At Company B, we understand how important social media is to a brand. Not just important, but crucial. And although we are the busiest Company B has ever been, we’re incredibly excited to announce a new milestone in our brand’s own social timeline. What better way to show you what we can do for your brand, than to do it for ourselves? Read more
“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness.” –Lao Tzu
I’ve always been very fond of this quote. (That’s right, I’m a quote collector.) Read more
A new web community, http://www.pr-411.com has sprung up for reporters and PR people to comment, commiserate, complain and compliment one another. I was asked to be an early contributor and thought I’d take the opportunity to address a common complaint of PR folks, that journalists who don’t get back to you are, well, rude. I used to think that too.
Share your story here, or head over to PR-411.com and poke around.
Big Brands Need to Feel Custom-Made
Hijacking a Trend
I love things that are hand-made and have schlepped through more craft shows than I can count. I now consider myself to be a master of the strum stick and a Kettle corn connoisseur, that salty-sweet popcorn sold in gigantic bags at every craft show imaginable. When I discovered Etsy.com, it was love at first crocheted baby blanket.
The explosion of hand-made and custom-made sites like Etsy.com and CustomMade.com cater to people like me. But the cool cash that venture capitalists are putting behind these sites (Etsy just grabbed another $40 million in a round of financing) tells me that, duh, I am not alone.
It makes sense that handmade, custom-made, monogrammed, personalized things are booming now. In our high-tech, low-touch, mall-ified world, we all crave something that’s made just for us.
If I was developing PR and marketing programs for brands that are far removed from this trend, for example Quaker Oats, or Toyota Prius, or Aveeno, I would be asking: can we hijack this passion? What can we own about hand-made?
Duct Tape did this brilliantly with its duct-tape prom dress initiative launched a few years back. Sharpie does this well, too. But those are tools and, not to detract from the brilliance of the prom dress idea and the fun of Sharpie’s, it makes sense to see what you can make with products that help make other things. But when your brand is about warm cereal, saving gas while enjoying the open road, or eliminating wrinkles, the answer is not so clear.
To get started, imagine what your product would be if it were custom-made. Custom-made oatmeal? Sure. Create a custom-make-your-own oatmeal bar with all the fixings, put it in an unexpected place, have oatmeal fans share their favorite mix-ins. Have contests for the most fattening, the healthiest, the sweetest, the most savory. Invite home ec teachers to judge. (Do they exist anymore? If not, they should). Make an app. You get the idea.
Custom-made Prius? Maybe it’s not about the car, perhaps Prius has discovered that their customers are incredibly loyal, buying not just one, but many. Reward them. Make a contest of it. For every dollar saved on gas, maybe they earn points towards something planet-saving and custom-made. A partnership with Custom-made.com? Woodworking classes? Just thinking. Isn’t it fun?
Beauty brands like Aveeno might take another route, hitching their wagon to the custom-made star by organizing knitting or sewing or painting classes for bloggers. Creating how-to videos and sharing on YouTube. Taking a custom-made message to farmers and flea markets that dot high-end neighborhoods on the weekend, co-sponsoring programs with Fiskars or Brother sewing machines. Or, reversing that thinking, setting up workshops with large pharmacy chains.
The creative possibilities are there; but the custom-made essence must remain in order for the program to authentically connect with consumers.
Thinking about how your brand can connect with a white hot trend is a worthwhile brainstorming exercise and can result in a memorable campaign. What trends have you hijacked that are strategically aligned with your consumer? Remember, Food Trucks are so 2011. Look ahead. What’s coming up? Share your story here.
I confess. I have only caught snippets of AMC’s new show, “The Pitch,” a reality show where two advertising agencies compete for business within a one-week window. For my weekly entertainment, I’d rather enjoy the mock-pitches dreamed up by the writers of “Mad Men.” As a creative PR and social media agency, “The Pitch” cuts too close to the bone. I’m afraid my heart would race in empathy with the competitors throughout each episode.
The one snippet I did manage to catch was the end of the Subway pitch episode. I heard what I assumed to be the head creative guy bid farewell to the potential client by saying, “We had a blast working on this.” The potential client gamely replied (I’m paraphrasing) “We’re glad you had fun.”
I knew that agency was doomed. I was right.
So, after I watched all of this week’s addictive “Mad Men” content on amctv.com, curiosity got to me and I clicked on a segment featuring the CMO of Subway explaining “Why they won.”
What I learned from the two-minute web video was something that I thought I already knew but is worth keeping in mind, for those of us who spend a lot of time pitching. Even though the brand may ask for a big idea (they always ask for a big idea, right?) what they really want is a big relationship with you. They want to like your agency (consultancy, freelance singleton) a lot – and they need to like your really good idea enough that they can see its potential.
At the end of the pitch, it’s not necessarily the idea that will win you the business. A brand wants to buy your story about them — the way you tell it demonstrates your potential as a business partner.
How to do that? Start by showing how much you understand them. Their business, their competitors, their customers, their pain points. Then, before even sharing your idea, use your insights to take them to a place that they haven’t been before, but that still feels familiar to them. Color too far outside the lines and you risk them thinking that you don’t “get” them.
During the pitch, they don’t know you, so be explicit. Explain how you figured things out. Preferably, you did more than web research and got out and talked to people for insight. Share what you’ve learned.
Save those big ideas for last. You’ve got a seat at their table, so they already know about your good work. Now that they’re meeting you when you’re supposed to be at your best, they’ll also think that you’re smart. And because you’ve laid the groundwork, the insights will ensure that your big creative idea will be good and maybe even great.
Then, at the end of the hour, thank them for giving you the opportunity to think about their brand. Not because it was a blast for you, but because their brand is now already yours, too, and you will give it the fullest measure of your time and attention in your journey to tell their story.
Let me know your pitching tricks, what you think about “The Pitch,” and whether I should watch the show instead of the clips on amctv.com!
The company launched a Facebook app for men, called “The Ten Man-ments,” is advertising during college football games, trying to capture the man who wants a diet drink but doesn’t want to really admit that to anyone. The tagline? “It’s not for women.”
Not surprisingly, the campaign has backfired. According to Wavemetrix, it’s generating lots of negative attention. Men say they’re okay with the positioning but agree it’s offensive and women have taken to the social media channels saying they’ll take their diet drink business elsewhere.
See the video here:
The Dr. Pepper people say that the campaign is supposed to be a joke. But no one seems to be getting it. What happened?
The difference between how Venus and Mars behave let marketers tell a compelling story.(rivets?). Conflict is at the heart of great storytelling. But brands can risk taking that conflict too far.
But what’s interesting here is how the Dr. Pepper marketing people covered their bases when talking about new soda to the press. They said that 40% of people who tried and approved of the diet drink in six test markets were women. So who is the brand really aimed at, anyway?
Well, everyone, it seems, and perhaps that’s the intention. A campaign that’s skewed to be provocative can benefit from a public relations campaign to tell the story to all possible audiences, with a wink and a nod to the targeted core. If Dr. Pepper 10 doesn’t go by the way of New Coke, I can see a phase two campaign where women bloggers are invited to an immersion in the 10-calorie Dr. Pepper experience, follow the “The Man-ments” for a month – and chart their experiences with it on their blogs. Maybe the brand sponsors a Top-Chef quick-fire that pits the guys against the gals to come up with the healthiest dish using the soda that will appeal to a duo of 10-calorie Dr. Pepper tasters (man and woman). You follow?
Oh, and for the record, I think the ad is funny. It shows men being so stupid that I, for one, can’t possibly take it seriously. Will that turn me into a Dr. Pepper 10 drinker? I don’t think so, the brand told me that it doesn’t want me, in no uncertain terms.
Hallmark is marketing unemployment cards – and the creative director of the company was on NPR to talk about it. Greeting cards aimed at the unemployed are perfect PR fodder and the mainstream news media has jumped to the bait. Time, The Washington Post, the LA Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer all covered. The story is getting attention because the notion is so counter-intuitive.
I can see how Hallmark decided to create a greeting card line to help soothe suffering souls and bolster the spirits of job-seekers. Hallmark believes that its products help make people’s days brighter. That’s what greeting cards typically do. A company “spokesman” has also been quoted as saying that he doesn’t expect the new line to be a barn-burner. Hmmm.
By Hallmark promoting the effort, the company PR team is drumming up attention for the brand during a slow season for greeting cards. That may have been the strategy in the first place. But I think that spending $3 on a card and sending it to someone who likely gave up their daily $3 Starbucks habit (and a whole lot more) seems off the mark. The public relations campaign supporting these cards feels icky to me. Even though our instincts as PR people tell us that we have a good story to tell; we have to stop and ask ‘why?’ Maybe there are stories that are better left untold.
Perhaps these cards would have been more meaningful if they were in the value price range of around a dollar or, better yet, offered as a free e-card? Hallmark could have built good will with a campaign aimed at helping the social good. For example with each purchase, Hallmark donates a portion of the proceeds towards an organization that provides job training. That’s a good story to tell.
What do you think about the Hallmark story? Good PR, or not-so-good?