Monday, November 29, 2010

Boring, babes, and a boy on a horse.

(Thanks to Demetrios for leading me to this discussion.)

Hello ladies. Look at the Old Spice data. Now look at Axe data. Now look at Old Spice data. We don't have privileged access to all the data, but the info below gives us a snapshot of what is going on in the male deodorant/body wash category.

I'm going to make a pretty reasonable assumption: for most men, the male deodorant /body wash category is pretty mundane and the the use of it is very functional. It is the "Give me something so that I don't stink after a workout" kind of mentality. In order to make purchasing more interesting, however, Unilever's Axe launched a more emotive campaign. It came up with tongue-in-cheek and sexually-overt (many would argue trashy) claims to draw young males to its brand. The Axe value proposition is simple. Axe helps you get girls- and lots of them.

Of course when Unilever chizzled out a large niche with its branding, P&G had to get a bigger piece of the action. P&G tried rehabilitating its Old Spice brand using the suave Isaiah Mustafa. The "perfect man" riding on horseback was a lot more experienced, sensitive and mature than any of the Axe characters. Very quickly, the Old Spice ads became a pop culture sensation and total YouTube downloads of the Mustafa ads exceed 120,000,000 views. But who's the biggest winner in the sales category- Old Spice or Axe?

The numbers above suggest neither. The real winner seems to be the Gillette brand. Here lies a simplified and powerful finding. When more attention is drawn to a blase, boring, and base category, the winner can be the category leader. In this case, P&G's portfolio (Gillette and Old Spice) won the most.

But, when there is a winner, there has to be a loser and in this case, Axe took the hit. I'm not going to delve deeper into this topic, but I thought I would leave the last word with Axe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bieber Tube and what You watch on the Tube.

We're on the advent of a historic first. YouTube is about to have its first 400,000,000 viewer video. In a little over a year, Justin Bieber went from obscurity to the reigning king of You Tube downloads. I'm pretty sure most of us know the story how the Biebs was discovered (by accident) on YouTube by Scooter Braun. But, Biebers isn't obscure anymore. He owns the most downloaded YouTube video of all time- and there isn't a video on the horizon that is close to catching up.

BIEBER: 400,000,000 views (Rank:1)

The Bieber phenomenon - and other You Tube data points, can tell us quite a bit about a lot of things about online marketing and YouTube visitors. By counting down the top 5 most downloaded YouTube videos - and cherry-picking a few examples, let's take a look.

The Titanic Effect is alive and well
The teenage heart-throb's main audience is tween girls. So, Biebs is likely benefiting from the Titanic effect. The Titanic ruled the box office (until Avatar came along), not so much because the masses loved it- but rather because the tweenie girls went to the show over and over. Titanic was LOVED by a narrow audience. I'm speculating here that the Bieb's YouTube reign here can be at least partly attributed this this phenomenon.

Entertain Me Effect

Four of the five most downloaded videos on YouTube are pop-music based: Bieber, Gaga, Shakira, and Eminem/Rihana. This next point is pretty obvious. People who are going on YouTube are going primarily for entertainment purposes. Note the disproportionate weight of musical entertainment.

GAGA 310,000,000 views (Rank:2)

SHAKIRA 245,000,000 (Rank:4)

EMINEM 215,000,000 views (Rank:5)

The Awwwe Effect works online
There are some videos that just "go viral". Generally speaking, these are feel-good videos like the Charlie finger bite, the JK wedding or the dramatic chipmunk. Unlike their pop music counterparts, these videos are not made by celebrities with existing brand equity. These videos tend to be the "slice of life" videos that get posted on social networks. These virals tend to have a universal emotional appeal (the "awwwwwwwe" factor). (This "awwweee" effect reminds me of a line from my old advertising mentor who said, "When in doubt, stick a cute puppy in the ad. At least you get the warm fuzzies...")

CHARLIE 250,000,000 views (Rank:3)

WEDDING 60,000,000 (plus 10,000,000 in other formats)views

Traditional Media Support helps
We just seen multi-platinum videos. Anyway you look at it, the highest viewed YouTube videos all receive traditional media support. Just think of the PR Gaga gets on MTV, Opera, TMZ and Access Hollywood type programs. Even the JK wedding video is not entirely an internet phenomenon. YouTube views skyrocketed after the video appeared on national morning shows.

15 minutes of fame and the new celebrity

The YouTubes and MetaCafes of the world have facilitated a new type of journalism: video blogging. A lot of the video journalists get their "15 minutes" of fame by posting up something very timely. Take this example. This young man was among the first to post up commentary on the Kanye/Taylor swift fiasco. When word-of-mouth spread about Kanye's "sorry Taylor but Beyonce had the best video of all time" line, this blogger, by virtue of being first, had already gotten a jump-start on YouTube and Google rankings for "kanye west taylor swift" searches.

But video bloggers can become celebrities in their own right. Take Zuzana from BodyRock, for example. Her routine posts on fitness receive millions of downloads each, making her a contender for the most popular video blogger. While my trainer goes to BodyRock for grueling work-out ideas, I suspect that Zuzana's fan base is mostly there to be entertained.

A couple surprises
You'd expect that a lot of young guys would tune in to YouTube to catch key highlights of the Victoria's Secret fashion show. Yet, Zuzana the trainer receives millions of viewers more for her weekly work-outs than the much-hyped annual fashion show featuring some of the "best looking women" of one of the strongest brands. I'd like to hear my readers' thoughts on this.

VICTORIA'S SECRET 3,000,000 views

In 2008, we witnessed one of the most historical presidential elections in American history. President Obama was elected. His election victory was largely attributed to his use of online campaigning. But, for some reason, this did not translate into high viewership of his acceptance speech on You Tube. Why not?

OBAMA 1,500,0000

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whatcha see ain't what I see....

Remember the first time you came across these images. What did you see? The skeleton or the girl looking in the mirror?

What did you see in this classic? The old woman – or the young woman?

Or here, the rabbit- or the duck?

The point is that different people can see (and interpret) different things while looking at the exact same image. So when it comes to logos, the same idea applies. What may start off as a well-intended meaningful design to communicate associations relevant to the brand can be sometimes receive unintended interpretations. This can result in the logo being mocked (which is a rampant phenomenon online) - or worse yet, the brand becomes subject to rumours that are difficult to squash. The bottom line is this. Brand building efforts can be crushed based on ambiguous logo design. Let’s look at a few examples.

What do you see in this logo? This logo was originally designed for a Brazilian university's Oriental studies program. The purpose of the logo is to give an "Asian" vibe through the Asian architecture that rests ahead of the rising sun. Of course, there is a much nastier interpretation to this logo. To add irony to this logo, the Institudo de Estudos Orientais is part of University Catolica Portuguesa.

Here we see a logo for Safe Places. Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for all young people in crisis through a network of sites sustained by qualified agencies, trained volunteers and businesses. What's your impression of this logo? Is it the safe hands of a protector - or the perverted hands of a groper? The two interpretations are communicating opposite messages.

Sometimes fonts or spelling blow it for the brand. Consider Kids Exchange- a brand that allows consumers to buy and trade previously owned kids' toys and clothing. It is almost comical that this name could as easily be read KidsExchange as KidSexChange. All that the designer needed to do here was exaggerate the size of the K and E - or have a bit of a space between "kid" and "exchange". The brander who signed off on the logo design here was just asleep at the switch.

Logo misinterpretations often have a double entrendre of a sexual nature (e.g. Islamic Understanding Institute). Sometimes, however, folks can go out of their way to mock the logo. Zune gets mocked in its mirror image which circulates over the Internet. Once you see this, you'll probably never think of Zune the same way.

The granddaddy logo fiasco belongs to P&G. Procter and Gamble trademarked its man in the moon logo way back in 1851. According to P&G, the 13 stars in the logo paid homage to the 13 American colonies. According to Snopes, the man in the moon was used just because it was a popular design of the time. In those days, brands traded a lot more under graphical images (rather than names) so the distinctive graphic could help consumers recognize the P&G brands of packaged goods. Incredibley, rumors surfaced (many fuelled by Amway salespeople) that P&G had links to Satanism. The bearded-man logo was offered up as evidence. Hidden within the beard are a series of 6’s- marking “666” – the mark of the beast. The 13 stars, "of course", refer to Revelation Chapter 13 which discusses the mark of the beast. The rumor spawning from the logo cost Procter and Gamble unspecified sales and extensive public relations counter efforts, while forcing the company to redesign it world-wide company logo.

There is a simple take away from this post. Logos are intended to convey meaningful associations about the brand. For some reason, poor logo designs sometimes sift through the approval process. Sampling a few employees- or consumers- for their interpretation of the meaning the logo is clearly in order. I'd bet that the brand managers of the brands presented above all wish that they had spent a little more time on this screening process.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Celebrating the best of the worst: negative political advertising.

Most academic advertising textbooks analyze advertising messaging by breaking the ads into categories. Usually the breakdown involves groupings something like: rational, emotional, or slice-of-life appeals. Rational ads target the mind by making logical appeals. Emotional ads, are designed to “hit you in the gut” with an appeal to feelings. Slice-of-life ads try to give a snapshot of reality. But, I think the more interesting field of study involves negative advertising. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in political advertising.

In the latest American mid-term election, more than $3.3 billion dollars
flooded into advertisements. Yep, that is billion with a "B". Heck, there are rumors that former eBay CEO Meg Whitman spent $140 million of her own money trying to capture the California Governorship. (It is an interesting curiosity that those candidates who spend their own money are not usually successful in their bids. eg. Mitt Romney (2008 primaries), Steve Forbes (1996 primaries). Perhaps, this is due to the perception that they are trying to “buy” their electoral seats.) But in politics, some estimate that close to 50% of political advertisements have negative tones. That is about $1.5 billion worth of negative ads this past American election cycle. Some of these ads are down-right nasty too. We’ll “celebrate” the best of the worst at the end of this posting.

The case for going negative and the spirit of Socrates
In a previous blog posting, I commented that the result of negative advertising is
depressed voter turnout. Proponents of negative advertising, however, will argue that negative ads are a good thing. After all, if there is relevant negative information that the voting public should be made aware of, that information should be available for consideration. They will also argue that there is a self-regulating mechanism. If the negativity gets too much, the voters will reject the candidate running the ads. (We saw evidence of this in a 1993 Progressive Conservative attack ad on Jean Chretien). Regardless of the case for running negative ads, depressing votes runs counter to the spirit of democracy. Socrates would feel vindicated.

Political Campaigns – the natural home for the negative ad:
We can’t be na├»ve. Negative political advertisements are not going away any time soon. The big question is why are there so many negative ads in politics?
1. Negative ads can be extremely effective. The most effective ones work on
emotional levels and often target voters’ fears. The best example is this one run by the Democrats in the 1964 Presidential Election. Johnson was facing off against Goldwater and Johnson wanted to paint Goldwater as a trigger-happy-war-monger. Click here for the ad: “ DAISY” Think how terrifying (fear) that this ad would have been to a non-jaded, less-sophisticated 1964 TV viewing audience. This Democratic ad took nasty advertising to a level never-before-seen. And, it was a big contributor to Goldwater’s loss. Note, I am not saying Johnson’s win.

2. Election cycles have short term objectives. Unlike, traditional brands which have long term sales horizons- and longer term horizons to recoup losses or take competitors to court, political advertising spending is ramped up to peek within days of voter decision. So, if a fraudulent claim is made against a candidate in an ad 5 days before the election, the “victim” candidate can resort to a defensive “that is not true” which makes him look weak, or she can go on attack and demonize her opponent. The latter of course fuels the next wave of negativity. In a zero-sum game (which can deteriorate in to a shrinking-sum game), with a short election cycle, there is a no-holds barred approach to advertising. Industries have self-regulated rules of conduct and “truthfulness in advertising” which holds the brands accountable in the longer term. These apply a lot less in a 3 week advertising campaign.

3. Unlike business, politics is mostly a zero sum game. In business, if Burger King spends millions of dollars reminding consumers that McDonald’s has uber-high fat content in its fried burgers, and McDonalds retaliates by dissing BK’s fat mayo level on the Whopper, the consumer would come to the conclusion that the entire category sucks. The category shrinks. So, BK, McD’s, Wendy’s and company have a mutual interest in growing the entire category. If BK has a slight reduction in market share- but the entire category is growing well, BK is still going to be pretty happy. But, when it comes to an election, there is no comradory among competitors. My win is your loss. It is as simple as that. And, if the candidate is having trouble raising his poll numbers, drag down the opponents. This argument explains why in the 2006 and 2008 election Republicans ran the bulk of the negative ads and why the Democrats outsleazed the Republicans in 2010. Neither party has a monopoly on sleaze.

4. The press likes to pick up “the new negative attack ad.” This goes to the concept that “bad news sells more.” (See Bad is Stronger than Good) Translation, the free publicity from the attack ads gives incentives to make meaner, nastier ads.

5. The rise of the unaccountable endorsements. Despite the well intentioned efforts of McCain and Feingold (who just lost, btw)- recent campaign finance reform has led to soft monies funding more and more American elections in larger and larger capacities. The result, proxy political party “independent groups” get involved in developing ad campaigns. These “independent” 3rd party groups create ads that the Republican and Democratic brands would be ashamed to assign their party brand approvals to. Just think of the punishment John Kerry took fromthe Swift Boat Veterans.

So, now let’s "celebrate" the best of the worst.

Canada's lowball political moment.
End of the Empire Democratic Smears on Republicans
Taliban Dan ads
Aqua Buddah

Republican Smears on Democrats
Ron XXX Kind
Willie Horton ad