Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bad tagline and creepy characters for QSR brands

Yesterday, USA Today reported that Burger King is changing its tagline from "Have It Your Way" to "Be Your Way".

I think this is terrible.

What the hell does "be your way" really mean?

The author of the article surmises that it:
reflects the drumbeat Millennial theme of customization — which has been core to Burger King for decades. (Burger King says a Whopper sandwich, for example, technically can be ordered 221,184 different ways.)...Just maybe the new slogan puts BK slightly more in tune with the more Millennial-friendly slogans at McDonald’s (“I’m Loving It”) and Taco Bell (“Live Mas”).
I'm not really sure what makes these taglines more "Millennial" than anything else. Really what does that mean? I get the customization but how is "Be your way" more tied to that theme than "Have it your way"? I get much more of a customization message from the original than the new line.

SVP of Global Brand Management was quoted in a phone interview, saying, “We want to be talked about and connected to pop culture. We want to be an iconic brand way beyond quick-service restaurants.”

Ok, I get that. But it's really not clear how this shift to an existentialist way of "being" has anything to do with the brand's goals. In fact, getting away from a tagline that has been ingrained in culture for the past 40 years and moving to something softer and more nebulous could actually be more harmful. But only time will tell.

Another recent announcement in the QSR arena comes from McDonald's, who is adding a new animated happy meal character named, what else, Happy. Happy has been used in France since 2009 and across parts of Europe and Latin America since.

Can anyone else say CREEPY? Suiting pair perhaps to the creepy new Ronald as well.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Creating ads is kinda like making bread.

Think about creating ads and making bread have a lot in common.
Get the ingredients ready.
Strategy is like lining up your ingredients. Bakers measure out all their ingredients. Advertisers gather data points about their customers.

Mix the ingredients together.
Just like making a dough, crafting the creative brief is about bringing the components of your research together with client goals.

Let it rise.
The proofing process of breadmaking is like the ideation process of creativity.

Roll it out and shape it.
Apply the concepts to all the various media available.

Bake it.
Create it and bring the idea to life.

Eat it.
Analyze how well you did. Analytics might not be as tasty as a crunchy loaf of baguette, but it all depends on your point of view. I would say that it can be.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Evolving vs. Reengineering Campaigns

Have you ever thought about old, classic advertising? There are numerous campaigns which have had a lasting effect, long after they have stopped running and the brand has moved on in another direction. A few years ago,  Alka Seltzer and Orville Reddenbacher brought back some of their old and well-known advertising, for good or bad (Digitized Orville was creepy).

Sometimes I wonder if in fact, we push to change ad campaigns well before they are ready to go and die in a back shelf somewhere, only to satisfy our own needs to create. Of course, someone told these brands that their advertising was stale and needed to be refreshed. And in some cases this may be true. But I don't think in all instances. There maybe new ways to update a solid thought behind an ad campaign that could continue for a long time.

There is strength in consistency and sometimes too often marketing and advertising messages are changed for no real reason. Usually it's because a new ad agency has acquired the account and wants to put their mark on it with something new and shiny. And that's all fine and dandy, but that can also be done by continuing on the path set up by a predecessor as well.

In some instances, if the idea was big enough, all it takes is evolving the concept vs. starting over from scratch. The ideas that are based on a truth that still exist can still survive. But if the truth has changed, then the idea needs to as well.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Creativity Is Hard

Let's admit it. Creativity is hard. It can be exhausting just as much as it can be thrilling.

I've worked with non-creatives who understood that. They get that it takes time to craft something. And that the muses aren't always smiling down upon us with inspiration. But I've also worked with folks who think it shouldn't be that hard--sadly both creatives and non-creatives. They figure they can type on a keyboard so they can write or that they look at pictures so they know design.

What it really comes down to though is that good creative is a combination of strategy and creativity. And that makes it much more complicated.

Finding a great photo or making a cool design isn't enough. Writing the most hilarious script or headline isn't enough. It has to tie back into the strategy. It has to feel fresh. It needs to have an element of surprise.

Now, there are some people I've worked with who would rather back in to a strategy. And that makes my skin crawl. It's just not the way to do things. The strategy of who you're talking to, why the hell they should care, or behavioral or cultural attitudes is really key to coming up with smart, effective and good creative. Creative briefs should include this information. All too often, they tend to end up with generic, useless information that doesn't help drive anything creative.

In those instances, I've taken it upon myself to hunt down strategic thinking I can employ in the work. Research isn't always easy. It can take away from being in the "creative zone", if you will. But it's invaluable and very necessary, especially if you don't have a team of strategists providing you with usable insights. At my last agency, I was probably the only creative who was accessing eMarketer, Forrester, or the like.

Sure, there are times when an idea just comes to you and it really is effortless. But it's not the norm. The headlines, the visuals, the user experience...they are things that are slaved over by people who are looking to find the best way to do something. And you can tell sometimes when a TV spot or even banner ad has been picked apart to the point that there is no idea left. Removing the good creative leaves nothing but a pathetic shell of a "reason to believe" with a call to action.

Even the "greats" of classical creativity like da Vinci, Van Gogh, Shakespeare, and Einstein (yes, he was creative!), had to work hard to achieve what they did. To think any other way is just absurd.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Do you need a specialist or a generalist?

+ Specialists vs. Generalists. This is not a new topic. But it's one that seems to pop up again every few years. Why? As agencies set up their yearly plans based on what their client needs are going to be, it becomes a staffing question for them.

Reasons FOR GENERALISTS: When you need folks that are strategists, and in client-facing or leadership roles. They have a broad understanding of how all the pieces work and fit together.

REASONS FOR SPECIALISTS: Expertise in creating, developing, and producing specific media is useful if you need someone who knows how to develop a mobile app, increase Search rankings, write a radio spot, or design a logo. More often than not these are makers.

The funny thing is that I see more and more job descriptions out there for Creatives looking for both generalists and specialists. People who can see the big picture but then will sit down and understand all the nuances that go into producing something as particular as a mobile app (for example).

Is it a wishlist on the hiring manager, or perhaps it's more of a shift toward new skill sets needed for creatives that are both broad and yet, at the same time, singular. But isn't that like asking for something to be both a solid and a liquid at the same time? Sure, there are instances of great creative people who have skills where they are equally apt at being a generalist and a specialist, but are they the norm? Perhaps it's more of a evolutionary process.

Often the methodology is for more junior creatives to be specialists and then migrate to a more generalist position as they climb up the corporate ladder. As one begins to oversee more disciplines and groups, a greater understanding of the whole machine and the larger picture is more important than a specific intricate working component. Those who inherently weren't paying as much attention to the industry as a whole ("why should I care about what accounts other agencies are winning or who won what at Cannes?") find there is a need to in order to grow the business, those underneath them and their clients' business.

Although, what it means is that you need both generalists and specialists. The folks at IgnitionGroup wrote a piece on specialists and generalists with this interesting piece:
RG/A’s Bob Greenberg uses a framework of Thinking/Doing and Stories/Systems as a progressive way to think about essential agency competencies. While the agency would have specialists in each quadrant of this model, the generalists would exist right in the center.
In Greenberg's model, traditional agencies tend to lean to the left side, while digital agencies lean to the right. You can check out the "The Way Forward" presentation deck from the 2010 Mirren Conference.

An older Adage article looked at it from a Millennial point of view, but really it's not generation specific. Carolyn Hadlock, the author, does make this fantastic point:
Being insatiably curious is the most important "skill" to have. Generalists have a very democratic approach to communication. Healthy agency cultures recognize that a writer could be the best photographer in the building, an account manager could be the most accomplished editor, or an assistant creative director could be the head of information technology at another agency. The capacity to work across disciplines should not only be nurtured, but demanded.
Now to me, that first sentence is the most important part of the entire article. But it's true that specialists can be curious too. But when we start looking for e-commerce copywriters or annual report designers, there's something wrong.

What we should be looking for are those with solid skill sets (can write, UX, design, etc), those who can think in interesting ways (conceptually and strategically), and who are curious and want to learn.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Integrating storytelling in content strategy

Storytelling. Content. Both are buzzwords. If you're thinking about ways to mash the two together, use them as a combo for a way to strategically thinking about what you're creating. There are lots of stories that can be told as part of a content strategy, and here are just a few themes to build around:

What you stand for: Your brand should stand for something. And, if it doesn't, you need to figure it out (and maybe do some basic branding exercises). Tell stories around the theme that you stand for: Quality. Fun. Friendship. Financial Smarts. Service. It doesn't really matter what it is, there are lots of stories to tell around these themes.

The problems you solve: Your brand is associated with solving your customer's problems...be it to look stylish, be financially fiscal, or fuel their morning. Telling the stories of how your products or services in an interesting way can be great content for your brand. You can also frame these stories in a couple different ways: as told by the brand or as told by customers.

Your history: Whether your a new company or have been around for centuries, there's always a history story to tell. Many brands have integrated the meme theme of #tbt (or Throwback Thursday) into their social media content strategy. But there are many other ways to tell this story in a unique and individual way that is ownable by the brand as well.

Your future: We don't stand still. We're forward looking. Tell stories about where you want to take your brand--you can even have your customers help frame this story for you with what they want to see from you in the future too.

Behind your scenes: Take people behinds the scenes of who you are. This is related to, but different from what you stand for. It's how you make what you stand for come to life--from your executive chef or innovation department.

These are just starting points, and within each of these you'll also find many, many other ways to start to drill down.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Ideas matter.

+ Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) gave a presentation titled "The Golden Age of Bullshit" at Advertising Week Europe 2014. You can watch it below:
Throughout the presentation he hit on data that doesn't back up all the things that pundits are constantly saying about the evolution of the advertising and marketing business. And, he's right about a lot of things, some of which have always bothered me. You look at case studies that talk about "amazing, great success" because 1,000 people participated in a contest or 10K watched a video online. We work the data to tell the story that we believe to be true (hence bullshit), and sell it in like snake oil salesmen. We care more about channels and the medium than the ideas. I remember someone once told me that ideas didn't matter anymore--what a horrible, sad state for this business if that was to be true. Ideas are not just for creative, they're a part (or should be) of each step in the process of creating advertising, branding, marketing and communications from strategy to development.

At the end of the talk, Hoffman is interviewed and in response to a question of an audience member he says this:
"We are so obsessed with delivery systems, with what media you're going to use. We have to get back to ideas. That is what has always built brands. Great products and great ideas about those products that can be delivered in any advertising channel. A good idea is a good idea in any channel. A bad idea is a bad idea in any channel." - Bob Hoffman
Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Yes.
How and why we as an industry have gotten away from this basic thinking is just crazy. Ideas matter. It's what we do. It's what we sell. It's our value to our clients. Pretending that it's not is just absurdity.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Collection of April Fools

+Busy today but here's just a few April Fools to keep you entertained. More and more brands are definitely jumping on the bandwagon. Some should probably not bother.

April Fools Pranks Across the Food & Restaurant World. The Marmite energy drink is quite nasty.

April Fools collection from The Drum

More Canadian April Fools

Herbal Essences

Nest + Virgin

Cheetos pretended to come out with a perfume called Cheeteau.


April Fools Top 8 brand pranks according to Social Media Today.

Think Geek April Fools products.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Content, Marketing, and Social articles worth a read

+ Here are a few things worth reading (most of them are quick), that I've been reading today.

How to Tell the User's Story looks at how a user's knowledge bridges the gap between client's expertise and our expertise. The article talks through ways to capture the user's knowledge and incorporate it into the overall process.

The most key thing in How to Do Brand Publishing Right is probably this:
Publishers, on the other hand, begin with an editorial mission. Think of any great publication, whether it be The Economist, Cosmopolitan or anything in between, and the mission is clear. They stand for something.The mission doesn’t change at the end of the quarter or when success is attained, but only deepens and becomes more salient...So, the first step to successful brand publishing is to stop thinking about content and start thinking about what you have to offer the world.

Why Marketing Has Changed Forever ends with a question that needs answering, "If marketing practice has changed so fundamentally, why do our marketing organizations look so much the same?"

Brand Engagement and Value Exchange is a good read for understanding how to get to engagement by creating value beyond the basic transaction of payment for a product or service.

Real Time Marketing vs. Ready For Anything Marketing slices and dices the differences and points to RFA as much better than RTM.
Don’t be myopic in your strategy. Migrate to where it makes sense. Tide could have killed on The Walking Dead last night (pun intended). Considering how many adults with kids watch that show, knowing that Tide can get out blood stains would have been a helpful, valuable, contextually relevant addition to the conversation.
(I know I am picking on Tide here a lot… and only because I think they have the chops and potential to be better.)
The reality is, we are viewing social channels the same way we do traditional channels. The online conversation is fluid. There is overlap and we must look at the full spectrum of opportunity vs. thinking that 3 hours dedicated to one program is a wise investment. I’d much rather see a brand like Tide latch onto a show like The Walking Dead and be there every week. Engaging with fans, understanding the story line, and being an actual fan.
Why can’t brands be fans of the shows they watch?
The point of really finding out what your target audience likes and creating a conversation around that is key. True, it's also a bit borrowed interest, but less so than jumping on the Oscar bandwagon, where every brand out there is doing the same thing.

Content, Measure For Measure provides some tips around helping make your content pay off.

How Capturing Consumer Intent Creates Better Advertising can be summed up with this:
The future of advertising will not only rely on matching content based on search and share behavior but will go much deeper by understanding the mindset and intent of the consumer. Advertisers will make strides by creating engaging customer experiences that pair with what consumers are looking for in real time. Intent targeting might just be the most powerful weapon in an advertiser's arsenal for increasing engagement and conversions. And, when deployed correctly, it can dramatically improve the path-to-purchase dynamic going forward.
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