Strike when the iron is hot

The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK is suddenly up in arms about the fact that Angelina Jolie is shown toting a gun (and probably because she seems to be enjoying it too) in billboard ads for the film ‘Wanted’. This article in the Guardian (and there’s another one in Brand Republic) came out just today, and the film was released in June this year. I think the timing is WAY off. If you want something to have an impact, then you need to make your opinions heard at the right time. It’s sort of like eating food that is stone cold when you know it will taste a hundred times better when it’s hot. There’s a reason they say ‘strike when the iron is hot’, you know. And that goes for pretty much anything. It’s the reason I was impressed by BT’s ad for the Notting Hill carnival the day after the Olympics finished. If you want to seem like a brand that’s in the know, you have to keep yourself up-to-date.

The ASA clearly isn’t. They seem like kids fighting over a chocolate bar at the moment.

Another Nike gem

In the run-up to the U.S Open next week, Nike has come out with a new print ad that compares the achievements of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a boxing-match-like scenario. I like the way W+K and Don King have been roped in to create something that celebrates the positive spirit of competition and the city of New York. As this article says, even if neither of them qualify for the final (supremely unlikely scenario, if you ask me), Nike will have enough coverage to justify the ad – not that they need to.

There aren’t many brands that are in the lucky position of actually having the top two players in a sport in the same fold. If they didn’t do something smart, they’d be silly. But only Nike can do it with such class. Go, Nike!

While on the topic, I’m totally loving the new W+K website. It has a timeline that allows you to click on their work through the years, presented in a very Wordle-like way. Grool.

Living in a GenY world

Will’s written a very insightful post on Tabula Rasa, using the artists in Converse’s My Drive Thru video as an example. I just posted on Marktd about how that concept has been extended to Converse Festivals (read that post to know more). Those two thoughts along with an oldish article of Faris’ called ‘Remixing the Future’, and a post of Gavin Heaton’s about how brands need to present themselves completely differently in order to seriously speak to GenY, got me thinking – about a lot of inter-related things.

First, like Converse Festivals, where Converse is not trying the usual ‘advertising’ route to speak to its target consumer group, (essentially 14-25 year olds), the time has come for brands to re-think their own definition of advertising and marketing in-house. Is the brand, for example, bigger than the product, or not? (A case in point is today’s news that Unilever is moving away from the Dove Real Beauty campaign in order to focus on the product rather than the message.) Once the brand answers that question, it is probably much easier to answer the rest of it – like what channels they should use. A message-oriented campaign is much more amenable to multiple channels of connection with the consumer than a product-oriented one. A product-oriented campaign (like Drench), may have a digital component, but that can only go so far. Something like Converse Festivals or Dove Real Beauty can go much further, though they are also digital, because they are about a message.

Given that we live in a digital world and there’s no going back, can any brand resist the temptation to jump on the digital bandwagon today? Saying that brands need to re-think what marketing is to them is very simplistic, but the fact is that a lot of them are confused. It’s like peer pressure, this whole talk of ‘social media’ and ‘digital’. Do you want to be part of the ‘in-crowd’, or a dork? If you stick to your guns and remain a dork, then as a brand will you lose your fan base? Conversely, if you decide to get ‘in’, will you lose steam after a point because you don’t know which direction to head in?

There’s no easy answer, but this is what I think: yes, we’re children of the digital age. Even if we weren’t born into a digital world, we probably grew up in it. If we didn’t grow up in it, we’re living in it now. So yes, a GenY mode of communicating to consumers will probably be sensible. BUT, GenY doesn’t necessarily mean ‘website’.

Think of touch-points. How is a consumer going to remember your product, or your brand? Get out there and give them those memories. Whether it’s Nike+’s 10K Human Race, Innocent’s Village Fete or Red Bull’s Air Race (which are events that don’t use ‘digital’ in the traditional sense of the term but are very much GenY ideas, so to speak) or Orange’s Play Balloonacy campaign (which was purely ‘digital’) there’s a reason those brands stand out.

I’m not saying traditional advertising is dead. You’ll have the Cadbury’s Gorillas, yes. Creativity will never die. That ad was brilliant simply for the idea. But even Cadbury’s didn’t know how popular YouTube would make it. I doubt they factored that bit in. But you know what? I don’t think they’ll be completely oblivious to it next time.

Hire me, and I’ll give you plenty of other brilliant ideas. 😀

Madison Men

Watching the Olympics on TV this morning, I tuned in at a time when the Men’s Madison cycling event was going on. The name of the event stuck in my mind because I hadn’t heard it before with regard to sports, and also because it reminded me of a TV series that has been in the news lately – ‘Mad Men‘, AMC’s drama set in (where else) the mad, bad world of advertising. From this article I also learnt that advertising honchos during the period the series is set in (circa 1960’s) were called ‘Mad Men’ because New York’s advertising hub was Madison Avenue and it was the masculine gender that ruled the industry then. Linking that back to the Men’s Madison cycling event, it is so named because the event was first held in Madison Square Garden, New York.

Random bits of information, but somehow I thought it all made for a nice post!

[via Noah]

Finally, an Olympics-themed ad that’s worth noting

There’s been some noise about how there haven’t been many decent ads brought out during this year’s Olympics. I just read this article, however, that says there’s actually been quite a few targeting women, given that 49% of viewers of the sporting event telecast on NBC are women aged 18 and over. I think that’s interesting, given that women aren’t particularly known for being huge sports lovers.

I like this 30-second spot from AT&T featuring American gymnast Nastia Liukin (she’s Russian-American, in case you were wondering). I like the imagery, the way it communicates the whole ‘butterflies’ feeling, and that it doesn’t pontificate. It’s simple, strong and to the point.

Defining ‘planners’

In this interesting article (which may not be free to access much longer), John Griffiths argues, on the occasion of 40 years of planning, that the word ‘planning’ is no longer easy to define. He proposes a business model which differentiates between these different kinds of planners (or, to my mind ‘strategists’, which is what he quotes Jon Steel also referring to their main duties as being). I thought summarising the article here, in my own words, would be a useful exercise. It certainly brought clarity of thought.

Reputation planners: To a client, what matters is that the name of the firm and the product should have public approval, because that’s the way they can increase profit. In a sense, they need to work with public relations and customer services to ensure that this is done. In a 2.0 world, where one person’s disapproval spreads like wildfire on the internet, this is one job in itself.

Communications planners: In a sentence, how can the client get its audience’s attention?

Interactive planners: For consumers, it’s all about their experience of the brand. Mostly, to my mind, this means ‘digital experience’. I was approached recently by an interactive planner from digital agency Play, for example, to give my feedback on one of their projects. Marketers, as Griffiths says, are realizing that the expectations of a small group of influencers need to be tightly managed. By testing your product before putting it out, you are less likely to fall below the expectations of your audience.

Audience planning: These people need to know their numbers, to ascertain exactly what the size of your audience is, and how to grow them.

Media planners: Which channels or networks do you place your communication in to get maximum effect? Griffiths mentions agencies like Naked Communications here, whose primary work is strategy. He is surprised that communications planning agencies are able to thrive alongside traditional advertising and media agencies. I’m not, because clearly the reason for their growth is that they are providing services that planners in the other two kinds of agencies don’t. Hotshops like them – and Strawberry Frog, or Santo, are growing, and will continue to grow, for that reason.

Content planning: This, according to Griffiths is a group of people too new to define clearly. Think of the re-hashing of the Guinness ad by the Pot Noodle people, or re-mixing of ads at home by people like you and me, which surface on YouTube. Those spread like wildfire too. These people need to create or control that kind of output – because clearly, it has an effect on brand name.

Words from my mouth

Two interesting pieces of information I downloaded recently, both related to the power of word-of-mouth for brands: one, an extract of ‘Conversational Capital’ by Canadian agency Sid Lee from Gareth Kay’s blog, and the other, the Word of Mouth Marketing Manual – Volume II, by Dave Balter from Greg Verdino’s blog. Both are worth a read.

What is the definition of a brand? From Wikipedia, it is “a collection of experiences and associations attached to a company, organization, product or service”. A brand is only worth speaking about, in my opinion, when people start relating to it positively. If it is getting more negative than positive mentions by people, and by default, in the media, then it’s not really a ‘brand’, it’s just some company that’s trying to make itself noticed and isn’t succeeding.

Any company is only as successful as their consumers or users are happy with the experience they have with it, or in the case of potential users, the experience they have when they see people reacting to it. So though I’m not a Mac user, when I think of Apple, I think of the Genius Bar, for example, which is something I’m curiously awed by whenever I visit an Apple store. When I think of Virgin, I think ‘crap’, because I recently had a bad experience with them. When I think of Topshop, I think it’s a name that attracts the crowds and has the high-profile names and all that (Kate Moss), but is stupid enough to make mistakes like directing consumers who e-mail them (which is an option on their site) to call them instead, on a Sunday morning at 11.30 to boot, to book an appointment with their ‘Style Advisor’, even though their website says an e-mail is fine. Beginner’s error: if you can’t do it, don’t advertise it.

At the end of the day, the marketing budget of a company or ‘brand’ is only as good as its basic customer service. Nike has a huge marketing budget but when I saw on Facebook that someone I know had as his status message ‘Nike’s customer service is crap, go Under Armour‘, I thought: well, that’s 702 of his friends that Nike’s got to work that much harder to impress. I know you can’t always impress everybody, but the days of brands spending $X on marketing and reporting to their management that they’ve got Y pages of advertising in Z publications are gone. People talk, and nowadays they can make their opinions heard far and wide thanks to the World Wide Web. And this is global giant Nike, with a massive marketing budget, that I just mentioned. Think of the smaller brands and how much harder they’ll need to work if 700 people around Facebook start dissing their brand. Relate that to Dunbar’s number, at the very minimum.

It’s the reason why, though Orange pissed me off slightly a while ago, Play Balloonacy has actually done something to alleviate that situation.

My thoughts on some brands

I wasn’t too sure whether I should post this here, having created it a week ago. It’s just random thoughts I had about 3 brands – a brain exercise, so to speak, and the more I use my brain in these days of unemployment, the better! I was pretty surprised to note, however, that 75 people have viewed it, 1 person has downloaded it and 2 have embedded it (God knows where), so I thought, “they’re my ideas in the first place, I might as well put it on my blog.”

So here they are.

Youth and Social Media

A useful presentation by MTV on the relationship between youth and social media. One statement I found particularly intriguing is ‘Content will be spread virally within’ (social networks). Young people today spend a lot of their time online and brands that hope to target this ever-expanding segment (a large percentage of the ‘tiger economyBRIC countries is under the age of 25, for example), will need to tailor their advertising in ways that appeal to them. They want to be in control of their content, whether this is through widgets or blogs. Brands that listen to them, as in the way Ernst & Young is reaching out to fresh graduates they hope to recruit through their Facebook group, have a better chance of gaining and keeping their respect than those that don’t. I’m not saying Facebook is the only way to go. What I’m saying is, keep this in mind when strategies for youth-oriented brands are created in-house. It’s easy to forget sometimes.

Via Unplannd