Thursday, February 28

Husbands and Wives

With the advance of marriage equality, comes a whole set of issues that none of us have probably ever thought about before.  Like how to refer to married couples who are not just man and wife.

Well the Associated Press is going to help those of us who write and market for a living.  The organization, who sets journalism standards around the world, just recently changed its guidelines to move from calling same-sex married people either "couples" or "partners" to either "husbands" or "wives," obviously depending on the situation.

It's a bold move, that was evidently surrounded by a little drama, although I don't really care about that necessarily.  What I do want to reference, from a marketing standpoint, is that we all have to evolve with pop culture and societal norms ... especially the ones changing before our eyes.  We have to keep up with the language and the times, especially as it relates to how we reference and relate to our target audiences.

Kindle is setting a good example.  Their new television spot was created in advance of the new AP guidelines, but is completely on track with changing demographics and consumer behavior.

Take a look:

Notice that the product messaging still took center stage, it's not like the brand is out to make a political statement here ... it's just trying to reflect their changing target audience.  I would perhaps go out on a limb to say that it's ground breaking as well, but in any case it's certainly a more accurate depiction of the changing landscape of "husbands" and "wives." And it definitely makes a statement about the progressiveness of the brand (and their products) in the process.

What's your experience?  Jim.

Wednesday, February 27

Nationwide Members

I love looking to the insurance category for good marketing, but not for the reasons you'd expect.  It's not like the "products" are all that inspiring or that the programming is all that breakthrough.  That's not the reason why I respect the industry so much.

The insurance industry shows classic good marketing.  And I have learned a lot by watching it, I use it a lot in my classes when talking about tough marketing principles like positioning, brand character, and messaging development.

The insurance industry is also a near-perfect example of how good marketing balances the rational side with the emotional side of the product and of the brand.
The rational side:  on the surface, and perhaps even in the details, all insurance feels relatively the same.  The features are not that different from company to company, or so it seems.  The products are not really all that differentiated.  This is quite true of many categories when you think about it.  The rational, functional attributes tend to be similar if not exactly the same from brand to brand in many categories.
The emotional side:  every major brand in this industry has some sort of a unique space carved out, and it speaks in a different manner to its consumers.  I even profiled it in my second book, to give positioning advice to small businesses.  The industry is just that good.  While virtually every brand talks about great customer service (a very emotional topic in the insurance space), each does it with a different emotional connection.

State Farm:  like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Nationwide:  Nationwide is on your side.

The Prudential:  get a piece of the rock.

All of these brands talk about "being there" but in an different kind of emotional manner, appealing to different target audiences as a result.

The other great part about the insurance industry is that it's constantly evolving in its messaging.  I cite Nationwide here because it has been "on your side" for years.  Years.  Now suddenly, the brand takes it to a new direction, talking about how its customers are "members".  The brand says that it stands behind its "members," not its "shareholders."  Powerful, actually, and a new way of saying that the brand will "be there," putting its members first (presumably at a time of need).  It's a new, fresh way of capturing the emotional benefit of "being there" by saying that you're more important than anything/anyone else, including profits.

I kind of like it ... and feel inspired by it.  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Marketing Professor, NYU

Tuesday, February 26

Celebrity Personal Brands

Celebrities are by far the best examples of personal branding ... and how to market yourself.  I guess it's because who they are as people and who they are as businesses are one in the same, so they each end up being a brand like any other you'd "buy."  Now that's true of all of us, but it's just much more noticeable with celebrities.  This is never more apparent than at The Academy Awards when the brands are out on the red carpet and on stage.

At these awards shows, we not only see pop culture and trends influence in action, but we also see the culmination of brands at work.  We see the years of personal choices that create these brands, and we see them in full force.  And we evaluate them ... it's a part of the branding process!

Anne Hathaway.  She finally got her trophy, well deserved IMHO for one of the best performances of all time in Les Mis.  The award is the culmination of years of script choices, personal appearances, interviews,  and special events.  We've come to expect certain things from Anne Hathaway, including how she chooses her fashion, which was off brand the other night if you ask me.  We have also come to expect a bit of a mess of an acceptance speech, which is also now her "brand."

Jennifer Hudson.  Her brand is the show stopper but she has also become about weight loss and overcoming tragedy.  Good for her.  I love her brand.

George Clooney.  An old Hollywood throw-back come Growing Pains.  Man has this brand evolved over time ... but we now know who he is, we know the choices he is likely to make, and we know how he is likely to behave.  He's George Clooney.

Can we talk about fashion?  It's our personal brand packaging from my perspective, and it should be chosen wisely.  How you carry yourself and what you wear over time is a clear indication of your brand.  Think about how much we look forward to the fashions of Halle Barry and Nicole Kidman yet we also know what we are going to get from Meryl Streep.  But hey, she's Meryl Streep, most decorated actress of all time.

And guys ... what's up with the facial hair?  As I mentioned yesterday, I'm all for a little stubble now and again as a select fashion choice on occasion.  But these full on beards, they just don't work.  Sends the wrong brand message.  George Clooney and Ben Affleck just shouldn't be making this kind of a brand choice.  Let's hope it's just a fad and the blade comes back in style.  Bring back the blade.

The point here?  Personal branding comes from a series of personal choices through life ... including how you package yourself.  Choose wisely, because it drives what you end up getting out of life, personally and professionally.

So I ask ... what's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Marketing Professor, NYU

Monday, February 25

Oscars 2013 Best in Show

Ready ... Seth ... Go!

I may not be in the majority here, but I thought that Seth McFarlane rocked it last night at The Academy Awards, and I thought that this was one of the best award shows in years, starting right at the opening number.  I loved the dresses, the performances, the surprises ... and definitely all the banter on my Twitter party at #OscarExp.

We certainly learned that there are no coincidences in marketing, and certainly not on television.  There were many a well-timed ad placement and "product" mention, and a lot of brands trying to capitalize on the "news" on Twitter, much like Oreo did during The Super Bowl.

Disney is about to release their new film Oz - Disney who BTW owns abc and who featured the ruby slippers on the red carpet and did an awards show number "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast.  Hmmm.  The lovely little munchkin Kristen Chenoweth was one of the interviewers on the red carpet, with many a well timed spot from Royal Caribbean, her latest brand endorsement.

But honestly the night wasn't about marketing, since I would say that no one brand really stood out (generally not the case though).  Many other things took center stage, including Anne Hathaway's dress and her two very well placed "pleats" or darts as I was corrected on Twitter.

The night belonged to the icons ... Shirley Bassey (what a WOW!), Barbra Streisand (heartfelt tribute to her friend Marvin), Jane Fonda (I guess yoga works) and Adele (a new icon in the making).

So with all that action, who gets Best in Show?  It wasn't a brand, I'm afraid to say.  I barely remember any of them in the sea of activity.

Honorable mention goes to Jaws for the use of its theme song to shuffle people off stage.  All it takes is four bars and you know the brand and away you go.  Great use of iconic sound and then the instant imagery that comes along with it.

I want to say Best in Show belongs to the cast of Les Miserables, whose tear-jerking performance along with Jennifer Hudson and Catherine Zeta-Jones gave tribute to the show stopper.  I would have picked that for Best in Show until:  Michelle Obama.

The girl stole the show, with a jaw dropping surprise appearance via video with Jack Nicholson.  Politics aside, you gotta love her message of inclusion, "No matter who you are, no matter who you love."  Very consistent messaging, time and time again.  Her tribute to the industry, and all its creativity and imagination, was spot on.  She is Best in Show, hands down, and THE icon of the night.

What did you think ... what is your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Marketing Professor, NYU

PS - doesn't anyone shave anymore?  I mean the men!  I'm all for a little stubble once in awhile, but c'mon.  These full beards just are not becoming.  This is the Oscars!  Show a little blade, please.