Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Creativity in Action: Minni Purl

This is just plain cool! Minni Purl is a textile artist, here in Charleston, West Virginia. I've seen and loved her work, but have never met her in person. She explains her work on this project:

Check out the newest knitting project by MinniPurl on the corner of Hale and Lee Streets. The city approved the knitting on the opposite side of the sign, so it doesn't confuse rescue workers needing street directions! Minni wouldn't want to cause accidents!! xo

(That's our building in the background, by the way.) It's things like this that make me so proud to live in a creative community!

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Tropicana Squeezed by Consumer Perception

Last month, we commented on Tropicana's packaging redesign. Some called it "generic." In fact, we questioned if Tropicana was using its new, plainer design to attempt to reposition itself downward. Now this week, as reported in the following New York Times story, Tropicana announced that it has reversed its decision (in response to consumer reaction) and has scrapped the new packaging design.

Tropicana Discovers Some Buyers Are Passionate About Packaging
(Stuart Elliott, New York Times, Feb. 23, 2009)

IT took 24 years, but PepsiCo now has its own version of New Coke.

The PepsiCo Americas Beverages division of PepsiCo is bowing to public demand and scrapping the changes made to a flagship product, Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice. Redesigned packaging that was introduced in early January is being discontinued, executives plan to announce on Monday, and the previous version will be brought back in the next month.

Also returning will be the longtime Tropicana brand symbol, an orange from which a straw protrudes. The symbol, meant to evoke fresh taste, had been supplanted on the new packages by a glass of orange juice.
The about-face comes after consumers complained about the makeover in letters, e-mail messages and telephone calls and clamored for a return of the original look. Some of those commenting described the new packaging as “ugly” or “stupid,” and resembling “a generic bargain brand” or a “store brand.”

“Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.” Others described the redesign as making it more difficult to distinguish among the varieties of Tropicana or differentiate Tropicana from other orange juices.

Such attention is becoming increasingly common as interactive technologies enable consumers to rapidly convey opinions to marketers.

“You used to wait to go to the water cooler or a cocktail party to talk over something,” said Richard Laermer, chief executive at RLM Public Relations in New York. “Now, every minute is a cocktail party,” he added. “You write an e-mail and in an hour, you’ve got a fan base agreeing with you.”

That ability to share brickbats or bouquets with other consumers is important because it facilitates the formation of ad hoc groups, more likely to be listened to than individuals.

“There will always be people complaining, and always be people complaining about the complainers,” said Peter Shankman, a public relations executive who specializes in social media. “But this makes it easier to put us together.”

The phenomenon was on display last week when users of Facebook complained about changes to the Web site’s terms of service using methods that included, yes, groups on Facebook yielded to the protests and reverted to its original contract with users.

And in November, many consumers who used
Twitter to criticize an ad for Motrin pain reliever received responses within 48 hours from the brand’s maker, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, which apologized for the ad and told them it had been withdrawn.

“Twitter is the ultimate focus group,” Mr. Shankman said. “I can post something and in a minute get feedback from 700 people around the world, giving me their real opinions.”

Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America in Chicago, part of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, acknowledged that consumers can communicate with marketers “more readily and more quickly” than ever. “For companies that put consumers at the center of what they do,” he said, “it’s a good thing.”
It was not the volume of the outcries that led to the corporate change of heart, Mr. Campbell said, because “it was a fraction of a percent of the people who buy the product.” Rather, the criticism is being heeded because it came, Mr. Campbell said in a telephone interview on Friday, from some of “our most loyal consumers.”

“We underestimated the deep emotional bond” they had with the original packaging, he added. “Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.” Among those who underestimated that bond was Mr. Campbell himself. In an interview last month to discuss the new packaging, he said, “The straw and orange have been there for a long time, but people have not necessarily had a huge connection to them.” Reminded of that on Friday, Mr. Campbell said: “What we didn’t get was the passion this very loyal small group of consumers have. That wasn’t something that came out in the research.”

That echoed an explanation offered in 1985 by executives of the
Coca-Cola Company in response to the avalanche of complaints when they replaced the original version of Coca-Cola with New Coke: Consumers in focus groups liked the taste of New Coke, but were not told old Coke would disappear. The original version was hastily brought back as Coca-Cola Classic and New Coke eventually fizzed out. (There are, it should be noted, significant differences between the two corporate flip-flops. For instance, the Tropicana changes involved only packaging, not the formula for or taste of the beverage.)

An ad campaign for Tropicana that helped herald the redesigned cartons, also introduced last month, will continue to run, Mr. Campbell said. Print and outdoor ads that have already appeared will not be changed, he added, but future elements of the campaign — like commercials, due in March — would be updated.
Unlike the packaging, the campaign has drawn praise, particularly for including in its family imagery several photographs of fathers and children hugging. Such dad-centric images are rare in food ads. The campaign, which carries the theme “Squeeze it’s a natural,” was created by Arnell in New York, part of the
Omnicom Group. Arnell also created the new version of the Tropicana packaging.

“Tropicana is doing exactly what they should be doing,” Peter Arnell, chairman and chief creative officer at Arnell, said in a separate telephone interview on Friday.
“I’m incredibly surprised by the reaction,” he added, referring to the complaints about his agency’s design work, but “I’m glad Tropicana is getting this kind of attention.”

In fact, Tropicana plans to contact “everyone who called or wrote us” to express opinions, Mr. Campbell said, “and explain to them we’re making the change.”

Tropicana is among several PepsiCo brands whose packaging and logos have been recently redesigned by Arnell. The new logo the agency produced for Pepsi-Cola has been the subject of comments by ad bloggers who perceive a resemblance to the logo for the
Barack Obama presidential campaign.

The bloggers have also buzzed about a document outlining the creation of the Pepsi-Cola logo, which appears to have been written by Arnell for PepsiCo executives; Mr. Arnell has declined to comment on the authenticity of the document, which is titled “Breathtaking Design Strategy” and is written in grandiose language.

One aspect of the new Tropicana packaging is being salvaged: plastic caps for the cartons, also designed by Arnell, that are shaped and colored like oranges. Those caps will be used, Mr. Campbell said, for cartons of Trop 50, a variety of Tropicana with less sugar and calories that is to be introduced soon.

During the interview last month, Mr. Campbell said that Tropicana would spend more than $35 million on the “Squeeze” campaign. Although he declined on Friday to discuss how much it would cost to scrap the new packaging and bring back the previous design, he said the amount “isn’t significant.”

Asked if he was chagrined that consumers rejected the changes he believed they wanted, Mr. Campbell replied: “I feel it’s the right thing to do, to innovate as a company. I wouldn’t want to stop innovating as a result of this. At the same time, if consumers are speaking, you have to listen.”

So, I ask you marketing geniuses: what do you think of that?

(And thanks to Maple alumna and marketing genius Emily Bennington for sending this to us.)

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marketing Missteps

Two quick stories -- one is sad, the other quite funny. One truthful. One an outright lie.

First, the sad. This one comes from a local radio advertisement that I recently heard for the first time (here in Charleston, West Virginia). The advertiser is a local furniture merchant. The owner has been the voice of this brand for many, many years. In this particular spot, he's urging us to replace our old worn-out mattresses with this new brand--higher quality, more affordable and available at his store (naturally). His hook is that we can save money on this brand of mattress because "the manufacturer does not spend money on mass marketing." Oh really?!!!

Pardon me, but what the heck do you call radio advertising?Is it not a form of mass marketing? Come on, Mister Furniture Huckster -stop lying to us. I mean they actually put this on the air!

Now for the funny one. This report comes to us from Maple alumna, Marie. She and her coworker were recently placing an order for office supplies from one of the national chains. When placed on hold for a few moments, they were treated to the sweet sounds of Carly Simon singing, "Anticipation." As many of you know, the chorus goes: "It's keeping me way-ay-ay-ay-ay-i-ting." How ironic! That just cracks me up. As Marie notes, "That just struck me as hilariously wrong marketing."

Marie, I agree. But at least they were telling the truth.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars and the Economy

It seems as if the economy has caught up to Hollywood! 

An article in the January 19 issue of Advertising Age mentioned a bit of a discount for would-be Academy Awards advertisers. Instead of the whopping $1.7 million for a spot last year, advertisers could snag a spot for a mere $1.4 million. Not only were spots cheaper… movie advertisements were accepted for the first time. 

This was a result of big boys like FedEx and General Motors dropping out of the sponsor lineup last year. ABC (and the Academy) seemed to hope allowing film ads would fill the void. 

The advertising rate decrease could have a lot to do with last year’s disappointing ratings, 32 million viewers, compared to the 39.9 million in 2007. Not to mention the great writer’s strike of ‘07/’08, which canceled the Golden Globes. There has been some tension with the Screen Actors Guild as well, so advertisers may have been reluctant to drop their dough on an event that could be canceled as result of a strike. 

Even the stars weren't as bright on Oscar night! Many of the "best dressed" stars were adorned in drab shades (ivory, champagne, grey, black) and minimal jewelry-- albeit their outfits still cost more than most of our homes, and they still looked fabulous!


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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nearly More Than

Yes, I still read ad copy. Some of it is quite good. Some ... not so good.

Exhibit A-
"Over the past two years, we have helped nearly 30 clients increase ..."

Exhibit B-
"Our staff has more than 45 years of combined experience."

With respect to Exhibit A--nearly 30--is that a great number, or is it minuscule? By stretching with hyperbole to "nearly 30," it connotes a notion of inferiority. In effect, the organization is saying, "Well, we're kind of new and inexperienced. We wish we had served many more clients. But hey--30 is not so bad for a newcomer, right?" What if the copy simply said, "We have helped many clients... "?

And with respect to the other example--more than 45 years--is that relevant? Is that a sufficient base of experience? Did they consider, "Not quite 50 years?" Does the combined experience consist of one old dude with 42 years experience working with three newbies with one year apiece? And if so, how does that matter? To me, what the folks in Exhibit B are saying is, "We don't really know what you want or need, because we haven't conducted any research. Plus, we don't understand our unique selling proposition ... so we'll just add this random fact to fill up space." What if the copy simply said, "Our experienced staff ... "? What if it showed a photo of an experienced, friendly team member with a small copy block about that person's relevant experience?

Dear advertisers (and copy writers): I nearly became interested in your product, until I encountered a more than tolerable dose of hyperbole in your advertisement.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A New Face to This Place!

Hello All,
My name is Tim Oldani, and I have recently been afforded the blessed opportunity to join the Maple Team as an intern. I am a grad student at the University of Charleston Graduate School of Business. From the first time I met Skip, when he spoke to our class at the grad school, I was sold on all his ideas, insights, and visions. I don't have to tell anyone who knows Skip, that he is an extremely creative and inspiring individual. Of course, that all goes the same for the whole crew here at
I'm new to the scene of the Marketing Genius Blog, from Maple Creative. Although I am new, I have had the opportunity to look through the Blog and all its posts as one of my current projects. This is, in the simplest of explanations, "A Very Good Thing". As a developing young business man, well student, I am always looking for tools, resources, and valuable assets, whether tangible or intangible, to reinforce my vocational and career path. The Marketing Genius Blog, I am excited to say, has taken top shelf and front tray, as a exciting new tool in my toolbox. I know I am young, and not a completely important part of the workforce yet, but I am still human capital. With that said, I would be doing my future employer an injustice not to build upon and reinforce my abilities to sharpen and develop myself. That's why I am excited and fortunate to be a part of the Maple Creative team "and Blog", and to learn from all of them!
Thanks for your brief cognitive and visual focus!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

How Wordle Sees Us

Thanks to blogger friend, Bob Coffield, for turning us onto Wordle. It is a clever Web application (Java based) that maps your content. Here's how our blog looks in a Wordle:

If you're having trouble viewing this,
click here.

Image is the property of Wordle.

Thanks to the creative folks at Wordle for bringing marketing professionals this clever new tool to help us analyze content!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tribes and CrossFit

Quote from CrossFit member on "Why I am CrossFit:"

Never before have I been a part of something that has impacted my life the way that CrossFit has. I've played just about every team sport there is over the years, but I have never been a part of a more dynamic, close-knit, supportive, badass bunch of guys and gals as I am here at CrossFit! Everyone is so passionate about fitness and the CF way of life, and it truly is contagious. I am CrossFit because....When the workout is over and the reality of what I just went through sets in, I have a smile on my face. When the pain comes and I look around and see that I am not going through it alone, I have a smile on my face. When I post times and accomplish goals that I never thought possible, I have a smile on my face. In the evenings when I am dead tired, sore as hell, and the days events are going through my mind and I realize that I gave it 110% all day, I have a smile on my face!!

Sense a little passion in the above quote?!! We'll get back to how that relates in just a bit.

Several months ago I finished Seth Godin's latest book, Tribes. While I enjoyed the book and have tremendous respect for Seth's marketing views and business insights, I did not feel like this book was his best effort. It was well marketed and well packaged (love the dust jacket!), but the content left me feeling: "Okay, so .....?" And call me old school, but I prefer more narrative and not so many one-paragraph anecdotes or client stories.

Then, about a month later, something happened that shifted my thinking. I joined CrossFit.

Talk about a tribe... CrossFit is a living, breathing tribe! My CrossFit experience totally crystallized Seth's theories about tribes. Godin: "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate."

The idea behind CrossFit and the shared interest among its tribe members is elite fitness. Everyone at CrossFit is there to learn and train (in a very unique manner) to achieve a new found level of personal fitness. Our CrossFit tribe makes great use of a very enriched TypePad blog as its forum for communication. The workout for each day is posted on the blog late evening for the coming day. I know from experience that every member of the tribe is on the site multiple times a day. A typical day's blog post will draw a response of 15 or more comments. Today, there are thousands of CrossFit members spread across six continents.

Godin: "Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more."

The leader of CrossFitWV is Jeremy Mullins. He's the chief of the tribe. And he gets tons of support from other chieftains, especially co-founder Dr. Dan Sticker. But it was Jeremy's vision that brought CrossFit to Charleston, West Virginia. Dr. Dan is a wonderful teacher, and I really appreciate all of the registered trainers (Corey, Brooks, Scott & others on staff, who are there to instruct, motivate, encourage and lead.) Here's the clincher: every day the chiefs do the workouts along with the rest of the tribe. They suffer and sweat and bleed along with the rest of us.

Godin: "People want growth and connection and something new. They want change."

Go back and reread the opening quote from Cameron, my good friend and a beast of a competitor who's nicknamed "The Machine."

Godin: "Tribes make our lives better. And leading a tribe is the best life of all."

If you think that's hype, just check out the following quote from Jeremy, our tribal chief:

Was there ever a better time in our lives? As kids, everything in the world was perfect. I used to wake up on a weekend to watch the early morning cartoons, have a bowl of cereal or two lol, and then I’d play all day long. It was such a simple life, but it made sense and it worked. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. It was perfect!

Until Now.....Right now is the best time of my life. I never get bored because there are always "toys" to play with, and how we play with them changes everyday. I wake up early and get to go hang out with people who are my "family." People who I feel would do anything for me if I asked. I get to watch individuals' lives change on a daily basis. I'm the luckiest one of us all...Why? Because I get to share those 5 mins after a hard workout (you know what I'm talking about here!) with almost all of you. I am CrossFit ... because I'm doing what I love to do from morning to night!
Seth, I stand corrected. You hit the nail on the head ... as usual! Thanks for capturing the essence of something so new and distinct: the American tribe, circa 2008.

CrossFit West Virginia - never have I found such a healthy addiction. You've given me a level of fitness, confidence and toughness that I've never had (and I've always been a pretty confident son of a gun!). Thank you.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Super Bowl Ads 2009- Post-Game

Finally ... a year in which the contest was more memorable than the commercials! Congratulations to the six-time world champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Yesterday evening, I solicited input on the Super Bowl ads through various social media channels. We had a blog post here yesterday asking for your reviews, plus many folks shared comments with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Relax, we are not going to tell you how or where to watch the ad replays. All marketing geniuses are way past dialed in on such matters. Instead, we'll share a quick compilation of reactions to yesterday's 62-spots-for-$206 million spectacle.

In my humble opinion, there were only two TV advertisements that caused me to shift my thinking about a product or service.

1- Audi - their ad left no doubt that Audi is back in the performance sedan category. This one had the theatrical production feel of a James Bond or Jason Bourne chase scene ... and got some adrenaline pumping (which really boosts the memorability, by the way).

2- Denny's - offered us all a free breakfast on Wednesday from 6AM to 2PM. Guarantee you there's tons of water cooler chatter about grabbing some free grub from Denny's.

Here's an ad-hoc, unscientific summary of what I heard from you and others:

Up Goes the Thumb
Teleflora - talking flowers ad succeeded in tarnishing the concept of "flowers in a box."

Bridgestone - creative use of Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, instead of actors.

Disappointing ... to Dumb
The Go Daddy ads were "dumb, offensive and inappropriate for kids."

Budweiser ads were mediocre at best (although the Clydesdales persist)

Gatorade "G" - good get with Tiger Woods, but low-budget production ... and we cannot keep up with your perpetual shifting of product lines.

Sobe - its Lizard Lake spot was a goofy, flop. What was the message here?

Split Decisions
Cash4Gold - some felt that this ad with its repetition and celebrity endorsement (Ed McMahon, MC Hammer) was pretty effective; others hated it.

Likewise with - opinions were split, ranging from "effective use of dark humor" to "worst ad of them all."

Cute / Funny
Folks thought that the E*Trade ads were still funny and cute (Shankapotamus!)

Many also thought the Dorito's "Power of the Crunch" spot was very entertaning.

Let's close with this concept. Advertising is and will always be subjective. We'll never have consensus on which were tops and which were flops. For now, let's just remember that the real measure of successful advertising is sales. Keep a keen eye on which, if any, of the advertisers' revenues have increased in the coming months.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl Ads 2009 - Your Reaction

In just a few minutes, they'll be kicking off Super Bowl 43 in Tampa, Florida. What a truly American spectacle.

This year, thanks to advertising rates at $3 million for a 00:30 TV commercial, NBC will enjoy a record volume of Super Bowl revenues. Their haul of $206 million is a whopping figure.

I've been studying and covering Super Bowl ads for the past nine years. While the economic and trade parameters are noteworthy, what's really important to most Americans is the entertainment value. I wonder what we'll see from the likes of these advertisers:
  • Budweiser - Clydesdales and otherwise
  • GE - my former employer
  • Pedigree
  • Coca-Cola
  • Go Daddy
  • Heineken
Finally, I wonder how much the Big Three Automakers will spend on Super Bowl ads this year? And we'll see if the recession caused advertisers to pull back on production budgets (i.e., will we see lower-quality, more cheaply produced spots)?

Please let us know what you think of today's ads. What was your favorite? Which one was the worst, in your opinion.

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