Tuesday, December 1, 2009

AT&T Christmas Card Direct Marketing

I picked up my mail the other day and I saw that we had received our first Christmas card. Blue envelope, hand written address, pretty stamp, approximate size of a holiday card, all gave me the green light to rip this baby open.

Ever since I was a kid, I've liked the idea of Christmas cards and I guess it's from that childhood memory of helping my mom tape up all of the cards around our doorway that gives me those warm fuzzies about them now at thirty.

I ripped the card open and nothing was odd until I actually opened the card. Looks like I had been duped a bit and this was another piece of direct mail for AT&T's cable service.

Am I angry that I was duped? Absolutely not. The idea was to spend more on the look and feel of a holiday card, send it out around Christmas and in doing this garner a larger open rate.

I'll be the first to tell AT&T that it worked! I opened it! However this is where I stop, because I don't want their cable service and have no need for the product.

What I'm getting at is not that this is a blog post against direct mail. AT&T has been spending a lot on me lately. I've gotten some very high class snazzy mail from them lately and it hasn't gotten in my way, made me angry or annoyed. It's just not something I needed.

My thought instead goes to the amount that was spent on me and the campaign and how that money could have been spent elsewhere and the message could have landed in better hands.

How could AT&T spend money to better know me and my needs? Could they have known that I just signed up for Time Warner only weeks ago and wasn't ready to be advertised to? Would money spent instead on Social Media listening software like Radian6, Spiral16 or Social Radar been a better bet than buying a list?

I know that direct marketing has a place still in a marketing mix, but so many questions are being asked about the worth of a social media buy, that I think it's only fair that we ask the same questions on our more traditional buys.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cyber Monday, A Dying Holiday

Isn't it beginning to seem that Cyber Monday is becoming irrelevant?

In the late 90's the term made plenty of sense. Most people's computers as well as high speed internet connections were at work. Nobody feels like working on the Monday after a 4 day weekend so you have an explosion of online holiday shopping.

However in today's society, unless we're going to turn it into a Valentine's day (An almost meaningless holiday fueled and manufactured by some smart ad agencies & marketing), we need to take a look at what is really going on.

With competitors like Amazon, large retailers cannot afford to not offer the same deals online as to the crowds that wrap around the store at 3am on Friday morning. If you have the same deals and the shipping is free, than there is no difference and retailers will no doubt be forced cannibalize some of their brick & mortar business to not lose the internet piece of the pie. 2009 seemed like the beginning of the end for Cyber Monday.

Black Friday has now become what it always has been. The countries largest shopping day. It will make no difference if that deal is found online or at the store.

I give Cyber Monday a few more years just on media juice backing it up, but with our now highly connected online community. If it's not relevant, it dies.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Paranormal Activity: The 3 Reasons it Worked

Paranormal Activity, the Halloween movie phenomenon of 2009 has come and gone. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go do some homework, because I'm going to talk fast on this one to get to the good parts.

Basically this horror movie, shot in 2007 with a budget of $15,000 ends up blowing up from a very small theater launch to a nation wide launch within 2 weeks and ends up beating what was supposed to be the Halloween weekend movie "shoe-in" Saw VI. Impossible you say?

Now that we're on the same page, let's get to the heart of what we all are wondering. How & why did this movie magic happen? Let's look at 3 of the strongest.

First: It's a good product

It's got a great story. The movie bounced around to a lot of film festivals in the last couple of years and somehow found it's way into Steven Spielberg's hands. He liked it, but didn't feel like re-making the movie and putting a $50 million dollar budget into it would give the same feeling. So Paramount picked it up and started testing it in a small launch in late summer 2009.

So Steven Spielberg liked it. That would explain why this movie got some early momentum where hundreds of other films do not. Having a movie god watch your movie and put his stamp of approval on it is a huge piece of this puzzle. This at least gave Paramount the confidence that they had a good product. Putting it simply the movie was scary.

The product had to be good in order for the rest of the pieces to work.

Second: Influencers Attack!

Here's where social media comes in. Release something remarkable into the wild in a very limited quantity and give everyone who gets their hands on it a megaphone. This is exactly what the limited release did for Paranormal Activity.

The limited release was intregal because it made the people who watched it feel special. We know the product was good, which makes people want to share. The audiences also knew that they were watching something that others couldn't and that gave the them even more reason to share. This message flowed from web influencers directly to blogs & social networks and this is where the perfect storm starts to build momentum.

Another example was the movie's team up with Revision 3 and the very small but powerful group that got to see it before ANYONE else that gave it even more push. Read more about that here.

Third: Timing is everything...oh and Relevance too.

Paramount timed this storm out rather perfectly. They created a huge buzz and gave everyone the power to jump on the Paranormal Activity website and demand the movie come to their local theater. The website boasted that if they got to 1 million votes, the movie would open nationwide. Reminds me of the old MTV demand scheme in the 80's only instead of taking years, this built up enough steam in weeks because of the speed of social media.

The timing even made was more brilliant due to the fact that the final "Big Win" reached fever pitch only days before Halloween. A Halloween that was on a weekend and only had 1 big horror movie coming out (Saw VI) that was a very tired tradition in the first place. Relevance, Relevance and more Relevance.

This movie was not as much of a surprise as it seems. The build up and marketing strategy was there and it had a plan that worked. They started with a great product, made a huge buzz utilizing social media & word of mouth and then timed it perfectly to be most relevant to the most consumers.

A great play and one that I believe can be repeated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Augmented Reality...I Had to Bring it Up Sometime!

Augmented Reality, I can't go anywhere on the web without running into this technology. From apps on my iphone, like the new Monocle feature on Yelp, to Red Bull's new Augmented Reality featured bulletin for heritage sports. It's everywhere and if you haven't experienced it yet, you may soon find yourself in the middle of an A.R. project without even seeking it out.

Ran into this blogpost on Gizmodo yesterday and just had to write about it. A video billboard was put up this month in Liverpool, England and passersby were squashed, tickled, poked and flicked out of existence as they walked to work. A fun experiment showing how the billboards of tomorrow will gain our attention by featuring our favorite celebrity of all time, ourselves.

Hand from Above from Chris O'Shea on Vimeo.

The video speaks for itself, but the what does all of this mean for us as marketers? My mind starts to wonder to that awesome scene in Back 2 the Furture II where Michael J. Fox's character is chomped by Jaws as he walks through the streets, or the scene from Minority Report where the advertising in the airport knows who you are and can put you directly in the advertising.

Of course we're far from any of that, but the technology is certainly exciting and I am really looking forward to where this goes in the next 5 to 10 years.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cash for Clunkers? How About Guns for Hummers?

Was watching the local 10pm newscast last night and was brought out of my pre monday work list warmup by a story of how a local Hummer car lot is trying to save their business.

The story is simple. Jim Lynch sells Hummers. Take a hurting economy, rising gas prices, and a very popular green movement in the United States and you have a hat trick for a very bad time for selling said Hummers.

So Jim Lynch begins selling guns too, and not just hand guns, but high powered automatic weapons, the top shelf of the gun collecting world's biggest and baddest toys. Jim Lynch, is beginning to see business getting better.

Take all of your personal thoughts and opinions out of this and put on the marketing glasses. Whoa! Jim Lynch may actually have something here.

What we have here is a great example of the "experience". Jim took the sales demographics of hummer buyers and found that a healthy percentage are sportsman and hunting enthusiasts. He stopped seeing himself as a guy who sells Hummers and started seeing himself as something different, an experience dealer.

Did I mention that Jim has built the countries largest Hummer testing and playground behind the dealership? When you go in for a test drive, you won't be taking it out on the highway, but instead you'll be climbing hills and leaping creek beds in the jungles of middle Missouri. Now, they'll throw a couple of high powered rifles in the mix and you can pull over and do some target shooting with the gun of your dreams.

Alot of Jim's sales staff had a lot of experience with guns and gun sales, so the same staff can be kept and utilized to sell both products. This keeps his staff small, qualified and it allows them to work for commissions on each.

A slumping economy turns out to be a very creative environment. Whether this saves Jim's business or not remains to be seen, but the marketer in me appreciates Jim's vision and resilience.

Favre & Vick Immediately Effect Dorm Rooms Everywhere

With all of the news around some late arrivals in the Eagles & Viking's roster this year with the addition of a an old man that won't quit and a convicted felon, it would be tough for even the smallest of sports fans to not see the impact that these stories made last week throughout the online and traditional media.

In the new state of home video gaming, these real world stories are now able to directly have the same impact on the virtual world on the Madden 2010 EA title that you just picked up from gamestop.

Basically, EA now has the ability to add and take away from a team's roster or stats in real time. Michael Vick & Brett Favre were brought to life on these games and added to their respective new teams immediately after the news had come down where they would be playing this year. Gamers were able to jump online and test out just how this would effect their favorite or most hated team's season.

Though I'm not personally a football fan, it's fascinating when I view it through the PR, branding, and marketing lens. EA was able to quickly grab onto a small bit of the wave of media that was generated from these stories and focus it into their property in Madden 2010. Not only getting press, but bringing a huge upswing in online play.

These stories bring such a tremendous force in such a short period of time that in the past, it has been impossible to have them effect virtual worlds in a timely manner. I'm looking forward to seeing what applications will surface now that these two worlds have gotten a lot more comfy with each other.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Improve Everywhere Does it again with iMobs

By now, we've all seen our fair share of flash mob or public performance videos on youtube. Whether it's a break out musical in a mall food court or an impromptu "Thriller" dance at a crowded park, these stunts have gotten the attention of millions of online viewers.

A traditional flash mob would be something a bit more simple. A note would be placed on craigslist to have everyone reading meet at a certain location at a certain time, and then with a certain cue, perform an action of some kind in unison. Basically, it's using social networks or popular forums to locally spread the word to gain strength in numbers. Seeing 4 people dancing in a local burger king could be shrugged off as "weird". Seeing 400 people suddenly break into dance, and it's something you'd never forget. (starting to see the marketing potential here yet?)

What makes this a new breed of flash mob is the idea of "as you play" instructions given through mobile music devices. So now the organizers have taken it a step further. The mob is still given specific times and places and given simple instructions on what props to bring and clothes to wear. The mob is also instructed to bring their ipod and push play on a downoaded mp3 at an exact moment.

Back at Red Bull, we played with this same basic idea. Someone had thought of a flash mob "silent" dance party on the in zone of a certain popular college campus football field. The word would spread through facebook and Red Bull would cater a party in this very "special" party place at midnight before a big game. Of course, the school wouldn't give an "ok" for this, so the idea of utilizing synchronized ipods came up. The music could be as loud as we wanted in our earphones, yet the partying would be near silent, other than student voices. pretty tricky huh?

The problem was that we were stuck on having an actual DJ be playing and broadcasting the music to the party goers, and that technology was neither cheap or wholly possible w/ mp3 players at that time. Take the DJ out and have people download a "mix" or better yet, have an iphone only party and have the organizers have a shared itunes song list that everyone could jump on and stream. Now the only issue would be how to get everyone on board at EXACTLY the same time. a dance party where everyone is on a different beat, would get old fast :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Love This Trader Joe's Fan Commercial

Whether you want to call it a fan commercial or consumer generated content, I think that this video is pretty great.

It seems real, it's fun and most of all it sums up the entire Trader Joe's experience in a catchy little tune.

I can't find much on it, but if it does come from Trader Joe's than whoever did it for them is a genius. If this is truly from a fan, then Trader Joe's needs to jump on this and expand or raise awareness of it.

So while we wait for Trader Joe's to come into Kansas City, check out this video and wishfully hum along.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cadbury Takes Sharp Turns into Left Field

Everyone knows that Cadbury makes chocolate, and they've proven that they aren't idiots through their last branding push. They've gone off the deep end again and again. It's smart, it's funny, it's cool and it can easily set them apart from the other very boring candy companies out there floundering around in oldy-ville making the same old thing. I found out about it here and here.

The gorilla commercial is old news, but I love it. Has absolutely nothing to do with chocolate, but the seriousness of the horrible Phil Collins tune, the long pause and camera motion before the action and the payoff drum solo is genius. Just do a quick search on youtube to see what kind of conversation this began.

The new commercial takes another leap into the weird with these strangely serious children and their dancing eyebrows. Again, it's genius and again the conversation ripples through the internet.

It's strange, it's different, even though the product isn't. That's some branding going on folks, let's see what happens next.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whopper Sacrifice: Burger King Strikes Again, This Time on Facebook

It looks as if Burger King had a hat trick under their belt the whole time. They have recently launched a Facebook application called "Whopper Sacrifice". A genius little application that allows you to sacrifice 10 of your current Facebook friends for a coupon for a free Whopper.

They've recently made large impacts online and in traditional media with their Whopper Virgins campaign and the Flame Cologne they introduced that turned out to be an actual product that smelled like a flame broiled burger. Yummy!

Why do I like this? It's simple, it actually offers something but not for nothing, and it's so completely different from any Facebook application out there, that it's going to get some attention.

So it's a simple of a concept to understand. Believe me, this is where a lot of things go wrong. If the consumer doesn't "get it" extremely quick, they're gone. This is focused at Facebook users and anyone that uses Facebook knows the concept of "friends". The interface is also easy, just scroll through your friends in the application and burn them each one by one!

It actually offers something, but not for nothing. The Facebookers are weary and suspicious of the marketing speak for "free" anything. If you start your interaction with that consumer in that way...you're going to lose them. However, this isn't free. You actually have to give Burger King something in return. Brilliant! The walls come down and you have they're attention. This and most of this crowd has at least 10 friends that they could burn. I've personally been wanting to clean the closets out long ago.

It's a different experience. Yes it's a Facebook application and I agree that I've had the feeling that they were useless soon after "Pirates vs Ninjas", but this one's worth another look. This is a different concept for the application, it's not really asking for you to try to keep up w/ anything, it serves it's purpose and it's done. You get your Whopper and Burger King gets your eyeballs on their logo for a pretty good amount of time while you scroll through your friends, deciding which ones that you really just friended them to see if they were still hot after highschool.

So, I've been impressed with Burger King's interactive projects since subserviant chicken and they keep impressing me. I just don't understand how other highly brand oriented consumer products haven't caught the clue yet. Find a better agency folks!