Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A (Wheat) Thinly Veiled Publicity Stunt

Social media platforms and customer service are a match made in heaven. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly being used to address consumers' issues. The trend makes perfect sense. If you create a space for open dialogue between a brand and its customers, it’s inevitable that you’ll get complaints, questions, and, every marketer’s fear, hate mail. Of course every social media handbook (read: blog) will advise you to turn these into opportunities to publicly provide superior customer service. 

There are tons of examples of brands that have used Twitter or Facebook to enhance their customer service reputation. Some do it slowly and let the reputation build organically, like @ComastSteve who quickly provides tech support, or @Jetblue that uses its account to respond to angry customers (check out the screenshot below for example).
There are also brands that pull “social media stunts”. The most recent one I’ve heard of was by Morton’s Steakhouse. One of their frequent customers, Peter, tweeted at them with a ridiculous request (jokingly, of course, but I’m sure somewhere in the back of his mind he wished they’d actually do it). He asked Morton’s to meet him at Newark airport with a steak. And, you guessed it, THEY DID! Of course he quickly wrote a blog post about it. I have no idea who this man is, but it somehow made it onto my twitter feed. And if he made it on to mine, I can only imagine he made it onto many other peoples’. There are 270 comments on the blog, and, judging by @Mortons, which has been thanking people for “sharing their story” all week, countless people have retweeted Peter’s blog post.

This story, while clearly a publicity stunt, worked. It wowed people, it became a viral story, and it definitely impressed me. But, Morton’s was lucky (or strategic!). They picked someone who they knew would write about it. Peter created content that was easily shared. But what happens when brands pull these types of stunts, and the people who are “stunted” don’t share it? What if they aren’t tweeters or bloggers? The answer? Make it into a commercial (you knew I was getting there, right?). At least, that’s what Wheat Thins did in a series of commercials that started with this one:
And included this one (which I loved, because Derek tweeted what everyone was thinking, except I'd never be caught in public using the word "Uber"): 
I love these commercials. First of all, because I’d like to believe that companies pull these kinds of stunts for their customers. Second of all, because in making them, the Wheat Thins brand took control of their reputation.  There’s a lot of literature out there about how customers can shape a brand, and I agree that they play a part. But in this case, Wheat Thins wanted to be known as a brand that pulls crazy stunts on their customers, so they took control. As a student of marketing, I thought the approach was smart. If they were doing great, and wow-inducing, customer service stunts, and no one was noticing, producing a commercial was the perfect way to get the attention they wanted-although, it would have been cheaper to follow Morton’s example and show up at the house of a popular blogger.

There’s a lot of speculation about whether or not these commercials are real (see Derek’s tweet, in the commercial above!). They defend themselves in this article, and to be honest, I buy it. After checking out their twitter feed it seems they do give out quite a few boxes based on tweets. They’re positioning themselves as a brand that listens to consumers, which is always a good thing. I just hope they stay true to that, and, when customers are actually upset, rather than just upset that they’re out of wheat thins, that they come through.


Friday, July 29, 2011

And the Feuds Continue...

Tampons. I start with that just to give my guy readers a fair warning. You might want to stop reading after this sentence, cause this product doesn’t apply to you. Ladies, do you actively think about what brand of tampons you buy? I didn’t. In fact for a long time, I thought Playtex and Tampax were the same thing and didn't know which one I bought (why do they both end in “x”? There’s Kotex, too. Wait seriously, does anyone know why?). Then I saw these commercials, and everything changed.

Being a sociology major, I loved this one:

But more of my focus will be on this one:

Next time I was at the store, I bought them. Partially because of the commercials, and partially because of the black box with neon colors. Neon's in right now. Recently I was asked why I like these commercials so much, and I thought a long time about my answer. Of course, by the time I was done thinking, my friends didn’t care about my response any more, so I decided to write about it here.

I love it because it references the strategic, purposeful choices advertisers make to reach their target audience. They’ve (and by “they” I mean ad agency, JWT) realized that advertisements are everywhere and they can no longer pretend like they aren’t marketing to us. They need to admit it. And that’s why I love this. It’s like Dorothy going behind the curtain to see the Wizard of Oz. They’re pulling back the curtain to let us see exactly who they’re targeting, and why they’ve made the choices they’ve made (I love the line “You can relate to me because I’m racially ambiguous”).

But, wait a minute, I like it because they’re admitting to unabashed advertising choices. But…they aren’t admitting to it. They’re actually saying, “Buy Kotex because we don’t have ridiculous commercials!” So who are they accusing? Competitors! AND HEREIN LIES THE FEUD!

But it didn’t become a true feud until this ad campaign aired:

 I tried as hard as I could to find the TV commercial with the girl diving, but to no avail (put it on Youtube, P&G! Work that social media savvy you demonstrated with the Old Spice commercials).  This print ad is similar though. It features the phrase, “At a moment like this, I don’t care if my tampons came in a little black box”, and at the bottom it even makes a claim about being better than U by Kotex. Thems fightin’ words, and I love it. 

According to a psychology article I recently read, “whenever you showcase your brand, you also activate your competitors' brands in the minds of your target audience.” If that’s true, why not play up the feud in your commercials? You can’t ignore your competitors, because your consumers definitely aren’t. So take the opportunity to acknowledge, to entertain and to get the public on your side.

*Note: the picture came from another blog. I read the post and it seems we have similar opinions on the tampon commercials! Check it out:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family Feuds

The only thing I love more than a showdown between brands is advertisers who play with, and even fuel, the feud. When brainstorming for this post, I had to actively stop thinking of good feuds to write about. Of course, there’s the world famous Coke vs Pepsi fight (by the way, props to Pepsi for the new “Summer Time is Pepsi Time” ads. Love ‘em. If you’re looking for more reading check out this Wall Street Journal article or this Brand Channel article, which discusses the social media buzz that amplified the campaign). But I wanted to take a minute to discuss my two new favorite brand feuds-one that you may know of, and another which may have passed right by without you noticing. I began this as one post, but my musings went on for so long, that I’ve decided to split it into two installments. Today’s Feud:

Miracle Whip vs. Mayonnaise

Technically this isn’t a feud between brands, but name all of the Mayonnaise brands you know. Exactly. I even googled it and only found one other mayo brand-Best Foods. It looked familiar-blue label with white lettering- so I did some sleuthing and found at that they’re the exact same thing, they’re just branded differently west of the rockies. Anyways, I digress.

My point is that this really is a brand feud, and may I say BRAVO KRAFT/MIRACLE WHIP. I LOVE these commercials. They identified the feud, they brought it to the public in hilarious, relatable TV commercials, they urged consumers to take a side, and they created multiple spaces in which people can “Join the Debate”. It’s fully integrated with all of their social media platforms. They even have a new campaign & sweepstakes asking customers to share how Miracle Whip affects their relationship (you can win $25,000 towards your wedding or divorce). Before I keep going, check out the TV commercials below.

I love how bold these are. The Pauly D commercial was the first I saw, and he’s talking about how much he HATES miracle whip. I haven’t been alive that long, and maybe I haven’t been paying attention to marketing campaigns for that long, but has there ever been another brand that did this? If you know of one, PLEASE tell me about it in the comments below, cause I would love to see it. This was such a bold move, that I’m planning on buying Miracle Whip next time I go to the store (my Midwestern relatives will rejoice).

I’m also glad they’ve integrated the campaign so heavily with their social media platforms. There have been 31 comments on their Facebook wall, just today. They’ve only responded to 1, which, having managed a client’s page at an internship, I’m a little disappointed with, but they’re much more engaged with followers on Twitter, which makes up for it in my mind (it probably doesn’t make up for it in their Facebook fans’ minds, though).

In sum, the ad did what it was supposed to do. I’m printing my coupon and heading to Shaws.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipe for Disaster

2 tbs cuteness
1 tsp cartoon animals
2 cups gross imagery
pinch of euphemisms

If you like this recipe, you can make it over and over and over again. Which is exactly what P&G has been doing for the past few years with their cartoon bear Charmin toilet paper (oh, I’m sorry, “bath tissue”) commercials. For those of you that haven’t seen it, here’s the most recent one:

I would love to know the thought process behind this concept. I imagine it went something like this:

Team member 1: I have this great idea. It’s cutting edge. Ahead of the times. Innovative. (cut to team members' approving expressions, already convinced by these buzzwords) We’re going to forgo euphemisms, be gross, and talk about the issues people REALLY have with toilet paper. Forget that “Be Kind to Your Behind” stuff our competitors are doing. It’s about to get real.

Team member 2: That’s a little too real for my liking, and we’d alienate customers. No one wants edgy toilet paper. (sidenote: I disagree. I do want edgy toilet paper, and if your commercial tells me your product is edgy, chances are I’ll buy it). Make it more wholesome. (Team member 2 must not have heard the buzzwords)

From there, I imagine someone decided that if it were bears instead of people, it would be cute, instead of gross. Charmin could still “get real”, while maintaining their wholesome, family friendly image. They were wrong. It's still gross. I want to know how this concept was approved by an entire advertising team. More importantly, I want to know why P&G is STILL making these. P&G, Charmin, I may not be your target customer, and I’m sure normal consumers don’t make so many of their purchasing decisions based on commercial quality (at least not consciously), but you may be the only brand that I will not buy because of a bad commercial.

In researching this blog post, I realized that Charmin can do better, and they have. Here’s a different ad that most of you probably haven’t seen.

I have my qualms with this clip, but it comes from what was almost a good idea. It's definitely relatable. As a college student, living in the dorms and using the cheap, standard issue toilet paper I imagine they have in every dorm, and probably most jails, I enjoyed going home to the luxury of good toilet paper. And I don’t hate the references to common culture (coffee, curry). In fact, I usually love when commercials take a piece of shared American culture and play with it. But if you’re going to do this, commit to it. Add a little more humor, a little less cute (because cute went out the window when you mentioned Curry in an ad about toilet paper), and PLEASE get rid of that bear running across the bottom.

I realize this was a…unique commercial campaign to start with, but it’s been bothering me for years. I’d even go so far as to say it was the inspiration for this blog, so it was time to put my thoughts on (digital) paper. Have you been watching these commercials thinking the same thing? Or, and please, I hope you’re out there cause I’m dying to hear your thoughts, do you love these commercials and think they’re cute and hilarious?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today's the Day

Today's the day, team. Today is the day I start my blog. It's been a long journey, but it's finally here. I'll start by answering the questions you all (and by "you all", I mean "you, Mom!") have been dying to ask.

1. What's here??
My blog!

2. Why has it been a long journey?
Back in September, my roommates and I were watching TV. Our TV was, to say the least, a beloved 7th roommate. She was always there to give advice (Dr. Drew), provide entertainment (the Kardashians), help us pick out outfits (Stacy and Clinton), and teach life lessons (Oprah, or, as we drew closer and closer to graduating from college, The Real World). And, like a roommate, there were parts of her we loved, and parts of her we hated. Most people hated commercials.

3. How does this relate to anything?
 I never hated commercials. In fact, I LOVE commercials. And I certainly have opinions on them. But my roommates grew tired of me critiquing every single one. They didn't share my passion for a well-crafted commercials, or my hatred for the low budget carpet cleaning commercials (low budget doesn't have to mean terrible!) So, as one tends to do when they have opinions that no one cares about, I made a twitter account! And of course, fell in love with it, and even built up a small follower base, but that's a different story.

4. If you could say anything to Twitter, what would it be?
Dear Twitter, I love you. I really do. Every answer I've ever gotten right at Tuesday Night Pub Trivia was because of you. But, 140 characters is really not enough to express my deepest, most heartfelt opinions on the state of our current TV commercials. So I'm switching to blogging!

5. Why didn't you switch to blogging earlier?
I'm embarrassed to answer this one, but I will. I couldn't think of a title. I still don't even like this title. It's been months since I wanted to start this blog, but did you know, you CAN'T start a blog without a title. Every time I tried, I couldn't think of a title as quickly as I could write about my commercial opinions. But my thoughts were bubbling up inside me and I couldn't take it any more. So, with a lacking title, here I go. My blog. It starts today.

Now that I've explained myself, now that I've slayed the dragon that is a blog title, I can write my first post! Choosing the perfect first topic is another daunting task, but it's one that I will take on tomorrow.