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#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.

Fire up Twitter—The Muppets are Driving to the Sferndy Boom (That’s Swedish Chef Speak for Super Bowl)

1 Feb


      Leave it to the Muppets to blow up the tired Super Bowl advertising cliche of talking babies, dogs, and bikini-clad women.

      Perhaps one of the more ingenious advertising campaigns for Super Bowl XLVIII is one that will take viewers of the big game on a virtual ride and let them interact with a brand in a different and entertaining way.

      The Muppets have climbed behind the wheel of the new Toyota Highlander for a road trip of misadventure to New Jersey and have invited all of us to come along.  They’ll live-Tweet during the game using the @Toyota Twitter account and the #NoRoomForBoring hashtag.  

Swedish Chef explaining how the Muppets are heading the "Sferndy Boom."

Swedish Chef explaining how the Muppets are heading the “Sferndy Boom.”

      This is exponentially more than just a piece of social media entertainment.  It’s actually part of a well-orchestrated and highly strategic effort on behalf of Toyota and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi to build awareness and market share for Toyota’s newly remodeled Highlander SUV.   The live-Tweeting coincides with a new commercial that will air during the game featuring the Muppets and former NLF star Terry Crews.  


        The campaign is strategic because it zeroes in like a laser beam on a specific target audience: busy, chaotic, upwardly mobile families.  Metaphorically, no family exemplifies that target audience more than the Muppets—America’s very definition of loveable dysfunction.    Furthermore, the adventure they drive Terry Crews through is the archetype of the great American family vacation, foibles and all.   The key branding message is that the new Highlander has room inside for everything but boredom. 

       Even the live-Tweeting during the game is no accident.  It fills what marketers now call “the space in-between” traditional and digital advertising.  In other words, allowing the consumer to customize their own brand experience—in this case interacting with the Muppets in social space.   Wisely, Toyota has even re-branded its Twitter page and its Highlander website with the Muppets so that consumers are given a consistent message with every interactive touch point.  (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 -  Toyota's Twitter and Highlander pages

Figure 1 – Toyota’s Twitter and Highlander pages

       In this regard, it’s a smart way to help Toyota differentiate itself from the other Super Bowl car advertisers by engaging viewers on multiple channels at the same time.   The Muppet’s live-Tweets will make Toyota part of the conversation during what will be among the highest Twitter user events of the year.  (24.1 million Tweets during Super Bowl XLVII)  It’s also an effective way to ensure that Toyota is getting more for its $4 million ad buy.

       It’s part of a new trend of what I call fake-celebrity endorsements.  Comic Will Ferrell created this new genre with the highly successful Ron Burgundy commercials  for the Dodge Durango.  It was all part of a highly integrated campaign to not only sell Dodges, but to cross-promote the new Ron Burgundy Anchorman movie.   Likewise, the Disney and the Muppets are using the same kind of cross-promotion for its new movie opening in March.

       Toyota hopes it sells Highlanders, too.   For the rest of us, it’s a fun and new way to experience the Sferndy Boom—or whatever you call it.

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.

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A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

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. 

View this post on Instagram

Join NASA's Google+ Hangout: 'Earthrise' A New Visualization - 45th Anniversary of Apollo 8 Viewing Earth from Space on Friday, December 20th 2:00 - 3:00 PM (EST) at It was 45 years ago, on December 24, 1968 when Apollo 8 astronauts captured 'Earthrise' - the first color photograph of Earth taken by a person in lunar orbit. NASA announces a new simulation of the events leading to the creation of 'Earthrise,' one of the iconic photographs of the 20th Century - Earth seen from the moon captured by the crew of Apollo 8. This new simulation allows anyone to virtually ride with the astronauts and experience the awe they felt at the vista in front of them. Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman and crew members William A. Anders and James A. Lovell photographed the stunning scene as their spacecraft orbited the moon on December 24, 1968. The new computer simulation was created using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft and includes details not seen in the previous visualization released last year. We hope you will join in our Google+ Hangout tomorrow to view the remainder of this new remarkable visualization of #Earthrise! #nasagoddard #moon #space #apollo

A post shared by NASA Goddard (@nasagoddard) on

    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.

Kmart’s “Show Your Joe” — How DraftFCB Created More Than Just a Viral Video

25 Nov


   No, this is not your grandmother’s Kmart.  And that’s the point.  If you think the latest internet-only ad from Kmart looks like a PG-13 version of Chippendales, that too is the point.

     The new ad called “Show Your Joe” is the latest in a series of slightly edgy digital shorts (no pun intended) designed specifically for the sharability of social media.  It is not without controversy, and that also is likely part of the goal to reawaken awareness of a flagging brand.  Jingle Joe 5

     But there’s much more going on here.  Kmart’s agency, DraftFCB-Chicago has built in a clear strategy behind the naughty-but-nice jingle bells spoof.  That strategy is to boost Christmas sales among  young internet savvy women by co-branding with Joe Boxer.  They do this by embedding an integrated link at the end of the video that redirects the viewer to a special Kmart page featuring each of the “Jingle Joes.” (Figure 1)  Click on one of the “Joes” and another page pops up with a virtual catalog of gift ideas laid out in Pinterest-like tiles to create your own “Fantasy Joe.”  The subtle but strategic message argument is, “Dress your man the way you want—at Kmart.” 

Figure 1

Figure 1

     What Kmart is attempting to do is create a new value proposition in digital space.  It’s not so much about discount pricing as it is about allowing the shopper to experience the enjoyment of customizing their man through an easy and fun online shopping tool.  The “Show Your Joe” video is merely the bottom rung of the means-end ladder to creating the perfect Christmas gift for the price and style conscious woman—a fun dressed man she wants to be seen with.  The ad is really about her, not him.

     This is not Kmart’s first attempt at edgy videos.  Earlier this year DraftFCB created an online ad called “Ship My Pants” designed to drive traffic to for free shipping. 

    In a previous post I explored how more major brands such as Ford and Njoy have used digital-only campaigns in social space to target very specific market segments.   Kmart is only the latest player in this category and according to internet tracking data, the strategy may be working. 

Figure 2

Figure 2

     Google Trends shows a sharp rise in online search for Kmart since the release of the “Show Your Joe” ad. (Figure 2)  Additionally, the web tracking service Alexa shows consistent growth in traffic to both and in the two weeks ahead of the post-Thanksgiving holiday rush.

     The ultimate metric is whether those searches and visits are converting into sales.  Kmart is making a low-cost bet that the strategy is worth it.  With more than 12-million views on YouTube, “Show Your Joe” is at least placing them into the holiday shopping conversation.  And that’s a place every retail brand wants to be.  


The Making of a Meme Called “Batkid”

16 Nov

Batkid It's not who I am

     It was a week of tragedy and insecurity.   A typhoon named Haiyan tested our faith in humanity and a fledgling American healthcare law questioned our trust in government.  The world needed a super-hero.  It got one in a five year old masked boy.

     His real name is Miles Scott.  In his short life he’s proven himself brave enough to battle leukemia, so why not battle injustice too.  His request to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Francisco was simple: to become a caped crusader. 

Figure 1 - Miles Scott, A.K.A., Batkid.

Figure 1 – Miles Scott, A.K.A. Batkid.

     What happened next is a case study in contagion,  social media memes, and a collective desire for something positive.  All it took was a picture and a narrative.  It was as simple and accessible as a bat symbol in the sky.

     In this narrative, social psychologist Jaap van Genneken, Ph.D., would suggest that young Miles became what he calls a strong replicator.  Such replicators evoke an instant and powerful emotion that causes people to take notice and share.  An image plays an essential role in creating this contagion—the strongest replicators are child-like images.   But in order for the image to have an effect, it must be set in an unexpected way—a surprise.  The image of Miles in his bat costume was precisely the trigger. (Figure 1)  Colliding the image of an innocent child with that of a super-hero gladiator created a powerful set of metaphors that were hard to ignore. 

Figure 2 - #Batkid Tweet on November 15, 2013.

Figure 2 – #Batkid Tweet on November 15, 2013.

     The image serves as a signal to the viewer that there is more to the narrative.  It’s actually the beginning of a critical cognitive cycle that forms a negative association with cancer and positive associations with the child, and the efforts to grant his wish of becoming a super-hero for a day.  When viewers saw the image on social media and hit the send button, a meme was born–Batkid. 

     But when 13,000 people showed up on the streets of San Francisco to participate in the narrative of helping Batkid capture the Riddler and Penguin, the meme spread even faster with the speed of Instagram and Twitter. (Figure 2)   A virtual display by Trendsmap shows how the meme spread world-wide with some of the heaviest Twitter traffic in Europe. (Figure 3) 

Figure 3 - Global Trendsmap of #Batkid.

Figure 3 – Global Trendsmap of #Batkid.

     The meme even reached the pinnacles of power.  The U.S. Department of Justice issued an indictment against the Riddler and Penguin. (See attachment below)  And by the end of the day, Batkid got the world’s ultimate legitimacy in a Vine message from President Obama. 

     In many ways it was the perfect meme at the perfect time.  Like Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s heroic landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River at the peak of the Great Recession in 2009, the world needed something to celebrate.   The same is true now.  Thousands of innocent human beings perished this week.  All were innocent souls.   It took another innocent soul to remind us of our frailties—and of our capacity for good. 

     That’s why when the Bat Phone rang, thousands answered.

Have a Coke, Dinner, and a Tweet — Coca-Cola’s Live Integration of Advertising and Social Media.

10 Sep

     Across Europe, Coca- Cola is asking people to share more than just a Coke.  In doing so it has created an ingenious campaign that not just extends its brand value but has also increased social engagement.

     Key to the campaign is Coca-Cola popping the bottle cap on the insight that in Romania, 60% of people don’t eat meals together.  Instead, they eat alone in front of the TV.   With the help of ad agency MRM Worldwide-Romania, Coke created a series of TV ads around the theme of “Let’s Eat Together.”  Central to the ads was the agency and Romania’s Pro TV inserting live Tweets into the commercials, many of them invitations for people to come over for dinner. 

    In a matter of weeks, hundreds of live Tweets aired in the commercials and by Coca-Cola’s account the campaign earned more than a million social media impressions. 

     The campaign has expanded now to Italy where celebrity chefs created meals for total strangers all with the goal of getting people to sit down together to share a meal.

     Of course, the strategy of the campaign is to boost sales by increasing rate of use.  Coca-Cola has been exceptionally effective getting consumers to associate Coke with happiness.  In this campaign, Coca-Cola is encouraging people to not just share a Coke during a pleasurable moment, but during dinner.  In the process it has also encouraged them to share the experience on social media. 

     It’s a powerful brand extension executed wonderfully by a powerful brand.   Who’s hungry?

Social Media Uses & Gratifications and the Lessons for Local TV News

31 Jul

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    Call it a case of consumer preference mirroring theory.   Or in this instance, a split-screen view on the modern screen-splitting media consumer. 

      The latest research is out on how social media consumers engage with local legacy media outlets and it offers an instructive lesson in well-established communication theory and how local TV stations can use it to their advantage.

      The research conducted by TVB in collaboration with Colligent gives important insights into what they call “Cultural Currency.”  The study analyzed 167 million Facebook and Twitter users and how they engaged with local TV stations, newspapers and radio stations throughout the United States.  The results show local television stations dominate with consumers wanting to share video and pictures in addition to those who frequently comment on Facebook and maintain conversations on Twitter. (Figure 1)  Newspapers lead with those who retweet posts.   Local radio stations attract the most frequent Facebook “likes” and multiple comments.  

Figure 1

Figure 1

      Nearly all of these results are predictive based upon communication Uses and Gratifications Theory.  In its simplest form, U&G holds that people use certain media based upon their psychological needs.  Elihu Katz developed a U&G typology where people read books to create a sense of inner self, television and film provide pleasure, whereas newspapers provide self confidence and stability. 

      Likewise, Louis Leung has found a significant connection to social media by people who feel the need for recognition and empowerment.  Leung’s research reveals that the more a user’s recognition needs are met through social media, the more empowered they feel and therefore are more likely to contribute content and share content with their friends. 

Figure 2 - Survey of 1100 KMSP-TV viewers, January 2011

Figure 2 – Survey of 1100 KMSP-TV viewers, January 2011

      My own research of Fox 9 News viewers in Minneapolis found very similar social media motivations that are consistent with U&G theory.  A survey of 1100 viewers indicated a strong desire to connect and contribute to conversations generated by Fox 9 newscasts and its personalities. (Figure 2)  In fact, nearly 4 out of every 5 viewers expressed the desire to interact with and contribute to Fox 9 through social media.  Likewise, 66% wanted personal insights from reporters and on-air talent on what goes on behind the headlines.   Perhaps not surprisingly, 60% indicated they wanted to get to know more about the on-air personalities more than what they see on television.  But the most tangible finding revealed 70% of viewers would likely watch a Fox 9 newscast based upon an intriguing social media post. 

      The research offered three major insights on what local television viewers want in social media:

1.       To become friends!

2.       Conversations and the recognition that comes through contributing comments, pictures and video.

3.       Unique and exclusive content.

      Combine these insights with the new user-based research from TVB and we can create a new U&G model to illustrate predictive social media behavior. (Figure 3)   With social media (Facebook & Twitter) at the center of the model, one sees the strong U&G ties to individual local media channels.   

Figure 3

Figure 3

      Television, with its strengths in providing pleasure, engaging news personalities, and credible images is a natural draw for Facebook users who seek recognition through contributing pictures and video.  Additionally, there is a lure to connect with the personalities who come into their living rooms on a daily basis.  Connecting with them creates a sense of fulfillment and self-importance.

      Newspapers, with their vast journalistic resources become a hub of credible up-to-date information.   The immediacy of this information aligns perfectly with Twitter where consumers turn to learn about events happening at that very moment.  Retweeting that information from a newspaper tells the consumer’s followers and friends that they are “in the know” and provides the sense self confidence that they are in tune with what’s happening in the world around them.

      The accessibility of local radio, especially stations with personality-driven talk formats and multiple interactive topics is a natural draw for multiple Facebook likes and comments, again based upon the need for recognition and self-importance.

       The model offers lessons, especially for local television stations.   As people look for pleasure, connections, and recognition, U&G theory holds that television stations are in a unique position to provide it through social media.  The latest research from TVB supports it.


Ship my Pants — The Strategy Behind Kmart’s Edgy Commercial

15 Apr


      Kmart has reinvented the Blue Light Special and it’s… well, a bit blue.  Perhaps too blue for traditional television and that’s part of the unique strategy.

      The original discount department store has pulled a little sophomoric potty humor out of isle ten in hopes of gaining more attention in a retail marketplace dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon. 

Kmart's "Ship My Pants" commercial created by DraftFCB Chicago.

Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” commercial created by DraftFCB Chicago.

      DraftFCB in Chicago has produced a brilliantly off-color and humorous message promoting Kmart’s ability to “ship my pants,” or anything else from for free.   

      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 1)

Figure 1

Figure 1

     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.  It’s a messaging strategy more agencies and brands are exploiting in a multi-digital channel viral world.  In Kmart’s case, it was a brilliant success.  In the first 48-hours, “Ship my Pants” received more than two million YouTube views.

     Kmart is far from alone.  NJOY smokeless cigarettes also just scored a viral hit with Courtney Love dropping the f-bomb in an internet-only commercial that says bad girls can still be bad. 


    Several years ago, Ford didn’t have to say a word while promoting a sport version of its successful European compact car named Ka.  It targeted young urban men with an edgy internet video, the likes of which could never air in the United States.  


     Sometimes the strategy is not about being edgy, it’s about entertainment.  Turkish Airlines just achieved viral video gold with a commercial featuring two of the world’s best known athletes competing for the attention of a young fan.  The video was such a huge success that the airline created its own infographic explaining how it worked. (See below)

     Central to the strategy in all of these campaigns is the sharable functionality of social media.  Brand loyalists, followers, and viewers of these commercials who like and share the message among friends are in many respects more valuable than an expensive spot on prime time television.  In Kmart’s case, the strategy creates some opportunistic buzz for the brand at a time when JC Penney is hemorrhaging customers and every other discount retailer is still fighting for market share in the economic recovery.  

     Kmart and DraftFCB prove that creativity is still alive and well and fun… if not a little naughty. 

[Note: To keep up with more great video commercials, follow advertising savant John Eighmey]

Courtesy: Turkish Airlines

Courtesy: Turkish Airlines

Obama on Gun Control — A Message Management Case Study

30 Mar
President Obama's gun safety push presented as the lede story on the NBC Nightly News on March 28, 2013

President Obama’s gun safety push presented as the lede story on the NBC Nightly News on March 28, 2013

              President Obama’s latest push on gun safety was hardly a shot in the dark.   His call for universal background checks on March 28th was a highly coordinated, multi-event, multi-channel message that offers a strategic communication model on a dynamic public policy issue.

                 With the raw emotions subsiding over the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings and the success of gun rights advocates at thwarting new legislative bans on military-style semiautomatic rifles, the Obama administration clearly needed to re-engage public opinion and build groundswell.    With little political support for banning military-style assault rifles, his new objective is keeping alive the proposal of universal background checks for all gun purchases.  The new strategy involves putting public pressure on congress.  The new tactics involved a national day of action with a highly coordinated series of events and social media engagements that would swamp news coverage and buzz in a 24-hour cycle. 

Figure 1 - Barak Obama Tweet on March 28, 2013

Figure 1 – Barak Obama Tweet on March 28, 2013

                 At the core of the new strategy was a White House press event featuring the victims and survivors of gun violence.  

               “Tears are not enough,” said the President. 

               He urged activists and citizens alike to “turn that heartbreak into something real” by urging their congressmen to pass meaningful gun control legislation.  By using the bully pulpit of the presidency, Obama was able to command the necessary national news coverage and earn the A-1 lede slot on the network evening news. 

Accent Signage shooting survivor John Souter speaking at a Minneapolis news conference.

Accent Signage shooting survivor John Souter speaking at a Minneapolis news conference.

                But just as important to the strategy was sending the same message to communities across the country, especially in blue states such as Minnesota and communities where gun violence is a salient issue.  In that effort the White House coordinated with gun safety organizations to hold more than 100 media events across the country that day featuring local gun violence victims pleading for action.                         

               In Minneapolis, the event featured John Souter, a survivor of the tragic workplace shooting at Accent Signage on September 27th.  Six of his co-workers died.  Souter was shot twice.   It was his first time speaking about the unspeakable.                 

                “How has it changed me?” contemplated Souter.   “I’m not the same person that’s for sure.  I don’t laugh like I used to.  These things are with you every day.”

                He commanded the attention of every news camera, every reporter’s notebook in town.  The local news conferences served as a force multiplier to the president by ensuring that local gun violence victims would be seen and positioned next to the president’s remarks in the evening news coverage.


Barak Obama Facebook post on March 28th, 2013

Figure 2 –  Barak Obama Facebook post on March 28, 2013

                It was also no accident that in the middle of Souter’s emotional testimony, the Barack Obama Twitter page posted a simple message:  “Fact:  Since 1968, 1.3 million Americans have died from gun violence.” (Figure 1)                                

               The more than a half a dozen tweets were joined by Obama’s Facebook posting of an infographic showing support for universal background checks seemingly as popular at apple pie. (Figure 2)  The posting received 64,000 likes and more than 10,000 shares. 

               Likewise, the video of the president’s White House speech immediately uploaded to YouTube recieved nearly 13,000 views. (See video below)              

                By the metrics of social media engagements, earned media, and buzz, the strategy was superbly executed.    It shows that strategic engagement is no accident and it offers a modern model in multi-channel communication.   But real success in this case is whether the strategy activates votes in congress.  For the moment that is a much harder task.  The whip counts are still out.

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