Real Time Marketing In History-Making Moments

As you’ve likely seen, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which limited the rights of same-sex couples, was overturned by the Supreme Court in a historic ruling this morning.

As with other pop culture happenings and current events, brands are quick to leverage the news to connect with consumers. With countless eyes glued to computer screens, live-blogs and social networks, it’s a prime time for brands to get involved.

The key – especially when civil rights are involved – is to strike the balance between self-promotion and support. Here are a few brands that managed to be both clever and tasteful in light of today’s historic news:

Clothing retailer Banana Republic posted a visual interpretation of the iconic red equal sign made entirely out of folded shirts. The brand is also running a sweepstakes for couples – both gay and straight – to share photos for a chance to be outfitted by Banana Republic for their nuptials.

banana republic

ABC’s Modern Family posted a simple image of the show’s beloved gay couple – Mitchell and Cam – filtered with the famous red equal sign the tune of more than 12,000 likes and close to 700 shares.

Designer Jonathan Adler posted a playful message on his Facebook page, depicting two gay couples using upside down vases from his collection, with the caption: “Ding dong, DOMA’s dead!”

Virgin America took to its Facebook page and posted its own interpretation of the equal sign with the caption: “Great things start in San Francisco! #LoveisLove”

virgin america

See how even more brands, including Gap, Smirnoff and Ben & Jerry’s, showed their support in this Mashable roundup.

 

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Consistency

ImageSince I’m getting back into running to train for my first half marathon in October, I’ve been thinking a lot about consistency. It’s something I’m pretty bad at (see that my last blog update was in October 2012 – oops). 

In an attempt to get better, I’m going to try to blog/run on a more consistent, almost regimented basis. That’s the only way my Type-A brain can function. 

As I was running on the treadmill today (it’s raining outside – ew), I tried something that feels unnatural to me – I slowed the heck down. 

Much like life, a half marathon is not about the race (at least not for a novice runner like me); it’s about finishing and feeling good about it. I invented a quote while I was trying to zone out on the treadmill by counting ceiling tiles: “Slow down and you can go the distance.” That’s going to be my new mantra when I feel like springing when I get to my longer runs. 

See you soon!

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Exploiting #Sandy In Poor Taste

We all know by now that Hurricane Sandy was a social media phenomenon. I’m sure in the days and weeks to come we’ll read all about record-breaking statistics that helped keep us all from going too stir-crazy while cooped up in our apartments. It’s only natural – when things get rough, we rally to vent our collective frustrations and fears. Social media is obviously a  great way for us as a culture to experience a current event.

But when marketers try to use current events to stay relevant, it can sometimes backfire. In fact, it can come off as inauthentic and downright desperate.

Take this email below that I received from a gym I’m considering joining. The subject line was “Sandy Equals Savings in November!” I rolled my eyes and brushed it off but it left me feeling uneasy.

THEN, I saw this gem from American Apparel. Wow, gee thanks dudes. I’m so glad there’s a sale on overpriced clothes for size 0 hipsters!!! Thanks for providing me something to keep me busy in case I was “bored” during the storm. I’m sure people who lost power really enjoyed seeing this pop up on their iPhones when they had only 10% battery life left.

I mean, we need to remember that this hurricane  left at least 38 dead and millions without power in the U.S. And we can’t forget the additional 69 lives it took in the Caribbean before it made its way to us. This is not something companies should be using to score a jump in profits.

Perhaps if brands want to leverage a current event, they should first consider the situations that their customers may be in. Consider strategic timing. Consider holding your tongue for a few more days. Or maybe consider a creative way to market to your customers while helping hurricane victims.

My heart goes out to those who lost a loved one during the storm. I also hope that those who lost their homes or property can find the strength and support to move on and rebuild. And in the coming weeks, I hope to see more brands getting involved in relief efforts.

 

 

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That One Time When I Participated In a Political Poll

A fast-talking, official-sounding woman just called my cell phone and told me she was doing a survey on cell phone users. Before I could even get a word in edgewise, she started spouting off questions about Obama and Romney and I suddenly didn’t want to hang up.

As a communications professional, I’m always interested in how surveys are used to “spin things” or create news by demonstrating trends in behavior or beliefs.

Obviously, we now have the RNC and DNC behind us and there’s lots of political polling, slicing and dicing on public opinion to try and predict the election results. And per usual, the pundits are talking til they’re blue in the face (or red, in the case of Fox News).

I’m never one to withhold my opinion on ANYTHING, so I loved the fact that this robotic woman wanted to ask me about my political leanings. However, the call was not as fun as I’d anticipated. I wanted to have a conversation with this woman, to debate, to chat. All she wanted were my answers, hastily chosen from generic multiple choice answers.

Here are some of the oddly-worded questions this bossy woman asked me:

  • Do you think Obama’s stimulus package was a very good idea or a very bad idea for the country? (no grey area answers allowed)
  • Was Obama’s DNC speech excellent, good, not good or very bad?
  • Are you more “comfortable” with your savings than you were a year ago?
  • Is your net worth higher than it was a year ago?
  • Have your feelings about Mitt Romney worsened or stayed the same over the past few days?

The questions are totally leading and many of the multiple choice answers force you to take a very firm stance on one side of the fence or another. I’m more moderate and my beliefs usually fall within a grey area. It was still fun to throw hopefully throw off some algorithms.

I’m just excited because the next time I hear a newscaster say “the polls indicate…,” they just might be talking about ME!

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UNIQLO’s Unique Use of Pinterest

Brands are finally starting to hit their stride on Pinterest. At least one brand is.

Japanese casual wear designer and retailer, Uniqlo (and one of my New York City staple shopping stops), recently debuted a pretty cool Pinterest “hack.”

Some brilliant minds at Firstborn cooked up a way to “take over” popular Pinterest categories with Uniqlo shirts and logos, creating an animated, lively experience – the “Uniqlo Dry Mesh Project.”

They sought out to awaken the usual glazed-over face that many of us adopt when we’re browsing Pinterest, scrolling through countless expensive bathrooms and wedding hairstyles. And they sure did.

Check out the video to see how cool this looks.

Have you seen any other brands leveraging Pinterest in creative ways?

 

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A Slightly Less Self-Indulgent Use of Social Media

During the last week or so, my social media channels have been abuzz with news about the Starbucks fundraising initiative with FourSquare to help raise money for (RED), an AIDS-battling organization.

In case you live under a rock (read: not spitting distance from at least 3 Starbucks locations), you probably have already heard or read about the campaign. If not, I’ll fill you in:  For every FourSquare check-in at Starbucks (during June 1-10, 2012), the coffee giant will donate $1 to The Global Fund, an organization that works closely with (RED). The donation cap is $250,000, which I’m sure they reached within the first couple of days, considering so many people check into Starbucks on the regular, regardless of special campaigns.

Thought this was a cool example of a company leveraging social media and digital influencers to drive awareness rather than simply writing a check.

Today is the last day of the campaign so if you haven’t had your afternoon caffeine fix yet, head on over to Starbucks and check in.

 

 

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Too soon? Michael Jackson to appear in Pepsi ad

As if the Tupac hologram at Coachella wasn’t creepy enough, PepsiCo is resurrecting poor Michael Jackson for a new ad campaign. The deal, which was approved by Michael Jackson’s estate, will supposedly include television ads and cans of soda branded with MJ’s image.

The big questions that come to mind are:

1.)    Pepsi, are you SERIOUS?

2.)    Controllers of Michael Jackson’s estate, are you SERIOUS?

3.)    Fans who will probably buy MJ cans, are you SERIOUS?

Pepsi is notorious for tapping celebrities (mostly musicians) to stay fresh, young and relevant. Most of the time though, those musicians are still alive, willing and able to sign their own contracts agreeing to use their image to hock soda. To combat Coca-Cola from stealing too much of the soft drink market share, Pepsi has run previous campaigns with A-listers like Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey,  Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg – I could keep going, but I’ll stop.

Michael Jackson famously appeared in a previous Pepsi television ad in the 80s, when his hair caught fire and he suffered severe burns.

It seems like a desperate and tactless move on the part of Pepsi, considering the tragic way that MJ died, the recency of his passing (seriously it hasn’t even been 3 years) and the fact that MJ’s HAIR CAUGHT ON FIRE WHEN HE FILMED A PREVIOUS PEPSI COMMERCIAL. If he were alive, I hardly think the “King of Pop” would approve.

I’ll definitely be looking out for the ads and the cans (though I probably won’t purchase one) when they’re due out in the USA in a few weeks. Will you be buying a can of Pepsi emblazoned with MJ’s face? What do you think of the ad deal?

*Photo courtesy of PepsiCo

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Google+ Still Not Sticking

Poor Google+.

For a company that’s SO good at almost everything it does (at least email and search engine domination), Google is seriously struggling in the social networking space. According to comScore, Google+ users only spent an average of 3 minutes on the site in January.

Three minutes may not seem that abysmal at first glance, but let’s compare it to average time spent on other social networking sites for the same month:

Facebook: 405 minutes (that’s almost seven hours – we all need to get out more you guys)

Pinterest: 89 minutes

Tumblr: 89 minutes

LinkedIn: 17 minutes

MySpace: 8 minutes (seriously people are spending more time on MYSPACE than Google+?! Come on!)

Twitter: 21 minutes

I have to wonder what it is exactly about Google+ that’s not sticking. Is it that we’re already so invested in Facebook and Twitter so we don’t have more time to spare for Google+? Or is it that Google missed the mark when it comes to building an engaging user interface? Maybe we’re just sharing everyone directly on gchat and skipping Google+ altogether!

I’ll admit that like most people I know, I have a Google+ page, but I haven’t checked it in ages.

Do you use Google+? What do you like about it?

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Coming Soon: Facebook Timeline for Brands

ImageLots of people are getting excited about the fact that Facebook Timeline will soon be rolled out to brand pages. Though Facebook’s Timeline format launched to the site’s 800 million users at the end of last year, its brand pages have remained in the old format, without the redesigned scrapbook template that many users have grown to love (or maybe hate).

Many brands have invested lots of time, money and resources in designing their current Facebook pages and may now have to adapt or modify their content to fit the new format and stay relevant. Some may be frustrated about having to keep pace on the nonstop social media treadmill, but for others, it’s an opportunity to reach more eyeballs. People are spending more of their time poking, posting and tagging. With a captive audience, brands should be putting their best foot forward on the site, just as they would on their own company home page or blog. It’ll be interesting to see the creative ways that companies will try to use the tool in the coming months.

I predict that much like Pinterest, the majority of brands on Facebook (even the social media-savvy ones) will be slow to do anything mind-blowing right away. But time will tell. More details are expected at a Facebook marketing event on Feb. 29.

Do you think brands being able to use Facebook Timeline will have major implications on the way we interact with them on the site?

*Image courtesy of Mashable.com

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Weird Celebrity Baby Names – SEO Blessing?

In case you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the King and Queen of Pop Culture (aka Beyoncé and Jay-Z) recently welcomed their first child into the world. You’ve probably also heard that they decided to jump on the quirky celebrity baby name train. And who can blame them? When your name is Beyoncé, I suppose you can’t settle on a simple name for a child.

While “Blue Ivy” isn’t the strangest celebrity baby name by a long shot, it sure does sound like it could be the name of, oh, say, a Boston-based events company. Oh wait – it is!

This could have presented a huge problem for the company in terms of search rankings. As any savvy business owner knows, the answer to Shakespeare’s age-old question, “what’s in a name?” is, well: EVERYTHING. We google things faster than we can think them so a name sure is important, especially for small business owners who may count on referrals from SEO and online advertising.

Luckily, this didn’t happen for Blue Ivy Events founder Veronica Alexandra, though. Alexandra struck gold with the onslaught of interest in her company following the birth of the latest celebrity baby billionaire, announcing that the event company is booked up for the year.

Congrats to the happy new parents and to the happy owner of Blue Ivy Events!

*Photo courtesy of TheHollywoodGossip.com.

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