Drew the winner of a ticket to the AUT conference event on Wednesday as promised. Auckland social media marketing agency guy Jon Randles - He works at MOSH. Don't complain - I know you didn't enter. But never mind because I will be attending the conference sessions and will share some of what I learn with you in blog posts - probably not in real-time. I find blow-by-blow accounts of events are a little tedious. It also means you can't concentrate on what is being shared or have a chance to process it. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
Idealog magazine is the official media partner for the event - I'm sure they will be creating content - I'll hook you up with that material as well.
Tickets to the conference are still available.
Conference Programme Details here.
I have to confess that Apple's advertising in recent years hasn't really rung my bell. It could be that their products are just iterations of things that already exist (and competitors are snapping at their heels with products that have features every bit as good and in some cases better than Apple's). In the past they had news - like the Mac, the iPod, iPhone (early days) and iPad.
The ad kicks off emphatically off as a tribute to how the iPhone can augment the experience of making music before meandering off into the back blocks of wherever on motorcycles, boxing gyms and in-home planetariums - wrapping it all up with the message 'You're more powerful than than you think'.
It's a bit of a Bohemian Rhapsody kind of thing set to the Pixies Gigantic song. In other words - it's a mess. It seems as if Apple's flat industrial design and flat UX design is a triumph of focus and clarity of purpose - while the marketing department has lost its way. The iPhone may well be just about all things to all people (there's an app for that) - but if you throw everything into the pot at the same time then nothing shines through.
Frankly I think the ad is a bit of a clunker. It almost comes under the heading of - if you have nothing to say then sing it. Though, rather than finding an elegant riff and sticking with it, they went with an atonal mess.
Ads work better when you have a clear proposition - one that potentially resonates with a person. People can't focus on too many elements at one time (especially when they are distracted - or you are distracting them from their purpose - like watching their favourite show on TV).
There is an old advertising trick to demonstrate this to clients when they want to jam pack too much information into a commercial. Get five ping pong balls. Toss one to the client. They'll probably get catch it. Now throw all five at once - good luck with that one. Maybe Apple's agency didn't have the balls to remind their client of that communication truth.
A strong, single minded proposition will beat a complex sequence of information every time.
Sometimes bad language is good. I'm not advocating using expletives for the sake of it - the use of crass language has increased in everyday speech so it has lost some of its ability to shock or make a point. Television shows routinely F bomb and it barely raises a collective eyebrow.
The choice to use choice words in advertising is still a risky strategy. In New Zealand the Japanese car maker Toyota introduced the use of 'bugger' in a commercial for their Hilux ute that caused a mild flurry of moral panic and protest that standards had been breached. Ultimately the consensus was that the term was in common parlance as a mild expletive - before you knew it everyone was doing it.
The Pillion Trust is a homeless charity in the UK. They don't have have the kind of budgets required to create fundraising campaigns on a large scale - something most small enterprises can understand. They have two problems: firstly: poverty and its consequences. It is a growth industry in the UK as it is in other parts of the developed world. Secondly: emotional immunity - people are so completely inundated with information that they protect themselves with willful (though not necessarily malicious) ignorance: "I don't want to know.". We hermetically seal ourselves inside a personal bubble, especially in public spaces. You can see it for yourself in the blank, million mile stares on the faces of pedestrians or, paradoxically, the use of mobile devices that both let the world in and shut it out.
Emotional immunity can also be granted by engaging in slacktivism - disapproving of whaling or global warming by sharing stories and images of impending doom to indicate some concern or connection in the belief that doing so makes a difference. Of course it makes no substantive difference at all - but it makes you feel good and shows your friends your concern for the big issues of the day.
To puncture the bubble of emotional immunity The Pillion Trust had a person wear a sandwich board in a public place bearing the confronting message - "Fuck the Poor.". Needless to say it got the attention of passers-by, who castigated the messenger. After all, how could he have the temerity to express overtly what we collectively think? Berating the bearer of the sign was a form of slacktivism. Am I being harsh? The control for the experiment was simple - the same person, the same sign, but with a variation of the message that is far more acceptable - 'Help the Poor' - was simply ignored.
Paradoxically it is easier to express righteous indignation - but without any corresponding behaviour that would have any positive effect. Of course Fuck the Poor is an unacceptable message and Help the Poor is a benign one. So, what is the takeout?
Your choice of language can make a significant difference to the results of your message.
Aside from the use of 'Fuck' to provoke a response the Pillion Trust stunt used a challenging, confrontational message. They understand that, even though most people are shocked by poverty in countries like the UK and New Zealand, they are emotionally immune to the facts. By passing the apparently antagonistic message in a public space was too disruptive for many people - who challenged the messenger - much in the same way that they might 'like' the message on Facebook (easy to do when the place is well trafficked and the barker isn't menacing or apparently representing a radical organisation or group).
Breaking from category conventions can improve the impact of your communications.
A charity for the poor is expected to behave like 'lambs of God' - pious and respectful. Disrupting the expectation (if only superficially) created a higher level of engagement - which, in this case translated to over 3 million views on YouTube).
Sometimes you have to wear camouflage to breach the defenses of your audience - showing affinity, rather than confronting or challenging. Sometimes a Trojan Horse might be the right strategy. Of course you are not in opposition to your customers - but capturing their attention and imagination when they are bombarded with messaging really is stage one if there is going to be a stage two.
If your intention is to change behaviour then you have to disrupt the equilibrium of your prospect.
Most of us are quite happy with the current state of affairs. I may be annoyed with my bank, but the payoff of changing (or even considering changing is too low to entertain the thought. My belief that 'all banks are the same' is not only a barrier to other banks' messaging but also strangely reinforced by cognitive dissonance to protect my sanity. It is important to realise that changes in attitude follow changes in behaviour. So challenging an idea that I have is far more challenging than asking me to behave with some small action that can be positively reinforced. For example asking your kids to enjoy broccoli cookies is probably a near impossible task. Baking a delicious cookie with broccoli in it and offering it for them to try (without any reference to the vegetable) might get favourable reaction. The positive feedback loop of senses and emotions beats all of the rhetoric of reason and logic. Without a change in behaviour - there will be no change in attitude. Asking a National/Labour Party Voter to change their attitudes based on some evidence or data will be mostly a waste of energy.
As a footnote the social experiment of the Pillion Trust may have had little effect in situ - raising money for the poor from passers-by. The obvious ploy was to harness the righteous indignation of people on the street to capture them on video to share (and here I am in Auckland, New Zealand - the other side of the planet - doing just that). But in capturing that sample and showing to other people - just like the decent, reasonable people on the street (the clip will be shown in cinemas in the UK) they are garnering social proof - 'if other people think this way, then I am not alone - together we can make a difference' - then it should increase the appeal. The trick is to have some collectors outside the theatre when patrons leave and get sucked into the world of expressing righteous indignation about gibbon habitat destruction in the Southern Ocean.
Over the past couple of years cosmetics companies have been making a bid to be seen as purveyors of 'true beauty' as a way of manufacturing a point of difference for their brands.
This campaign for the specialist make-up brand Dermablend makes no apology for concealing the model's flaws.
The ads are classic demonstrations of the product in use. By wiping away the cover the people in the ads communicate how effectively the product allows them to engage in everyday life without enduring the problems associated with being different - make-up as camouflage.
Where the subtle shift takes is in how the brand leverages the meme that cosmetics can somehow make you 'better' and the equal and opposite meme - you are perfect the way you are. In this case both are paradoxically true and false.
Can you be better by becoming someone else? If you have a flaw that you feel you need to conceal, are you inherently rejecting the true you?
Most of us want to 'fit in'. There's no real difference between using cosmetics or prosthetic teeth - or wearing a suit to work at the bank when you're a rock star in the making at the weekend. In our culture we have the choice if we can afford it.
Dermablend encourage people who use their product to submit their own 'camo confession' as part of their push to find a place in the cosmetics conversation that is something other than 'vanity'.
The model in the commercial (above) is Cassandra Bankson, whose beauty tutorials are an internet sensation in their own right
Slightly Tangenital - but related.
This ad for a feminine hygiene product (Indonesian) offers the promise of hygiene on the go - presumably on a night out (though I might be projecting an interpretation from my own psyche onto some thing completely innocent).
There seems no end of douche-bag products designed to make women feel bad about themselves and their bodies.
I have a feeling this ad was probably never placed in Indonesian media - it was featured on the Ads of the World website.
What do you think?:
Are women's insecurities targeted more by marketers?
What other examples do yo know of?
From time to time the idea of reincarnation is trotted out in advertising.
Top is a magazine in Brazil that covers luxury trends. In these ads they have imagined what Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates might look like if religions that promote the idea of another roll of the dice are right. Setting aside the question of - what on earth they did they do wrong in this life? to deserve such terrible fates (and in the absence of cash would another Llama breed with Mr Gates?).
The ads have been translated into English - Portuguese is the local lingo - so may have lost something in translation - but they remain kind of funny - who doesn't like to take a moment from their hard-scrabble lives to laugh at the uber-wealthy.
I'm being unkind though - in context the ads make a nice point - after all the magazine catalogs the bling and tat the nouveau riche are attracted to.
Ironically Zuckerberg and Gates are notoriously unaffected by their wealth - while Donald Trump takes his Midas touch thing a little too far sometimes - if you've ever visited Trump Tower in Manhatten you'll know what I mean.
My point here is about exposition - creating a visual ad then having to spell its meaning out - it's a bit clumsy. In this case it's easy to get the impression that the suit or the client's wife said something along the lines of: "E se ninguém entende que a coruja é senhor Trump?" - "Maybe you should put his name in the headline?
All communication is better when it is clear. Strip away as much clutter as possible. if your advertising is distinctive you might not need a logo (Bill Bernbach even suggested you might have a better chance of being heard if you leave it off altogether). If you have a strong visual story resist the urge to spell it out in words.
Fewer elements mean less chance of distraction and confusion.
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Little and Friday are a café, bakery, kitchen, takeout, publishers…builders of culinary empire.
Dropped into their operation in an innocuous Belmont back street (near Takapuna, Auckland). Busy with customers, cooks, bakers, barristas and servers all going about their business, delighting customers with delicious looking food, didn't sample today.
In their storefront office (open to the street) I noticed the week's to-do list - prominently including their content management calendar.
It's a fact of life that social media and blogging platforms are free but they take commitment and organisation to keep them interesting and lively.
Building an audience for your ideas and news is all well and good - but they can be a demanding lot and easily distracted. There's no shortage of choice for attention.
If a bustling little café can make time to plan - you can too. In fact it's essential.
Little and Friday site
Tell us about any small businesses you know are doing big things with social media and content.
Vodka is the ultimate in bathtub booze. The skill required to make it is almost nil. The real skill lies in marketing the stuff.
The rise of bonkers brands that command super premium prices for the same virtually tasteless, colourless and odourless alcohol based on brand storytelling and gullible punters has been meteoric.
Somewhere along the way Smirnoff's brand got consigned to the bottom shelf - or worse, somewhere in the middle; muddling consumer perceptions of a brand that once had regal aspirations (Rasputin probably distilled it in the Tsarinas tub).
The brand has launched a campaign in the US that makes it relevant again - but not to the wannabe set (is there a donwannabe set…there is now). The long format ad - cut down into broadcast length segments - mocks 'VIP' status in clubs, cruelly reveals 'mixology' as a cult - probably and off-shoot of The Family and stars stars of 30 Rock, Community and Mad Men.
The script/direction is a bit patchy - or perfectly pitched to the awkward fly-on-the-wall style of shows like Community/The Office.
The Exclusively For Everybody positioning is pure gold.
If your product is about having a good time - have a good time with it.
Don't assume your upward mobility and aspirations are also felt by your customers.
The Smirnoff campaign was created by agency 72andSunny - which is a great name for an agency (I don't know why, it just is). They also made the Square - Selling Made Simple campaign. Great product. Perfect messaging.
Dove soap launched an ad campaign that ostensibly showed 'real' women and called it 'The Campaign for Real Beauty'. It has been a doozy. Videos in the campaign have been amongst the most watched online. Not bad for a brand when the competition from kids biting other kid's fingers and kittens is so strong.
The premise that all women are beautiful was a nice position for the brand to take - after all, they make skin cleaning products - the imperative to claim youth and beauty properties is low, but the desire to tap into that category (with all of its arcane practices) is high.
It makes sense that a woman who will pay more for cosmetic beauty is going to have anxiety about both her looks and the societal and self-imposed demands that are made on her psyche and discretionary income. That's a great position for Dove - soap is a low value commodity but cleansing the soul has conquered continents and built cathedrals with cheap altar wine and wafers. So Dove becomes a Remora brand - parasitically picking up the scraps from the predator category with impunity.
The latest in their campaign shows women participating in a clinical trial for a beauty patch. Wearing the patch will make them more beautiful suggests the psychologist. Sure enough, as we follow the thoughts of the women who participate in the study, their anxieties and insecurities about their looks are revealed in confessional interviews. At the end of the study all is revealed to the participants. The patches were nothing but placebo. The feelings that some women felt of greater confidence in their appearance came from 'within'.
Whether or not the cosmetics industry is a sham is not for me to say, Charles Revson, founder of Revlon said: "In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope." So there is hardly any deception going on that people don't willingly participate in.
The difficulty that Dove seems to be having with this iteration of their campaign is that it is absurd and self referencing. It comes across more like a contrived episode of The Office that something 'real'. So the bubble is burst.
Time magazine remarked: "… Dove has failed in its latest Real Beauty iteration. While I believe that I would hide from a camera on a bad hair day, and I believe that I would accentuate the size of my nose to a forensic artist who asked me to describe myself, I just can’t believe the thinly-veiled marketing ruse that there is a patch that can make us more beautiful. It makes women seem too gullible, too desperate, and overall helpless against the all-knowing master manipulators at Unilever."
When a campaign idea gets bigger the membrane gets thinner. When you launch an idea 'under the radar' consumers will engage with it for its novelty and freshness. When it matures and becomes a convention in the category the guerrilla tactics that were used to storm the citadel don't work so well when the castle is now yours to keep . Unilever's Dove brand is mammoth - it is tricky to maintain the pretence that it is an underdog or David in a Goliath faceoff.
Go for constant iteration of the idea - let it evolve by degrees, rather than creating blockbuster sequels. When expectation is high, there's further to fall.
What the media are saying
Time magazine's story
"Unilever has basically turned Dove into a brand that's more associated with empowerment than its own products. That in itself is far more impressive than the fake magic properties of RB-X, which again, is not for sale – though Dove has a bevy of other products for you to choose from instead." - Jezebel
J.Crew are a catalog retailer in the US. Michelle Obama wore their kit at her hubby's first inauguration bash and set the tone for a presidency that was styish but not so so much Jackie O prêt-à-porter as a Yo! to go .
Something happened the other day that is worth noting. A blogger for New York magazine wrote an open letter to the company asking them to bring back a discontinued swim suit. The retailer responded - taking out a double page spread in the magazine to announce that the togs were back in all their scoop backed glory.
The blogger acknowledged the acknowledgement online and the story loop closed.
Bloggers can be influential - it pays to listen to what is being said about your products. If they are super-fans (raving fans as Tom Peters famously labelled them) then they may be incredibly influential…'mavens' - as we are throwing around the nomenclature of big-name commentators.
Be human - even if you're a big brand. Nobody cares about faceless corporations anymore. We all know that there is someone in a cubicle or a corner office pulling the levers that make things tick…don't be too slick.
If your customers ask for something - there might be value - not just at the cash register - but also as evidence your brand is responsive and fleet of foot.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.