Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Alzheimer's Society Helps Canadians Remember

According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people. As the disease progresses, it destroys memory and basic thinking skills, making it difficult to conduct even the simplest of tasks.

While just about everyone has heard of Alzheimer's, the understanding of this disease is somewhat limited. A recent study by the Alzheimer's Society of B.C. actually revealed a troubling lack of awareness about Alzheimer’s disease among Canadian Baby Boomers.  

So, they set out to make Canadian Boomers more aware of Alzheimer's by constructing a 30-foot wall - made up of 1,000 yellow sticky notes - that spelled REMEMBER in downtown Vancouver.

According to the group: "Each of the 1,000 removable sticky notes has its own reminder printed on it: Don’t forget the Investors Group Walk for Memories. The public will be encouraged to further aid their own memory by taking a removable sticky home with them. As the sticky notes are removed, the display will eventually fade like the memories held by a person living with dementia." (For more information, go here.)

What a great awareness-building idea. Now, if we can just find a cure... 

Ashley Martin: Banned or PR Stunt?

It's all over the news today - Fox has rejected Ashley Madison's Super Bowl spot.

Over the years, we've come to expect that a handful of ads will be censored by the networks. In Super Bowl 2010, PETA, KGB, and Go Daddy all had ads that never saw the light of day on Super Bowl Sunday. 

In many ways, we enjoy watching these ads just as much (or in some cases, even more) than those that are aired on Super Bowl Sunday. For instance, look at the number of YouTube views for three of last year's banned commercials:

PETA            160,783
KBG             332,713
Go Daddy     930,714         

While viewership may not be in the millions, remember that each of these views came at no cost to the company.

People wonder why or how these ads flew through the approval process in their companies without raising a few eye brows. Well, the plain and simple truth is this ... they didn't. Many, if not all of these companies, never expected the networks to approve their ads for the Super Bowl.

Think about it, does a company like Ashley Martin really want to spend $3 million for 30 seconds of fame? Or would they rather pay the production costs to create the ad and then wallow in all the free publicity?

My money is on the latter. 

P.S. By the way, I just helped them achieve their goal by writing this blog. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Target's Big Baby Billboard

On New Year's Day, Target Baby launched a birth announcement campaign to welcome babies around the world.

From December 31 through January 6, proud moms and dads headed out to the Target Baby Facebook page to enter the name, weight, and birth details of their baby. Once created, they could share their customized digital baby announcement with family and friends via Facebook, twitter or email.

But, that was just the beginning...

Parents could also submit their baby's name for inclusion on the "Big Baby Billboard,"  a 40-foot high refrigerator magnet located in New York and Los Angeles.  For five days, workers continually changed the billboard to reflect the birth details of new baby after new baby, like:

Matthew J. Leonard
8 lbs 5 oz
December 10, 2010
12:46 am
Barnstable, MA


Kylie Lynn Vasquez
7 lbs 14 oz
November 28, 2010
12:47 am
Annaheim, CA

The purpose of this changing act?

To capture a smidgen of the joy that new parents feel when their baby enters the world and pass it on to others.

Birth announcements ... courtesy of Target.

Monday, January 24, 2011

German Begs You To Take A Look


The German fashion apparel website, Ya Look, serves up a positively charming print campaign that begs you to learn more about what they have to offer. is a recent online start-up in the German market. Its portal showcases the fashions of more than 60 trendy brands, like Diesel, Lagerfeld, and Kookai. 

The challenge:

How do you entice people to visit your new website?

The answer:
Use some of the fashionable clothes you're selling to create "fashion faces." 

The critique:
Let's face it - This is fabulous!

Caribou Coffee Turns Up The Heat

Everyone knows that Minnesota can be darn cold during the long and dark winter months. I'm sure many a traveler stops at the drive-through of the local Caribou to get a steaming cup of coffee on their way to work ... not only for the much-needed jolt of caffeine, but also as a morning dose of toasty warmth.

But, how about travelers that are forced to brave the elements and ride the bus to work every day? Well, Caribou Coffee has found a clever way to comfort those unfortunate souls.

In order to promote their new line of hot breakfast sandwiches, Caribou has literally turned up the heat in Minnesota area bus shelters. Bus travelers can now warm up while waiting for their bus ... in the giant sized oven provided by Caribou.

A cozy, warm way for Caribou Coffee to serve up its marketing message, while simultaneously endearing the target to its brand.  Nicely done, Caribou!

AT&T Lets You In On The Joke

Have you ever felt left out of a joke?

Such is the case with the latest commercial from AT&T.

A carpool full of business people are driving along, when one man's phone dings. Ah, a message has arrived!  He opens the message and breaks into uproarious laughter ... all while his  business associates sit by numbly, wondering what is so hilarious.

Moments laughter - after their messages download on to their phones - they simultaneously break out into riotous laughter. 

Only then are we let in on the joke. The voiceover tells us, "Don't be left behind. AT&T - the nation's fastest mobile broadband network - is getting faster with 4G."

I love this commercial. It is a far more effective way to tell me that AT&T has a fast network than lulling me to sleep with maps and diatribes on the speed of their network. AT&T picked a great straight man for the part, a pseudo-nerdy looking guy with a booming laugh, who begs you to listen and watch ... waiting until we, too, can be let in on this great joke.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bing Offers a Cure For Search Overload

Everywhere we go, we are assaulted by messages.  So many messages that sometimes we feel paralyzed. 

So, we go to Google and search for answers. And instead, we get pages and pages and pages of possible solutions, leaving us even more paralyzed than when we started.

How do you cull through all the data to make a decision? 
Just who should you trust?

In steps Bing ... with a cure for search overload.

With a series of truly funny ads, Bing illustrates how confusing information can be when we receive too much of it. Whether delivered through their supermarket, pregnant, cell phone, stock brokers, or traffic jam ad, Bing intrigues you just enough that you remain focused on the TV all the way to the end of the ad. 

Then the payout.

A super comes across the screen, laying out the problem: 

What has search overload done to us?

Then the solution:

Bing & Decide

I absolutely love this campaign.  A meaningful message poignantly delivered with a twist of humor. Bull's eye.

Friday, January 21, 2011 Goes Down a Rung or Two

The Ladders promises to make you "irresistible" to $100K+ employers with their new 2011 TV campaign. The ad attempts to mimic high fashion ads, revealing slow-motion glamour shots of men and women moving seductively and posing in alluring positions.

As a planner, I get the idea behind the campaign: How can I make myself irresistible to employers who are willing to pay me what I deserve? I'm on board with this insight - it's a question most job seekers think about when making a career change.

But, that's where my fascination with this ad stops.

I find it contrived, over-the-top, and, frankly, insulting. As a female Baby-Boomer, I remember the days when women that rose to the top of the corporate ladder were often talked about with a wink and a nod and the question, "I wonder what she did to get to the top?"

This ad treads way too closely to those not-so-distant memories. As such, it has caused me to look at in a whole new light ... most likely, a light that was not intended by their marketing team.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: $3 Million - 30 Seconds

Adidas Has Inventory-Expanding Idea

How many times have you...
...fallen in love with a shoe style only to find they don't have it in your size?
...visited 2 or 3 or 4 shoe stores, not finding anything you really like?
...wished your small town shoe store had more variety?
...been frustrated because you just can't find a pair of shoes you like?

If Adidas has it their way, this will all be a part of your past.

This past Tuesday (1.11.11) at the 2011 National Retail Federation's convention in New York, Adidas unveiled a back-to-the-future spinning interactive Virtual Footwear Wall. This innovation makes it possible for shoppers to look through as many as 8,000 shoes portrayed in 3-D format.  Shoppers will be able to spin the shoe to look at it from different angles, zoom in on specific details, listen to a video, or learn fun facts about the shoe. 

All these shoes will be at your fingertips, through the use of a touch-screen display.
Interestingly, the shopper isn't the only one to benefit from this high-tech innovation. 

Retailers will now be able to offer a complete line of Adidas shoes regardless of the square footage of their store. As  Chris Aubrey, VP, Global Retail Marketing for Germany-based Adidas said, "We've leveled the playing field for small retailers. They can now act like a big flagship store in a town like New York."

This wall was made possible through a joint partnership between Adidas and Intel.  Unfortunately, it is still a visiion for the future. Current plans are to roll out the first prototype in the UK in 2012.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Campbell's Goes To The Sea For Its Salt

Admittedly, this ad has me a little confused...

"Adding sea salt has helped us reduce sodium in over 40 soups."

But, isn't sea salt, salt?

Okay, I have to admit, I hated science in both high school and college. So, I'm thinking I may not be remembering my science lessons very well. Maybe it's time to do a little investigation on this topic.

Common table salt is sodium chloride. NaCl. It is natural; in other words, it is found in nature; in salt mines to be specific. It is refined to remove any impurities and sometimes additives - like iodine - are added back into the salt.

Sea salt, on the other hand, is formed from the natural evaporation of ocean water. It, too, is natural NaCl. But, it is sold in a more pure or raw form than table salt. As such, it contains trace elements of magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and potassium.

But, bottom line, both table salt and sea salt are over 98% sodium chloride. That doesn't leave a lot of room for sea salt to be vastly different than table salt.

Okay, do you understand this ad better now?

No, I didn't think so.

Next stop, WebMD. Do they think that sea salt is healthier than table salt? (Thus, validating Campbell's decision to replace one for the other?)

"Table salt is getting a lot of competition from the new guy on the block - sea salt. The hype about sea salt is that they claim it contains trace minerals that table salt doesn't have. Truth is, those minerals are in such a low quantity that they don't make a difference to your health. The interesting news is that because sea salt has a much more intense flavor, you end up using less of it."

Interesting. So, in a roundabout way, Campbell's may have done us all a favor by replacing the table salt in their soups with sea salt.

But, at the end of the day, I don't want to have to work this hard to figure out your advertising, Campbell's. And, truthfully, I'm still not convinced that your soups are all that much healthier.

Florida's Natural. From Florida. Naturally.

I was flipping through my Real Simple magazine tonight when I turned the page and saw this ad. My jaw, quite literally, dropped. Florida's Natural proudly proclaims:

"The only major brand that's never imported."

I have been a market researcher for over 20 years and during that two-decade span, I have tested "Made in the USA" at least 30 or 40 times. For most of that time, consumers resoundingly said that this claim was, at best, a support point ... clearly not a hook to hang the essence of your brand on. Often, it represented a tie-breaker. If all other things were equal, then the home town favorite would likely win.

But, things have changed since 9-11. It's hard to believe, but this year marks the ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Not surprisingly, consumers became far more patriotic after that disastrous day. But, as with all other things, that patriotism seemed to wane with each passing year. The number of U.S. flags flown from homes began to dwindle. The lives of the surviving families were no longer splashed across newspapers. The memorial services held each year on September 11 became less sensationalized.

But, desire for U.S. made products has slowly built since that time. 9-11 may have been the catalyst,  but other factors have fueled this trend. Citizens have watched much of our manufacturing be shipped overseas. They have wrestled with the benefits that are bestowed upon illegal immigrants that flood over our borders, to the tune of about one-half million per year. They have found that most products Americans buy rarely have a "Made in the USA" tag on it.

So, it's not terribly surprising that, over the years, market research has increasingly shown a growing desire for all things American.

So, why did I find Florida's Natural print ad to be so surprising?

Maybe because I thought that other orange juices were sourced from sunny states in the U.S., like Florida and California (which of course is the point of this ad).

But, I think my reaction was more visceral than that. I've always associated oranges with Florida. Like every other college kid that spent their spring break in Daytona Beach or Fort Lauderdale or St. Petersburg, I brought a bag of fresh oranges home with me. An orange is iconic of Florida.

So, I ask myself, why would all the competitors leave Florida to buy their oranges? Of course, one doesn't need to think too hard to come up with the answer ... money. Buy oranges cheaper in countries where labor is less expensive and then sell them in the U.S. with the illusion that they were grown here.

Bully for you Florida's Natural. Thanks for staying true to your brand and your consumers.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Starbucks Energizes ... Without Caffeine

This past week, Starbucks announced that they are changing their logo.  Maybe the move shouldn't have surprised me, but it did.

Starbucks thought about this change long and hard. Ultimately, they decided it was the perfect way to celebrate their company's 40th anniversary and to position themselves for growth into new products and countries.

Starbucks new logo is absent of words, heralding the fact that they believe they have reached iconic status ... not unlike that of the Nike swoosh, McDonald's arches, or Mickey's ears. While there is definitely a modicum of truth here, I find myself wondering what advantage dropping the Starbucks name from their logo actually provides to the company and whether dropping the iconic green/black color combination is the wisest move.

In all my years of conducting brand research, I have learned one important thing about logos: consumers not only use them as a product identifier, but often they also form strong emotional bonds with the logos. Take, for example, the Gap logo debacle in 2010. Consumer and media reactions to the new logo were so resoundingly negative that Gap actually abandoned their logo plans. 

That got me to thinking. Just what are consumers saying about the Starbucks logo change? So, I wandered over to their Facebook page and did a sentiment analysis of the comments made during the last 24 hours. The results were irrefutable - consumers do not like the new Starbucks logo.

Negative comments:  162 (82%)
Positive comments:     26  (13%)
Neutral comments:      10  (5%) 

Here is a sampling of some of the comments I read.

"To me, the new logo does not have the inviting bravado and "elegant chic" of the very popular old logo." 

"I think that changing the logo is not a good idea, why change a good thing?" 

"The new Starbucks logo is severely stupid, and looks extremely cheap." 

"Dropping "Starbucks Coffee" from your logo is like taking off the "LV" from the Louis Vuitton handbags...a big mistake Starbucks!" 

"No, no, no, no! Don't change the logotype!" 


"The new logo is so ugly." 

"Why oh why are you walking away from the Starbucks brand?" 

"They can remove the "coffee" word but they ABSOLUTELY NEED to keep the circular STARBUCKS around the Siren; and add some BLACK cos green and white is so boring and bland." 

"Taking away the name "Starbucks" from the cup is like taking the name "Gucci" off of one of their bags. The prestige is gone in buying your $4.00 coffee...." 

"The new logo is awful. I hate it. I know that won't stop you from selling coffee, but it makes the people buying your coffee feel even more ridiculous about spending $5 per looks ridiculously cheap."

"Ok, don't even think about bringing that sucky logo to France."

"New logo is a joke. I'm waiting for the punchline . . ." 

"The new Logo actually disturbs me. It has been simplified and dumbed down that it just looks generic. Is this what is going to happen to the product as well?" 

"Am SHOCKED your marketing department would let you get away with this move. Starbucks is green PLUS BLACK. Removing the classy circular brand is another mistake." 

"Greetings from good old Germany .... KEEP your OLD Logo, we didn't need the new one!!!!" 

"Please don't change the logo. The old one is perfect .. why mess with success???" 

"Dear Starbucks, take a cue from GAP, read the majority of comments here. Your new logo is terrible and your loyal customers don't like it!"

In their book Consumer Behavior, Wayne D. Hoyer and Deborah J. Macinnis say the following:
"Surprisingly, the majority of dissatisfied consumers do not complain ... even a few consumer complaints can indicate marketing related problems that need attention."

If Hoyer and Macinnis are indeed accurate, consumers are even more negative about the Starbucks logo change than indicated here. As a market researcher, I am perplexed by it all. I have no doubt that both Gap and Starbucks committed a large amount of dollars and time to thoroughly researching this change. So, how is it that the enormity of the negative public opinion was missed? Or, is it that they understood consumer sentiment but knew that it wouldn't affect their buying habits?


As a marketer, I understand that Starbucks needed to refresh their image. I also am sympathetic to their need to remove any connotations to coffee from the label if they plan to extend the equity of their brand. However, I am questioning why they are telling  consumers that the logo change is "insignificant."


Consumers apparently do not agree.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Trader Joe’s: 360° Kitschy

While I am not a Trader Joe's loyalist, my daughter is. So, nearly every time I visit her at college, a trip to TJ's figures into the deal. Over time, I have become a fan of their kitschy atmosphere,  aim-to-please clerks, and healthy-oriented store branded products.

Undoubtedly, I am often cajoled into buying some three-buck-Chuck. On our last trip, I caved and purchased a few bottles for a holiday dinner party Kate was hosting. 

As we checked out, the wine was slipped into its own individual bag. I must admit that I may have embarrassed my daughter a bit at this point in our mother-daughter shopping experience. I just love this wine bag and made sure the clerk knew ... to the point where he actually handed me my very own bag. (I am such a Marketing nerd.)

To my way of thinking, Trader Joe's gets high marks for extending the shopping experience beyond the four walls of their store. The shopper is rewarded with a giftable bag and TJ's is rewarded with heightened brand awareness.

A win-win, no-lose situation. Music to a marketer's ears.

AirTran Fuzes a Partnership

Recently, on an AirTran flight to Phoenix, the flight attendant handed me my drink; not surprisingly, she handed me a napkin at the same time. But when I looked at the napkin, I was surprised ... it was a product advertisement for Fuze beverages.

In all my years of flying, the only brand advertisements I ever remember seeing (other than for the airline) have been related to cause marketing. You know the drill, buy brand x and we'll donate $x to charity x.

But, this was something different. It definitely caught my attention. And what was even cooler, was that if the advertising whet my appetite, the napkin told me, "Ask your Flight Attendant for Fuze Peach Mango or Strawberry Melon." Advertising linked to the potential for immediate product sampling.

Oh - and by the way - the headline of the ad didn't escape my attention either. "High and dry?" Nice pun Fuze.

Only one question. Were the business travelers sitting all around me on the plane the right target for Fuze? Just a guess, but it seems that Fuze may skew a bit younger.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ireland & Innovation: Unnatural Partners

The other day I was flipping through my Bloomberg Businessweek, when my eyes landed on the above ad. Since I'm not typically accustomed to seeing little smiley faces on ads, I stopped and took a look and found that it was an ad for Ireland. Actually, to be precise, a new innovative Ireland.

I must admit that I have never really associated Ireland with being terribly innovative. Instead, images of rolling green hills, Shepherd's pie, leprechauns, pubs, and Celtic music come to mind. Since Ireland is #1 on my "places I'd like to visit" list, these are assuredly positive images.

But, my curiosity was piqued. What had Ireland done to become innovative? Why does "innovation come naturally" in Ireland?

To learn more, I visited their website and their Facebook page and here's what I learned. Their Facebook page stated: "The IDA is responsible for the development and promotion of foreign industry and enterprise in Ireland. The IDA is focusing on attracting high value investment into Ireland such as Research & Development activities, European Headquarters, Advanced manufacturing and supply chain management activities."

And their website offered up the following: "Continuous innovation plays a central role in Ireland’s future as a knowledge-based economy. Recognising this, the Irish Government put in place a national Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) in the 1990s. Following from this significant funding and support are available to fuel innovation across industry, research and education."

Okay, I think I get it. IDA is trying to convince American businesses that Ireland is a good place to bring your business.

But, I still don't truly understand why I should bring my business to Ireland ... or why Ireland is terribly innovative ... or why Facebook is a space for people who think in a certain way is relevant to either Ireland or innovation.

I'm just confused.

(And maybe wishing I hadn't written this blog, after all.)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

AirTran Allows You To Leave The Babies

This AirTran commercial is certainly not new; but, what is so surprising is that I laugh every single time I see it ... and that's probably been about 20 times!

As the yellow taxi cab pulls up to their house, mom gazes into the eyes of her twin babies and excitedly proclaims, "Grandma and Grandpa are here!"  She runs to the door to welcome her elderly parents and gushes, "We are SO glad you could make the trip," handing one of the twins off to grandma. She, too, is excited thanking her daughter for sending her and grandpa airline tickets so they could visit the new babies.

You are left with a happy family feeling ... grandma and grandpa have come to visit and the three generation family is going to have a wonderful time together.

Well, not exactly.

The husband drops the second twin in the hands of grandpa and hurriedly moves their luggage into the vacated cab.  "We'll call you when we land," they yell as the cab squeals off en route to the airport.

As the enormity of what is going on dawns on grandpa, he shuffles down the street after the cab yelling, "Don't leave us with the babies! Don't leave us with the babies!"

I guess those free tickets don't look so good after all, huh gramps?!?

AirTran's messsage? Our tickets are so cheap, you can afford airline tickets for you ... and your babysitter.

Now if only that were true...
Sue Northey - Find me on