Archive for the ‘Achievement’ Category

Questioning QR Codes on Billboards

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Just in case you just crawled out of a cave, October was Breast Cancer Awareness month. A bevy of brands painted their products pink to draw awareness and raise funds to the issue–including everything from packaged goods to vacuums to the National Football League. My job is to notice companies’ efforts to create meaningful marketing like these tie-ins, and it is also to watch for examples of companies’ clever use of digital technology to bring it to life. So I had to pull over and get out of my car (literally) when I saw this billboard for a few weeks ago. While certainly clever, this example unfortunately shows how some companies are making basic mistakes with new technology, even when using it for good.

As you can probably tell, this particular billboard features a QR Code in the middle. Also known as a 2-D bar code, the role of it here is to access information via a mobile device. Here’s how it works: First, you must have a smartphone. Second, you download a QR code reader. I personally use this one, but there are many of them and they seem to work similarly.  Then you open the reader app and take a photo of the QR code. When it works correctly, you are taken to some kind of content–usually a mobile-friendly webpage.

Confused and exhausted yet? I thought so. You see, QR codes are smart in theory–they can allow you to quickly and easily go to mobile content without having to type in a website on your phone’s browser.  But as you might start to notice in my description, problems abound.  Here are some of the issues in QR codes overall and in this execution in particular:

  • Most people still don’t know what the heck QR codes are.
  • Most people still don’t have a smartphone or a QR code-reader app.
  • It’s not easy to scan QR codes when you are driving a car. In this case above, I had to literally pull over on the side of the road, activate my hazard lights, and walk up closer to get my reader to work.
  • The result is not that impressive. In the example above, the mobile page below was pulled up, offering me the chance to fill out a form, to receive an email, to click to get a webpage coupon to bring in for a free scoop of ice cream.

I would venture to say that very, very few of these billboards were scanned. People don’t have time to do what I did, and the vast majority simply drive by; possibly some notice a funny symbol and then they go on about their lives. It is unfortunate, because the “Cones for a Cure” idea by my beloved Graeter’s Ice Cream brand is a great example of meaningful marketing. But by rushing to try out this new technology, the brand has hurt the impact of the program.

Instead, why not just use the billboard to do what billboards do best: In big words write something like, “Free Scoop when you say ‘Cones for the Cure’” this month at Graeter’s.”  Crazy-simple, I know; but it just might work.  This is the kind of thing that a commuter in her car might actually notice and remember. No need to go through 10 steps to make a difference and engage with consumers. Or if you want to make people work a little bit to get the free scoop, abandon the QR code process and just ask people to email a photo of the billboard.  This is much easier, safer, and more effective. For example, check out this Cannes Lion-winning example from James Ready beer:

New mobile tools and technology are great and very promising, but I fear that companies such as Graeter’s that jump in without thinking things through will end up frustrating themselves and their customers. To be meaningful, marketing must have more than a great idea in the center–execution is everything.

Takeaways from the Upromise Partner Summit

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This morning I gave a keynote speech at the 9th annual partner summit for Upromise in Boston. In case you haven’t heard of it by now, Upromise is a meaningful marketing platform that partners with brands to contribute a percentage of their sales to a college savings fund. I first came across Upromise back in 2001 when I worked on the Tide brand at Procter & Gamble and led a test of the service with a handful of other brands at the company. Nearly a decade later I was excited to see that Upromise is as strong as ever, and perfectly delivering on what I’ve been preaching in this blog and my book for two years this month. For this post I wanted to capture my catching up on some of the things that make Upromise a great partner for brands looking to connect with people in a meaningful way.

The Upromise Proposition

Overall, Upromise is a classic win-win-win and one of only a handful of businesses I consider “meaningful marketing platforms.” These platforms happen when you create a business that helps brands offer meaningful marketing to consumers, and you take a piece of revenue based on your ability to help both succeed. Probably the biggest meaningful marketing platform is Google, in which search advertising is clicked if it is helpful to consumers, and Google collects a fee from the advertiser based on whether the consumer chose to click on the ad.

Upromise similarly creates a win-win-win by enrolling a network of brands that will give a percentage of sales to a college savings plan. Consumers get anywhere from 1% to 5% back, businesses gladly hand over the fee to capture these sales, and Upromise collects a small percentage from the marketer based on each sale. To date, more than $44 billion has been spent through Upromise, resulting in more than $500 million in total earnings for consumers who are in the program. This success led Sallie Mae to acquire Upromise about two years ago.

In addition to the general plan, Upromise works hard to add features for both marketers and members. There is personalized offer platform, special promotions, and email, Facebook, and Twitter updates to help savers find out how to earn even more. And because Upromise has access to all of the data about purchase behavior, it offers an unprecedented ability to calculate ROI. No wonder its partners range from Exxon Mobil to McDonald’s to Bank of America.

Partner Example: Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual is one of a number of major financial services brands that are involved with Upromise. I have been a fan or Liberty Mutual for some time, and I wrote about their Responsibility Project both in this blog and in my book. In speaking with one of the brand’s representatives at this event, I learned that the Upromise partnership is a perfect fit with its brand purpose of encouraging responsibility.

Liberty Mutual has selected a smart path in embracing the idea of personal responsibility. First, the idea of “responsibility” differentiates the business in a crowded space and in a way that fits with what an insurance company is about (unlike sponsoring baseball games or showing a whale jumping in a commercial).

Second, people who are responsible tend to purchase more insurance AND they tend to be people who have fewer accidents. So by “owning” responsibility, Liberty Mutual increases its revenues and reduces its costs (i.e., paying out claims). Third, by embracing responsibility Liberty Mutual helps to build trust with its customers. After all, the responsibility goes both ways, and people need to trust that their insurance company will pay their claims if and when an accident happens.

The tie with Upromise makes a perfect fit with Liberty Mutual’s responsibility focus because the people who will take actions to save money years ahead of college are very likely to be more responsible than average. So Liberty Mutual further discovers and bonds with the high-revenue, high-profit customers that it desires. What I love is that this is a way of “targeting” people who have a desirable psychographic, and then delivering something that adds value to their lives.

Power of the Partner Summit

What I really love about the event that I attended is that it represents a way for Upromise to market itself in a meaningful way to its business customers. First, the company paid for me to attend in order to give these partners some added-value education about where the marketing world is going. Second, there was plenty of time for the partners to get together and trade tips and learnings amongst each other during meals, breaks, and at tonight’s Red Sox game. And there were additional speakers and breakout sessions in which companies such as Mastercard shared some keys to their success.

But the most original idea was a panel session in which actual Upromise users were flown in from around the country and put on the stage to share their likes and dislikes about the service. This “live focus group” offered some unscripted insights about what is working and what isn’t, but more importantly it reminded the partners of the real impact Upromise is making in terms of people’s purchase habits and success in saving for college. I have never seen a conference do something like this before, and I hope it is the beginning of a trend we see at other training events and corporate offsites.

So kudos to Upromise for continuing to build their customers’ businesses and give millions of parents a way to save for the biggest expense in their families’ futures.

Cause Marketing at the Speed of Need: #IABSM

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

On Monday I had the chance to speak at the IAB’s annual social-media event in New York City. I led a panel that included Adam Fell, VP of Quincy Jones Productions, and Jory Des Jardins, Co-founder and President of BlogHer. The topic of the session was “Social Media, World Events and the New Face of Cause Marketing.” It was a chance to explore some new territory in cause marketing and Marketing with Meaning, and I hope to continue the conversation with you in the weeks and months to come.

Our session came from a discussion I had a few months ago with Lisa Milgram, who runs programming for the IAB. She had taken notice of the number of brands that had jumped in with investments of money, time, and supplies after the earthquake in Haiti, and called me to talk about whether this was a topic we could explore further at the IAB social-media event. After some thinking and discussion, we fleshed out what I think is a fairly new concept in cause marketing, itself a concept that only really began in the 1970s and 1980s. We realized that while most cause-marketing efforts are begun with careful consideration and long-term planning by brands, events such as Haiti were compelling brands to move internal mountains and respond at the “speed of need.” Thus a conference panel topic was born.

My role in the session was to introduce the concept of cause-related marketing, show how it is an example of Marketing with Meaning, and then explore the growing number of brands that are evolving their approach to become much more instinctual and speedy in their cause responses. I spoke about two examples over the past few years: (1) the Tide brand’s response to Hurricane Katrina; and (2) the Haagen-Dazs response to honeybee disease. Both efforts brought meaningful attention and dollars to worthy causes in quick time. And both efforts built the business: Tide achieved its highest copy scores in history for its promotion of Tide Loads of Hope, and Haagen-Dazs saw sales grow 16% through its honeybee campaign and promotional flavor. The slides above show what I covered, and this article in Tuesday’s SmartBrief on Social Media captures the session nicely.

I was happy to turn things over to my fellow panelists after this short thought-starter. Adam Fell came first to tell the story of how he helped pull together many musicians in rapid time for the “We Are the World 25 for Haiti” song. He started by showing the audience camera footage from his trip to the battered country—proving that when marketers actually directly experience the cause they are involved in, much better work results. Adam spoke about how social media amplified the need—and even helped spread the word back to Haiti that millions of people around the world were praying for and contributing to their recovery.

Adam also shared an interesting story about the Visa brand’s participation in the event. Visa had planned for some time to be a sponsor of the 25th anniversary of “We Are the World” when it was planned to be in support of Africa. But when Haiti hit and Quincy Jones and others chose to throw their support behind aid for this country, the Visa brand team was thrown a bit off. But the brand team eventually agreed that the need here was great, and adjusted to stay onboard this effort.

After hearing from Adam I turned things over to Jory Des Jardins to give us some perspective of bloggers—who are marketing savvy, yet anchored in the real consumer world. She talked about how bloggers also reacted quickly to Haiti and gave both money and attention to the issue. But she had a few warnings for the audience as well: First, she reported that bloggers—who I believe are the vanguard of changing consumer opinion—are growing wary of cause-marketing efforts that seem too small or self-serving. Second, she suggested that cause-marketing efforts often need some influencers (such as bloggers) to start the word of mouth behind a new initiative. In other words, just putting up a Facebook page and waiting for traffic won’t cut it.

My only regret about the session was that we didn’t have much time for questions and discussion about this rising trend of “speed of need” cause marketing. I am personally unsure about whether most brands have the core purpose and speedy systems to allow them to give when the gut-level need arises. I would also like to explore more about our consumers’ perspective, and whether “promoting” that your brand has given can actually backfire—after all, who among us tells all of our friends how much we gave to causes in our lives…

What do you think?

Linking Happiness and Meaning at Work and Home

Thursday, January 14th, 2010


For me, the start of a new year is a time to recharge the batteries with a few weeks off, and rethink about my personal work and home life. I usually try to unplug completely, and preferably take a few long-distance drives to see relatives to clear my mind. This gives me clarity to work through the past year and begin to think about what I want to work on in the year ahead. Over the holidays I had the good fortune to run across an article that aided my annual processing. In the December 21 edition of BusinessWeek, Marshall and Kelly Goldsmith share results of a study about happiness and meaning at work and at home, and they come away with some very interesting conclusions.

In a study that is at the heart of the appropriately titled forthcoming book, Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It, the Goldsmiths interviewed more than 3,000 professionals about what gives those people short-term satisfaction (happiness) and long-term benefit (meaning). The biggest finding from their survey is that there is a very high correlation between people’s happiness and meaning at work and home—”in other words, those who experience happiness and meaning at work tend also to experience them outside of work. Those who are miserable on the job are usually miserable at home.”

Because full-time workers spend the majority of their waking hours on the job, we might as well admit that happiness and meaning at work is the key to both in life overall. I have always felt this to be the case for myself, but I am surprised that so many others feel the same way. This idea lies in the epilogue of my book, where I describe how Marketing with Meaning not only helps improve sales and customers’ lives, but by doing the latter, we enjoy our work much more.

Another key insight in this study is that “since work and home are very different environments, our experience of happiness and meaning in life appears to have more to do with who we are than where we are.” In other words, we are responsible for our own happiness and meaning—not passive beneficiaries or victims of our work or home environments. If we are unhappy, we must take control and make changes to get to a better place.

These two lessons are what I work to practice and improve upon every year. I accept that my work has a huge impact on my home and family life, and I work to shape my career to better tap into what makes me happy and what makes life meaningful. In 2009 I had the chance to progress very well on this in seeing my book published, in watching our company grow revenue and staff at a double-digit rate, and in providing opportunities for our employees to succeed with new clients and challenges.

On the other hand, there are a few other goals that I hoped to accomplish but fell short on. After reading this article I sat down to commit to some goals that will make me happier, accomplish more meaningful results, and help our company continue to grow and succeed. One big one is to see the “Marketing with Meaning” concept take on a life of its own beyond me. For me to accomplish my goals, the concept cannot just be a “Bob thing” or even a “Bridge Worldwide thing.” I can only succeed if you make the concept your own, and, as a result find happiness and meaning in your work/home life by creating marketing that people choose to engage with, and advertising that itself adds value.

Thank you for stopping by to read this blog or the book, and let me know how I can help myself succeed by helping you create more meaningful marketing.

BlackBerry Loves U2: Who Cares?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009


Over the weekend my wife and I took a break from everyday life to head out to Las Vegas for a long weekend featuring the U2 concert on Friday night. Your dedicated blogger took the opportunity to spend a little time sampling BlackBerry’s enormous sponsorship of the band’s 360 Tour, and what I found is Marketing Without Meaning.

By now you have probably seen BlackBerry’s splashy, sexy TV commercials featuring U2 and the tagline “BlackBerry Loves U2.” The concert arena in Las Vegas had plenty of banners put up (like the above) announcing the brand’s love for the band. BlackBerry reportedly paid up to $150 million for the rights to love U2 in public and brag about it in a massive advertising campaign. Here’s the thing: Who cares if BlackBerry loves U2?

For one thing, let’s take a step back and think about how the tables have completely turned in the sponsorship world. Today, celebrities are in so much demand by desperate brands that they don’t even have to really support the products that pay them! It’s not “U2 loves BlackBerry,” but the other way around. Heck, I love U2 and I didn’t have to pay anything more than $200 for a concert ticket. This reminds me of a raft of other examples that I wrote about a few months ago; for example, the AT&T commercials with TOMS Shoes in which the guy from TOMS never once praises or mentions AT&T.

There are also lots of issues around BlackBerry trying to gain popular acceptance and credibility with a wider audience by borrowing interest. Slate magazine does a great job of hacking away at the brand’s strategy, suggesting that it’s much better off sticking to its positioning as a more serious business tool, rather than trying to become as cool as Apple.

BlackBerry did create one piece of meaningful marketing as part of its U2 tie-in: The U2 Mobile Album, an app for BlackBerry only that includes music, videos, news, and a way to see where other app users are at a concert. It’s interesting but not exactly a news-maker. I believe that it was a mistake to not create the app for the iPhone platform as well as its own. It might seem odd to do something for competing phone owners, but by doing this BlackBerry could show iPhone users that it has cool apps, too, and win over some who are tired of AT&T’s poor service, for example.

It looks like a big waste of money, and the early results suggest this is in fact the case. In parent company Research In Motion’s 2nd quarter financial report in September, sales came in weaker than expected and the company might now have to cut prices.

So now that we’ve established that BlackBerry is pursuing a meaningless path, let’s turn the tables and examine how U2 is fairing from the deal. Financially it’s difficult to argue that this was anything less than genius in the short term. The band pocketed many millions in sponsorship dollars and every ad featuring the band was more free marketing for its music and concerts.

But many seem to believe that U2 is taking a brand equity hit from “selling out” to a brand that doesn’t build the U2 equity. Most of the doubts and complaints come from the band’s technology partnership switch from Apple to BlackBerry. The Apple tie-ins, which helped in the launch of the iPod, felt good on all sides: a great, creative band and a great, creative brand to match. The co-branded U2 iPod was a coup, and Steve Jobs and Bono are buddies; it was a great match. But by switching to BlackBerry, a brand most popular with financial types, felt like U2 was just selling out to the new highest bidder. The lack of anything very interesting and positive for the U2 fans from BlackBerry makes this connection even weaker.

That said, band brand fans are pretty forgiving, and the incredible music and history of the group will likely overcome any short-term dint from this tie-in. I will conclude by adding that I enjoyed how U2 allowed its concert fans to take unlimited pictures, video, and audio of the show. Last year I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Cincinnati and the bouncers were pulling camera phones out of people’s hands like they used to pull lit joints away years ago. I’m not sure if this was an official U2 acceptance policy or if we’ve reached a point in society that you just cannot prevent people from pulling out their phones. Either way, it gave me and the other 40,000-plus fans a chance to take away a few visual memories to share with friends.

UPDATE: Over Halloween weekend I turned on my TiVo and saw that I could watch the band’s Rose Bowl show, which took place a few days after the Vegas one.  After walking my kids around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating I settled in and watched this entire show for free on my TiVo thanks to YouTube and U2.  Very, very cool!  And many other people found it cool, too, as there were as many as 10 million streams of the concert on YouTube as of October 29.  If this were a TV show, it would have been a top 8 rated program in terms of number of viewers.

In that spirit, check out a few photos that I snapped (with my iPhone) during the show, including one of my wife and me having a blast. Thanks, U2.




u2 vegas ticket

‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Sometimes it’s good to take a step back from the day to day of the marketing world and Twitter stream and step into a good book about life. A few weeks ago my friend Jay gave me just such a reminder by giving me his copy of Man’s Search for Meaning, a book by Viktor E. Frankl first published in 1959. Of course Jay knows my mission in this blog well, and while it was an enjoyable read for diversion, it also reinforced my belief in the mission of creating Marketing with Meaning.

Man’s Search for Meaning is Frankl’s memoir of his survival of the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Unlike other stories of holocaust suffering and survival that you may have read, Frankl’s perspective as a psychiatrist results in a unique examination of the meaning of suffering and of life. His years in tortuous conditions provided him with the opportunity to see how many of his fellow men and his own mind were affected.

Frankl discovered that the people who tended to survive 1-in-28 odds were those who had some purpose to live for—say, a wife and children, an unwritten novel, or, in Frankl’s case, to teach the lessons that he learned in the concentration camp. Interestingly, Frankl suggests that growing cases of drug abuse and depression are a result of too many people who feel they have no meaning in their lives.

Two specific quotes stood out for me in reading this book, and drive me to continuously positively impact the world. First, a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

This was one of Frankl’s key discoveries in the concentration camps, but he expanded it in his psychotherapy research and practice in the years after the war. By choosing a “why” to live, suffering itself can be given meaning. While my personal suffering is tiny in comparison to Frankl’s, I find a personal connection to these words. This project and upcoming book around Marketing with Meaning has taken a toll on my personal and family life, and there have been setbacks and disappointments, but the possibility of changing the world for the better—and early feedback from you, dear readers—provides a powerful “why” to keep me going.

A second quote by Frankl is similarly powerful:

Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”

Who has not had the fantasy of going back to a time and place in your past, and, having the confidence and knowledge of today, acting much more confident and directed? That is the guidance of Frankl, a concept that confronts man with “life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both his life and himself.”

This concept is what gets me up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings to write this blog or work on the book. It’s my personal conviction to “not leave anything on the court” in the game of life goals. My biggest fear is not failure itself, but rather the failure to do some small thing that could have helped create success because I was lazy or over-confident.

I am glad to have something bigger than myself to live and struggle for, and I am proud that this work around Marketing with Meaning has already touched a handful of people around the world. I hope to not only create meaning for myself, but spark a new meaning of life for millions of other marketers around the world. Perhaps that is what Frankl meant when he said:

Being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actually realizes himself.”

Value Tips from Food Retailing Forum

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I received a lot of attention from my recent posts about how to improve the value equation through meaningful marketing, so I assume that this is a very relevant topic for readers and Googlers. A few weeks ago, our friends at MVI hosted a Future of Food Retailing Forum here in Cincinnati. I was unable to attend the event, but one of our star Client Service Managers, Andrea Bollin, provided our agency with a nice summary of the event, which hit again and again on consumers’ value needs.

The main purpose of the conference was to hit many topics that are useful for vendors and suppliers of all types that serve retailers—and we attended to get more perspective for Bridge Worldwide’s major food retail client, Kroger. There were two main takeaways from the two-day conference that hit on both value and meaningful marketing:

1. “The New Premium”—The concept of what consumers expect in a “premium” brand is shifting dramatically due to the economic downturn, a concern for environmental sustainability, and an overall desire by people to make a more positive impact in their purchases. According to MVI, the new premium brands are transparent and have a focused purpose. New premium brands also never mention price, but instead show added value through their social, sustainability, and health/wellness contributions. In a world where premium brands are less and less better performing than low-cost store brands, they must differentiate along other lines that people care about. I’m very excited to see the future of marketing when leading brands innovate and create marketing along these lines.

2. Teach People New Skills—One of the conference sessions shared some emerging themes in consumer messaging. One specific example is the opportunity for brands to help consumers learn or rediscover new skills. A few things are driving this: (1) People are increasingly interested in “doing it yourself” to save money and enjoy an experience, but they need to learn how; and (2) young adults today spent less time in the kitchens, yards, and garages with their parents learning how to bake a cake, landscape, or change the oil, respectively, so there is a skill gap waiting to be filled. Teaching a skill is one of the big opportunities for brands that I explore in the upcoming book, using examples such as Home Depot’s in-store classes. The idea is that brands can close a sale and earn long-term loyalty by helping people better themselves.

Overall, it’s great to see more and more industry minds triangulating on the importance of marketing that itself adds to the value equation by improving people’s lives.

As a special offer to readers of this post, you can read Andrea’s brief summary of the event by downloading it here.

The Marketing Power of a Red Cap

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Perhaps one of the best case studies in social networking and meaningful marketing comes from a brand that has been around at least since 1703. This brand creates incredible followers in a true community of shared passions. And it does it without blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. Welcome to the story of red caps from Mount Gay Rum.

More than two years ago in an offsite with the executives of Bridge Worldwide, I first introduced my draft thinking on this Marketing with Meaning concept. I had assigned our small group to bring in examples of marketing that had a personally positive impact on their lives. My idea was for this to help spark the conversation around marketing that people choose to engage with, marketing that itself improves people’s lives. I best remember the example brought by our Chief Operating Officer, Michael Graham. Michael brought in a red hat branded with Mount Gay Rum, and he couldn’t wait to tell me its story.

Michael told us about how Mount Gay Rum has a long history with sailors. The brand was first launched in Barbados when a trip to the island was challenging, and ship captains would bring back barrels of Mount Gay as proud proof that they had successfully landed at the island. Since then, Mount Gay has continued to be closely associated with sailing events. It is a sponsor of more than 100 regattas each year. What’s special is that at these regattas, Mount Gay distributes its iconic red hats with the specific regatta name sewn under the logo. Only regatta participants get the hats, so it is a modern-day proof of sailors’ skills. Instead of another piece of marketing swag, these hats are prized trophies from a very special event. And they become collectors’ items for the recipients.

Michael also described how these hats become a kind of social networking trigger as well. Fellow sailors use the hats as a way to broadcast their common interest in public places. Sailors who see someone wearing one at the airport, beach, or baseball game will just walk up and start a conversation.

What’s interesting is that every sailor knows and repeats the story of Mount Gay Rum, so not only does this core group of high-income, passionate people stay incredibly loyal to the brand, but they become walking, talking ambassadors to the general population, many of whom are attracted to the story. A quick Google search brought me to a blog (captured above) where an identical story is told. And when I shared this story with a marketing class at Miami University last week, one of the students talked about how a friend she went with on spring break wore her Mount Gay hat and ended up meeting a dozen fellow sailors on the trip.

I believe these are the keys to take from Mount Gay Rum’s success:

1. Embrace your brand’s history and backstory – or create a brand with a story at its core.

2. Focus on a very specific, core customer group that shares a common passion.

3. Go beyond focus; be selective and exclusive.

4. Do something to encourage social connections among your target customers.

5. Don’t just sponsor; add some unique value to the event itself.

My final takeaways from Mount Gay are that this kind of marketing doesn’t take a giant ad budget or rely on the spread of new digital technology. Instead, it comes from standing for something and creating meaning in people’s lives. And don’t you dare buy one of those hats on eBay!

UPDATE: I got a great email from one of our readers, John Irving, who shared the following story:

This weekend, our community had a picnic to celebrate the return of Captain Richard Phillips from his ordeal with the pirates off Somalia.  (He lives about 2 miles from me in Vermont).  When I went up to shake his hand and congratulate him, I was wearing my red Mt Gay hat from a race from Havana years ago.  He looked up with a big smile and said ‘Nice hat, that’s my rum’.”

500 Miles in Nike+ and the T-shirt to Prove It

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Nike+ continues to be an incredible personal case study in the world of Marketing with Meaning. Back in August 2008, I first wrote about my experience with the system, and soon after bragged about receiving a printable award for hitting 100 miles. But last weekend I hit an even bigger milestone: the 500-mile mark.

I continue to be convinced that Nike+ is directly responsible for my physical-fitness turnaround. I am now regularly running at least five days a week and logging 20 miles per week. I have lost about 15 pounds without changing my diet at all. I’m playing full-court basketball without getting winded at all. And I feel less stressed out and am enjoying life more. And it’s all because I have a chip in my shoe that updates my information to a website.

My story of hitting the 500-mile mark is but one interesting example of how Nike+ worked its magic on me. As soon as I hit the 100 level, a message on challenged me to get to 500. I saw that less than 50,000 of the million-plus members had achieved this. I longed for the “500″ symbol (above) that would be in my virtual trophy case. So I kept on running. It wasn’t my only motivation to be sure, but it became a small obsession each time I synched up my iPod with a new run.

On Saturday, February 28, I looked at my totals and noticed that I was 8.3 miles away from hitting 500. This is double my usual 4-mile run, but I decided to try to knock it out all at once, figuring it would be a good, challenging way to hit this big goal. Sure enough, I powered through in a little more than an hour, and rushed to get credit on the Nike+ site.

When I logged in with the new data, Nike congratulated me on the accomplishment, allowed me to print my 500-mile certificate, and offered the chance for me to buy a T-shirt to celebrate and brag. I literally did not hesitate to link over to the Nike store and buy a T-shirt for about $30, including shipping. It’s one of the most expensive T-shirts I have ever bought, but it celebrates a “priceless” life experience for me.

Hats off to Nike for challenging consumers such as me to improve their lives, and for being smart enough to find innovative ways to monetize the service further with meaningful products. Now I’m off to run again, with the 1,000-mile level in my sights. I plan on hitting it in mid-August!

(Just for fun, I created the graph below that shows how many Nike+ members have hit each accomplishment level.)

A ‘Meaningful’ Super Bowl Postmortem

Monday, February 16th, 2009

It is the sworn duty of every agency thought leader to play Monday morning quarterback with the annual orgy of advertising known as the Super Bowl. Yeah, I’m a little late to the conversation, mainly because the whole “building the business” thing has sucked my time away. (But, hey—we pulled out a couple of new business wins!) My tardiness actually works to my advantage, as it allows some time for the Super Bowl marketing efforts to actually start showing postgame results in the market.
So, I present the Inaugural Marketing with Meaning Super Bowl Winners and Losers!
Let me begin by laying out a bit of the criteria for selection. First, just making an ad doesn’t count. I will leave that type of ranking to an agency I recently discovered called a&g, which has been running what it calls a “most meaningful” ranking for six years. a&g has a nice idea and good ranking criteria, but its focus is only on the ad itself, rather than a complete marketing campaign. The second requirement is that the marketing campaigns must fit with our twin definitions of meaningful marketing: (1) the work is something people choose to engage with; and (2) the marketing itself adds value to people’s lives. Enough with the rules; let’s play ball:
1. Denny’s—When people heard this fading diner chain was making a play for the Super Bowl, most people figured it was quite a Hail Mary. (Sports metaphors are fun!) But we never expected that the company would use its precious time to unleash an offer of free Grand Slam breakfasts on Tuesday, February 3. A campaign that cost $5 million (including $3 million to the single commercial) led to 2 million takers in 1,500 restaurants. CEO Nelson Marchioli felt the time was right to reintroduce people to Denny’s—and instead of spending money on more interruptive, over-promising TV ads, he gave something back and reaped great rewards. The $5 million generated $50 million in PR already, and Marchioli claims that with sales of drinks and other items they probably broke even on the day. Aside from great strategy, the company was prepared for its giveaway with extra wait staff and cooks.
2. Hyundai—The brand had two ad slots, and while one was a forgettable farce around how other auto CEOs are cursing the brand, the award goes to Hyundai for the promotion of its Assurance guarantee. This clever and beneficial marketing approach provides a service for wary customers by agreeing to take back bought or leased cars in the event that the household has an unexpected financial issue: losing one’s job. I blogged about this a few weeks ago, and shared that Hyundai claims the results are strong. It’s not a funny ad and falls near the bottom of popularity polls, but by sharing truly original news of a meaningful marketing program, Hyundai has a good chance of winning market share and greater profits—while its buyers receive some extra security in these troubled times.
3. Doritos—It’s hard to believe that a brand could win both in most popular and place high in my meaningful ranking, but they really scored with this ad. The ad itself is just one leg of a now third annual consumer-generated marketing contest. For months, people have been engaged in creating and voting on videos, because the brand learned in 2005 that its young consumers love to create content and make brands their own. The output is a little juvenile, but people take it as lighthearted fun and marvel that it was created by a couple of guys with a handful of dollars.
1. Go Daddy—Everyone is having a field day hating on this brand, which continues to think that the Janet Jackson episode is still relevant humor. One might argue that the ad is meaningful to some small slice of guys, who ended up scooping up the most domain names. But the reality is that the game’s audience is much broader, and, as a&g remarks, “These days, men are as likely to be offended by ads that disrespect women.” As a father of two young daughters, I agree wholeheartedly. Enough. And Danica Patrick isn’t helping her image, either.
2. Gatorade—”What is G?” Most people really don’t care to research an advertising tagline. I wrote about this campaign a few weeks ago here. Some brands and agencies still believe that a new advertising campaign will create news and turn around share—especially if you toss in enough celebrities. But the only real news this is generating is speculation about what the heck the brand is thinking. The ad itself fell near the bottom of the popularity list. Meanwhile, Gatorade misses a huge opportunity to follow Nike’s lead and actually create events such as the Nike Women’s Marathon and Nike+ service, both of which are great examples of the brand helping people actually achieve something.
3. Any other brand that just ran an ad—It is remarkable to me that after countless case studies of brands who used an ad to start a conversation or service, so many still spend 99 percent of their time and budget on this single 30-second spot. Brands that might have won a smile or two amid so many distractions, yet failed to really capitalize, include: Budweiser, Castrol, Cheetos, CareerBuilder, Pepsi, Vizio, and H&R Block.
Special Note: Pedigree vs. Kellogg’s
A few posts ago I commented on Pedigree’s move to join the list of Super Bowl ad entries on behalf of its campaign to drive dog adoption. My point was that after amazingly meaningful marketing around this cause, Pedigree took a giant step back with a funny ad that fails to connect emotionally, and fails to do more than tell people at the end to “get a dog.” Some commenters said I was too tough on the brand and that the humor might have tugged people.
To those who think you cannot win with emotion on the Super Bowl around a cause, I direct you to Kellogg’s, which used the time to launch a campaign for rebuilding sports fields in communities around the country. The ad informs of the idea, while pulling the heartstrings of everyone who remembers those days of biking to the park and playing until our mothers called for us. But what’s really meaningful is that the ad directs viewers to get involved at There, visitors actually can nominate and vote for a specific local park to be funded. The competition will spread over several weeks, and when you vote, Kellogg’s provides a downloadable $1-off coupon.
Congratulations to Kellogg’s, Denny’s, Doritos, and Hyundai for using the spotlight of our industry to show stellar examples of Marketing with Meaning!

UPDATE: Here’s another very good post-mortem with consistent themes from Joseph Jaffe.