Snow job—From North Carolina to Maine, post-Christmas sales are down. Seems that mall parking lots can’t accommodate both cars and all that snow. And, of course, people aren’t willing to brave the roads to get there. However, folks are stocking up on groceries, and The Home Depot reports a surge in snow blower and snow shovel sales.
Diet wars—Jenny Craig has decided to emphasize the importance of exercise in conjunction with diet. I’m torn between saying “Good for them, that’s the responsible thing to do” and “Duh, if you exercise more and eat less, you don’t need Jenny Craig.”
Almost thou persuadeth me to be a Pepper—This is a campaign I can get behind. Dr Pepper/Snapple Group just pledged $15 million to build or repair 2,000 playgrounds over the next three years. Tina Barry, senior vice president of corporate affairs, said, “A fit and active lifestyle is one of our philanthropic goals. Playgrounds align with that.” Go ahead, cynics, observe that this is naught but a name-awareness marketing ploy. Fine. Communities still get playgrounds out of it.
Nielsen just published its list of Top Ten Best-Liked Commercials of 2010. Before I share the results, kindly bear with my inner curmudgeon, who insists on pointing out that Nielsen’s conclusions are interview-based, which make them not too reliable. Moreover, “most-watched” is a far cry from “sold the most stuff.”
With the above caveats duly noted, here’s the list:
Target — a series of spots starring a smoke monster to promote smoke detector sales.
M&M’s — spot in which the candies wage a food fight against a snack-seeking man; and a spot featuring the candies running as political candidates.
Chef Boyardee — where a mom goes to extremes to keep her child from learning that a can of ravioli contains a day’s serving of veggies.
Snickers — a spot in which eating the candy turns Aretha Franklin from an intolerable diva into a regular guy; and one featuring Betty White playing football and getting muddy.
Samsung — a family brings home and watches an aquarium to simulate 3D TV.
Starburst (I admit to enjoying this one myself) — the stereotype-defying Scottish Korean spokesman.
As reported by James Randi himself on the James Randi Educational Foundation blog:
There’s interesting news about something that just happened in Australia, and needs to happen all over the globe. The makers of the ridiculous plastic “Power Balance” bracelet, which is selling by the millions everywhere, have been forced to publish a comprehensive statement from which we extract:
“In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.”
What follows is an agreement to give any purchaser a full and complete refund! So what’s holding the US government from enforcing the law against this totally fake, quack, useless device?
We just can’t do it, folks. It takes so long to get any action from federal and state agencies here, and it’s so expensive, that the swindlers make a fortune before they’re forced to shut down, or they do it voluntarily after they have enough money from their naïve victims.To read this and other important posts on the James Randi Educational Foundation website (including the occasional contribution by Steve Cuno), click here.
I just had an interesting chat with a so-called branding expert.
He had told a prospective client that his firm was adept at brand strategy and identity. But to drive sales, he told them, they needed someone like the RESPONSE Agency.
At the risk of cattiness — for I appreciated the plug — I can’t help wondering: why on earth would anyone hire a branding firm that doesn’t know how to drive sales? That’s like buying a car that looks great in your driveway but can’t actually take you anywhere.
Recently, the Journal of Consumer Research published results on a pair of credit card marketing tests. In one test, consumers were asked to choose between a card charging 20% interest and a card charging 1%. In the other test, they chose between the 20% rate and a 0% rate.
A greater number chose the 1% rate in the first test than chose the 0% rate in the second test.
The JCR suggests that comparing 20 to 0 is harder for most people than comparing 20 to 1. Maybe. Or, maybe 1% is more credible. (That was the thinking behind claiming that Tab cola had only 1 calorie, when in fact it had none.) But of course, why more people chose 1% is a matter of speculation. It’s easier to ferret out what people do than why they do it.
The JCR goes on to suggest that if you’re competing with a bank that offers a card with a 20% interest rate, you’ll be better off going up against them with a 1% than with a 0% card. Maybe. Trouble is, their test doesn’t represent the real world — where not just two, but multiple offers exist and compete. Plus, you should be wary of putting stock in a “what would you do” test. When people act, they often do the opposite of what they predicted they would do.
For best results, test in the real world, where real people act in earnest, unaware that a test is afoot. Asking “what would you do?” is not a bad way to learn how people view themselves. But it’s a terrible way to predict behavior.
Here I am, playing my own arrangement of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” for you to enjoy (or not). By the way, that’s one of my best friends in the photo above.
When you click a link, you may have to sit through a commercial before proceeding to what you wanted to view in the first place. It’s not unlike sitting through commercials to watch your favorite TV show.
Except, well, it is
From decades of TV tradition, we have come to expect commercials between shows, after intros, and between acts. But until recently, online advertising existed only as an option on the side. Interruptive advertising is fairly recent, and we’re not yet accustomed to it.
Moreover, unlike TV, computers allow for interactivity, control and instant gratification. When you click a link, an online commercial temporarily relieves you of that interactivity and control. If you want to proceed to the requested content, you are powerless but to let the commercial play out. It also takes the instant
out of instant gratification. All told, it can be a formula for breeding impatience and, with it, resentment. This has some strategic implications for advertisers who would rather sell than settle for interrupting long enough to annoy:
- Keep it short.
- Make your commercial engaging. You cannot bore people into being glad you stood between them and the content they really wanted.
- THE MOST IMPORTANT, MOST-OFT OVERLOOKED TIP FOR ONLINE COMMERCIALS: Make sure they convey their point with the sound off. That has always been good TV strategy anyhow. TV is a visual medium. A good test of a spot’s viability has always been whether it gets the message across when you turn off the sound. On computers, where sound is likely to be off, that test is mandatory.
Online advertising is affordable, targetable and measurable. Direct marketers are still figuring out how best to marshall its power. In the meantime, a little common sense and empathy for the viewer provide a great starting point. —Steve Cuno
That’s a lotta breadsticks --
For the first time ever, Pizza Hut will run one — only one — 30-second commercial in the Super Bowl. In the past, Pizza Hut has run spots near but never during the event. The time slot will cost about $3,000,000.00, or $100,000.00 per second. I don’t know the average Pizza Hut order or margin, but I can tell you that one of our fast-food clients would need about 1,000,000 additional orders to reach break-even, not counting the cost of making the commercial in the first place. Hoarding for fun and profit --
You never know when a product will take off as a must-have collectible à la Cabbage Patch and Beanie Babies in the past. Two likely contenders for this year are Squinkies
. Such frenzies are brought to you by the hoarding instinct, which is as alive and well in adults as well as children. What drives it? Bruce Hood deals with the subject in his delightful book Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable
.The united states of P&G --
This just in from Advertising Age
: “Procter & Gamble announced a new global strategy for introducing and marketing products that centralizes marketing efforts regionally, rather than through company directors. Under the plan, smaller P&G brands will be able to leverage company marketing assets, and there could also be some shift in agency assignments.”Giving common sense for Christmas --
Amid science education cutbacks in public schools, the JFEF in the Classroom
program offers hope. At no charge, the program provides training in scientific thinking, and in exposing fraud, to grades K-12. You can support this effort with a tax-deductible contribution to the Season of Reason campaign
Today I heard a radio spot for a respected liberal arts college.
In an attempt at humor, the spot portrays a fellow struggling to lug around his degree because it “carries so much weight.” The concept, not exactly a knee-slapper in the first place, is woefully overplayed. It goes on ad nauseam, like an inept joke-teller who says, “Get it? Huh? Huh? Get it?”
But that’s a side issue. The real problem is the concept itself. Though the spot conveys its claim, it fails to convince.
The spot could have used the time spent playing with “carries weight” to back up the claim. The fact is, grads from this college really do stand out. Creativity’s job is to underscore that, not to go off on a wordplay tangent.
Perhaps the humor-attempt is attention-getting. But when it comes to attracting the right kind of attention, relevance beats silliness.
Another new article by Steve Cuno in the current issue of Deliver magazine
In a fable attributed to Aesop, onlookers criticize a man and his son for walking alongside a perfectly ride-worthy donkey. But when either the man or his son rides, he is criticized for making the other walk. When both ride, there are cries of animal cruelty. At length, they resolve to carry the donkey. This incites more complaints and, worse, an accident ensues in which the animal falls to its death. The moral? Try to please all and you will please none.
Aesop could have been talking about brands.
Successful brands know who their customers are and seek to please them. Marketers for a candy bar position it for people who want a hearty, between-meals snack. An automaker woos luxury aficionados. A pair of skeptical stage magicians investigates paranormal claims in a TV show geared for the scientifically minded.
Most marketers have no trouble with the concept of focusing on a market. But many experience angst upon realizing that knowing who their customers are inevitably leads to knowing who they are not. And, that appealing to the “ares” usually comes at the expense of not appealing to the “are-nots.”
I sympathize about the angst, but focusing a brand’s appeal is more than an inescapable concession to the way things are: It is strategically sound.
Imagine attempting to make the candy bar appear acceptable to dieters, the luxury car affordable to the budget conscious or the TV show appeal to séance enthusiasts. The attempt would likely fall flat and, worse, weaken the product’s credibility with its established market.
If you’re loath to commit to not being all things to all people, you’re not alone. Brands you know have learned the hard way. When a software giant responded to a relatively miniscule, but cooler, hipper competitor by trying to appear cool and hip in its own right, the competitor’s customers weren’t impressed — and neither were its own customers, who didn’t care about coolness.
When a low-price department store introduced celebrity-endorsed clothing straight from the pages of fashion magazines, it swayed no new upscale shoppers — and its loyal customers feared abandonment.
If you want to attract new markets, there are better ways. One approach is to find new uses for your product. Perhaps your juice isn’t just for breakfast anymore. Maybe your baking soda can deodorize refrigerators and cat boxes. Or maybe your cooking spray can be used to keep grass clippings from sticking to the underside of a lawn mower.
Another approach is to introduce a new brand. You can probably name a certain automobile manufacturer with distinct high-, middle- and low-end brands, a clothing marketer with three differently branded retail chains, and a cola company with a separately branded caffeine-free lemon-lime soda. The identity of each parent company is no secret — in fact, the parentage lends credibility — but each brand remains distinct, so as to appeal to its core market without compromise.
It takes courage to put all of your branded eggs in one basket. But it’s wiser and less risky to focus on being just right for the few than to risk being not quite right for the many.
Take it from Aesop. You can’t please everyone. You can try, but you will likely end up losing your, um, donkey.—Steve Cuno