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Suppliers and Distributors reported strong growth in 2012 which continued into December.

Archive for October, 2011

I believe that, as a human, we inherently know what to fear. Death. Injury. Spiders…

So why do advertisers (and, of course, the media…) try to create new fears that, when you think about them, are really nothing to be afraid of. Things like snow storms, hair loss, not being popular. While none of these things are pleasant, per se, they are certainly not anything to fear.

It’s like advertisers are trying to make us sick so we’ll buy the cure. Maybe the cure is a shampoo, maybe it’s an online dating service.

This blog, ‘Fear In Advertising Series Part 1: What Is Fear Based Advertising?‘ explains some of the psychology behind the use of fear in advertising. The funniest part is that, under the blog and before the comments section is a huge banner ad that reads: WARNING! Your Business is LEAKING PROFITS At This Very Second!

Oh no, I better click where it says, “I URGE you to CLICK HERE to discover how to increase your [website] conversions…”

Like I said, I believe that humans are well aware of the real fears in their lives. I exercise, eat right and take vitamins to stave off death. I wear my seat belt. I spray my baseboards with the heaviest-duty spider killer available to the public.

So, then, why do advertisers use fear to create demand? Why does the media use fear to get us to tune in?

Maybe it’s lack of ethics that we should be afraid of, rather than “killer winter weather” and gray hair.

In its infancy, fear was probably a very successful advertising technique. But I can’t see how it would be as effective anymore. Consumers tend to respond the best to ads that inform them (without exaggeration) of the benefits of a product or service. Ads that offer solutions, that target only the people with the respective problem rather than trying to ignite that problem in millions of other people.

Plus, if fear is overused as a sales tactic, won’t we eventually end up in a ‘boy-who-cried-wolf’ situation.

Oh, wait. That exactly where we are…

Categories : Marketing
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ChapStick’s latest ad shows a woman looking for a lost ChapStick behind her couch. All we can see of this woman is the bottom of her feet and he butt up in the air.

I think it’s a great ad. Definitely catches your attention. And I have to give ChapStick props for capturing the reality of the perpetually lost ChapStick.

This ad prompts us to “Be heard at Facebook.com/chapstick.” There was a great potential for this to be a discussion-starter amongst ChapStick fans. I, for one, have found my ChapStick in some interesting places. In the freezer of my daughter’s play kitchen, the dryer (oh, always in the dryer!)…

But not everyone reacted as positively as I did to this ad campaign. And ChapStick’s “fans” got pretty vocal about it on Facebook. That is, until ChapStick deleted all the negative comments.

So much for “being heard.”

Catch up on the ChapStick sitch here.

When it comes to social media, you gotta take the good with the bad. Not everyone is going to love what you have to say and there will always be critics. (This, of course, is true not just in the social mediasphere, but in life.)

But when a brand silences its fans after encouraging them to “be heard” it makes the situation 1,000 times worse than it was in the first place. Instead of deleting negative comments in a frenzy, ChapStick should have followed these, ‘8 Ways To Manage Negativity on Facebook Pages.’

Maybe they should have taken down the controversial ad in the beginning, though I would have suggested they stand their ground and let their real fans come to the rescue. The ad isn’t offensive – I’ve certainly seen much worse – and advocates would have gotten involved in the Facebook discussion if ChapStick hadn’t gone and deleted the comments that needed an alternative response.

Don’t make the same mistake that ChapStick did. If your Facebook page comes under fire (or, at least, starts smoking…) address the issues publicly. Don’t blame your fans. Choose whether you stand your ground or apologize.

But never, never, never, never, NEVER delete your fans’ comments (unless they use profanities that aren’t acceptable for use on Facebook). That just makes you look really bad.

Categories : Marketing
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Brand Guidelines for Halloween Costumes

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Halloween is a branding gold mine for companies with a memorable mascot. From Disney characters to cereal mascots and everything in between, these big brand costumes make up a large portion of the nearly $5 billion spent on Halloween each year in the United States.

The problem, though, for these big brands, is that they have no control over how the costumes are worn (read: how their brand is portrayed).

Most companies have a set of “brand guidelines” that dictate the proper use of their logo, corporate colors, color palettes, fonts, and more. These guidelines help maintain the consistency – and integrity – of their brands.

At my agency, we always deliver a set of brand guidelines to our clients. From the brand guideline document, they can download essentially any version of the logo that they could ever possibly need. There are also instructions on how the logos should and should not be used. We provide these documents in a format that can easily be shared with members of the press or third-party partners.

Basically, brand guidelines prevent logo abuse. You can sate your curiosity about brand guidelines here.

But how can companies prevent branded Halloween costume abuse?

Why, with Halloween Costume Guidelines, of course.

This BrandChannel.com article, ‘Progressive Launches “Dress Like Flo” Halloween How-To Tips‘ lists everything a person might need to dress up like the perky, red-lipped insurance company mascot…right down to the “tricked out name tag.” But it’s more than a shopping list…you can actually download the Progressive logo, the name tag file and the “I ♥ Insurance’ button that adorns her white polo shirt.

This is basically Progressive’s way of saying, ‘Don’t screw up our brand.’

It eliminates the possibility that logos will be inaccurately reproduced. Or that the “tricked out name tag” will be not-so-tricked out. It makes the costume easier for the consumer, and lets Progressive breathe a little bit easier knowing that the integrity of their brand will be upheld on Halloween.

Any company, brand guidelines or not, only has so much control over how the elements of their brand are managed outside of their marketing department. A lot of companies even see brand abuse within their marketing departments (read: the sales team makes their own marketing materials…please don’t ever let this happen. Ever.). But your company should do everything in its power to ensure that its logo is being properly used. It’s just good branding.

Categories : Marketing
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A long time ago, in a faraway land (okay, in Brookline…) I interned for a boutique marketing and design agency (okay, I still work there…but now I get paid).

During my internship, we were vying for an account with an internationally renowned brewery. They were the ‘Budweiser’ of the West. And they were moving East. And we would have won that account. Except that there was a little corporate embezzlement issue that stopped the marketing program in its tracks.

As an intern, I played a surprisingly key role in the development of our pitch. I was only 20, but had been bartending for two years, and had my fingers firmly on the pulse of the Boston bar scene (if not firmly on the pulse of the beer bottle…)

The brewery provided us with the start of a marketing plan – an introduction to their brand, a SWOT analysis. A breakdown of their target audience.

And that is where I was shocked by my first experience with questionable marketing ethics – the target audience analysis. Today I wouldn’t be shocked by this at all. I would expect it (though I still wouldn’t agree with it).

But the target audience was stated as so: 18 to 21-year-old peer influencers.

No losers allowed. This beer was for cool kids only.

Like I said, today this wouldn’t phase me. But back then I was pure, innocent. A virgin to the questionable ethics of marketing. I preferred to think that 18-year-olds just happened to be attracted to certain types of marketing. A brewery wouldn’t specifically market to 18-year-olds!! That would just be wrong!! I thought.

Oh, how I wish that was the case.

I don’t believe that all marketing and advertising is inherently bad, though. Some is honest.

But then there is brandwashing. And if you thought marketing liquor to an 18-year-old was bad, then check out the article, ‘BRANDWASHED: Shocking Tricks Companies Use To Get Your Kids Hooked.’ Some of the tactics are, in fact, shocking.

BRANDWASHED had a billboard up in Times Square, New York while I was there on a recent trip. ‘Every 20 seconds a baby is brandwashed’ is what it read. I never realized that it started as early as in the womb. But it does.

A long time ago, in a faraway land, I was a pure, innocent student in a market research class at Emerson College. The first day of class, the first thing written on the blackboard was this:

Rule #1: Do no harm.

It made me feel warm and fuzzy. See! I thought. Marketing isn’t as evil as everyone says it is.

Oh, how I wish that was the case.

Categories : Marketing
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“Well, I just found out that most of the promotional items that I give to my customers end up being given to their kids. And that’s just not how I intended them to be used.”

A new client said this to me last week while we were reviewing some price estimates on promotional items she needed to reorder. Her business is child care, and her inventory of logo-emblazoned items includes insulated lunch bags, reusable shopping bags, canvas totes, children’s tee-shirts, bibs, post-it pads, notepads, pens, pencils…

Her inventory of logo-emblazoned items is pretty impressive.

I understand her frustration. When you’re spending money on promotional items (and she’s spending quite a bit of money on them…) it can be a slap in the face to hear that they’re not being used the way you intended them to be used.

This eZine article, ‘What Promotional Items Do People Keep!‘ recommends promotional pens and pencils. key fobs, tee-shirts and tote bags, to name a few. But these are the items she’s ordering. So why are her clients giving them to their children? And is that really the worst thing?

Her clients may be giving the promotional items to their kids because (a) the items she’s ordered in the past haven’t been brand name promotional items, so the quality was lower than what her customers would buy and (b) her logo is a teddy bear – not a logo that adults would necessarily want to carry around with them, but a logo that children would love!

But is it really so terrible that her promotional products are being handed over to infants and toddlers? I don’t think it is.

Recently, HubSpot, an inbound marketing software provider, gave out stuffed unicorns at a tradeshow for cloud computing technologies. What’s more child-friendly than a stuffed unicorn? But every time the mom or dad sees it, they surely think about HubSpot. Surely.

So my client has her customers’ children using her branded notepads and post-its as scrap paper. But my refrigerator (and the walls of my home and office) are wallpapered in my daughter’s drawings. I’m sure her customers’ refrigerators and walls look the same as mine – except theirs are all on paper branded with my client’s logo.

So while I understand my client’s frustration and hesitation to reorder her branded promotional giveaways, I also think she should see the value in having her customers give the items to their kids.

And if that’s not what she wants, she should really consider ordering higher-quality, brand name promotional products that are more in line with the quality of merchandise her customers would purchase independently. Promotional products from Leed’s, Bic, Columbia and more – which are all available through PromoManagers – are proven to be used more frequently.

And maybe she should consider an imprint other than her teddy bear logo. Just sayin’…

Categories : Marketing
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I don’t particularly notice online banner ads. It’s one of those they’re-seen-everywhere-but-seen-nowhere things.

But a banner ad for Honda recently caught my attention. The animated online ad starred Patrick Warburton holding a sign that read, ‘You’re not paying attention to this banner, are you?’ He drops that sign to reveal a second sign. ‘Well, two can play that game.’ And then he turns his back on us.

In life, and especially in love, it’s true that you always want what you can’t have. But could this be true in advertising as well? Could it be true that, by ignoring us, Patrick Warburton made us subconsciously want to see Honda’s ad?

Intrigued by Honda’s reverse psychology approach to advertising, I took to the Internet to learn more about this unique campaign. This Great-Ads blog explains the behind-the-scenes trade secrets and offers a compilation of commercials and videos within this campaign. The Honda Good Reasons campaign.

The campaign pokes fun at advertising. It’s an anti-advertising campaign. The antithesis of advertising.

It’s honest.

There is a rumor in marketing and promotions that “sex sells.” And once-upon-a-time it did. But now honesty sells. Companies who make promises they can’t keep fail. And companies who promise – and deliver – the moon, well, they succeed.

It’s survival of the fittest.

I heard a commercial for Dawn dish soap the other day. The tagline was, ‘We do more, so it’s not a chore.’ My immediate thought was, ‘Washing dishes is always a chore, no matter how awesome your dish soap is.’ Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

The Febreze commercials where people are blindfolded and brought into restaurant kitchens and dingy basements and asked what they smell? And no one smells anything remotely kitchen-y or dingy basement-y? How much Febreze was actually used in those rooms, because it doesn’t make my place smell any better – and it’s not bad to begin with! Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Comcast claims to be the cable company who cares about our satisfaction. When I call to troubleshoot a problem with my Internet, though, I have to sit through 1,000 automated press-a-number-if-you-want-service-X before sitting on hold to talk to a real, live person. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

And this is why I love Honda’s Good Reason campaign. It’s giving facts. It’s honest. It’s straightforward. It doesn’t want me. And that makes me soooo want it…

Categories : Marketing
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As someone who, despite numerous surgeries, continues to suffer from back pain, I’m always willing to try a new pain relief product or service.

To date the list includes chiropractic care, acupuncture, trigger point injections, a new ergonomic mattress, physical therapy, water therapy, pharmaceutical painkillers, all-natural painkillers, St. John’s Wort, and Ben-Gay patches.

I am always willing to try a new pain relief product or service. And as such, the commercial I saw yesterday for Salonpas Pain Relief Patches caught my attention. I was about to jump in the truck and head out to the local drug store…and then I heard it. The worst tagline ever.

“Nothing’s been proven to beat the relief.”

Once you think about it, it makes sense. But who ever stops to think about a tagline (besides someone who works in marketing and overanalyzes to death every single piece of marketing she is exposed to)? To anyone who doesn’t stop and break down the grammar of this tagline, it sounds like they are saying that the Salonpas Pain Relief Patches are proven to NOT work.

And none of the geniuses in their marketing department caught that?

Watch the ad here. And even better, read the comments below. The first one (posted yesterday) is about the slogan…

This is reminiscent of the Chevy Nova not selling in Mexico because “Nova” can be misinterpreted as “no va,” which means, “doesn’t go” in Spanish.

But the Salonpas tagline has GOT to be the worst tagline I have EVER seen! Or, at least top 5…

To avoid coming up with an equally awful tagline for your business, this CopyBlogger.com blog, “How to Create a Rock-Solid Tagline That Truly Works,” offers up some solid considerations.

It’s tough to communicate your brand and it’s mission and promise in one, succinct 5-7 word phrase, and oftentimes, it can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating.

But it’s important  to avoid negativity. In life, yes. But more importantly, in your tagline.

Categories : Marketing
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Studying marketing in both undergraduate and graduate school challenges you to develop marketing plans, creative concepts, and media buying strategies – for fictional companies. With fictional budgets.

In my entire professional career, I have never worked with a fictional company. Or a fictional budget.

But I have worked with plenty of real companies. Large companies, small companies. Established enterprises, start-up enterprises. I have worked with plenty of companies. And they each presented me with a unique challenge.

By the time I went back to get my MBA, I had a few years at a marketing agency under my belt. I had real-world experience. It killed me, the ideas that would get thrown into the mix on some of those team projects.

This is how it often went:

Team Member: “My friend’s dad’s sister has a bakery that we could do our project on.”

Me: “Great, let’s do it. Let’s schedule a meeting so we can understand their goals, target audience…”

Team Member: “We should definitely take out a full-page ad in Gourmet Magazine! Oh, and bright pink bus wraps on every bus in the MBTA fleet – they could look like cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles? How about this for a headline: ‘got cupcakes?'”

Gag me.

But, sure enough, these suggestions made it into our “plans” and our professors would tell us that our work was outstanding and we’d walk away with solid A’s – on the project and in the class.

Let me say that not one of my clients has ever taken out a full-page ad in a major, national publication. Even the largest of my clients hasn’t taken out a full-page ad in a major, national publication. The cost is asinine!

The only companies I’ve ever worked with that could afford a full-page ad in a major, national publication were, in fact, the fictional ones.

Never mind the frosty-delight bus wraps…

I’ve dreamed of working with a budget the size of Texas to work with. But, to be honest, I find the clients with the smallest budgets to be the most thrilling. They push you to – and then beyond – your creative boundaries, forcing you to develop non-traditional solutions for traditional business challenges.

Working with a big budget is easy. Working with little-to-no budget isn’t. But it’s rewarding as hell.

I came across this excellent AdAge.com article today: If You Can Help Your Friend’s Snack Truck With Some Creative Ideas, Why Not? Basically, the author’s buddy has a snack truck that, while once successful, has been hit by difficult economic times. (Sound familiar?) The author, a marketing exec at a big agency, writes, “There is real value in devoting some time and attention on occasion to these problems. It keeps you sharp. It forces you to find a solution without all the resources that you normally get.”

He is so, so, so right on. I’ve dreamed of working with a budget the size of Texas. Imagine what could be done with a few million bucks using the pragmatic ingenuity I’ve developed in my years of working with smaller budgets?

Pigs would be flying if I had a hand in it…that’s for sure.

Categories : Marketing
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The headline, ‘Why You Should Fire Your Worst Client‘ came across my desk at just the right moment.

I’ve been part of a team of people working on “the problem child” account for almost a year now. The short of it is that (a) they need more than just marketing to grow their business and (b) they blatantly ignore our recommendations and then complain that they’re not getting results.

The problem child, indeed.

But, while the thought of firing said problem child results in a deliciously evil smile, the subsequent thought of losing that monthly income wipes the smile away as fast as it had come.

The Entrepreneur article claims that the amount of energy we waste trying to satisfy an unsatisfiable client could be better spent developing new business. But I cry, au contraire, mon frère.

New business development isn’t easy. Especially in this economy. And even more so when you’re trying to drum up new clients for a small marketing agency. In different lines of business, maybe. In a B2C business, maybe. But the last I checked, new clients weren’t exactly growing on trees.

So I don’t agree that my agency should jump the gun and fire its problem child. Though I agree they need to be fired, if for no other reason than we just can’t help a company that isn’t willing to help itself.

Marketing requires a two-way dynamic. It requires ebb and flow. It requires give and take. If you aren’t offering services that are of value to your target audience, marketing cannot help you. If you aren’t differentiated from your competitors in any way – or are claiming to be differentiated when you’re really not – marketing cannot help you. If you know that blogging or social media marketing or video marketing are integral components of your marketing strategy but are too “busy” to implement them (and don’t want to hire us to manage them for you…), marketing is not going to help you.

I wish it was as easy as the article makes it look. Just fire your worst client and move on. But it doesn’t work like that. Our agency has employee’s mouths to feed. Our employees have baby’s mouths to feed. And even though we’re underwhelmed and completed demotivated by our problem child…

the show must go on.

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Save Legal Seafoods

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Save them so they can continue to create great advertising. Or save them to stick it to those annoying environmentalist tree-huggers that have a problem with just about every product, person or company on God’s green earth.

I’ve long felt that Legal Seafood’s marketing campaigns are underrated for their creativity and poignance. And overrated for their controversy.

In 2009 their “Fresh Fish” campaign, which was plastered all over Boston’s MBTA trolleys, included fish with word bubbles:

“Hey lady! I’ve seen smaller noses on a swordfish.”

“This trolley gets around more than your sister.”

Get it? Fresh fish? I thought the campaign was really funny…

Well, Boston’s Green Line trolley operators didn’t. They specifically took offense at the fish who was quoted saying, “This conductor has a face like a halibut.” Ugly trolley conductors everywhere were so offended that they gave the president of their union an ultimatum: either the ads go, or we’re not driving the trolleys.

The ads came down. Probably much to the chagrin of the these trolley conductors, who probably expected some paid time off while they went on strike. Joke’s on them? Read the details of the conductor-with-a-face-like-a-halibut here.

The next I remember hearing from Legal Seafoods was within the last month or so, a radio spot. It was, again, for “fresh” fish. This time “fresh” being more literal. Clean. Pure. It was something along the lines of, “It can be fun to date a girl who likes dirty things, but not if one of those things is fish.”

Har, har, har. (And, consequently, I think that spot was pulled since all of the other radio ads in that campaign are posted on YouTube, and yet, that one is missing. Hmmm…)

And now, the latest from Legal Seafoods, is a series of PSA-like ads that prompt us to, “Save the crab. Save it to show that every creature is sacred, no matter how small. Or just save it so we can chop it up into tasty little crab cakes.”

How’s that for flipping off PETA and the rest of the tree-hugging world?

Of course, as this BrandChannel article explains, Greenpeace activists are up in arms about the ads! They say the ads are degrading.

Yeah, those poor crabs must be pissed…

We need to save Legal Seafoods. For years they’ve had some of the best Boston-bred marketing around. And all we hear about it is stupid – nay! – ridiculous controversy. A trolley conductor is mad because an illustrated fish in an ad called him ugly? Greenpeace is pissed because Legal Seafoods kills crabs to make (gasp!) crab cakes?

I will certainly be visiting the Legal C-Bar for some dead fresh fish on a plate – and soon.

Categories : Marketing
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