Friday, May 30, 2008

Some of my favorite words

It's Friday, I'm tired and I want to go home.

So in lieu of a post of any real substance, here are a few words that I like a lot. I don't know why I like them. I just do.

I'm not saying I get to USE them a lot. Just that I like them.









Mack Daddy






Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Made you look! Made you look!

“How a University Embraced Social Marketing and Scored Millions in YouTube Views” is the title of a self-promotion case study someone forwarded me yesterday. It’s the story of a social media campaign conducted for Carnegie Mellon University.

Right about now, I guess I need to point out that I’m not some sort of old-school luddite who doesn’t understand things like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and the rest. What I am is someone who tries very hard not to confuse activity with accomplishment.

Like in this case. Their social media campaign goals included securing 10,000 video views for each of their three YouTube videos, getting 500 subscribers to the school’s YouTube channel within a year, getting 1,000 Facebook fans and (I love this bit of baroque writing) “engendering viral forwarding of the campaigns videos and having them picked up by large blog sites.”

The challenge was to reach potential students. So they moved “beyond hard-sell marketing and instead turned to social media.” A lot of it seems to have been built around three clever “RoboU videos” on YouTube. The whole thing, according to the case study, was a smashing success.

More than 2,000 subscribers signed up for the school’s YouTube channel, the number of views of the YouTube videos surpassed the goals and “Carnegie Mellon students continue to ‘blog forward’ the school’s online initiatives”, whatever the hell that is. Says Carnegie Mellon Associate Director of Marketing for Web Communications, "the effort to increase brand awareness and affinity has been a great success.”

Here’s the problem I have with calling this a success. For one thing, I looked at all of the videos and still don’t have much of an idea of what the Carnegie Mellon brand is at least not in what I understand the definition of a brand to be. Which is: “a unique claim of distinction supported by evidence of performance.” Nothing really tells me why I should be interested in going there or, if I’m an alum, why I should support it.

Also, so 22,000 people watched the “Keepon Auditioning” episode for example. So what? Especially when you consider that the 24 comments posted (out of 22,000 viewers) were along the lines of “haha”, “cute brick shirt!” and “LOL”. Did they do anything useful as a result of seeing the video?

Besides, how many of those 43,000 are in the target or can influence the target? YouTube is a worldwide phenomenon, viewed by people of all ages. I don’t believe there is any way to tell through analytics who these folks are or what relevant action they took, if any. Sure, you can tell who came to your site from YouTube and who “continued to blog forward the school’s online initiatives” I guess, but still, I’m just saying.

Believe me, I understand that YouTube/Facebook/MySpace is a totally different sort of animal than traditional advertising. And I believe that it’s an animal that has a valuable place in many marketing campaigns. But if you define “success” simply as having oopty-number of people see your message, that’s pretty much like saying you were successful in your marketing campaign because you bought an ad in the Post and the Post has a circulation of 631,000, so 631,000 people saw your message, so it was a success. High-fives all around!

YouTube, Facebook and MySpace like web sites, e-mails, guerilla tactics, collateral and (gasp) print and broadcast advertising are tactics. And more often than not, these specific tactics are promoted to clients by specific companies that traffic in those specific tactics and therefore have a vested interest in seeing those specific tactics employed by their specific clients. Personally, I'd rather get advice from someone who is a bit more media agnostic. As opposed to throwing everything onto what my partner and Reason For Living Karen calls “the tactic du jour”.

Look, I really don’t care what medium you employ as long as it’s effective. Geeze, hire those guys with the big arrows to stand on a street corner. Just first make sure you’re saying something of substance, something that does you some good and something that compels your target to do something relevant. I’m not convinced Carnegie Mellon did that.

If you want to do a cool video on YouTube, go ahead. Hell, if it’s cool, I’ll look at it and pass it on. But don’t congratulate yourself simply because people look at it.

Years ago, I saw a study that showed that print ads with attractive, busty women in them attracted more attention than other ads. People didn’t necessarily respond in any fashion that was meaningful for the advertiser, but they did notice the ads.

My point is, don’t confuse a cool YouTube video with a strategic marketing effort. Because it might be nothing more than a good-looking girl in a tight sweater.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stupid customers and word of mouth.

Google “word of mouth advertising” and you’ll get 322,000 hits. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool. But too often, companies forget that employees are some of the mouths.

The other day I was in a Barnes and Noble store in Rockville, Maryland, buying some books. There were two check-out clerks, and one was busy regaling the other with a story of just how stupid a customer was because he wanted “a gift receipt for a gift card!” The second clerk laughed and joined in the “dumb customer” commentary. While us customers listened.

I don’t how Barnes and Noble defines touchpoints for delivery of their brand but if they include employees, at least two of them didn’t get the memo.

Here’s another example. Giant Food here in the D.C. area. It’s a 50-50 chance that your checker will be talking to a co-worker about what time they get off, when their next break is and when they came in that morning. Which usually means they can’t be bothered to connect with the customer in any way.

And another. About 20 years ago, I worked for an aluminum company and our agency specifically, a brilliant CD named John Corey proposed that our “ad campaign” one year consist of commissioning a limited-edition series of photographs, each of which illustrated “The Competitive Edge”, which was our theme. The idea was that we would give each of our top 200 customers and prospects a framed photo each quarter a photo of high enough quality that they would put it on the wall. And every time they looked at it, they’d remember us and our message.

We did an exhaustive search, settled on photographer Larry Fink, got four photographs, had them framed and signed and sent the first batch out to the sales force to distribute. About halfway through, I was travelling with one of our sales guys and he handed the picture to his customer. “I don’t know for sure why we’re doing this,” he said. “It’s a nice picture though. And an aluminum frame.”

I’d missed the whole boat by not involving the sales force at the very beginning. Later I heard that some customers were keeping the frame and throwing away the pictures. I hadn’t drawn our sales force the direct customer connection into the idea and the message. A good idea very nearly went to waste because all of the employees weren’t bought in.

Any branding or advertising effort ought to involve the HR department in some way shape or form. After all, employees will be delivering your brand essence to customers. That includes, sales clerks, front-desk clerks, service techs, receptionists, CSRs, supervisors, phone support, bellmen, bartenders and those two clerks at Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Holy %&@*!!

This is an awesome spot for the American Asthma Foundation, by way of Adfreak.

Simple. Powerful. Compelling.

If you never really understood what it is to have asthma, you do now. And who among us could resist an appeal to help stop this kind of suffering?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Of course, we’ve based our whole business on Burnt Sienna.

Ok, so yesterday gave me two perfectly wonderful examples of Opposite Ends of The Spectrum when it comes to understanding what a brand is.

One one end, there was a great article in the New York Times Magazine.

It seems that “dead” brands like Brim coffee, Nuprin ibuprofen, and White Cloud bathroom tissue are being re-introduced on the strength of their brand equity alone. In some cases, it’s not even really the same product. (Brim, for example, was originally strictly decaf. Not so with the new one.)

In fact, there is a company called River West that does only that. As the story says, the brand is the only thing River West is interested in acquiring. Nothing else. Says founder Paul Earle: “There’s no retail presence, no product, no distribution, no trucks, no plants. Nothing. All that exists is memory. We’re taking consumers’ memories and starting entire businesses.” On the value of the brand and nothing else.

And on the other end (what made yesterday funny for me) was this:

Karen and I were having dinner out, and at the next table were two women. One was obviously giving the other career advice. My ears perked up when I heard her mention “advertising” as an option (along with public relations and, I suppose, barrel racing). With only a bit of eavesdropping I heard her explain very patiently and authoritatively to her companion that the marketing department at a company managed the brand. “The colors,” she said.

The colors.

Karen was ever so proud of me for not injecting myself into the conversation, rolling my eyes or doing one of those spray things that they do on TV when they somebody takes a big drink of something and then hears something funny or shocking and they spray it all over everybody. (Very Jerry Lewis, you know. In any case, I didn’t do it.)

I saw a great quote recently from the VP of Corporate Communications at Coca-Cola. “If Coca-Cola’s assets were destroyed overnight, whoever owned the Coca-Cola name could walk into a bank the next morning and get a loan to rebuild everything.”

I doubt they’d be able to do the same with a Pantone 185 chip.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Some days it seems like all the cool stuff is in Asia

Like this for HP in Malaysia. They printed these big standing things on HP paper that looked like it was a tear in the real scene. Thus demonstrating the printing quality.


From Adrants.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seen on the street

Ernie Schenck doesn't update his blog very often, but when he does, it's a doozy.

Check this out. Click the "Muto Wall Painted Animation" cassette tape on the home page, turn on the volume and enjoy.

This is so cool I'm going to go home and set myself on fire.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That's right. Screw it.

I love Harley Davidson. And not just because most owners seem to be middle-aged, grey-haired, bearded guys like me.

No. It's because of this ad. (Click the ad to enlarge it and make it easier to read.)

"So screw it, let's ride." What a perfectly wonderful way to look at whatever you want to call these times we're in. Here at N+H central, we happen to believe that tough economic times are an opportunity. (See previous post here.) But not if you bury your head in the sand and wait for things to turn around all by their own self.

And it gets better. The call to action ("Agree? Then visit . . ." ) drives you to a dedicated Harley page that lets you make your own statement and tells them exactly who responded to the ad. Smart people.

I found the ad in this week's Ad Age in an article about how some advertisers are "hammering away too much on the negatives in their marketing these days". Harley has a different take on it. They believe that their customers are "a little rebellious and resilient when they're told things aren't good" says their chief marketing officer.

It's a good article.

But it's a great ad.

Monday, May 12, 2008

We're within two points! Don't tell!

‘Splain something to me.

What’s with the “best kept secret”? Why is that a good thing? I see and hear that now and again, usually in an ad for some local business. Like it’s a positive thing.

Maybe I’m just a dope, but it doesn’t seem to me that claiming to be the “best kept secret in town” means anything except that, well, you’re good at keeping yourself a secret. Which is an odd way to distinguish yourself. It always sounds to me like “Nobody knows we exist! "

I also don’t understand why play-by-play guys at ball games refer to one team as being “within” x-number of points. If the score is 82-80, the announcer will almost always say the team with 80 points has to “pulled within two points”. Within two points of what? Being one point down?

Or maybe it's within two points of being the best kept secret in town.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This was very cool

Jerry Hofstetter, a "Swiss lighting artist" bathed the Washington National Cathedral in lights for three nights running last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We went by about 11 on the last night.

Sorry for the iffy quality of the pictures, but I was balancing the camera on a steel fence to allow for the 1.5-second exposure while some dopey kid jumped on and off the fence repeatedly.

Anyway, it was great to see. Read more about it here. Better pictures there too. They did it in celebration of the Cathedral's centennial.

And no, this doesn't have much to do with advertising. But it has everything to do with a) something I liked and 2) the need to get a blog post up soon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bidness trip

I make it a point not to be offended when people ask us how we managed to get a client in Key West. I'd like to think it's a combination of talent, good work, quick wit, a firm handshake and a charming personality.

And that's just Karen.

In any case, we'll be with our client all next week, so the blog is going to have to wait. I'm sure you'll all muddle through somehow.