Mo’ne Davis Throws a World Series Strike for Girls… and Chevy

28 Oct

       From a distance of sixty feet and six inches, the pitch was money.  Actually, it was Mo’ne.  A strike, right down the middle.  It came from a girl, just 13 years old.  And by the end of game four of the World Series, it was just the first of several strikes that made Mo’ne Davis the advertising world’s latest pitchwoman. 

Mo'ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2014

Mo’ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2014

         To say Davis has had a good year would be as much of an understatement as saying Derek Jeter did nothing remarkable this season. As a pitcher for Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons Little League team, she not only took her fellow players to the Little League World Series, she became the first young woman to pitch a shutout in the series.  In the process she graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. 

        She’s a chief marketing officer’s dream product endorsee.  The challenge however, is how does a brand align itself with such a story maker without coming off as taking advantage of her good fortune for commercial gain?  After all, she’s still a child.  Complicating matters are strict NCAA endorsement rules should she one day become a college athlete. 

Mo'ne Davis is "Throw Like a Girl"

Mo’ne Davis is “Throw Like a Girl”

        Most marketing officers would use Davis to craft a story about their brand.  Chevrolet instead crafted a story about Davis.  It hired acclaimed film maker and renowned New York Yankees fan Spike Lee to create a short documentary about Davis, her coach, and her family.  The documentary called “Throw Like a Girl” makes no direct product pitch.  It does however feature a new Chevy Malibu in the closing scene with a full screen tag line, “Chevrolet celebrates Mo’ne Davis and those who remind us that anything is possible.”

        Chevy also broke down the footage into 60-second ad that aired throughout game four after she threw out the first pitch.

       The documentary and ad together loosely follow’s Richard Baggozi’s Theory of Trying by making the viewer think about their own attitudes of success and failure.  In this case, one’s attitude toward trying is leveraged by Davis’ story of success.  It’s a powerful psychological framework f0r influencing attitudes towards success and the beliefs that it can actually happen. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

        But more important, the campaign is an example of transformational communication.  Instead of using information to affect a consumer decision, it uses emotion.  By forming a positive feeling with Mo’ne Davis’s story, the viewer also forms a positive association with the brand who helped showcase the story—in this case a car company that  wants to transport people to their dreams.

        It’s not just a clever strategy, Chevy also used smart tactics.  It spread the “Throw Like a Girl” ads in a flight throughout the night’s World Series game to ensure broad exposure.  Additionally Chevy integrated the message across its social media channels. (Figure 1)

        The strategy by Chevrolet speaks clearly as to how marketers are embracing brand journalism as a tool to reach and engage audiences in new ways.  Davis threw the perfect pitch, but Chevrolet brought us along for the ride—with its badge on the tailgate.

The Power of Love — When Great Advertising Aims for the Heart

29 Aug

Power of Love Collage

       There’s something going on in Thailand.  As global players in the mobile telecom industry bombard consumers with messages on speed, coverage and pricing, a Thai company is appealing to consumers’ hearts. It’s not the first.

         DTAC has just released a new advertisement based on the insight that technology has limits.  The schema is something we’re all familiar with: how to calm a crying baby.  The ad produced by Y&R is a text book example of transformative communication.  The power of this approach is that instead of overtly selling a product, it instead makes the consumer feel a connection to the brand.  In this case, that feeling is the power of love.

        DTAC’s campaign is just the latest in a series ads to come from Thai wireless companies that are all based on the communicative theory of emotion—or appraisal theory.

        Truemove-H and its agency Ogilvy & Mather released a similarly power campaign that I have argued was one of the top ads of 2013.  Like “The Power of Love,” Truemove’s ad is based upon the social goal of paying life forward.  In this case it created a time-lapse schema with the proposition that “Giving is the Best Communication.”

        In both ads there is no oblique unique selling proposition.  Their power is in how they lead the viewer on an emotional journey to form a resolution to take action. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H's "Giving" advertisement.

Figure 1 – Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H’s “Giving” advertisement.

        In DTAC’s ad, it shows how technology can’t replace love but it can uniquely connect people in moments of love.  The desired action is to use DTAC phones to never miss a loving moment.   As for Truemove, its ad demonstrates power of giving and the emotional conclusion to give by communicating through Truemove’s network.

        Together they are two powerfully transformative and strategic ads from two companies brave enough to be different and stand out in the marketplace.

The Ads of World Cup… Move Over Super Bowl

14 Jun

World Cup Collage

              For decades, advertising in America’s NFL Super Bowl has long been considered the grand prize for the world’s biggest brands.  American football has just been left in the locker room.

                If one measures viral video sharing, World Cup Soccer has already won the trophy.  Unruly Media tracks social media movement of advertisements.  Its data shows the top-five World Cup ads have already drawn more than 6.1 million shares worldwide.   By comparison, the top-five Super Bowl XLIII ads drew 2.9 million shares.   The World Cup games have only just begun and their advertisements have already out-performed Super Bowl exposure by 210%.

McDonald's World Cup commercial

McDonald’s World Cup commercial

                 Much like the marketing in the Super Bowl, ad agencies and their brands are using some of the same theoretical communication concepts in targeting viewers.   Long time University of Minnesota advertising researcher John Eighmey likes to call the main concept “likeability of the ad.”   That is, if you like the advertisement, you’ll like the brand.  It plays off Balance Theory where congruity is formed between the viewer, the ad, and the advertiser.   That’s why so many of these ads are constructed to entertain rather than drive a hard selling proposition.

                One of the top World Cup ads that successfully plays off this theory comes from Nike.  It’s actually a short movie that uses Disney-like animation featuring soccer super stars Zlatan and Neymar Jr.  It’s an easily digestible good vs. evil schema that plays off of Nike’s well established brand of empowerment.

 

                The Bank of Chile has produced perhaps the most emotionally powerful ad of the games.  Chile’s soccer team is placed in the same World Cup division as the titanic teams of Netherlands and Spain.  It’s called the “death group.”  In this case, no men are better suited to sell the argument of fighting death than the very Chilean miners who stared at death and won.  The salient message from the Bank of Chile is that it is the bank which can help build impossible dreams.


                This kind of advertising forum is tailor-made for soft drink brands.  Pepsi has long aligned itself with youth—the Pepsi Generation.  In this ad Pepsi zeros in on its roots once again driving home the message that Pepsi provides the rhythm of fun to live in the moment.


                McDonald’s could have spent its World Cup marketing budget on selling burgers.  Instead it’s selling soccer and kids who are “Loving it.”  McDonald’s is making the bet that viewers will love this ad and love them back in return.

 

                Finally, Castrol is out to show that it too has a trick play up its cylinder head.  This video short pitting man against machine has already scored with fans who have viewed it more than 15 million times.

               

                 These are just five advertisements in a long list of brands vying for attention.   But they’ve already shown their viral communication power on the world stage.

Cross-Channel Integration – How The White House Made D-Day More Than a Speech

13 Jun

Obama D-Day Collage

       It’s a case of old school vs. new school communication.  Plato vs. Zuckerberg.  That is, speech vs. social media.  But in reality the two can and should complement each other and the White House communications team has just given another example of how to use and integrate these new channels to amplify an important message.  In this case D-Day.

      In many respects, President Barack Obama’s speech in Normandy was itself a teaching machine.  Filled with powerful rhetorical imagery and metaphoric values, he used the world’s oldest form of communication to commemorate and honor the past and reassure the future.

      The president’s opening line was itself masterful in its metaphoric power:

                   If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.”

 His second sentence was equally illustrative in its imagery:

“Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders poured over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.”

      Gathered among an audience of D-Day veterans and foreign leaders the president had three clear goals in this address.  First, to remember and acknowledge sacrifices paid on the beaches of Normandy and to keep the story alive.  He did it in the form of a rhetorical challenge:

                   Whenever the world makes you cynical — stop and think of these men.”

     Second, the president needed to reassure America’s European allies that it’s un-waivered in its commitment to a free continent.  Finally, he had to acknowledge the continuing sacrifice U.S. service members are still giving in a post 9-11 world:

“And as today’s wars come to an end, this generation of servicemen and women will step out of uniform. They, too, will build families and lives of their own. They, too, will become leaders in their communities, in politics, in commerce and industry — the leaders we need for the beachheads of our time. God willing, they, too, will grow old in the land they helped keep free. And someday, future generations, whether seventy or seven hundred years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them — and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.”

 

D-Day Blog WH Facebook

Figure 1 – White House Facebook post of the D-Day event linking to a YouTube video.

        For a president severely struggling at home and in congress, it may have been one of his better moments.  But the challenge for the White House was not letting the message disappear into the sands of Normandy.  Major media coverage significantly helped.   But as an established brand, the White House also controls its own messaging, and in this case it tactically coordinated and integrated the D-Day message across multiple media channels to ensure it was targeted to a series of narrow audiences for the widest possibly reach. (Figure 1)

         First and foremost, was the YouTube video of the speech.  But the White House communications team also targeted separate messages, pictures, and excerpts of the speech to individual social media channels. (Figure 2)  The multi-channel integration creates a hub and spoke network to target individual audiences where they live in social media.  

Figure 2 - The White House cross-channel integration profile.

Figure 2 – The White House cross-channel integration profile.

    In an age of modern communication it’s a smart strategic use of social media to amplify a message and engage participation.  If there was any fault in this particular strategy, it’s in the fact that the communications team should have tactically posted more images and messages throughout the day with a more coordinated effort in each post to link and drive audiences to the blog and the YouTube speech.   In that respect, it’s one miscue an otherwise disciplined communications team.

      It doesn’t have to be a presidential speech.  The lessons for brands, corporate communication teams and non-profits alike are profound.  Compelling content doesn’t have to live and die in a single space.   Integration across multiple channels is key—and often free.  The White House team gives a useful strategic road map for communicators to follow.

“The Heart Can Never Mess You Up” — Speech Lessons From a Once Homeless Marine

4 Jun

 

    On paper, it was no contest.  The speakers list contained a short agenda of polished politicians and accomplished CEOs.  And then, there was Jerry Readmond.

      “I have but one wish right now, that my anti-depression pill would kick in,” said Readmond.

      Those were his first words.

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

       Hardly the opening line of a master orator.  And therein lies its simple genius—honesty.     

     Jerry Readmond is a former Vietnam War Marine who long ago stopped carrying a rifle and instead carried a burden.  What the war didn’t break, inner demons did.  He spent time walking and living on the streets of Minneapolis, another member in the national embarrassment called the homeless veterans club.  If not for the Marine Corps instilling in him a life-long sense of pride and adaptability, Readmond admits he might not have survived. 

      That’s exactly why Readmond was added to the speakers list at the recent ground breaking for 58 new affordable apartments for homeless veterans at Fort Snelling.  The fact that he’s a Marine gives him respect.  His one-time homelessness gives him standing.  Aristotle called it ethos, or credibility.  But the pathos, or emotion was about to come from the soul.

      “I don’t read from notes, because the heart can really never mess you up.” Readmond said.

     He didn’t need notes. All he needed was a narrative, and his heart gave him one.  Here are some of the excerpts:

      “I asked Senator Hubert Humphrey one time, ‘Where does it start?’ And he shook my hand.  And having been here today and witnessing this, it hit me.  After all these years, it starts with a handshake.  There have been many, many, many, many hands shook here.

      “We can build all the buildings we want for our veterans, but I hope when we leave here you will think of this one word:  Affordable.  I’m in a place right now, I have my social security and I have my compensation from the V.A., the first and the fifteenth.  My rent is going to be over a thousand dollars a month and I was homeless.  I just want to be not a perfect example, but I like to be an example because I got my housing through HUD VASH [Housing & Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing].  That’s why I’m so passionate about this.  It takes the honor and the courage and the strength of a warrior to ask for help, that’s why we have a hard time getting them in the door. 

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing.  (Photo from Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

      “That’s what we’re all doing here.  Martin Luther King, ‘I had a dream.’ And everybody that’s going to fill these halls and walk the grounds will able to say instead of living down by the river or under a bridge… every winter I just get scared.  Really, really, really scared. How many are they going to find under a bridge or down by a river, or in the bush, dead because they froze to death. 

     “Now I know when Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’  And, for me it is my dream would be that we can fill as many of these buildings here as possible with affordable housing. That we can build affordable housing all over.  When President Obama was first elected he said that he wanted to eliminate veteran homelessness.  And I thought to myself one word and it was short: right.  But by golly, it’s happening. 

      “But it was the handshake.  God bless our veterans and God bless the United States of America.”

      Pity any speaker who has to come next.  In this case, it was Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Al Franken.

     “Don’t anyone ever let me follow Jerry again,” said Franken.

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

 

     Readmond’s were the only words anyone remembered.  Readmond aimed for the heart, everyone else aimed for the talking points.

     The lessons for speech givers and communicators alike are profound.  Powerful persuasion comes in the emotional metaphors delivered by people who have credibility.  In this case, it came from a disheveled man wearing a USMC t-shirt.

Embracing Vine — How One Veteran Political Journalist Tweets a New Narrative

26 May

Rachel Blog Cover Pix

   One of the great challenges for brands and journalists alike is engaging consumers in an era where information is a snack and not a meal.  One of Minnesota’s premiere political reporters is now measuring that engagement by seconds in addition to column inches.     

    The Minneapolis StarTribune’s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger is more than a newspaper reporter.  She’s a multi-platform, multi-channel journalist who writes, blogs, tweets, and even produces video stories for startribune.com.  With more than 36-thousand tweets she is a prolific user of Twitter and one of the state’s most followed political journalists.  And it’s through Twitter that she’s experimenting with seven-second Vine videos to engage her followers in new ways.      

     “We’ve been using Vine for a while in various ways and I’ve sort have played with it a little bit in journalism,” said Stassen-Berger.       

     Like most news organizations, the StarTribune has encouraged its reporters to embrace social media and use various channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Vine to reach their readers where they live in social media.  New research from John H. Parmelee in the Journal of Media Practice shows how most American political reporters have settled in on Twitter.   For Stassen-Berger, the perfect opportunity to expand her use of Twitter with embedded Vine videos came during Governor Mark Dayton’s State of the State address where she approached Democratic lawmakers inside the House chambers and asked them what they wanted to hear from the Governor.        

    Here are three of her vines:

 

 

      After the governor’s address, Stassen-Berger captured the Republican response from two candidates seeking the party endorsement to run against Dayton.  

 

 

  

     For Stassen-Berger’s followers, the tweets and vines when followed in real time help tell a brief narrative about the story.  Furthermore, the Vine video with sound extends credibility to the tweet and makes the news event itself more accessible, more real.

     “I think the moment that it crystalized with me as a good use of it was actually on caucus night,” said Stassen-Berger.

     “I was in the office and was running a live blog and all sorts of reporters were out in the field and feeding to me so I could feed the live blog.  And one of the things I said to them was, ‘Try to use Vine and particularly if you can go up to someone and think of a specific question and say you’ve got seven seconds to answer.’” 

Figure -1 Pew Research Twitter News Consumers

Figure -1 Pew Research Twitter News Consumers

      Through trial and error, Stassen-Berger says the secret is to come up with a focused question that the subject can answer very quickly.  It also takes persistence and a little patience.  “It takes a couple of takes.  Because it’s only seven seconds and it’s a challenge,” she said.

      As news consumption habits change, the use of Vine to give little snippets of context to a news event through Twitter is a smart strategy.  New insights by Pew Research Center show the overall Twitter user base is still relatively small, but those who are on the channel are relatively strong news consumers.  Pew found that half of Twitter’s users are seeking news. (Figure 1)

     That important insight collides against further Pew research that shows the number of consumers watching online news videos is steadily growing—now more than half all online video viewing. (Figure 2)  Increasingly, more of that video is consumed on mobile platforms.  Digital analytics agency comScore just released new research showing mobile video viewing has risen 37% in the past year among German consumers, a strong indicator of a trend that is typically later matched by U.S. audiences. 

Figure 2 - Pew Online Video News Demographics

Figure 2 – Pew Online Video News Demographics

      Pew also finds that the viewers who are watching online news videos dramatically trend young.  Nearly half of all 18-29 year olds watch online news videos. This is a critical audience to news organizations as they try to engage young consumers who watch less television news and read fewer newspapers than previous generations.

    Furthermore, the use of Vine in news coverage doesn’t just tend to lend more credibility to the story but also the storyteller.  After all, much like the newspaper she writes for, Stassen-Berger is a powerful brand herself.  By using Vine to give her followers more accessibility to the stories she’s covering, she also builds upon an important theoretical model that I’ve established called the Blotz Typology.  It’s a four-part model that provides a road map toward building and sustaining credible online relationships that in turn could lead to more engagement and more followers.

      Stassen-Berger just sees it as another way to tell a story.

       “People do react and it allows them another way to see the news,” she said.

#GiveItBack – When Social Media Campaigns Turn Ugly

3 Mar

Giveitback 1

     It was a great idea, until it wasn’t.

      Minnesota’s Republican legislative leaders have launched a clever, and useful social media effort to rally public support for returning the state’s growing surplus to taxpayers.   Minnesota’s February budget forecast projects that surplus adds up to $1.23 billion and growing.  The surplus is the result of the state’s growing economy and newly enacted tax increases passed by the Democratic controlled legislature and signed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013.

     “State government does not need this money.  Minnesota families need this money.  So, let’s give it back,” said GOP House minority leader Kurt Daudt.  

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet.  (insert)

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet. (insert)

       In that simple declaration, a campaign was born.  Republican leaders raised a poster before TV cameras with the words “Give it Back Act” and instantly encouraged citizens to Tweet their ideas about how the state should return their hard earned money by using the simple hashtag #giveitback.

      On many levels, it’s a smart strategy.  From a pure marketing point of view, by launching a social media campaign based upon the Republican core value of lower taxes, legislative leaders could hope to not only activate its base of brand loyalists, but create a populist buzz and use the groundswell of public opinion to influence the Democratic majority to return some or all of the surplus to taxpayers in the form of tax credits or reductions.

     In a matter of hours, the Tweets started rolling in.  But, the majority of them perhaps were not what the Republicans were expecting.  It turns out, Democratic party supporters and lawmakers hijacked the #giveitback campaign and turned it against them. (Click on Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - #giveitback Tweets.

Figure 1 – #giveitback Tweets.

      Twitter campaigns can be risky at best.  Unless a brand has a substantial base of loyalist or followers, its message can be undercut by critics and cynics alike with just a few clever Tweets that are retweeted among their own followers.  That can add up fast.  Researchers at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology have found that a retweet reaches 1,000 additional viewers on average regardless of how many followers the sender has.  Complicating the strategy is the fact that it’s launched in a hyper-political election year where opponents and detractors have extra incentive to disrupt the message.

     These kind of campaigns require research.  Brand managers need to vet the hashtags which can be easily done with simple tools embedded on Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.   Advertising and PR agencies have more sophisticated tracking tools that can also aid in the research.   A simple search of #giveitback Tweets indicates that it’s a popular hashtag among teens and millennials looking to retrieve stolen items. 

Figure 2 - Justin Bieber's #giveback campaign.

Figure 2 – Justin Bieber’s #giveback campaign.

      Pop superstar Justin Bieber has even used a variation of the hashtag, #giveback, and many of his 50 million followers use it in their own Tweets. (Figure 2)  Therefore the Republicans’ #giveitback campaign is co-mingled with hundreds of non-related Tweets and gets lost in the noise.  In this case a more effective hashtag would have been one that is more specific, such as #returnthesurplus, or #returnmymoneymn. 

     With research in hand, a smart campaign also needs a cross-channel integration plan.  In other words, it needs to be leveraged on a branded website, Youtube, Facebook, earned media, and perhaps even paid media.  An excellent example is how Toyota recently created cross-channel tactical support to drive Twitter conversations during the Super Bowl to create awareness for its new Highlander SUV.   

Figure 3

Figure 3

      Without that kind of cross-channel support, the chances of a social media campaign creating a viral groundswell are not particularly strong.  As evidence, nearly 72 hours after the launch of the #giveitback campaign, it has produced few genuine Tweets from the general public with the exception of several Republican lawmakers. (Figure 3) 

    It’s not that #giveitback was a bad idea.  In this case it made headlines and good news copy in the context of the budget surplus narrative.  And yes, there is exceptional value in that too.  But as a viral social media campaign it so far has been a swing and a miss.

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