Archive | February, 2012

Halftime in America. How Chrysler Found a Voice, and Missed an Opportunity

14 Feb

                The silhouette emerging from the darkness on Super Bowl Sunday was more than a man stepping into the light.  It was a car company emerging from the blast furnace of scrap metal.  And, it was a nation emerging with it. 

"Halftime in America"

                The advertisement for Chrysler wasn’t directly selling a product, it was selling an idea—economic patriotism.   It picked up where Chrysler left off in Super Bowl XLV when Eminem introduced the new Chrysler 200 luxury car proclaiming “Detroit was back.”   This year’s message is  that Chrysler has survived a brutal first half of the recession, and if Chrysler can do it so can the rest of America.   As I wrote in a previous post, the ad was no accident and was strategically positioned to elicit a desired response.

  • Idea:  Halftime/Patriotism
  • Target Market Audience:  Anyone who has struggled in the economy
  • Desired Response:  Feel confident about Chrysler—feel confident about yourself
  • Competitive Frame:  Apathy and pessimism
  • Message Argument:  We’ve only just begun—can’t wait for the second half
  • Rationale:  Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler 

             The positioning of Clint Eastwood as the metaphoric coach giving the country a sobering Super Bowl halftime pep talk was brilliant casting.  Who’s not going to stand tall with Dirty Harry giving a “Million Dollar Baby” lecture? 

                Apparently, plenty.

                From Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, to former Bush White House Aide Carl Rove, many people saw it as a rallying cry to justify the auto industry bailout.  Additionally, many of those same people saw the halftime in America theme as a metaphoric campaign commercial urging voters to give President Obama a second term.  Media analyst John Rash said the backlash should not be surprising.  

Media Analyst John Rash

                “The commercial is a real shock test in that people can read into it what they bring politically,” said Rash.

                “Many republicans might be able to read here they have a well known conservative who in effect is trying to rally the country for a fresh start in the second half.  To some that would suggest electing a new administration.  Other’s certainly some democrats read into it using the auto bailout in Detroit as a template for the country’s comeback and they hear second half and they think second term.  So, people will project onto a spot what they think politically and socially.”

                But critics of the ad need to hear at least one more perspective.  Anna Ciaramitaro lives in Detroit and has witnessed its slow death in the new economy. 

Detroit resident Anna Ciaramitaro

              “It was one of the best commercials ever made,” said Ciaramitaro. 

                She added, “It was a commercial that touched the heart of Detroit and the people that lived there, the citizens, the residents there that experienced everyday what it’s like rebuilding a city again.  And we just wanted to share that with the rest of America.”

                And this is exactly where Chrysler missed an opportunity.  What if it didn’t just create an ad, what if it had created a community?  What Chrysler missed was the chance to launch a multi-channel campaign where people can tell and create their own “second half” stories.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Branded website:  A separate webpage called where Chrysler can showcase comeback stories/videos of ordinary Americans and companies.  User generated content would be the key component of this website.   Ideally, the stories would include some thread of how Chrysler products helped in the comeback.  The website should be prominently embedded on Chrysler’s homepage that customers can easily find.  The website branding would be integrated within Chrysler’s media buys:  “Tell your story.”
  2. Daily Twitter updates:  A separate Twitter feed of daily success stories tied to the Chrysler brand.
  3. Elementary School Art Contest:  Involve local Chrysler dealerships and schools in an art display that encourages children to tell their own stories through art work of how perhaps their own families have found ways to succeed.   The local Chrysler dealerships would serve as the galleries to display the art and present a cash prize to the school with the best presentation.
  4. Video contest:  An invitation to young film makers to create their own second half ad showcasing a comeback story.  All ads would be screened and judged by Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood.  The winning commercial would then air during the halftime of the NLF kick-off game in September. 

             During the Super Bowl, Chrysler implored the world to “hear the roar of our engines.”   Building a community could provide the echo chamber to let those engines roar from every corner of the planet.

                Yes, Chrysler is a car company.   But as Americans in every walk of life emerge from this brutal recession, Chrysler is also a success story.  Americans love winners.  That’s a sustainable brand value Chrysler can build and drive.

OutFOX Diabetes

11 Feb

             I’ve shared with people over the years my passion for finding a cure for Type-1 diabetes.

             I have two very good reasons.

             My oldest daughter Madison  was diagnosed at the age of three, our other daughter Emerson was diagnosed at twelve.  Two children.  Two lives filled with constant blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections.

OutFOX Diabetes Walk Team - Mall of America February 25h, 2012

             For more than a decade my family and I have been active within JDRF to help raise money to find a cure for Type-1 diabetes.  This year my family is joining the Fox 9 family to form a walk team called OutFOX Diabetes.   The Walk takes place February 25th at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.  We don’t necessarily need walkers, but we need supporters.  If you’d like to be a virtual walker with us, click on the hyper link and make a donation to our team.

             We are making incredible progress toward finding a cure.  Last year JDRF spent $116 million on research and much of it is producing encouraging results.

             We are grateful to all who have helped in the past and continue to support the search for a cure.



Can Google Predict the Minnesota Caucuses?

7 Feb

Ron Paul Trending Well in Minnesota

                It’s far from a scientific sample of the electorate, but Google has so far been a fairly reliable predictor of election results so far in the 2012 presidential cycle. 

                Google tracks what people search for online.  In a way, it’s a measure of groundswell and interest.  Marketers call it buzz.  When one mines the Google Trends data just for Minnesota in the past 30 days the search results show Ron Paul far and away has the most buzz. (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - Minnesota Google Search Trends

               In the past six months I’ve observed how Google Trends served as a barometer for Michele Bachmann’s surprise win in the Iowa Straw Poll and Rick Santorum’s tight finish in the Iowa Caucuses.

                The latest scientific poll out by Public Policy Polling shows Rick Santorum with a substantial lead over Mitt Romney, 30-24%.  Newt Gingrich is next with 22% and 20% for Ron Paul.  In other words, PPP shows nearly the opposite results as Google.

                To be sure, Ron Paul has attracted a loyal following of younger supporters who have swamped every Minnesota campaign appearance in the past several days.  Paul has also trended very well in Google in previous presidential contests.  In fact, Google Trends showed him with the most buzz prior to the Iowa Caucuses.  However, he has not been able to convert that buzz into votes.  We’ll see if he’s able to accomplish that Tuesday night in Minnesota.

The Best Super Bowl Ads. Three That Were No Accident.

7 Feb

             Super Bowl XLVI has recorded its winners and losers among teams and certainly among brands.

             This year’s annual Super Bowl of advertising has produced another list of memorable commercials, and certainly a list of forgettable and regrettable ones too.

VW - Dog Strikes Back

             Tracking agencies have already ranked the ads based upon their popularity among viewers and it should come as no surprise that Doritos once again finished strong with its mainstay use of humor.

             Part of the purpose of Super Bowl ads is to entertain.  But, it’s important to remember that if those ads don’t creatively communicate a strategic message about the brand or product, then it’s a colossal waste of $3.5 million.

              With that in mind, I picked the minds of two advertising heavy weights.  John Eighmey is the Campbell Mithun Chair of Advertising at the University of Minnesota.  Eighmey spent a good portion of his career at Young & Rubicam in New York and steered the production of many of the great advertising campaigns of the 1970’s and 80’s including the Hallmark card ads that made everyone cry.  From Eighmey’s point of view one commercial this year stood out from the rest: Fiat’s 500 Abarth.

             “It’s the one commercial any creative person would want on his reel.” Eighmey said.

             Many car companies during the past 50 years have tried to sell the idea of having a love affair with a car.  Eighmey says this is the first one to make the metaphor real.   The hot model bending over at the street curb was the personification of love at first sight.  But when woman stood up and started shouting in Italian and charging toward her admirer it became clear that this was the embodiment of every man’s dream—a siren that loved him back.  The sexy tattoo of the Abarth logo on the back of her neck was the only foreshadowing of the surprise to come.


             It wasn’t just a cleaver ad, it targeted a specific audience with a specific message and a specific desired response:

  • Idea:  Love affair with a car
  • Target Market Audience:  American men who love sports cars
  • Desired Response: Test dive this car!
  • Competitive Frame:  All other compact cars
  • Message Argument:  Fall in love with the sexy Italian car that will love you back
  • Rationale:  Introduces legendary European car to an American audience

             Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg noted a number of good Super Bowl ads including the VW Beetle dog training commercial, but the one that stood out for him was the Chevy Silverado Apocalypse.

             This ad too, was no accident.  It used the predictions of the 2012 apocalypse and a bit of end-of-the-world lore about the survivability of Twinkies to differentiate the Silverado from all other pick-up trucks.


             The strategy of the Silverado ad jumps off the screen:

  • Idea: Surviving the apocalypse
  • Target Market Audience: Men who buy pick-ups
  • Desired Response: Buy a Silverado
  • Competitive Frame: Ford F-150 and all over pick-ups
  • Message Argument: A Chevy can survive the end of the world
  • Rationale: Uses humor to tell a story about the reliability of the Silverado

             The ad presents what advertising Godfather Rosser Reeves would call a unique selling proposition—Chevy trucks last.  In an economy where consumers are hanging onto their cars for 10-plus years, the Silverado has value.

             I have to admit, my personal favorite made me stand up and cheer.   It was Chrysler’s “Halftime in America.”  The conceptual positioning of Clint Eastwood as America’s coach giving a halftime economic pep-talk was simply brilliant casting.  Who wouldn’t want to stand tall with Dirty Harry?


             Here again, the means of communication is intentional and very specific.

  • Idea:  Patriotism
  • Target Market Audience: Anyone who has struggled in the economy
  • Desired Response: Feel confident about yourself—feel confident about Chrysler
  • Competitive Frame: Apathy & Pessimism
  • Message Argument:  We’ve only just begun—Can’t wait for the second half (Oh, and thanks for the bailout!)
  • Rationale:  Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler cars.

             “Halftime in America” builds upon several salient ideas to help us make a positive association with the Chrysler brand.  First, it blatantly bends the old Ronald Reagan metaphor of “morning in America” which was Reagan’s positive, optimistic view of the country.   Second, the ad was perfectly positioned to run at half time of a hard fought game building upon the sports come-back metaphor.  And third, it awakens the reality that this economy is really not a game; real people have lost—we are turning a corner and refuse to lose again.

             Three ads, three takes.  Can’t wait for Super Bowl XLVII.

Susan G. Komen’s PR Disaster. What Went Wrong, and How it Could Have Been Prevented.

5 Feb

                The pink ribbon that ties together a breast cancer community managed to tie a pink noose instead. 

               Susan G. Komen somehow hung itself.  Somewhere, someone inside the organization cut the rope just in time.   But, it’s gasping for air.

                The tragedy in its decision to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood not only damaged the image of an exceptionally worthy organization and powerful super brand, it potentially threatened the lives of the some of very women it has promised to serve.  The question is, how did this happen? 

                The legal and moral arguments over the Komen’s initial decision to pull its grants from Planned Parenthood have been well documented.  Komen was getting increasing pressure from the right to life movement to no longer fund breast cancer screenings at an organization that also provides abortions.  How Komen responded to the pressure will be analyzed in case studies that compare it against such classic PR disasters as New Coke, and more the more recent debacles of ACRON, Go Daddy, and SOPA .   Each has its unique set of circumstances, yet each has its similarities.   They all lost track of their audience, their value proposition, and their soul.   But what compounded Komen’s disaster was the speed and means by which its stakeholders struck back.  Social media channels provided the platform and the echo chamber for the outrage to spread like a contagion.

                The outrage begins with what a significant number of Komen’s loyalists and evangelists viewed as a violation of trust.  Komen’s core mission is saving the lives of women.  It’s website boldly states, “Susan G. Komen for the Cure is fighting every minute of every day to finish what we started and achieve our vision of a world without breast cancer.”  It’s not just a credo, it’s a commandment. 

                Komen’s founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker proclaims, “We’re proud of the fact that we don’t simply dump funds and run.  We create activists—one person, one community, one state, one nation at a time—to try and solve the number one health concern of women.”

                But Komen’s announcement that it would suspend eligibility for further grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer examinations seemingly violated its core proposition and values.    Brinker attempted to argue in a YouTube video that the decision was not politically motivated.  But in a world where perception is reality, no one bought it.   Tragically, Komen, never saw it coming.


                From a pure communications analysis, Komen’s actions were incongruent with both with its mission and its constituents.  What it failed to take into account is that Planned Parenthood is also a regarded women’s health organization with considerable overlap among Komen’s own activists and volunteers.  I’ve created a simple heuristic model that shows the positive and negative congruencies between Komen, Planned Parenthood and women.  (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Komen's Communications Incongruency Model

             Planned Parenthood has a loyal constituency of its own.  Among its supporters is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  When Bloomberg took to Twitter and announced a $250,000 donation to Planned Parenthood, it leveraged more money and buzz. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Tweet

                What Bloomberg effectively achieved was a new congruency.  (Figure 3)  Women and donors who support both Planned Parenthood and Komen didn’t take to the streets, they followed Bloomberg and took to their smart phones and computers.  

Figure 3 - Mayor Bloomberg's Communcation Congruency Model

             The outrage in social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter spread faster than the opening steps of a Komen 3-Day event.   A little more than 24-hours after Brinker took to Youtube defending Komen’s actions, the organization issued an abrupt apology and restored funding to Planned Parenthood.  The carefully crafted message reads as follows:  “We want to apologize for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”   In other words, they rediscovered their soul and their credo.

                 Which brings us back to Komen’s initial decision.  How would the course of events been different had the executive leadership made its decision based upon the organization’s core values and mission?  These are the same questions Komens  PR agency, Ogilvy, will have to ask as well.  In the coming days Ogilvy will have to craft a set of strategic messages to satisfy not just Komen’s supporters of Planned Parenthood, but those supporters who strongly oppose that fact that Planned Parenthood also provides abortion counseling.  The tragedy is that unless Ogilvy is working pro-bono, Komen will spend a huge sum of money on damage control that otherwise would have gone to breast cancer research.

                Komen will likely recover and catch its breath.  But it’s near death experience is a valuable lesson for organizations to constantly pay attention to their core values.  If not, in this new world order of social democracy, their followers will hold them accountable.

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