April 23, 2008 by Colin
Oh Galen Weston, you scamp. I admit, I was on the fence for a while. When you were appointed Executive Chairman of your dad’s company, I was naturally skeptical.
When your photogenic and cherubic mug started showing up in advertising for Loblaws groceries late last year, I questioned the wisdom of the move. After all, Loblaws is the home for President’s Choice, a wide-ranging white label brand that many consider a fundamental part of the Canadian identity.
President’s Choice isn’t just a success because of its delectable butter tarts, shortbread cookies, cheese trays, spreads and holiday train sets.
It’s the brainchild of Dave Nichol, a Loblaws executive who became synonymous with white label grocery products in the frozen North. Through sweat, blood, tears, market testing, brand development and millions of promotional inserts, Dave built the President’s Choice white label brand into a category killer for Loblaws.
But then you started playing with babies. Babies, man.
Let’s remember that Galen is the shining new star of a family ranked by Forbes as the #93rd richest in the world.
How is he gonna come across as personable, down to earth and a straight shooter?
Back in the 80s and early 90s, you knew Dave was simpatico. His ads were full of references to “working hard for you” and ” we’ve kept the same price as last year” and “my team” and “our family.”
Over the past few months, Weston has been working hard to put a personable and young face on the Loblaws brand. Personalizing the brand was first suggested over a year ago, by people like Mark Evans (read the comments, it’s one of those bitter but everfresh posts).
Weston’s clean face, tousled hair and open necked shirt have been pushing products that would appeal to the new and sensitive consumer. Organic baby food. Reusable shopping bags. Phosphate-free dish washing detergent. Apple crisp. Freakin’ apple crisp!
(Which, if you want to watch them, you have to dig into the Bensimon Byrne website under “current creative.” Because ad agency websites suck.)
And in the latest ad, Weston brought out the big gun – he ended the ad with “eh?”
“Clean dishes. And a slightly cleaner Canada. That works, eh?”
Normally, I would be all like “oh yeah? who are YOU to try the common and somewhat stereotypical colloquialism that has branded Canadians around the world?”
After all, eh is not a word to be wielded lightly by copywriters – unless in an excessively ironic manner.
But Galen Weston pulled it off. Bastard.
Good for him.
And I can’t just help myself. Here’s a Bob and Doug MacKenzie clip, featuring a lot of “ehs”:
[tags] Galen Weston, Loblaws, President’s Choice, grocery, eh, Canadian culture [/tags]
March 30, 2008 by Colin
For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why a brand manager would buy these ads. An ordinary woman, with ordinary if well-presented clothes, obviously standing in front of a false aisle of consumer goods, blatantly promoting a particular product – sauces, detergent, food.
The most direct comparison? Imagine the scripted pitch and rigid product positioning of an in-store sampling program, recorded with better lighting.
That’s Brand Power, the work of the Buchanan Group, which was featured in the National Post yesterday in an article called “Back to Basics.”
And here I thought Brand Power was a particularly Canadian program – but it’s obvious that audiences across North America and the Commonwealth are seeing one interpretation of the advertisements or another.
“… From a creative point of view the ad executions are awful, but mesmerizing. These are the type of commercials that are generally abhorred by agency brand strategists who spend months deciding on how to sell you breakfast cereal artfully.
“They are not ads that electrify you,” said Anthony Stokan, partner at retail consultancy Anthony Russell Inc. “They are very lame and uninspiring. But that said, they are highly believable because they focus on the essence of the brand and the products.” …”
Chris Clarke has made a strong, and emotional, argument in the past that Brand Power could be considered deceitful and misleading. I agree that the format is designed to appear informational rather than promotional, but I have never thought it anything but blatant advertising.
March 28, 2008 by Colin
Blog posts are like grade school book reviews. They’re often thought up at the last minute, rely on familiar reference material, don’t explore untested subjects, and have as bare a thesis as possible.
Tweets, continuing with the analogy, are capsule movie reviews.
Reading through the language, form and conventions found in twitter messages, you can see that Gene Shalit, Jeffrey Lyons, Siskel and Ebert and Peter Travers were the intellectual mentors of twitter users.
Use 140 characters to win attention quickly, pass along a germ of an idea, and maybe share an opinion.
That or we all studied under the wing of masters like Yogi Berra, H.L Mencken, Dale Carnegie, Chuck Klosterman and Hunter S. Thompson – writers who taught us the value of short, witty and highly observant phrases that are usually non-sequiturs
Well, maybe 20% of twitter users.
The other 80% are posting about their breakfasts, arranging hookups or promoting themselves.
[tags] twitter, tweets, movie reviews, book reviews [/tags]
March 2, 2008 by Colin
Apparently, $15 million in opening weekend box office may not be enough to build buzz for Will Ferrell’s new movie, Semi-Pro. Which is a pity, since it seems like he’s been working hard – including the back alleys – to promote it.
Back alleys? Well, alternative newspapers. This funny tidbit from the San Antonio Current:
“… “I had a slew of, uh, I was a bank teller, a valet parker, um, what else? I worked at an art auction house. I was the appraisal coordinator.
I would send the appraisers out, as they would — they’d bring their appraisals of art back and I would have to type them up. But I was pretty bad at the job, because I would just leave and go on auditions. But I kept employed by being completely honest with my employers.
When they would say, you know, “That appraisal was due a month ago,” I would say, “I know, it’s — it’s terrible.” And, uh, “When do you think we can expect it?” “I have no idea.” It would almost stun them into, “OK, well, get it [done]. Right away.” “OK, I will. I’ll try my hardest. But — there’s no guarantees.” …”
[tags] Will Ferrell, Semi-Pro, alternative newspapers [/tags]
February 18, 2008 by Colin
Hmmm. Walter Carl, of Northeastern University, seems to zero in on Twitter as a marketing tool for hacks and flacks keen on keeping up images.
“… “You want to use these tools to keep up on others, in a good way, of course, and to let them keep up on you,” said Professor [Walter] Carl, whose research focuses on social media. “But their perception is it’s surveillance.” One of the main reasons people embrace social media — Facebook, for instance — is to create identities for themselves and control other people’s perceptions of them.
“Maybe Twitter isn’t the right tool for that job,” he said. “The people who I see using it are an older demographic, people in marketing or P.R. or advertising, who use it for work, to present themselves as particular types of people. They’ll twitter, ‘I’m traveling,’ or ‘I’m going to interesting restaurants.’ They’re using it to do identity work.” (NYT)
You know what? He’s 70% right.
[tags] twitter, identity, self promotion [/tags]
February 14, 2008 by Colin
Cross-promotion in support of a cross-promotion campaign!
The gist of this lengthy post: take a negative, add some humour and ingenuity and make it a positive!
Canuckflack, Oh Canuckflack,
How we all love Colin McKay
So we’re writing him this romantic note
Because it’s Saint Valentine’s day!
His quirky take on the marketing world
Fills our lives with daily mirth
Which is why he is without dispute
The most gorgeous blogger on Earth…
You’ll always be our classic rock
As you guide us through what’s new
The communications industry has found itself
A poster boy in you.
Colin – a man like you, who knows his stuff
And can talk all things social media
Fills our minds with many naughty thoughts
About how we want to feed ‘ya…
So we’d like you to try new Lovers’ Marmite,
Which is laced with a bit of Champagne
You should have fellow citizens wondering
About that nice smell on the O-Train…
And so when you’re chomping on your morning toast
Before you head out to Uppertown
Don’t forget to reach for the Marmite jar
But you don’t have to put the butter down
Happy Valentine’s Day from Marmite
You’re our perfect date
Thanks for showing us some love
Instead of choosing to hate!
What cross-promotion, you may ask?
The fabulous Paddington Bear preferring Marmite over Marmalade ad:
But what’s the second level of cross-promotion?
Some little thing called “Lover’s Marmite” – a special blend of Marmite and Champagne only available for a limited time, with a special label on the back. A label where you can write the name of your special darling, as you hand them a jar of yeast extract that says “I Love You” on the front.
The only thing better would be used undergarments from your solo vacation to Thailand.
If that image wasn’t disturbing enough, take a look at the advert for “Lover’s Marmite”:
Honestly, I don’t know why I obsess over Marmite (the product), but Marmite (the marketer) has bowled me over twice in six months!
[tags] marmite, blogger relations, blogger outreach, Lover’s Marmite [/tags]
January 16, 2008 by Colin
Starbucks is dropping organic milk from its list of options available to caffeine addicts. Apparently, the regular milk is now free of growth hormones, which eliminates the need for organic. (Oh, and drinks with the milk accounted for less than 1% of total drinks sold.)
Which seems a little strange. After all, even your local corner store is carrying organic products. It’s a trend sweeping the nation! Why drop the pretension, even if the benefits are now available in regular milk?
But Starbucks is focusing its product line, and that means cutting some things out. And some afficionados, naturally, are seeing the move as something of a betrayal, even if their organic milk tasted bad and wasn’t well promoted.
“…Goodbye, Starbucks organic milk. You sucked, but at least you offered hope… (Sustainable Scoop)
[tags] organic, consumer choice, Starbucks [/tags]
January 6, 2008 by Colin
On the east end of Long Island, there’s a 1,000 watt radio station that’s extremely local:
“…Mr. Tria’s morning show, “The Dawn Patrol,” delivers a style of local radio that is nearly extinct on Long Island: a neighbor’s lost dog, a birth or death in the community, and news from the schools, the police and Town Hall. It is a slow-drip blend of slow-paced life that seems meant to waft into kitchens and mingle with the smell of bacon. (NYT)
A Ford dealership in a small California town has been bought out, a reaction from hq in Detroit to declining market share and a surplus of dealerships in the region. But not for a lack of trying:
“…All the while, Norwalk and southeast Los Angeles gradually became more Latino — 63% in the most recent Census data. Stutzke says he adapted, becoming among the first car dealers to advertise on Spanish-language television. Families poured into the dealership on Saturdays to watch the making of El Show de Keystone Ford. (USA Today)
Looking for some heartwarming stories of big box chains and international brands failing? Reason magazine tells us that the little guy CAN win – and has an eighty year history of beating the big guy. It’s a good read with a lot of historical context:
“…By understanding local tastes, Newbury Comics, Phoenix Coffee Co., La Flor De Broadway Café, and Kansas City’s Broadway Café demonstrated that localization, customer care, and authenticity are far more effective means of fighting larger rivals than agitating for anti-chain legislation.
Had Broadway Café owner Jon Cates initially looked at historical precedent, rather than petitioning city hall, he perhaps would have understood that David slays Goliath with encouraging frequency in the history of American business.”
[tags] community, audience, brand, retail, radio promotion [/tags]
January 3, 2008 by Colin
Some of you may know, during the day I work with a great bunch of privacy advocates. So I’ve got some opinions about the Scroble scraping issue of the day.
Just ask yourself: let’s say large consumer product company X had created a fan group in Facebook. This morning, they decided to launch a new promotional campaign aimed at just these fans, but needed the contact information. Finding Plaxo’s cool new tool, they then simply scraped the name, addy and preferences of all their “fans.”
Would that be acceptable? No. Damien Mulley has it right. It could be considered data theft.
And we would all be justifiably outraged about it.
It’s the idea of scale. You move the information of your 20, 50, 100 or 200 close personal and business contacts, you’re only maintaining your records.
You move 1,000 or more – you’re maintaining a mailing list.
The idea of data portability is that users, consumers, geeks have control of their OWN data. In this case, users entered into a relationship with another user (Scoble) where they shared access to their mutual Facebook profiles.
Facebook, for all its weaknesses and commercial impulses, does have a limited level of privacy protection. The embedding of personal email addys in an image is one. If you want to send me an email from outside the walled garden, you have to take the time to copy the addy by hand.
It’s one protection FOR ME to avoid having my addy scraped and sold off.
So when Plaxo tells Jeremiah Owyang that their new tool is all about data portability – they’re full of crap. It’s all about data collection. Here is an excerpt from a quick interview Jeremiah conducted with Plaxo today:
“…What else should we know? In 2008, data portability thrust is where we want to head, we want to turn the model upside down, so instead of widgets going to the social graph, we would like to make the social graph very portable. This is an area where Plaxo as more depth than anyone else.” (Jeremiah)
In the comments that follow, there is a good discussion of the social contract between “friends” when exchanging access rights and personal information.
Part of this contract, in this case, involves the privacy protections and restrictions put in place by Facebook. Facebook is a wide-open app with a lot of publicly available information, but that doesn’t mean that informed users don’t expect a level of considered behaviour on the part of their “friends.”
When you decide Facebook isn’t the most appropriate tool for you, you can’t attempt to migrate your mass of friends by breaking those protections and restrictions.
Sorry that it’s inconvenient, but that’s the playground you chose to play in.
And if you’re a commercial company that develops a tool designed to rip personal information out of proprietary social networks, don’t tell me you’re doing it in the name of the freedom for information to flow freely. There’s a commercial application behind the motivation.
[tags] data portability, data protection, identity theft, Facebook, Plaxo [/tags]
December 26, 2007 by Colin
Look at your kids (or your neighbour’s kids, or your brother). Are they planted on a sofa, playing a MMOG? Imagine what generations after generations of lethargic kids might look like. What effects would their health suffer?
Participaction, the Canadian health promotion campaign aimed at kids, has the answer:
Oh – and what’s the car in the promo? A Chevy Citation? An Acadian?
[tags] Participaction, health promotion, gamers, youth, Citation, Acadian [/tags]
December 25, 2007 by Colin
What happens when you misdial 1-800 Santa Claus? You get 1-800 Santa Barbara – a website promoting attractions in Santa Barbara. California. Which, for one week in December, becomes Accidental Santa.
John Dickson, the site owner, discovered this last year. Instead of hanging up on the kids calling for the fat guy, he spoke to them. This year, a hundred volunteers are helping out, answering questions and taking orders (and sometimes managing expectations, like the little boy who wanted a real Dinosaur).
“… A list of pointers has guided the novices: Be patient. Mention Rudolph. For safety’s sake, ask only the child’s first name. Steer any offered donations to charity. Be prepared for misdialed calls to a similar number for Enterprise car rentals. (Calls to the actual 1-800-SANTACLAUS keep ringing, unanswered.) (LA Times)
A simple dialling error which could be easily dismissed. Or provide an opportunity to spread some Christmas cheer among the innocents who, somehow, understand 1-800 taxonomy.
November 23, 2007 by Colin
I won’t deny it – I read gossip blogs.
But only for the marketing leads!
Like Sean Kingston’s sharp Crayola 64 assorted crayon pack worth of bling.
It’s a must look! As always, I love the comments:
“…Wow, that’s all kinds of tacky. 64 to be precise…”
Dlisted also pointed me to Molly Shannon’s latest paid sponsorship – the opening of Charmin’s free public toilets on Time Square.
Here’s the subhed from the news release:
QUEEN OF THE THRONE: MOLLY SHANNON PERFORMS THE CEREMONIAL ‘FIRST FLUSH’ AT THE CHARMIN RESTROOMS OPENING
I desperately want to be nice. In the newsreel kindly supplied by Proctor & Gamble, Molly tells us that parents with kids will spend a lot of time during the holiday shopping season combing the streets of New York for a public toilet, and this will be a godsend for them.
But I just can’t get past the thought that her coat may be lined in shreds of toilet paper.
I can’t also help but notice that the news release notes she was accompanied by the assistant brand manager for Charmin.
If you were the assistant brand manager, would you consider participating in this promotional event as a step up in your career?
“Man, I really pulled this promotion together nicely! Not only did I open the public toilets on Times Square, I got to meet Molly Shannon!”
November 15, 2007 by Colin
Have you ever had a moment, sitting in a meeting, when you realize that the person sitting beside you is blowing it out of their ass?
Social media has become the subject du jour in our communications meetings, and everyone seems to be reading and repeating snippets from articles in Wired and BusinessWeek.
And then they crap all over the idea.
I’m witnessing the behaviour right in front of me. Someone has thrown out a new and imaginative idea … and the faux experts are murmuring slightly positive things about the technology – but only before they start rolling out institutional, technological and bureaucratic reasons for why it won’t work.
They don’t have an outright denial – more of a conditional and begrudging acknowledgement of developments in social media in other parts of the world.
And then they compartamentalize the idea and their perception of the risk:
“We’re exploring it.”
“It’s a pilot project, being launched soon.”
“W’re going to be looking into that.”
Their power comes from their institutional postition: these people arrive with their institutionally-issued black notebooks and the business cards reading “web advertising experts,” “promotion specialists,” or “IT consultant.”
But there’s an unspoken and unwritten text: “I’m here to suffocate your ideas with good intentions and poor policy.”
And I can’t waste the energy to play their boardroom politics.
Please tell me where you, oh faux social media expert, have an office, work with your colleagues and try to exert your authority.
Because I want to avoid it like the plague.
[tags] social media expert, pr consultant, bureaucracy [/tags]
October 29, 2007 by Colin
You’re like me, aren’t you? You look in the fridge, and all you can see is a package of frankfurters. Hot dogs. Sausages. Processed meat in a casing.
What about a refreshing meat bunny? Or perhaps you’d like a little meat trunk on your elephant?
It’s been around for a while, but Nippon Ham has a novel way of promoting the purchase and consumption of their Winny brand hot dogs – detailed instructions on how to carve them into a variety of animals. Like these instructions for making that adorable meat bunny.
October 25, 2007 by Colin
“…“Second Life, as a global community with residents from more than 100 countries, is an ideal venue to host a virtual launch of a report that compares how easy it is for people to start and operate a business in 178 economies,” Dahlia Khalifa said.
“Second Life is on the frontier of collaboration and technology. It brings people from around the world together by removing boundaries,” she added. …(news release)
It’s a noble effort and an example that the World Bank and its’ partners are looking for new ways to communicate their ideas – but Second Life has not proven its worth as a communication tool.
Earlier this year, Eric Kintz at HP argued why he still needed convincing about Second Life. Bandwidth and computing power were among the factors he identified for his reluctance to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak.
Those are very big issues for most government departments. Even OECD members have to evaluate the capacity of their network to deliver content over a service like Second Life – but also their network’s capacity to deliver that content back to their own employees.
I suspect that many organizations with outposts in Second Life (like Sweden) have set up separate networks and better equipment for their in-world representatives.
More on the event:
“…The event will be an open forum where policy makers and the public from around the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, can ask questions, challenge the findings, and contribute to a global business dialogue aimed at stimulating reforms that improve the business environment, and ultimately create more business startups, job opportunities, and economic growth.
Digital copies of the report’s overview, as well as World Bank–IFC virtual apparel and products, will be available to Second Life residents who attend the event.”
How are the clients of the World Bank – many of them living in remote corners of the internet – supposed to sign on for this report launch?
[tags] Second Life, World Bank, Doing Business, third world, international organizations, multilateral [/tags]