Friday, January 30

Making a Difference at the Super Bowl

When it comes to Super Bowl advertising, we tend to focus on the shock & awe, or the big reveal, or the entertainment value of the big is the marketer's holiday after all. It's a day for the big brands to shine and to show off their power, especially the ones that can afford the $4.5million price tag.

Every brand on air, online, in-store, and at the stadium is shouting, "Look at me, look at me, look at me." Who will win this game? That'll come in the post game analysis.

NBC announced that it finally sold all of its inventory, thank you very much. A lot of the spots are :60, which means these brands have spent close to $9.0million just to show up.

But this "big stuff" is not all that happens during the big game. There's a lot more going on than just the big spend, so I'd like to highlight a couple of very worthy initiatives that are worth their weight in gold...two brands that are clearly trying to make a difference at the Super Bowl.

First, the NFL itself. All I can say is WOW...this one actually made me cry out loud the first time I previewed it. I don't care why the NFL released it, I don't care if they were forced to release it, I don't care about their agenda. They released it and it's's going to help make a difference. 'Nuff said.

I'd also like to commend Uber for its partnership with MADD during the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest drunk driving nights of the year, and these two brands are doing something to help people keep safe. For every Uber ride taken Sunday night, the brand will donate $1 to long as the rider uses a special promo code. I know we'd probably rather see them drop the "code" part, but I'm sure it's part of an effort to actually track results. I've participated in the brand's other causes, and trust me it's easy. Bravo either way. Let's hope the initiative keeps a few more people safe.

One more...I have a feeling, given the issue that Go Daddy stirred about the fair treatment of animals in their "puppy" preview, that we just might see an animal rights PSA pop up as well. We will have to wait and see.

As I've said many times, we're always searching for Super Bowl advertising "magic." Everyone's talking about it, and everyone's debating about where we'll find it. Maybe we just did?

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - We'll be tweeting live about the advertising during the big game at #SuperBowlExp

Wednesday, January 28

The Power of Post-Research

No matter what anyone says, research is the backbone of creative and product development. It helps us to not only get to know our target consumer, but it more importantly helps us to uncover the insight that will ultimately become a creative idea. Without research, as marketers we are left out naked in the cold...with no where to go, creatively.

The problem is that most of our research is done upfront, pre-research if you will, before ideation has started. We use it to stimulate the creative process and sometimes to help further develop it. But we don't often use it after the fact, in post-research. Some brands do, but not all of them and not all of the time.

Which is why some brands find themselves in trouble after the fact...left out in the cold naked.

We've seen two startling examples just lately; examples that we should all learn some research when you've completed the project just to make sure you haven't made a fatal mistake in execution.

Post-research is just as important as pre-research. It'll help you catch mistakes you may have missed along the way.

First up, just in time for this past holiday season is the now infamous Play-Doh extruder kit. I mean, how could they not know? I know that they probably didn't know, but I mean how could they not know?

The kit caused quick criticism on social media, for good reason. Many criticized the brand for deleting comments, generally a cardinal sin in consumer engagement. In this case, I have a feeling that it may have been appropriate. Evidently a replacement is in the works.

And then this week we saw the advanced preview of the new Go Daddy commercial for the Super Bowl. I have to admit that the first time I saw it, I cringed at the end. But I didn't imagine the issue would take on a life of its own, forcing the CEO to make a statement and then ultimately pull the spot from the internet and from the brand's Super Bowl lineup.

Had the team done a little research among dog and animal lovers, I'm sure someone would have told them that it was inappropriate and that it would rub some people the wrong way. While I understand what they were aiming for (mocking the success of Budweiser's puppy spot), and I understand the brand's sense of humor (a little camp goes a long way), I know that some post-research would have told them to try another story line.

I will say, however, that the CEO and his team handled the social media crisis with grace and speed, addressing the issue individually with key critics and in mass for all those offended...with humility and honesty. Showing that it's sometimes ok to take a risk, as long as you handle it appropriately and that you own it.

Some say it was a publicity stunt...I don't believe it. I think it was the case of not doing a little post-research on a piece of creative advertising. That or not listening to people who warned them.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising: Where's the Magic?

With so many Super Bowl advertisers pre-releasing or teasing their advertising before the game, the commentary and speculation has been at full tilt.

But I have to say, it's all leaving many people asking...where's the magic?

Is the magic in this spot from Dove Men + Care?

Well, I have predicted that it will be the "Year of the Dad," and this spot gets me every time! DADDY! #RealStrength

Is the magic in this life size Pac-Man game from Bud Light? The brand gave us a little tease and then released the full length version.

That's kinda cool! Now if that becomes an installation that we can all try, there could be some magic happening! #UpForWhatever

Or is the magic in this retro look back at innovation, and our ability to embrace it from BMW?

Very clever use of footage to remind us of how far we've come, and evidently how far we continue to go! I actually remember that scene from 1994!

Not to take away anything from any brand that has previewed and teased us so far, but I don't think the magic will happen until game time. Watching these spots in real time with a real crowd in real context is magical. And talking about them in the moment. That's what they are meant for.

The magic is also going to come with the other integrated activity that these brands add to their advertising. Displays, social engagements, digital marketing, or even live events...the surround sound will add more magic too.

Plus, I have a feeling we'll see a few surprises come along that we haven't seen yet in pre-release. That's what I'm hoping for!

What's your experience? JIM.

PS - Join me during the game as we tweet live about the advertising at #SuperBowlExp. It'll be magical!

Tuesday, January 27

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising Previews

While we have spent the last few days debating deflated balls and anticipating accumulated inches, brands started previewing their upcoming Super Bowl advertising with great intensity.

Brands like Lexus, Toyota, and Bud Light came out earlier this month...hoping that the early bird gets the worm. In the last few days, however, many brands have kicked it up a notch to get more bang for their Super Bowl buck.

Like Mercedes-Benz who launched their spot on Ellen, complete with an audience contest that not only replicated the advertising content, but also culminated in two audiences members walking (or driving) away with new cars!

After teasing us with video content the last couple of weeks, Victoria's Secret debuted its Super Bowl spot on Good Morning America. Good morning indeed. While the teasers showed "the angels" playing football, the advertising ultimately stayed truer to the brand with little to disappoint loyal fans.

Certainly no stranger to intense exposure, the cutest preview (at least for me) so far this season came out last night from T-Mobile, featuring Kim Kardashian. Yes, we've seen a lot of her lately but she's finally admitting it (thankfully)..with a direct tie to the brand, tackling a "hot" topic in mobile service these days. A nice little ditty, surprisingly.

The week has just the buildup to the big game intensifies and as we get #DeflateGate and #SnowMageddon2015 behind us,...we can revel in the creativity, entertainment, and fun that is Super Bowl advertising. The game isn't over yet. Is the biggest and best yet to come? I have a feeling...

What's your experience? JIM.

PS -- I'll be tweeting live during the Super Bowl, all about the advertising, at #SuperBowlExp. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 25

Set Your Marketing Objectives

This week's installment about annual marketing planning over at Entrepreneur is all about setting objectives.  Sounds obvious, I know. Or is it?

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, January 22

Carl's Jr. Super Bowl Drama

Ok, so this wasn't one of my Super Bowl predictions because, quite honestly, it's just too expected.

Carl's Jr. released its 2015 Super Bowl great hysteria. Social media lit up immediately, with negative commentary to the left and to the right.

If it takes shock value to win the Super Bowl advertising game, then Carl's Jr is off to a good start.

Now if you are going to argue that this is the brand's tradition, then I might be with you. We've seen this ad many many times before; there are no surprises here. The all natural messaging is nothing but ironic, I'll give them that. But otherwise, what's so special here?

I get it, it's the Super Bowl. 53% of the viewers are men, and I suppose there's still space for using sex to sell. It's basic targeting, that's all. But we've seen this before, so why all the interest and hype?

I'm looking forward to far more innovative creative on the big day.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Personal Technology in Meetings

I'm not afraid to say that I've already broken my New Year's Resolution this year. And I'm not afraid to learn from it. And you should know me well enough by now to know that I'm not afraid to write about it for Huffington Post.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Wednesday, January 21

Super Bowl's Band of Brands

The hype for all of the Super Bowl advertising is ramping $4.5million a spot these brands need to get all the action that they possibly can from the investment. It's big money for some of the biggest brands in the world.

Despite the steep price tag, a few of the smaller brands are proving that it's not just the big spenders that are getting all the action.

Newcastle Beer sure proved that last year with an online campaign showing what they would have done if they were advertising in the Super Bowl. I think the brand got just as much attention as the official sponsors!

This year, Newcastle is looking for a little teamwork, and in fact has declared that "marketing is a team sport."

While they can't run national advertising against NFL sponsor Budweiser, the brand is making some regional buys and is opening up its campaign to include partners. In an open call for teamwork, the brand has already gotten Armstrong Flooring, Beanitos, Sharper Image, and Boost Mobile to join. They're declaring their teamwork on Twitter, fueling their own awareness for their part in the big game, and well ahead of the game too.

They're calling it the "Band of Brands, " and the count is up to 37 now!

Clever. Yes, marketing is a team sport, but it's also a spectator sport and I love watching all of this activity.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - Join us for live tweets about the advertising during the big game at #SuperBowlExp

Saturday, January 17

Super Bowl 2015 Advertising Predictions

Yes, I know there's a "big game" on Super Bowl Sunday, there always is. Who shows, who wins, who loses...yes that's all important.

But what really matters is the advertising! It's the official holiday of marketing, after all!

Now that we've narrowed down to the final teams and the hysteria is setting in, speculation is rising on the advertising too. At $4.5million a pop, I'd expect it to!

The teasers are pouring in, hyping up the debate about who will win this part of the game.  Here's one for the continuation of Bud Light's #UpForWhatEver campaign.

Who's in, who's out, who's up, who's down..yes it's critically important. Plus it's great sport to see what brands will preview their spots ahead of time to pump up their viewership.

First up for 2015 appears to be Lexus who released their spot on January 14th, two weeks prior to the game, making it the first brand of the season to do so.

Early reports say that there will be less car advertising than in year's past, and many of the brands are only buying one spot as opposed to multiples like in years past. At $4.5million a pop, I'd expect it to!

I know it's still too early to really judge what we will see, and I may certainly be wrong...but I thought it would be fun to throw out three predictions for 2015 Super Bowl advertising that I'm betting we'll see. I'd rather bet on this in Vegas than on who will actually win the game.

The Year of the Dad. Brands have finally walked away from representing the bumbly, fumbly dad in their marketing, and have finally embraced modern fathers as the active caregivers they are. Many of them are stay-at-home Dads (#SAHD) and they're to be equally commended as their mom counterparts. Since half of the Super Bowl audience is male and many of the female viewers have active husbands, it's time to celebrate dad for who he is, on the biggest playing field of the year. While I don't know if Cheerios will run this specific ad, it's indicative of what I'm betting we will see. #HowToDad

Same-Sex is the Same Thing. While it's still a political hot bed in many states, I think we will see more same-sex couples as part of the advertising mix in this Super Bowl. The difference this year is that I don't think brands will make it a big deal. It won't be like prior attempts at "LOOK, WOW, we have a GAY person in our creative," but more just a natural reflection of what's happening in our culture...with an acknowledgement that same-sex couples are no different than any other couple. It won't be about being gay, it'll be about same-sex couples living their lives right along with the rest of the community. Perhaps even Honey Maid will release a sequel on their take of the wholesome American family.

Getting Along. The world is a tough place, let's face it. The Super Bowl gives us a respite for a bit, uniting the country and the entire world around a common activity. I hope we see brands embrace that notion, and use their :30 seconds to motivate us all to embrace our differences and accept who we are, regardless of all that makes us so different and wonderfully unique. Last year's Coca-Cola spot may have hopefully set a trend for this year.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on the previews that come out and the teasers that tease to refine my predictions and spot the trends that we will see on-air at game time.

Join me and let me know...what's your experience?  JIM.

PS - I will of course be doing my annual Twitter Party during the game at #SuperBowlExp. We comment on the advertising in real time and it's always great fun to see people's reactions in the moment. Join me and let me know...what's your experience?

2015 #Exp Schedule

We recently kicked off the 2015 pop culture season with The Golden Globes, which means we also kicked off our #Exp Twitter Parties. 

Once again, despite any views on the awards show itself, we did not disappoint online. Tons of fun.

I thought it would be helpful to publish this year's calendar, so we can prep and do our finger exercises in advance. Join us for the fun, as we comment on the marketing and anything else we feel like!

     #SuperBowlExp on 2/1/15

     #GrammyExp on 2/8/15

     #OscarExp on 2/22/15

     #EmmyExp on 8/30/15

     #AMAExp on 11/22/15

And who knows, we may throw in a few others here and there!

Hope to tweet you!  What's your experience?  JIM

Marketing Plan Pre-Work

When writing your annual marketing plan, you can't just jump right in. In this article for Entrepreneur, I examine the pre-work necessary for an effective marketing plan.

Click here if you'd like to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Friday, January 16

Thanks for the Inspiration

A friend of mine forwarded this video to me, as inspiration for my new book that is coming out this spring. I wrote the book in its entirety, but then have been wondering whether or not I should release it.  This friend knows I need all of the encouragement that I can get.

You see my next book isn't about hits close to home. It's about my personal journey as a father, raising two kids at a very different time in our culture.

I've obsessed about my new book because I'm not sure that people will care, and I've worried because I'm not sure that it'll be all that relevant to anyone.

But when I experience the human story in this video and in others like it, I realize that we should all care and that it is all very relevant.

Because while times have changed for sure, we all have obstacles to overcome and we all have issues and insecurities that hold us back. And we can learn from each other. And we can push ahead.

In this particular video, two young men are trying to come out. I can relate. In this particular case, these two twin brothers are trying to explain it to their dad.  I can relate.

What can I say...I learned from them.

As they point out, their story is relevant to anyone trying to do anything to be happy.  As their dad points out, "that's all you can do is to live your lives."  As they say in conclusion, "do whatever makes you happy...whatever you want to do with your life."  It's not just about being gay or straight or anything else.

So yes, times have changed.

We "share" a lot more, in public, than we ever did when I was young. These two millennials are perfect examples...YouTube celebrities sharing their lives for the entire public to consume and comment. Yet they are still fearful of it all just as much as I was when I was young. Yet they are brave enough to push through it, brave enough to tell their dad despite worrying about the impact.

So thank you, my friend, for sharing this video with me. And now I share it with all of you ...

The emotions are raw. The struggle is apparent. Yet they have the courage to tell their story, to their dad, publicly.  Nothing short of inspiring.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, January 15

Axe...No Big Deal

Arguable one of the most "heterosexual" brands on the planet, Axe seems to be breaking down barriers, at least through its Australian counterpart Lynx.  And it seems as if the messaging might be expanding out from down under.

While it feels like a departure, it's completely reflective of millennial beliefs, and hopefully shaping them at the same time.

The brand seems to be expanding its definition of sexuality, becoming much more inclusive.  And they seem to be challenging societal norms in the process.

It's not just about getting the girl.

Here's a new piece of video from the brand, called Lynx in Australia...which is soon to roll out into other markets.  It tackles aspirations like family and career...and kissing the hottest girl, or kissing the hottest boy. Whichever.

Bravo Axe!  I love when a brand evolves with society, and pushes society forward all at the same time.

First of all, the brand clearly gets that guys TOTALLY care about their hair. In fact, we obsess about our hair. It's the one part of grooming that we really care about. It's part of our virility, to be honest. Most guys won't readily admit it, but it's true. I've spent years in hair care studying it.

But then there's the way the brand  handled sexuality...kissing a girl or a to be commended. It's no big deal. This coming from a "guy's brand." And clearly they don't care, so why should anyone else. It's no big deal, but the hair certainly is.

As it should be. Now I'm off to fix my hair.

What's your experience?  JIM.

PS - The other brilliant insight here..."have great hair while you still have it!"  Brilliant.

Wednesday, January 14

Brands That Boost Confidence

In my classes at NYU, we talk all the time about the difference between a product and a brand. In a nutshell, a product is a functional performs a specific duty for its customers. A brand, on the other hand, is an emotional benefit. A brand is all about how it makes its customers feel and about how the brand fits into its customers lives.

Think COCA-COLA. The product is a beverage that quenches thirst and provides caffeine, depending of course on which version of Coke you're drinking. The brand, however, is all about happiness, and the brand's marketing is all about delivering and highlighting happiness.  Coca-Cola is very much a part of its customers daily lives, whether at home, work, or with friends...providing happiness all along the way.

The emotional benefit is what pulls us into a brand, and keeps us there.  We can buy lots of different kinds of beverages, but we buy Coca-Cola because it makes us happy.

Here are two brands whose recent marketing activity is delivering on two different versions of an emotional benefit that I think is so vitally important, especially in today's world: building confidence.

IKEA. The brand installed a "motivational mirror" in at least one of its stores to boost the confidence of its customers, and then filmed shoppers reactions to the compliments it dished out. The rational being that looking into a mirror is one of the first things we all do in the morning, and getting our day off to a good start is essential to a productive day.  Talk about boosting confidence in a hurried world! Take a look:

TIFFANY & CO. Such an iconic brand! Girls everywhere dream of getting a little Tiffany blue box from the boy who loves them. Well now, Tiffany is saying that the same can be true of boys. For the first time ever, the brand is featuring a same sex couple with Tiffany wedding bands. As the brand says, a little Tiffany blue box is the first sentence in any couple's story. Surely any young (or older) person struggling with their identity and how they fit in will feel a boost of confidence from such a brand leader. I certainly would have felt better had I seen such an ad back in the day. Take a look:

Not to mention that the couple featured is a real New York City couple. Congratulations to the couple and to the brand.

Brands boosting confidence. Isn't that what any brand should do for us?

What's your experience? JIM.

Tuesday, January 13

Writing a Marketing Plan

I've started a new series at Entrepreneur ... a New Year's Resolution of sorts for small business owners:  write an annual marketing plan!  Over the next couple of months, I'll be unfolding the steps necessarily to write a plan that will build your business.

Click here to give it a read.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, January 12

2015 Golden Globes, As Tweeted

Last night we kicked off our pop culture awards season with The Golden Globes…and we started this year’s round of Twitter parties where we talk about all the marketing.

My Twitter party started out with Live on the Red Carpet with E!, and then we switched over to NBC in time for Tina and Amy’s big opener.

Big brand advertisers of the night seemed to be L’Oreal, Volkswagen, and Microsoft…including lots of commentary from many beauty brands trying to recreate red carpet looks.  The Golden Globes claims to be The Super Bowl for women.  Not sure about that, but it was still fun watching and commenting on all of the advertising and marketing activity.

Marketing aside, there were a few themes that emerged early in the evening, and continued through the telecast.

Nothing seemed off limits.  Jokes about Bill Cosby and North Korea went right in for the kill.  The humor was on the edge of being uncomfortable, but perhaps it’s humor that can make the uncomfortable more talk-able.  Apparently white dresses weren’t off limits either.  White is a tough color to pull off, and to be honest not many did.  The red carpet needs color IMHO.  But I’ll leave that commentary for the Fashion Police, making their debut led by the fabulous Kathy Griffin.  She’s the only one who could take the place of Joan, again IMHO.

Upsets.  From the very beginning, it seemed as if none of the usual suspects were winning.  While I would never admit to being completely on top of these pop culture winners and losers, it was fun to see the unexpected give acceptance speeches.  And they were quite good, some of them anyway.  As a fellow father, I think Michael Keaton’s acceptance speech was best in show (not that he was necessarily an upset).

Perfect timing.  J.Lo’s red carpet arrival perfectly timed to her new movie trailer.  Tina and Amy’s new movie trailer right before they take the stage to open the show.  Disney’s Cinderella coming right off the heels of Into the Woods.  It was a night of well-timed marketing, as you would expect.  And that doesn’t even include on all the tweeting.  See, we did focus on the marketing as well as the fashion and the awards!

Freedom of Speech.  Maybe it was the events in France over the weekend, but it sure seemed like the big winner of the night was Freedom of Speech.  As well it should.  Terrorism and fear shouldn’t keep us from saying what’s on our mind.  Or expressing it creatively.  Nor should societal judgment or bullying for that matter.

Best moment of the night:  Transparent.  To love!  Indeed!  Note all of the above.

Speaking of love, I loved being with my Twitter party participants.  We’ve been doing it for several years now, with The Golden Globes giving us a warm up for The Super Bowl, The Grammy’s, and of course The Oscars. 

Lots of fun, and no matter what anyone says … nothing to disappoint.  Not when it’s a shared experience.

What’s your experience?  JIM.

Thursday, January 8

Cars, Cars, Cars

I'm out in Las Vegas for CES this year...always an adventure and this year is no exception.

Everyone wants to know what "the big thing" is at CES every year. And then there's great expressions of either disappointment or excitement, based on the social commentary and your individual point of view.

This year, it seems like it's all about cars. Connected cars, smart cars, cars of the future. Cars, cars, cars. A taxi driver asked me yesterday if there were any flying cars. Not yet, but maybe next year.

Funny, because there's also been some speculation that there won't be as many car advertisers for the Super Bowl this year. We can almost always count on the car brands to dominate the commercial airspace during the big game, right up there with the beverage brands. But maybe not this year? Perhaps they spent their marketing budget at CES instead?

At $4.5 million for a thirty-second spot, who could blame them for passing? But I have a feeling that the jury is still out, since I understand there are still a few spots open to buy.

Anyone up for it? What's your experience? JIM.

Wednesday, January 7

Today - The Musical

There was certainly a lot of holiday buzz this year, but it wasn't all about the holidays. People were buzzing about Today: The Musical.

I'm not sure it was all positive, to tell you the truth, but you can be the judge of that by clicking here. Regis Philbin was the celebrity guest star. Say no more.

I don't know quite what to's not my cup of tea personally. But from a marketing perspective, it kind of makes sense coming from NBC and The Today Show.  This is the network that brought us The Sound of Music Live and Peter Pan Live, so why not this? And it's the morning show that has turned largely entertainment. With Hoda and Kathie Lee at the helm on this one, what else could we expect?

I will say that the lead character was quite talented, in a Broadway Show kind of way. I guess that was the point.

Entertainment is in the eyes of the beholder. You can decide for yourself. What I will say is that it's fueled a ton of content for the show including Behind the Scenes and Bloopers...not to mention all of the social commentary. I think that was the point of the production. It can be endless. Including puns and jokes on New Year's Eve from Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper on their CNN show. Can't buy that kind of publicity, or can you?

What do you think? What's your experience?  JIM

Tuesday, January 6

RadioShack Re-done

The year end lists are pretty much over for 2014, but there's one more I'd like to stick in before I leave the topic permanently.

Biggest comeback brand?  RadioShack?

Right around this time last year, actually at the SuperBowl, RadioShack announced its intention to turn around.  The brand admitted its failings, and acknowledged that it hadn't had an update since, well, the '80's.  Their SuperBowl spot was among many people's favorites:

I for one really appreciated the brand's honesty.

Flash forward about ten months, and I witnessed first hand one of their refurbished stores.  So well done, so contemporary, and so inviting ... but will it be enough?  The store also had a real local flair that is hard for a national retail chain to pull off.  Well done.  But will it be enough?  The brand has a long way to go to climb back up.

But I will say that the store actually made me smile, thinking back to when "the '80's called!"  I was happy to see that they carried through on their promise.

What's your experience?  JIM.

Monday, January 5

Weight Watchers - Snacking

"If you're happy and you know it, eat a snack."

Usually all of the weight loss marketing waits until January 1st to kick in.  It's part of our pop culture. But his season it all started a whole lot earlier, right in the middle of the holidays, thanks to perennial weight loss leader Weight Watchers.

I'm a big fan of the brand, in full disclosure.  I've been an observer, participant, and admirer for years. The system works, and generally so does their marketing.

But this year there is a twist to it all. No big celebrity challenge, at least not that I've seen.

No new plan to promote. Just a simple message that appears to have resonated with consumers ... we eat emotionally.

If we could just cut out the emotional eating, then we'd probably lose weight. Oh, how I love the creative:

The brand did throw in a new Personal Coaching option into their program too ... brilliant. And I love the creative on this one too:

"Hey, pumpkin pie!" What's your experience?  JIM