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Get out a box of Kleenex, Budweiser has put another cute dog in their ad. After the overwhelming success of Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” spot during the 2014 Super Bowl, it’s no surprise they’ve once again harnessed the power of the puppy. But this time, it’s to send a very powerful and important message to consumers everywhere.

The ad was released in honor of Global Be(er) Responsible Day, which Budweiser created to talk to consumers about the dangers of drinking and driving. Their new ad features a golden lab waiting faithfully for his owner to come home after a night of drinking. Except his owner doesn’t return that night, causing the viewer’s heart to sink.

But fear not, he walks through the door the following morning after deciding to spend the night at a friend’s house instead of drinking and driving. Both dog and owner rejoice when he comes home safe and sound, ending with the copy: “Make a plan to make it home. Your friends are counting on you.”

Budweiser Tweet

This ad isn’t just a great example of corporate social responsibility, but it’s also a great tool to start a conversation with consumers. When Budweiser shared the link on their Twitter page, they invited consumers to the discussion about drinking and driving by including the Twitter hashtag #FriendsAreWaiting at the end of the commercial.

One look at this twitter feed and not only is it evident that people adored the conscientious ad, but that Budweiser is in fact accomplishing their goal of raising awareness about drinking and driving through their ad campaign. As of September 29, one week after the tweet was posted, it racked up 1,400 retweets and 940 favorites.

Fan Tweets

“Friendship, camaraderie and enjoying great times are at the heart of Budweiser’s most popular campaigns, and this video maintains that tradition but with an unexpected twist,” Brian Perkins, VP of marketing for Budwesier at Anheuser-Busch, told AdAge. “Budweiser is known for connecting with beer drinkers in memorable ways, and our efforts to promote responsible drinking through this video are no exception.”

The spot was released online prior to it being played on what is often considered the most popular media format: television. David Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, emphasizes the importance of companies telling their stories and sharing their ideas online.

He notes that while television advertising was once the dominating way to communicate with audiences, things like Facebook, blogs, and Twitter allow companies to talk directly with consumer. He believes that “strong social networking ties lead to stronger personal relationships,” because of this one-on-one connection over something both the company and the consumer care deeply about (Scott 2013, p. 259)

Scott goes on to explain “what also fails (online) is an egocentric display of your products and services,” and Budweiser was smart enough to do the opposite by crafting a socially conscious message that aligns with their product (Scott 2013, p. 46). What’s critical to being successful online is creating information that people will want to share, and Budweiser did precisely that: To the tune of over 15 million online views of the ad..

As people continue to share the video through social media, Budweiser hopes that next time you pick up a beer at the supermarket, you’ll think of that cute puppy waiting for his friend and want to support such a responsible and insightful company.

What do you think about Budweiser’s new ad? How much of a role does the puppy play in the ad? Would it have been as effective as another pet? And is social media the most appropriate place for this type of corporate responsibility message?

The month of September, 2014 has been quite problematic for the NFL and their sponsors. In a short span of two weeks, the internet has been covered by news about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out cold in the elevator and Adrian Peterson “disciplining” his son on the bare skin with tree branches. Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer were also subsequently reported by the media to have their own domestic abuse/violence cases.

Unlike the old days when news would take days to reach the nation, the proliferation of social media has enabled news to go viral within minutes. So far, the majority of public conversations have been focusing on the actual offenders, NFL policies, and domestic violence issues in general. However, as a few brands got involved and earned themselves a decent amount of public media attention, an interesting question has emerged: What should brands do about this NFL domestic abuse turmoil?

CoverGirl is an official NFL sponsor that got involved with this issue in an unfortunate manner. CoverGirl has a national NFL-themed “Get Your Game Face On” campaign, featuring models with makeup colors that coordinate with different NFL team colors.

After a few players’ domestic violence cases were reported, a group of activists then used the CoverGirl campaign photos and photo-shopped the models with the look of a domestic violence victim (See comparison photos below). These altered photos quickly grew into a social media campaign of #CoverGirlcott that calls on CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL so the NFL will be pressured to take a definite stance on combatting domestic violence among their football players.

Original CoverGirl

photo credit: CoverGirl

credit: covergirl

photo credit: #CoverGirlCott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The brand’s official response to the boycott campaign, however, is not satisfying to theactivists’ standards. Under much public pressure, CoverGirl issued a statement saying that the brand believes “domestic violence is completely unacceptable” and it “encourages the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence”. However, there has been no further announcement or action from CoverGirl and the brand remains the NFL’s national sponsor.

This decision might not be as problematic if CoverGirl had not tried to position itself as a pro-women brand. Consumers might still remember CoverGirl’s #GirlCan: Women Empowerment campaign launched during the 2014 Winter Sochi Olympics. In that campaign, CoverGirl took the role of a women-empowerment ambassador and a women-rights advocate. In sync with last year’s pro-women movement, the winter campaign won CoverGirl good publicity from media and support from consumers.

Now, because of the #CoverGirlcott campaign and the company’s unsatisfying response to the situation, CoverGirl is in a big dilemma. Although there are practical financial concerns regarding withdrawing the contract with the NFL, the negative buzz on social media about CoverGirl has made the company’s effort in women empowerment look insincere and inauthentic.

A company’s success lies in the consistent, authentic, and trustworthy image that they build and maintain in the mind of their target audience. CoverGirl’s image is probably somewhat hypocritical to the public now when it chose to remain a sponsor even after being called on to take other action.

Hotel chain Radisson, in contrast, appears to have done the right thing, at least in the opinion of women rights advocates. After Adrian Peterson was charged with his child abuse case, Radisson suspended its sponsorship deal with the Minnesota Vikings to show how serious and committed the brand is to this particular matter. It can be argued that Raddisson has a smaller stake in the NFL compared to CoverGirl since the company is not a league sponsor. However, critics only find Radisson’s decision to be another piece of support to urge CoverGirl to terminate its sponsorship with the NFL.

Realistically speaking, CoverGirl shouldn’t rush into ending its contract with the NFL given the NFL is a multi-billion entertainment business and most people are still going to watch football games regardless of the scandals. However, as a brand with a unique position to maintain, CoverGirl could have definitely done more than a mere public statement. They could have taken down the photos on their website temporarily. Or, they could have donated to women protection nonprofits to win some hearts back. They might not be able to mute criticisms completely, but taking actual actions will certainly give the brand more redeeming value than a public statement.

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       There’s a local business in town asking their fellow neighbors to share the sexiest, most mouth-watering pictures that they can conjure up on a moments notice. Who is this local collector of erotic imagery? Applebee’s, of course. That’s right, Applebee’s has just recently rolled out a new campaign that encourages customers to snap sexy, food porn worthy photos of the meals that they receive at their favorite neighborhood restaurant and then post them to their Twitter account accompanied by the “Fantographer” hashtag. Applebee’s is then taking this stockpile of delectable fan food photos and using them to fill their company Instagram feed for an entire year. It’s a strategy that has already produced a fair amount of buzz within the Twittersphere and seems to be a step in the right direction for a company that desperately needs to improve its brand to consumer relationship. The most interesting part of this increasingly popular approach is that brands like Applebee’s are realizing the potential of using channels like Twitter in such a way that allows them to say quite a lot without actually saying very much at all.

applebees1

       In an age where a simple 140-character post can pose the risk of making or breaking a brand’s reputation, maybe staying relatively quiet and letting the consumers have a chance to do the talking isn’t such a bad idea. As David Scott put it in The New Rules of Marketing & PR, “we should rethink our notions about who can best spread our ideas and tell our stories” when considering the potential reach that social networking sites provide.

       The Applebee’s campaign, which has been running for nearly two and a half months and  has already increased their Instagram following by 32%, is based off of an insight centered around the idea that their customers are often much more interested in content that they create than content that’s created by the actual Applebee’s marketing department. Rather than viewing this revelation as negative, Applebee’s saw it as an opportunity to improve their social media presence by playing off of a popular social media trend that consists of people sharing photos of their meals to social media for their followers to then view and salivate over. Through this approach, Applebee’s has been able to gain a new perspective on how their daily customer views the company and has also helped to add a more human element to their social media presence.

       This new campaign is a prime example of how brands are effectively using social media as a channel in which to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with some of their most loyal customers. Other brands, like Miller Lite and DoubleTree Hotels, have also taken advantage of social media and the creativity of their customers to create genuine content that serves as a more accurate reflection of how the public views each brand.

       Much like Applebee’s, Miller Lite recently reached out to its Twitter followers asking that they send in photos of them enjoying a Miller Lite with friends during the summer months for a chance to be included in a TV spot that ran back in August for their “ShowUsYourMiller” campaign. DoubleTree also took advantage of the availability and ease of consumer-generated content by reaching out to its customers and encouraging past users of their hotel service to share videos, pictures, and travel tips from previous vacations on each of DoubleTree’s social networking platforms. Rather than use their own voice to express to potential users the many of advantages of traveling with DoubleTree, the company decided that it was best to let their past customers do some of the talking. They shared a stockpile of unbiased content that helped to show potential future customers the many things that they could see and do in the DoubleTree locations.

miller1

       It has become clear that the adoption of user-generated content is a growing trend among brands looking to stay relevant in an age driven by social media. To further increase the brand to consumer relationship, companies must test new avenues in which to engage with their audience. Although it is a great way to better humanize a brand, companies still need to stay alert and closely monitor the content that is being shared via their social media pages. Brands that have the intention of using user-generated content to fuel long-lasting campaigns, like that of Applebee’s, run a greater risk of accidently allowing a negative consumer response to slip through the filter, and therefore need to realize that, it’s critical to respond quickly to negative web posts that may ruin a brand’s reputation situations.

       It will be interesting to monitor the Applebee’s new campaign over the next year to see if it manages to continue to increase their followers on their social networking sites and help to improve their brand to consumer relationship.

       Do you think that using social media to encourage the production of user-generated content is an effective approach for brands looking to engage with an increasingly skeptical consumer base?

 

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This last Thursday marked the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone wanted to show their patriotism, and so people turned to one of the most popular communication avenues: Social Media. Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with posts from friends with images of the twin towers, American flags, and personal stories in an effort to commemorate the lives that were lost.

But what happens when a company tries to be a part of that conversation?

Countless brands headed to Twitter in an effort to join consumers across the country in showing their patriotism and support. Or at least… that was their intention. While some brands managed to demonstrate pride in their country, the majority of these “good intentioned” tweets came off as opportunistic – as if the anniversary of 9/11 was their chance to make an impression on consumers and boost their brand’s revenue.

CVS 9-11 TweetThe tweets that were well-received by consumers were from brands that left their logo and personal selling out of the message, such as a simple tweet from WalMart of the New York skyline with the caption “Always Remember.” Unfortunately, some brands went beyond the simple, humble message and tied their product into the 9/11 tragedy or even offered discounts in honor of the anniversary. For instance, CVS pharmacy posted a #neverforget tweet with an image of the New York skyline, which would have likely been much more acceptable had they not stuck their CVS logo on the bottom right hand corner. And then some companies were just straight up insensitive. For example, a southern tie company called Tied to the South asked users to retweet their 9/11 image for every death that occurred during the 9/11 attacks.

Why such a negative response from consumers? After all, in today’s market brands are a living, breathing entity with their own unique personality, shouldn’t they get a say? Apparently, according to influential Internet blogger Sean Bonner, the answer is no: “Brands are not people. Brands do not have emotions or memories or condolences or heartbreak. People have those things, and when a brand tries to jump into that conversation, it’s marketing” (AdWeek 2014).

Build-a-Bear 9-11 TweetOne part of the problem may be with the fact that these messages do not always come off as genuine. Brands that connect best with their consumers are those that are authentic and transparent with their messaging. Forcing your brand to align with the anniversary of 9/11, like Build-a-Bear workshop did when they posted a photo of a bear in army fatigues, may not seem like the most honest of gestures. Thus leading consumers to the conclusion that these brands are simply taking advantage of a national tragedy to promote their own company.

Consumer engagement is a hot topic for marketers across the country. With the rise of social media, it is easier than ever before to interact one on one with the consumer. According to The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Scott, the days of one-way interruption are over, and web marketing is about delivering useful content at “just the precise moment a buyer needs it.” However, based off the vocal backlash against the companies whose tweets ultimately failed, it’s apparent that not all marketers understand the appropriate way to utilize these communication channels.

In today’s marketplace, it is imperative that marketers are responsible and respectful with their messaging. If brands were simply trying to show their respect, the best thing they could have done would be to take a step back, and let consumers reflect and heal together without the promise of 20% off Bikram Yoga classes.

Bikram Yoga 9-11 Tweet

What do you think? Is there a way for brands to talk about current events, national tragedies in particular? Or is it best for them, and their brand, to stay out of the conversation?

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Nov
18

The Art of Trench

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In The New Rules of Marketing & PR, Scott states “with social media you can tell a story. If you have a special interest, then you can get an audience” (Scott, p. 247).
In 2009 the British luxury brand Burberry was struggling to find a way to build a valuable and meaningful presence in social media. The moment coincides with a period of economic pressure for the brand that was suffering from the economic downturn.
Both Angela Ahrendts, the CEO’s of the company in 2009, and Christopher Bailey, at the moment the Chief Creative Officer, recognized the importance of social media to build a long-term relationship with brand’s customers by strengthening the relationship with them.
In particular, in order to engage the youngest consumers, in 2009 Burberry launched The Art of Trench website, a global social platform, dedicated to everyday normal people wearing the iconic trench coat. The platform allows users to post photos of themselves, add comments to the pictures and even share them on Facebook.
Moreover, talking specifically about the power of FB, Scott says “there’s a human element that can be brought in with FB. You humanize what your business does” (Scott, p. 250), specifying how the company needs to create something interesting that people are willing to participate to and even share it with their friends.
After one year only from the launch, Burberry’s FB fan base grew to more than a million becoming the largest fan count in the luxury sector at the time. The results were incredible: by 2011 the site reached the 13 million page views per month.
Instead of directly marketing its product, Burberry decided to count on the influence of public relations and word of mouth that could have been generated through them. Following the success provided by the campaign the company strengthen its focus on digital and by 2012 the 60% of its marketing budget was given to digital media. Quoting the words of the ex CEO Angela Ahrendts “you have to be totally connected with everyone who touches your brand”.
Burberry was able to create a platform in which everyday people can actively participate into providing -using the words of a Twitter user- “a visual feast that inspires users to explore further” and that’s exactly where the company’s strategy should focus on: “The challenge is to create a compelling reason for somebody to want further intact with your company into the future” (Scott, p. 235)

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Nov
08

Mobile MoMa

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“ It is clear that we’ve come to a point of no return in the impact and uptake of mobile devices, and yet still most businesses struggle with the mobile-social decisions,” claims Scott in his book “New rules of Marketing and PR”. Arts and culture management traditionally is one of the most conservative fields, resistant to majority of innovations. Indeed, opportunities provided by technologies are almost totally unexploited by many cultural institutions dealing with visual art, many of which have nothing more than a simplest website. Moreover, digitalization is still seen as a threat, as it provides broad and free access to images before available only in museums, galleries and books. In this context, the MoMa’s mobile application example should be a real pattern and a benchmark for the whole cultural sector.

First of all, the application is totally free, which is a good stimulus to download it without extra thought. Second, it’s very coherent with a current need of visitors from planning (it shows opening hours, current exhibitions, directions, and allows to buy a ticket) to exploration of the museum (it serves as an audio guide and a map). In the “More” section one can add the favorite music to the audio guide, make a photo with MoMa brand frame, download podcasts, watch MoMa videos on youtube, and much more. It’s also possible to share your experience with friends or to send a feedback to museum’s staff. What is important, the application contributes to the solution of the crucial problem: “How to make people return?” as it sends notifications about upcoming events and new exhibitions and outlines the advantages of membership (which is possible to purchase directly from the app!).The MoMa’s application thought out like a real tool to move the audience from “a one-time looker to a long-term fan” (Scott, p. 235) and is a truly remarkable example for the whole museum sector.

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Instagram published its first sponsored advertisement for the luxury brand Michael Kors on November 1, 2013. The image, which depicts a gold plated, diamond watch propped on a white cloth and surrounded by macaroons, generated 36,000 “likes” and 300 infuriated comments on the first day.

 

kors-instagram-hed-2013

 

The luxury brand’s sponsored ad is thematically is similar to previous content posted on its brand account, which has an engaging fan-base of 1.3 million followers. Although in terms of mastering social media to foster engagement, Michael Kors is at the forefront of producing compelling content, many user complaints centered on issue of simply having the luxury brand streamed on personal feeds.

An article on Adage.com discusses the overall response to the luxury brand being streamed throughout all users personal feeds. One sample of the negative comments included states: “If you’re going to do sponsored ads you should at least make them cheaper I can’t afford this.”

The issue at heart ultimately stems from the fact that this new form of advertising is a blend of content marketing with traditional advertising on a platform that traditionally discourages traditional marketing initiatves and encourages engagement of brands through relevant and authentic content.

Michael Kors is one of nine brands that met the steep requirements by Instagram to advertise on the photo-sharing platform. The requirements on behalf on Instagram were that marketers must have a longstanding reputation of producing visual imagery that is compelling and attractive. Additional brands soon to circulate sponsored content include: Adidas, Ben & Jerrys, General Electric, Lexus, Levi’s, Macys, Paypal and Starwood.

 

 

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Brands often attempt to benefit people, but Pedigree and DDB Brussels is helping dogs, as well. It is recommended that dogs take a thirty-minute walk daily in order to keep them in good health. Pedigree decided to encourage dog owners to go out and exercise their dogs by setting up urban dog trails that stretch up to two kilometers, in major Belgian cities. With seven trails in total, dogs and their owners can explore their cities; trail maps are posted at local bus station shelter stops. Dog owners are encouraged to share photos of themselves and their dogs on Pedigree’s Facebook page with an opportunity to win prizes.

This advertising campaign succeeds by addressing and solving a problem in a unique way. It allows people to experience Pedigree in a new light rather than via traditional television and print ads. In his book, Living Brands, Raymond A. Nadeau describes Four Megatrends that are changing the world of brands. One of these Megatrends is Mood and Experience Enhancement, which includes how “culture’s desire is to get back into the body, to feel a psychological and physiological response, to feel like a ‘more human’ human.” Pedigree is providing people a literal path to experience their physical surroundings, while simultaneously improving the quality of life for dogs and their owners.

In addition to the real world connection, Pedigree wisely encourages dog owners to share their walk experiences on social media such as on their Facebook page. Author David Meerman Scoot in The New Rules of Marketing and PR, urges brands to not neglect the power that social media has to disseminate a campaign since ‘web content provides terrific fodder for viral marketing.”

With a mixture of real and virtual experiences, Pedigree enhances engagement with their brand and our best friend.

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Authentic auto-complete searches on Google reveal alarmingly sexist suggestions for simple phrases like “women should” or “women shouldn’t.” The branch of the United Nations focused on women’s rights has turned these search results into powerful advertisements, featuring faces of ethnically diverse women with their mouths prominently covered by the auto-complete type. The results include wordage like “stay at home, “be slaves,” or “shouldn’t have rights.” The UN is striving to raise awareness showing how “gender inequality is a worldwide problem.” While the UN isn’t a typical company that survives on selling products, it is still a distinct brand that operates on solving problems throughout the world. Campaigns like this bring attention and credibility to an organization that strives for a stronger and more united humanity through peaceful collaboration.

The effectiveness of this advertisement comes from the pure disconcerting truth of the matter. The vast multitude of people worldwide that have actually searched these phrases resulted in vaulting them to the top spot in the Google algorithm. The ads have gone viral, sparking conversation across the globe on this topical human rights issue. While the ads were originally published in the Middle East—where open societal discrimination of women is more common—the success stems from the fact that these emotions are relatable to women in every culture. Desiring love and community acceptance is a universal human value, but gender equality and respect are still lagging behind. This is partly due to how patriarchal societies are still accepted as the reigning dominant ideology in many cultures across the world.

Great ads transcend both demographic and psychcographic barriers, tapping into genuine human truths and offer insight into a compelling issue. The campaign addresses a widespread perception of women, and is appropriately informative and jarring. Using Google as a platform, the UN is bringing to light a contemporary and sensitive subject. Beginning a dialogue is the first step to altering perceptions, and the UN has excelled at setting this particular agenda. Superior advertising not only engages the audience, makes a statement and stimulates discussion, but is grounded in relevant human values. As Raymond A. Nadeau states in Living Brands, the brand becomes more meaningful when “an advertisement truly reflects culture–for better or for worse.”

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A blushing bride in a dreamy advertisement for ornate gold jewellery is certainly nothing new in India. Make her a dark skinned Indian bride who was previously married, and you’ve made advertising history — not to mention a social media sensation in a country that has historically frowned upon divorce.

Tanishq, the jewelry company owned by Tata Group, is the company behind the minute-and-a-half long ad that depicts a single mother preparing for her wedding accompanied by her young daughter, complete with a handsome groom and proud relatives. Adding to the “controversy,” the mother’s complexion is a few shades darker than the fair tone favoured by Bollywood and Indian television.

Second marriages have become more accepted in India in recent years; however, in the staid and traditional world of Indian advertising, celebrating such an event, particularly one featuring a confident, unapologetic bride, is definitely a new approach. The ad has sparked both enthusiastic praise and harsh critiques across borders and has fuelled ongoing discussions on feminism in India.

Raymond Nadeau, author of Living Brands, reminds us that a business should be considered virtuous to the extent that it truly reflects the lives of consumers and is rooted in contemporary culture. Tanishq dared to make a bold statement about the progressive values of its brand and target consumer. This is a prime example of a socially responsible company that has kept its finger on the pulse of evolving cultural trends.

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