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Monday, 02 February 2009 04:44

Super Bowl Ads: Your Faves?

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Okay, so they didn't sell out the ad inventory for Super Bowl XLIII (note the number of NBC and sister division Universal/GE promos in the mix), but there were still some memorable efforts, like this hilarious commercial for Pepsi Max.

You can see all the 2009 Super Bowl commercials at AdAge.Com and pick your favorites.

   

Monday, 02 February 2009 04:15

Super Bowl, Yes, but Super Commercials?

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It's been a while since I've seen a football game as exciting as Superbowl XLIII. In recent years, the games have just been blah, and the commercials are what I looked forward to the most. I suppose it comes with the territory of being in the marketing industry.

Last night, I was riveted by the game, and mostly disappointed by the commercials. I'm sure it's partly related to the state of the economy, but most spots didn't live up to the iconography of the Budweiser Frogs from 1995 and Monster.com's "When I Grow Up" spot from 1999.

That said, there were a few stand-outs during last night's game, so here are my Top 5, with a runner-up.

Runner-up) Teleflora / "Rude Flowers"  My friend called me when this spot aired, and she was laughing so hard she couldn't get words out. I have to admit that I didn't think it was that funny until the tulips shouted "No one wants to see you naked!"

5) E-trade / "Babies" I like that E-trade is continuing to develop this campaign. It's cute and communicates the point that E-trade is easy to use. The addition of the second baby was a good move. Baby #1 was getting a little too "wall-street" for his diaper.

4) Hulu / "Alec Baldwin" Hulu did well with this spot. It was clever and memorable. It borrowed a little too heavily from Men in Black, and was long-winded, but I suppose when you're spending millions for seconds of air-time, you want to squeeze out every last second of dialogue.

3) Doritos / "Bus" I laughed uproariously when this spot aired. Doritos make all things possible, except avoiding being hit by a bus.

2) Careerbuilder / "Hate Work" Anyone who's ever hated their job or felt disrespected by their co-workers related to this commercial. The writing was genius and the editing was spot-on.

1) Bridgestone / "Mr. Potato Head" I must confess, I didn't immediately remember that this was a Bridgestone commercial. But I remember laughing hysterically when Mrs. Potato Head's mouth bounced down the embankment. And when she ripped off her normal eyes and plugged in the angry ones, I almost choked on a tortilla chip.

So, what did you think about this year's offerings? You can view all of the Superbowl XLII spots here: http://superbowlads.fanhouse.com/ 

Monday, 02 February 2009 02:06

Marketing Without the Groundhog

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Winter has been brutal in these parts. In the month of January, we had 25 days with below-normal temperatures. On many of those days, the high temperature was 10 or even 20 degrees below normal. Nearly 31 inches of snow fell, just shy of the all-time record for the month. Needless to say, we’re ready for Spring. With the arrival of Groundhog Day, it would be an understatement to say that we want that furry rodent to predict a quick end to this most-dismal season.

The problem is the calendar. It shows that Spring begins in late March, year in and year out, regardless of the prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil. There’s no fighting it. So, rather than hoping for an early break from Old Man Winter, it makes more sense to expect the worst and plan accordingly to ride it out.

That’s the same approach you should take to your marketing during our current “economic winter.” It’s been brutal for many of us, and, despite the efforts coming out of Washington, it’s far from over. It’s no time to be doing anything but staying the course through these icy waters.

Here in “The Great Recession” (or whatever you choose to call it) customers want value, but that’s not the same as low prices. Value means getting the most for your money, and great service is a big part of that equation. Remember your unique selling proposition and promote its value. Then back it up with service that beats the competition, and you’re less likely to lose customers who are forced to make difficult decisions about spending.

Hang in there, because this “winter” is not over yet. Forget the fortunetellers - above and below ground - and keep your marketing focused on surviving the deep freeze for as long as it lasts.

Monday, 26 January 2009 12:12

Those Who Fail To Plan Should Plan To Fail

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During these challenging economic times when companies are being forced to do as much or more with less, marketers can’t afford to be wasteful. And that doesn’t apply just to dollars. We can’t afford to waste time, ideas, or opportunities either.

A local private school recently took advantage of our Marketing Consultation service. During the initial meeting, our client revealed that they typically take a shoot-from-the-hip approach to marketing, sporadically using only traditional venues to increase their recruitment of K-8 students. They had, to that point, neglected to recruit from their current “customers” - parents of the children who already participate in their pre-school programs. That’s when the light bulb went off over our heads.

It is drastically less expensive to KEEP customers you already have than to always look outward to find and win new customers. By deepening existing customer relationships you also build a more stable - and maybe even more recession-proof - customer base.

That’s where strategic planning comes into play. Have a solid plan to follow. Have goals and benchmarks to measure against. Without a clear focus and an arsenal of tools, marketing becomes more difficult, especially when the bottom drops out of the economy.

Once finished, the successes - and shortcomings - of the strategic plan can be evaluated. Did the increase in on-site promotions bolster sales of the featured product? Did posting to the company blog on a weekly basis increase web traffic? These are just a few of the “cause & effect” examples that can be measured after a strategic plan is put in place.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008 04:42

Strengthen Your Brand by Boning Up on Your History

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Roberto Ramos of The Vox Collective is asking you to blow the dust off your old history books and take another look. In a recent Adweek column, Ramos puts forth four key lessons from FDR's New Deal, with additional ideas on how they apply to marketing in today's economy:

In this era, where past headlines seem taken straight out of this morning's paper, it's good to know that FDR can teach marketers a lesson. And why shouldn't we at least pay some attention? Having served four terms in the White House, he is the granddaddy of longevity, a core objective for most brands today.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008 06:52

Brand Or Get Branded

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Leave your branding up to the marketplace? Not a good idea. This reminder is from the folks at MarketingProfs' Get to the Point Small Business newsletter:

"You've heard the branding gurus' mantra," says Jane Schulte, author of Work Smart, Not Hard! "Brand or be branded. Well, it's true. If you don't go about the process of creating a personality for your company, one will be created for you." She outlines this process for ensuring your brand doesn't happen by accident:

Start with two lists. One should contain words that describe your company's current personality; the second should describe the company you want to be. They might be similar lists; in this case, they'll help you to focus on consistency as you grow. If they differ, you can make a conscious, concerted effort to move toward the brand you envision.

Determine what your company looks like. From website design and taglines to colors and logos, make choices that work together to build your brand.

Reinforce the brand throughout your organization. "It cannot be an act," she says. "You have to make sure, just like your mission statement, that you can easily carry [it] off in everything you do, from marketing [to] advertising, client service and employee relations." And give your team the resources they need to make this happen - otherwise, they'll devise ad hoc solutions that might send the wrong message about your brand.

The Po!nt: "Any time someone comes into contact with your company, whether…through written materials or personal communication," reports author Jane Schulte, "its intended personality [should come] through every single time."

That's the question Martin Lindstrom poses in a recent post for AdAge.com. He also lists "nine components that powerfully engaging brands share with religion."How many of these components have you - or could you - incroporate into your brand-building efforts?

A CLEAR VISION - This is the cornerstone of religion. It can inspire great action and firm conviction. To see how this translates into branding, take L'Oréal's mission: "We sell hope." Then there's Apple's 1982 brand vision: "Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them." These companies' visions drive them and guide them.

A SENSE OF BELONGING - What do Tupperware, Harley-Davidson, Lego and Apple have in common? They're all based on communities. Considering Lego's considerable brand equity, you might expect that the company's marketing budget would count in the billions. Not so. In fact, it is so modest that if I recorded it here, you'd probably think it was a typo. Lego doesn't do the talking. It lets Lego maniacs do it instead.

AN ENEMY - Imagine Pepsi without Coke. Impossible, right? A competitor is a valuable foil that unites a company from within and pushes the brand's boundaries. The enemy shapes the brand.

SENSORY APPEAL - If you were to close your eyes and walk into a place of worship, the sounds and smells would still tell you where you were: ringing bells, incense, the rumble of a massive organ. Most brands are lacking here. Visit any supermarket or retail chain, and you'll struggle to experience any sensory stimulus, other than visual, that tells you, uniquely, where you are.

STORYTELLING - The world's holy texts are built on oral traditions. Storytelling has driven faith and religious practice, keeping them alive for millennia. Just as every hymn and window in a church is linked to an all-embracing story, brands have the potential to build holistic identities.

GRANDEUR - It's all about thinking big - really big. Cathedrals are massive in scale. This attribute is particularly relevant for brands and perhaps more accessible than other religion-related characteristics. Think about the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in New York, the latest Prada store in Tokyo or Burj Al Arab, the world's first seven-star hotel.

EVANGELISM - This phenomenon has lived for centuries and now takes place via chat rooms and viral videos. Word-of-mouth is powerful, trusted and cheap. Brands must make use of the inclination of consumers to be persuaded by friends. Brazilian cosmetics brand Natura deploys a direct-sales force of more than 718,000 to win converts. Just by knocking on doors, it has established a vibrant network of brand supporters.

SYMBOLS - Imagine a smashed stained-glass window, a page loosed from a Bible, a snippet of choral singing. Would you recognize where they came from? Most likely. Few brands, however, reflect this consistency. Not many can be recognized without their logos. Examine an iPod, and you'll have problems finding the Apple logo. Yet its design is so in tune with the brand's identity and so unambiguously original that you know an iPod when you see and feel it.

RITUALS - Rituals build brands. The act of placing a wedge of lime in the neck of a Corona bottle helps sell those beers. And where did it come from? As one story goes, it was invented by two bartenders in California to see how fast a ritual could spread.

Thursday, 20 November 2008 10:48

Focus Your Marketing to Beat the Economic Blues

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We've talked before about how to grow your business by selling more to your existing customers. And during these economically challenging times, it seems like that advice is more important than ever, according to the top marketing mind at the nation's biggest electronics retailer. From a marketingprofs.com interview with Barry Judge, Chief Marketing Officer at Best Buy:

Identify and focus [your marketing] investment on your highest-value customers. These customers are your most identifiable and reliable source of revenue and profit across your business; and because they are enthusiasts for your products or services, they will be most likely to continue spending in your categories during a down economy.

Smart businesspeople know they can't afford to slash their marketing efforts just because sales are down. Smarter ones will go one step further and put their marketing dollars into efforts to expand their base by growing their sales to customers who are already sold on them.

Turning_Negatives_into_PositivesMarcia Yudkin is one of my favorite voices in the worlds of marketing and copywriting. In her November 12th, 2008 newsletter, she addresses the idea of turning what may be perceived as a negative aspect of a product or service into a positive selling point.

She writes:

An ad in Writer's Digest magazine shows a scene in the woods, with a Marlboro Man type wearing a fringed buckskin jacket, cowboy hat and jeans. His attention is on some sort of device propped on a stump in front of him. The device is a $219 portable word processor that has been on the market since 1993.

I remember considering it ages ago, then rejecting it because of everything it couldn't do. Take a look at the marketing copy accompanying this outdoor scene, though: "No matter where you find yourself, this ruggedly portable, full-size writing tool instantly connects you with your thoughts - and nothing else. No email interruptions. No web-surfing distractions. No game diversions. Just non-stop writing capability: up to 700 hours worth on 3 AA batteries."

The ad's one-word headline sums up the product's weakness creatively transformed into a virtue: "Focus." Brilliant!

List the weaknesses of your product or service, squelch the urge to apologize, and instead, conjure up a world in which the shortcomings help rather than hinder.

There are many no-cost or low-cost steps you can take to encourage repeat business, build brand equity, and create a positive and memorable customer experience. One of the most basic is to train or remind everyone on your staff to be a pleasant, helpful human being when using your company’s telephones.

We all know that customers are more likely to buy from people and companies they like and feel good about, yet, every day, bad impressions are cemented and potential business is lost when:

  • Employees answer the telephone with an unprofessional attitude or a complete lack of enthusiasm (the “Is it Friday yet?” mentality).
  • Receptionists speak so quickly or incoherently that prospective customers question if they’ve called the right number.
  • Operators treat customers as if their calls are interruptions, rather than the reasons for their jobs. 

Now ask yourself if your company’s callers are being treated with the level of care and attention they deserve?

Customers are more likely to come back to you again and again - and spread good word-of-mouth about you - when they feel genuinely welcomed, when they feel valued and respected, and when they feel that you identify with their needs. So, it’s very important to create those positive feelings right away, the very first time customers call.

If your staff’s phone skills and manners are not playing an active and positive role in your marketing, adopt these five simple rules as quickly as possible.

Rule 1: Apply the Golden Rule to every caller. In other words, treat them the same way you'd like to be treated as a paying customer.

Rule 2: Answer the phone with a smile. Yes, actually smile! It’ll give you a more positive attitude, and callers will “hear the friendliness” in your voice. Remember, you're trying to make a positive impression, whether the person on the line is a first-time caller or one of your most loyal customers. (Here's a great program to help with telephone etiquette skills.)

Rule 3: Whenever possible, refer to your callers by name. Most people like the sound of their own name, and hearing you say it tells them that they’re important to you and your company.

Rule 4: Speak slowly and clearly. If you hurry or slur your way through your initial greeting or when providing information that needs to be written down, you’ll only frustrate your callers and force them to ask you to repeat yourself.

Rule 5: Be friendly, but use courteous, respectful language. You never know how the caller may be judging you and, by extension, your company. Replace the words "yep" and "yeah" with "yes ma’am" and "yes sir." And the words "please" and "thank you" are just as important on the phone as they are in any face-to-face social situation.

These rules may seem basic, but how many companies are living by them? If your competitors aren’t placing enough importance on the caller experience, your mastery of telephone skills and etiquette will further distinguish your company. And remember, successful companies are often built on the basics, like a customer-centric attitude and an understanding that every phone call is an opportunity to build customer share and create brand evangelists.

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