Monday, October 19, 2009

Balloon Boy Hoax or Publicity Stunt?

By now, everyone knows that initial suspicions proved accurate – that the Colorado family was not truthful about the fate of their son and the silver balloon.

We watched the television coverage last week and hoped that nothing tragic would happen to the little boy. We were mesmerized by one man’s creativity to develop a unique balloon, but at the same time, we were horrified about the tragic event that seemed destined to happen from that same balloon. Then suddenly, we heard the announcement that sounded too good to be true: the boy was safe – he had been found at home and had never been in the balloon.

As we breathed a collective sigh of relief, something sinister was unfolding. But, was it really something sinister? The media provided immediate coverage of this so-called “breaking news” story. It was the media that planted the seed about a hoax. And it was Wolf Blitzer’s interview that led to the boy’s statement: “we did this for a show.” So, the media definitely contributed to the publicity factor. But, we also learned that the father had called the FAA before he even called 9-1-1 – why would he have the phone number for the FAA – how many of us have that number?

If the Colorado family staged this entire event to gain publicity, they made a mistake. They are not Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or other young Hollywood actresses who, for whatever crazy reason, receive countless chances at redemption. If the Colorado family wanted 15 minutes of fame, they should have helped their three sons do something special for disabled children in their area. Publicity should not be used for staged stunts – it should be a positive tool.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“Wassup” with Ads in Current Economy?

There have been recent reports in business pubs that ads are missing the mark. Microsoft had used Jerry Seinfeld and young kids in its ads, but the company is disappointed with those ads and will soon spend a ton of money to create new campaigns. Another company in the news, Cadillac, will also allocate a large budget toward advertising and is searching for a new agency. So, as the question is, “wassup” with ads?

First and foremost, consumers demand creativity in ads. Apple’s TV ads have taken a simple concept of Apple vs. Microsoft and carried that theme throughout countless scenarios with actors expertly portraying Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as they highlight basic differences between PC’s and Mac’s. The spots are clever and funny – and more importantly, memorable.

To repeat, the elements of good ads are creativity, cleverness, and humor – these elements allow an ad to become memorable. If you remember the ad, you will probably remember the product or service being promoted. And, if you remember the product or service, you may buy it. The most memorable ad I recall was a billboard in San Francisco for J&B scotch: “Ingle Ells, Ingle Ells. The holidays aren’t the same with J&B.” And, remember when everyone was asking “Wassup?” after the 2001 Super Bowl? How many times did you repeat that phrase? Budweiser is legendary as a result of its memorable Super Bowl television ads featuring a number of unique characters including Clydesdale horses, Dalmatians, and talking frogs.

The same creativity demonstrated in TV ads must be applied toward all forms of advertising (online, print, billboards, direct mail, etc.) – because consumers deserve creative ads to enhance and energize the brand-buying experience during these challenging economic times.

Friday, October 9, 2009

GM Hired a Woman to Lead US Sales – Yes, a Woman

General Motors surprised me this morning when I heard the news. While we’re all hoping that GM energizes its car and truck lines during the next couple of years and again becomes a viable competitor and significant contributor to the economic turnaround, I could hardly believe the news. I found it hard to believe that a company the size of General Motors had considered its decision-making customers.

GM hired a woman to become the new Vice President of Sales in the United States, which means that a WOMAN will now make decisions that will impact GM’s large dealer network. While woman have made great strides in many other industries, the auto industry has remained strongly a male industry. The reason that I find GM’s move so extraordinary and impressive is that GM listened to the market. How often have we heard media reports that 50% of new and used auto purchases are made by women or are influenced by women within couples? I have also seen that percentage as high as 80% (

GM considered its customer base and key decision makers and made its decision as a result. This appointment of a woman not only makes sense from a marketing perspective, but it is also good business. So, Susan Docherty, with experience with Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Hummer, I wish you much success.

Before you jump into social media, ask who speaks for you?

The topic on everyone’s mind these days is social media this and social media that. But, even before you get started and promote your company in this new online environment and create customized conversations with your customers and other stakeholders, you must consider who can “speak” on behalf of your company.

Do you know who is responsible for entering your company’s details on LinkedIn? Think about it. At this very moment, a member of your IT department is spending time that should be allocated toward infrastructure improvements on the LinkedIn site adding company information – information that might be confidential, or at the very least, not appropriate for worldwide distribution. Do you want the number of employees stated as well as which employees were terminated and which were promoted? Do you want your website included? What is the one sentence that best states your competitive positioning? Do you want all senior management names and titles listed? Should the CEO, COO, CMO, VP of Human Resources, or the marketing department be involved in making these decisions? And what’s more, how does a member of the IT department know the answers to these marketing questions?

Those were just some basic questions for LinkedIn – there are more in-depth questions that apply to the other social media marketing sites. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and several other sites provide a unique opportunity to build relationships with your customers – previously, one message was sufficient to promote a product or service. Today, customers are more brand-savvy and eager to learn how a particular product or service is a close fit with his/her preferences and needs. Welcome to marketing for the 21st century! Sorry if any offense is taken by the IT folks, but the marketing teams are the ones to lead the defense and implement social media strategies. However, the tech people do have a place in the social media realm. When employees start accessing Twitter, Facebook, etc., from their office computers, they open up company networks to viruses and other malware. Therefore, companies need to create and carefully monitor employee usage of these sites – or institute a policy to not access them during company time.

Marketing teams should be studying the nuances of each social media site (for example, Twitter has a 140-character limit for all messages, Facebook creates specialized content for “fans,” and LinkedIn provides people to connect through specialized “groups”) and then create unique campaigns to take advantage of the opportunities to reach existing and new customers.

In order to successfully utilize the new social media tool as part of a complete, and many are now calling it a “traditional” marketing strategy, senior leadership should involve all levels of a company. But either one person or a department needs to be in charge of creating and executing the company’s policy. Otherwise, your company’s genuine message will get shut out by all the clutter.