Friday, March 26, 2010

Where are you geolocated?

Geographical location software enabled mobile phones, simply known as geolocation, is the latest rage in social networking. You can be somewhere in the city and let your “network of friends" know where you are located: at a restaurant, bar, etc. It’s kind of like Twitter on the go. And with some of the apps like FourSquare you can earn points toward some sort of reward. There are other services like Gowalla and Loopt that perform similarly. The software is free for your iPhone, Blackberry, and some other mobile devices.

There’s yet a newer twist to geolocation with a marketing twist. Advertising Age reports that companies like Proctor & Gamble, Kraft and Citi have been employing this software since December in the name of charity. In other words, the Ad Age article reports you not only check in with your friends, now you can check in with Kraft salad dressing or Gillette razors by scanning the product codes with your mobile phone. Seems bizarre, but people are doing it, as these companies have given over $200K per month to charity in exchange for consumer complicity. Is this a good idea? I don’t know. But if you project into the future and consider Facebook or Twitter in an anytime and everywhere environment – why not? Keep an eye out for this one, or try it out and let me know what you think. As for me, I think I’ll keep my location private.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This is Stupid

This is really stupid. I mean really really stupid. Anytime an advertiser in response to criticism of a campaign slogan has to resort to explaining what they mean by that slogan, the campaign is doomed. As Forrest Gump used to say, "Stupid is as stupid does." This is really stupid. Let me know what you think.

Keeping up with The Jones

There's a new movie  that is relevant to recent discussions regarding new ways to market products. The Joneses is a story about a family that really isn't a family. Rather, they are pretending to be a family living in a "normal" neighborhood and acting, well, neighborly, but all the while they are stealth marketers. Turns out the faux family has been placed in the neighborhood in order to sell products. You can watch the trailer for the movie here. Stealth marketing, sometimes referred to as "undercover marketing" takes place when the audience is not aware they are the object of a promotion. For example, you could be walking down a city street and someone comes up to you and asks you to take their photo with a camera, all the while they are speaking to you about the virtues of the camera. It's a form of one-to-one marketing that speaks to an interesting form of consumer engagement.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Media is Not a Panacea

Just because engagement is the new metric in advertising circles, doesn’t mean all the numbers point upward. There is risk involved when companies and organizations embrace new media; social media are no panacea. Take two recent cases in which Nestles and Kmart were attacked for disparate reasons, but attacked nevertheless. In the case of Nestles, the issue revolved around the company’s use of palm oil in its products for which an attack was launched by the environmental group Greenpeace. With regard to Kmart, the issue revolved around an online coupon that consumers thought could be utilized at any Kmart store; turns out they couldn’t, turns out it could only be used at select stores. Perhaps you wouldn’t think something like this would make consumers angry, but it did. I’ve provide a link to an article on The Consumerist so you can read some of the vitriolic comments. What’s the take away? The good news is that social media provide consumers with a direct way to communicate with the company, and in turn a company or organization can evaluate how they are doing in the public’s eye. On the other hand, consumers and other groups can band together to launch an attack on the brand. For professional communicators, the issue is how to manage all of this. As social media a relatively new for many companies and organizations, it’s important to understand fully their implications in marketing communication programs, and remember that measurement is not always in the upward direction.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Warren Buffett creates "wonder" for GEICO

This one is too good to pass up. Warren Buffett is perhaps the third richest man in the world. He is Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, a holding company that owns many other companies, including GEICO. And, he is in his 70s! GEICO has a new phase of its campaign running, featuring Warren Buffet doing an impression of Axl Rose from Guns N Roses. It's a hoot; beats a gecko any day. And, the song isn't half bad.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thinking about advertising: memories and anticipations

One of the blogs I follow today reported that water consumption went up dramatically during the end of the second and third periods of the U.S./Canadian hockey game held during the recent winter Olympics. What they were referring to is the proverbial bathroom break. The idea that people use commercial breaks to do things other than watch the commercials is not new. Other researchers have provided similar evidence of such activities during football games in the United States, attributable mostly to beer consumption. Such activities are what I call “routine practices” surrounding media consumption, including bathroom breaks, making phone calls, texting, shifting to another medium while multitasking, or talking to friends or family members in the room, among other social practices.

Other things we do while the commercials are on include thinking, daydreaming, or fantasizing. Think, daydream or fantasize about what? Other things. In my book Advertising in Everyday Life, I write about the kinds of thoughts we have when we consume advertising, mainly thinking about the past (memories) or anticipating the future. There are elements of advertisements (visual, verbal or textual) that serve as cues, sending viewers off to what I like to refer to as “never-never land.”

All of these activities—thinking, talking, texting, etc.—comprise the ritualistic practices of media consumption. It is in this way that consumers are to some extent empowered to do what they want with and through their media experiences. What consumers want doesn’t always go along with what the advertiser desires, which is to have consumers pay close attention to the advertisements. While consumers develop elaborate social practices as a part of their media rituals, advertisers attempt to seek newer ways to contain and control them. This is what I call the “cat and mouse” game between consumers and advertisers. And, with new media coming online, meaning more distractions and the development of additional practices, the system grows in complexity.

It is difficult for some people to get in touch with their thoughts while they are consuming media, but if one practices, over time the skill can be acquired. It’s an interesting exercise through which we learn much about media rituals and about ourselves.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Logorama: life in an overly materialistic world

Logorama won the academy award for best animated short. Anyone interested in advertising, branding or any aspect of marketing communication should see this short film. The film represents an apocalyptic vision of a world that is over-saturated with logos. The number of familiar characters and brands--there are 2500 logos represented--is simply amazing to see as the film's story unfolds. The film's producer, Nicolas Schmerkin, said in one web-site report, the film is
"not about America. It's about our modern western world. So it also applies to France and Buenos Aires, where I am from, so it's not about Americans. It's about the way we live and the way we react to these logos. The brain can register 14 logos in less than one second. Making the logos characters with sets and props is about what we're living. I'm not talking about what the logos represent. They're used for what they are."
I have to warn you that the language is R-rated. But the film makes an important statement about the overly materialistic world we live in and the consequences of abundance.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The crunch of Cheerios is that of two worldviews clashing

The FDA, which regulates prescription medications, also regulates health claims made by food manufacturers. In this case the makers of Cheerios have been called on the carpet, so to speak, for claiming that eating the cereal can reduce the risk of heart disease. An opinion article in The Wall Street Journal reports, “their mistake (the makers of Cheerios) was boasting that the cereal could help reduce the risk of heart disease ‘by lowering the ‘bad’ cholesterol.’”  While there may be some sound science behind that claim, the opinion piece goes on to report that the main issue was “making specific reference to cholesterol levels, something that’s typically treated by a drug.” In the larger sense the issue is whether to regulate or not to regulate, which is a topic members of our advertising class have been discussing over the past week or so. If you were to read the 38 comments on the Web that were associated with the Journal article you would experience the vitriol of politically conservative readers who think the government goes to far in regulating both food and drugs. But we are presently living in times where the FDA is more activist on such issues and consumers can expect health claims by food manufacturers to be more closely scrutinized than in the recent past. No one would argue that presenting the health benefits of food is a bad thing, especially when it comes to nutrition and diet. But when manufacturers make claims that place that product in the role of medications, conflicts arise – is it a food or is it a drug? Again, in the larger scheme, the issue relates to how restrictive the FDA should be with regard to health claims made by food manufacturers, and it gives students of advertising an opportunity to see the political pendulum swing from the right to the left.