Marketing Speak, Defined

MarketingProfs has created a fun new microsite called Marketing Additctionary where marketers can add to an urban dictionary-esque wiki with fun definitions of trendy terms.

Though I've yet to contribute any marketing-related quips, I am a fan of this one:

web 2.0-verload: noun, When it all just becomes too much. Examples: (1) when you get bombarded with so many kinds of web apps that are supposed to be useful that you can't keep up with what's really useful, or (2) when you sign up for all those private beta invites... and then when you get the invites weeks later, you don't remember what those apps were or did.

And here's the current most popular word:

Twiggles: noun, A fit of laughter by something someone said on Twitter.

The wordoff, where you can vote for your favorite of two words, is another fun feature. There is also a "Challenge" area where someone provides the definition and you create the word. Hours of marketing entertainment!


Middle Finger Marketing

I really enjoyed this post from Greg Verdino's blog where Greg reflects on how big-budget marketing moves like slapping your name on a sports arena can actually create animosity among your customers.

In his real-life example, Greg had just gotten off a flight where staff was overworked, space was limited and bags of peanuts no longer flow freely from the carts of perky flight attendants.

We can all accept these little sacrifices in a time where most businesses are struggling to keep afloat. However, upon hopping in a cab Greg came face to face with an arena sponsored by the very airline that served up a down-graded customer service experience. This, says he, is middle finger marketing. Spending the big bucks on flashy branding projects instead of on the customer experience - right under our noses!

Think about it, in these time there is probably more value in creating a buzz-worthy customer experience that will generate free word-of-mouth advertising from a trusted source (our own friends and family!) than shelling out to sponsor an event that most of us can no longer afford to attend.


The Problem with Mustang's 'Pony Girl' Brand

Mustang is launching 'Pony Girl,' an effort to market their brand to teen and tween girls with pink pony mustang designs, butterflies and other girly icons. The images and inspirational slogans will be featured on tees, jewelry, home decor and more. Fun, right?

Well, maybe.

Mustang will have to overcome a few SEO challenges, like the fact that when you search for "pony girl mustang," you get pictures of scantily clad women posing by cars and a YouTube video of a stripper by the same name. I won't even get in to the potential of clashing search terms with Atlanta's most popular strip joint, The Pink Pony. Perhaps they will have some trademarks set up that will help force others not to use their key branding terms. All I know is the current results are certainly not very tween-friendly.

Image via BrandWeek.


Black Card Offers Luxury to the Masses. Hmm...

The Black Card has been the ultimate status symbol of late. VIP shoppers from hotel tycoons and rappers flash their limitless plastic (oh, sorry, no plain ol' plastic for these guys - the Black Card is made from carbon. Fancy.) and order up some more Dom.

Funny this is, it seems now everyone can get in to this elite club. Or at least 3,000,000 of us. And how do we know this? They are advertising the exclusive privilege in magazines. I think the Black Card has, how do you say, "jumped the shark."

via Seth's Blog.


When a Man Makes a Commercial for Women

Ok, I have no proof that men were behind the new Schick Quattro campaign, but it is my feeling that a woman couldn't have designed this ad.

I mean, really? Those ridiculous bushes changing in to suggestive shapes? I wouldn't call myself a feminist, but at some point I have to draw the line!

View images of the also-risque print ads.


Pay Your Subscribers Some Respect

Today, I received an email offer from a retailer for an online game where I can win discounts. I don't shop here frequently, but ok, I'll bite. Let's see what this is all about. So I click through (score one for the retailer's email marketing manager).

Upon clicking, I'm delivered to the promotional microsite for their new game/contest. The site prompts me to enter my email. This is mildly annoying, since I just clicked through from an email and it would have been simple for the website to recognize me or at the very least, pre-populate my address to save me a minute of hassle. Still, I am not deterred. In this economy, we'll all do a little more than usual for a great coupon. So I enter my address and continue on.

Do I get to play the game? No. I am now greeted with an even longer form! Keep in mind that I have purchased something from this retailer before. Online. Quite recently. So not only am I a registered user, but they already have my address and all of the other information they are requesting. In fact, notice they give me the option to register for their e-newsletter list, which I'm already registered for (that's how I got here!). At this point, I decide it's not worth it and abandon the form.

Why do marketers continue to make it so difficult to interact with their brand when technology should make it so easy? The example above is a clear case of what not to do. When you create landing pages or microsites, use caution and balance friction with incentive, or you'll surely notice high abandonment rates.


Big Brand Makeovers Visualized

I really enjoyed a piece on WalletPop which takes us through a number of popular brands who have recently revamped their image. This kind of change often causes a controversy and in extreme situations, we've even seen brands being forced to revert back to their old look (as with the Tropicana uproar).

With the internet and outlets like blogs and Twitter becoming so widely used, the power is in the hands of the people. Remember my post about how Discover Card's campaign struck me as insincere? After I wrote that I noticed in my analytics report a flood of views from an ad agency that just happens to represent Discover. Anyone notice how the new commercials address this consumer skepticism? I'm not saying, but I'm just saying. Embrace the power.


With All the Publicity Queensland is Getting, Do They Even Need a Marketing Guru?

A fun story that has been in the public eye lately is the opportunity to apply for "The Best Job in the World." The position requires that you move to Australia and accept a salary of $100,000 to live at the beach in a large home while you create social media content (blogs, videos, etc) about the islands of the Great Barrier Reef. The entire program/promotion (because, truly, this is just a clever marketing act) is sponsored by the tourism bureau of Queensland.

Almost 35,000 people have applied for the position by submitting online videos. The public can now vote on the video applications, so its safe to say that the 35,000 vying for the job are promoting the initiative to all of their contacts to encourage voting and better their chances. So between the buzz created by applicants and all the media coverage - it stands to reason that Australia no longer has a need for an "Island Caretaker" at all. The entire effort is really a contest disguised as a job opening (with a few, minimal strings attached). Personally, I applaud their PR team for a job well done!


Exploring the Marketing Potential of Microsoft Tag

Ok, first things first, I did not closely follow CES '09 and my reader was so bogged down with posts on all the amazing technology that I admittedly didn't have the time to read most of them. If I had, perhaps I would have discovered Microsoft Tag last month, but instead I read about it today and it blew my mind (just a little!).

Microsoft Tag is technology that lets individuals (or businesses) create a personalized "colorblock" that can be stuck virtually anywhere and acts as a gateway to a wealth of digital information. Wait, what, huh? Yeah, it took me a minute too. Here's the scenario:

  • I request a "tag" from Microsoft. This tag is individual to me. I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.
  • I print or paste this tag wherever I please, be it on my business card, my t-shirt or my twitter profile.
  • Someone who wants to know more about me snaps a picture of my tag with their compatible camera phone and they are instantly connected to a page of relevant information.
  • Just like I can have my own tag, I can also snap pictures of others to learn more about someone or something.
This post on B2B Marketing Confidential examines just a few of the potential marketing tie-ins for these tags, including using them on retail displays and putting codes on hardware components for a direct link to relevant tech support. I think this technology has the potential to be really cool, if it takes off.

Tying in to the retail display idea - what if you could snap a picture of a tag on a product you're interested in and instantly be connected to consumer reviews of the product? I know you can find these using a smartphone anyway, but as technology progresses, it seems to be all about making things easier and faster.


"The Lipstick Effect" and the Recession

In a recent interview, Nancy Upton, assistant marketing professor at Northeastern University College of Business Administration and an expert on hedonistic spending, provided a rundown on "The Lipstick Effect" and how what it means for low-cost retailers in a recession.

Basically, during the Great Depression, there was a surge in cosmetics sales because it is a low-cost way for women to feel good about themselves. Now, of course today there are a bevy of high-priced cosmetics on the market - I should know, I spent a ridiculous amount on my favorite mascara yesterday - but apparently that high end option plays an important role in influencing spending. Making the choice to seek out a savvy, low-cost option for splurge purchases gives a warm, sunny feeling of instant gratification while also making women feel clever for scoring a great deal.

Small items like cosmetics or McDonald's burgers are low-anxiety purchases that are easy for consumers to handle even in tough times. Upton predicts that this new frugality will last -
"People are learning new skill sets, and those will stick. Now that they're learning how to do extreme comparison-shopping, people won't go back to careless spending," she says.

Looks like "The Lipstick Effect" is here to stay.


MetroPCS Launches Fantastical New Campaign, Challenges the Big Boys

This story is admittedly of particular interest to me because in my past position in event marketing, my agency, GRIP Promotions, managed sponsorships for MetroPCS in Atlanta, Miami and Northern California. It has been interesting to watch the brand grow in to a national name with increasingly impressive coverage that has managed to stick to their guns regarding pricing and service models.

On to the campaign...

MetroPCS is poised to launch a shiny, pretty new ad campaign featuring unicorns, mermaids and other fantasy creatures. According to Marketing Daily, we can expect to see humorous spots like the following:

A mermaid and a unicorn are sharing a Jacuzzi. "So, I'm thinking of switching to the new MetroPCS service," says the fish girl. "What, the talk-all-you-want-for-$40 thing?" asks the incredulous unicorn. "You believe in that?" "Yeah," says the mermaid. "Why not?" "Ah, sounds a little far-fetched to me," replies the unicorn. Tag: "Unlimit yourself."

The new campaign - shot by Frank Todaro, who was at the helm for the popular, pre-historic FedEx Super Bowl commercials - coincides with the MetroPCS service launch in Boston and New York. The no contracts service provider now boasts almost national coverage and I think this campaign reflects their new status as a major player in the industry who is no longer going to sit back and be called second best.

I'm interested to see what's to come for this cell provider with recession-perfect pricing.


Social Media Takes on Late Night Hunger

I read an interesting article in the LA Times about a taco truck (wish these were popular in Atlanta!) that has developed a frenzied Twitter following. The article is rather long and a bit cumbersome, but the gist is this: 

Kogi is a unique taco truck that serves up korean-inspired $2 tacos, making it stand out among other street vendors that thrive in the LA area. Here's the catch - being that the business is run out of a truck, you'd be hard pressed to track it down on your own. That's where Twitter comes in. The Kogi crew has developed quite a following - over 3,500 at the time of this post - of hungry folks who get realtime updates on the truck's next location. A general schedule is posted on their website, but with Twitter, they can alert everyone if there's a sudden change in plans, or even if they are running late (with lines of up to 800 taco-lovers, it can take a while to feed everyone, and LA traffic is a nightmare!). 

Point being, in just a few months this team of family and friends have turned an idea in to a booming business, all by using cheap and free social media techniques. They've gained a hearty fan base and created a community phenomenon that feels truly authentic - a rare commodity these days. I think their success is an inspiring look at the new world of marketing. 


Celebrity Endorsements Gone Wrong

In the past week or so, we've seen a few celebrity endorsement deals go south - most prominently, Michael Phelps for Kellogg and Chris Brown for Wrigley's.

It was also rumored that Subway was considering dropping Phelps as a spokesperson after the Olympic gold medalist was photographed smoking marijuana at a college party. Now, even the conservative among us know that smoking marijuana is popularly linked to binge eating, so the fact that food brands were dropping endorsement deals exposed the companies to some amount of ridicule, including a Saturday Night Live skit surrounding Kellogg. Bloggers, forums and news writers have have been abuzz with clever quips about Subway sandwiches being the perfect food for college smokers nationwide.

The Chris Brown case unfortunately takes on a more serious note, as he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, the famous Rihanna. Brown has been suspended "until the matter is resolved" from his major endorsement deal with Wrigley's Doublemint Gum. The partnership was a new frontier in advertising - Wrigley's actually financed and produced Brown's song specifically for their campaign - a modern day, tricked out jingle, if you will. Brown also endorses a number of other projects - at this time it is not clear if these are also in jeopardy. He has been forced to pull out of his scheduled NBA All-Star Game appearance this weekend in Phoenix, surely meaning more lost revenue for the singer so that the NBA can save face.

The bigger question here is not what will happen to these individuals, but what will happen to celebrity endorsements as a whole. Marketers post big bucks to associate their brand with a celebrity - and this week has been a clear example of how these efforts can backfire, exposing a brand to ridicule or unpleasant associations and leaving an unpleasant taste (how appropriate, in this case) in consumers collective mouths.


Pitching a Pitcher

When I took over as the Atlanta Guide on About.com, I also inherited the email address used by the past guides. While this has been a great help because it puts me in touch with many local PR folks who were already sending mail to that address, it has also taught me a lesson about list hygiene, something all of us involved in email marketing should be wary of.

I understand that these PR agencies have large mailing lists that they blast to very frequently, but as someone with a background in the field, I also understand that getting coverage has a lot to do with relationship building. So when I get an email from someone that is addressed to the former guide, if I think it is an important relationship to cultivate, I write back with a friendly hello and let them know I've taken over as the site's writer and manager. No hard feelings for getting my name wrong this time around. However, it does irk me when I continuously get messages addressed to the former writer, after I've made the effort to write back and introduce myself.

Another thing I've seen frequently is just sloppy personalization. I've gotten a number of messages that start with the greeting "Hi Folio, Laura!" or something similar. This is just poor list organization.

I get a LOT of emails. If the content is compelling enough, an error like those I've detailed above it not going to prevent me from posting an event or story. But if I'm just shopping around for an interesting topic, the little things make the difference. If you don't care to tailor your pitch or at least update your database with my correct name, then I don't care to cover your news.

Moral of the story? Keep you database up-to-date and your lists clean. And be careful when you pitch to a pitcher!


Office Max "Life is Beautiful" Campaign Tempts but Doesn't Deliver

I am a 20-something woman who spends the day in a cubicle. My office is making a move next month, and one of the things I am looking forward to is personalizing my new space - something I've been putting off due to the impending move and, of course, plain ol' laziness. Recently, a piece on Marketing Daily about Office Max's new "beautify your cubicle" campaign caught my eye. This was just what I needed! This was designed just for me!

I visited the Office Max website but nothing on the homepage jumped out at me and directed me to where I could find these new, exciting office goodies. I see this as their first mistake - I actually took the bait and went to their website, only to find a dead end (ed note - there is a small ad for the ladylike Infuse line, but this is marketed for jazzing up presentations, not cubicles). Figuring that perhaps the actual ad would direct me to a branded microsite or something similar, I tucked it away in the back of my mind until a few days later I took the time to YouTube the advertisment and get a better idea of what the new campaign was pushing.

Colored staplers and manila (or non-manila as the case may be) folders? That's all? Call me crazy, but with the hype and flashy commercial, I was expecting something a little more innovative. Office supply stores, along will mass retailers everywhere, have been selling colorful folders for years now. Ok, so maybe a flowered file folder lightly tugs at my Trapper-Keeper nostalgic heartstrings, but I hardly think the aisles of Office Max will be filled with the sound of clicking high-heels as women rush to fill their carts.


The (Viral) Marketing of a Restaurant

This week I went to eat at La Pietra Cucina, a relatively new upscale Atlanta restaurant. It's a bit hard to find, to say the least.

It has no sign, with the exception of a small sandwich board on the side of the road that reads "Now Open" with the phone number printed very large and the name of the establishment printed very small. It has no website.

It is located on a very busy road, in the lower level of an office building, and is easy to miss, even if you pass by in the car every day. When you do manage to arrive, there is no indication of where you should park and you'll likely try to open the locked door that leads to the part of the restaurant that's currently being renovated before happening upon the less-grand, unlocked door a few paces down with a paper sign taped to the window displaying the hours of operation.

I even overheard a patron arriving after me comment to her dining companions, "You had to choose the hardest spot to find in all of Atlanta."

And yet, on a Tuesday night, in the midst of a recession, the restaurant was fairly busy and a large group gathered at the bar. This is likely due to a small number of respected, local food bloggers who have taken the new restaurant under their wing and written several rave reviews. It is a great thing that the internet allows word to spread and helps local businesses who are putting out a quality product (or delicious dishes in this case) get a real leg up, without doing a thing but excelling at what they do.


Personal Branding Rant - One For the Single Ladies

There's been a lot of hubbub about personal branding in the past few years. Today my MarketingProfs newsletter declares that I'd better work on my building my brand "before [my] name lands on the layoff list."

This prompted me to think on an issue that will be affecting all of us young, single, tech-saavy females who have spent years cultivating the perfect collection of Google results for our name.

We'd better all be planning to take the liberal route and keep our maiden names after marriage. Or at least plan to marry someone with a unique last name. Because all will be for naught when Jane [insert rare and distinctive last name here] marries Mr. Smith and has to start all over again. Good luck beating out all the other Jane Smith's out there.

My apologies to all those who were born with very common last names. I guess it has been an uphill battle for you all along. You'd better forget marrying rich and start looking for Mr. Perfect Last Name instead.

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