July 30, 2009

I've Gone Mad

Well, I went and Mad Men'd myself. Shameless Draper-hag that I am, I couldn't resist the opportunity to inhabit that whiskey-soaked world, if only virtually. Alas, it wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. They do a good enough job referencing the show and the period: the background music, costume choices and Dyna Moe's now famous illustrations are dead on. But for the time it takes to complete the process, I wish that my martini-swilling avatar got to have a little more fun. I was hoping for a Jib-Jab style vignette, starring Mad Me tearing up the town with Joan, horseback riding with Betty, climbing corporate ladders with Peggy then pantsing smug little Pete in front of the whole S-C crew...right before riding off into the sunset, smoking cigarettes from the shotgun seat of Don's big Cadillac.  

Alas, what I got was this downloadable image (you get the choice of this full body shot, a headshot only or a wallpaper featuring you in the scene of your choice), and even she looks a bit perplexed by the whole thing. 


Oh well. All in all, the site is just one part of a robust social media push for Mad Men and 8 o'clock coffee. I applaud the breadth of the campaign, and look forward to taking the "Which Mad Men Character Are You?" quiz when that releases...I fancy myself a Joan but suspect reality will peg me as a Peggy.

June 12, 2009

Holy #####!

Speaking of new iPhones, here's a great little campaign that could just score you one. For those of you still wondering if there are any smart, powerful and transparent ways to use Twitter to drive business awareness, here's your answer. Bravo, Squarespace.

June 10, 2009

Apple puts iPhones on sale, but at what price?


Forget the 3GS's speed and video capabilities. The real news out of Apple this week was that they were cutting the price of the 3G model to $99.  I get it. We're in the middle of a recession. The market's flooded with cheaper alternatives and a lower price point will lure in buyers who would have settled for one of them. Sprint's about to launch what many have declared to be the iPhone's first real competition. In this climate, the decision does make sense. But in the long run, does Apple stand to lose more than they gain?

The announcement stunned so many people because it doesn't seem like an Apple move. Other companies may hold fire sales to jettison old inventory, but not Apple. They may release a vastly compromised version of something and sell that on the cheap (yeah, I'm looking at you iPod shuffle), but to take the old gold standard and simply throw it in the bargain bin? Not Apple. So why is the company that trained us all to think different suddenly acting like everyone else?

I will admit, the stubborn refusal to drop their prices used to annoy me. I've owned 3 iPods, each twice the capacity as the one before it, and I paid $299 for all of them. When the 80G came out, I remember wondering, what happened to all the 60Gs? They don't go on sale, they don't go to Overstock, they just seem to vanish, replaced by something twice as nice at the same exact price.

But in the end, the decision was never about price. It was about value. And I'm not talking bytes for your buck. I'm talking brain value. Heart value. Apple appealed to best-hunters, not bargain hunters. People who believed these products were so special, so different, so much better than everything else out there, that they were worth the extra money. True or not, Apple successfully burnt this impression in the minds of millions. In fact, pre-price cut (and pre-Pre) they were shattering their own records with international iPhone sales, recession be damned.

Will a $99 price tag lure in new buyers at the expense of a loyal base who's been willing to pay any price all along? Will all those Apple-philes, who have been trained to never wait for the sale, hold off on the 4G in hopes the the 4GX will bring about a big discount?  Worse yet, will more mass-market friendly pricing  eventually cheapen Apple's cachet overall?

June 05, 2009

The agency is thy shepherd.

Now that Current TV is inviting viewers to create commercials (VCAMS) for big name brand partners, Ad Week has called for traditional agencies to rethink their role: “from serving as creative drivers to brokers and brand shepherds.” In a sense, this is what we do already. Agencies don’t simply churn out creative in a vacuum. We work in partnership with the client to develop campaigns that define, promote and protect the brand. What’s changed is the number of different platforms on which to execute these campaigns.

With sophisticated creative and production tools now readily available to anyone who wants it, agencies aren’t the only ones putting material out there anymore. We’re not even the only ones putting out good material. The winning VCAMS look 100% professional and polished—and they cost peanuts compared to typical agency fees.

So, agencies can feel threatened by the loss of control or get excited by the opportunities it presents.

This creative explosion is less about Joe Public usurping the role of professional agencies and more about, as the folks at Digg put it,  “teaching brands to borrow from the grammar of the experience.” (Case in point: Digg's new advertising model will allow viewers to Digg up ads, thus controlling impressions and CPC the same way they determine news readership.)

On a network built around viewer generated content like Current TV, why wouldn't advertisers  communicate via viewer generated commercials? But whatever “grammar” you’re using, everyone must still speak the language of the brand. And that’s where an agency comes in. Someone still needs to write the language. But instead of doing all the talking ourselves we have to find ways to teach the language to others. And get them excited about speaking it. And in the end, be open to all of their translations.

Of course, the other alternative is to invent the platform. That way, you're guaranteed control of the creative that lives on it. At least until it catches on. 

April 21, 2009

Social Media Mania

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Blogging. Clients often ask what role social media should play in their marketing programs. Some ask the question with skepticism and doubt. Others with the anticipation that this is the magic bullet they’ve been looking for. Both are wrong. Social media is as important to a business’ marketing plan as any other media might be. That is to say, if it reaches the right audience, if it allows you to communicate a message in a clear and engaging way, if it fits with your brand and mission, then…what are you waiting for?

But be aware, unlike more traditional media, there are some new concerns with this new media:

  1. You can’t necessarily market in the social media space the same way you do in traditional advertising. As a marketer, you probably see opportunity. Here are groups of self-defined, like-minded people. Communities with similar interests all congregating in one space. Smells like prime real estate for focused, targeted marketing, right? Think again. Social media mavens are savvy and outspoken. They see these as community-building tools. Opportunities to connect with folks who share their interests. These are social applications, not commercial. Breech their trust and you won’t be forgiven easily. Be inauthentic and you will be excommunicated quickly.
  2. If you think that it’s free to join these social media communities, that this is free advertising, think again. Marketing in the social media realm is more similar to a public relations program than a paid advertising campaign, and likewise, it would benefit you tremendously to use professional marketers to help you navigate the media, explore the opportunities and craft an appropriate strategy. Then, it’s up to you or someone in your organization to continue to make the investment in posting, tweeting, blogging or responding. Go dormant and your audience will go away…with a bad impression of you and your organization. So don’t jump on the social media bandwagon just because you think it’s a cheap way to advertise. Jump on because it’s right for you and you’re willing to make the appropriate investment of time and budget.
  3. One thing that I caution everyone about is that in the social media world, there is a fine line between the professional and the personal. And often, I believe there is no line at all. With the accessibility of information on the Internet in general, it is getting harder and harder to market your company without prospective clients or customers getting to know an awful lot about you personally. In the social media space, this is even more of an issue. If you twitter everyday and your goal is to promote your professionalism and credibility as a businessperson, keep your tweats from venturing into the personal. If you’re going to have a presence on Facebook, it will be hard to separate your professional from your personal, hard not to intermingle the two. The bottom line is that if you’re into social media, people want to hear from you as a person, not your company or organization, so there has to be personalization, but know where to draw the line and be careful not to step over it.

Here’s what I do think social media is great for:

-       Letting people hear your unique voice

-       Opening the lines of communication so you can hear directly from your customers, clients and constituents

-       Showcasing your point-of-view and your in-depth knowledge of your industry

-       Allowing people to get to know you before they work with you

-       Generating name awareness and broadening your referral network

-       Demonstrating your willingness to share your “gifts,” your knowledge and insight for the benefit of anyone willing to tune in

-       Showing that you and your organization are in tune with how people communicate and congregate these days. That reflects positively on your progressiveness as an organization

-       Getting in front of prospective employees

So, what are the next steps? Start playing. Check out all the different social media opportunities. See what your colleagues and competitors are doing, talk to professionals. (Diane is a great person to call!) And then, like with any marketing effort, formulate a plan and follow through. Also, remember, in most cases social media doesn’t replace other marketing vehicles it supplements them. Just be sure to maintain a connection and continuity within your plan and between the various media, and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for.