Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Pringles Tests Spontaneous Facebook Fun

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I’ve read far too many articles and white papers about how brands should approach social media. Most make the topic more complicated than necessary—most likely in order to suggest that they have some secret sauce that is available at a convenient hourly rate. But complexity makes marketers even more frightened of jumping into the social pool. So here’s a simple suggestion: Listen and add value. Thanks to digital technology, it is extremely simple and low cost for your business to do both. As an example, let me share our work on the Pringles brand that just hit the social scene last week.

For well more than a year now Pringles has been very active in social media. We chose to embrace this as a focus of our digital marketing work because the brand fits within the world of entertainment and social sharing. The brand itself aims to create moments of unexpected fun. One of our first steps was to pull together many brand and consumer-generated Facebook groups. Within a few weeks Pringles became one of the top five brand Facebook accounts with more than 3 million fans around the world. In the months since, we have used the space mainly to share how others are playing with the brand. For example, highlighting fan-created videos such as this one.

We also used the Facebook page to share our “Can Hands” banner ad last summer. The ad that you can’t stop clicking became a minor sensation on sites where people share what’s cool (rarely advertising)—such as Reddit, CollegeHumor, BuzzFeed, and Fark. Over one weekend we had 300,000 people play with the banner on our staging server. Many completed all 95 clicks to get to the end.

But as much as we like to seed the engagement ourselves, a lot of Pringles social sharing comes from consumers’ passion and initiative. For example, in January someone created a Facebook page titled: “Dear Pringles, I cannot fit my hand inside your tube of deliciousness.” The group apparently arose as a humorous “protest” to the size of the can, and some people’s inability to reach down for the last few crisps. We watched as membership grew to 10,000 fans within the first week, and then to 100,000 fans over the first month. When the group reached 1,000,000, we knew we had to do something.

But what to do? Well, the most obvious solution when people are having fun with your brand in the social sphere is to join in on the fun—even if it means poking fun at yourself in the process. Our team worked with our global client to answer the buzz with something that could be quick, cheap, and meaningful. It’s important to call out why I chose these words:

  • Global: Pringles is a global brand and Facebook is a global platform, so we had to be broad.
  • Quick: The passion around this Facebook page might dwindle over time, so we wanted to act before it faded.
  • Cheap: You never know whether an idea will catch fire or not; in fact, the odds are against it. So better to try something that works on a small budget. Further, when you spend a little to test an idea it means you have to have fewer conversations about various approvals and ROI measures.
  • Meaningful: Again, the key is to add value to the community. People love to see a brand get involved, as long as its participation adds to the fun versus sucking it out.

Our agency and client team worked on ideas together and ended up choosing to use video to “respond” to people who are having trouble getting their hands into our cans. We developed ideas and shot video in an extremely short time period, and just uploaded them to YouTube and our Facebook page last week. You can see one of the directions we took in the video above—a tongue-in-cheek exercise video for people to work on their can/hand skills. At the end of the day, the Pringles can is engineered to protect the crisps and maximize value for consumers. A shorter can would mean fewer crisps, and a wider can would result in more broken pieces. So we’re not changing the can, but we can have fun with it—even building in the solution to consumers’ frustrations: “Tip & Enjoy.”

Another miniseries takes the form of a taunting voice from the bottom of the can. Check out one of these videos below:

It’s far too early to call this a success. We just launched it last week and will be doing a few things to seed it in the weeks ahead. Whether this becomes the next great social-media case study or not, we have entered the conversation in a meaningful way and will definitely learn lessons that will make us more successful as we continue our venture into social media. No matter what white papers you read or how many social-media experts you hire, there is nothing more valuable than getting firsthand experience with your fans.

Inside the Making of an Entertaining Banner Ad

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

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I’ve frequently taken the keynote stage or space in this blog to claim that banner ads are not the savior of digital marketing and marketing in general. I believe that too many traditional marketers have embraced banners as the easy way to “go digital” and fail to understand how this new media can allow for much deeper brand connections. That said, sometimes business goals require us to drive Awareness, and banner advertising can be a solution if it is done well. And my team at Bridge Worldwide is always pushing the creative/technical boundaries to deliver banners with meaning—which brings me to today’s post on some entertaining banners we recently launched for the Healthy Choice brand at ConAgra Foods.

Providing real entertainment is often a great way to make the banner ad meaningful to people who encounter such advertising on any given website visit. One of our best examples was the banner we did for Pringles last summer that resulted in 300,000 people choosing to visit our staging server and play with the banner over the course of a weekend. Oh, yeah, and we won a Cannes Gold Cyber Lion for this ad, too.

In the case of Healthy Choice, our advertising in recent years has revolved around convincing consumers to re-evaluate a brand that had come to be mainly focused on 50-year-old and older people who were told by their doctors to eat better. The brand has made significant improvements on the quality and appeal of its food, and our marketing has used humor and entertainment to get a 30-something consumer to notice what’s new with the brand. This is what drove our Working Lunch online improv show last year, and the recent campaign with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Both campaigns successfully launched new products for the brand.

We were recently brought in to work on a new campaign, alongside Nitro/Sapient, which handles the brand’s television and print creative. The agency developed a print-focused campaign in which characters from a fake print ad on one page of a magazine look longingly at a Healthy Choice ad on the opposite page. It is a clever campaign, and our team was eager to figure out how to make it work online. In fact, we were excited that the digital space would allow us to bring it to life in a very fun way.

Go ahead and click this link to see what our team came up with. It’s a live URL that we’ll keep up, so feel free to forward it to your friends, too.

Our Healthy Choice team recently shared some of its keys to success in developing this banner at an all-company meeting—lessons that others might benefit from as well. First, they first shared the concept with our media planning and buying partner agency months in advance so that we could secure this type of rich media placement. Second, they did prototype filming of the ad to figure out how to actually make it work. Stand-ins from our office helped our production team understand what would need to happen in the actual shoot, thus saving us and the client time and money. Finally, the team worked with Eyeblaster to ensure that we could get the two ads to appear on the exact right timing. This is actually a type of sync that the folks at Eyeblaster said no one had tried before.

Unfortunately I cannot share results of the program because it just started, however I hope you agree that it brings some levity and fun to a medium that has brought mainly annoyance and irrelevance since the first banner was displayed 15 years ago. If you must make a banner—make it meaningful (please!).

NASCAR Marketing Dept: Be Careful What You Wish For

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

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A few months ago I was watching ESPN’s SportsCenter in the morning while getting ready for the day and stopped in my tracks when I heard NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France tell a group of reporters at a press conference that the circuit would be changing its rules to allow more “bump drafting” during its races in the year ahead. To quote France directly:

“NASCAR is a contact sport—our history is based on banging fenders.”

In fact, after France’s rule-change announcement another NASCAR executive, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said, “Boys, have at it….” My first reaction: Uh-oh.

It’s the same reaction I experienced yesterday when tuning into the highlights of Sunday’s race in Atlanta, where star driver Carl Edwards took revenge on fellow racer Brad Keselowski for something the latter did earlier in the race. The Edwards bump caused Keselowski’s car to flip over in midair at nearly 200 miles per hour and sent him to the hospital for observation. The car careened into the “catch fence” that prevents metal from flying into the crowd—but has been known to allow killer debris through in the past. Contact sport indeed—and potentially an example in which the marketing minds behind a violent sport should have kept their mouths shut.

I’m sure most people would at least agree that this was a poor choice of words by NASCAR’s most-senior management, but is a rule change to allow faster, more aggressive racing “Marketing with Meaning”?

Since its inception, NASCAR fans and outsiders alike have claimed that people watch the sport just to see the wrecks, and by encouraging its drivers to “bang fenders” an incident like this was only a matter of time in coming. It’s the easy knee-jerk reaction by the leaders of a sport who are experiencing their first business decline in several years. Television ratings are down, seats are increasingly empty, and many sponsors and teams have called it quits due to economic pressure.

But I believe that this knee-jerk reaction by NASCAR officials is a poor decision and one that might even worsen ratings and fan engagement if and when this “contact sport” next claims a driver’s life. I’ve seen my fair share of NASCAR races and I actually enjoy and follow the sport. I first got into it back when I worked on the Tide brand at P&G and we had a car. I had the chance to see our drivers race in Indianapolis, Phoenix, Charlotte, and Daytona. I sat in the stands, hung out in the pits, and even got to know our driver, Ricky Craven’s, family. I came to see NASCAR as a sport with fierce competition and passionate people. They fight hard for the checkered flag every Sunday, but they also live together on the road for much of the year, and drivers’ families say prayers at the start of each race that their loved ones make it back alive.

NASCAR rose to greater ratings because it found a spot as a family sport in many American homes. In fact, it was female fans who first started the ratings to rise about a decade ago. In 2004, 42% of NASCAR viewers were female—up from 35% in 1995—and there were more female viewers of these races than for the NFL. That was a big reason why brands such as Tide, Clorox, and M&Ms got into car-sponsorship deals. So any effort to make the sport more violent will likely risk alienating mothers and children from embracing the sport as before.

What can NASCAR do to add meaning to its marketing? Well, for starters, I would find ways to make the sport more interesting and exciting for fans to watch with a cell phone or laptop in the living room. One of the exciting differentiators of NASCAR is that the action is constantly intense and data about everything from speed to tire pressure is created continuously. Fans love the information, but NASCAR has frequently chosen to exact extra fees for access to additional information. I would start by making the in-car audio feeds and track data that it currently charges $30 to $80 a year for free to all. This is something that other sports cannot offer, and I doubt there are many takers of this pricey service.

NASCAR should do something immediately to show its drivers and fans that it is not hoping to encourage more danger in an already intense event—and look for ways to add value for the entire family.

Olympics a Meaningful Marketing Windfall for NHL

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Vancouver Olympics Ice Hockey

One of the interesting industries to cover from a marketing perspective is that of major sports leagues. The product (games) and brands (teams) receive tremendous attention and attract rabid, lifelong fans. But most of the marketing of these leagues gets little attention. We see constant SportsCenter coverage, hear that rules changes are made to the game, and might see 30-second ads to hype the leagues’ stars, but overall the marketing staff sits far down on the bench. As these leagues fight for fans in a fragmenting media market, good marketing is more important than ever. League commissioners and team owners had better wake up to this reality and invest in giving fans what they want. The National Hockey League’s (NHL) tenuous participation in the Winter Olympics is one example of where a new mentality is needed.

The NHL first took an official two-week break during the Olympics so that their stars could play for their home countries in 1998, which was 10 years after professionals were first allowed into the games. But every four years since then the NHL has warned that it might not continue this way in the future. This year, for example, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was unenthusiastic about this year’s games in Vancouverand he casts doubt on whether he will allow players to attend the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. He claims that the break slows down momentum of the sport, and interest in games at odd hours in Russia won’t get much interest anyway.

But what Bettman completely misses is the reality that the NHL is not as popular as it has been (or could be) and the Olympics are perhaps the league’s greatest marketing asset. The Olympics bring the attention of the world, and hockey is one of the marquee events that gets the highest buzz. This translates to ratings that are significantly higher than even the NHL Finals.

For example, the USA versus Canada matchup in the preliminary round brought 8.2 million views to MSNBC. That’s the most viewers for MSNBC since the presidential election night, and the most people in the U.S. to watch a hockey game since the 1973 Stanley Cup!  And for the Gold Medal rematch game, half of all Canadians tuned in along with 27 million Americans.  That’s more U.S. viewers than any World Series game since 2004 and more than any NCAA basketball Final Four since 1998.

Olympic hockey is a great example of Marketing with Meaning. It exposes the world to the sport, showcases the best players and personalities (who play in the NHL), and wraps it up in the flag of national pride and Olympic glory. It is the equivalent of the annual All-Star break, but means so much more for those looking on.

Ironically, the NHL has had some success in recent years by bending its rules and embracing change. In my book I share the example of how the NHL began a new traditional called The Winter Classic, in which a regular-season game is played between two teams in an outdoor stadium on New Year’s Day. The first game in 2008 drew more than 70,000 paying fans and outstanding TV ratings.

So why would Gary Bettman downplay the Olympics when they are renewing passion about the sport and likely boosting ratings for the second half of the season? At least one sports analyst claims that it comes down to money. Bettman and his owners don’t like their stadiums shut down and their players boosting the Olympics’ business for two weeks. But that’s incredibly shortsided. It reminds me of how the NFL penalizes cities that cannot afford to fill their stadiums by blacking out games from regular fans.

I believe that sports owners and league commissioners hurt themselves and their fans repeatedly because of a combination of hubris and a lack of marketing understanding. The hubris comes from owners’ typically large bank accounts and the fact that cities identify with their teams so closely. As evidence of the latter point, Forbes created a list of “America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities,” and frequently cited poor sports team performance as a key misery maker.

But it is ignorance of marketing fundamentals that truly hurts these franchises and the fans. Here’s hoping that the NHL and other sports leagues remember that they exist for the enjoyment of the fans, not short-term maximums in ticket sales and other fees. If you take care of fans over the long term, they will take care of you. It’s a lesson for those in the sports business, and in any business for that matter.

Coke Captures a Moment of Happiness

Thursday, January 21st, 2010


I believe that one of the biggest opportunities for Marketing with Meaning lies with brands that are used to spending a lot of money on traditional advertising campaigns that have historically been launched mainly to remind people that the brands exist. Instead, they have an opportunity to create marketing that people choose to engage with and advertising that itself adds value to people’s lives. A few weeks ago I wrote about how brands that lack innovation can win by adding value, and last year this article I wrote in Adweek showed how brands such as Gatorade and Ask.com have hurt sales by continuing to trot out new ad campaigns. One company that is gradually moving forward on the meaningful marketing scale is Coca-Cola—and the video above is just its latest chapter in its next evolution.

Coca-Cola has been one of the biggest traditional advertisers out there, but I do believe it is turning itself into a meaningful marketing machine. In my book I included the examples of its Happiness Factory mini-movies, and its industry-leading Coke Rewards loyalty program. The company got into entertaining iPhone apps quickly. And in Cannes in July I wrote up the example of its new interactive vending machines.

I believe the biggest lesson here is that Coke has focused its Brand Purpose on “Creating Happiness.” If you step back and think about what the Coca-Cola product aspires to do, it tries to create a moment of happiness in an otherwise regular day. Traditionally the company has tried to inspire happiness through its marketing by showing carefully crafted ads with actors playing out scenes in commercials. In truth, this viral video is not too far away from an “ad”—but the key difference is that we see Coca-Cola doing something fun in the real world, and we smile, LOL, and forward this video to friends.

There is another smaller, yet important lesson here around how in-person, guerrilla marketing efforts can go viral and gain scale when you capture them on video. This mirrors the approach by Burger King in its award-winning Whopper Freakout campaign. In both cases the production quality and editing of this piece is fantastic, we see real people and reactions rather than scripted actors, and we actually can see and feel the fun for ourselves.

Of course we have no way of seeing if this video sells six-packs, but the YouTube results suggest this effort was worth the cost of a video crew and handful of props. When I first saw this video on its first day, Tuesday, January 12, there were about 40,000 views. Writing this post on Sunday, January 17 it was up to 400,000. That’s a lot of people choosing to engage with an ad, and coming away with a much more positive connection with the brand. And it’s even more evidence that billion-dollar traditional brands can make the move to Marketing with Meaning.

Phish Has Halloween Fun and Serves Marketing Lessons

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

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Last week I wrote a recap about how BlackBerry bombed in its “love” for the band U2. At the end of that post I praised U2 both for putting on a great show and for giving it away for free on YouTube. Today I wanted to share the story of how a band at the other end of the musical spectrum, Phish, continues to draw loyal fans by adding fun experiences to the period leading up to its shows. Phish’s annual Halloween act shows how entertainment properties must keep their act fresh, and I believe there are lessons for any brand in how to be meaningful by just having fun with your fans.

Jessi Link, one of our search stars, clued me into the Phish Halloween experience recently and I was very impressed. Every year the band plays a “festival” in which it is the only band. It usually goes over a few days around Halloween and there is a buildup for very loyal fans around where they will play and what they will play.

For this, the 8th year, Phish decided to have a little more fun with their audience. The band started out by putting up a map of the U.S. and an announcement to “Save the Dates” of October 30 through November 1. On the Phish: Festival 8 website, the band gradually removed states from the map over a series of days to narrow down where they would actually be playing. Of course the removal had to be done in Phish style; for example, some were carried away by ants, others were turned over by Vanna White, and one floated off with a hot-air balloon. You can see one screenshot of the map in progress below. Eventually the state of California was unveiled as well as the specific venue: the Empire Polo Fields in the city of Indio.

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But that was not the only suspense around the annual Phish fest. Another Halloween tradition of the band is to play what they call a “musical costume” each year, which is an entire set from another band’s specific album. Past show “costumes” have included The Who’s Quadrophenia and The Beatles White Album. Like the disappearing-states act, Phish put up 100 different albums on a virtual board and gradually “killed” them until there was only one “left alive.” After some teasing around Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Saturday night the band played The Rolling Stones’ 1972 double album, Exile on Main St.

Reports say that around 40,000 fans attended the Phish event Halloween night. Not bad for a band that has played thousands of times and doesn’t have a single major hit record or song. Instead, Phish plays great music for a loyal following, and understands that the more they have fun with their shows and their fans, the more successful they will be.

BlackBerry Loves U2: Who Cares?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

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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.

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NFL Commits Marketing Fumble by Blacking Out Fans

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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In the past few months there have been many examples of businesses that realize the economy is tough and react by doing the right thing for sales and human decency. Hyundai created its Assurance Guarantee to protect car buyers who feared losing their jobs. JetBlue, Walgreens, and Virgin Mobile have provided similar coverage. Even sports teams are offering more protection and value for their fans. Last summer the minor-league baseball Birmingham Barons sold tickets for the price of a gallon of gas, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues offered a promotion that would pay your mortgage for a month, and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets offered free tickets for unemployed fans. But one sports business is able to ignore the pleas of financially ravaged fans: The NFL is moving forward on its plans to black out TV coverage of games in cities that fail to sell out their stadiums. It’s a brazen move for these times, which I strongly believe will put the country’s most popular spectator sport on a slippery slope downhill.

Yesterday the sports talk shows were abuzz about the news that as many as 12 NFL teams might not be able to sell out their home games within 72 hours, meaning that the league will choose to black out the games’ local television coverage. It goes without saying that the economy is the main reason for the lack of sellouts. The Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers have been particularly hard hit, and both are suffering greatly from the housing bubble. My own Cincinnati Bengals say it is “too early to tell” if games will be blacked out after 44 straight sellouts.  Only 3 teams suffered any blackouts in all of last season.

While unsold tickets are an economic reality, the decision to prevent local fans from cheering their team on TV is entirely the NFL’s fault, and it is just plain poor marketing. Look, there is a clear difference between the audience for game attendance and TV viewership. Let’s start with the price. It costs more than $100 per person to attend an NFL game, including tickets, parking, and snacks, which compares to $0 for sitting at home in front of the television. Fans who can’t see the game at home are not going to rush off in their cars to the game Sunday afternoon. Some will spend $100-plus for NFL Sunday Ticket, the pay-per-view TV option, but those are actually the people with higher incomes who are more likely to go to a game in person.

Offering “free” viewership at minimum should be considered the most meaningful marketing investment by the league, as it feeds fan frenzy and loyalty. You could even consider it a free sample that helps excite people enough to eventually buy a ticket, and maybe even season tickets when their incomes rise over time. This “free sample” also leads to huge advertising revenues and sales of sports merchandise at huge margins. Why cut off the fans who feed you?  Why cut off the most powerful form of marketing you have when you need it the most?

It’s not only bad for business, but it is a dishonorable way to treat its customers. People grow up in these cities and entire families rally around the home team. Fathers and sons sit on the couch and cheer for the local hero in a rite of passage, maybe hoping to attend one game per year. This freezes out the poor and middle-class households, who, quite frankly, could use a little entertainment. What’s worse, many of these cities have put up hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars for brand-new stadiums that sit idle for all but eight days of the year (only $500 million for the stadium across from our office in downtown Cincinnati). Now the tax bill can’t even get you a free picture on the local TV network.

For years now the NFL has been called the “No Fun League” for its many rules that seem to make the game less interesting for fans and players alike. It has banned hard hits and end-zone celebrations. Most recently it banned players from Twittering during games. The league even banned cheerleaders from stretching near opposing benches. And tailgating has been banned at the Super Bowl. This time it might be facing a “perfect storm”: Consumers are angrier at businesses than ever, and they dislike seeing high ticket prices and highly paid athletes behaving badly. They also have many more media options to keep them busy, and college football is just as exciting with the added plus of being a little more pure and innocent. And before the beginning of the 2011 season, the NFL and Players Association will have to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement. Many say a lockout or strike is a strong possibility. Together these negatives could add up to strip away decades of fan passion, and revenues and more blackouts will surely follow. Just ask Major League Baseball how it feels.

The lesson here is that businesses must recognize that they exist for more than short-term revenue maximization, especially when they are extremely successful and powerful like the NFL is today. Because the customers whom you take advantage of when you are strong won’t be around when times inevitably get tougher. I’ll be switching to the NCAA on Saturdays. What about you?

UPDATE: the NFL has caved a wee bit by putting up delayed broadcasts of its games up on NFL.com.  Still, it’s far from the experience that their customers want, and it frankly doesn’t make sense to the masses.  If anything, it looks like the NFL is using this build up an online audience at the expensive of TV networks and their local affiliates (and advertisers).

MoMA Matches Facebook Interests

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Many, many brands and their agencies are asking themselves the same question: “What is my social-media strategy?” This is absolutely the wrong question to ask. The problem is that social media is not a strategy; rather it represents a group of tactics that can be creatively used to solve business problems and deliver on a marketing strategy. To further explain this point, let me use the example of a summer trip planner from the New York City Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Not only is this a great case study in the right process of utilizing social media, it helps prove my point that social fits under Marketing with Meaning.

In my upcoming book I spend the entire second half of its 300-plus pages walking through a simple framework that brands both small and large can use to deliver meaningful marketing. Sometimes that process yields a compelling opportunity to use one or more social-media tactics. Let me offer a crash course in the process here by providing my assumptions on what drove MoMA’s killer idea:

Business Objective

Summer is an important time for any kind of tourism-based business, including museums. Each year MoMA must put together permanent and temporary exhibits and events to draw its fair share of visitors to New York City. I believe “share of visitors” is actually a key business objective for the organization. It is unlikely to convince people to come to NYC just for a visit to MoMA, but it can set a goal of getting X% of people who are already planning to spend vacation time in the city. This becomes that business objective that kicks off the strategy process.

Customer Insight

With this clear focus on vacation visitors, MoMA marketers can begin to learn about how this target audience makes its decisions about where to visit, and any issues or barriers that are keeping them from putting MoMA on the list. I believe a little thinking and likely not a lot of new research could uncover the following: First, people are spending a lot of time online in the weeks and months ahead of a trip, looking at the websites of places they might visit. Second, I believe a key barrier for MoMA is that the average visitor might be intimidated by modern art, which means this option might drop down on the priority list. Third, when looking at direct competitors, MoMA lacks some of the history and must-see art that other museums benefit from.

Strategy/Creative

Put this objective and these customer insights together and you can start to see a strategic opportunity: MoMA can gain incremental visitor share by providing online tools that help people learn more about why a visit to this museum is right for them. With a strong online research experience that helps people discover what fits their specific interests (down to the best day to go), MoMA can rise higher on the list of to-do’s for tourists. I believe this represents a simple, direct strategy that could then be the focus of a briefing for the creative team.

In turn, the creative team in this case likely thought about how people use the Web and social media. The brainstorming process might have gone something like this: People are doing research at MoMA.com, and there is an opportunity to learn about their interests and when they are visiting so that we can offer up some valuable personal recommendations. But instead of hoping they fill out a preference form, what if we just read their Facebook profiles to automatically generate recommendations? This would make it easier for visitors, and add a bit of fun and buzz to the tool. Plus, it would encourage people to share this with their friends. As you can see, this doesn’t come from “What do we do on Facebook?” but rather Facebook becomes a tool that makes the personalization strategy best come to life.

And so a great idea is born: Summer at MoMA. It’s a mini-site that simply asks you for the dates that you are in the city and permission to connect to your Facebook profile. A slick Flash interface returns with what I found to be very accurate recommendations that you can browse by day. The tool allows you to build a plan, and explore other options that were not specifically recommended. To drive word of mouth and encourage families and friends to get in on the planning together, the tool allows users to post to Facebook and Twitter.

This idea not only helps deliver on the immediate desire to secure visits, but because it increases the chance for a great experience when people visit, it can drive repeat visits when people return to NYC in the months or years ahead.

Measure and Adjust

We’re big believers in watching new launches closely and using early data to gauge success and make adjustments. A tool such as this offers many ways to track engagement with users. Overall site traffic can be compared to the previous year, and the specific tool can spin out numbers such as total users, time on site, and amount of sharing via Facebook. Users of the tool can be pinged later to ask if they actually visited the museum. And because MoMA gets direct customer interaction through visits, it can also survey entering or exiting visitors about whether they used the tool, whether it drove their decision to stop by, and if it made their experience better.

While these activity measures can be important, if you don’t measure success against your original Business Objective there is no way of understanding if your effort paid off. If we go back to a Business Objective of “share of NYC visitors,” I am sure that there are survey services that MoMA and other area tourist destinations can use to nail down this number, hopefully over many years.

Conclusion

If you and your team are sitting in endless meetings wondering about your social-media strategy (or mobile strategy or in-game advertising strategy, etc.) you should now have the knowledge to be able to raise your hand and suggest that the group is considering the wrong question. Turn it around and come back to the key businesses objectives and challenges that you have been struggling with for years. Then take the time to consider where new developments in social media (or mobile, or gaming, etc.) might be able to help address the objective or challenge. That clarity will drive your success in old and new media alike.

(Thanks to Adverblog for finding this example.)

Unique Coke Cannes Delivery

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009


This week I’m spending some time catching up on sharing some of the best, most meaningful marketing to be awarded in the annual Cannes Advertising Competition. Our President, Jay, and Chief Creative Officer, Peter, both came back raving about an incredibly powerful vending machine for Coca-Cola that was put up in the bottom floor of the Cannes conference. It ended up winning a Gold Lion in the Design category. Check out the video above for a glimpse of the experience.

The biggest lesson for me here is a reminder that everything your brand does with the consumer is a kind of marketing, whether it’s customer service, packaging, delivery trucks, or vending machines. And every consumer touchpoint in this broad view of marketing can be made much more meaningful. In this case, Coke has taken the boring, predictable, exchange-focused vending machine and turned it into something remarkable, entertaining, and fun. I also love how this delivers on what the Coke brand and drinking experience is really about: a few minutes of fun and enjoyment. Instead of just advertising to people on TV with equity spots that are meant to help trigger a feeling of enjoyment hours or days later when the drink is consumed, this makes entertainment and happy feelings happen at the moment of truth of refreshment.

I think there are some other really interesting things about these vending experiences. First, they are completely measurable (obviously, because they sell product). Second, they could allow Coke to charge more and achieve wider margins (say, charging $2 or more for the machine experience and fancy bottle). Third, they draw attention in public places, which attracts more users, buyers, and observers.

I am most interested to see what happens from here with the vending machines, and whether they will truly roll out broadly. Sure, it’s easy to create a concept such as this, install it in a few malls, and win an award at Cannes. The challenge is selling this in broadly and getting distributors around the world to embrace the concept. This is where the marketing department often bumps heads with the old-school crowd, finance guys and general bureaucratic commitment to not making waves.

“Marketing” sits in a skyscraper in Atlanta, Georgia, making ads, while “Sales” is out on the streets making sure machines and store shelves are full. Placing ads and maintaining fancy machines is not their job, nor in their budget. Coke distributors are used to paying $X for a basic vending machine that needs almost no service. But what happens when “headquarters” forces them to pay $5X for this special machine? Who’s going to fix them when they break? Anyone who has worked in a large company can play out this tragic scene from hours in boardrooms and conference calls. A quote that I developed in my days as a big marketer was, “Doing anything new is hard.”

My congrats to Coke on a killer idea, and our hopes are with you as you try to take this meaningful idea outside the ad-award world.