One Country Painted Red

With the rapid growth of new products, brand extensions and the blurring of traditional and new age advertising, marketing and advertising to target audiences has reached a new level of competitiveness. Brands now must adapt to this changing environment and contest with competitors to stay at the top of their market and target to audiences in creative, attention-grabbing tactics.

The most iconic brand in the soda market, and throughout the world, is undoubtedly that of Coca-Cola. In the summer of 2011, Coke created an original marketing strategy to run a campaign that would inspire people to connect with the brand both online and offline in order to acclimate to the changing marketing environment. The campaign’s prime objective was to increase consumption of Coke over the summer season and to get people to fall in love with the iconic brand again. Particularly, in Australia, at the time nearly 50% of teens and young adults had never tasted a Coke and this drove the brand to reconnect with the country.

Established in Australia, the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign immediately received positive media attention and consumer responsiveness. The idea of the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign was to place Australia’s 150 most popular names on the front of millions of Coca-Cola bottles, simple right? This was the first time in 125 years that Coke had made such a paramount transformation to it packaging, and it was revolutionary.

“We used publicly available data to review the most popular names in Australia and ethnic representation in Australia to ensure the diversity of our multi-cultural nation was represented appropriately.”

- Coca-Cola Spokesperson.

The Coca-Cola brand wanted to initiate conversations by putting Australians front and center and inspire them to connect with people and ‘Share a Coke’. The central theme that gave ‘Share a Coke’ its power was the way a brand so universal could replace its logo with individual names by reaching out to consumers and personalizing its brand to individuals.

“We are using the power of the first name in a playful and social way to remind people of those in their lives they may have lost touch with, or have yet to connect with”

-Lucie Austin, Marketing Director for Coca-Cola South Pacific.

The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign strategically exhibited that when personalization in advertising is done the right way, it can be highly appealing and extremely effective. While Coke got personal, media was buzzing with talk over what the brand was implementing behind the personalization. Coke remained silent until Australia’s highest rated media weekend. The campaign was revealed to the public and aired across the biggest weekend in Australian sport, during the AFL (Australian Football League) and NRL (National Rugby League) grand finals which reached over 30% of the population.

Succeeding the campaign launch, requests for more names were coming in the thousands. Coke was prepared for this boom of requests by setting up kiosks that toured 18 Westfield shopping centers attracting consumers to personalize any name on a Coca-Cola bottle.

Coke wanted to especially reach out to the 50% of young adults that had never tasted a Coke in Australia, and there was no better way to reach this target market than online. Participation and mass allocation was achieved through Facebook by providing consumers with the resources to connect and ‘Share a Coke’ by creating a personalized virtual Coke bottle to share with a Facebook friend. Consumers were tagging friends in pictures with personalized Coke bottles and sharing stories on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Coke consumers also could create their own commercials! With the abundance of requests still pouring in, Coke told consumers to put in a vote of “who do you want to share a Coke with the most?” via Facebook. After 65,000 people voted, Coke bottles with 50 new names were released. “Consumers were invited to SMS a friend’s name, which was projected live onto the iconic ‘Coca-Cola’ sign at Sydney’s King’s Cross. They then received an MMS enabling them to share their friend’s name up in lights, via Facebook and email.”

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The multi-platform communications strategy was implemented to ‘Share a Coke’ with someone you know, or want to know and ultimately gave people the resources to find, connect and share. After 3 short months of running the campaign, young adult Coca-Cola consumption increased significantly in Australia by up to 7%, making 2011 Coke’s most fruitful summer season in history. The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign resulted in 76,000 virtual coke cans shared, 378,000 extra coke cans printed at kiosks, and 5% more people were drinking coke. Coca-Cola had successfully won over Australia and became a part of popular culture again.

-Briana McWhirter

Banking on Bracketology

Even if you’re not a fan of college basketball, you’ve likely heard friends and colleagues exclaim about their “busted brackets” as of late. The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, billed as “March Madness” runs throughout the month of March and is one of the most popular spring sporting events. The tournament begins with 64 teams and ends with the championship game in April. Part of the fun of March Madness, is Bracketology, the science of pitting teams against each other to predict the outcome of the tournament. It gets pretty serious–billionaire Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway even offered $1 billion to whoever fills out the perfect bracket.

Where does Bracketology intersect with IMC? The answer lies in the “good hands” of Allstate. 2014 is the insurance company’s third year as official sponsor of the NCAA tournament. This year, Allstate’s antagonistic character, Mayhem, is breaking brackets in a series of Tweets, Facebook updates, and Vines. While Mayhem is infamously known for causing car wrecks and burglaries, the Leo Burnett-created “March Mayhem” campaign makes light of Bracketology. Watch as Mayhem breaks, bends, and even blends busted brackets.

March is Mayhem

“March Mayhem” is Allstate’s social media component of its NCAA tournament campaign. During TV coverage of the tournament, the company sponsors the “Good Hands Play of the Game” and is rolling out increased advertising for its homeowners insurance. Pam Hollander, Allstate’s senior IMC director, points out that the campaign goes on as the tournament progresses, taking into account how different teams perform in the tournament. She says the campaign features direct engagement with fans. Mayhem acts as a direct engagement tool to connect and learn more about Allstate’s social media-savvy audience. With Mayhem, interpersonal communication takes place in an ad campaign, personifying the brand’s relationship with the consumer.

Mayhem isn’t the only insurance character with social media presence. Representing insurance companies big and small: the Gecko, Flo, Jake, and J.J. Hightail each interact with their Twitter followers. One of the strong points of the March Mayhem campaign is how it takes advantage of the Bracketology phenomenon to establish a connection with the consumer. Using a popular social trend in a social media campaign exemplifies the personification of brands.

Do you believe using Bracketology in advertising is effective? How have you seen other brands use social phenomena in their advertising?

-Nathan Evers

The “Instructional” Campaign

According to the calendar, Spring has officially sprung. And while we are still experiencing some chilly days, it’s undeniable most of us are ready to shed our winter gear for shorts and sandals. As with all season changes, clothing companies are eager to help you exchange your wardrobe.

Recently, clothing company Lands’ End launched their new “How to Spring” advertising campaign, showcasing, “How fun and fashionable it is to add bright colors, graphic prints and floral patterns with a few perfect pieces from the women’s spring collection”. It could be argued that every spring campaign that will launch this season will have a similar goal; however, Lands’ End decided to do something a little different this season by adding a sweepstake to its promotional and marketing strategy.

The sweepstakes works by first connecting with Facebook or entering your email. Once you’ve connected, you are asked to fill out your name, email, and zip code. Filling out this information unlocks the game. The rules are simple, select an outfit and click “spin”. If the outfit that the player selected matches the three tumblers, the player automatically wins a gift card with a balance of $25, $50, or $1,000. That’s it! Simple right? Not to mention, everyone is eligible to enter every day for the grand prize of $1,000 shopping spree. You can view the official rules of the sweepstakes here.

While we like to think that games, contests, and sweepstakes’ only motives are for fun and entertainment, they are actually a smart marketing move – encouraging consumption of the product by creating consumer involvement. This involvement builds fan base, engages the audience, and enables consumers to do your marketing for you. Not to mention, user generated content often provides quality, innovative, and creative ads for free.

In addition to promoting brand visibility, contest and sweepstakes are strategies that provide valuable quantifiable benefits for companies as well. They are cost effective, they help build search engine optimization (SEO), and increasingly important, they provide a rich source of consumer data for the company about existing and potential customers – emails, product preferences, location, etc.

With every click essentially producing some sort of user information, online contests are growing in use on websites and especially on social media. The most popular initiatives include: photo and video contests, tagging contest, hashtag giveaways, and website raffles.

Top Rank, an online marketing blog, named some of their picks of the best contest use on social media.
Facebook: When Frito-Lay began their campaign for searching for new potato chips flavors, the company bypassed focus groups and turned to Facebook to connect directly with the customers who would be eating them.
Pinterest: AMC Theaters have an entire Pinterest board, AMC Giveaways, where all users have to do is follow the board to stay up to date on the latest AMC contests. The basics are simple, when users see a prize they want, clicking on the image takes them to a landing page that collects their information.
Twitter: In a “retweet to win” twitter contest, Doritos tweeted a message that simply asked followers to retweet for a chance to win. The tweet was retweeted over 500 times in a day with winners snagging products that ranged from Doritos to widescreen tvs.
Instagram: As many clothing company are starting to do, Vera Bradely’s instagram contest asked users to post pictures of them and their favorite Vera Bradley bag using the hashtag #VBStyleShare. At the end of the contest, winners received a wrislet, followers of the hashtag could receive fashion inspiration, and staff could see how consumers were pairing their products.

The benefits contests can provide seem like an almost no-brainer for companies to increase brand awareness while also gaining consumer data, but as they start to trend they are also subject to overuse. To combat becoming another form of clutter, companies will have to make sure their contest are increasingly interactive, engaging, creative, or lucrative.

Have you ever participated in an online contest? Did you win? Did it make you feel more favorable towards the brand? Scrolling through your social media feeds have you seen brands using contests similar to the ones above? What are some of the best/most creative ones you have seen?

- Elizabeth Harrington, Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade

Out With The Old, In With The New: Technology Decides It All

Everyday you as a consumer are exposed to hundreds of thousands of brands. Over the decades the shopping industry has exploded with most brands disappearing at the same rate new ones appear, yet some brands have stood the cluttered test of time – one of those is Macy’s.

Created in 1858 by Rowland Hussy Macy the Macy’s store was originally a dry goods store. Macy’s started to gain notable recognition in the 1900s with its holiday window displays and the hiring of Santa Claus for the stores. In 1924 the store moved to its current NYC location, on the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. This year was also the first Macy’s Day Parade, which was organized to celebrate immigrant employees new American Heritage.

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In 1944, Macy’s became apart of the Federated Department Stores, Inc., renamed Macy’s Inc. creating the world’s largest department store. Today, Macy’s has 800 stores in the United States and sells merchandise online.

Macy’s isn’t the only iconic retailer – Sears Roebuck ring a bell? Starting in 1886, the mail order company prospered as it was able to provide low cost alternative to farmers. As mail order plants transitioned into stores, Sears found their place in city life and the retailer soon became a retailer giant. Today the store owns 863 mall-based operations and 1200 other locations including hardware, outlet, tire, and battery stores.

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Nowadays Macy’s and Sears are direct competitors, but it seems Sears, the company who invented mail order, can’t quite figure out online order.

Holiday sales account for a large indicator of profit margins and often depict the health of a company. Sears seems to be in critical condition – US stores suffered a 9.2 percent drop. In decline for some time now, and with little to no improvement, some speculate the store could be gone by 2017.

The history of an iconic brand is something that should be cultivated in your identity – it induces credibility, shows longevity, and prompts nostalgia. Yet being historic isn’t merely enough to remain vibrant. Iconic companies remain iconic because they are able to cultivate lasting relationships with consumers – at all time periods – and that means evolving.

Looking at each retailers attempt to reach customers during the holiday seasons could explain Sears 9.2 percent drop in sales. Both have social media accounts, yet social media presence is widely disproportionate. Macy’s Instagram account has 150,00 followers while Sears has two Instagram accounts – “Sears” and “Sears Style” – yet both of the followers combined don’t even reach 8,000. A huge missed opportunity for Sears – Instagram is leading the way in social media, growing faster than Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest combined.

According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s article “The Road to Black Friday: Macy’s vs. Sears”, the use of social media by Sears is lazy. Choosing to ignore the social media culture they have posted irrelevant and uninteresting content such as a link to one of their commercials and an original YouTube video. While Macy’s post content that is culturally relevant, trendy, and formed around pop culture.

Our culture today has switched, as James Twitchell describes it, “In the last generation we have almost completely reversed the poles of shame so that where we were once ashamed of consuming too much (religious shame), we are now often ashamed of consuming the wrong brands (shoppers’ shame)”. In this day in age a brand establishes and remains relevance by relationship cultivation, reinforcement, and engagement forged through technology – the Internet and social media. It seems Sear’s inability to adapt to technology has prevented them being able to participate in the younger crowds culture leading in profit and brand influence. As an American brand we hope Sears can get back into the groove but as they stand now they are the weakest link.

In what other ways do old brands stay new? Can you think of any others that have had a hard time capturing new generations of shoppers? Or others that have done well?

- Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade, Elizabeth Harrington

Dogfish Disaster Averted

As we have gravitated towards becoming a society submerged in technology, in recent years, outlets of social media have become essential marketing tools for many companies and organizations.Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine are few forms of social media utilized by most. While social media can strongly influence consumer behaviors and increase consumer awareness it can also be detrimental to a company’s image. In some cases social media can be the cause of a PR crisis. Crisis management is the process by which an organization deals with this major event that threatens to harm the organization.

The American Red Cross is a prime example of an organization who exemplifies strong crisis management skills. This honorable humanitarian organization managed to dodge-a-bullet back in 2011 when an intern fired off a personal tweet on the company’s twitter account. The tweet read “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettingslizzerd”.

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This uniquely unorthodox and unprofessional tweet received a lot of negative attention from the general public. In this particular circumstance social media proved to be the cause of the crisis. When responding to the tweet the Red Cross avoided disaster by acknowledging that the tweet went out, deleting it, and explaining with humor that is was a mistake. This is an example of crisis management where the Red Cross turned a potentially harmful tweet in to an opportunity for engagement.

Thankfully, the Red Cross realized the potential of social media and understood the power that it has to bring down a major organization. Now, other companies can look at this experience and utilize it to learn for themselves. After understanding the Red Cross’s response it is easy to break down their post-crisis steps and keep them in mind for other emergency situations. First, they were able to assess the situation. They realized the crisis was a major problem but they came to the conclusion that they could handle it which brought them to their second step, adapting their message. They considered their stakeholders and created a strong message to appeal to them. Lastly, they were able to analyze and learn from the situation post-crisis. Although this could have led to a horrific downfall for one of the greatest humanitarian organizations, everyone was able to benefit, understand, and learn from this experience.

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-Parker Farfour, Caitlin Ford, Alex Corrigan, Kaitlin Batson

“Did I do that??”

With a week full of fails, I imagine that readers will display a facepalm or two. Ad fails are fairly common and many are laughed off and explained through the phrase, “Everyone makes mistakes.” While ad fails often hit us in our funny bones, some offend readers far more than expected. This past year, AT&T and Esquire Magazine produced some facepalm-worthy ads that hit our country in one of its most sensitive spots: 9/11.

What was supposed to be an anniversary tribute to those who died in the Twin Towers turned into an outrageous ad for AT&T. The company tweeted the below photo as a 13th anniversary mark of respect to 9/11. The tweet immediately went viral, leading to hundreds of angry comments within minutes that claimed the ad was “tacky” and “tasteless”. The image was pulled from Twitter within an hour, followed by a tweet from the carrier saying, “We apologize to anyone who felt our post was in poor taste. The image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.”

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It seems that in this situation, AT&T just can’t do anything right. Users of Twitter still were not happy with the apology, admitting that it’s insincerity somehow made the situation worse. Some consumers were so outraged that they threatened to change phone carriers, all because of this ad. In today’s market, finding new customers costs six to seven times more money than it would cost to maintain them. Finding new customers can’t be easy, especially after the bad media attention that AT&T received once the photo was released. If the Twitter comments live up to their words, AT&T could be out a lot of cash by the end of this year.

AT&T was not the only company to bring the facepalms this past 9/11. Esquire Magazine’s online server accidentally posted an iconic photo next to a headline for another article. Instead of describing it, here’s an example of “a picture is worth a thousand words” :

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Following the post, Esquire tweeted a half-hearted apology saying, “Relax, everybody. There was a stupid technical glitch on our “Falling Man” story and it was fixed asap. We’re sorry for the confusion.” I imagine that Esquire did not consider their Return on Investments (ROI) when posting this tweet. While such outrage over a glitch may seem silly, taking the time to post a genuine apology would secure their consumers and perhaps draw in more. Because the Huffington Post reported on the incident, consumers from all over the world could unsubscribe from the magazine, causing a bad ROI for Esquire. It seems that a genuine “I’m sorry” tweet from the magazine would be far worth the investment it takes to produce the post. Instead, they received a negative return in response to their unenthusiastic efforts.

#fail #facepalm

-Dylan Fowler

PR Disaster in Wake of Natural Disaster

It has been exactly one year since Hurricane Sandy first hit the coastline of the United States. Much of the news media last October covered Hurricane Sandy and the damage that it caused. With all the focus on such a serious event it was important that brands and companies remained sensitive to the issue at hand. However this is exactly what several brands, including American Apparel, did not do. American Apparel was criticized for their promotion of their “Sandy Sale” during the storm. The ad stated, “In case you’re bored during the storm just Enter SANDYSALE at Checkout.” The sale was only available in the states that were most impacted by the storm, which included Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland.

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During this disaster consumers were most likely expecting to see messages that were heartfelt and encouraging, not promotional social media ads for clothing companies. This violation of expectancies caused by American Apparel created negative backlash from not only their consumers, but also the public. The Expectancy Violation Theory states that the outcome of negative communication may result in uncertainty in people’s behavior. A consumer replied to American Apparel’s ad by tweeting that she will forever boycott their stores. This consumer, along with many others, probably became uncertain if they wanted to purchase from this brand in the future.

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Another aspect of the Expectancy Violations Theory explains that reward from the violation can be either negative or positive.  In American Apparel’s case, the ‘reward’ was negative.  In most cases, a negative reward is met by socially acceptable behavior in attempt to correct any violation, but the CEO of American Apparel did the exact opposite.  In response to the unfavorable backlash,  he stated that, “I don’t think our marketing guys made a mistake. Part of what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going,” he told Business Week. “People shopped on it. We generated tens of thousands of dollars from the sale, but we’ll probably lose a million dollars from this (storm) event at a minimum. We’re here to sell clothing. I’m sleeping well at night knowing this was not a serious matter.”

Over the years, “Made in the U.S.A.” has become American Apparel’s trademark marketing approach, but in this particular situation, nothing could be less depicting of American ideals and morals than this failed attempt to generate income.  This and other failed public relations ventures should be seen as an example of what not to do during a national crisis.  The way we see it, during crises, PR specialists and media relations professionals should proceed in one of two ways.  Either stray away from social media, or only produce messages that do not promote one’s brand.  In the long run, this situation did not make a lasting impact on American Apparel, but if you were the CEO, how would you have responded to this negative feedback? When have other brands violated your expectancies in a positive or negative way?

-Aaron Love, Kara Zimmerman, Rachel Clay, Rebecca Hobbs