Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Nike, Adidas, New Balance and PUMA Team Up for Boston

It’s hard not to feeling something when Boston is brought up. Amid tragedy, it’s undisputable that a sense of humanity is brought out in all of us.

This is so clearly shown with sportswear rivals New Balance, Nike, PUMA and Adidas coming together to deliver a simple message of solidarity. Their latest print ad has a simple message: “Today we are in the same team.”

It’s hard to be critical of this ad. When we are constantly being sold to, this simple message reminds us that at the end of the day, the companies out there are not only servicing us, but they are one of us. Sure, you can pick out all the financial motivations behind an action like this, but sometimes we just need to savor these moments of sentiment.

In terms of a lesson in marketing, perhaps the most important thing I take away is that fact that there are certain truths that apply to all of us. Sure, this advertisement is only a small gesture, but these gestures mean so much, because it accesses an aspect of humanity that lives in us all. It’s not really a matter of a common good, but an innate ability to care.

As a student in marketing, there are so many things we are learning, especially in terms of how to engage with people. We are constantly asking questions, looking outward, doing experiments and researching. We are so busy; we forget to look internally at ourselves. We cannot forget that we are also a part of the system.

So when I saw the collaborative ad, I thought it was great. Then I asked myself a simple question of “why?” I have concluded that it is because this ad has the ability to bring out the care in all of us, and this communal sense of care brings comfort in times of hardship. For four rival shoes companies to be able to do that with a simple message should show that we don’t need cheap tricks to engage with people. We should look deeper and have more faith in our audience and their ability to care.

I know this theory probably isn’t appropriate for every situation, but it’s something I feel is important, and that we shouldn’t forget. We should care.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Saturated by new ‘News’

So these last couple of weeks has seen an immense amount of information passed around on the Internet regarding Daft Punk. I’m sure you’ve already heard/read/seen/watched the fake fan made version of Daft Punk’s new song, Get Lucky. If you haven’t already, it’s incredible – listen to it here.

If you don’t know who they are (a French electronic music duo), that’s fine too, just follow along and I’ll get to my point soon.

So the abbreviated timeline goes something like this:
  • Daft Punk announces new Album: crowd goes wild. 
  • Speculation and fake ‘leaked’ albums pop up all over the Internet. 
  • Hype fades ever so slightly 
  • Daft Punk releases online series, The Collaborators, featuring videos of all the super famous musicians who have also worked on their album.
  • Daft Punk announces that they will be releasing their new album in rural Wee Waa, NSW at an agricultural show. • Everyone is a bit puzzled…but hype skyrockets.
  • A teaser of Get Lucky is played during Coachella festival. The Internet almost breaks when this news was released.
  • THEN, Hedi Silmane, fashion designer, photographs Daft Punk for his new campaign for Saint Laurent (previously Yves Saint Laurent.)
And now, after officially releasing Get Lucky, Daft Punk has broken the Spotify record in the US and UK for the biggest streaming day for a single track. I am sure they are not done surprising us with all their other hype-building tactics hidden up their sleeves just yet, but I’m beginning to worry this hype is going to break the internet for good. I know that sounds silly, but you get what I mean.
Google Trends Data for searches containing "Daft Punk"

Since the news of a new album in February, searches in Daft Punk grew pretty healthily. After March, ‘Daft Punk’ has been trending so much; it looks like it’s going to fall off the graph.

I know I probably sound like a crazy person, but it’s getting hard to keep up, and this ‘news’ is becoming a little old, pretty fast. Despite the obvious benefits of building all this exposure, there is the potential for the general public to get sick of it all, before the album is even released. When they are swamped repetitive information, there is a likelihood they may become desensitized to it.

However, on the other side of the argument is that when information is regurgitated so quickly in our hyper-connected age, could this tactic be a way of sustaining the audience’s attention? Repetition can really drill information into heads. When each day, we are bombarded with thousands upon thousands of snippets of information, perhaps this strategy of more is more could work?

I can’t decide where I sit between the two. I guess it all comes down to the circumstances, and to employ a strategy that is appropriate for what you are trying to advertise for. For Daft Punk, I think it’s getting hard to remember that while every other day more ‘news’ appears on the internet– this ‘news’ is actually just strategic, planned, and well executed advertising. Perhaps the very fact that I’ve forgotten I’m being advertised to means they’ve done a pretty good job.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Does the size of you connections on LinkedIn really matter?

A common joke nowadays is that the difference between networking and not working is just one letter.

I used to be relatively sceptical about the importance of LinkedIn for my career improvement until I moved to Sydney from Moscow about a year ago. In Russia LinkedIn is still not considered a useful tool for job seekers, as potential Russian employers would be more satisfied having a conversation with former employers rather than rely on information from the Internet.

In Australia, I see a ‘LinkedIn-mania’ among professionals. Everyone here talks about LinkedIn, thinks about LinkedIn and looks at your LinkedIn profile as soon as you get to know each other. Having just glanced at my LinkedIn page, a friend of mine immediately responded - you have no chance of using LinkedIn successfully unless you contact list is much longer (I have 82 connections). This makes me think: “What is LinkedIn really all about, and how does it work for professionals?”

Honestly I like LinkedIn since it enables me to keep track of my professional contacts in the cloud. However, I receive a lot of invitations and often cannot even figure out what the motivation for connecting is. The majority of these invitations appear to be meaningless and probably will never be converted into useful business opportunities. There is no doubt that LinkedIn makes business communication easier, but it could also make our network useless if the connections that we have are merely strangers. Does a sizable network provide the wrong impression: that quantity is equally important as quality. But let us look at our connection list from a practical angle: can we communicate with each of our connections in a business environment?

To what extent are these connections personal and thus to what extent they are valuable? In this case, the invitation process is a crucial step in gaining a connection. Even more, there should be an ethical standard where by when sending an invitation to a person, that you clearly state how you met or the purpose of why it would be valuable to connect. If this were the case, many people similar to me would be better off accepting invitations to connect rather than not even opening them at all.

However, I try to keep my connections down to those who I really know and I am comfortable with. I also frequently monitor my connection list and disconnect from those people I cannot recall.

This is why I am distrustful of those who get “over 500” connections. Have they just sent invitations to all their mail accounts (there is an easy tool in LinkedIn to assist with that)? Does this number of connections really mean business?

I have no doubt that the honest answer would be “no”.

Elena Sveshnikova
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Do you read EDMs?

Electronic Direct Mail. Those pesky emails you receive every other day from that contact lens website you used that one time. You don’t read it, but you also don’t unsubscribe.

Last month before I moved to Sydney, I happened to glance at a friend’s empty inbox. “How could it be? It must be an internet anomaly!” I thought. I asked him where were his ‘opened but not dealt with messages’ and the endless unread mail from ‘newsletters you intend to catch up with one day’. He didn’t have any. He systematically unsubscribes from any emails he doesn’t want to receive.

Now I thought about this…mail I don’t want to receive… Sure, I delete 99% of EDMs I receive without even glancing at the subject title. But the idea of missing out on the potential of one day, missing out on an inkling of information may be of interest to me, really freaked me out. I’d never thought about ‘unsubscribing’ until now.

So what are people like me doing to people who are working hard at trying to market though EDMs?

In our Evaluate Market Performance paper, we talked about the power of amassing a list of email contacts. Email, considered to be more reliable than addresses or phone numbers, is highly valuable as a way to get in touch. But are people like me ruining the point of having a big list of emails in your database?

At my pervious employment, creating daily EDMs was even a part of my job! Just like any other webpage, we were able to analyse how long a person opened the email, whether they then clicked on a link, whether they made a purchase, or browsed our website – or whether it was sent to trash without being opened.

Even so, their purpose is totally lost on me. I can’t speak for others, but the ‘delete’ button is just a bit too convenient. So this battle between the desire for a streamlined inbox and wanting all the information all the time will never be resolved for me.

What I do take away from this realisation is that perhaps it’s not about how big your database is, but rather a database full of people who are not going to simply delete you. Companies now are too focused on tactics that pressure any passing visitor to join their mailing list, and neglecting the fact that not every person on the Internet is their target audience. The electronic age means information is so quickly transferred, but it also is so quickly forgotten.

The benefit of having a very specific database means that your EDMs could become a two-way thing; a portal for communication. When you are dealing with a specific market, there is the opportunity to target that market in ways you would not be able to if you were casting your net wider.

I guess the blame isn’t solely on the companies. We are also the ones who go and sign ourselves up for this in the first place. We, the ‘deleters’ of EDMs, are equally at fault for not understanding and aligning our personal brands with those companies we actually care about.

I have no solid answers to this dilemma. I will keep subscribing, and keep deleting, in the hope that one day my inbox will magically be empty of it all.

Hongi Luo
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Even Margaret Thatcher has a Personal Brand

When Facebook has a group with nearly 40,000 ‘Likes’ whose sole purpose is to track your death, you know that you’re not in the running for a popularity contest. The Facebook group: ‘Is Margaret Thatcher Dead Yet?’ was created in 2010, and only changed its profile picture on April 8th from ‘NOT YET’ to ‘YES, Margaret Thatcher is Dead’. According to comments on the group, there were people that checked the page daily to see if she had passed.

Lady Thatcher, who also goes by a number of names including Iron Lady, Tin Ear, and other colorful names that I will not repeat in this blog, continues to have such a controversial presence. Margaret Thatcher’s 15 second elevator speech would consist of a few facts including being Britain’s first female Prime Minister, and then being re-elected twice to the position. Her ‘personal brand’ is quite a unique one. She has truly left her mark on history.

Some love her, some hate her. Those who love her seem to be the winning side of her reforms, while her enemies are amongst those whom she showed little remorse for as she steamed rolled through her terms.

Personal branding and how we portray our personal brand is very important, especially if you are in a communications based role such as Marketing, Advertising and Politics. In the Internal Marketing Unit of the Masters of Marketing program, we focused on personal branding, particularly what it is, how to develop it, and it’s importance. It still surprises me how many people are not on LinkedIn, especially those who I would have thought surely would have invested enough time to create an on-line professional presence.

Even Margaret Thatcher is on LinkedIn. Her profile might not be very strong, but she still has a personal profile as well as a number of groups about her. And she’s on Facebook as well. Isn’t it time that you spend the time to create or update your on-line personal brand? Hopefully you too won’t have a Facebook group following your death, but rather your on-line presence will lead to positive things.

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tic Tac Knocks Out a French Town

At one time in our lives we’ve all had to share confined quarters with someone who has bad breath. The worst part is that the only person who doesn’t suffer the consequences of the noxious odors is the person who has bad breath, as they often are unaware of their effects on their neighbors. Breathing by your mouth, usually relieves you of the effects for a while, but if you have to spend 8 hours a day boxed up in a shared cubicle with Mr. Coffee-Breath, or Mrs. Smoker-Mouth, not even mouth breathing can help you.

Tic Tac has used humor in the above ad to show the devastation of the effects of bad breath on a small town in France. This ad is a take on the flash mob videos that have popped up in the past few years. The best part of the ad is that you don’t need to speak a word of French to understand the key message: Tic Tacs will take care of your bad breath.

When completing the Innovative Marketing Strategies Unit of the Masters of Marketing we analysed how humour can be used as a powerful marketing tool, but also how when humour used poorly can have devastating effects for a product and/or brand. When using humour an ad agency has to be careful not to put a market segment offside by negatively stereotyping a group ex. all old people are grumpy, or all young people are reckless. Country, political situations and target audiences are important to consider when creating your campaign.

Ideally you want your ad to be memorable: people remember your ad AND the product being advertised AND one key message. The icing on the cake comes when people talk to their friends about your ad, that’s when you really know that your ad has been successful.

I think that Tic Tac has done a great job in the above ad because it has met all those criteria. It also has international relevance, which not all humourous ads can boast of as it can easily overcome the language and cultural barriers of most countries in the western world.

Next time you’re in a confined space such as a lift, a car, or even on the street asking someone for direction, have a Tic Tac handy!

I would love to know what your favorite humourous ad is.

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Branding the Un-Egg-spected

The other day when deciding on which eggs to buy during my weekly grocery shop, I stumbled upon branded eggs. By ‘branded eggs’ I don’t mean that there was a company name on the egg carton, these were literally branded eggs with the company logo printed on each egg shell.

Twelve beaming smiling faces greeted me as I opened the carton of eggs from Sunny Queen Farms to check that all the eggs were intact. These eggs looked ‘happy’ and were sparkling clean (no feces, feathers, or other egg debris… gross!). Just looking at these eggs gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling of happiness. These eggs HAD to come home with me. And they did!

Branded eggs? Brilliant. And ‘about time’, especially as everything else that I bring home from the shops is branded.

Eggs without branding are just eggs. They could be from organically fed chickens that were taken for walks twice a day, or even read a book at night, but for all I know, once eggs get taken out of their packaging and put into my egg-tray in the fridge, an egg is an egg, is an egg. Unless it has a smiling face on it or another branding stamp to differentiate it.

So why haven’t all egg companies jumped upon this very simple and probably not too expensive concept? It sure beats me.

Egg companies in my opinion waste money by trying to differentiate themselves by their carton packaging. They should really focus on the natural primary packaging of their product: the egg shell. Brand logo, expiry date, and even a short key message or company slogan should be printed on the egg.

Even my hubby likes the smiling eggs, and although he doesn’t yet remember the name of the brand, he no longer has to ring me in a panicked state from the grocery store to ask which kind of eggs to buy. He knows that the smiling face eggs are a sure win in our household.

What other products do you feel still have a long way to go in terms of branding opportunities?

BCM Sunny Queen Egg Case Study

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Reinventing a best seller

How do you re-invent and improve an already good product? Saatchi & Saatchi LA have decided that a re-invented couch should be made up of toned and attractive females in bikinis, and should also be made available in a male version of topless buff men in shorts.

This ad however isn’t for the re-invented couch, or edible pizza curtains, or for plants that fight crime, but for the launch of an improved Toyota Camry. The creative touch of re-inventing the ordinary almost ‘un-re-inventible’ is quite funny, but I didn’t find that Toyota, or Saatchi and Saatchi on Toyota’s behalf, communicated the crux of their campaign… the improved features of the Camry in this particular ad.

But do the details of the sedan’s ‘re-invention’ really matter in this ad? I don’t think so. This ad is all about gaining attention and having people remember the ad rather than the car. Remembering the car and linking it back to the ad comes later in the campaign. This strategy is often used in advertising, where making a lasting impression in 60 seconds or less is challenging with so many ads bombarding our daily lives.

So what makes an ad successful? When evaluating ads in the Integrated Communications unit of the Master of Marketing Program, we used the acronym ‘S.C.O.R.E.’ to critique the ads.

S.C.O.R.E.: S = Simple, C= Creative, O=Original, R= Relevant, E= Effective.

Successful ads would rate high in every one of the criteria.

For this Toyota Camry ad, the ‘re-invention’ concept is Simple, and focuses on improving an already solid product. Making an analogy to a reinvented couch, curtain, and crime-fighting household potted plants is highly Creative. I would give this ad two thumbs up for Originality, how refreshing is it to see a car commercial without seeing the car wind along a quiet country road with a picturesque backdrop. Was this ad Relevant? No, in my opinion, but the fact that the ad isn’t relevant to the car’s improvements makes it Effective because the ad makes the car indirectly memorable.

What ads have you found to be so creative that they become highly memorable?

Mina D'Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School