Archive for November, 2008

Black Friday Gives Way To Cyber Monday

November 26, 2008

Who wants to get up at 5 am on their day off? That is the attitude many Americans have embraced since wiping Black Friday off of their schedules. But thanks to the fast paced technologically advanced world we live in, consumers no longer have to cut coupons and set alarms to receive the best deals on their Holiday gifts. The consumer driven world is based on instant gratification and marketers have developed a plan that adheres to all their demands

Over the past two years, retailers have morphed their infamous shopping day into a new tradition: Cyber Monday. According to Fast Company, “Cyber Monday sales totaled $687 million” in 2006. Since the majority of consumers’ online purchases are made during business hours anyways, retailers learned to apply this trend to revitalize our holiday shopping experience.

We now have the best of both the materialistic and affectionate worlds during the holiday season: we can enjoy quality time with our family and friends and still purchase our “must have” items. The only fall back is that consumer’s now spend Monday scanning the Internet at work looking for great gift ideas instead of focusing on their normal everyday responsibilities and tasks. Crossing our fingers that our boss won’t catch us! But this change in pace has also caused a seismic shift in the advertising world. Budgets for print and broadband ads are being redistributed into interactive/digital campaigns. The alteration in distribution channels has clients fighting for their banners and skyscrapers to run during this crucial timeline. But marketers have embraced this change. The interactive switch gives them the in the opportunity to create promotional campaigns that will generate a larger database of qualified sales leads and a more accurate account and understanding of their target market.

Consumers shopping habits are evolving and simultaneously, the advertising world must follow suit. Seasons greetings from new media!

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New Media Expedites The Demise Of MTV’s TRL

November 19, 2008

This past Sunday, MTV bid farewell to one of the most iconic programs the network has ever produced over the course of its near 30-year history. “Total Request Live,” or “TRL”, officially signed off the air for one last time, marking the end of the road for a show known just as well for launching the careers of “diverse” pop stars like Kid Rock and Christina Aguilera, as it was for it’s steadfastly devoted audience of teenagers (whom either spent after school hours glued to the TV set, or frolicking outside MTV’s studios in Times Square).

But whether you liked the show and what it stood for (obsessive admiration over artists, actors, and other “hip” figures getting their 15-minutes of fame), you had to respect the fact that at the height of its popularity, TRL symbolized the power of MTV to shape mainstream American culture.

That’s because while neither Limp Bizkit nor the Backstreet Boys were creating anything of transcendent quality, the appeal of these groups to the young masses, coupled with TRL’s unparalleled ability to let fans vote for their favorite videos and display their popular musical allegiance, did transcend the way viewers consumed music and supported (or gave “props” to) their idols. In essence, if fans kept voting for them, TRL’s most (in)famous host, Carson Daly, would provide viewers with immediate access to their favorite videos and frequent live appearances from the artists themselves. And, over time, fans began to demand this instant access. Band’s started building elaborate websites, albums came loaded with interactive media, and the music video continued the climb (that began with innovative videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer“) to its perch as the most defining aspect of the pop-oriented musician’s brand. That’s right, TRL was transcending the way we interacted with music, while at the same time, was serving as a band’s primary branding tool.

Admittedly, when I was of high school age I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was a lot more concerned with aligning myself with the brands of such “alternative” rockers as Staind and Papa Roach. Did I think they made great music? Probably not. But I wanted to disassociate myself from the “boy bands,” so I went to war on a weekly basis (ok, maybe daily) with legions of teenage girls to support my side of the musical aisle. MTV, and the bands I supported must have loved me. I watched the show, voted for the bands, bought the albums, and even purchased the shirts to spread my allegiance, the old fashioned way.

So if TRL was the ultimate pop-culture, brand-building machine, why did the network just host their last show? I’m think it might have to do with the stunning proliferation of new media. Music fans no longer have to rely on TRL to see their band’s favorite videos; they can just as easily go to YouTube. Want to support your favorite band as manically as possible? Join their Facebook group. In a cluttered media landscape and a constant state of information overload, people have tons of different mediums through which to align themselves with, and enjoy, b(r)ands.

Undoubtedly, MTV came to this realization themselves. These days, music fans are just as likely to track a Twitter feed to discover a new band, and then download their video or podcast, then they are to spend a whole hour of their day watching TRL.

Information is moving at breakneck speed and for musicians and the music industry, hopefully this means that quality and skill will win out over the mass marketing and pop culture spin that defined the TRL generation (for better or worse).

Besides, it’s a lot easier to link to your favorite band then it is to buy their T-shirt.

Flash Video Reinvents The PDF

November 17, 2008

This past summer, the latest version of Adobe Acrobat was released with Flash video support. While this may not seem groundbreaking at first blush (older versions of Acrobat have allowed for embedded video with Quicktime, etc.), Acrobat 9 actually integrates the video directly into the document as opposed to relying on an external video player to be installed on the viewer’s computer. With Acrobat 9, videos can be played directly within a PDF document, in the same way you view videos on YouTube and other video sharing websites.

By integrating this new capability into its Acrobat software, Adobe has taken the static PDF format and reinvented a program capable of creating dynamic and eye catching electronic marketing collateral.

Imagine a real estate agency that would normally email static spec sheets on properties to prospective buyers. How much more interesting would it be for these potential buyers to receive a PDF with a video tour of the property, right there embedded within the PDF? This also opens up a whole new world of possibilities adobe_acrobat12for product support documents. Have you ever downloaded or received a user manual for something you purchased? Wouldn’t it be much more helpful if that manual was embedded with instructional videos of how to operate or put something together? As a new father, I know I would have a lot more hair if I had had instructional videos to go along with the user guides when attempting to put together the stroller, bouncy seat, pack ‘n play, crib, changing table, and Diaper Genie!

With the full Flash integration in this latest release, the previously limited ability to convert web pages into PDFs is significantly enhanced. Until now, it was impossible to capture complete web pages and place them in a PDF document, due to the inclusion of rich and interactive media in most websites. Now the entire page can be captured, which is beneficial in website review as PDF versions of web pages, can be printed, marked up, and shared.

It’s just another cool product released by Adobe that will help marketers get a leg up on their competition by taking advantage of this technology and thinking creatively!

How did you think of that?

November 14, 2008

“How do you creative guys get your ideas?” I hear that question a lot and my answer is usually that it’s a process. Sometimes you get the “ah ha!” moment in the shower then pretend to spend all day working on it, but unfortunately those are few and far between. Most of the time we actually DO have to work at coming up with a creative idea and I’ll share some of the techniques that work for me.

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I find being present at initial client meetings helps, that’s obvious, but paying attention to the details can help spark an idea that the client might not realize they mentioned, but is right on target. Taking notes helps, but I find making quick sketches of ideas that jump out immediately is important because when you go to the next meeting or the phone rings those potential good ideas just disappear.

Leave some time for day dreaming. There are usually a few key messages that the client is trying to convey and you need some quiet time to think hard about a creative way to make them come to life. Make sure to write down all your ideas, especially the bad ones. Once you write down the bad (or tired and cliched) ideas you get them out of the way and you can move on to the good ones. They’re there; you just have to dig them out.

Don Draper, the Creative Director character on the TV show Mad Men, once suggested to a colleague to think hard about a problem then just forget about it, then the ideas will come. I totally agree, once you plant the seed and you let your brain go on to something else you tend to have ideas pop up. Just be sure to write them down! It will take a few cycles of hard thinking and forgetting, but you’ll be amazed at what comes up.

Keep a pad and a pen handy by the bed. After a long day of work your brain has been processing all kinds of information with no time to rest and make sense of it all. The only time that it gets a rest is when you sleep. I find that the time just before you fall asleep can be a very fertile time for creative ideas. If you take that time to let your mind wander to your project (in a non-stressful way) great ideas will make their way to the surface. In that time between sleep and consciousness I usually come up with my best ideas. I tell myself that I’ll remember the idea in the morning, but if I don’t force myself to write it down then it’s gone and I spend the rest of the day scrambling to figure out what it was!

Finally, whether you have a pressing project or not, a good habit to get into is to be aware of things around you. Take a close look at buildings, ads, magazines, movies etc. and store them away. There are a ton of great ideas out there if you keep an eye out for them.

Marketing in Arabic

November 13, 2008

Companies worldwide have finally realized that the Middle Eastern market and Arabic speaking consumers are an under serviced demographic. As a result, there is a growing demand for modern Arabic typefaces. More and more international corporations are seeking out Arab designers to create custom fonts and logos to appeal to the Middle Eastern market. Just recently, the BBC launched an Arabic TV channel (BBC Arabic), and MTV followed suite with MTV Arabiya broadcasting from Dubai.

As a graphic designer from the Middle East, I find it just as easy to design Arabic fonts as it is to design and develop Latin (English) fonts.The biggest challenge really comes down to application. The cursive, calligraphic forms of traditional Arabic text – though aesthetically pleasing – simply doesn’t fulfill the needs of our media-driven society. Historically, both Arabic and Latin alphabets are rooted in calligraphic writing, but the similarities end there. One major difference is how the typefaces are designed. Latin typefaces are constructed vertically and the same letter is set and spaced apart from the other characters. With Arabic letter forms, there are no capitals yet the same letter can have up to four forms depending on where it falls in a word. They also tend to be more calligraphic since letters within a word are physically linked to each other by a continuous horizontal stroke.

The challenges Arabic type designers are facing today is developing modern fonts for online reading (or screen fonts) as well as fonts that are legible at very small type sizes. There’s also high demand on stylistic Arabic fonts for use in displays and signage.

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Just the other day, I came across a new Arabic display typeface for the “Ibn Battuta Mall” in Dubai. It’s always refreshing to discover a new Arabic type face that can be applied bilingually. “Bukra Extra Bold” was developed by Lebanese type designer Pascal Zoghbi, and is based on the well-known Latin font “Futura Extra Bold”. Designing an Arabic type face with such short ascenders and descenders is no easy feat, especially with a thick pen stroke. “Bukra Extra Bold” reflects the sturdiness and geometric simplicity of its Latin counterpart perfectly.

Contemporary Arabic type design is at the brink of a new and exciting millennium. The past decade has witnessed the influential work of many Arab designers and the market for Arabic type faces will continue to expand. What I’m left wondering is… Will Latin fonts be able to keep up? For more info on Arabic and Latin font differences, click here.

Does Sex Sell?

November 12, 2008

Before I delve into this charged and heavily argued subject, let me just start by asking you to think back. Try to remember the brand behind the commercial that I am going to try and describe to you now. It begins with a rock guitar solo and a scene of guys playing football. It then cuts to different scenes of guys roughhousing, quarterbacks getting tackled and other masculine imagery. All the while there is a voice in the background narrating and describing the different scenes that are depicted. For example, “I love… playing two hand touch, eating way too much… watching my team win… with the twins!” After he says “twins,” two scantily clad beautiful blondes jump up with pom-poms in their hands. This ad was continued in a series for…were you able to remember?

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If you were able to remember then congratulations. If you weren’t, this begs the question, were you more interested in the girls, or the beer? How about the commercial with Paris Hilton washing the car? Or, the commercial with the two voluptuous women fighting and tearing their clothes off over the taste of the beer? Maybe you remembered the brands, maybe you didn’t. After I polled a few guys, I soon realized that a lot of these commercials left a lasting effect on them because of the models in the commercials. When asked what the brand was behind the commercial many times they were not able to remember. This shows us that although many brands are using sex as a tool, the effect of this has been blunted by a disconnect that the advertisers may not be aware of or even ever considered. It’s that sex can overwhelm the message and easily dilute the essence of a brand if not used carefully.

How about the ads with the three frogs hanging out by the bar near the lagoon? Yeah, you’ve got it, it’s Budweiser! This commercial had no models and did not objectify women in any way. Yet, it accomplished its goal by holding the audience’s attention and has been regarded as one of the most memorable ads in history.

Does this mean then that we can write off sex as a way to garner a select demographics attention? No, not at all. When a brand has been built around this theme then it can only reinforce the message. For example, Hooters, Playboy, etc… Well, you might say that these don’t count as they are obviously linked and might be a no-brainer. But, it has been shown that sex also reinforces brands that ultimately have to do with attraction; like colognes, perfumes, clothing, etc. An example of this would be the Acqua Di Gio model who became the face and body of the brand for years and successfully reinforced the core essence of the brand; sex and attraction. Also, Fcuk, a clever way to utilize French connection’s U.K. brand by deliberately confusing the audience into thinking the brand is a more commonly used four-letter word. The campaign that was launched behind this idea was a huge success and Fcuk went on to generate a huge leap in revenue sales. And, what about the Axe Effect commercials? There is another example of how sex reinforces a brand that is ultimately built around the idea of attraction.

What can we take from this? In the digital age that we live, we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements on a daily basis and advertising agencies are struggling to fight for our attention. This means that some believe the easiest way to do this, even if for just a few seconds, is to appeal to our base desires. What many agencies don’t realize is that this could lead to the deconstruction of a brand by confusing the viewer or not reaching them at all. It is important to remember the core of the brand and to never forget that the easiest way out is not always the best.

What is 451 Marketing?

November 10, 2008

I often get asked to force-fit our agency into predetermined labels. For instance, I was recently signing up for an event and was asked the question: “Are you an advertising agency, a public relations agency, an interactive agency, a social media agency, or a marketing agency?” I had to choose one, so I chose “marketing agency.”

The truth is, we have elements of all of these pre-existing terms and categories, but we are really much more than that. Further, the term “marketing agency” makes most people think of the stodgy traditional shops, which we are not. On one hand, our expertise can easily be categorized – lead generation through new media. But one might ask if that categorical description is something that people can mentally digest…quickly? After all, if we are going to label ourselves shouldn’t we do it in a way that is straightforward and potentially unique? Maybe we could go with – “Lead generation through the strategizing and execution of social media campaigns, traditional public relations, PR 2.0, search leveraged public relations, search engine optimization, mobile marketing, advertising, and branding and positioning”… I know, way to long.

How about, “451 Marketing, the agency that makes a lot of money in a short amount of time for their clients by using quantifiable techniques?” Getting closer, but still think people would probably want something a little more refined. We could try something that talks about our commitment to being at the forefront of our industry, describes our constant efforts to know more, apply more, and educate each other on the latest and greatest in new media. We need to create some way to convey how we bring better ROI’s for our clients compared to our competitors? Maybe, “451 Marketing, constantly working to be at the forefront of new media and delivering ROI’s like no one else?” Nah… not in love with it, still to long. I think we need something that captures it all in one succinct impactful statement.

Maybe something like… 451 Marketing, “The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM“. I like it!

AJ Gerritson, Founding Partner at 451 Marketing

Innovations in Mobile Marketing

November 7, 2008

When you hear the beep that you have a new text message it might not be from your best friend anymore. Instead, the message could be a Mobile Marketing tool sent by advertisers and marketers that you agreed to receive texts from. How do you know that the text messages are not spam? That is the power of Mobile Marketing; the consumer controls this form of communication by giving consent to receive text messages. This is different from most other marketing techniques in which businesses control the information they disseminate to consumers.

More and more companies are turning to Mobile Marketing to reach new and existing customers. Recently, QuickMobile, a mobile technology and services company, released a Version 2.0 as part of its Contextual Mobile Marketing Platform. By using QuickMobile, companies can send text, audio, video and graphics to mobile phones. Some new features of this program are Mobile Polling and Mobile Results in addition to enhanced security and preferences. Mobile Polling allows presenters to create and ask questions to audiences in real time and have them answer the question on their mobile phone. This interactive tool will add a new dimension to how presenters can keep audiences’ attention and collect data at the same time. The other new device, Mobile Results, allows Mobile Marketing Firms to track their activity in order to test its effectiveness. Both of these tools were utilized by the Presidential campaigns, as mentioned in Nick’s previous post.

With new tools being created all the time for Mobile Marketing Firms and Interactive Agencies, this technique is growing in popularity among companies. The fast and direct communication it provides to consumers appeals to businesses looking for innovative ways to reach their target audiences. Shopping, for example, can also be done through Mobile Marketing, with new innovative technologies that allow shoppers to engage in text ordering, as well as receive text messages about different upcoming promotions of the respective store.

All the new media technology involving Mobile Marketing is revolutionizing how consumers complete their every day tasks and activities. As the future unfolds, Mobile Marketing will continue to grow as a front-runner in new media communications.

Credit where credit is due…

November 6, 2008

Regardless of your political affiliation, I think anyone would agree that no small part of the success of President-Elect Obama’s campaign was due to their groundbreaking use of New Media. While presidential campaigns have been using interactive marketing for several election cycles now, the technology becomes more and more advanced with each one. In 2000, the web was still the new and exciting medium. Everyone knew the magnitude of its power, but we were all still trying to figure out what to do with it (thus the gold rush of the late 90s). Gore and Bush both had professional websites that broadcast information about their positions. Howard Dean took the next step in 2004 by using the internet to raise amounts of money that took all his competitors by surprise.

In this year’s cycle, however, we’ve seen an even more extraordinary leap in the effective use of technology. This year is the first one since what we generally refer to as “new media” has gained a meaningful number of users. Barack Obama and his team recognized this from the start and harnessed it to do so much more than just raise money. Bring in record numbers of money they did, but they also did a lot of things that left McCain’s campaign behind, much the way Kennedy left Nixon behind because of his inherent understanding of television.

So what did he do beyond his regular marketing campaigns and public relations efforts? He ran targeted opt-in text messaging campaigns, twitter updates, RSS Feeds, Blogs, webcasts, podcasts. I wonder if John McCain could even identify what most of those items are. I don’t mean that to be derogatory, rather I mean it to point out the difference in generation. The fact remains that Obama embraced a technology that is no longer in the future. The “present” has arrived for Web 2.0, Search Leveraged Public Relations, PR 2.0, Mobile Marketing and a host of other technologies. Now that we’ve seen how a political candidate can use it well, I’ll be a keen observer of what will come next in 2012.

Welcome to Heat!

November 5, 2008

Welcome to Heat, the official blog of The Leader in New CommunicationsTM451 Marketing! If you are unfamiliar with us, I will fill you in:

Back in 2004, a couple of interactive marketing veterans named AJ Gerritson & Nick Lowe recognized a paradigm shift in the world of marketing, advertising & public relations. Rather than sit back and wait to see how it would all take shape, like most firms have done, they decided to get a jump on the competition. With a phone line and a couple of PCs, the two enterprising lads founded 451 Marketing – an agency that could offer companies a way to better connect and engage their customers through a combined new media and traditional communications approach that utilized both advertising and public relations. Turns out they were on to something. The agency has grown substantially since then – with an award-wining design team, cutting-edge new media specialists and *ahem* one talented and well connected public relations team – 451 Marketing has emerged as The Leader in New Media CommunicationsTM. We have created a targeted and fully-integrated communications approach that harnesses new technology to ensure that a client’s message breaks through the noise and is heard clearly by their customers. If you don’t believe me, ask our satisfied clients.

Where did the “451” in 451 Marketing come from you ask? No it’s not the address of their first office (would you really want to hire an agency that was that obvious?). And no, it’s not because when added together the numbers equal a Perfect 10 (although Nick is a big Sudoku fan). See, the number comes from the temperature at which paper burns – 451 degrees Fahrenheit! Advertising on paper is so 2003! It’s a good thing these guys recognized this, because they subsequently found that the brands they’ve created and communicated over the past four years have been so hot that they’re too hot for paper!

The 451 Marketing Heat blog will be a place for the new media junkies over here at 451 to muse, discuss and sometimes rant about the things that get us going! Please check in often, read what we have to say and feel free to tell us what you think, because the beauty of new media is that it’s interactive!

Cheers,

Tom Lee, Partner & Director of Public Relations