Archive | December, 2013

Best Ads of 2013 – The Emergence of Viral Brand Journalism

31 Dec

Best Ads Collage

     This just may be the year when creativity came back.  With the stock market and retail sales once again in the driver’s seat, brands seemed more willing to take creative risks.   In return agencies pushed some of them to think beyond traditional advertising.   The result was some brave long-form storytelling and investments in building communities in social space. 

     One of the finest examples came from Dove and its agency Oglivy Brazil.  Armed with the insight that only 4% of women around the world think of themselves as beautiful, Oglivy was charged with restoring their self-image.  They did it by hiring a former police sketch artist.   The result was a three-minute mini-documentary that produced an emotionally powerful message: “You are more beautiful than you think.”   

Figure 1 Theory of Trying model of the attitude toward improving self-esteem on one's beauty.

Figure 1 Theory of Trying model of the attitude toward improving self-esteem on one’s beauty.

     The ad is an exemplar of using the strategic power of the Theory of Trying.   Social psychologists Richard Bagozzi and Paul Warshaw established that people evaluate goals based upon their attitudes towards success and their attitudes towards failure.   In this case the mini-documentary exposes the perceived self-image failures of women and then awakens them to the success of seeing themselves in a new light.   The ad leads them to form new goals improving their self-esteem—with Dove products.  (Figure 1)

      The message is salient not just with women, but with husbands, boyfriends and partners who all look at that someone special in their lives and believe she is the most beautiful person in the world.   That’s why the video has been viewed more than 61 million times on YouTube. 

     But Oglivy took it a step further by creating a branded website for women to share their stories.  Dove even connected the insight to its Facebook page that greets followers with a simple message, “Hello, beautiful.”  Its daily posts of branded self –image content are now seen by a community of 20-million.  All of that from a soap company.

      My personal 2013  favorite is from a brand you’ve never heard of.   It doesn’t directly sell a product, but instead an idea.  And in the process it brilliantly illustrates the power of brand extension with a smart and strategic piece of communication.

      It comes from a cell phone company in Thailand named Truemove-H.  The three minute film spans a 30-year story, one that begins with an act of sympathy and kindness and ends with a surprise act or gratitude.  The film contains no product placement, no overt sales pitch, only the powerful idea of paying life forward.  The message from Truemove-H:  “Giving is the best communication.”

      Proof of the ad’s power lies in the fact that it surpassed 9-million YouTube views in one week.

      As a piece of communication, the film is a daring and brilliantly strategic tool to build brand salience in a hyper-competitive category. 

Figure 2 - Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H's "Giving" advertisement.

Figure 2 – Applying Appraisal Theory to Truemove-H’s “Giving” advertisement.

      In this case, it effectively uses Appraisal Theory to connect emotion and mood to influence a specific action.  The film makes the viewer cognitively aware of how giving can have its own reward. (Figure 2)  The deep emotional response of empathy—even guilt—leads to the formation of new attitudes about how giving can impact people’s lives.  In this case, Truemove-H’s goal is to get people to give by calling more often.  But just as important, it seals an emotionally positive connection to the brand—a connection likely to be top of mind the next time a Thai consumer searches for a new phone service.

      Another overseas brand also hit the bull’s eye with the key insight of sharing and friendship.   It comes from Robinsons, a juice company from the UK.   Core to Robinson’s brand promise is wholesomeness.   But its challenge is creating an image for itself in a category crowded with soft drinks and big budget marketing campaigns. 

      What BBH London created was 60-second episodic of two boys playing games together throughout the day.  But as the day ends and they begin to fall asleep, the subtle surprise metaphor finally reveals itself.   The positive attitude toward the ad directly transmits to the brand.

      Kmart also reinvented the Blue Light Special.  And it’s… well, a bit blue.

      The original discount department store pulled a little sophomoric humor out of isle ten in hopes of gaining more attention in the online retail marketplace dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon.  DraftFCB in Chicago produced an off-color and humorous message promoting Kmart’s ability to “ship my pants,” or anything else from for free. 

Figure 3

Figure 3

      The message is very strategic.  Kmart is simply trying to regain lost customers by using humor to remind them that they don’t have to go to Amazon or Walmart to shop online.  (Figure 3)

      The unique part of the strategy is to avoid television and go directly to social media where edgy messaging can exceed the more sanitized boundaries of broadcast television and quickly be shared among friends.  In Kmart’s case it was a brilliant success.  In the first 48-hours, “Ship my Pants” received more than two-million YouTube views.

       Finally, one brand had a little fun by mocking its own product, and for that matter celebrity endorsements too.  It came from Dodge who used a fake celebrity to sell its Durango SUV.   Chrysler’s agency Wieden + Kennedy used “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) to disparage the product.   The result was a serial TV and digital campaign that had Burgundy humorously highlighting a different unique selling proposition in each ad, everything from Durango’s big glove box, to more horse power, to a design that still looks good with egg on its doors. 

Figure 4 - Google Trends data on Dodge Durango and Ron Burgundy from September - December 2013

Figure 4 – Google Trends data on Dodge Durango and Ron Burgundy from September – December 2013

      It turns out the high risk/high reward gamble was a “kind of a big deal.”  Online search and buzz of Durango and Ron Burgundy jumped. (Figure 4)  Furthermore, sales of Durango’s in October rose 59% upon the release of the campaign.   The campaign proved once again the theory of positive brand association with the likeability of it ad.

     This is a short but not exclusive list.  Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” is another example of truly great and brave brand communication using accessible metaphors to force consumers to think about sustainable foods.

      Clearly more brands and their agencies seemed willing to stretch the boundaries again.  That should make 2014 even more fun and beneficial for consumers.

For more expert analysis of the best in advertising, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s blog, The Psychology of Advertising.


Leave it to Beyonce to Compose a New Marketing Rhythm

28 Dec


   The retail industry and music critics have spilled a lot of ink and a bit of angst about how Beyonce just released her new album.  By going directly to digital with a surprise social media announcement and no formal marketing campaign or retail partner such as Target, many industry watchers noted how she broke all the rules and rewrote the playbook on how to launch new music.  

Screen grab from Beyoncé explaining her new "Visual Album."

Screen grab from Beyoncé explaining her new “Visual Album.”

    In reality, Beyonce didn’t write new rules, she ingeniously employed existing rules in an orchestrated way.  Instead of using one or two effective marketing drivers, she used many at the same time.  Musicians refer to such a composing strategy as poly-rhythms.  That is, using a multiple set of of rhythms that follow the same meter to create a musical impression.  Beyonce ingeniously applied music theory to marketing. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

    Former Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg, a long time creative advertising and marketing expert argues that there are seven main marketing target drivers. (Figure 1)   Beyonce used each one of those drivers to propel explosive sales of her new album, “Beyonce.”

 1.  Brand Awareness:  Yep, she has it.  Her concerts are all sell-outs, and her Super Bowl XLVII half-time audience of 104 million viewers only solidified her world-wide superstar status.  Her 54 million Facebook likes are more than Target and Walmart combined.

 2.  Emotional Bond:  Has that too.  Her fans bought so many of her previous four albums that they all debuted at #1 on Billboard.  This intense bond gave Beyonce and her marketing team every reason to believe she could mobilize that bond to respond to a new album.  They did.

 3.  Product News:  “Surprise.”  Everyone loves a surprise, and Beyonce’s 8.5 million followers on Instagram were rewarded with the exclusive video announcement on December 12 of her new album–the ultimate product news.

4.  Activation:  By making the new album–14 songs and 17 videos–immediately available on iTunes, there was instant incentive to buy now.  In today’s social media environment, that provides a psychological motivation for fans to buy the new album before their friends so they could be among the first to share their reactions.  It worked.   The sale of 828,777 albums in the first three days smashed all iTunes records.

 5.  Loyalty:  Here again, Beyonce rewards her most intense followers not only with the exclusive first news, but also with the reward of being the first in the world to preview and buy her new album on iTunes.  The clear message: if you’re a fan, you have to follow Beyonce on social media to be in the know.

 6.  Product Experience:  By giving iTunes the exclusive sales rights for first week of release, fans could sample each track and video before buying product–the ultimate “try before you buy.”

 7.  Buzz:  Nailed it.  Twitter reported 1.2 million tweets in 24-hours and forced mainstream media to pick up the news and spread it even further.  A real-time geotagged map by Arbitron shows how the news spread like a contagion around the world. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 - Geotag of viral Beyonce Tweets 1.5 hours after her new album announcement on Instagram and Twitter on December 12, 2013.

Figure 2 – Geotag of viral Beyonce Tweets 1.5 hours after her new album announcement on Instagram and Facebook on December 12, 2013.

        The disruptions of digital distribution to the music industry rewrote all the rules years ago, and they’ve been in play ever since.   In almost every respect, Beyonce’s production of the new record as a “video album” was tailor made for social media and digital space.  Beyonce didn’t break the rules, she simply figured out a way to take existing notes and rhythms and write new song.  If there’s any surprise to Beyonce’s brilliant marketing strategy, it should be that no other superstar artist or record label has figured it out before now. 


Three Great Examples of Using Instagram Video for Brand Engagement

20 Dec

Instagram Collage 12-20-13

   There’s no question Facebook still dominates among brands looking to engage customers in social media.   However, Instagram is also emerging as an effective channel to reach customers and brand loyalists in a space where research shows more of them are now living: on their mobile devices.

     Above all else, Instagram is an entertainment channel.  It allows users to tell a story with a simple picture and to see the stories other people are telling with their own pictures.  Earlier this year Instagram expanded the concept by allowing users to tell their stories in 15 second videos.   The new feature presents an opportunity for brands to visually engage people in new and powerful ways.   The challenge though, is to make them useful and entertaining.

    It’s instructive for brands to think of Instagram videos in the same way that television journalists think of “standups” in their stories.  In this respect, I’ll interject “Blotz’s First Law of Standups.”   The law is simple:  standups need to teach, demonstrate, or make a visual connection.   It’s followed by Blotz’s Second Law of Standups:  when in doubt, refer to Law #1.

    Three brands in the past 24 hours have posted Instagram videos that mirror this best practice and serve as an instructive tool.   The first is NASA.  Yes, a government agency.   NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center created a wonderful Instagram visualization that teaches the viewer how the Apollo 8 astronauts witnessed the “Earthrise” 45 years ago this week. 

    Motives Cosmetics takes the concept a step further by producing an Instagram video that demonstrates how to apply various shades of its eye makeup.

    Finally, Coca-Cola, no stranger to the power of Instagram, created a pre-holiday video to make a visual connection between Christmas and unwrapping a Coke.

    The connection between these Instgram videos and Blotz’s Law is not far-fetched.  It’s what many are now calling “brand journalism.”  It’s storytelling, just in a different format on a different channel that’s primarily used for entertainment.

When Hit The Fan, One Insurance Company Was Ready

4 Dec

    It shouldn’t have taken reams of quantitative research for Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to realize there were problems with the new federal healthcare exchange.  A simple log-in to would have told them all they needed to know.   Their customers, too.   Countless news headlines and endless congressional hearings were just the 1000 watt amplifiers channeling the feedback as loud as a Jimmy Hendrix riff.   

Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield commercial

Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield commercial

     That’s a critical business issue for a health insurance company that underwrites policies in South Dakota and Iowa, two states relying on the federal exchange to help connect people with health insurance policies now mandated by the Affordable Care Act.   A simple SWOT analysis would suggest that Wellmark BCBS faced not only a substantial threat to selling enough new policies, but also an amazing opportunity to position itself as the solution to the trouble-plagued federal website. (Figure 1)  

Figure 1

Figure 1

    Key to that opportunity is the fact that the ACA doesn’t require people buy insurance through an exchange—only that they have insurance.  Armed with that critical understanding, Wellmark BCBS and its agency Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis were able to quickly create a strategic campaign specifically targeting frustrated health insurance shoppers.  The key insight is that “things don’t always work like they’re supposed to.”  The desired response is to shop directly for health insurance at Wellmark BCBS. 

    Using humor to convey the message, Campbell Mithun has come up with a series of three episodic shorts and an integrated digital campaign to help steer customers away from the federal exchange.

     Ironically, BBDO Proximity is using virtually the same insight to support Minnesota’s healthcare exchange called MNsure.   Minnesota is one of 13 states that have by-passed the federal exchange to create their own health insurance marketplace.  In a previous post I explored how the MNsure campaign uses Minnesota folk lore icons Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox and positions them in several “things don’t always work as they’re supposed to” schemas to show that there are 10,000 reasons to buy health insurance.


    Like the Wellmark BCBS ads, the MNsure campaign also relies on humor.  BBDO’s Creative Director Brian Kroening says the idea was to cut through the healthcare clutter with a positive message. 

    “We wanted this to be a noticeable, simple message that there is hope for all Minnesotans. We wanted to break through and do it with a wink, but there is a very serious message and an action on the other end of it,” said Kroening.

    Both campaigns show that strategic thinking doesn’t happen by accident.  Neither does strategic execution. 

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