Monday, February 28

The Oscars

Unless you live under a rock, you know that last night was The Academy Awards. And boy did they disappoint. I was hosting a live Twitter party online (#OscarExp), and the sentiment amongst the Tweeters was that the hosts lost it at "hello."

I have to say ... the glamour is gone. This is Hollywood, with movie making and story telling and starlets and leading men. I'm afraid that young Hollywood has forgotten. Very little class, it was very disappointing. Sure Anne Hathaway was sporting the fashion like never before and James Franco was in fact cute with the backstage flipcam, but it just wasn't enough to carry a three hour show.

But we were online to talk about the marketing, not necessarily the show or the hosts or the fashion. Have to admit that we couldn't help ourselves! It stayed pretty nice either way.

The sponsors were certainly in full force, and they got their fair share of the commentary last night as well. Here are some highlights I paid notice to between the tweets and statues and the sequins.

Living Social. This local aggregator of sales and deals (my words, not theirs) seems to understand advertising a lot better than Groupon.

Diet Coke. I'll admit that I don't really like "Stay Extraordinary" because I think it's a complete over- sell for any no calorie soda, but the creative expression is pretty well done.

American Express. The brand's efforts to help small businesses is nothing short of inspiring. The brand understands that small business is what will bring us economic recovery, and they are certainly doing their part.

Dancing with the Stars. Very cute promos for the upcoming season, teasing us with who will be in the cast. Also a very clever contest with Dove, featuring Jennie Garth, where a consumer can win a walk-on role (or is that a dance-on role?).

JCPenney. By far the biggest advertiser, with countless executions to launch their new campaign and their new logo. Certainly had the timing right, talking about fashion during pop culture's biggest fashion moment of the year. Great insights about turning "must have" items into "can have" items because the brand makes it affordable. Great use of bloggers, brand tie-ins, and magazine partnerships.

Weight Watchers. Although not an official sponsor, the brand didn't have to be last night. Did you take a look at Jennifer Hudson, the current spokesperson? That's all the advertising you need, sign me up!

I had a blast with my other tweet mates and want to thank them for the lively discussion and for hanging in there the whole night. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the evening is the fact that the social media surrounding the event is more entertaining and informative than the event itself!

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, February 25

You Always Remember Your First

The students in my NYU class came from such a diverse background of experiences and cultures -- it was fascinating to hear all of their perspectives.

In this, the final post this week dedicated to my marketing class, one of the students writes about her very first brand experience, and how it still sticks with her today. I'm sure all of us can remember our first meaningful brand experience.

What's your experience, Simonetta? Jim.

I can still remember the first time. How could my first brand experience still be so strong and stuck in my mind after decades?!?

I was only 6 years old, and probably watching some cartoon on television. When the commercial started, there was a cute little cat ... "Dove c' e Barilla c' e casa," said the tagline ... "Where there is Barilla there is home".

As soon as I heard it, I was grasping for the meaning. What did this stand for? No Barilla, no home?

Such a stupid idea, I thought, my house was a home even without Barilla.

"We don't have Barilla, Mum, do we?" I asked. "Go see it," she replied.

So I went climbing up on a chair in the kitchen to open the pantry. Speechless. It was true, there was Barilla in my house!

In my mind as a little girl, from that moment on, Barilla was always in any real home. And Barilla has never strayed from this message. It's a brand for families, for people who believe that families matters. People who cook and eat together in a genuine way. The brand experience has been consistent all these years.

For me, Barilla is an essential part of a home. There may be better quality pasta available, however no brand is like Barilla because of the feeling it gives me. Even today, no matter where I am, I always search for Barilla in every supermarket. Whenever I see it, I buy it so that I can have a piece of my Italian home even away from home.

- Simonetta Tortelli, NYU Student

Thursday, February 24

Living In A Brand-Less World

I love today's blog post because it's about something that I have never thought about: living in a place where there are no brands! Can you imagine if all the products around us were stripped of their marketing with no indication of branding? As a marketer, I get the shakes!

One of my NYU students actually experienced this, in the military. I asked him to comment on what it was like to live in an environment where there are no brands. I found the answer to be comforting.

Oscar, what's your experience? Jim.

I served in the US Air Force for eleven years and on several locations found myself on brand-less (or at least limited branding) environments. Environments like military training (where everything looks standard down to the haircut) to deployed military locations where all my senses were turned off and focused on the mission at hand.

While being a subject within these brand-less environments, I've had the opportunity to be an internal observer of a human (at least American) behavior and people's reactions to marketing stimuli. What I found most interesting was that upon leaving this environment, all the subjects seemed to reach out for a loud expression of individuality -- something that would provide them comfort and security in the form of a Polo shirt, a Yankee cap, etc.

Frankly, I don't recall anyone reaching out for a plain product without a visible brand logo. My conclusion on this observation is that there is great potential in bringing comfort and security to individuals through effective marketing.

Have you observed this behavior yourself? Have you gotten comfort and security from a brand? Maybe while going to McDonald's or Starbucks while traveling in a foreign country?

- Oscar Caicedo, NYU Student

Note from Jim: Although certainly living without brands is the least of the concerns of the military, it is fascinating to think about how we can make them all feel at "home".

Wednesday, February 23

Chasing "Thriller"

During my marketing class at NYU this past weekend, we spent a considerable amount of time on the topic of "making choices". I believe that the secret to successful marketing lies with making good choices. It's the marketer's daily job to make decisions about the brand and how it plays out in the marketplace. If those decisions are aligned with the brand, based on true consumer insights, and are consistently applied, then you've got a pretty good chance of being successful.

The class also got on the topic of celebrity brands and their choices. As an exercise, sometimes it's easier to look at celebrity brands and the decisions they make as a way of understanding the importance of making good, consistent choices. Look at Martha Stewart, Tiger Woods, or Britney Spears as shining examples.

Or Michael Jackson.

I was reminded of a comment that Oprah made about Michael Jackson when she was interviewing J. K. Rowling ("Harry Potter"), about how to maintain success. We talked about it as a class.

Oprah had read somewhere that what ultimately led to Michael's demise was that he was always "Chasing Thriller." Meaning that he had such incredible success, unmatched by anyone then or even now, that he could never live up to it again. He was always trying to recreate another "Thriller". But it's impossible to do that, to live up to that level of success and expectation.

And that's why Oprah started OWN. She too has had unprecedented success with "The Oprah Winfrey Show". She realizes that she can't possibly repeat that again, doesn't want to repeat that again.

So for her brand (and for herself), she wants to move on to do something different. Repeat success in a different manner, in a different way. A very bold way for sure, but a different way. So she created a network of shows all tied to her brand essence. But that's also why we have yet to see The Oprah Winfrey show on OWN. She's tackling the expression of her brand differently, at least for now.

I found the discussion both with Oprah and with my class on Saturday very fascinating. Those of us who manage brands (heck even managing our own personal brands) should take note. We make choices every day on the direction our brands go. It's important to be successful in different ways, not just to chase the same old success day after day. It's important for the brand to evolve, not just rest on prior successes hoping to repeat them.

It's important to not be "Chasing Thriller."

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, February 22

Subliminal Loyalty

This past weekend I finished my first marketing class at NYU - at the School for Continuing and Professional Studies. The class was based on my book "The Experience Effect", an interactive look at building the brand experience. The students were amazing and I loved every minute of it. Can't wait to do it again.

I'd like to share those experiences all this week, starting with a guest blog post from one of the students, Henry Rooney. Here Henry shares a new perspective he has gained from the class.

Henry, what's your experience? Jim.

I always thought that having worked on the sales side of advertising that I was smarter than the average consumer. Spending so much time around ad placement made me think that I could recognize any message put in front of me and be impervious to it. I was not going to be a victim of marketing!

Recently after taking Jim Joseph's class, I realized that not only do I give into brand messaging on a daily basis, I probably spend more than most. Not that it's a bad thing -- all the products I'm buying are serving me well -- but this has been an interesting and eye-opening week. I am indeed a sucker for brand marketing.

I didn't think I paid much attention to television commercials and I thought I did a fairly good job of avoiding internet ads. Clearly there is still a message getting across to me.

First thing I noticed was my running shoes.

Asics and nothing else will do.

I started noticing footwear when I started competing in triathlons. After one race a rep from some shoe company approached a group of us and commented on our worn out shoes.

After a brief talk about how to replace running shoes every 200 miles, I headed right to the store. Once there, all I heard from the in-store rep was Asics. So I bought a pair based on his recommendation and finished the next race in my best time. Although I am sure there were thousands of factors in play that day, all I could think about were my new shoes.

Little did I realize that the rep at the past race was from Asics. He never even mentioned the brand, except for the logo on his shirt and the fresh new shoes on his feet. And of course the store I went to, as recommended by the rep at the race, was an Asics exclusive retailer.

They got me. Not only will I continue to be loyal to my Asics, I will replace them every few months.

After Jim's class, I now realize that this is only one of several aspects of my life where brand loyalty plays a huge part. I've never thought about it before.

I'll only use a Burton snowboard, phone has to be Verizon, casual sneakers are always New Balance, news comes from, dress shirts are Brooks Brothers and the list goes on.

I'm not sure how each one started, but they are all a part of my daily routine and personal experience effect!

- Henry Rooney, student at NYU

Friday, February 18

Favorite Moment of the Day

It's early in the morning on a Friday, and no one else is up in my house. Not even the kids. I stumble out of bed and grab a drink from the fridge and I start to write my blog post for the day.

It's my favorite moment of the day.

No one is asking me questions, I am not rifling through tons of emails, and I am certainly not on a conference call or debating the next great campaign for a consumer good.

I am all by myself, alone in my thoughts, and writing.

I wouldn't want it this way all day long. I love my work. Marketing is a team sport and I love being around people creating. But it's nice to have that moment every morning where it's just me. And I love commenting on all the great marketing I see in the marketplace and spreading the cheer through the blogger universe.

I am highlighting this today, at this moment, because it never occured to me that this time in the day was so important to my soul. Not until a writer from The Huffington Post contacted me for a story he was writing about his favorite moment of the day. He was collecting thoughts from other professionals about the moments in their day that they relish the most. He caused me to think.

We all need a little down time, a moment when we are not "on", a moment when we are not dealing with the kids, paying bills, wrestling with work issues, grocery shopping, or rushing to a meeting. A moment when it's just us. Even if it's just for 20 minutes. That's my favorite moment of the day.

What's yours? What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, February 17

Target Top Chef Challenge

I was a big big fan of Top Chef when it first debuted, but I have to admit that I've lost interest over the seasons. No reason, really, I just don't watch that much television and it has fallen off of my radar. But not the marketing.

A friend on Twitter alerted me to this week's episode where the retailer Target was embedded in the cooking challenge for the celebrity chef contestants.

All the chefs were in a Target store, and had to prepare something using only Target merchandise and only Target food. Briiilllaaant. You can watch a clip here from the Bravo website (notice the Target banner ad above the video!).

For years Target has been trying to up its game on groceries, and they have recently finished a huge capital improvement project to rehaul many of its stores. So the fact that they used a television show, with many very celebrated chefs, to highlight their cookware lines and food products is product placement brought to a whole new level.

When you actually watch the episode, the chefs are preparing the food right in the aisles of a Target store, so we also get to see bedding and school supplies and housewares and bottled water and a whole gamut of Target merchandise sitting right in front of us as we watch the action.

Absolutely fascinating to watch from a marketing perspective, a total brand experience completely consistent with Target and what it is trying to accomplish. And clearly consistent for Top Chef as well.

What's your experience? Jim.


For the first time ever, I participated in live tweeting during the Super Bowl to comment on all of the advertising. It was part of an online party hosted by Brainzooming and its leader Mike Brown. It was a blast. The event was then followed up by guest blog posts and a radio interview the next week. A good time was had by all, and in fact we are still talking about all the spots. We marketers do that!

In talking to Mike, I decided to do it again for the Oscars. February is host to so many pop culture events - the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards, and the Oscars - it's an important time for marketers to take notice of the things that are shaping our culture. Food, Sports, Music, Entertainment, Fashion.

So I am going to host a live Twitter party during the Oscars - #OscarEXP. The show is on Sunday night, February 27th at 8:00pm ET. We'll start at 6:30pm ET so that we can catch some of the red carpet first. We will comment on the advertising, product placements, fashion mentions, and product placements. I'm sure we'll sneak in a little movie commentary too.

There will be a mix of marketers from all walks of life in participation including market researchers (thanks Mike Brown), creatives, agency leaders, strategic planners, writers and even a suit or two.

Have no fear, the marketing has already begun. The Oscar organizers themselves are hosting a design challenge. Nine designers are competing for their dress design to be featured on the Oscar stage, worn by the trophy escort. You can catch it all on the Oscar website. Obviously the Oscars are as much about fashion as they are about movies.

So please join in the conversation. Sunday night, February 27th, at 6:30 ET. On Twitter at #OscarEXP.

See you there.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, February 16

It's A Quarter After One ...

.... I'm a Little Drunk and I Need You Now.

Although it's the dead of winter, February is home to some of the biggest pop culture moments of the year. The Super Bowl, The Grammy Awards, and soon The Oscars. Sports, Music, Film, Fashion ... it's an American buffet!

If you watched the Grammy Awards this past Sunday then you witnessed the music industry at its finest, covering every generation from Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan to Justin Bieber and Cee Lo.

Don't know if you've ever thought about it this way, but music is a lot like marketing. Now you might be scratching your head at that one, but bear with me.

When really well crafted music resonates with its audience, it's often because it contains a true insight that people identify with. So they sing along ... and watch the video ... and download the tune ... maybe even go to a concert. They incorporate it into their lives.

Most music, popular music anyway, has a human (consumer) insight carefully woven into the lyrics. I've always been fascinated by the lyrics of music because I like to see the story that's being told. Which is always why I am most interested in the Grammy "Song of the Year" Award - it's for the lyrics, for the story telling.

This year the winner was "Need You Now" from Antebellum. A huge country hit that crossed over to the other charts and won its way into millions of our hearts. If you listen to the lyrics, you will hear a very basic human need, a true consumer insight that the song writers taped into to tell their story.

You've recently broken up with someone, or had a falling out with a friend. You're handling it pretty well, telling yourself that you will get through it. But you have a couple of drinks, your defenses are down, and you realize that you still have feelings. You still need that person, haven't truly gotten over it yet. You need to reach out to that person, you need some time with them.

We've all been there, done that. Mix that story with a soothing melody and nice vocals and you've got a winner. A song that catches on and becomes a part of our culture, at least for its own window of time.

Much the same can be said of marketing and of advertising. We look to find an insight, we turn it into a story that we hope resonates. Our consuming public catches on and it becomes a moment with them, hopefully long enough to change behavior and spark sales.

Just look at the VW "The Force" commercial from the Super Bowl this year. Or the Eminem "Imported from Detroit" story that Chrysler told. Hmmm.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, February 15

Grammy PSAs

"This Valentine's Day, why give a diamond when you can give the family jewels."

The Grammy Awards were Sunday night and for me they did not disappoint. Sure the red carpet was unusually conservative for rock 'n roll, and the performances were somewhat predictable, but it was still Grammy night with all the spectacle that we've come to expect.

Cover Girl was sponsoring the GlamCam on E! Entertainment, and a lot of the Super Bowl advertisers were re-running their spots. We even got to see the full length version of the ever-so-popular VW "The Force" commercial. Love it.

I mean, c'mon, Lady Gaga made her entrance in an egg that later hatched on stage to give birth to her new song "Born This Way." Does it get any better?

All well and good, but for me what stole the night were the PSAs (public service announcements). Ricky Martin did one for the American Cancer Society, further promoting their campaign about celebrating birthdays. What a nice thought - they help you celebrate another birthday as a cancer survivor. It was good to see Ricky Martin back in action, silver pants and all.

The big surprise of the night came from another cancer PSA from CBS Cares, encouraging men to get tested for testicular cancer for the sake of their loved ones. "This Valentine's Day, why give a diamond when you can give the family jewels." I was a bit shocked at first, especially coming from CBS during prime time. Then the more I thought about it, the more I smiled and realized how absolutely clever it was.

All this while I was tweeting live at #GrammyEXP, getting the reactions of fellow marketers and friends. We had quite a string going when Justin Bieber didn't make artist of the year. Just as engaging as the show itself.

I can tell you from personal experience with several friends and family members that cancer sucks. So I was happy to see such positive messaging coming to us on a night when our thoughts may be in other places. Good work.

What's your experience? Jim.

PS - A bunch of us will be tweeting live during the Oscars at #OscarEXP. Join us!

Monday, February 14

Choosing the "Right" Champagne

It's Valentine's Day ... the day we show our love to those we love. Or those we want to love, or those we think we might love one day. Time to pop some bubbly! But how do you know which one to choose? Don't worry about regions of the world and the appelations. Let the marketing be your guide.

Packaging is a key ingredient in good marketing. It determines the success at the point of purchase as well as satisfaction at the point of consumption. Particularly for alcohol.

Just take a look at the vodka category and you'll see a war being waged with distinctive packaging. Let's face it, vodka all tastes the same. It's supposed to be odorless and tasteless - at least the good stuff. The packaging is what differentiates one brand from another. Absolut has created an entire brand experience around their distinctive bottle.

As we turn our thoughts today to Valentine's Day, it's not vodka but champagne that draws our attention and gets us all excited. Now in this category there are huge differences in taste profiles between the brands, based on thousands of variables in their production - based on generations of heritage in many cases.

But at the point of consumption, it's all about the packaging and the marketing.

Perrier Jouet with the hand painted bottle. Very impressive.

Veuve Clicquot with its unusual orange/yellow color and incredible holiday gift packs of bottle carriers, champagne glasses, and ice buckets. Is it orange or yellow I ask you?

Pommery Pop with its fun little splits.

Perhaps on this holiday more than any other, the bottle you pop says a lot about you as a lover and a lot about your relationship.

Dom Perignon says you're celebrating a big year, at least in your minds. Veuve Clicquot says you take your relationship seriously. Korbel says you're not quite ready to commit, but let's make it a fun night. Any kind of split says you're not sure how many of these you're going to pop and where the night will end, so get ready to get your groove on.

Perhaps Perrier Jouet says you're ..... creative?

It's Valentine's Day ... put a little love in your heart. And the "right" kind of champagne in your hands. It'll say a lot.

Enjoy. Lots of love.

What's your experience? Jim.

Friday, February 11

Fashion Week

Fashion Week started yesterday here in New York. I always love the buzz that it gives the city. This time around I need to pay particular attention because we are working on a program for Fashion Week in the Fall and I need to get my game on.

So I went to one of the shows at the main pavilion to check out what was going on, and I was a little surprised at what I saw.

Brands! Not just fashion brands - main stream brands. The main lobby that everyone walks through to get to the individual shows was completely flanked on all four sides by consumer brands.

Now I know that a lot of brands have Fashion Week programs, but I didn't realize that they would be right there in the lobby. Right in every one's face.

Sure, Mercedes Benz was there. After all the brand is the title sponsor. Mercedes Benz had two big displays, fashion themed, featuring two of their "models" (cars). The brand also had a VIP waiting area behind closed doors.

But I was more surprised by the other brands there. Maybelline has a lash bar to try out their products. Tresseme has a hair station to get a little refresher. And Starbucks has a Frappuccino bar - but just in bottles. I also got a sleek little aluminum can of Diet Coke, an official sponsor of the Red Dress campaign.

I was completely surprised to see an area reserved for DHL. DHL? Is that how they ship the samples? No real mention of product features, just a logo'd waiting area where guests could take a load off. AOL also had a charging station where guests could sit down and re-charge, a bit unexpected coming from that brand.

It was great fun seeing some of the fashionistas. I saw at least two in long red fur coats with big matching hats. Fabulous.

OK, I got my notes - back to the team to start creating.

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, February 10

Beyond the Super Bowl

What a week! This has been such an exciting Super Bowl "season". The advertising has been so in the spotlight, like never before, and it's been so much fun. It started with all the sneak peeks the week before and all the hype on the news outlets. We got to see "The Force" from VW and we fell in love before it even aired. And we had a jaw dropping moment when Chrysler and Eminem told us they were "Imported from Detroit."

The conversation hasn't stopped since the first YouTube preview.

What has made it all fun is the follow up articles and all the social media. In years past, we never had the ability to discuss it all so intensely. Sure, we would gather 'round the water cooler and dish, but it was never to this level. And it was only amongst our friends and co-workers.

This year, through tweets, links, postings, and blogs we were able to talk as an industry. Some live during the game and certainly over and over again after it. We were able to debate the validity of the Groupon strategy (conscious or not), identify the insights (or not) from Coke, Pepsi, Stella, and Bud and we were able to LOL at the Carmax spot.

We even got to meet little Darth Vader on The Today Show.

And while many commented that seeing the sneak peeks ruined the surprise of seeing new advertising during the game, I did enjoy being able to really absorb the creative multiple times. Seeing it live in real time was still a thrill, even if I had caught a glance of it online. All the before and after social media certainly does make the $3million price tag a lot more reasonable. I'm all for that, because for me marketing is about using all the channels (not just one) to create an experience for consumers. Why not spread it around?

I've long said that the Super Bowl is the marketer's holiday. That's never been more true than this year as we share our experiences and collectively learn from each other. Advertising is not only a part of our pop culture, it is a reflection of our culture (as Emma Alvarez Gibson says on her Brainzooming blog post today). And it is certainly a reflection on our industry.

The challenge is to do better every time, on every marketing challenge, every single year. I accept that challenge.

What's your experience.

Wednesday, February 9

Super Bowl Hidden Gems

While many have complained about the lackluster range of advertising in this year's Super Bowl, we can't deny the fact that we are all still talking about it days later. And still watching news segments and reading tweets. Not many are still talking about the game itself, that's for sure.

There certainly were some standouts, like VW "The Force" and Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit". Plus we are still debating Groupon's campaign ... was it designed to spark conversation and raise charitable money or was it a tasteless joke gone awry? I am still not sure.

Reflecting back, there were some other memorable moments that I think went under the radar when compared to these other spots. I'd like to admire that work for a moment now too.

Perhaps none of us realized it, but the television show Glee was a big winner on Super Bowl Sunday too. The clever placement on Fox right after the game plus the constant promos throughout didn't hurt it a bit. This cult hit had its biggest night ever (it was a thriller), with a follow-up episode two nights later. Glee is hot, and so is the marketing. A tie-in with American Express and a cool new commercial created with Chevrolet woven right into the storyline on the show. I'm a gleek, I'll admit it ... "See the USA in a Chevrolet".

Speaking of Fox ... I have not heard much said about the promotions for the show House. Probably because it was a network promo, but the show had a very clever ad which channeled the infamous Coke commercial from 1979 featuring Mean Joe Green. If you know the House character, you know it was dead on.

Carmax. I definitely had car advertising overload, so while this spot from Carmax made me LOL on the spot, I soon forgot about it in all the whirlwind. I don't know if it'll do anything for the brand, but it's really creative and it makes me smile every time I see it. "I feel like a Carmax customer".

Did anyone catch The Daily? It's the world's first interactive tablet newspaper delivered to your tablet every day. Notice they said "tablet" and not "iPad". Made NYTimes look obsolete and got me to sign up, I can tell you that. Should give this struggling brand a big boost (plus I guess they fixed the iPad compatibility issue!).

Last but not least, Bud. I didn't really "get" much from this brand this year. It tends to all look the same. But one of the spots did make me chuckle, just because I'm a marketer (not a consumer). It was the one about product placement. An inside joke that I'm sure only a few of us even got, but I have to say I liked it.

I'm sure at some point we will all move on, but I for one am still enjoying watching the Super Bowl advertising and reading all the commentary. Any other hidden gems that you remember?

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, February 8

Super Bowl #fail

I have a general rule for my blog that I always try to keep things positive. No one wants to hear me or anyone constantly gripe. Besides, I am trying to focus on the fun of marketing for all the reasons why I got into this crazy business to begin with.

But ... I would like to point out some of what I would call advertising misses from Super Bowl Sunday as a learning experience. Marketing is a spectator sport (as is football for most of us) and we can learn from each other ... good or bad.

Groupon. I had such high expectations for this brand. It is hot hot hot right now, gathering loyal consumers faster than Obama during the election. I really thought they would come out with a bang on their first big night, and they bombed. They completely misread cultural cues and ended up insulting folks in the process. Also a complete mis-use of celebrity. Now not everyone agrees with me on this one. There are many who say that they had a much higher order strategy and the mere fact that everyone is talking about the brand scores a win. My friend Nate Riggs is in that camp, and if you'd like you can read his very thoughtful analysis here. I am more in the camp that it was a distasteful joke gone awry.

Speaking of celebrity - Sketchers. Was the spot selling Kim Kardashian or shoes? If I had not heard the hype ahead of time, there is no way I'd even remember the brand name.

Best Buy. I had high hopes for Best Buy's Super Bowl debut. The brand got a lot of preview chatter in anticipation of Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osborne. But when I finally saw the spot, I was left scratching my head. The match up made no sense, and certainly did not create any more chatter post game. Gone and forgotten.

Cars. Way way way too many spots. Aside from the two standouts (by a long shot) VW and Chrysler, they were all the same. And boring - despite what looked like big production budgets. Although I did like the Chevy Truck spot that saves the little kid over and over again, ala Lassie. The more I watch that spot, the more I get it.

Bud and Pepsi. Too much of the same ole stuff - they all ran together. Nothing spoke to me as a consumer. All sizzle, no steak.

Doritos. I heard all this hype ahead of time about two gay themed ads but they never ran. Instead there were three spots that were created by fans that I don't think delivered much in the way of insight. Focused on taste for sure, but isn't that rather obvious for a food product?

The lesson learned? Same as on my post yesterday. Start with a core consumer insight and build a unique and relevant brand experience for your target audience. And then worry about the clever writing and the production values later. That part is easy if you crack the code on the genetics first.

For more discussion, visit - Mike Brown was the host of #bzbowl where a bunch of us were tweeting live during the game. Great fun and great commentary.

Did I miss anything ... what's your experience? Jim.

Monday, February 7

Super Bowl Advertising Huddle

110 million viewers. 68 Super Bowl ads. 50 minutes of advertising time. $3 million a whack. This was by far the most hyped-up Super Bowl in history - at least for the advertising. The game didn't necessarily disappoint, but quite honestly for this marketer you could have told me that I was watching lacrosse. It was all about the advertising.

How do we possibly sort through all those spots to pick out the best ones? Thanks to social media, I had my early favorites but I have to say that I still enjoyed watching them all in real time. The magic of advertising has not gone away.

Despite all the over the top creativity (CarMax "Metaphors"), cleverly written lines ( "Reviews"), CGI (Kia "Poseidon"), and celebrities (Kim Kardashian for Sketchers), the winners for me were the ones that either hit on a real consumer insight and/or built a brand experience. At the end of the day (game), that's what marketing and advertising is all about.

Take a look at many people's favorite, VW "The Force". Over 14.5 million hits on YouTube (talk about extending the advertising spend!). Aside from making us all smile or LOL, I believe the reason this one hit home was the core insight. Who doesn't want to give a kid a thrill? There's Dad, behind the scenes, making his kid feel like he is supernatural. The nostalgia of Star Wars didn't hurt either.

CareerBuilder. I know that some people are tired of the monkeys. For me it's a branding device that hits on the insight of feeling like you work with a bunch of inconsiderate people that "don't get it." So getting stuck in a place where you are frustrated that you can't get out hits the nail on the head.

And who can't relate to the horror of hitting "reply all" by mistake. Bridgestone, coming out of nowhere in my opinion, caught one of the best insights of the night with their Super Bowl campaign. And while many did not see the tie to the brand, for me it is as simple as those tires giving you the ability to race around and get to everything you need to.

I still like the Snickers insight of not quite feeling like yourself when you're hungry. And while it wasn't a new campaign by any means, I liked seeing Roseann Barr pop out of nowhere.

Did these advertisements build the brand? Yes, certainly. But not to the degree that my two absolute favorites did: the NFL and Chrysler.

I was really impressed by the NFL advertising, although it perhaps didn't deliver on the hype and glamour of many of the others. The NFL had a few spots thrown in the mix, and every one of them quite simply delivered on the NFL brand experience. I loved the one where the tv screen turned into a tablet turned into a hand held device turned into a tv. You can watch the NFL where ever you go. And then the retro montage of tv-inspired Super Bowl party moments was brilliant. Really going far in turning the NFL into more than just a football organization but into a brand and a brand experience. Best Fans Ever.

And finally there was Chrysler, Imported from Detroit. Best in show, at least for me. First of all it took me by surprise because I hadn't seen it ahead of time. And while I am impressed by all the activity on social media leading up to the game, I do have to say that the experience of watching a great piece of film in the moment was priceless. The storytelling was the best of the lot for sure. The music, use of celebrity, and cinematography made for an attention-getting moment in advertising history. But the pride in America and what we all do for a living and what we can all do to improve our lot is what hit it out of the park for me (sorry that's a baseball analogy I think). It was insightful, creative, emotional, engaging, entertaining, brand building, and memorable. It changed the way I think about the brand, about Detroit, and about our future together. What more can you ask for in a piece of advertising?

Best in show.

Lesson learned? Find a great consumer insight to lead your creative development, and then tell a compelling story. That's what will deliver great advertising, for the Super Bowl or not.

Thanks to everyone who participated with me in the live posts and tweets, particularly the #bzbowl bunch. Experiencing the "game" via Facebook and Twitter, while exhausting, was so much fun. This blog post also appears today on Mike Brown's blog at Thanks, Mike!

Let's continue to ponder these great advertising moments and improve our craft. It gives me great pride.

What's your experience? Jim

Friday, February 4

The Marketer's Holiday

The anticipation has been swelling since probably this time last year. We were a little disappointed, except for seeing Betty White, so we've been waiting for a bit of a come back.

Then around July we heard that all the inventory had been gobbled up, including some perennial favorites who had previously dropped out. At $3 million a clip, it was music to our ears. YouTube and Twitter and Facebook have already been lighting up like a Christmas tree with sneak peeks.

I mean c'mon, The Super Bowl has become a huge cultural phenomenon. Some say it's the biggest day of the year for alcohol consumption, and it is certainly the biggest day of the year for advertising. Not just the sheer audience size watching the commercials, but also all the hype and analysis that comes along with it.

The Super Bowl is the marketer's holiday!

I can't wait. There are a quite a few newcomers this year like Best Buy (featuring the unlikely pairing of Justin Bieber and Ozzy Ozborne), Pizza Hut (can't believe they've never been on the Super Bowl), and Groupon (a tiny little phenomenon of its own). Doritos ran a contest to have fans create their own Super Bowl ads. I already saw one of them and it was hysterical. They've also created two gay-themed ads which has caused a lot of conversation already. Will they be gay friendly or homophobic? Since they were created to air during a football game I'm not sure how it will play out. We will also see Kim Kardashian strutting around in her new Sketchers.

One of my early favorites is the VW "The Force" - you have to be on the lookout for that one!

I know there will be plenty to talk about at the office the next morning.

Fox has been pretty strict about screening these ads ahead of time. No nipple gate this year, my friends. Ashley Madison's (let's just call it a dating service) spots were banned, getting plenty of attention and buzz in the making. And GoDaddy has had more than a few board reviews that they have quite publicly shared. We might only be able to see those spots online.

What will I be doing? I am in New Orleans for the AAD (American Academy of Dermatologists) but I am certainly stepping out for my holiday. I will be tweeting my comments live (probably from Pat O'Brien's) as part of #bzbowl (on Twitter) along with some other marketers. I will also post my comments on Facebook. Please follow along and share your thoughts.

I believe that this year will be the return of the great creative idea - so be sure to share what you think!

What's your experience? Jim.

Thursday, February 3

PediaCare Happy Kids

I just love the new campaign for PediaCare. It is so simple and so to the point, without really having to make a product claim, which I think is brilliant.

Clearly these marketers get it. Product claims within any given category are generally all the same. All the products tend to perform at parity to one another, and there really isn't much to differentiate from a rational benefit standpoint. Particularly in OTC medicines where the active ingredients are all controlled by FDA monographs.

So ... good marketers are left to differentiate on the emotional side. Each brand in a category can do its own thing when it comes to appealing to consumers emotionally. This is where brands can set themselves apart and break through the clutter. This is where the men separate from the boys, as they say.

The trouble is that so many brands just focus on the rational side, despite the fact that they can't really say much that's differentiating. They focus on how to tweak the claims to be noticed, but it still ends up being category noise to the consumer. It doesn't break through.

PediaCare went the other way. The focus is on the kid, with very little product claims. Just an incredibly simple portrayal of a really happy, healthy kid - shot almost in home video style.

One spot has a toddler sitting in a high chair laughing uncontrollably. The other shows a "dancing queen" little girl dancing and dancing. As a parent, who doesn't want to see their child so deliriously happy. Happiness that only comes from feeling a whole lot better - the message couldn't be more clear!

Great work, PediaCare. You got me at the first giggle and beat.

What's your experience? Jim.

Wednesday, February 2

I Want Hunter Boots

At the last few industry conferences, I have been speaking about the marketing notion of need vs. want. We "need" products but we "want" brands. It's great marketing and an incredible brand experience that makes us want one brand over another.

We might need a cup of coffee in the morning, but there's something about the brand that makes us want a Starbucks. I personally need to wear a shirt to work but I want to wear Paul Smith. It's my brand.

I had my own personal experience with want vs need this weekend buying snow boots. We've had a hundred feet of snow this winter and I am tired of dunking my feet in slush at every Manhattan corner. I need a good pair of winter boots, ideally very water proof.

So I did what every good shopper does and started paying attention to what other people were wearing. Kept seeing this brand Hunter. Started hearing more and more about Hunter. Saw Hunter on the celebrities in all the candid magazine shots. Gotta have a pair of those Hunter boots.

But of course, in true form for good marketing there is not a pair in sight. Not on the island of Manhattan anyway.

OMG, I want a pair of those Hunter boots. The more I can't have them then the more I want them. So despite the dozens of other options available to me, I decided to wait and get the brand I want. Soggy socks and all.

Quite irrational, another sign of effective marketing. My desire trumped convenience and price and short term comfort.

See, I too can be a victim of marketing.

What's your experience? Jim.

Tuesday, February 1

Suzanne Somers Sexy Forever

Suzanne Somers. Here's an example of a celebrity brand, a personal brand, who truly gets it. Since the early days as Chrissy where she basically invented "jiggle tv", Suzanne Somers has had a very strong sense of self. With wit, intelligence, and most importantly consistency, she has marketed herself and her "products" through the decades.

She has battled criticism, health crises, a home fire, and career lulls yet still remains the Suzanne Somers we know only too well.

Sure, she hawked The Thighmaster and then later The FaceMaster. And made a fortune. She's a home shopping queen, paving the way for others to great success as well. She took on cancer the natural way, and seems to have won.

And now, true to her brand, she tells us all that we too can be "sexy forever." She looks amazing as she tours the talk show circuit and runs infomercials at night. Perhaps a little pulled, but still the sexy Suzanne Somers we have come to expect. Her new book is a best seller as she inspires her people over forty to stay active, eat well, and lose weight. Her website is chocked full of tips and information, and an entire assortment of products to buy.

Whether you are a follower or a fan or not, you have to admire what this woman has done. She is sexy forever, she is her own brand, and SHE IS Suzanne Somers. We should all manage our own personal brand so well.

What's your experience? Jim.