Category Archives: pr/marketing

Super Bowl, Kids’ Shows, and Ad Love

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(Caption: showing my Coca-Cola pride during the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show)

With the Super Bowl last weekend and an entire week of foundations training for my job, I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing, advertising, and this concept of brand love. For example, I failed a blind taste test between Coca-Cola and Pepsi last year, but I still love Coke so much more. It’s my brand. I grew up with it. I would pay a premium to have a Coke instead of a Pepsi. That’s brand love.

Part One

The Super Bowl has become one of the only times of the year when it’s acceptable/encouraged to talk about advertising. In a way, it’s the advertising world’s Oscar… except you don’t need talent, and you buy your way in. Nevertheless, people actively watch the commercials and looked forward to the coolest new things. That’s not true in everyday life. DVRs were invented because people didn’t want to watch commercials. So how do we extend the attention span of viewers via TV (via cable or internet)? With ads leading up to the Super Bowl ad. Yes. With ads after the Super Bowl, so viewers can rewatch the ad or follow along in the storyline. Yes. But what about improving ads in general?

Part Two

“The Internet and social media have changed the way we behave” sounds cliché, but it’s true. People don’t mind interacting with their favorite brands and commenting or liking brand posts/tweets. Now, brands deliver us products and help us curate online content. Search allows us to find information about products, brands, do comparisons, and make the purchase. Guess what? We are doing that. So how do you extend that to offline, where consumers are still watching ads, but aren’t talking to each other about it as they do during the Super Bowl?

Part Three

Last night, The Looney Tunes Show (new one) came on my DVR. I was about to fast forward through the commercials when I started watching the cartoons aimed at children. I was so much more interested in children’s commercials than any of the adult commercials I see in normal programming. Why? Because the commercials were informative. They introduced me to a cool new game or a cool new game feature. The messaging was all around the product and why it’s cool instead of why using this particular brand of toilet paper will make me more sociable.

I watched every single commercial – and added Nerf products on my WANT! list.

Musing

Make commercials that are informative. Funny. Passionate. Use TV advertising as another way to curate your content and your brand messaging. If it needs to be about product attributes, told me about product attributes. Don’t weave jingles and a storyline and psychology into a TV ad. Just tell me the facts. Or tell me something interesting but with a theme (Redbull has been so good at consistently owning extreme sports that I can guess it’s Redbull even if they don’t brand the extreme sports content – which they do). And maybe we will start talking about cool things we saw via the “Coca-Cola” show (30 secs of cool content between the program in watching) instead of another ad.

Because my time is precious. And I’m willing to pay more, way more, for a brand – see iPhone, Kate Spade shoes, moleskin notebooks, and Song flat screen.

So give me good content or good product information instead of just an ad. Give me back my 9 minutes every 30 minutes I watch TV (give or take). And I’ll love you back. I’ll buy your brand. And hey, if you just tell me why the shoe is better instead of using D list celebs, Sketchers, I may actually buy your crappy shoes. Ok, that conclusion was a lie, but you get the point.

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Dear Alla Girshman

Let me first say that I have no idea who you are, except that a simple Google search states that you live in Staten Island, NY. If this is in fact the same Alla Girshman, I’m not quite sure.

What I would like to say is: you suck. Either by chance or by maliciousness, you went into an AT&T store and added yourself as an authorized user to my account. You are not. Thankfully, the AT&T alert system informed me of this change, and I was able to remove you from the account. Please know that I will be increasingly vigilant and will be recording all data, in case any formal investigation (either criminal, legal, or otherwise) needs to be filed.

I would also like to thank you. You were the tipping point for me in terms of phone spam. For whatever reason, I have been getting ads on my call phone, both calls and texts, and it’s quite bothersome. Therefore, I’ve decided to start blogging about people (names, numbers, etc.) who are soliciting me and/or breaching my privacy. It’s only fair that those who bother me will get a dose of my small, but fervent “online justice.” Maybe my blog will even appear on the first page of Google results. And you are the person who inspired me to stop lying down and taking it, and to start taking action. So thanks.

I’ll be updating this entry with further information of people/companies who suck. Hopefully, there won’t be any more. :)

Update:

Number- 407-492-8021
Message- Your entry last month has WON! Go to http://www.bestbuy.com.zbit.biz and enter your Winning Code: “9776” to claim your FREE $1,000 Bestbuy Giftcard
Note- lame. Thanks but no thanks. Do not spam me.

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Hot Sauce in the Mail

This is a story about how great customer service and trust in your consumers can get you a long way.

I went to the Chelsea Market for the first time a few weeks ago.  My roommate at the time is a huge foodie, and we decided to explore together.

While wandering around the market, a guy (Jon) had a table near the basket shop and asked us to sample his hot sauce.  For those of you who don’t know me, I’m obsessed with spicy food and am always looking for new hot sauce.  So I said yes.  The sauce was pretty good; beyond just spice, it also had flavor. I casually asked if this was his spiciest variety.  He said no, I don’t have any on hand.

More importantly, Jon said, “If you give me your address, I’ll mail you a bottle of our habenero sauce and you can pay me back later.”

“Sure.” I’m only living in NYU dorms for the summer, so giving him my address was a fairly small risk.  Besides, he’s a nice guy, and even if he turned out to be a bit nuts, we have security guards for a reason. If he didn’t send it to me, no big deal.

I gave him my mailing address and completely forgot about the whole incident.

A few weeks later, I checked my mailbox and was completely surprised that this random guy had trusted me and sent me a bottle of his habenero sauce.  It would have been easy of me to ignore his invoice, enjoy the hot sauce, and forget about it.  I mean, I’m moving in a few weeks.  What was he going to do?

I didn’t.  I emailed him back and asked how to best pay for it.  A quick transaction later, and I was happily enjoying my bottle, guilt-free.

But this is an unbelievable story.  Of course, I told my friends (and am telling you now).  What are the chances in the one of the most jaded cities in the world that one stranger would trust another and really put himself & his product out there?

So here’s some free publicity for you.  Thanks for the hot sauce and for the story.  Best of luck in your endeavors! :)

Jon, thank you so much for the hot sauce. If you would like me to remove your contact information from this blog, please let me know, and I'd be happy to do so. :)

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Daily Deals Emails, I’m Dumping You for Mobile.

Not including work.  Not including school.  Not including spam.  What do you get emails about?

I get about 50 emails a day from Groupon, Yipit, PLNDR, Borders Rewards, Ralph Lauren, Barneys New York, Heartsy.me (it’s like Groupon for Etsy), and so many more.  It became a morning ritual to delete all these crazy emails.  Then, an after lunch ritual as well.  It’s too much.

The irony is that I already look up the content that I care about.  Even though I rarely buy anything on Gilt, Ruelala, or Hautelook, I check their mobile app weekly.  I’ve bought more via Groupon mobile than on their website, and never have I seen a Groupon email and jumped at the opportunity.  In short, everything I can get via email, I can get via my smartphone.  So please stop sending me discount/OMG, it’s a SALE!/group buying emails.  And for heaven’s sake, please stop auto-subscribing me.

[I just unsubscribed to Yipit and immediately got another email; apparently, there's another level of unsubscribe I needed to go through to never hear from them again.  Sorry, that makes me less likely to buy from you compared to the other 300 "me too!s" out there.]

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Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely instances for email.  Emails from all my accounts, i.e. credit cards, etc. to ensure I’m still running smoothly and haven’t turned my credit into a single digit number… they’re a great thing.  Emails from certain online groups, i.e. community managers or MeetUps or Ivy+, with updates are fine.  Even Hubspot emails (before they started emailing me multiple times a week- thanks, but if I really wanted your content, I’d subscribe to your blog; stop it already) were marginally interesting and informative.

But daily sales emails… please for the love of all that is un-evil, stop sending them and just make an app.  In fact, please make a universal shopping app, so I don’t have to log into the 20 different apps per day in order to check my deals.  Just one place.  Giving me information when I want.  On my phone.  Allows me to purchase.  Does not bother me with silly emails that are for all practical purposes useless.

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Counter-argument: I’m assuming that lots of people aged 35-55, who love sending ‘funny’ images via email, playing Farmville, and posting a thousand status updates a day are the same people who will actually click-through on those emails.  And for the 5% or 7% or 9% click-through rates, the entire email campaign becomes worthwhile.  But consider this, will the other 90+% of your audience become sick of your antics and indifferent to your brand?  Just because the other 90% doesn’t report you as spam or doesn’t do anything but delete your email doesn’t mean the users themselves are not secretly resenting the annoyance of your presence.

 

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Superbowl Ads: An Anecdotal Experiment

It’s been weeks since I last blogged about the Superbowl.  In an effort not to taint my research, I haven’t read my last blog entry.  These are the ads I still remember (unaided recall):

  • Biggest impression and first ad that comes to mind: the Doritos finger sucking ad.  The guy licking Doritos cheesy residue off his co-worker was so visceral that it’s the first ad I remember every time someone says Superbowl.  So by my definition, Doritos had the best ad. Congrats to Frito-Lay & PepsiCo.
  • Eminem Brisk: disclosure being I’m working for Unilever this summer as a brand intern and Lipton Brisk is owned by Unilever, so it naturally makes sense that it’s the second ad that comes to mind.
  • I like the Coca-Cola border crossing ad, where two guys temporarily redrew country border to share the Coke experience.  I’ve been a loyal Coke drinker since childhood.
  • Adrian Brody with Stella Artois: there weren’t too many ads geared at women, so easy one to remember
  • Audi’s ad about rich people and “hit ‘em with Kenny G.”  Hilarious.  Innovative.
  • By association with Eninem, the Detroit ad.  I believe it was about the city and not any specific car company, but for some reason, I associate the ad with Chrysler.
  • There was a pretty cool ad, where a car gets abducted by spies, then god of the sea, then aliens.  I thought was a really nice brand but ended up being a Korean car company?  The problem with that ad is that it’s visually memorable, but to me, the brand wasn’t.  Hence, its fatal flaw.  Of course, other people may have remembered the brand, but I don’t.

That’s about it.  Of all the ads that played during the Superbowl, these companies are successful in my mind because they created an impression that I could remember, if prompted.  My biggest question is whether that influenced my buying decision.

During the last few weeks, I haven’t changed my buying pattern to purchase Brisk, Stelle Artois, and certainly, not any cars.  Especially with a big purchase like an automobile, I’m unlikely to change my perception because of ads on TV.  In terms of Coca-Cola, I did a blind taste test in my brand class and have actually bought less Coke. Not only have I realized that I can’t tell the difference, but Coke Zero costs 40% more than the HEB brand, and Pepsi is more readily available in the vending machines at McCombs.  So I’ve changed my buying habits and am less likely to go out of my way to purchase Coke products.  Lastly, I’m not usually a chip purchaser, and the only reason I’ve eat more bags of Doritos than usual (2 more individual size packs to be exact) is because it was part of the packed dinner provided by Hertz during a campus visit.

So in my own opinion, Superbowl ads are interesting, general buzz, and may help with brand equity, but at the end of the day, I’m not any more likely to purchase a product because of ads during the Superbowl.  At most, it reaffirms my brand loyalty to products and services I already use.  At worst, I don’t remember what brand that one car commercial was supporting.

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Super Bowl 45 Ads Galore

I’m going to be honest.  Packers, Steelers, I don’t really keep up with football.

… But for those who are still reading, I do religiously follow the Superbowl for the ads, the sense of community, and sometimes even the half time show (especially when Usher makes an appearance).

As an experiment, here are my initial reactions to the Superbowl ads.  I’ll come back a while later and see if I can do some unaided recall.  Just a few things before I being: 1) I’m approaching this as a consumer and not a marketer-as much as I can separate the two; 2) I’m female, so most of the ads- read PepsiCo- probably were targeted towards me; and 3) I already have attachments to the brands that I love, so some ads reinforce, while others detract no matter how amazing they are.

The Best

Chrysler: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120523

Volkswagen Passat: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120562

Doritos: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120571

Kia: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120558

Coca-Cola: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120559

Stella-Artois: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120553

The Worst

Coca-Cola: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120554

Movie sequels: Transformers, Fast & Furious, Pirates

The Ehhh…

GoDaddy.co: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120608

E*Trade: http://www.hulu.com/adzone2011#50120574

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User Experience and Why I use Citi

It feels like 90% of people who graduated around the time that I did have a Citibank Platinum Dividend credit card.  And over the years, I’ve come to rely on their customer service as a benchmark for other companies. For the record, I’ve not been solicited to post this and am not getting anything from them (although I would appreciate some bonus points, if any Citi employees are out there reading… j/k… not really). :)

I started using their credit card over 5 years ago.  On a month to month basis, I have no contact with the company.  I pay my bills online.  I periodically get marketing emails from them about balance transfers, which I ignore.  I don’t usually go over my limit and have always paid the full amount on my card.  But there have been a few occasions over the years, where I’ve had to call them.

This is why I like my Dividend card and will likely never switch (unless Citi gives me a reason):

  • If I do have to call them, I simply say “Agent,” and the computer transfers me.  No messy navigating through a long menu (thanks but no thanks AT&T) or call back during normal business hours (… and you wonder why you’re having issues, NY Times?) or lengthy hold times (USPS).
  • There isn’t a huge amount of up-selling.  Yes, I’m calling b/c I have a question or problem.  Please don’t bug me with the sales pitch.
  • The quality of customer service reps is excellent.  They’re always courteous and have a full grasp of the English language.

That’s it.  I don’t care about Citi’s rates or credit limit (although I have doubled it over the years) or any of the other ‘product’ features.  I just want my interactions with them to be short, convenient, and pleasant, when I choose to be in touch.

Why is it so hard for other companies to emulate this?  Why don’t they think it can be part of their competitive strength and a key differentiator between them and everyone else?

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Wait, this is only week 2?!? Part 2

Technically, it’s week 3, but who’s counting?

Sleep is a freaking scarcity.  If sleep could be sold, supply would be steep and close to the y-axis and demand would be even more inelastic.  There’d be a line out the door, even though we’re broke MBA students.  For anyone who gets home before 11pm and doesn’t have to do homework, appreciate sleep.

Coke Zero, Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper have become my best friends.  My life is ruled by caffeine and no sleep, and yet I’m having such a great time.  Paradox or twilight zone?  It is 3:17 in the morning.

[Begin tangent.]

BTW when most brands do some sort of sponsorship or deal, it’s clearly labeled on the can/bottle.  For example, I still remember Coke’s deal with AVTR.  Yes, that’s Avatar (the awful James Cameron movie that’s FernGully + Romeo & Juliet with the only redeeming factor being special effects).  The spelling was a bit funky but the package design was impeccable.  The spacing of the AVTR letters, the serif font.  It just fit.  But I have some serious questions about the football logo on the new Coke Zero bottles?  There’s no information.  Are you doing a sponsorship or co-branding?  Am I supposed to be curious enough to go look it up online?  (If I weren’t into marketing and advertising, probably not.)

I finally went to the Coke Zero site and I’m even more confused.  It is about football season but non-specific.  I thought diet products were usually geared more towards women, but Coke seems to be pushing this product to men.  Are they expanding the diet-soda-for-men market (I have no idea how big it is) in order to not cannibalize as much of the female-dominated Diet Coke market?

The choose-your-own-adventure game on the site is almost interesting, but I’d rather see the brand sponsor one of the Facebook games, where it’s more engaging for the user and also leverages the brand of the Facebook game.  Of course, having worked at Playdom, I’m biased. :)

[End tangent]

I’m loopy so it’s off to bed.  Last thought: why hasn’t anyone told me about this awesome awesome product?

UPDATED: Cynical answer- probably because the packaging is awfully awfully wrong.

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Sneaker Wars: A Foray in Nerdism

Just put down the book yesterday, and I’m already obsessed with the awesomeness.  It’s history, sports, fashion, and case study.  And as the World Cup is happening now, it’s very appropriate that I just finished.

I’ve noticed that of the 32 World Cup teams, 13 are sponsored by Adidas, 9 by Nike, 6 by Puma, 1 by Umbro, and 2 didn’t have very visible insignias (at least not ones I recognized off-hand).  Adidas still has a lot of cache and got most of the European teams along with some of the strongest Latin and African teams.  But it’s evident that Nike is making huge headway with the US team, Brazil, and a few other heavy hitters.  Puma, other than the Italian team, seems to be hitting smaller third-world countries.

I never thought to look at the brand of football uniforms.  It tells a lot about the sportswear market and maybe a bit about where each company is placing its bets?

We’ll have to check back depending on team standings.  I’d love to see another upset like the Italy-France match of four years ago.  Puma’s team won against the French Adidas team.

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“An Ideal Balance of Softness and Strength”

I just watched the most absurd commercial.  It’s for Angel Soft toilet paper.  A guy asks his wife for a roll of toilet paper.  It’s a classic Goldilocks.  First she throws him a roll that’s too hard.  Then, it’s too soft.  Then she throws him the Angel Soft roll followed by a jingle… “Angel Soft… an ideal balance of softness and strength.”

It may not sound so corny on paper as you’re reading this.  But I guarantee you, the jingle… awful.

It brought me to wonder why agencies would write such an awkward line of copy.  Were the other lines rejected after some AB testing? Maybe legally speaking they can’t use certain phrases that other brands have used to express “softness without sacrificing the strength.”

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Whatever reason, I heard that jingle and balked.  So yes, good job ad agency, I remember the commercial.  However, I’m also a brand whore.  Charmin only.  And anything other than Bounty  in my Kitchen, Lysol in my bathroom, or Tide by my laundry basket?  I think not.  So no, the commercial also didn’t change my purchasing decision.  But I’m unique.  I love advertisements and studying them.

My real question is how did the commercial come about?  The product manager, maybe product marketing manager, the advertising agency, media buyer, and all the third party hands that have touched the commercial from the studios to the channels where the commercial is broadcasted.  They all touched the commercial.  What were their inputs and influences?  How much do you trust the gut instinct of your ad agency versus the pages of spreadsheets with scanner data and consumer perception via focus groups, surveys, etc.?  How do you separate the noise in the numbers from the statistically significant?  If you can’t, what do you rely on?  If you’re a product manager in this situation, how do you make your decision?

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I don’t know.  I want to learn.

I believe there is too much reliance on numbers, even when it means making assumptions that aren’t comparatively significant.  I believe in “an ideal balance of intuition and data.”  My goal is to learn that ideal balance.

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