Awareness is Everything

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy Halloween! Want A Chip?

Found an interesting site the other day – Hotel There are several cool elements on this site like soliciting email addresses as a “reservation” to access the site, webcam and microphone integration and overall the site is incredibly creepy (just in time for Halloween). There’s really no direct product pushing so from the user’s perspective it’s pure entertainment. It belongs to Frito Lay, but from a messaging perspective that’s put on the back-burners.

What’s really interesting is the way they handle access to the site. As indicated by the name, the site is only accessible from 6 PM to 6 AM (Hotel 626). Here’s why I think this is a cool idea:

It’s Risky, But Not Really.
Would this approach work for 90% of the sites out there? No, absolutely not. But, I think it’ll work quite well for this one. The reasoning is that it’s risky, but not really. Although it’s harder to access the site, they have technology in place (reservations) that’ll send the user an email when the site opens for the evening. On top of that, they’re effectively weeding out the fickle fly by night users and honing in on the active, engaged market. This brings you closer to your loyalists; and it’ll certainly provide a decent amount of those lost in the branding “grey area” as well.

It’s Breaking the Typical Online Experience.
We all know that the tougher you make your online content to access, the more you become susceptible to increased drop-off, decreased conversion and all the wonderful financial repercussions in between. However, this site’s putting that school of thought on its head a bit. In an environment where users are cynical, have the shortest of attention spans and have more competing entertaining online options at their beckon call than ever, this site tells them to “wait, you’re going to view this site on our terms.” It’s all very reminiscent of the trickle-like release of Nintendo’s Wii and the iPhone.

However, this site’s not directly tied to revenue, which begs the question – what will they do next? It sounds like there’s a product launch coming, in which case Frito Lay will be locked and loaded with a pool full of advocates and otherwise engaged users just waiting to mobilize and ultimately, eat some chips.

As always, time and traffic numbers will bring success or failure, but I’m very interested to see how the product launch goes.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Platform Thoughts

I ran into an interesting article today on CNET, titled “"Should software developers fear Facebook, Apple?" In summary, and I’ve dumbed this down considerably for the sake of brevity, the author feels Apple and Facebook’s quality control maintained over third-party applications developed for their respective platforms is excessive to the point of stifling growth in the software development industry. I agree, productivity will be limited by their actions, however I don’t like the causation implied – i.e. larger software developers using their “weight” and influence to force Apple/Facebook to suppress smaller ones.

I tend to skew closer toward this thought. Apple and Facebook may be slightly stifling innovation, but they may be doing so to stay out of court and on the legal side of copyright laws, etc. In my opinion, they’re ultimately raising the standards for the developer community. As this platform continues to grow, I’m hoping we’ll soon see a chasm between allegedly copyright/trademark infringing developers versus the innovators. With current platforms developing and new ones continually coming to fruition, original and useful applications will be recognized as such and widely adopted, period. We’ve reached the point of application saturation in which truly only the “cream” will rise to the top.

What do you think? Does it make sense for Facebook/Apple to control applications or should they be more of a platform? From a brand perspective, was Scrabulous hurtful or helpful?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008


More money is being spent online, serving up ads and an ad revenue model continue to be the driving force behind new start-ups, Microsoft purchases (or planned ones) and Google product development such as the new browser Chrome - built to further deliver targetting for those that buy via Google and potentially shut out others like Microsoft from lucrative profiling data The big question becomes how do you measure such terms as "immersion", "product placement", "gaming", "social media" and so forth.

One interesting idea we came up with at Sentient was in regards to measuring brand interaction in virtual worlds for market research (at the bottom of this post). How are you measuring brand interaction on emerging platforms?

Virtual Worlds activity is measured with specific metrics that are different from web metrics

These are the areas it makes most sense to measure:
– Sim Traffic
Sim = server
Sim traffic is the total amount of users that have visited the respective presence in a given time frame

Currently virtual worlds can accommodate 65-100 users per sim
– Concurrency
Average number of users on a sim at the same time

– Sustainability
Average time experience per user (in hours)

– Experiential Value (EV)
((Total Traffic/(Concurrency/10))*Sustainability= VE ratio

Benchmark - WBHV, 12/12/06 launch - ((200/(40/10))*40 = 533.33
– WBHV Rave Party was considered a success by Second Life standards

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Starbucks Media Jolt

Branding has become a hot topic again in the mainstream media (to some, myself included, it is always a hot topic. I guess it is the nature of the job). This week on the Today Show they featured the decline of the Starbucks brand. Starbucks’ woes in the last year, slowed growth and declining sales, is no secret and it seems every advertising joe has an opinion on what they should do. Most opinions center on returning the focus to the baristas and making the best espresso. The point being that the barista position (for more on baristas visit here) is not interchangeable with the cashier or the greeter or even the store manager, it is a honed skill that takes training and plays a pivotal role in elevating Starbucks above competitors. AND the extended business lines – music, movies, network tv, really doesn’t heighten the taste of my Grande Non-Fat, Double Vanilla Late at the end of the day either.

It would appear Starbucks is listening. In addition to the expected permanent closure of several stores and 600 job cuts, Starbucks temporarily closed all stores Tuesday evening (2/26) for several hours to retrain employees err baristas to “provide a renewed focus on espresso standards” (see full letter to partners, entitled “Starbucks Makes Organizational Changes to Enhance Customer Experience”). There are also plans to stop serving hot breakfast by the end of Fiscal ’08 and offer free or discounted WiFi beginning this spring.

So the obvious question is…was this really an effort to put the focus back on good coffee making OR was it a PR exploit to show off Starbucks renewed focus?

I present exhibit A: National Media Coverage of Starbucks Closing

Exhibit B:
  • Let me also point out that Starbucks isn’t open 24 hours and could have offered this “training session” after hours.
  • Not to mention, the length of the session was reported to be 3 hours. Can you really impart knowledge, grow your craft, and produce minions of genius baristas in a one-time 3 hour session?

Will it work? Well I suppose an afternoon training session is a start, but something tells me it is going to take more than a few hours of coffee making How To, to fix Starbucks (call me a pessimist). But maybe it is a start? Maybe, just maybe this media frenzy will make Starbucks accountable to their customers and force them to return to what made them good in the first place – good coffee and atmosphere? They have drawn a very public line in the sand, put a big ol’ stake in the ground, etc., etc. and the stage is set (can I use anymore clichés?) to deliver BIG. Does media frenzy = accountability = return to good coffee and atmosphere? Tell me what you think?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dogs Rule!

Here’s a campaign that seems to have popped up with a new found sense of urgency - Pedigree’s Dogs Rule campaign. The site, most likely the brainchild of TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles is extremely well done from both execution and strategic standpoints.

The premise is simple, “We Love Dogs”. What does that mean exactly? Well, in the context of this campaign it means that Pedigree will match monetary donations, as well as Pedigree product donations given by customers to assist animal shelters located near the customer/donator. Ultimately, it means that Pedigree is working to help homeless dogs find homes and ensure they are a little more comfortable during their temporary period of orphanhood.

Normally, at this point in the post, I’d walk through each creative deliverable and critique it’s execution within the context of the campaign. I’d throw around vernacular like viral components, digital revolution and Age of Conversation. In this particular post, I’ll save us the effort in wading through simple concepts with overly sophisticated names. I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with the use of those terms, nor do I have issue with any of the sources linked above, but in this instance, they’re not of primary interest. The individual executions of this campaign are not flawless, but they are very well done. The point is this - where this campaign really sets itself apart; is when we step out of our “jaded creative guy” skin and put on the trusty “business” hat.

So what’s so different about this campaign? Take a look at the facts, and think about it……….
  • Dogs eat dog food.
  • Pedigree sells dog food.
  • Homeless dogs are put to sleep, thus removed from the market, if they are not adopted.
  • The Dogs Rule campaign is designed to help homeless dogs find adopted homes.
  • If the Dogs Rule campaign is successful in finding homes for homeless dogs, there will be more dogs in the market consuming dog food, thus the revenue potential of this vertical will increase.
As a result of the success of this campaign there could be a significant increase in revenue potential for Pedigree, given their current share of voice and share of market. This could potentially be the ultimate win/win scenario. Consumers, who love dogs, adopt a dog or an additional dog – Pedigree has helped them do so and the consumer couldn’t be happier. On the other side of the coin, Pedigree gets access to a larger pool of revenue that their customers, financially, helped them cultivate.

So here’s the point – In today’s marketing environment, full of the increasingly sophisticated, inevitably cynical consumer, your customers will cry bloody murder if they smell even a hint of corporate ambition. I’m not implying Pedigree went into this campaign with that particular objective, but what I’m saying is if you know the customer, and you create advertising/marketing strategy that is spot on to their needs……… doesn’t matter. As a brand, if you can show you know your customer and you care about what they care about AND provide the actions to support that claim then your leash (so to speak) gets significantly longer. In this case, people who love dogs tend to love ALL dogs, and genuinely appreciate the efforts of shelters, non-profit groups and dog food manufacturers alike who are working to improve the lives of dogs and enlighten owners-to-be. This campaign is a fantastic example of insights informing the creative process and creative being effectively implemented to support those findings.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jumpers and HP

Has everyone seen this by now?

The concept is smart – instead of using advertising to place products in movies, why not turn things on their head and integrate movies into TV ads, right? The idea has potential, but the execution is in this case is incredibly uncomfortable. Hayden Christensen as “David Rice” is hopping in and out of a boiler plate HP commercial - somebody famous’ torso with cool computer graphics illustrating how their lives are so much cooler, yet similar to ours because they use their computers to create visual representations that cannot be done with the software that comes in the box. I’ve digressed.

The discomfort comes in the juxtaposition of the jumper and the tried and true and honestly pretty cool look and feel of the HP commercial. Since you can’t see the facial expressions of Serena Williams (HP Hero) it feels very forced. Ultimately the two never explicitly and directly acknowledge each other, which is very awkward. There are a few attempts, Serena mumbles “Hey, get out of here” and Hayden responds “Yeah, yeah”, but it simply doesn’t work. The whole time you’re on the couch wondering A) How long is this freaking commercial, because I think they’ve gotten out of the huddle right now and I’m missing a blow out and B) Is this for real? What am I supposed to buy again? The former is a typical male 18 to 95 yrs old football enthusiast reaction, but the latter is due in part, to the fact that there are eight brands mentioned in this 1 ½ minute spot.

Count them:

  1. 20th Century Fox (starts off trailer)
  2. Jumpers Movie (starts commercial as trailer)
  3. Mercedes Benz (jumps through window at beginning of commercial)
  4. Microsoft (remote control and logo on TV)
  5. HP (Serena commercial)
  6. Nike (Serena’s new clothing design)
  7. Andre 3000 (weird, random mug-shot)
  8. Aneras (Serena's clothing line at the end)

I’m not saying this isn’t a good idea. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this in the Super Bowl this year. With :30 second spot pricing persistently shooting through the roof and the medium becoming closer and closer to cave man writings on walls it seems to make sense to split the multiple millions over a brand or two, but eight….seriously?

Cynically speaking – I noticed the ad, which to be honest at this point is all TV is basing their numbers on. I guarantee you that anyone with a full beer and two minutes’ worth of potato chips; since running out of one of the two of those are the only legitimate reason(s) to leave the couch during a football game; noticed the ad. So now we have the all too frequent advertising morality question – have we, the keepers of TV sunk to a new low in that it’s better to sacrifice the consumers’ opinion/experience with the brand for the sake of distributing air time costs to partners and thus there’s more money in the budget for……….crap? I’ve become considerably disillusioned with the over-the-top, primitive beer commercials that ran in the last two Super Bowls, but in all honestly, I’d prefer to see the stray dog longing to be the Dalmatian in the horse-drawn (don’t get me started) fire wagon then some confusing tennis commercial that makes me want to punch a grown Anikan Skywalker in the stomach for interrupting. Budweiser may have momentarily abandoned the pursuit of pointless hilarity, but at least they didn’t give the Clydesdales fleas.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Sara McLachlan - changing the world

I just came across this video from Sara McLachlan and associated data on Swivel a great data site in our Blinklist. Sara McLachlan has donated the $150,000 normally used to make a video to much needed spots around the globe. Why is this interesting? Well for one it ties into making the world a better place wich is always important. However, even more intriguing is when you can create more positive results with the same our less input. It's the equivalent to building a city that reduces pollution instead of creating it (which is under construction now in China). How does this impossibility happen? In short - technology and creativity - both for the city in China and Sara McLachlan. An artist can't simply donate all their production money to charity and expect to stay profitable and thrive. However, an established artist can use the brand equity they have built up and new technology platforms (inexpensive video production, YouTube, MySpace and more) to create, product and distribute to a far wider audience in a more engaging manner. I have no dougt this $15 video will drive more record sales, artist brand equity and social awareness all at the same time than the next $20M spent on music videos this year. You can't watch it and not be moved by the images, the great music and the causes. More importantly it will be hard to watch another music video without asking why the hell that artist does not do the same! See the official site and list of charities for "World on Fire" by Sara. Then, come back and tell me how other campaigns and companies can do more good, build their brand and change the world.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Austin AdFed and Virtual Worlds

I recently had the pleasure of writing an article for the Austin AdFed newsletter about virtual worlds and marketing. Take a look here and let me know what you think.

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