Tag Archives: public relations

Say Yes to Advertising

Everyone in the Social Media world is going on and on about building relationships and spending money on a good PR agency, vs. millions on advertising.  It’s not worth it, they say.  The top down approach no longer works. they say.

Well, I call bullshit.

Advertising is valuable… when done right.

Sure, when I’m watching TV or videos online, I’d rather claw my eyes out than watch yet another 30 second slot of why L’oreal (I never know where to put the apostrophe) or Pantene is so amazing and makes me look exactly like the models, like O. M. G.!

But isn’t that because the ads themselves suck?  I mean I may believe Sarah Jessica Parker actually colors her hair out of a box only because I also believe she has a $500/hr hair dresser applying that color.

Despite Social Media being the “it” thing right now, there’s still value in ads.  With the right execution, ads reinforce positive brand attributes and can actually make your constituency feel a sense of exclusivity and belonging – something Martin Lindstrom covers in his new book, buyology.  (Just had to add a plug.   The marketing research discussed is interesting, although I’m a bit skeptical on the methodology and potential.)

The big take-away is “done right.”  People hate Wal-mart but love Target.  Why?  Because Target understands the importance of design and perception in addition to low prices.  Wal-mart treats their employees like jack and get cheap stuff from developing nations.  Target has the hottest designers and gives 10% back to charity.  I’m pretty sure Target sources from developing nations too… but that’s not what you emphasize, is it?

Ok.  Ok.  The ads don’t make Target better than Wal-mart.  And it shouldn’t.  But it does remind you of exactly why you love going there.

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So go on and hire that Social Media agency.  Research how to interact with bloggers and how to be real with your tweeters.  Understand that a Facebook app or page isn’t a check list item but a project to be executed only if it’s really the right way to interact with your market base.

But remember, good ads stick with you.

Bud-weis-er.

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Here are some of my faves:

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Politics & The History of Marketing

PART I

My last post on the vice presidential debate highlighted the great marketing campaign of the GOP.  I say marketing because many of you pointed out via emails and ims that Sarah Palin, and to some extend John McCain, focuses on broad sweeping statements about some utopian United States without much in the way of a plausible road map.  Well… that’s what worries me most of this campaign, as did the campaign in 2004.

The American people have always held on to great hope for the future.  It’s been the promise of the American dream that’s driven so many people to immigrate to this great country (yes, it’s still great).  And that’s exactly the tactic that the republican party focuses on during election time.  They toy with our optimism, fondle our emotions and make those sweeping generalizations about how their candidate, McCain, will change the U.S. and the middle class for the better.

But so many supporters of the GOP at major corporations and the wealthy.  They hold much more sway over the party than the millions of rural, small town and middle class families.  Can we trust that they will serve us over the rich?  Has the last 8 years taught us nothing?

But the Obama and democratic party actually gives clear goals and action plans that cite the benefits, costs and consequences on the economy, healthcare, social security, foreign affairs, the energy crisis/global warming, etc.

But at the end of the day, as we learned in Made to Stick, the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

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PART II

Well to explain, let’s examine the brief history of marketing [via lessons from my management 101 class at The Wharton School].

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start – The Sound of Music). Marketing is defined as “an ongoing process of planning and executing the marketing mix for products, services or ideas to create exchange between individuals and organizations.”  Advertising, public relations, research, branding among others all fit under the marketing umbrella.  But marketing is the core strategy that directs all of the above.

New technology = economic growth.  The Industrial Evolution spurred the beginning of mass production.  No longer do we have to make our own clothes because the cotton mills could do it faster and cheaper.  Great!  With Ford’s application of the assembly line, the Model-T was so much more cost effective car that the average American could afford.  Great!  However, there wasn’t much in the way of marketing.  No strategic placement of a product or service, finding market segments, developing a unique selling point.  There was no need.  It’s “any color, as long as it’s black.”

Skip forward to proliferation of the market place.  Developments in transportation, packaging and refrigeration means that people now have a choice in what they want to buy.  These were especially apparent in the CPGs (consumer packaged goods) like Heinz ketchup (“47 varieties!”), Campbell’s soup (“M’m m’m good” since 1935), Coca-Cola (“Deliciously refreshing” 1900) and so many more.  Slogans were a way to set products apart from competitors and a catchy phrase to help advertising and consumer choices.

From there, marketing mutated to a complex machine.  In order to keep things brief (because it gets a lot more complicated), here are some highlights in no particular order.

  • Proctor & Gamble realized that it’s better to cannibalize their own products, if it means gaining more of the marketing.  Just in their family of detergents, they have Tide as a household name and top market brand.  Cheer and Gain, which sorry for not knowing, play somewhere in the mid-cost, mid-performance range.  (I’m sure PG has gigabytes of consumer studies, scanner data and much more market research on the differentiators and market segments under each.  I just don’t know them.)  Then Era at the bottom (which I assume b/c I’ve never heard of it… maybe it has higher market proliferation abroad).
  • Intel evolved into a household name by using both the push and pull strategy.  During a time when chips were a dime a dozen and consumers weren’t aware of what went into their computers, Intel pushed their chips as the top of the line.  More importantly, they pulled consumers in with effective advertising and PR (all part of marketing).  Make sure that your computer has “Intel inside” to guarantee quality, etc.
  • Pepsi, as the newcomer, challenged Coca-Cola with their blind taste test, and stupidly Coca-Cola (instead of leaning on their tradition, branding and established consumer base) fell for the trap.  They came up with New Coke.  Sure… months later with people across the nation hoarding the old stuff and complaining so fervently, Coke came back with Coca-Cola Classic.  But Pepsi had make it’s mark, and they’re still competing with about 50-50 market share (depending on country) of beverages and snack products.  [Side note: some people suspect that Coke had introduced New Coke as a ploy to convince the public how much they really love Coca-Cola.  I think the executives were just idiotic.  Side note #2: Coca-Cola determined a few years ago that there are 27 beverage opportunities in a day.  Yeah, 27.]

Those are just three very quick snapshots of successful marketing techniques and how much marketing’s evolved from “47 varieties!”

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Now every company is trying to differentiate itself.  We have dozens of choices.  Brands are freaking sub-branding, creating off-shoots and variations.  There’s like 12 types of Tylenol ache, cold and flu medicines.  When I’m in pain, I just want “THIS IS THE ONE YOU NEED.”  So advertising’s become less effective.  Direct mail’s also less effective because my mailbox is full of ads I don’t want.  [Discover, unless you're giving me 10% cash back, which I know you can't afford, stop sending me biweekly mail.  I'm not going to accept your 'exclusive offer.']  Telemarketers hounds us all the time.  These annoying marketing techniques work because they’re so cost effective that a few “YES’s” make up for the majority of “NO’s.” [Unfortunately, they also give marketing a bad name.  It's become an industry of shoving shit people don't want down their throats.  Not true marketing: exposing product/service options to audiences who want to know.]

The problem was that companies were offering their guarantees so often that what they say mean nothing to us.  We’re emotional numb to their appeals and no longer trusted their slogans.  At the end of the day, no matter how kitschy or cute the advertising is, if the product/service ain’t work, we ain’t buying it.   So things started to change.

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Remember new technology = economic growth.  Internet = proliferation and democratization of information.  The normal paradigms of advertising, public relations and branding are changing.  Thus, marketing (the planning of such) is evolving as well.

Inventions like TiVo and DVRs help us skip the ads, while companies are trying to find ways to ‘cut through the clutter.’  Marketers are moving online.  Okay, yes, a lot of the bad habits of marketers have moved online.  The flashy, corny banners.  The incessant pop-ups selling us crap and then selling us pop-up blockers.  The spam, even from legitimate companies (you have the money; hire an email-marketer!).

But this is just the beginning.  More and more, word of mouth is playing a role.  Blogs and influencers across the web are popping up and spreading relevant information to interested niches.  Email marketers are popping up with opt-in policies and reassurances that our information isn’t getting sold to the evil spammers.  Semantic search and backend settings allow us to just see ads and banners that may be of interest to us.  Because we do want marketing.  It helps us find out about great sales, the new android phone or 20% off coupons.  We just don’t want what we don’t care about.

So here’s the lesson: marketing works.  Emotionally appealing to audiences works.  BUT.  BUT, there has to be facts that support the emotion.  In order to prevent buyer’s remorse and to keep a customer (which is so much cheaper than acquiring a new one), the product/service has to deliver.

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Part III

Thanks for sticking with me. :-)

Presidential nominations are like laundry detergent.  We have to choose one.

The difference (other than the fact that one is soap and one is people) is that the companies and branding may stay the same, democrats, republicans, independents, etc., but the product changes all the time.  Last time around it was Kerry and Bush.  Now it’s Obama and McCain.  So we can’t rely 100% on past experience to determine which one we want this time.

But we learn from shopping (an everyday task of differentiating among products and choosing what’s right for us) that we have the tools to make those decisions.  For example, we know that we care about the product specs above marketing gimmicks.  As a shoe fanatic (I have the proverbial shoe closet), Manolos would go so much better with my lifestyle brand.  However, they hurt my feet, don’t fit as well and quite frankly, I’d rather save $200 and buy Kate Spades.

The same should go for decisions on candidacy! Yes, I love America.  Yes, I want the government to be for the people again.  Yes, I want someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the authority and be a ‘maverick.’ But that doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly go on my emotions and not look at the FACTS!

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1) I’m SO enraged that the GOP would use a cheesy marketing ploy to try and fool the American people.

2) Even more so, I’m irked that the public would buy into it!

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FACT: Sure, she’s cute and a MILF, but Sarah Palin said exactly 0 about specific plans of the McCain doctrine.

FACT: A ‘blanket’ tax cut helps the rich exponentially more than it helps “the Joe six-packs and hockey moms.”  (see below)

FACT: Obama’s healthcare reform includes a specific plan.  He plans to “make employer contributions more fair.”  HOW? … “by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.”  McCain’s healthcare plan is full of unsupported claims.  “John McCain will reform health care making it easier for individuals and families to obtain insurance.” How?  Not sure… but “Americans [sure] are working harder and longer, yet the amount workers take home in their paychecks is not keeping pace because of rising health care costs.”  Really?  I wasn’t aware.

FACT: Obama’s foreign policy talks about the situations, the factors and multiple influences we have as a country to resolve/strengthen the problem/our position. McCain… doesn’t have “foreign policy” on his website…  Apparently, it’s not that important to him…  The closest thing I found was “national security.”

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Look, I’m not going into all the issues and who said what (all from their websites).  You can do your own research.

The point is that when we’re making such an important decision that affects not only Americans but the entire world, shouldn’t we look above the marketing ploys that tug at our heart strings and get to the not-as-interesting facts?

To answer the first question, wayyyy above: the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

We’ll see.  But it shouldn’t.

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Something About a Beanstalk

People who blog know that it’s a lot of work. So I’m taking this entry to shirk my responsibilities and just write in a stream of consciousness manner.

Two years out of college (okay, 2 years and 3 months but don’t tell anyone), I’ve gained some insight on life, a sense of what I might want to accomplish in my career and 20 lbs. What’s more, I thought I knew everything in college and now, I feel like I know nothing at all. Yes, it’s a bit cliche, but it’s not just what I don’t know in marketing; marketing, as we know it, is changing completely. Okay, there will still be the 3 Cs (company, consumer, competitors), the 4 Ps (product, price, placement, promotion), the infamous SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), Porter’s 5 forces plus internet and a plethora of other acronyms that’s supposed to make us marketing/consulting types look smart… err… find the right niche in target markets, branding and profitability. But how we communicate to our audience is forever changing (hopefully for the better).

Living through that change and watching PR professionals blunder and companies fail is painful. But the future is also bright. And I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Not that I know everything, but I’m starting to understand the process by which I can stay ahead of the curve, constantly try new things and fail a few times myself.

So what do I do?

  • Read my Google Reader religiously
    • Interests include design, PR, marketing, communications, technology, news, consumer blogs and lolcats/pundit kitchen/fail blog to keep me coming back.
  • Read lots of books
  • Attend interesting events and parties
  • Talk to people
  • Pray a little
  • Study my own strengths and weaknesses through working with other people, meeting new people and mixing in other interests (graphic design, web design, Tumbling, drawing, reading, etc.)
  • Trying new things… websites, programs, etc.
  • Through trial and error, find out where my strengths and my interests intersect.
    • I’m good at designing things, I like social media, and I love strategy (no examples b/c I like my PR agency and want them to keep liking me :-) ).
    • But… I’m an early adopter compared to most of my friends but a lagger within the social media realm. Just because I know how something works, doesn’t mean I want to adopt it personally. The same is true for companies who are interested in adopting social media in their marketing. They need to understand what part of social media makes the most sense for them. If their customers blog, then they should learn how to communicate via the comments section or even try it out themselves. If their industry is Web 2.0 (ugh) facing, they should try everything hire a community manager.

I’m still not ‘there’ yet in terms to knowing what’s my ultimate career goal. With lots of help from my manager (hands down, so amazing that I will join a “my manager is better than your manager” competition, if one exists, and kick all y’all asses! :-P ) and lots of time doing the above, I’m slowly getting there.

I feel like we should all hold hands and sing Kumbaya now… Yeah, definitely bedtime. :-)

Good night, internets!

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PR: Political Relations

Instead of going out on Saturday night, I opted to join a discuss group called the Club of Rome. It’s a forum that meets every once in a while (we haven’t set the pace yet), and everyone brings food, drinks and ideas.

The topic for this weekend was “Is it okay to intervene and disregard a nation’s sovereignty in order to help its citizens during a national disaster or political situation, i.e. genocide?” We used the [not so] recent Burmese cyclone, and the Junta’s rejection to foreign aid as the premise. Should the U.S. have simply crossed into Burmese air space/waters to delivers supplies? What could the U.N. have done?

There’s so much to be said, and I won’t give a complete synopsis of points debated. But about an hour in, I suggested whether or not to accept aid had everything to do with messaging.

The Junta were skeptical of U.S. intentions, since we took our sweet time offering aid during the Sri Lanka tsumani. In another example, China gladly took aid from other nations during the earthquake. The forum speculated that they probably could have handled matters themselves but wanted to seem open and welcoming, especially with the Olympics looming. Similar situation with the U.S. and Katrina. India offered aid but was rejected by the U.S. Forgive me for not fact checking. Did the U.S. say no because it didn’t make logistical sense to send Indian aid workers, who didn’t know the infrastructure of U.S. relief, OR was it because the U.S. simply had too much pride? “We’re the leading country in the world. Why would we possibly need help?”

Intentions masked in layers of political secrecy leave other nations to speculate, often wrongly, about why country A chose action B. The G77 (made up of over 120 developing nations) are completely distrusting of the G8 (eight of the leading OECDs) for this reason.

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I think they could take a page from social media and the strives that companies like Cisco, Johnson & Johnson and many others are taking to promote trust and relationship-building. If countries were able to sit at the table and find the mutually beneficial solutions, there wouldn’t be a need for veils of secrecy and empty U.N. sanctions. No one can guarantee the actions of other parties, but there’s no point in creating a prisoner’s dilemma.

What if the U.S. simply said, “Hey, we just want to help the people in your country. Yes, we’re interested in building a relationship because we’re interested in trade (oil) and becoming closer allies (since you’re getting too chummy with China). BUT… this is a crisis. Could we put aside the politics, so that your people can get the relief they need? We’ll offer to drop supplies in unmarked crates. Hell, we’ll even stamp the official Junta seal if you want”?

What if we simply drop the U.N. sanctions and threats from the U.S. military bully and just communicated? Sure, it might not work the first time or even the fifth, but the effort would generate mutual understanding and maybe even *gasp* respect.

Call me idealistic, but transparency and communication could do a world of good. Literally.

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