Category Archives: Marketing

Just Call Me Lemming

What’s that old adage: If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too? Okay, no cliff jumping today but I am going to do my best lemming impersonation and weigh in on the Super Bowl ads. Hey, everybody’s doing it!

Now, I have to admit I didn’t actually watch the Super Bowl. Even though a number of websites promised me live coverage, the thought of a 12:30 a.m. kickoff just wasn’t working me. If I haven’t managed to stay up for a 1 a.m. Bruins game yet, then football isn’t making the cut. This is one big drawback of being 4,000 miles to the east of the action. In other words, I’m cheating a little here and using web postings of the leaked ads to get on my soapbox.

I was saying to someone not long ago, from a business perspective, I find it fascinating how far and how fast McDonald’s has fallen. Literally, just months ago, investing pundits were still expounding that McDonald’s was a stock market juggernaut and deserved your dollars. Fortunately, I wasn’t buying it. It mere weeks they have suddenly been tarred as an out-of-touch dinosaur and had their CEO walked. Let’s be clear, I’m not rooting for them, since, after all, they serve industrial crap that could kill you. But I am going to give them props for their Super Bowl spot. I never really got the Lovin’ It campaign (and the numbers say the public didn’t either), but this iteration is much closer to a feel good. McDonald’s hard challenge now is to enact the paying with love theme in-store for the next couple of weeks for a true public feel good and PR win. It’s a huge gamble to think that tens of thousands of front-line, underpaid staff will play nice and back up the campaign. I’m not sure I’m hopeful of the ending that’s coming here.

Bud’s lost puppy was the latest entry in the long series of heart-tugging animal ads by the brewer. After so many, these ads should be worn out and have exhausted the sentimentality, and this one definitely swings a long way in that direction. But, I have to admit, I still like them. And with most of America falling in the dog lovers camp, I know I’m not alone. It’s almost impossible not to win with this. I’m not convinced it will sell any beer, but happy to have seen it.

BMW’s spot with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel was well written and fun, although the mention of twerking at the end swung it waaaay too far to the creepy side. Funny thing is, if the car is as good as suggested, seems like it could sell itself better than any celeb. Dove’s dad ad was also another heart-tugger, but I’m still a sucker for those.

The Lexus Feel Some Noise ad felt like they don’t have a clue who is the market for the vehicle. The demo and the music just doesn’t in-sync, at least to how I see it. That said, the Lexus RC ad was cool and the car looked incredible. In the same vein, Toyota’s How Great I Am was inspirational and interesting. I wonder if the link to the car/brand is strong enough to make a difference, but I’m 100% behind ads with such positivity and diversity. Props to them.

Eat24’s ad with Snoop Dog and Gilbert Gottfried was silly and fun. These are two characters easy to dislike, but this ad will work. Web traffic will come and it’ll resonate as money well spent for a young brand. And I loved Newcastle poking fun at advertising with its Band of Brands spot. Look for this to get tried again with a fresh twist. Wix also had a very funny and creative spot with the unique businesses of former athletes. That’s also a nice win for a young brand.

I couldn’t be more tired of people who are famous just for being famous, so as much as I like how T-Mobile keeps shaking up the messy cell industry, I personally would avoid the brand solely for a horrible ad featuring someone not worth naming.

The snickers ad was kind of fun, retro and memorable, but it’s tough to see how it ups the brand. I give it a near-miss. Grubhub’s knockout burrito undoubtedly had most guys laughing out loud. How can that be anything but a victory? Guarantee this will get lots of follow up views online. And the Avocados from Mexico spot might have been the most creative slant of any ad I saw, and pretty cool. A plus for them. I’m not sure I get the economics of industry ads like this, but when you think about the long-term success of campaigns such as Got Milk, it’s tough to argue with their existence. Could this be the start of another legacy?

GoDaddy has gone from ads guaranteed to offend half the population to one of the most sedate ads in the mix. Oh, and by the way, this ad will probably still offend half the population since it seems to say that work is more important than life. Signal from the ref: wide and to the right.

I have just one word for the Fiat Blue Pill ad: hysterical. This is what advertising creativity is all about, making an ad everyone remembers. Among insurance companies, even if they had made a lousy ad, Esurance would still win by including Walter White thanks to all the fans hungry for more Breaking Bad. But it wasn’t lousy, it’s a great ad in a messy category where it’s all about oddball ads and not the product. Oh, and Nationwide with a ad talking about dying kids. Do I need to say more? Who possibly thought this was a good idea?

I enjoyed seeing a nice story in the Microsoft Brilliant Bus ad. The world needs a lot more stories like this filling the airwaves. The hard part is, I don’t think consumers buy that Microsoft is empowering people, so there’s a bit of a disconnect here. And was anyone else creeped out by the Dreaming With Jeff spot? I don’t want to go there. Ever.

RANDOM THOUGHTS: I read a remarkable story online the other day about the president of Uruguay picking up a hitchhiker in his beat-up old car. They call him the poor president because he donates 90% of his salary and lives like an ordinary guy, refusing the presidential palace and its perks. I think he’s my new hero. He even has a three-legged dog! Imagine what kind of world we would live in if all politicians had such a strong sense of self-sacrifice and community-building. Imagine, indeed…

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Entering a Marketing Dry Spell

Not to get too philosophical (again), but I’ve always considered myself not just an avid marketer, but also a student of the discipline of marketing. I guess that sounds a little lofty, so taken in more literal terms, this nets out at my mailbox being stuffed with an avalanche of paper and assorted crap over the years and receiving enough e-mail missives to keep the analysts at the Pentagon busy until Luxembourg becomes a super power.

Along with plenty of reading, this overload of offer-oramas was the core method I used to stay on top of what was happening in the marketplace. Monitoring and experiencing how other marketers were interacting with consumers was a learning experience in how I may interact with the consumers of the brands I helped steward.

So after this wealth of mail and email, how odd it felt to land in Spain and receive almost nothing. Even now, we barely see one piece of mail a week (even counting the Spanish post office’s limited rate of success with delivery). It’s an adjustment being less in the loop, as well as seeing a marketplace that is so different also.

So much of the marketing 101 I’m used to simply doesn’t exist here.. Financial services, for example, is a vastly different vertical than back in the US or Canada. American banks continue to throw gobs of money at customers in the form of miles, points, cash and other goodies to acquire new credit card holders. Here in Spain, those bonuses are almost non-existent. In fact, it’s not unusual for a consumer to have to pay an annual fee to have any credit card at all, even without rewards. I can feel a tremor coming on just at the thought of my rewards disappearing. Oh, the inhumanity!

Grocery is another territory where discounts are rampant back home, but much more selective here, not to mention more complex. Instead of straight up discounts, it’s more likely here that savings come on multiple units, such as 70% off the second one, or third one free. I earned a discount off a toy purchase last week, but it turns out the saving is loaded onto the store membership card. Nice to see the number there, but to be honest, I don’t have a clue how to get at it. My next Spanish lesson may involve a conversation on how to unleash a loyalty point. I’m not sure I’ll succeed at miming that one out.

I’m just starting to wrap my head around Spanish advertising, but at first glance it doesn’t seem dramatically different at its core from the US. I’ve also started to get some email offers, but it’s clear that the Spanish are a little wary of online and not that dedicated to making it work as yet. It’s quite frustrating to look up basic things like a store address or opening hours and either find nada or information that is wrong. In fact, I’d guess it’s less than 50% of what I’ve have read online locally that’s correct. After becoming so accustomed to self-servicing half my life in the US, the errors on simple information here are enough to drive you a little crazy.

I’m still being exposed to some things from the US, so I’ll throw on my marketing hat for a minute and hit on a few things I find surprising or interesting.

The airline industry has some positive history in effective advertising, even if it’s been rather dry the last few years. So, I was surprised to receive a series of emails from United regarding an experiental sweepstakes they were running with the Washington Redskins. In fact, on United’s site, there were also ads for another experiental sweeps with the Cleveland Indians. No doubt, these offers are driven by United trying to build interest in their hub cities, but both link the brand to sports franchises criticized for racial insensitivity because of their names. Maybe less so in Cleveland, but with the ongoing storm surrounding the Redskins, it’s beyond me why another brand would want to forge a link and wade into that cesspool. It reeks of poor judgment in the handling of the company’s most important asset, its brand.

I just saw a couple of holiday-themed video ads from Target. They align perfectly with Target’s ongoing brand positioning campaigns of the last few years, which are upbeat, colorful and quirky. In today’s chaotic world, it says a lot about a brand when it can commit to a campaign and execute it long enough to get full value from a smart positioning. Target’s ads give the brand a voice that stands out. Even though it’s hard to think of Target as an aspirational shopping destination, the uniqueness of the ads creates exactly this type of halo. I’m a huge fan of what they continue to accomplish.

The new GE spots en titled Ideas Are Scary are aptly named. They are certainly a little disturbing at first with the hairy, oddball “idea” coming to life, but also tend to grow on you after seeing them a couple of times. If advertising is about being memorable, then they score well on that front and should be considered a success.

It’s astoundingly hard for an ad or campaign to stand out with so much noise bombarding us every day, but smart brands can still flash that magic. Hey, these got my attention from 4,000 miles away, so sounds like high praise is indeed in order for a couple of brands

RANDOM THOUGHTS: Shout out to my fellow Canuck Ethan who has re-started his blog on imbibing well at He brings a little extra color to an already inviting topic… Maybe I can consider myself a little more Spanish now that I’m playing El Gordo, which translates roughly to the Fat One. Top prize is 400,000 Euros, so it pales in comparison to virtually every American roll of the balls, but it still draws lines of people looking to play. And much like the bureaucracy here, the design and distribution of prizes is so complex, it must create enough paperwork to strip a forest. Read about it here if you dare.. In the spirit of throwing gas on the fire, the Spanish government in Madrid is affirming it has no intention of talking to the region of Catalonia (where Barcelona is located) about its concerns. Catalonia “unofficially” voted in favor of separation recently, only to have the federal government respond by filing paperwork to have the Catalonia president and other key officials charged for misuse of power and public funds. It’s a remarkably ugly turf war for two governments to wage within the same country. A reasonable outcome seems highly unlikely. I might end up in another country soon without even moving…

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