I’m a faux social media expert: hear me roar!

11/15/07

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]

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Meat Bunnies – now that’s brand extension

10/29/07

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 to do? You can’t handle another hot dog. Not even a Coney Island special. Not a Chicago Style. Not a Detroit special. A New England Coney Island?

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.

The guys at Finding Japan even filmed their effort to make the little elephants.
All that’s missing is the soft velvety bed of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (Kraft Dinner to us Canadians)

You MUST visit I am an American, and I eat Hot Dogs. And Fat Dave’s Hot Dog Adventures.

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World Bank Launches Report in Second Life

10/25/07

Another international organization is hitting the beaches of Second Life. On October 26, the World Bank is releasing the latest report from the Doing Business group:

“…“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]

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How wire rims bridged gaps in the market

10/06/07

Spinners or wire rims? It seems that spinners are winning the fashion wars, even in suburban Ottawa. Wire rims are back where they always belonged: on antique British roadsters and your grandfather’s Cadillac.

Over the past fifteen years, Dayton Wire Wheels, a premier manufacturer of wire rims, has profited from the growing popularity of their custom wheels among rappers and urban auto customizers.

This success built on an already sizable and reliable fan base among the custom lowriders popular on the west coast of the United States. Not to mention their century-old business with luxury customers.

Other brands have found themselves stranded and abandoned by their traditional clientèle after following urban fashions too closely (see Tommy Hilfiger): why not this company?

How did Dayton avoid the familiar cycle of boom and bust common to most fashionable accessories?

A recent feature in Cleveland Scene doesn’t offer many hints, other than noting a continuing loyalty from customers interested in bespoke wheels and custom rides:

“…Dayton’s factory wouldn’t soon join the other hollowed-out plants that dot the city. The company has managed to maintain its original high-end customers, Guilfoyle says. And it’s hoping to capitalize on the inner city’s new interest in Harley-Davidsons. Besides, they still have their loyal vatos in East L.A.

“Dayton is the wire wheel of status,” says Lowrider‘s Jeff Rick. “And it can’t be a lowrider without a wire wheel. I don’t see that going anywhere.”

Part of Dayton’s secret was diversifying their markets. Instead of relying on unprecedented success found through easy cross-promotion opportunities with rappers like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, they sought out new markets for their custom rims.

Markets unlikely to rise and fall with the fortunes of urban music: playing upon the nostalgia of boomers picking up the “retro” Ford Thunderbird and P.T. Cruiser. Oh, and Harley Davidson buyers. And BMW lovers. And people obsessed with spending more time with their Jaguar mechanic than their spouse.

Dayton has always served niche markets, customers interested in customizing their individual automobiles and motorcycles – whether they were built in Detroit, England, Italy or Japan, or built by hand or by a robot.

It seems that the arrival of a new market segment – while exciting and flashy – did not distract the company from its overall long-term strategy.

They continued to serve clients interested in paying top dollar to personalize and customize their “ride.”

(They even have a blog for their street rod project)

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Paddington has your best interests at heart

10/01/07

Your childhood stuffed toy has been hijacked by consumer goods companies. That may not be a surprise to you, but it has irritated the hell out of the original illustrators of characters from the Snowman to Paddington Bear. (London Times, via Serendipity Book)

“…[Raymond] Briggs complains that his iconic Snowman, with his soft curves and floppy felt hat, has been used to sell everything from fizzy drinks to fried chicken. “It is galling to find that the innocent character one has created for young children is being used to promote junk food and drink, and also to decorate the packaging of lavatory paper,” he said.”

[tags] children’s books, illustrations, Paddington, Marmite [/tags]

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Small business marketing and the ass kicking machine

09/24/07

Really. An impressive ass kicking machine. On Craigslist. With a picture.
At the tail end of the description, the machine’s master craftsman has thrown in this pitch:

“Oh and If you need any remodeling done I have 10+ years experience and my own tools.”

There you go: the key to success as a small business. In a field with many similar competitors, identify a quality that separates your services from the pack and promote that quality. Make it real for the consumer.
Here in Canada, we have a guy who has built a reputation as an expert in ass kicking AND renovation: Mike Holmes.

[tags] renovation, ass kicking, promotion, Mike Holmes [/tags]

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Sweet, sweet retail honey

09/07/07

Ahh. The joys of retail marketing and management. Customer flow through. Seasonal promotions. Retail merchandising. Customer service in a retail environment.

Andrew at Northern Planner has a wonderful post brimming with notes, observations and comments about the retail environment.

I’ve picked out on of the more boring observations, if only because it touched on my behaviour just yesterday:

“…People always pick up books and feel them in book shops…”

Reasons why I pick up books in bookshops:

  • to check the price.
  • to measure the heft-to-price ratio.
  • to check for promotional blurbs.
  • to check for promotional blurbs from people I actually respect.
  • to look for colour pictures in the middle pages.
  • to keep the clerk from asking “can I help you?”
  • to check for overspacing – who wants to buy a short story stretched into a longer book?
  • are there footnotes? I like footnotes.
  • to randomly sample the text. I’m not fond of too many “ten dollar words”.
  • to check the author’s name – and google the book for reviews on my blackberry.
  • what’s the paper weight? A thirty dollar book should have good paperstock.
  • what’s the table of contents look like? More than one idea?
  • because the book next to it was interesting, and it may have absorbed interestingness by osmosis
  • NOT because it’s on a clerk’s recommended list
  • shiny colourful cover is hypnotizing me!

Do you notice what’s missing? Any mention of stickers, promotional posters, “best of” lists and “as featured on Oprah” displays.

As for discounts – whose purchasing decision in a bookstore is influenced by a 20% off discount?
[tags] books, retail, book shop, book store, observation [/tags]

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Adidas campaign and Rugby tripped up by media boycott

09/06/07

Zinedine Zidane. The Rugby World Cup. The New Zealand All Blacks, perhaps the best rugby team in the world. A nice public relations campaign organized by Adidas in France to build awareness and create an opportunity for French fans to meet a soccer god and rugby behemoths.

Too bad some of the largest news agencies and chains in the world boycotted the event.

It’s the result of a battle that pits some of the biggest names in traditional wire journalism against major sporting organizations – all because of the increasing pressure from fans and audiences for up-to-the-minute coverage of major sporting events online and on 24 hour sports channels.

The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Presse and others are very upset that the International Rugby Board is trying to impose restrictions on coverage of the World Cup by media organizations that are not paid sponsors of the event.

“… The agencies are fighting against IRB media restrictions such as that no organisation can post more than 40 images or three minutes of news conference or “locker room” video online during any match.” (Guardian)

The members of the news coalition are boycotting all events and promotions leading up to the World Cup, which begins today. They are pressuring the IRB to lessen the restrictions imposed upon media accredited to cover the World Cup. The French government has weighed in, as has the European Commission.

The IRB is arguing that similar conditions are already imposed by the Olympics and the soccer World Cup. After all, commercial considerations must be taken into account:

“We think our rules are fair to everyone, to those who pay for the privilege to buy certain rights which helps us reinvest in the game, and also to those who get to come along without paying any rights fees [said Mike Miller, Chairman of the World Cup].” [AFP]

The full detail of their statement is available online, and the explicit mention of news and photo distribution by mobile phone underlines the central role media disintermediation plays in this dispute.

Unfortunately, the boycott will mean that coverage of the World Cup will be restricted to those organizations that have bought access through sponsorships or are driven to cover the event by their rugby-mad readers (like the Welsh, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Brits).

In North America, rugby will continue to struggle for attention in the thin oxygen of the subscription sports channels.
On the other hand, this is the first time, in four years of blogging, that I have used disintermediation in a post. Yay me!

[tags] rugby, Adidas, International Rugby Board, All Blacks, World Cup boycott [/tags]

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I’m in urz store, stealing yr bndwidth

08/20/07

Yeah, you know me. I’m the guy or gal in the aisle, leaning over my Blackberry or Treo.

By the time you shuffle over to ask “if I’m alright?” it will be all over. Your chance to influence my buying decision will have evaporated.

Forget that after-hours training from the manufacturer. Forget the features card you keep in your back pocket. You had a chance to be the professional. To be the expert.

You could have helped me evaluate features and reliability. You could have offered honest opinions about the brand and the product, identified benefits and weaknesses among competing products.

Instead, I turned to Google. Or CNet. Or Consumer Reports. I txted a friend who just bought one. I emailed a buddy who had some things to say about that brand. I’ve already sent a picture to my mom and she doesn’t like the cut.

You’ve lost the advantage. Your bosses paid the money to drive me to your store through advertising, yellow pages ads, paid placements and covert word of mouth. And you pissed it away in those few minutes.

The days of spoon feeding information to customers are over. We can carry our personal, professional and technical network around in our pockets, and you won’t beat that unless you’re faster, better informed than you are now, and more willing to compete on price and features.

The irony is, I found your store by looking it up online. Your paid yellow pages ad was the first result on my BlackBerry or Treo screen. I looked at your flier – online – while standing on the sidewalk outside.

You paid all that money to drive me through the door. And then you hit me with old fashioned retail placement and marketing. Take a hint from the insurance industry: they are willing to serve up 5 competitor’s rates just to convince a consumer to stick with them.

If a bunch of actuaries can figure it out, why not you, the intrepid retailer? ‘Cause the enabled consumer is not going away.

Oh – and when we’ve made a decision without your help, don’t offer us the extended warranty. I REALLY hate it when a retailer offers to bet me that my new product will break right as the warranty expires. Shows real confidence in the product, and just confirms in my mind that you’ll squeeze me for every last cent.

[tags] retail sales, in store promotion, sales training [/tags]

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The Life of An Alternative Band

07/28/07

Here you go folks. I’ve tried to draw out the career arc for the typical alternative band (or one hit wonder pop band). The arc progresses from left to right, with the four segments representing roughly two to three years in total (although it could be 18 months if you’re an American Idol winner).

I know I’m being unfair. Many bands have very successful careers as independent artists, profiting from one huge national hit to avoid working crap jobs as baristas ever again. Others turn away from more mainstream paths to emphasize their music and build a close connection to their loyal fans.

I’m thinking, really, of those bands whose career has been defined by one song. No matter how varied their discography (empthreeography?) and how nuanced their work, the only time most of us think of these bands is when we catch a bar or two of their signature song in an office building lobby, at the mall, or waiting for a teller at the bank.

Or in an ad for a feminine hygiene product.

A special added treat: Midnight Oil on Alan Thicke’s talk show – that’s right, Alan Thicke people!

[tags] music promotion, music marketing, AOR, AC radio, American Idol, radio, record sales [/tags]

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Is Miliband Giving Activists a Role on the Inside?

07/23/07

“… The old diplomacy was defined by a world of limited information. It was a veritable secret garden of negotiations. And secret negotiation still matters. But we live in a world where the views of a Pashtun herdsman, and the conflict he faces between illegal opium production and legal farming, holds the fate of a critical country in the balance. So the new diplomacy is public as well as private, mass as well as elite, real-time as well as deliberative. And that needs to be reflected in the way we do our business.”

– excerpt from David Miliband’s first speech as Foreign Secretary, speaking to The New Diplomacy (text on FCO site, spotty video on YouTube, and webcast on avaaz.org) Which signals a greater commitment to online communities and a frank conversation with the general public?

  • a blog, or
  • co-hosting your first major policy speech with an international and online activist organization?

David Miliband, the British Cabinet Minister formerly known online for his personal blog posts as DEFRA Minister, has been promoted to the post of Foreign Secretary. No new blog yet, but the signs are encouraging. In fact, Miliband’s first major policy speech was co-hosted by avaaz.org – a relatively new international and online activist organization. In addition to the vague but reassuring words in his speech about non-traditional influences on diplomacy and foreign policy priorities. the new Foreign Secretary fielded some questions submitted online by avaaz’ members.

“…At the end we handed David Miliband his own Book of Global Public Opinion, with all our members’ thousands of questions and pieces of advice, warning and encouragement. Clarion calls for an ethical foreign policy, a new global climate treaty, all-party negotiations and ending occupation in the Middle East, the protection of human rights and decisive action on poverty. I hope he’s reading it now.” (Paul Hilder, in HuffPost)

The talk is even being walked on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. The FCO is encouraging Britons to “Have Their Say” about the speech and the FCO’s priorities. Unfortunately, the system seems to consist of an HTML form, a formal review process once submitted, and then a static compilation of comments.

The three themes under this section have links to reddit, del.icio.us and digg – but none of the other pages on the FCO site seem to have them. It’s a first step, isn’t it?

The larger question remains how Miliband’s past experience with online comment and activism will be reflected in the polices and practices developed by the FCO. Will public diplomacy really change as a result?

Or will the process be more incremental, simply as a result of institutional inertia and the greater challenge of shifting the course of a large foreign policy apparatus?

*crossposted from sosaidthe.org

[tags] Government 2.0, online activism, Miliband, FCO, public diplomacy [/tags]

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Obscene or just plain edgy advertising?

07/23/07

I’m loving the new energy awareness campaign from flickoff.ca (and flickoff.org). I saw the first mainstream ad (here) yesterday, and it’s edgy and engaging. Not quite as raw as the first ad, but more informative. In the new ad, a young woman* walks the viewer through the argument for energy reduction, and a few steps anyone can take. Meanwhile, the logo flashes for a brief split second – and it’s easy to misinterpret THAT logo.

The campaign is supported by several companies with strong youth ties, including Roots, Virgin Mobile and MuchMusic. The narrator* of the ad is Hannah Simone, the host of MuchNews and the New Music on Much Music.

In a cross promotion homerun, MuchMusic managed to get one of the Flick Off t-shirts (available from Roots) onto Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) during his recent appearance in Toronto to promote the new Harry Potter movie.

Predictably, the Ontario government’s $500,000 in support for the campaign drew criticism from the opposition parties:

“…It’s bad judgment. It’s offensive, it shouldn’t be done this way. There are lots of ways to educate kids without using language like this.” [said Conservative Party Leader John Tory]

NDP house leader Peter Kormos expressed similar views in a different way.

“That the taxpayer would spend flickin’ money on a campaign that is based on telling people to flick off just blows my flickin’ mind. Nobody has lost their flickin’ sense of humour … but the minister got burned flickin’ big-time.

“Parents are going to be flickin’ embarrassed … (They) have enough to deal with (besides) the Ministry of the Environment in a government that simply doesn’t give a flick about their children’s language.” (Windsor Star)

Wow. I guess they’ve never seen a FCUK t-shirt.

[tags] energy reduction, flickoff, flick off, Kyoto, greenhouse gas, community activism, Harry Potter [/tags]

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William Gibson – pimping in Second Life

07/20/07

William Gibson’s getting ready to release a new novel, and his publisher has some innovative ideas to promote Spook Country. As the Penguin Blog tells us, they’ve prepared a range of activities in Second Life – making an apt link to the ideas first floated in Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer.

“…we’re screening his fine and strange movie No Maps for These Territories; there’s a competition to design an avatar for the man himself; we’re giving away shipping containers packed with Gibson goodies and at the beginning of August, William Gibson himself will be coming into Second Life to read from Spook Country and answer questions…”

Tom Nissley interviews the famed and farsighted author on the Amazon blog:

Amazon.com: Have you visited Second Life at all? I know that you’re doing some promotions for the book there.

Gibson: I’m going to do something there, and it’ll pretty much be the first time I’ve been there since I did go and check it out last winter. It was a strange experience.

Amazon.com: Did they treat you as a god there?

Gibson: Well, you know I didn’t go as myself. I went as the guy that I cooked up when I signed up, so nobody knew it was me. And actually it was like a cross between being in some suburban shopping mall on the outskirts of Edmonton in the middle of winter and the worst day you ever spent in high school. [laughter]

Amazon.com: Yeah, I have to say I’ve visited the outskirts and it frightens me.

Gibson: It’s deserted. It seems like functionally it has to be deserted. If it’s not deserted it crashes. So there’s all this empty, empty architecture. There’s whole cities where there’s only one other person and they don’t even want to get close to you. And when you do succeed in finding a group of other avatars, people aren’t very nice.

Amazon.com: They’re meaner than they are–it’s like people are in their cars.

Penguin’s Jeremy Ettinghausen offered UKSFbooknews greater detail on Gibson’s initial foray into Second Life:

“…”We visited one of the hardcore dystopian cyberpunk sims and had a wander around. A group of cosplayers were sitting chatting on benches and when they saw William Gibson (obviously not appearing under his own name) a few catcalls rang out.

He was, I think, both surprised and disturbed by this – I think surprised by the mocking and disturbed that in a virtual world where anonymity is prized and the usual laws of physics do not apply, appearance still seemed to be an issue for residents.”

[tags] Second Life, William Gibson, Neuromancer, book promotion, author tour[/tags]

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At Honest Ed’s – Only The Floors Are Crooked

07/11/07

Yeah, yeah. Ed Mirvish and his son David transformed live theatre in Canada, London and around the world.

Let’s talk about his skills as a salesman. A master salesman.

Once upon a time, I lived a half block away from Honest Ed’s Emporium, found at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets in Toronto. The store was ringed with thousands upon thousands of incadescent lights, lighting up the street and the punny signs that just drew you in:

Honest Ed’s a blabbermouth! He can’t keep his prices a secret!

Honest Ed attracts squirrels. At these prices, they think he’s nuts!

Honest Ed’s no midwife, but the bargains he delivers are real babies!

Forget Paco Underhill’s “butt brush” theory: Honest Ed’s is jammed full of Israeli cookies, Chinese shoes, Indian cast iron kitchen tools, and everything else you could imagine. The prices are painted onto cardboard signs, just like pre-war general stores.

People will tolerate cramped aisleways, blaring visual stimuli and the basic presentation of products in exchange for low low prices.

Ed’s promotions are legendary: free turkey and fruit cake at Christmas time; Honest Ed’s dance marathon in the ’60s; a pink elephant sale that got him into trouble with animal lovers.

All this retail magic gave Ed Mirvish, and his son David, the resources to rescue and revitalize classic theatre in Toronto.

“…Over a quarter century earlier when I bought the Royal Alexandra, although many people were happy that this theatre was safe for the time being, many were concerned with what I would do with it. They did have qualms. Frankly, in the early years I was often tempted to put vending machines on the back of the seats and sell toothpaste and razor blades. I am glad I resisted. (How I Became An Overnight Success in Seventy Five Years)

After the 2003 SARS outbreak led to a slump in business and tourist travel to Toronto, the Mirvish family worked with Toronto hotels to offer deeply discounted hotel and theatre packages to entice Canadians and Americans back to the city.

The tributes to a man who touched a city are pouring in, on the day he died at 92.

Photo by easternblot

[tags] Honest Ed’s, Honest Ed, Ed Mirvish, discount retail, discount shopping [/tags]

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Pushing music with karaoke

07/07/07

Now, I know most alternative songs have poor production qualities, home made cover art and only adequate singing, but Art Brut is taking promotion of their recent album to interesting new formats. Like Karaoke. They’ve made instrumental tracks available for select events in the U.S.

As Brands Bands Fans points out, karaoke may be on an upswing in the U.S., with some reality karaoke shows in the pipeline. And it’s certainly a format popular in Asia. One that encourages fans to engage with the song and the artist.

I could see karaoke being used as part of an integrated marketing campaign, but I think the karaoke market is largely aimed at having a carefree night out with your friends singing Celine Dion and disco hits. Does karaoke really push song sales in the United States? Will it develop like markets in Japan and elsewhere?

In North America’s frame of reference, there’s a fine line between independent music, extended instrumental performances, and a time warp back to the 70s. To performances by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Or extended riffs by the Talking Heads. Or, at its worst, some of the passages from any Yes song.

Band front man Eddie Argos told Pitchfork his best purchase of the last year – and it’s unusual:

“…Oh, no! I know the best thing I bought! It was when I was in America, and there’s a television program called “Due South”, they’ve got a Mountie in it, in Chicago. It’s my favorite ever television program, I think it’s brilliant. I was obsessed with it when I was younger. I think that’s why I like it really. Over here the box set is about £100; it’s very popular here. But I don’t think it’s very popular in America ‘cos I managed to buy the box set on DVD, the whole of Series 3 for like $12. It’s brilliant. [laughs] (Pitchfork)

On another note, you really should take a look at “outsider art” or “art brut” – the movement rather than the band.

[tags] music promotion, Art Brut, record promotion, karaoke [/tags]

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Swayze in a corner?

06/06/07

The day’s best cross-cultural reference:

“Nobody puts Swayze in a corner!”

It’s the promo tag line for AMC’s showing of the 80s film Red Dawn.

And for those readers younger than twenty five, it echoes Patrick Swayze’s famous line from Dirty Dancing.

[tags] 80s, eighties, Dirty Dancing, Jerry Orbach [/tags]

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Jonathan Coulton – from his own mouth

05/25/07

Do you like Jonathan Coulton? Do you like Clive Thompson? Did you read Clive’s discussion in the NYT Magazine of how online and social media can benefit the careers of people like Jonathan Coulton?

Then you’ll like Jonathon’s own personal account: How I Did It.

In keeping with the self promotional theme, I think Jonathan’s story should come in a package:

  • 18 page self-published narrative
  • Autographed reprint of the NYT story
  • USB key of all the home made Jonathan Coulton videos
  • Longwinded testimonial from John Hodgman
  • Flexidisk of Jonathan’s favourite songs
  • A little odd-shaped erratum sheet with a Skype link where fans can find a phone tree of Jonathan Coulton non-sequiturs.

But that’s just me.

[tags] Jonathan Coulton. Clive Thompson, indie music, music promotion [/tags]

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Sign spinners – causing roadside accidents through dance

05/01/07

The half-hearted clowns advertising discount roses, furniture sales, condo sales, and used car lots. Shedding bears and floppy eared dogs try to draw crowds to community fairs … They don’t have the moves to compete with the sign spinners featured in the Los Angeles Times today.

And like any niche industry trying to bootstrap into respectability, these guerrilla marketers come traffic cops are pushing a new name for the profession: “human directionals.” (wikipedia or myspace)

Not to say there isn’t hard work and natural skill involved.

“… Local spinners have cooked up hundreds of moves. There’s the Helicopter, in which a spinner does a backbend on one hand while spinning a sign above his head. In the Blender, a spinner twirls the sign behind his back. Spanking the Horse gets the most attention. The spinner puts the sign between his legs, slaps his own behind and giddy-ups. …

Aarrow keeps dozens of moves in a “trick-tionary,” which only a handful of people have seen, said co-founder Mike Kenny. The company records spinners’ movements and sends them in batches to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “We have to take our intellectual property pretty seriously,” he said …

The outdoor advertising industry still does not recognize sign spinning as a bona fide way of reaching consumers, much less an art form. It regards spinning as a form of guerrilla marketing that commercializes public space. “(LATimes)

Aarrow’s Devin Wade even knows the “infamous Bruce Lee” move. San Diego magazine said “Wade and his ilk are the consumer street division of Cirque du Soleil.”

“… “Traditional forms of advertising have decreased in effectiveness,” says Aarrow CEO Max Durovic. He ticks off old-media mainstays: radio jingles, billboards, TV commercials. “Today, you can’t reach the consumer like that. But if I can make eye contact with someone, and make that human spinteraction, it allows us to create a one-on-one advertising experience. For that split second, that ad is personalized for you.” (Las Vegas City Life)

Youtube has a video of Aarrow’s founders spinning and discussing the company’s origins.

And here’s a video of some sign spinning in Vegas.

And an NPR story on “human directionals.”

Wonder how much spinners make? One company has advertised on Craigslist and the rate is cited as $10 – $20 an hour. Some good spinners, though, can make up to $60 an hour.

Did anyone see the sign spinner on an episode of NCIS earlier this year? He was mercilessly mocked by the NCIS team. I wonder how much he made for that appearance…

[tags] sign spinners, human directionals, promotional, condo sales, guerrilla marketing [/tags]

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Roll Up The Rim to Win in Afghanistan

04/25/07

Tim Hortons Roll Up The Rim in AfghanistanThe key to continuing customer loyalty is never stop delivering on your brand and product promise. Tim Hortons, the Canadian coffee and donut chain, knows this and delivers in spades.

A year ago, Tims opened up an outlet at the  Kandahar Airport in Afghanistan. There are 2500-odd Canadian troops operating in Afghanistan, as well as other international troops.

The company’s regular Roll Up The Rim promotional campaign gives away thousands of prizes at outlets across Canada: cars, bbqs, free drinks, donuts and cash prizes are up for grabs. The campaign has become a pseudo-cultural event for many Canadians.

Winning codes can be found under the waxy rim of each paper coffee cup. (There’s even a custom tool for rolling the rim.)

This year, Tim Hortons has launched a custom Roll Up The Rim campaign designed specifically for the troops in Afghanistan. The cup design incorporates modern camouflage patterns, and the in-store promotional posters are in several international languages. 5 prizes of $1000 are available to be won, as well as caps, digital cameras and the usual donuts and coffee.

That’s a customized promotional campaign, built on the existing material, for ONLY ONE OUTLET.

This is a company that understands its brand and product promise – and knows it has to deliver this promise at every outlet.

Have you ever wondered what a combat zone coffee shop looks like? Take a look at this Canadian Forces Combat Camera footage shot by Sgt. Ed Whitmore (15 meg .mov)

Photo by Sgt. Roxanne Crowe, Canadian Forces Combat Camera.

Thanks to David Akin for the pointer.

[tags] Tim Hortons, Roll Up The Rim, Coffee Shop, Donuts [/tags]

Comments (2)

Canadian Culture, pt. I

04/08/07

What I did this weekend

Yeah, I’m Canadian. I drove about 800 kilometres round trip yesterday to go shopping at an outlet mall in central New York. I paid the duty and taxes on what I bought, too! Just keeping it real, peeps!

Unfortunately, my kids know that there’s a Disney Radio station in Syracuse. I have two observations to make from four hours of listening to that pre-adolescent hell:

  • Disney is a marketing MACHINE! Talk about listening to constant cross promotion.
  • I now know how MC Hammer can afford his new ministry: I heard “Can’t Touch This” twice in those four hours.

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Action for Ads: Stop picking on the poor advertisers

04/06/07

While it’s true that advertising cultures change (sometimes drastically) from country to country, it’s important to note that the British advertising industry feels sufficiently slammed by consumer advocates to launch an online petition to battle back against accusations that advertising is the source of all evil.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

Still, we would do well as advertisers, marketers and public relations experts to pay attention to the backlash building in many markets in Europe and North America. Even as technology and careful planning allow us to target markets more effectively, consumers, watchdogs and governments are focusing on the community-wide impacts of consumer marketing. (think kid’s snacks = fat kids)

Campaign magazine has come out swinging, hosting an online campaign calling on British ad types to speak out against increasing restrictions imposed on the industry.Campaign's advertising petition

There is a manifesto associated with the campaign, and it attempts to take a punch at all sorts of perceived opponents:

‘We’ve become complacent about single-issue consumer activists,’ an industry lobbyist claims. ‘They get listened to sympathetically, and what they say is often taken as gospel, without any proper investigation of their claims.’ …

‘The Government’s attitude is schizophrenic,’ [Hamish Pringle, Director General of the IPA] declares. ‘It says it supports the creative industries, which it hails as the saviour of UK Plc, while it continues to bash us.’ …

‘Just listen to Caroline Flint, the public health minister,’ one industry leader says. ‘She already talks as if she thinks she can tell us what to do.’ …

[Peta Buscombe, chief executive of the Advertising Association] says the key challenge is for the industry to reclaim control of the agenda and to show not only how important it is to the economy, but also how self- restrained and responsible it is. The rigour applied to devising advertising codes would put many Parliamentary law-makers to shame, she declares. … (Campaign)

Comments

I have three comments about the petition campaign:

  • As I mentioned above, there is a lengthy manifesto/article associated with the campaign – but it is NOT linked to the actual petition site. There’s a risk that petition signers may not understand the breadth of ideas or positions that could be interpreted by their association with these two documents.
  • It works outside the electronic petition process established by the British Government, which can be found at petitions.pm.gov.uk. Campaign has provided a separate comment stream for questions, and one questioner wonders aloud whether the government will even accept an electronic petition in an unconventional format.
  • For an online process, there’s a remarkable lack of promotional material to help practitioners drive traffic to the petition. Actually, there’s only that one image I’ve used.

I’ll leave the larger issue of, you know, blaming the messenger for another day. God forbid any parent assumes responsibility for the actions of their children, or any consumer make a conscious decision about their purchasing habits.

[tags] Campaign magazine, Haymarket, Action for Ads, IPA [/tags]

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Ninja and Toilet Flush goodies

04/02/07

  • Let me say – I like the interview. Ask A Ninja actually interviews Will Ferrell and Jon Heder about their new movie, the apparently sucky Blades of Glory. There’s something weird about seeing the Ninja on a promotional tour, sitting in an anonymous hotel room backed by a movie poster, but the exchanges between Ninja and the stars are funny. “I look forward to killing you soon.” “I’m not looking forward to that!” Make sure to wait for the Scott Hamilton easter egg at the end of the video.

[tags] Ninja, Kohler, viral video, flush [/tags]

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Curling politicians, Ninjas, and Account Planners

03/07/07

Political criticism via YouTube – “In the Navy” recut to criticize Peter Debnam and the New South Wales Liberal party. Unattributed, but apparently produced by the National Union of Workers. Not nearly as funny as “Peter Debnam’s Crazy Civil Service Sale,” produced by the Public Service Association.

Here’s a political scandal that could be branded “Canadian Style” – except that it’s causing problems over in New York State – the Lobbying Commissioner was caught taking most of his office to an afternoon session of curling, then demanding to know who tipped off the TV cameras that showed up. And no, that isn’t a euphemism for anything. So stay away from my rocks, and keep outta my house!

I am Ninja” theme song, extended version, as performed by the Neu Tickles on MySpace. Funny, entertaining, and the lead singer looks like a seedy Ben Stiller impersonator.

For some reason, I feel a real affinity for account planners. Maybe it’s my daytime role as a communications advisor to government policy shops. That’s why I like this promo reel for the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2007 via Organic Frog and Serendipity Books.

Andrew was born, with a planet-sized brain …from an early age, he realized he wasn’t the same … when all the other kids played robbers and cops, he busied himself researching trends … the career’s advice ‘become an advertising planner, you’d be good at it!” … the planner with the planet-sized brain, take the complicated and make it plain, … he intellectualizes, for clients of all sizes …

100 Greatest Basslines of all time, via Meme Huffer.
[tags] Peter Debnam, Aussie politics, AskaNinja, Ninja, account planners, IPA, curling, government ethics [/tags]

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Borat just keeps punishing Central Asia

02/27/07

We all know Kazakhstan felt unjustly characterized by Sacha Baron Cohen’s blazingly popular and remarkably offensive Borat character. This week, the Kazakhstani Ambassador to the United States and Canada began a speaking tour of universities in the U.S. The first stop was Yale, where his sometimes leaden speech and light promotional video appear to have received a polite reception.

The targeting seems appropriate: it’s easy to book a room on campus and draw enough attendees from the essential target audiences:

  • Central Asian student groups
  • International Affairs students
  • Activists for democracy and government transparency (good luck with that)
  • Wrestling fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Islaim Bairamukov.
  • University newspaper reporters
  • Oil industry lobbyists
  • Frat boys who saw Borat “but didn’t feel right about seeing Azamat naked”

University audiences would seem to be the most open to hearing the “other side of the story” – looking to the event for intellectual fodder, increased cred with their poli sci profs, and maybe knockin’ some Birkenstocks.

Asked about the impact of Borat’s over-the-top character on his country’s international image, the Kazakh press secretary noted that:

“The movie did heighten interest in Kazakhstan,” said Roman Y. Vassilenko, the ambassador’s press secretary. “We could have said, `That’s nice,’ but we didn’t leave it at that. We took the opportunity to tell our story.”

All in all, he said, “Borat” probably did more good than bad for Kazakhstan. “It was a blessing in disguise. A heavy disguise.” (Hartford Courant)

Ever the efficient press rep, Vassilenko translated for the Ambassador. During the post-speech Q&A session, they asked for questions, but “not related to Borat.” Of course, Vassilenko’s been fighting Borat’s assertions for a loooong time.

Kazinform, the government “information agency” has the text of Kanat B. Saudabayev’s speech. It’s an old school oligarch doozy.

As for results, the Ambassador’s appearance prompted heavy local coverage and some international mention.

[tags] Borat, Kazakhstan, public affairs, diplomacy, outreach [/tags]

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Saatchi Italia trips over the whole 2.0 thing

02/19/07

Did you know 2007 was the year of the attention economy? Saatchi & Saatchi seems to have decided that – its in their sig line. Our Italian colleagues have felt the magic touch of Saatchi’s attention – their Italian team reached out to marcomm writers to promote the launch of a client site. The release from Saatchi has drawn particular scorn from Gianluca and Italo because of its jargon-laden copy:

“…Il sito web, ItaliaIndependent.com, è on line dal 10 gennaio con una prima release di quella che si preannuncia una web experience magmatica, adrenalinica e fortemente interattiva. Figlio dell’era del crowdsourcing, in cui il consumatore diviene al tempo stesso target ed elemento cardine per la ideazione, progettazione e comunicazione del prodotto, italiaindependent.com è il primo passo di una self-building platform che saranno gli utenti stessi a generare, uploadando i propri contenuti.”

That copy is buzz-heavy, transparently self-serving, and the pitch was not well thought out. The site in question is completely coded in flash – and of consequence completely useless to bloggers who like to link to areas of particular interest. It seems the pitch was also accompanied by a .pdf file (linked at Gianluca‘s post).

But the story gets better. Here in Canada, we’ve become used to buying up multiple URLs and top level domain names when working across languages. In the case of this site, it seems that an misspelt URL in a Reuters article let a small Italian marketing agency grab some attention (there’s that word again!) when it quickly snapped up the misspelt doman name.

Lessons learned from Saatchi’s pitch:

  • Don’t try to sell milk to the milkman: throwing buzzwords and 2.0 concepts around will backfire if your work doesn’t back up the concept.
  • Don’t misappropriate concepts: consumer as idea creator works – but not as well when you’re selling glasses at 1000 euros a crack. As one commenter points out on Gianluca’s blog, the average Italian metalworker makes 1000 euros a month.
  • Personalize your pitch: once again, don’t mass mail your news release, especially when it provides very little detail.
  • Follow-up with media, especially when they get your URL wrong.

[tags] Saatchi, italiaindependente, blogger outreach, blogger relations [/tags]

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Bananas, the 90 second news cycle, and portfolio pitches

02/15/07

“…Why didn’t anyone ever tell me that being in PE meant that half of my life was going to be spent traveling to shitshow portfolio companies to boss around retards twice my age with the business acumen of Accenture employees? That would have been nice to know (not that it would have changed much) …”

That quote goes out to my friend Peter. For all you marketing types, PE means “Private Equity.”

[tags] CNW, private equity [/tags]

Comments (0)

What’s wrong with guerrilla marketing

02/09/07

OfficeMax is rolling out their new logo – a giant ball of rubber bands – and part of the exercise is a “guerrilla marketing campaign” touted in AdWeek. I think perspective is being lost here. Any sort of “guerrilla” action requires stealth, a willingness to break with convention and an innate knowledge of your surroundings and your target area.

I offer some signs that you’re not so “guerrilla” after all:

    • The creative director on the campaign wears an ironic Che Guevara tshirt
    • You actually needed to have your ideas validated by a creative director.
    • Your client uses the words “best practice” and “experiential” to describe your work.
    • The money was signed off by two executives – in different cities.
    • The idea was tested with focus groups. Guerrillas don’t do focus groups. They drop bags of rice from 3000 feet.
    • Somehow, a custom painted sports utility vehicle was involved. If it doesn’t have more than 50,000 miles on it, you can rightly be accused of corporate hypocrisy.
    • You had a discussion with a lawyer about insurance premiums.
    • A lawyer was actually involved. Guerrillas don’t consult lawyers: they avoid them.
    • The street materials clearly draw from a corporate identity.
    • A permit was filed and the Mayor’s Office was consulted.
    • Your street materials were printed in China. Not at Kinko’s, or by your ex-girlfriend who knows how to silkscreen.
    • No college buddies were involved in the actual execution.
    • Crosspromotion? Only if it involves another band/artist/performer/spoken word  performer/knitting collective appearing at the same vanue.
    • You even know what a planogram is.

    [tags] guerilla marketing, word of mouth, WOM [/tags]

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A reporter’s life on the margins at the Sundance Film Festival

02/07/07

Life as an alternative journalist bounces around the Sundance Film Festival. A lengthy feature in the LA Weekly. 

“…Much of Main Street gets converted into a promotional Potemkin village, but this is the most heavily fortified center of celebrity shoulder-rubbing and free stuff. In another act of festival identity theft, I got a badge for The Village from a friend, and even though it says Ivana Schechter-Garcia and features her picture,

I took the risk that a quick, strategic flash would get me in, which is why I am now enjoying free food in The Village’s T-Mobile–sponsored café, watching Billy Baldwin get his photograph taken through the window.

Outside, a security guard named Alan describes all the other famous faces he’s seen from his post at The Village: “somebody off That ’70s Show”; “the girl from Scary Movie”; “a guy from The Matrix”; “that dude from 90210”; “oh yeah — and Tara Reid.” (LA Weekly)

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Just a thought about Strumpette

01/15/07

There’s a tempest in a teapot brewing over at Blog Herald, and commented upon by Joe at ProPr.

My only thought at the moment? A lot of Amanda Chapel’s comments* across the blogosphere have nothing to do with debating a finer point, and hell of a lot to do with promoting and protecting the Strumpette brand.

And sometimes, when in this defensive mode, her comments come across as written by Y&R’s Phyllis Summers Abbott or Dr. Kimberly Shaw Mancini from Melrose Place.

*by comments, I mean her appearance on others’ blogs. I frequently enjoy and appreciate her point of view on Strumpette itself. It’s like a buffet, folks: sometimes you have to pass over the particularly unappetizing dishes and give the chef a break.

 [tags] Strumpette, Amanda Chapel, ProPr, Chris Clarke [/tags]

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More PETA … now with added Jackass

01/12/07

… and I don’t mean Kid Rock. Steve-O has signed up with PETA to expose animal cruelty at Ringling Bros. circuses. He seems to have first brought up his distaste for animal abuse while visiting the Tom Green Show (I know! Who knew he was still around!) – and I was surprised to actually hear Steve-O say the words “spend the money on Cirque du Soleil tickets.”

Thanks Steve! Now that Celine is shutting down her Vegas theatre, Cirque is Canada’s main cultural export.

… Back to PETA … Steve-O’s campaign includes a draw for a PETA2 tshirt signed by the Jackass himself, as well as a skate deck. Great way to add to the mailing list!

PETA, who is clearly on the ball when it comes to campaigning, has made a promo video with Steve-O. The campaign page provides the code to stream the video on your MySpace page, and it is also available on YouTube.

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I’ll take PotPourri for $400, Alex

01/01/07

Survey bias, pimping to kids, GTD, music promo and local journalism – talk about a potpourri of topics!

“What it takes to be a [local] journalist” – from the Boston [Lincolnshire] Standard.

Fantastic Getting Things Done templates for the Moleskine notebook.

Cultural and spatial bias could be affecting your survey results – if you use a Likert scale (disagree to agree) – reports new research summarized by the BPS Research Digest.

“Selling to aspirational six year olds” – h/t to Trevor Cook

“Kids aspire to be older than they are at whatever age because, early in life, they recognize their position on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Hence retailers, like Borders, design spaces that encode both aspiration to older, more autonomous identities and distance from younger, undesirable selves.

Any savvy package designer knows that a child’s product, if it is to have any chance on the market, must appear to appeal to the age group just older than the intended end-user. Something intended for a six-year-old boy will probably not do well if a six-year-old is pictured on it—better an eight-year-old.

Making such appeals directly to a child is, historically speaking, new and revolutionary. The recognition and appeasement of the child’s point of view in commercial contexts began in the ’30s and marked a change not only in marketing and merchandising, but in parent-child relations as well. The child’s view now must be acknowledged, addressed and satisfied in many arenas of social life. For a parent to do otherwise is to set themselves up as morally suspect.” (In These Times)

How brand communicators can learn from the music industry – h/t and further discussion at Get Shouty.

[tags] Moleskine, GTD, mGTD, productivity, survey, Likert scale, youth marketing, public opinion research [/tags]

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Rising media savvy in India

12/24/06

The Indian television market is booming, and Indian celebrities, politicians, activists and even the armed forces are adjusting to the pressures and behaviours expected in a 24/7 media environment dominated by visual reporting.

In North America, we assume that our talking heads know how to behave and speak in front of a mike: this is less certain in the world’s largest democracy.

We should remember that media awareness, information choice and broadband penetration are not equal in every nation: while North America may be peaking, some countries barely have a credible daily press.

Some examples of how India is making the transiton from a recent cover story in India Today:

POLITICAL GROOMING Has led to the rise of a new breed of suave sound-bite savvy spokespersons who sit before a TV-friendly backdrop and dress in the right colours. Briefings for the cameras, usually at 4 p.m., are sacrosanct. Gag-orders on party workers ensure the best news is reserved for TV.

RIBBON CUTTING If you don’t have a starlet or even a former Miss World, you can wave that picture goodbye. The first line of press releases usually lists the celebrities before it talks of the event. Has led to the rise of minor event-openers like Amrita Arora who charge Rs 3 lakh per appearance.

ARMED FORCES Baptised in Kargil, the first televised war, the armed forces are grudgingly accepting media as a force multiplier and talk of “information warfare”. Prince was pulled out in an elaborate army operation supervised by a two-star general who got to hold him first.

BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS All briefings are now meant only for television crews and between market hours 10 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. Mukesh Ambani‘s 10 words to CNBC in 2004 – “there are ownership issues, these are in the private domain“-started the split in India’s largest business empire.

MOVIES The film promo has now crept into the news channel. Shah Rukh Khan bared his soul and plugged Don before NDTV’s Prannoy Roy; in Namaste London, Akshay Kumar took viewers on a guided-tour of the city, even as news channels also took editorial positions around movies such as Fanaa.

SPORTS Anything about cricket is breaking news. The Chappell-Ganguly slanging match is the world cup of TV coverage. Shows like Match ke Mujrim ensure the hysteria stays on after the stumps have been drawn, prompting a player to announce a boycott of at least one news channel.(India Today, December 25 – sub. req.)

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The mall’s role in American culture

12/14/06

The blogging world is full of niches. Public relations blogs are one tiny niche. Another even smaller grouping is mall bloggers. The leading mall blogs are featured in Retail Traffic this month. Here’s my list:

  • Malls of America is a multimedia blast into the past, with a fond eye for the postcard views of 60’s design and the overhyped promise of technology.
  • DeadMalls popped up on my handheld during a shopping trip to Syracuse. It was of no help in finding hollister, though.
  • the BoxTank – a more considered examination of the role of malls and big box stores in the suburban environment, but seems to be dead
  • Roadside Architecture – an attempt to document all those “did you see that” locations along the highway. Dinosaurs, 50’s bus stops, diners …

That’s blogs about malls, written by fans. As opposed to blogs written for malls, by consultants – like the poor Oakland Mall Blog. A post every quarter that reads like promotional copy, and a contact address that has a different name to that listed under “author.”

Underserved niche: I’m surprised no-one has set up a blog for mall walkers. There’s a consumer market, property nuisance, neighbourhood watch, and liability lawsuit waiting to happen, all in one group.

I also like the “closed for business – abandoned shops/stores” group on flickr.

[tags] mall, retail, shopping [/tags]

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Revisiting Mall Santas

11/18/06

Black Friday is barely a week away. Bill payments are being postponed, credit card limits are being extended, payday loans are being struck. Eternal optimists are saying “I just need to get to the airport an hour before the flight on Wednesday,” and families in Buffalo are actually making plans for Thanksgiving – despite the snow delays they see year after year.

Up here in Canada, the Christmas decorations started appearing up on November 1. Santa has already shown up in some malls – accompanied by a new young marketing helper – the Fairy Princess. Talk about a May/December romance! Mall managers have a hard time picking out their seasonal mirth and good cheer employees:

“…The magnates of commerce and industry do not hand out mall Santa sinecures to reward model citizens. I was not hired for that job in Alameda because I was a well-adjusted, upwardly mobile young professional. I was a fuck-up. I had made poor life choices. I was a loser.

I lived in squalor. I was fired from shitty jobs. I moved around a lot. I slept on couches. I once woke up with my head in a cat litter box. I hitchhiked. I grew partial to fortified wines. My high-school graduating class had voted me “Most Likely to Succeed.” …

…There were people, cruel people, who sometimes made comments about Santa’s scrawny legs. I had two stock responses to this taunt: 1) Santa practices Tae Bo (Santa would demonstrate), or 2) Santa takes Metabolife (Santa would point to the Metabolife cart in the mall). Neither of these stock responses squelched the occasional nasty remark that Santa was a crackhead.” (Travis Dunn, Baltimore City Paper)

Looking for a laugh and some insight on seasonal promotions? Try a sample of some of my previous posts on Santa and Christmas:

[tags] black Friday, Santa, Christmas, holidays, mall promotion [/tags]

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Playing the straight man – surviving client meetings

11/16/06

That lull in the conversation. The new client’s just finished their brief: the facts as they know it have been laid in full on the table, and they are now looking to you for insight and direction.

Your team has already read the brief. They’ve picked it apart, examined each fact, claim, assurance and outright lie from every angle. Your environmental scan has revealed the fundamental weaknesses in their analysis, the stakeholder groups and consumer activists just waiting in the wings …

In the second or so that hangs between the client’s last word and your first, you can make or break a relationship.

You can try to extend the lull with the strategic use of hands – a pensive finger to the temple, or maybe a worshipful tapping of the fingertips – but there is still an expectation hanging thick in the air: agree with me and tell me how to fix it, the client seems to be silently whispering. Or boring into your head with unblinking eyes.

At this moment, don’t shuffly your papers. Don’t review your notes. Those two moves imply indecision and uncertainty.

And you know that isn’t true. Everyone on your side of the table knows your team spent a hilarious 15 to 30 minutes brainstorming over the worst possible outcomes for this client. Headlines you wouldn’t want to see in the Globe and Mail. How proposed promo events could go horribly, horribly wrong. Personal observations about members of the client’s staff that you’ve worked with before. The weaknesses of the product line.

The key at this moment is preparation. Working through the responsibilities of each member of your team ahead of the meeting. Working through your own agenda for the meeting. Establishing a lead for the discussion. Having a really good poker face.

Learn from the example of Luke Wilson:

“… I think I’ve been playing the straight man ever since I first realized I was in over my head academically. Math in particular. And science, come to think of it. Not to overlook foreign languages. Not really knowing what was going on in class — and not really caring to understand or actually taking the time to study — I put a great deal of effort into my expression. Earnest yet vacant. Yearning yet lost. I had one simple goal for the teachers. I wanted them to think: This Wilson kid might not be that bright, but damn it, he’s trying. The poor bastard.” (NyTimes Mag)

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Borat’s ad buy wins in Robinson own goal

10/19/06

The best £30,000 spent to promote Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat: an advertising package on the electronic hoardings ringing the England-Croatia footie game.

Yes, the game where England let in an own goal. (YouTube video available, of course)

The electronic promo for the new Borat flick began running just as Gary Neville flicked the ball back to England keeper Paul Robinson – and kept running as the ball dribbled into England’s net.

As the BBC re-ran the play from every conceivable angle, you could see the Borat promo run again and again. Most prominent were Borat’s eyes and moustache.

As one YouTube commenter said:

“robinson saw BORAT on the elctro. boards, so he missed the ball BORAT rulzzz !!! :)”

Andrew Culf of the Guardian’s SportsBlog has the details of the ad buy, as well as more details of how electronic advertising hoarding deals are negotiated.

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McDonald’s and razor blades

09/28/06

A flashback to the 70s: a McDonald’s commercial promoting their line of breakfast foods, available in convenient styrofoam clamshell packaging. The premise is a father-son opportunity to bond, catered by McDonald’s. The payoff? With every breakfast, a free Gillette Good News twin blade disposable razor. (Youtube, of course)

Specially added po-mo irony: the father is played by Gordon Jump, who we all remember as Arthur Carlson from WKRP In Cincinnati. And Jump is wearing an outfit best described as Caddyshack Pro Shop Special.

[tags] McDonald’s, freebies, giveaways [/tags]

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The 22 (somewhat) Immutable Laws of Buzz

08/29/06

Sean got the ball rolling with the 22 Immutable Laws of Word of Mouth, I threw in the 22 Immutable Laws of Blogging, and Tamera Kremer has followed up with the 22 Immutable Laws of Customer Engagement. Here’s my take on the 22 (somewhat) Immutable Laws of Buzz:

  1. Indie cred, commercial dead
  2. Feed your fans’ hunger for information
  3. Sponsor a “D” list celebrity event
  4. Promotions targeted to extreme niches
  5. Win their hearts: build credibility with new audiences
  6. Bright lights, big titties. Leverage celebrity connections. Or sex.
  7. A heavy ValPak buy. Just kidding.
  8. Hit the local social circuit – in outrageous clothing
  9. Lifestyle reporters: ten dollar words, ten cent facts
  10. Celebrity gifting: Local weathermen are surprisingly affordable
  11. Chase’s Calendar of Events: the art of piggybacking
  12. Car Accident or Sales Record: Just spell my name right
  13. Teen hits drive time > AOR hourly
  14. Community weeklies: filling news holes weekly
  15. When in doubt, let your publicist leak it out
  16. Post no bills: really, it’s just a suggestion
  17. Try local late night, the cpm is lower. (So is the return)
  18. Celebrity endorsements: there’s gold in the 1990 Fox television schedule
  19. Guerrilla marketing – at community soccer games
  20. Public Access Cable: the Dead Zone
  21. BOGO does not create buzz. Unless you’re a mortician
  22. All Hail Empress Oprah

Update: Bob at Flacklife has published his 22 somewhat immutable laws of evaluation.

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Car Wash Bulletin Board: Buzz Killer?

08/24/06

There’s self-promotion, then there’s desperation:

An Open Letter To The Guy Advertising His Screenplay On The Eagle Rock Car Wash Bulletin Board (Plaintivewail)

” … But there are smarter ways to get noticed, is my point. Ways that better use your energy and resources (and that preserve your sticker collection) — craft a great, funny query letter and send it to the young agents at all the reputable agencies, enter screenwriting contests, search Craiglist for screenwriting groups and network from there, make a no budget short and put it on YouTube, start a blog. There are lots of good ideas… and then there’s a fuchsia notecard in a dark corridor in the car wash in Eagle Rock. …”

Read the whole post, if only for the use of the word “fellatiotic.”

Thanks for the pointer, Holly.

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First post on WordPress

08/13/06

Hello hearty and faithful subscribers. This is the new format and home for Canuckflack, the blog about public relations, marketing, branding, promotion, retail and related topics. The most convenient feed continues to be at Feedburner : http://feeds.feedburner.com/Canuckflack

Thank you for your patience as I (and you) make the transition to a world with more user apps, boxes with rounded corners and much mellower pastel colours.

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