Monday, August 30, 2010

Hope Has a Face

Cancer has touched everyone in one way or another. Some of us (me included) are unfortunate enough to have had to deal with the agony of the diagnosis and the pain and discomfort of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy, on a first-hand basis. Others of us have gone through it with someone we love.

In an excerpt from my book, On the Other Side: The Journey of a Cancer Survivor, I reveal some of the pain that a diagnosis may unleash in your life.

"I used to think that the type of cancer we had separated us from each other, but I feel differently now. I agree that we may undergo different treatments if we are diagnosed with colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, or Hodgkin's. We may have different outlooks on our life expectancy. Some may undergo surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or some combination of these. But, we all share commonalities that band us together for life. We are brothers and sisters, joined not by genetics but by life experiences.

We all remember what it felt like when we were told that we had a cancerous mass growing inside our body. We know what it's like to feel fear that is so palpable that you taste it. We empathize with the rigors associated with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. We understand how devastating this disease can be, not only for us, but also for our family and friends. And for those of us that have been fortunate enough to kill the beast, we know what it's like to be a survivor, complete with all the ensuing positives and negatives.

Yes, we are part of an elite club. It's because we've been there. We know what it's like. We understand."

So, it's especially nice when someone puts a positive spin on cancer. Jigsaw, a Milwaukee creative agency, devised an interactive exhibit at St. Vincents Regional Cancer Center. Upwards of 7,000 guests were given the opportunity to directly interact with a 45′ x 7′ rear-projecting interactive wall by writing what the word HOPE means to them. The wall became a living, breathing organism.

At the same time, they encouraged people to tweet what they felt HOPE meant or add their thoughts to their "Hope Is" website. The words and phrases offered up by people were as far ranging as the diagnoses and treatment plans they underwent. Here are a few I particularly like:

Hope is a lifetime of springs.
Hope is finding inspiration in unexpected places.
Hope is making a child smile.
Hope is getting better so I can play with my grandchildren.
Hope is the look I see in her eyes.
Hope is the warm sun on my face.
Hope is the seeds you plant.

If you'd like to read a bit more on this initiative, check out Fuel Your Creativity's write-up at

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Toyota counts on a different story being told

Toyota has just broke a new ad campaign, "Every Toyota has a story." The ad extends to both advertising and Facebook.

The buzz in the ad industry for the past few years has been focused on the importance of advertisers creating an emotional link between their brand and target. Storytelling is repeatedly offered up as a way to create a meaningful two-way personal dialogue with consumers. But, here's the catch - consumers have to want to be a part of the conversation and they have to find the storyteller (the brand) to be credible and trustworthy.

No doubt, Toyota had that kind of relationship with its owners for years, but here's the question: Has Toyota's ability to engage consumers in a meaningful two-way conversation been at all diminished by the bevvy of recalls that have plagued the company in the last few years?

Let's take a look at the history of Toyota's recalls just since January 2009:

1/09: 1.3 million vehicles recalled for seat belt and exhaust system problems
8/09: 690,000 cars recalled because of faulty window switches
9/09: 3.8 million cars recalled due to floor mats trapping acceleration pedals
1/10: 2.3 million more vehicles are recalled because of sticking pedals
1/10: Stop selling eight vehicle models due to sticking pedals
1/10: 1.1 million vehicles recalled due to pedal-entrapment issues
2/10: 437,000 hybrid models recalled due to faulty breaks
8/10: 1.1 million Corollas and Matrix cars recalled due to computer issues
8/10: 1.1 million compact cars are recalled due to engine problems

My math adds all those recalls up to 9.5 million vehicles worldwide in just 19 months.

So, the $9.5 million question is: Will this new ad campaign positively engage consumers at an emotional level?

My gut tells me that the Toyota brand has certainly been damaged in the area of quality, but I think long-time Toyota users will forgive and forget. Toyota has been a reliable vehicle for years and they will likely cut them some slack in the near term.

I think the biggest concern for Toyota are the younger, first-time Toyota buyers. When you don't have a history to draw from, why bother to pledge your allegiance to a brand that hasn't been able to get it right for the past few years?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Having a Vagina Makes You Brave

"Courage. You were born with it. And what better way to nurture that feeling than with a little extra care down there? After all, when you're clean and fresh, you can focus on any opportunity that comes your way. So be ready. Slip a packet of Summer's Eve Feminine Cleansing Cloths into your bag ... It'll help you unleash that bring-it-on attitude."

Are you serious? I mean, are you really serious? Apparently so since Summer's Eve recently aired this ad in a Woman's Day magazine.

As I ask myself why the makers of Summer's Eve would want to disparage women in this way, the idea of creating talk value plays at the edge of my mind. But then, I ask, why did they select Woman's Day magazine as the venue to create buzz? Why not something like Cosmo?

Well, evidently, they received so many complaints about this ad that they pulled it. Here's the apology from Summer's Eve brand manager Angela Bryant (a woman!):

"I would like to first of all apologize if this ad in anyway has offended anyone. We are taking immediate next steps to remove the ad from circulation. We want you to know that Fleet Laboratories and the Summer's Eve brand have the utmost respect for women. While we understand how some may come to an alternative conclusion regarding our recent ad, that was never our intention. Thank you."

Hey Angela, have you ever heard of r-e-s-e-a-r-c-h before?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh Lionel - What Were You Thinking?

U.K. snack brand Walkers has given Lionel Richie a chance at a second life in this new commercial where Lionel changes the words of his once hit song, "Say You, Say Me," with corny lyrics like "Extra crunchy. Save one for me."

Back in 1986, Lionel Richie recorded "Say You, Say Me" for the film White Nights starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Life for Lionel must have sunk to a new low to cause him to bastardize his once high-performing single to this garbage. This commercial is an absolute disaster.

Lionel fan or not, it's hard to understand why he would stoop to this level to earn a few bucks.

One can only conclude that he really needed a few bucks.

Thanks to for sharing this truly inspiring ad with me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hostess and Healthy - An Oxymoron?

Company X has launched a new line of muffins made with whole grains, fiber, real fruit, and nuts.

If I read the above statement, I would think the muffins sound pretty good. Whole grains, fiber, real fruit, nuts ... what's not to like?

Now, let's try reading that same statement with a brand name inserted.

Hostess has launched a new line of muffins made with whole grains, fiber, real fruit, and nuts.

My perceptions of this muffin instantly changes. Somehow, I perceive that Hostess played around with the laws of nutrition science to deliver a kid-friendly, sugar-laced muffin that tastes good ... but isn't good for you.

Amazing what the power of a brand name can do, isn't it?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shards 'O Glass Freeze Pops

In this new television campaign, consumers are brought into a factory where Shards 'o Glass Freeze Pops are being made. Absurd? Of course, that is the intention of the campaign. But, they don't let you in on the secret until the very end of the commercial ... that this ad is sponsored by the Truth campaign.

Just what is the Truth campaign? In this ad, viewers are encouraged to visit When they do, they find that they have been redirected to the Truth campaign's website, the largest national youth-focused anti-tobacco education campaign in existence.

I get where they are going with this campaign ... selling Shards 'o Glass Freeze Pops to kids is about as ludicrous as selling tobacco to kids.

But, a few things bother me with this ad. Beyond the fact that cigarette companies no longer advertise to kids, I am just not sure that this type of campaign will effectively stop children from smoking. Let's be honest - kids know that smoking is bad for you. But, they choose to do it anyway.

It may be necessary to be considered cool or part of the in crowd.
It may be an act of defiance against parents.
It may satisfy the need to be experimental.
It may make a kid feel like they are pulling the wool over someone's eyes.

Whatever the reason, kids smoke DESPITE the fact that they know it's bad for them. So, my question is focused on whether this ad will be effective in persuading current smokers to stop and future smokers to never start.

This one will be an interesting one to track over time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

eHarmony Trumps Up the "Real" Factor

What better way to get you to believe in the power of eHarmony than to inspire you with real life stories and real life romances? With ten years in business under their belt, eHarmony does just that on their website, encouraging visitors to learn a little bit more about couples that met on eHarmony.

Like Adam and Julia who found out that they had a million things in common and lived just 5 minutes from each other.

Or Eli and Stephanie whose fathers were both pastors and who shared a passion for service to others and travel. Their wedding was officiated by their dads.

Or like Mary and Gerry both widows and around 60 years of age, who now have found a reason to laugh again.

eHarmony has found a way to let the art of storytelling market their brand. The stories are accompanied by tantalizing photos of couples laughing, smiling, hugging, and kissing. Even those that are not romantics at heart will have a hard time not feeling a glimmer of hope when they immerse themselves in eHarmony's "Real Couples" campaign.

Great insight into people looking for love ... as long as this doesn't turn out to be as "real" as WWF!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hold the Bus? No. Stop the Train!

Scott Walker, Republican gubernatorial candidate for the state of Wisconsin, is leading the polls for state governor by seven points. His new ad is causing a lot of chat, with news sources like Time, Fox News, PBS, The Atlantic, and The National Journal all throwing their two cents into the discussion.

His topic? Stop the train. Literally. He promises taxpayers that if he becomes governor, he will permanently derail the high-speed rail link between Milwaukee and Madison, currently scheduled to cost taxpayers $810 million in federal stimulus money and $10 million in annual maintenance fees.

Walker has dedicated a few websites to his quest at and These sites are amazingly pointed, laying out the consequences of proceeding with this train line to the average Joe.

His TV commercial is a series of splices between President Obama and Scott Walker talking frankly about the train. (Obama's comments are spliced from speeches that have nothing to do with a train line coming to Wisconsin!!) In his commentary,
Walker plays directly into the hands of the working man - an area traditionally considered to be fertile ground for Democrats.

While I find this campaign to be a bit hard-hitting, I also find it refreshing. I sense authenticity in Scott Walker's message. He not only shares facts, but he expresses heart-felt passion to do what's right for the state of Wisconsin.

Evidently, other Wisconsites agree.

P.S. I wasn't able to find Facebook or Twitter accounts linked to either "No Train" or "Brown Bag Movement" and with a common name like Scott Walker, I even struggled to find his Twitter account.)

Sponsor of More Birthdays

The first time I heard the new American Cancer Society anthem ad, I felt goosebumps up and down my arms. Here was a nonprofit organization that had found a way to connect on the scary topic of cancer in an emotionally positive way. Brilliant!

ACS has delivered the message of being "the official sponsor of birthdays" at every possible touchpoint - print ads, YouTube, electronic cards, blogger templates, and on and on. Amazingly orchestrated to deliver an emotionally uplifting message that is connected from medium to medium.

Being a cancer survivor myself, I am unduly impressed with the American Cancer Society's Birthday Campaign. Cheers to their marketing team.

The World's Biggest Small Company

Synovate - a leading global market research company - has posted a rather interesting video on YouTube, called the World's Biggest Small Company.

This video is fascinating on a number of levels:

- The image of the tall and short man discussing the advantages of Synovate being both big and small was visually arresting.
- The message was somewhat interesting, with Synovate claiming they don't have a corporate headquarters and that they are borderless. This helps them offer personalized, flexible, and responsive service.
-This is the first time I've seen a market research company advertise via a YouTube video - that, in and of itself, made the video stand out for me.

I've worked with Synovate many, many times in my career and agree that they are a great market research company. And they have offered me great customer service.

But, is it possible for a company that is ranked #9 in the 2008 Honomichl Top 50 list of market research companies and has achieved global revenues of nearly $1 billion to persuade us that they are small?

While I generally liked the ad, the entire time I was watching the video, the words kept hitting the B.S. meter. I kept thinking, really? Plenty of behemoth companies offer personalized, flexible, and responsive service. And in today's world of email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, many companies talk about the global walls being erased. So that leaves Synovate standing on only one leg ... no corporate headquarters. That, in and of itself, doesn't say a whole lot about how they do their jobs or service me.

All that being said, I still found the video and its delivery on YouTube to be rather fascinating. And, it certainly didn't harm my image of Synovate in any way.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Japanese Make Orson Welles' Big Brother Predictions Come True

On August 10, the Japanese installed a 47" touch screen vending machine at Tokyo's Shinagawa Station. This new vending machine is equipped with an embedded camera which is designed to recognize the buyer's gender and age, allowing the machine to recommend a beverage it thinks you will like.

Here's where the "Big Brother" stuff comes in. It stores your purchase history in its data banks. Then, the next time you visit, it customizes the ads you will see. Amazing technology - just how does it store all that information? Will it still work if you wear sunglasses or change your hair?

500 more vending machines will be installed in and around Tokyo over the next two years, with operating company JR East expecting them to tally up 30 percent more sales than their analog brethren.

Creepy or cool? I vote ccol, with a twist of creepy.

Drain the Rainbow

Skittles has done it yet again...encouraged us to use our imagination by taking a step into the world of rainbows. What's not to like in this new Skittles ad? Giraffes, rainbows, fantasy, and a Rastafarian deep belly laugh.

Thank you to Skittles for helping me to see the wonder and joy in those little rainbow colored candies. Thanks to Ad Freak, too, for always finding the entertaining ads I so love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Legos ... Not Just Child's Play Anymore

You've heard it before ... don't extend the equity of your brand beyond the point where your target gives you permission to go. But, what if you don't have control of the line extension?

Take for example, Lisa Taylor and British retailer Selfridges who are set to launch a line of Lego jewelry later this month. The jewelry is designed to be whimsical, appealing to so-called "kidults." But conjuring up happy images of building a Lego fantasy castle when you were a child comes at a price ... around $75 for the simplest items in the line.

Sorry Lisa, you've gone a bit too far for my tastes. The jewelry is too big, too colorful, too gaudy for my tastes. And, sorry, but I still think Legos are a lot more fun when you can build something cool.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fresh Sheets for a Week

Technological advances ... some are worth having, others aren't worth their weight in gold (or the quarters and dollars it costs to buy them). But, when technology can deliver a benefit that consumers really want, then it's a win-win.

Case in point: Downy.

Through the wonder of microencapsulation technology, Downy can now deliver scent pearls that offer long-lasting freshness ... up to one week of freshness, to be exact. And where do consumers most want to smell that freshness? In their sheets of course. Downy promises that every night you crawl into your sheets - for one entire week - you will smell fresh sheets!

Staying in line with P&G's promise last year, Downy has established a Facebook presence that is actually worth checking out. Ads direct consumers to, where they can “share [their] love of clean sheets.” They also give a plug to their cause marketing program, "Quilts for Kids."

Great photos on Facebook. Nice linkage between the brand (providing comfort) and philanthropy. Great opportunities for storytelling.

No surprise from the 2009 Marketer of the Year. Congratulations Procter and Gamble on a job well done.
Sue Northey - Find me on