Waste of money but still pretty fricken cool.

So Microsoft clearly has cash to burn and they’ve decided to let their marketing department play with some of it. In this months Forbes magazine, some lucky readers will get a print ad that will give them wifi access anywhere they bring the magazine. Powered by T Mobile and promoting Microsoft Office 365, this is some way out of the box thinking.

 

Check out the feature on adweek.com for more details.

Want to crowdsource your ad builds? Think again.

Commercials aren’t cheap to make and generally you’re stuck with only one option. Why not send it out to the masses and let them make the commercial for you? You’ll have lots to choose from and the price you’ll pay to use it will be so inconsequential that your bosses will view you as the most savvy budget adhering member of the team.

I’m sure Skittles thought that putting together a competition to win a vending machine would be a surefire bet to get some quality material. People got to make their own commercials with no funding from the brand and then they just wrapped the end of the spot with a supplied clip.

Unfortunately they learned the lesson that many teenagers in high school do, things live forever on the internet. I’m sure there were quality submissions that met the requirements but someone decided to make a commercial that was completely over the top and it’s not apparent who actually made it. Watch below. Depending where you work this link to the video could be NSFW.

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Choosing a marketing spokesperson

There’s a lot of endorsement money out there for the taking if you’re a relevant celebrity. On all accounts it’s a much bigger risk for the client than it is for the endorser. People will pay celebrities to do just about anything. In 2011 the daily newspaper the Metro had Lady Gaga be the guest editor for the day, Shannen Dorherty is all about getting her education online, and Bob Dole told the world he was having difficulty and needed Viagra.

There are some great companies out there to help you find the right spokesperson. There are traditional agencies or even new tech companies like Brand Match Score that use technology to aggregate available information, look for current trends, and put them into an algorithmic to find the right one for you. Even if you find the perfect one, things can still go wrong.

Generally brands want to stay on the safe side and avoid celebs known as the usual suspects. No one want to pay someone for their endorsement and incur all the marketing costs to have it all ruined by a domestic dispute, a DUI, or other controversy. 

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Blackberry is touting Alicia Keys as their new Global Creative Director which seemed like a very safe move. If she passed the Secret Service vetting for the President’s parties, she’s got to be good enough for Blackberry. Clearly this is a business deal that had been a long time in the making so why would she be openly tweeting from her iPhone? If someone is going for a top job at Nike, they’re probably not going to go into the interview wearing Reeboks. Is this really a big deal? It’s hard to hold someone accountable for things that happened before the official announcement of the partnership but with a title like “Global Creative Director” you’d think she’d have access to the Blackberry 10 well before then.

Is it as bad as Oprah tweeting about her love for her new Windows Tablet from her iPad? No, but it’s still an uninspiring move. A company teetering on the edge of it’s demise like Blackberry doesn’t  need anyone to help give them that final push.

Internet Explorer

Judging by the nearly 8 million hits as I write this, Microsoft seems to have nailed this new ad for Internet Explorer. I don’t think I’ll be leaving Chrome anytime soon because of the ad but I have watched it quite a new times and enjoy seeing my childhood flash before my eyes.

 

New England International Auto Show

Boston’s annual auto show isn’t comparable to Detroit’s, but what does come through annually is usually a good chance to see what’s new. There has been a vast improvement with the representation since the auto bailouts but it seems that the industry is still afraid to start throwing real marketing dollars behind the traveling circus.


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There are plenty of vehicles to sit in and lots of new knobs and screens to touch but that is about all the draw most booths have. Give-a-ways were nil, printed marketing materials required hikes to the information tables, and even the show workers seemed rather absent.

 
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For all that seemed lacking, Kia seemed to be the only brand bringing anything to the event. Their area was littered with their human size spokes-hamsters which I saw quite a few people posing with, they had a self service driving simulation game, and game using an xBox Kinect like camera that challenged the user to see how many options they can add to their vehicle.

 

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Why is it that the automaker selling some of the cheapest vehicles on the lot was putting the most skin in the game? (Editors note: Two Kia commercials just aired in front of me as I finished that paragraph) I wouldn’t expect champagne from the Mercedes display but something to engage the audience would be nice.

 

What do I really think would sell cars? Virtual test drives in simulators. If the money was spent to allow drivers to push vehicles to their absolute limits safely, that would drive people to the dealerships.

 

Guess there’s always next year…

 

Old things, new techology

I was out and about in Allston a while back and came across something I hadn’t seen in a long time and it being used for a very modern item. The art of painting billboards is something that always fascinated me when I was driving through New York City or saw the faint remnants on brownstones in Boston. Looks like Microsoft was feeling a bit nostalgic when the push for Windows 8 hit because on the side of 1 North Beacon St I found this hand painted advertisement. Way more simple than most out there, but still a cool throwback for a new computer technology that can be partially to blame for the evolution into digital printing that made painters obsolete. 

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There’s a short film called Up There about billboard painters in NYC that Stella Artois funded that I recommend. It’s neat to watch and also interesting to see how Stella was able to double their marketing dollars by telling the stories of the people behind their advertisements. Win/Win

Tis the season

It’s that time of year again where companies pull out all the stops to shine up their image and get some free publicity. It’s been happening for decades and everyone, including the news media still eats it up. Don’t get me wrong, I eat it up too, but its a very strategic piece of an organization’s marketing mix.

The first time I remember something like this in my era was when the Polartec manufacturing facility in Lawrence MA burned down weeks before Christmas. The owner Aaron Feuerstein promised to keep all of the employees on the payroll while they rebuilt. It’s was a holiday miracle because many of the employees wouldn’t have been able to make it without a paycheck during the season, let alone during the reconstruction. The media ran with the story for weeks and although the decision ultimately bankrupted the company it’s still something I think of during the holidays and when I put on a Polartec Fleece.

Today I came across this story from the Lego Company that responded to a child that wrote them a heartbreaking letter about how he’d saved up for particular set and by the time he got the money together it was discontinued and selling for a small fortune on eBay.

They sent him the set for free along with a nice note about how proud they are to have him as a customer. It’s now viral and just in time for the shopping season.

I do question some pieces of the video due to the multiple camera angles and the tearing open of a box which I believe the parents would have had to of inspected before giving it to him. The reading of the entire letter through me a bit too. I’m sure most people don’t think as deeply as I do about this kind of stuff but being a marketer I question every time I see a can of Pepsi in a movie. Either way, it’s heartwarming piece of video.

Twinkie Marketing

Last week Hostess announced that they were shutting down operations due to an inability to reach an agreement with the bakers union. Immediately following this announcement there was a Its a Wonderful Life run on every awful/awesome product they made. Some people bid up to $10,000 on eBay for some of the last (doubtful they’ll actually ever pay that) but a buzz was created.

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There are very few products that completely disappear forever, especially when they are a long standing part of American culture. When I think of Twinkies, I think of a story my brother told me about meeting the late Ted Kennedy. Ted, being the politician he was, asked my brother, a regular joe, what he’d like to see the government do with his tax dollars. My brother said that he’d heard about a supercollider project that had lost it’s funding but he had a theory that could only be proven with it so he would like to see it regain their funding again. His theory he explained was, if you brought two Twinkies up to the speed of light and smashed them together, he believed that the cake would pass through each other intact, but the creme would somehow become radioactive. Ted quickly left the room but for a moment, two people of very different upbringings were about to find a common denominator in a Twinkie.

Although that story is quite off topic, it shows that at sometime in most American’s lives, a Hostess product has been consumed, and it was probably pretty good. When they announced that they were halting production those cakes gained a place of priority because if the opportunity was missed, chances are you might not get that chance again. It’s the model of any timed deal thats currently advertised, we know it might happen again, but if it doesn’t, we don’t want to be the ones that missed out.

There was a slim chance that even if Hostess did go out of business that we would never see Twinkies again, but by reinvigorating the market, they increased the value of their assets if and when it was time to sell them, if they did work out an agreement and restarted the lines, their market awareness is now through the roof.

A strategic and genius marketing plan.

Location Based Software/ Geolocation Apps

I’m giving a presentation tonight at Umass Boston about LBS and geolocation apps. It’s suppose to stay pretty basic but I’m going to have a hard time not going on a tangent about how it was a giant botched and/or missed opportunity for marketers.

If you were at SXSW Interactive around 2009/2010 geolocation apps were all anyone was talking about. Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, everyone had one and everyone was getting crazy amounts of funding. The problem was, the apps were pushed out to be the first, not to be the best. Gowalla is the example that most people will know of that pivoted so many times, that their users got fed up with them and eventually they were sold to Facebook who shut the whole service down in March of this year. Foursquare saw huge growth from 2010 to 2011 but has not entered into a plateau of members because the game has gotten old.

Gamification is the current word that everyone is using but usefulness and practicality is what needs to be thought through. Services like Uber which show the location of taxis and limos close to you and even Grindr which maps out men looking for a hookup are connecting the web with the world instead of the world with the web.

 

Maybe this covers my rant for the day.  

FutureM

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I spent a week’s worth of vacation time volunteering at the FutureM conference in Boston two weeks ago. It may have been one of my best vacations in a long time. I was surrounded by peers that were all feeding off of each other. It may be a marketing conference but it was really an entrepreneurship conference. Every new friend came with a well practiced elevator pitch and every conversation ended with a business card exchange. If you weren’t selling your new idea, you were selling yourself to join someone else’s idea.

 

I got to rekindle some friendships with old coworkers that went on to Juniperks, Where, and Progress Partners which gave me hope/inspiration and I checked out the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Microsoft NERD building as well. 

It had been a crappy few weeks leading up to the conference but as everything wound down on Friday, I knew I had come to the right place to lift my spirits. Now I just need to keep that feeling alive in my future ventures.

 

Big thanks to MITX and all the other FutureM Staff and volunteers.