAYBE we’d be treated to the silky-smooth vocal styling’s of Cortana of Windows phone fame ( I’m using the term ‘fame’ as lightly as humanly possible here, you’ve got to EARN fame, baby).

“So should we eat?”

That’s a wrap and my plate’s stacked full with crow.

It WAS a pro-iPhone ad!


Is it that the standard go-to format of feature-heavy demonstrations delivering intimate moments with the ones we love has completely played out or is it that selling on price always boils creativity down to the lowest form of brain-dead entertainment?

No woman thinks she’s like these women (even those women who are TOTALLY like these women) and I’m pretty sure no straight man would ever want to be within earshot of this boisterous BB-Q so who the heck is the ad trying to attract?

I’m out.

And speaking of being out...sorry for the long (unintended) sabbatical! 
I've been off solving all the world's biggest problems, or something like that.
Now that it is once again the most WONDERFUL time of the year, let's see if I can't be more diligent in spreading (read: sparing) the marketing holiday cheer! -DS :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Social Media Dos and Don’ts in the Face of a Brand Mishap

I’ve been thinking a lot about the evolution of social media as a method for brand communication. Specifically, how it should react in the event of a PR nightmare.

While more traditional advertising channels are rigid – TV/radio pre-recorded, print/billboard, pre-printed and placed – digital can be real-time and responsive.

And with that, comes the HUGE responsibility to do so.

Social can’t be all carefully crafted and canned like its traditional channel counterparts. Its fundamental premise begs of users to be quick-witted and casual, to provide an on-going, authentic dialogue that takes into account real-time global news and perceptions on brand.

Case in Point: Malaysia Airlines.

As a recent example, let’s consider how Malaysia Airlines (MAS) used social media before, during, and after the loss of MA370.

Before MA370 ever left Kuala Lumpur
All systems go. MAS used social media as you’d expect any airline to. They played up back-banter with happy fliers while trying to quell hot-headed tweets re: lost baggage and cancelled flights. They shared radiant photos from exotic flight destinations and high-impact, brand-affirming stories of engaged employees and loyal travelers.

Finding a new voice while trying to find a plane
A quick change in altitude. When Beijing-bound Flight 370 vanished without a trace on March 8th, the airline’s social media profiles immediately swapped full-color logos and image-rich cover photos for solid bands of gray. The feel-good stories ceased with a clear, deliberate shift in intention from promotion to that of reporting facts and clarifying rumor.

Returning to protocol post tragedy (the tricky part)
Mayday-mayday!! MA370 is (still) a HUGE global story of human interest! 239 people are missing without a trace and presumed dead. What’s Malaysia Air doing? Asking its twitter audience to choose between a sunrise and sunset.
Wait. Those aren’t the same waters you lost a plane in earlier this year, right?
They’re also trying to launch and promote hashtags like #MHJourney and #MHMoments (where ‘MH’ is their IATA airline designator). What current ‘journey’ or ‘moment’ with MAS does NOT remind you of the missing jetliner?

Here’s a smattering of recent posts. You don’t have to be a professional comic to come up with dark, clever retorts to any one of these:
I’m glad SOMEONE had a smooth landing! #whereisMAS370
What QUESTIONS do you think #MA370 passengers should have thought to ask?! #BESTjourney How about the South Indian Ocean? “Memorable experiences” flying #MAS, that’s for sure!

Look, I’m a stone-cold Marketer.

I get why MAS would want to put this tragedy behind them and get back to the glamorous world of shameless self-promotion.

At first glance, it’s just disrespectful and in poor taste.

But beyond that, it’s also confusing. You want to ask, was marketing not clued in!? Do they not know MAS lost a member of its fleet a few months ago!?

It’s just naïve to be so brazen with the promotions in the face of a very recent, very clear product fail.

There are no definite rules here.

No algorithms to follow, plotting size of tragedy with length of marketing moratorium. We’re all learning as we go, praying we never have to make the call ourselves.

Still, here are a few down-and-dirty suggestions to start.

Draw a Clear Line

Communicate your intention to shift gears before you actually do it.

No one likes a blind-side. Hire a passionate writer to craft a rich letter or produce a heart-felt YouTube video and broadcast a final apology. One that honors the past, owns fault, and recommits to your roots with a promise to survive and thrive. Don’t forget to test for goose bumps.

Start Small

Before you decide to flip back on the promotional power grid, maybe consider first a feel around in the dark? Listen to social media. What’s the buzz and prevailing sentiment regarding your brand?

If it’s still hot with rage, delay.

And Build

When you finally do return to your “regularly scheduled program,” cut the frequency and soften the tone. Social media is rich with human emotion and your brand voice should come across the same; moving on but irrevocably changed by the event.

And whatever you do,
Don’t pitch softballs to all those cynical twitter super users and haters!!

Challenge every tweet. Comb through those 140 characters again and again, pressure testing for even the slightest chance someone might misconstrue intention or grab hold of a double-entendre and run with it at your expense. People love to kick ya when you’re down. It’s a pandemic and everyone wants their jab to go viral.

Social media in the face of brand implosion.
Can you think of any other examples of the good, the bad, or the ugly?

Have a great long weekend, everyone. :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Michael Sam Kiss: Opportunities Met and Made

When Michael Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he made history as the first openly gay player to be admitted to the league.

Moments later, he made history again, when upon receiving ‘the call’, Sam’s celebratory kiss with his boyfriend was broadcast live as part of ESPN’s continued coverage of the Draft.

[I don’t have to include a photo of the moment here, right? Y’all don’t live under rocks.
You know what, fine. Here. Take it.]

Now almost a week later and the pro-vs-against battle rages on.

Our more conservative constituents – (that’s the “anti-kiss” side of the equation) – are calling ESPN’s decision to broadcast the tender moment a blatant opportunity to generate buzz and make news.

They’re absolutely right.

I can agree with the claim, even from the liberal side of the equation (and when am I not?).

I’m pro-kiss.

Heck, I’m give-me-more, why not show-me-some-tongue, pro-kiss!

But I can still agree that ESPN saw the potential for personal gain in broadcasting the moment.

And that’s great.

You want to know why?

Because if ESPN thinks gay = gain, and we all know in business that gain = good, what ESPN is really saying is gay = good (and THAT’S good).

It means that another organization (a traditionally macho one at that) sees the up-side of “coming out” as pro-gay (or at least gay-tolerant).

That’s HUGE.

It says to me that ESPN has checked the pulse of an ever-changing world and made account for the gradual but persistent trend in tolerance when it comes to sexuality.

They are making a (business) choice to include homosexuality as part of the mainstream.

Sure, the cynical side of me can say “they’re using our way of life to get attention/boost ratings.”

True, the short-term benefits belong to brand – replays and shares, posts and news topics.

[Note: I had to shake a similar notion when I first saw the Honey Maid “
This is Wholesome” and “Love” ads – how else could they get THIS MANY PEOPLE talking about crackers?]

But with more and more brands coming on board, those types of self-serving benefits will wane.

The long-term benefits belong to the greater good!

Increased exposure adapts the mind for a new definition of “acceptable behavior.”

Our Conservative counterparts call this FORCING the homosexual agenda (their phrase, not mine). Look, we’re never going to get EVERYONE on board. Right and wrong are deeply entrenched in our being, a summation part enculturation and part intuition.

I don’t need everyone to be OK with me, but I’m grateful to see that big chunk in the middle softening on the issue and widening their perspective on “normal”.

Talk isn't cheap.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brands that make room in their broadcast.


PS: Sorry it has been so long! What can I say, duty calls -- there's real work to be done! I will try to better manage my time and schedule in a few more rants per month. Appreciate your attention, as always.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nothing new at this year’s Super Bowl

Building hype for commercials – what an age we live in!

For the last few years, advertisers have used social media teasers in hopes of cultivating additional interest and intrigue for impeding Game Day ads.

From obscure behind-the-scenes photos or video to full-blown commercial-length preview spots, advertisers who committed to the Big Game made sure you stayed glued to the screen for their 30-seconds of fame.

But this year, previewing the WHOLE commercial spot!?

Tebow for T-Mobile, a Full House reunion over spilled Oikos, a Cheerios first, Clydesdale puppy-love, and Audi’s Doberhuahua. (Just to name a few)

I was browsing YouTube last Friday and the Volkswagen ‘Wings’ spot even popped up as a rollover.

At $4 million per 30-seconds, you’d think advertisers would want to keep things under wraps as long as possible. You know, really get their monies worth!

There is plenty of time to “go viral” POST game day! Seriously, why spend so much cash on a creative repeat?

Why advertise during the Super Bowl at all?!

Enter the brilliance of Newcastle Brown Ale.

So the promotion of Super Bowl advertising is evolving…fast.

If everyone’s Game Day ad is going to run BEFORE Game Day, there’s gotta be a way to capture similar hype and just skip the placement (and GYNORMOUS cost) all together.

And that’s precisely what Newcastle did.

First of all, ever heard of ‘em? I hadn’t, but again, NOT a beer drinker.

Their “If We Made It” campaign is pure genius.

The whole premise was built around the notion that Newcastle had every intention of producing a spot for the Super Bowl, but then didn’t. It was too expensive, the story concepting process was mismanaged, (never mind that Budweiser basically owns the Super Bowl).

Popping up nearly a week in advance, the campaign’s hub,, is self-deprecating humor at its best.

Video testimonials by:

But they didn’t stop there.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Newcastle watched the actual ads along with us, ‘recreating’ a selection of them via storyboard animation. Selected ads that Newcastle made more ‘MEGA HUGE’ included Wonderful Pistachio, Chobani and GoDaddy (twice), just to name a few.


Seriously, when you consider it costs $4 million for 30 seconds. And that’s just placement, never mind all the costs associated with the spot’s production…

Newcastle spent less, built MORE and, by most estimates, stole a huge handful of exposure and acclaim at this year’s Super Bowl.

…without actually producing a spot FOR the Super Bowl.

Hats off, Newcastle! Can we expect a Part 2 in 2015?

Happy Monday,
-Daniel :)

Afterthought: What’s next in the Super Bowl Advertising Evolution?

If everything is previewed in advance, how will marketers in the next 3-5 to 10 years REALLY secure (actual) Game Day impact?

Answer: Total Shock and Awe

Think mega-huge giveaways, a total change in brand or positioning – no previews or warnings, no hints whatsoever we’re talking Beyoncé surprise-album-dropping-at-midnight hysteria here.
Brands have dabbled with it already. Denny’s Free Grand Slam breakfast in 2012. Really two this year: U2’s “Invisible”, given for free in support of (RED) and eSurance’s $1.5M post-game spot savings giveaway.

Every brand, each more shocking then the last (all, no doubt, with paths into social-share). But wouldn’t that make for a thrilling night of TV? Almost like watching a high-stakes sporting event, or something!

Can’t wait. :)

Friday, January 31, 2014

The 'real winner' at the Grammys was Arby's?!

Give me a break.

I can’t stand how news outlets feel the need to sensationalize everything.

Case in point: this week’s marketing/social media pubs.
Subject: An Arby’s tweet out to singer/song-writer Pharrell Williams.

In case you missed it:
Cute, right?

Sure. But Arby’s was by no means the 'real winner' at the Grammys simply because they tweeted about a hat. They didn't 'slay' anything! (Yea, those are how some of the headlines are phrasing it).

It was a reasonable association between brand and fashion statement.
It was on-point, cute, comical, and timely. I’ll give them that.

But, oh wow – the interaction went exactly as you’d hope one in twitter would.

Let’s be honest. Brands can be a PAIN to follow. Always talking about themselves – what’s new in THEIR world, why THEY’RE the greatest. Sort of like the worst humans you follow, right?

And try as they might to be cute and creative (some undoubtedly doing better than others), it all eventually boils back to self-promotion.

Because that’s what BUSINESSES (have to) do.

Arby’s is (still) just a fast food enterprise. 

Are we supposed to tip our hats to Arby’s (pun INTENDED) because in this particular instance, their aim was not directly business related or self-promotional?

…Because it felt human?

Why not just follow more humans!?

I wonder,
  • How many new followers did it provide Arby’s? 
  • What will happen with retention when they go back to non-stop product pitching? 
  • And most importantly, how many more Beef ‘n Chedds did it sell?

You’re thinking, “Alright, grandpa – you are WAY too young to be this cynical about brands interacting on social media!”


OK, maybe I am being a bit too harsh.

We’re all marketers, learning to walk the social media tightrope together. The exposure cost seconds to place and pennies to craft, so who can argue with opportunity cost?

It’s just that so many other brands have done it before – they’ve broken character, provided modest laughs, we all move on.

It’s not a new tactic, just Arby’s turn to hit the tenderly-tossed softball!

And just to be clear, I’m not against brands getting cheeky with customers online.

Tweets from businesses can be casual and conversational. They can be cynical, callous, or coy. They just have to jive with the brand they represent.

Of all communication channels, social media is the most anthropomorphic. It should be your brand, PERSONIFIED!

But just like the best characters in literature, movies, and TV, I expect solid, thought-out, consistent (twitter) character development!

Not loose comedy, once in a million tweets.

Ya with me!?

-Daniel :)

 PS: and pubs, don’t give me that bull about it being a “slow news week” – we’re DAYS away from Marketing’s biggest stage! (rants and raves on Super Bowl strategies to come)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy 100! Morton gets a new look.

It’s a milestone year for Morton Salt – the organization is celebrating its centennial with a brand refresh.

And like the best in baking, ‘a pinch’ is enough.
When you’re the market leader in something as basic as salt – (actually table salt is neither basic nor acidic, it’s neutral, but ‘basic’ in terms of product marketing) – it’s best not to rock the boat on brand.

The new mark is practically indistinguishable against its 46 year-old predecessor. Really, blink and you might miss it.
The girl has cleaner lines, her yellow dress and hair really *POP* now without the overkill of shadowing. And a stronger fall of rain calls for a healthier pour of salt! Both happenings are better emphasized in the new iteration.

The typeface is sturdier, with the “R” having a more playful swagger and kick not unlike the salt-touting girl herself.

One of America’s “10 best-known symbols” (Post-Tribune, September 1989), the logo and heavily optioned tagline “when it rains, it pours” was originally crafted as a method of promotion that Morton salt remained free-flowing even in rainy weather, thanks to unique, ultra-absorbing agents. #nowyouknow

I guess easy does it!

Haven’t had enough of one of America’s favorite blondes? The company has an entire website built to promote the centennial.