Thursday, May 28, 2009

Levi’s Gets Political

Wow, what a gutsy choice by Levi’s.

Whether you’re for it, or against it, certainly you’ve been hearing about California’s same-sex marriage ban. It’s a heated debate, but is it too hot for a marketer to touch?

Levi’s dives straight in, taking sides with the gays. Making a stand. Saying, “we believe in equal rights.” Will it attract customers? I bet it will.

Levi’s store mannequins are being adorned with “White Knots,” the symbol for same-sex marriage rights.

This post isn’t about “good” vs. “bad.” It’s about building a belief brand, and being part of the conversations however nasty it may get.

As they say, victory goes to the bold, not to the smart. (Perhaps it goes to both.)

Read the New York Times article, HERE.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tom Morello’s Hard-Rock-Mission-Slash-Marketing-Lesson

Tom Morello is a modern day guitar god, having rocked the crap out of the nineties with Rage Against the Machine. He dabbled in supergroup mediocrity in Audioslave with Chris Cornell, and now? Now he’s back. And he’s back to his save-the-world-with-rock mission. Rage was always very political, speaking truth to power, and giving the oppressed a very loud soundtrack. Morello is taking those beliefs, and now mobilizing the masses – turning his fan base into an actionable mob.

The new group is called Street Sweeper Social Club, currently opening for the NIN/JA tour. (That’s Nine Inch Nails / Jane’s Addiction for the kids out there.)

He’s got a new front man, Bootsy somebody, who raps as well if not as angrily as Zach de la Rocha did in Rage. And here’s the kicker. After shredding and riffing for a good 45 minutes (I can’t lie, the crowd was loving it), Morello grabs the mic and says this:

“We are on a mission. To feed the hungry, fight the power, and rock the f*** out.” (The crowd goes wild.) He continues, “If you are with us, text in right now …” And yes, right there in the middle of the concert, people took out their phones, jacked-up on rock adrenaline, and joined the SSSC mission. Right then and there. I know I did.

Every night, Morella takes an enthusiastic crowd, and turns them into a community around a belief to do good. (There are also a lot of great online/social media bells and whistles with SSSC and the NIN/JA tour.

So, what can marketers learn from Tom Morello? First thing, I’d say, is to find your mission, save the world, and rock the f*** out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Real Winner Of American Idol (Wasn't This Guy)

Hint: it was an advertiser, yet they paid nothing for the exposure. They had one of the most well-produced spots in the 2-hour spectacle, and paid zero for production. And while Kiss was busy lighting the stage on fire, and the losers were busy taking their last gasps of the spotlight, the real winner was busy saving the world.

The real winner of American Idol this year was Toms Shoes.

You remember the spot. A hip shoe company using AT&T service as they go on a mission to give new shoes to kids in need. I don’t know about you, but my take-away wasn’t “I love AT&T.” It was “I love Toms Shoes.”

We’ve seen this structure for a spot before. One friend/colleague of mine calls it “Reflected Light.” By putting the spotlight on one of their corporate customers, they look good. Or so the theory goes. (See the SAP campaign, or Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield.) Did it work for AT&T? I think it worked a lot harder for Toms Shoes.

I love what Toms Shoes is doing as a company, and I bet a lot of other people do too. (For every pair you buy, they give a new pair to charity.) And I would buy some, but, well, the shoes are so … ugly. I am in line to buy based on belief and shared values. Just waiting for a product I actually want.

See that? A company that does good gets customers who want to buy. And they might get other companies to pay for their TV spots.

Toms Shoes site is HERE.

What else can doing good can get a brand? How about an A-list director? (Story, HERE.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cisco: Welcome To The Human Network

So, there you are, one of the biggest tech infrastructure companies in the world, and you’ve got a great tag line. You’re looking at the next year’s marketing plan, and wondering if you should just keep sponsoring more golf tournaments.

Or perhaps, there’s another way. Something that engages people. Maybe there’s a way to use your power for good.

Cisco has decided to do just that. They’re re-interpreting their tag, “Welcome To The Human Network” and engaging people to go green. It’s a program called One Million Acts Of Green, and they already have over 1.7 million people signed up worldwide. (They should’ve called it One Billion Acts Of Green, since billion is the new million.)

They frame it to support their message – that there is power in this human network. (And in case anyone misses that connection, the CEO says it at least three times in the web site’s welcome video.)

They’re not asking for much. Just one little thing. Multiply that times a million, and you start having an impact.

Welcome to the human network indeed.

One criticism: the creative. A video of the CEO talking (badly) on the web site? The name of the program doesn’t use the phrase “Human Network?” It’s enough to make me think this was cooked up by their PR firm. Seriously, people. When a program is this good, let’s do it justice with some decent creative.

(PS – I committed to my one little act of green. I’ve been using paper cups for my coffee, tossing about two a day. So, I’m going old-school and from now on, using a classic ceramic mug. Less waste is a good thing. And my mug is cool.)

Check out their program, HERE.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Do: Drive Less

This is the paradox of big companies trying to "do good." They can reduce, reuse, and recycle all they want, and even ask us to do the same. But in the same breath, aren't they convincing us to use their product less? To bike, bus, and carpool, instead of driving a new Honda all over?

Ah well. Small steps. And great ideas in the process. I still can't help but like this Honda spot from Wieden+Kennedy London.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

At Last.

The One Club has announced the Green Pencil, “Honoring excellence in environmental advertising.”

From the One Club site: “As history has proven, the power of advertising can do more than just create awareness for a brand. It can inspire. It can influence. It can even change the fortunes of a brand on a global scale. Just imagine what it could do for our planet. To that end, The One Club is asking for more than your eco-friendly One Show entries. We're asking all creative and strategic thinkers in our industry to approach environmental organizations that could benefit from the power of advertising. Not only could your efforts benefit the planet, they may well end up landing you the next Green Pencil.”

This is fantastic, since it may bring even better creative to the “green” cause. Although come to think of it, the One Show has been strong in the public service category for a long, long time.

They list 17 environmental groups on the Green Pencil site. I hope these aren’t the only “clients” they will consider for the Green Pencil.

Here’s why. Non-profits have small budgets. That’s why I love seeing big for-profit brands applying their colossal budgets toward doing good. Imagine the Organic Consumers Association’s marketing budget. Now imagine the Tide detergent marketing budget. It’s got to be ten times the size – or a hundred times. So, which program is going to have a bigger impact? (Social media may change that equation.)

I hope we see entries for the Green Pencil that include for-profit brands. They're doing at least as much to help the environment as the non-profits these days. Brands with gigantic budgets that activate their customer base to create some massive change. Otherwise this is just a call for entries of more ads that “ran.” Great creative with little impact.

At the very least we will see some great ideas. Maybe it’ll inspire some big brand with some actual money do take up the torch and do some good.

Read about the Green Pencil HERE.

I guess now I won't have to do THIS. (Or do I?)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trendwatch: “The Future Of Marketing” Is Good

So, the head of Planning at Modernista! Gareth Kay has written a little article called “The Future Of Marketing.” In it, he identifies four things smart brands and ad campaigns will be doing more of in the future. And guess what? The number one trend he identifies is NOT “Social Media” (the buzzword of the year). Nope. It’s this:

1. Brands will be built on cultural and social missions, not commercial propositions.

“Marketing historically has been obsessed with the concept of positioning – how you are different to your competitors in your category. Increasingly, great brands are realizing that people don’t see categories and don’t obsess about them. What actually matters is having a point of view on the world, a cultural mission to ask people to rally around. You can begin to see this come to life in marketing ideas like Dove’s ‘Campaign For Real Beauty’ and, more importantly, embedded into the very DNA of businesses.”

To read about his other 3 predictions, go HERE.

(Is it just me, or is it odd that this prediction comes from the agency responsible for the Hummer and Cadillac ads? Hey, some of those ads are enviably fantastic, but those brands seem pretty absent of a “cultural mission.” Perhaps that’s all in the past now. And if you're interested, Modernista's website is strange, and lives HERE.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

The (More) Complete SunChips Story

More on SunChips. Again, a huge brand taking an earth-friendly position. And the ads are good. (From an agency called Juniper Park in Toronto. The cybersphere rumors them to be a spin-off from BBDO.)

They won some awards with a “solar powered” billboard.

And they also did this solar-powered newpaper ad (which is hanging in my creative director's office.)

And of course, they’re activating it all with social media like Facebook and consumer-generated content.
It all comes together on the Sun Chips website, HERE.

As BrandWeek says of the eco-angle, “This strategy has paid off handsomely as Sun Chip sales are up 17.6%, totaling $201.8 million for the 52 weeks ending June 15, per IRI.”

And as the Sun Chips brand manager told BrandWeek, “We're seeing a lot of customers and retailers interested in these efforts. This resonates a lot with them. With Wal-Mart, we had a partnership earlier this year to be one of few brands they are pushing in the environment space along with GE light bulbs and Tide cold water. … It’s so on trend.”

Read the whole BrandWeek article, HERE.

My guess is, as they continue to take "small steps" to help the environment, they'll have more great stories to tell in their advertising.

Check out Juniper Park’s website, HERE.

Mad props to all involved.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Looking Directly Into The SunChips (bag)

Sun Chips is a Frito-Lay brand that’s tried to tout its “powered by the sun” positioning. Presumably, they’ve got some solar panels powering their facilities. And now, they’ve got something else to talk about.

They’ve redesigned their packaging to use compostable bags. What the hell does that mean, you ask? It means the bag will crumble in the dirt in just 14 weeks. It means, “The new SunChip bag's outer layer will be made with polyactic acid (PLA), a compostable, plant based renewable material. By Earth Day 2010, all North American Sunchips bags will feature the new 100% compostable packaging.” In enviro-speak, it will significantly reduce greenhouse emissions, and since the new packaging is plant-based, it will cut down on petroleum use.

So? So, now they’ve got something else to talk about, and the greater snacking public has another reason to go for the Sun Chips. They're a leader (in one respect) in their category. They're different.

Now let’s wait to see if the ads are any good.

You can read the more complete story, HERE.

UPDATE: the ads are good. Here's a nice, simple video from their agency, Juniper Park. Thanks to their planner/strategy guru Jason O. for sharing.)