Category Archives: Blog

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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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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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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5 Ways Brands Can Use Pinterest

Though the site has been around for a year, Pinterest, the latest social networking site to take the world by storm, seemed to blow up overnight at the end of last year. The site, a combination of a virtual bulletin board and a blog-sharing platform, has been consistently growing and marketing and PR strategists are likely scrambling to find ways to incorporate the latest craze into their clients’ campaign plans, but it seems that many big brands aren’t quite hitting the mark yet, which is surprising. Sure, there are a handful of companies that are doing it right but the majority of usual suspects are absent from the site.

Mediabistro.com recently published an article about the five ways journalists can Pinterest. These insightful yet simple tips can be easily repurposed for brands or personalities looking to take advantage of the site’s contagious, social nature. So look no further – here are five turnkey ways that brands can easily integrate Pinterest into their social media strategies.

Share News

With millions of users and growing, Pinterest is quickly becoming a top social networking destination. What better place to share news than where your fans are already spending time?  Think of a Pinterest dashboard as a wider, more visual Facebook news feed, with vast opportunities for brand storytelling.

Reward Fans with Sneak Peeks

Have an upcoming product launch that you want to tease? Pin it! Early adopters love being rewarded with special access to things that mainstream audiences don’t get. The Today Show teased Jennifer Hudson’s appearance to promote her new book on the show’s Pinterest page.

Showcase Photo Galleries of Products, Campaigns, Etc.

The whole point of Pinterest is to share images and ideas and aggregate them into neat categorized boxes. The more active users that Pinterest has, the bigger the pool of content that’s available for sharing. Real Simple is excellent at doing this, with lists ranging from “Super Bowl Party Snacks” to “Organization Inspiration.”

Show Off Your Staff (or your Customers)

Pinterest is a great platform to supplement a thought leadership campaign. It can also help to brand executives or spokespeople and adds another dimension to corporate personalities, making them much more relatable to end users. Brands should be using Pinterest as an opportunity to share something that might not otherwise come up in your day-to-day job description. For example, Katie Couric has a board called “My Style” and another called “Places I Want to Go.”

On the other hand, Pinterest could be a great way for brands to highlight super-fans by featuring a weekly or monthly customer spotlight. Harness the power of word-of-mouth. People love human interest stories, right?

Spark Fan Engagement

Sure, your brand probably already has a strategy in place to get more “likes” on that other big social networking site but why not inspire fans to be creative on a site dedicated to sharing visuals?

Lands’ End did this in a big way with their “Pin It to Win It” contest this past holiday season. Fans were encouraged to create virtual outfits using Pinterest pin boards for the chance to win a $250 Lands’ End gift card. The contest was a hit and got write-ups all over the place.

What are some of your favorite Pinterest tips? What other brands are making an impact on the site?

*Image courtesy of Pinterest.com

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Are we addicted to social media?

So many of us claim to be “addicted” to things like Pop Chips, texting, yoga, or playing games like Angry Birds or Words with Friends, but is addiction to social media becoming a real problem?

A new study in the journal Psychological Science indicates that social media may be even more addictive than alcohol or tobacco. The reasoning behind this conclusion is that alcohol and tobacco have measurable, detrimental effects on health, which deters some people because they can mentally weigh the risks. On the contrary, we are only just beginning to study the effects of Twitter and Facebook on our psyche. When asked to abstain from social media for a day, study subjects showed feelings of stress and fatigue, which are some of the same symptoms that those addicted to drugs and alcohol experience when they are going through withdrawal.

I’m sure we all know someone who has to “quit” Facebook or Twitter cold turkey after spending a little too much time stalking old high school rivals. Or perhaps you’re one of the many who contribute to YouTube’s 4 billion views per day and you’ve had to cut yourself off.

Regardless, this surely isn’t the first time that we’ve seen media coverage about the psychological effects of social media and it won’t be the last. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll see warning signs listing the possible side effects of too much social media the same way we do on cigarette packs and alcohol bottles.

What about you? Are you a self-confessed social media addict? Have you ever tried to “quit” a social network?

Image courtesy of NewMediaCreative.com 

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