Their fourth quarter income was way up, double over a year ago. But they’re in the midst of some bad PR for serving horse meat. (What do you think would be in a $1.29 Whopper Jr?) And they’re challenged on the value front once again.
So what do they do? They imagine they’re CP&B (Whopper Sacrifice, Subservient Chicken) and hack themselves on Twitter. Making believe that McDonald’s bought them out, tweeting some nasty, tasteless stuff, and then disappearing in hopes of winning our sympathy or, better yet, inviting harsh criticism for their inability to handle the faux crisis.
Oh if only that were really the case. But it’s not April 1. So chances are they did get hacked. And didn’t notice soon enough. And weren’t ready with a response. Come on people, you are supposed to have real time crisis plans ready to go by now.
Anyway, here’s a few snips from the web gathered for what might become a story worth referring to when you need a SoMe case or example. At this posting a lesson in what not to do. But who knows, perhaps eventually something more impressive.
I’ve trimmed a seven-minute video promoting the event (I am assuming Contagious won’t mind; after all their name implies they want content to spread) to this 2:30 segment above.
Somehow Sir John captures in a couple of sentences everything a brand needs to know and do in an age where most consumers and users value genuine transparency over some corporate CSR program intended to buy good will.
“Brands have a responsibility to deliver a brilliant product that answers a consumer need as efficiently as they can in a way that is inspiring.”
I’ve added the emphasis on the words brilliant and inspiring, as we don’t get enough of either from most brands.
It sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? A brilliant product that we actually need. Manufactured and delivered efficiently, and ideally, sustainably. And done in a way that inspires.
Does any brand do that? Even Apple and Nike only deliver on two out of three.
John adds another thought that becomes important to those of us in the business of helping shape brands.
“If I were in charge of a brand the first thing I would do is demonstrate that we are creating work that is genuinely a benefit to society and when we talk about those brands, as a consumer advocate, that we’re doing it in a way that people admire.
Again, my emphasis. But Sir John believes that it’s the brand that should be a consumer advocate. That it’s more important to demonstrate that advocacy through actual behavior (versus contrived messages) and that when we do create messages we should produce content that is actually admirable.
Simple instructions for clients and agencies.
Maybe there’s hope for brands and advertising yet.
I had an interesting interview yesterday with E-Marketer. They’re working on a project to explore the implications of too many screens and too little attention. It appears that consumers these days are flipping through digital pages on their iPad or fiddling with an app on their smartphone when they’re supposed to be paying attention to the TV commercials. What’s a marketer to do?
Interestingly the questions alone suggested that too many of us are still stuck in an old way of thinking and aren’t leaping quickly enough onto the newer platforms that call for engagement and collaboration rather than advertising.
“Should advertisers be trying to elevate a consumer’s attention level? Or should they instead accommodate themselves to current behavior and try to craft messages that will make a positive impression even if the consumer isn’t paying much attention?”
“Research has shown that many consumers check their e-mail during them commercial breaks of TV shows they’re watching. If they’re not looking at the TV screen but haven’t bothered to mute the sound while the commercial pod is on, does this mean that (for reaching this segment of the audience) the sound track is more important than the visual element of a commercial?”
“In the age of distraction, does consumption of ad content need to be more a lean-back activity (thus accommodating other simultaneous media usage) or can it be a more immersive, lean-forward activity?”
Such questions suggest that marketers are still in the business of buying attention. Fat chance. The idea of actually creating a more memorable soundtrack because someone’s looking down at their iPad instead of up at the screen in hopes of securing recall is ludicrous while the thought of making a positive impression on someone who isn’t paying attention strikes me as incomprehensible.
There are three things we can do, however. The first is simple. Be so damn interesting and entertaining that consumers not only welcome out content, they seek it out and pass it on. This is hard, but essential. The more choice a viewer has the better an ad has to be.
The second, of course, is to forget all about buying attention and focus entirely on adding value through utility. Years ago when we had no remote control to save us Charmin’ could force Mr. Whipple into our living room. Today, however, the brand has graduated to utility like Sit or Squat, an iPhone app that crowdsources the locations of clean, public restrooms. Clearly a better way to think about the second or third screen is to create content that considers context.
The third, and perhaps most promising approach is to go where we’re wanted. If a marketer is paying attention at all he or she knows that the newest trend in digital behavior is the interest graph – new platforms that encourage consumers to express their interests (Pinterest) and better yet their intentions (Springpad*) in ways that practically invite brands to connect, inspire and incent people who actually want their presence.
Granted the latter once again calls for marketers and advertisers to learn new tactics, master yet another form of conversation and figure out how to add value on a user’s term (hint: that requires more than simply posting your content on those platforms or adding a “spring me” or “pin me” button to your site) but who wouldn’t make the effort if there’s access to people who opt in. (I’ll be writing and speaking more about this over the next few months.)
As we’ve discussed lots of times, advertising in its traditional form won’t go away. At least not enirely. But thinking that we can meet the challenge of new behaviors and technologies by simply moving old tactics to new mediums is a sure way to accelerate its ineffectiveness.
*Note that in addition to my job as chief innovation officer at Mullen, I also work as CMO for Springpad, thanks in great part to Mullen’s willingness to let me experiment more and explore the startup world.
Thought I’d share a deck I recently used to kick off Strategic Creative Development, a class I’m teaching this semester at Boston University’s College of Communication.
The premise behind the syllabus is simple: advertising is no longer about making ads. At least not all of the time.
Now it’s as much about digital experiences, gaming dynamics, mobile utility, Facebook apps, and creatively leveraging the interest graph as it is about crafting a message. Of course you know that.
Nevertheless, it was fun to create a journey just by looking at the automotive category. It telegraphs the change brilliantly.
In the beginning – presuming we all believe that Bernbach ignited advertising’s Big Bang – there was Volkswagen. Picture of the car, usually. Clever headline that juxtaposed with the image produced a “concept,” often telegraphing as much about the user as the car. “Do you have the right kind of wife for it?”
Twenty years later Amirati and Puris filled the awards annuals with iconic work for BMW. Picture of the car, usually. Clever headline that juxtaposed with the image produced a “concept,” often telegraphing as much about the user as the car. “You’re judged by performance. Why drive a car that lives by a lesser code?”
No much changed in 20 years. Art and copy and bought attention.
But fast-forward 16 years and all hell breaks loose. BMW films in in 2001. The first big campaign to acknowledge consumer’s use of the web, the idea that advertising could actually be sought out, and that “commercials” need not be limited to 30 seconds. Mini-Cooper in 2002, a forerunner of imitators to come, so to speak, as a CB&B makes a brand social before there’s Facebook or Twitter to help it along.
A few years later we see Art of the Heist, and some of the very first trans-media story-telling. And finally the Ford Fiesta Movement, crowdsourced content that offered both insights about the customer and content to populate the web.
- VW and BMW: ads that buy our attention
- BMW Films: ads that we seek out and find online
- Mini-Cooper: ads that leverage community and membership
- Audi A3: ads that invite our participation and let us play along
- Ford Fiesta: ads that hand the brand and the content over to us
I used some non-automotive examples to demonstrate the dramatic change,too, including a comparison of the infamous Mr. Whipple with the Charmin’s most recent effort: the Sit or Squat iPhone app, a crowdsourced utility helping us locate clean, accessible public restrooms when we’re on the go. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Take a look at the deck if you’re so inclined. It includes some discussion guide and questions that might help anyone who teaches advertising and social media. It offers some thoughts and suggestions for aspiring industry employees to think about. And it has a few nice little sound bites borrowed from the like of Clay Shirky and Contagious.
Plus it includes a fun assignment at the end. The re-launch of the VW microbus, coming again as the Bulli in 2014.
If you’re a student, feel free to download. If you’re a teacher, take whatever you want to and use it for yourself and your students. Got thoughts to share? Leave them below. And as always, thanks for reading.
(Special thanks to CP&B for sharing all its Mini Cooper work.)
The bank we love to hate is looking for a new advertising agency. While still the second largest bank in America – JP Morgan recently snuck past BofA in assets, $2.289 trillion to $2.219 trillion – Bank of America’s stock – both on Wall Street and on Main Street has plummeted. It’s share price toppled by more than half in 2011 and its public opinion fell even more sharply.
In fact it’s hard to find much positive sentiment anywhere. The Occupy Wall Street movement targeted the financial giant at every opportunity. A congressman from the bank’s home state of North Carolina went after them for greed and abuse. Consumers pummeled them with complaints after the bank announced an ill-advised $5.00 fee for debit card use, a decision from which they quickly backed down. And just this past Friday, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) turned Bank of America’s San Francisco ATMs into “truth machines,” covering them with non-adhesive stickers that offered customers a slightly different option menu. ATM visitors could invest in coal-fired power plants, foreclose on American homes, bankroll climate change, or fund executive bonuses. Pretty funny and clever stuff if you ask me.
Anyway, call me too modern in my thinking, but I’m not sure an ad campaign will solve much of this. No doubt we’ll see executions that pat the bank on its back for funding inner city growth, helping send kids to college, providing entrepreneurs with money to launch new businesses and practicing corporate philanthropy with efforts that include free admission to hundreds of museums.
Such messages might make management and employees feel better, but they’ll ring rather hollow to consumers. Ads will feel contrived, controlled and anything but transparent. Accomplishing the latter is likely to be particularly difficult, given the bank sought to achieve more openness with its last big campaign effort. And look where they are now.
Bank of America is trying to do away with this closed image of banking with its new, $40 million ad campaign that attempts to portray the Bank as more open and transparent. From MyBankTracker, 2009
A recent glance at Bank of America’s Twitter news feed shows an abundance of self-promotional updates, but not a single acknowledgement of recent image problems. I figured for sure there would have at least been a “touché,” tweet to RAN. Even a beleaguered bank needs a sense of humor once in a while.
The suits in Charlotte need more than a new ad agency and a $300 million ad campaign. They need a new mindset for how to solve their marketing and image problems. The “us and them” strategies that yield fee hikes rather than collaborative programs have to go. The bank should “design” its way toward good will and trust, starting with a new way to engage and a better connection with its detractors. I might even do something really radical and invite someone from RAN or Occupy to join the board. Or at least an advisory committee.
It will probably take years and multiple behavioral changes for BoA to prove themselves. You only have to read Bill Bernbach to know that peppering us with paid media to tell us how great they are, or even to celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of their customers, won’t change public opinion.
What do you think? Thoughts on what the banking giant should do? Should I make this an assignment for my class at Boston University? Is it possible to strategically and creatively turn Bank of America into good guys?