2013 Super Bowl Ad Recap

Every year around this time, the world is graced with thousands (or more) articles written about Super Bowl advertising. At millions of dollars for just 30 seconds, I suppose the ads are worth discussion!

It is easy to get caught up in what ads made you laugh or made you emotional (#Clydesdales, anyone?). However, the point of the ads is not just to make you laugh; it is to build awareness and make you feel more connected with the brand or an individual product. Based on this concept, the following are my favorites and my least favorites.

Favorite: Best Buy

Amy Poehler is a hoot, and she naturally makes things more entertaining. But the best part about this commercial was that the concept related to the brand (unlike some brands that just have some random funny thing). Best Buy wants to be the technology expert — your technology expert. The employees are there to answer your questions, no matter how many (and how ridiculous) they might seem. They expressed that here, and got a couple laughs, too.

Favorite: Doritos

My favorite Doritos commercial was the one with the daughter who convinced her dad to play dress up with her by bribing him with Doritos. Besides just being an entertaining concept, I love that the Doritos commercials are crowdsourced. It gets the audience involved and allows for everyone to participate in the brand.

Favorite: Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola brand is all about enjoying the good things, life’s pleasures. This commercial captured that perfectly; it helped us believe the world is a good place by videotaping (via security cameras) strangers performing acts of kindness for no other reason than to be kind. Among all of the sleazy, arrogant ads out there, this ad was refreshingly different.

Least Favorite: Budweiser Black

I get the idea. This is a better, higher class beer and they tried to illustrate that with a seemingly upper class party, filled with dark glam. However, I have a problem not only with the product, but with the placement. I don’t think the Super Bowl is really the ideal audience for this beer product, let alone this type of commercial. That being said, if all Budweiser hoped to do is build awareness (versus build appreciation or like for something), I think this accomplished the goal. It certainly informed millions of the new product – although I doubt they are running out to buy it any time soon.

Least Favorite: GoDaddy

This was an easy one. I don’t think anyone liked it; it was unpleasant to watch. Additionally, a colleague pointed out on Twitter that it was downright offensive to the target mark, which is primarly the tech “geek”. Just because someone is smart or an IT person does not mean they are unattractive. The idea of GoDaddy’s other commercial also seemed out of touch. I get it that they were trying to convince people to reserve their URL names before others have the same idea, but it seemed mean spirited to me.

GoDaddy didn’t necessarily fail because of the awkwardness of the kiss; it failed because it portrayed its brand as haughty and simply out for attention, two less-than-desirable characteristics these days. I’d much prefer the humorous or the heart wrenching. That being said, if their goal was to get people to talk about them, they succeeded; that commercial received one of the strongest responses of the night!

Bonus Prize: OreoSource: http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/02/oreo-twitter-super-bowl/

I did not get their actual commercial (maybe it was me?) but they hit the ball home with their highly discussed social media piece regarding the game’s power outage. The piece not only demonstrated creativity and wit, but it also showed they were ready and prepared. We all should take notes and learn from Oreo’s success: Always be ready to take advantage of the unexpected!

You can watch all the commercials here. Then tell me: Which commercials did you love? Which did you hate? And why?


Book Takeaways: The Referral Engine

For service-based businesses, word-of-mouth referrals are perhaps the most important aspect of marketing. But how does a business go about acquiring more word-of-mouth referrals? After reading The Referral Engine by John Jantsch, I have a better understanding of why we refer. The book also offers numerous strategies and tactics for making a business more referral driven, and I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in marketing, especially marketing for small or medium sized businesses.referralenginebook

For me personally, two main concepts of the book stand out in my mind. The first is the idea that we all as human beings have a natural need to refer friends and family to businesses we like. Therefore, gaining more referrals is more about making yourself more likable and less about gimmicks and “traditional” marketing tactics.

On the flip side of that argument, monetizing referrals can actually do more harm than good, as it takes that natural desire to refer and attempts to turn it in to something people do only to get money or something additional. Businesses that provide unexpected thanks after a referral has been made will likely be more successful because that model follows more closely with human nature.

The second biggest takeaway I got from the book was the idea of just asking for a referral as well as the best time to ask. If someone tells you they are extremely satisfied with the service they just received, why not take that as an opportunity to ask them to tell their friends? Rather than hoping they think of someone later on, have cards available where clients can write someone’s name down then and there, before the chaos of life gets in the way.

The book offers numerous ideas like these that can be applied to many industries. I would again highly suggest anyone who performs marketing duties for a small or medium business to check it out. In addition, the author has a wonderful accompanying website at referralenginebook.com.

If you’ve read the book, what did you think? What ideas have you put in place to help your marketing efforts?

Mainstream media not as negative as The People

As Americans approach the polls in less than 24 hours, many are just thankful that the circus will be over. In this election and others, many have complained about negative advertisements and media coverage. However, a recent Pew Internet study shows that individual Americans may be just as much to blame as the media. That’s because now that we, the people, have the power via social media to say anything and everything we want, we are being just as negative – or rather, more negative – than the media and candidates themselves.

Throughout this election cycle, I have heard numerous Facebook and Twitter friends complain about how annoying it is to see friends talking about politics via social networks. At first, my thought was that we should be proud and glad that we can speak our opinions regarding politics, whether in person, in print or online. In some places, speaking ill of leaders, whether in person or digitally, could result in harsh punishment. However, after doing some thinking and after seeing this study, I realized people are probably most frustrated with the negativity that is on our social networks rather than the actual political discussion. But we can’t shut off all discussion just because others want to ruin it. Instead, we need to look at ourselves, at the reasons why we use social networking sites and the people we are looking to reach through them.

For myself, I use social networking sites to communicate with friends, family, acquaintances and others. It is fun and laid-back, but that does not mean it should be rude, offensive or hurtful toward others. I am looking for honest, intelligent, and sometimes entertaining information and updates, and people looking for the same things are going to reach me.

It’s too late to change the discourse of the 2012 political campaign season. But perhaps for the next election, we can all be a little more civil online. We can have informed discussions  on politics — both online and in person — without being negative or hateful. We can agree to disagree, and we can agree that hatefulness is not the answer.

And we can realize that if we can’t be civil with our friends and acquaintances on social networking sites, how can we expect the media and the candidates to be civil during a campaign? It’s on us to do better next time.

With that being said, it’s time to go vote! No matter who you choose, it’s important to participate. We owe it to those who came before us and to those who do not have the same privilege we are able to enjoy.

Happy Election Day!

JC Penney announces signficant marketing changes to price, promotion

For years, JC Penney has been one of my favorite — if not my most favorite — places to shop for clothing, primarily because they tend to have clothes that fit me and because they are relatively inexpensive. However, with exception of a couple of random items that were desperately needed (primarily from the A.N.A. brand they carry), I never, ever buy unless it’s on sale or on the clearance rack. While I want to look good, I don’t consider myself any sort of “trend setter”and I don’t have the money to spend $20 on a T-shirt. Especially when I know it will be on sale in a few weeks anyway.

It looks like many people are in my same shoes, and luckily the 100-plus-year-old brand has taken note by announcing some fairly signficant changes that focus on  playing up pricing an downplaying promotions. A recent AdAge article explained some of the pricing changes here.

The first significant change will be embracing a new pricing strategy, consisting of “fair and square” pricing. It includes three types: everyday, regular prices; monthlong values; and best prices, on the first and third Fridays of every month. To determine new prices across its product range, Mr. Johnson said that the retailer looked at what it was charging and what customers most often paid after numerous discounts. He found that only one in 500 items sold at full price, while 72% of revenue was derived from selling products at 50% off or more.

For example, a T-shirt that had retailed for $14 but typically sold for closer to $6 will now be priced at $7. In a month when it’s a featured product, it will cost $6. When it’s time to clear it out and change colors, it will cost $4. The retailer is also embracing flat prices, no more 50- or 99-cent add-ons.

This sounds great, and I am excited to see how much prices will really drop in the next month or so. However, I hope they will monitor this carefully to make sure they aren’t hurting themselves by getting rid of the “thrill of the sale.” While I advocate for pricing items as low as possible while still being able to make money, there is some excitement in a limited-time sale, and JC Penney should keep that in mind. I think they have by making certain items on sale when it’s time for them to get a move-on.

Also, I am interested to learn they will do away with the .50 and .99 pricing endings. Many marketing texts have said these price endings puts the perception in people’s heads that what they are getting is a good value. But why? If I have the option of paying $5.99 or $6.00 for something, it really isn’t that big of a deal. What’s a penny worth in today’s world? I think JC Penney is recognizing people have become smarter than this old notion.

Besides dropping regular prices, another change  to JC Penney is decreasing the amount spent on promotional efforts. According to the AdAge article, JC Penney has spent $2 million per promotion in the past. So, if they have had 590 promotional events per year, as the article states, that is about $1.18 billion or $98 million per month.

Under the new plan, rather than spending so much per promotion, they will spend only (yes, not the best use of the world only) $80 million per month, allowing them to either save $18 million monthly ($216 million annually) or put those extra million toward cutting prices year-round.

In today’s world, where saving money is essential and hokey, redundant advertising is shunned, this plan sounds like a great one; a trailblazing one, perhaps.

In addition to making price points more available, the current advertising  JC Penney has done seems to not only mention the craziness associated with sales. I mean, what American hasn’t purchased something only to find out it was significantly cheaper a couple days later? It’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world, and they captured it in their new commercial.

In the end, I think these changes are exciting and I’m very interested to follow their success. They are certainly getting the company plenty of press and helping change the company into one that is focused on what consumers want. In fact, when JC Penney released this info, its stock rose significantly, even though it had been fairly low for a while.

From a customer’s perspective (assuming you have shopped there before in your life), what do you think of the changes they’re making?

Kashi proves its worth with the 2011 REAL Tour

For the last few years, I’ve been a heavy advocate of social media. However, the last few weeks have begun to show me that traditional event participation can be a useful marketing strategy. This came to mind as I planned for the Wayne County Fair in Palmyra, N.Y., where one of my company’s hospitals will have a booth. I’ve really enjoyed preparing for this booth, although it’s a lot of work. Although I’m somewhat of an introvert, I truly believe the best way to attract clients and build a brand is to get your brand’s “face” in the community through events.

This weekend at Rochester’s Park Avenue Festival, Kashi excelled at this type of marketing through their 2011 REAL (Renew Eating And Living) Tour. Other booths gave out free samples. After all, that’s a major part of any summer festival. However, Kashi excelled at combining face-to-face interaction, modern technology, social networking and event marketing.

Here’s what happened. Using a touch screen computer, festival-goers filled out a quick survey with their name, email, zip code and some other information. Then, the person receives a bracelet with a QR code. The person then goes through three tents. The first contains more than 10 different samples of all kinds of food, from cereal to pita chips to granola fruit bars. Then, the visitor scans his or her bracelet after answering which food was his/her favorite.

The second tent is mainly for educational purposes. Although you could choose other sections of the tents, I went with the ingredient-guessing module. On a large touchscreen that reminded me of a TV or a computer, I selected whether certain ingredients were good (and used in Kashi products) or bad (and, therefore, not used in Kashi products). I would say I got about half correct and half incorrect, and then was able to scan my barcode a second time.

The third tent contained mostly Burt’s Bees products. I got a few free samples of lotions before scanning my bracelet for the third time. I was then ready to check out and receive my goody bag!

I scanned my bracelet to for the fourth and final time. I filled out a brief questionnaire, and they offered me to share my participation with my Facebook friends. However, I declined. While this idea sounds good in theory, I didn’t feel like taking the time to log in and also felt that could be a little dangerous if someone got my login information.

I received my goody bag, which contained a few more samples and some coupons, all in a reusable grocery tote bag that I then carried around the festival.

I was already something of a fan of Kashi, but engaging in this event made me like them even more. Not only did I get to try a cereal of theirs I had never had (and really liked), but I got to learn more about the company and the products. And it was literally all in my front yard!

What experiences have you had with event marketing like this? Do you think it works to build brand awareness and strengthen customer/business relationships?

Everybody needs a little (reusable) KFC (packaging)!

Whenever possible, I do what I can to help the world, including the environment and the people who live here. I don’t take as extreme measures as I probably should, but I do as many little things as possible. I recycle as much as possible. I try to take shorter showers. I refuse bags at the check-out counter unless I really need it. I avoid using styrofoam whenever possible.

So, I love it when companies make it easier for me to feel like I’m helping the earth, even if it’s in some small way. For example, most recently, my local KFC began using earth-friendly, reusable plastic containers for its side dishes.

Source: http://www.kfc.com/packaging/news/9_2010.asp

When I ordered my mac and cheese and received this new packaging, I was stoked. KFC, I believe, has hit the money on this one for a couple reasons.

  • First, as an article in Packaging World Magazine states, these new containers are better for the environment. Not only do they reduce waste, but they use less energy when produced. The article lists many other ways the new packaging reduces KFC’s footprint.
  • Second, this type of packaging will likely keep KFC in consumers’ minds long after they’ve finished their meal. The article says consumers tend to keep reusable containers for at least six weeks. Every time a consumer reuses the container, he or she will think back to the KFC brand experience.

This is the packaging of the future. Fast food companies who get on board with this or a similar packaging program will improve their brand’s image in the long run.

Do you think reusable packaging is a trend that will catch on?

Group buying websites aiming for niche audiences

The digital age has brought about a shift away from mass-produced messages. Today, niche marketing, niche publications and niche anything is where it’s at. After all, if you’ve got something to say or sell or do whatever with, why not go first to the people who might have a chance at being interested?

When group-buying websites like Groupon and LivingSocial began offering deals of the day, they catered to a niche group: People living in or near larger cities who like to save money and who like to try new things or have new experiences.

Source: http://www.internetstrategiesgroup.com

Now this group of niche shoppers have a chance to get even more focused on what they value most. Rather than learning just about deals in New York City, those with a specific interest can learn about specific deals in their location of choice through “niche” group buying sites. A few examples include:

While I don’t think big-name sites like Groupon and Living Social will perish because of these newer sites, I do see some changes in the future for group buying. But what do you think? 

Could these specialized versions that focus on one target overtake the general version soon?