2011- Summer of Sequels

When will it end??

While watching the Final Four I saw a commercial for “Fast 5” (aka Fast and Furious 5) and thought that it wasn’t the first sequel movie ad I have seen for movies coming up this year.  An article on Slashfilm.com mentions that there will be TWENTY SEVEN sequels this year, an all time record!  Here’s a few of them-

Scream 4- April 15th

Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - May 20th

Kung Fu Panda 2 and Hangover 2- May 26th

Cars 2- June 24th

Transformers 3 (Dark of the Moon)- July 1st

Harry Potter Part 7 (Part 2)- Double Sequel!- July 15th  (Couldn’t find a link to the official part 2 website, that’s not good, Warner Bros!)

Later on this year, we’ll see Sherlock Holmes- A Game of Shadows AND Mission: Impossible 4 (Ghost Protocol) released on December 16th.

Being somewhat of a writer, it is intellectually insulting to me that film studios lack the creativity to come up with great creative content, but as a businessperson I totally understand.  In our “uncertain economic times”, studios are relying more and more upon their trusted winning formulas and minimize their risk by putting out sequel after sequel.  After all, if you’re a film company, are you going to put millions of dollars into an unknown entity or a proven formula that works?

The other aspect of this is the consumer.  If consumers are so busy trying to keep up with bills and their daily routines, they won’t have time to research what movies are actually good, so they will most likely pick movies they hear good reviews from their friends and family.  They are also “voting with their wallets” and if discretionary income is lower these days, consumers are more likely to spend their money on something they know they will most likely enjoy.

Perhaps it is up to the studios to more creatively and effectively market their movies to make sure ones that are not sequels get their fair shake in the front of consumers’ eyeballs and spend less resources marketing sequels as they usually sell themselves.

What else can they do to promote the “good” stuff?

Credit Bureaus taking “advantage” of consumers

With identity theft running rampant these days, it’s important to keep tabs on your personal credit report at least once a year.  A recent article in the LA Times points out that credit bureaus make it very difficult to even purchase a copy of your credit report from them WITHOUT purchasing their “credit monitoring” services which come along with a monthly fee.

When I was a sales rep for Experian, I received many calls from consumers at my office trying to get a copy of their report, which I could only forward them on to our National Consumer Assistance Center or our Website www.Experian.com.  Now if I try going to Experian.com to purchase a copy of my credit report, I get a great offer to purchase my credit report including a credit score for just one dollar!  Great deal right?  However, once I entered my information and clicked “Submit and Continue,” I came upon this screen:

Of course I get to the bottom of my credit report order form and notice it says I will be enrolled in “Triple Advantage,” Experian’s monthly credit monitoring service, along with my purchase.

Obviously Experian and the other bureaus are in the credit report business and have a great product to offer consumers.  However, if you are giving consumers the bait and switch or make it very difficult to make simple purchases, those customers will go to one of your competitors for their purchase in a heartbeat.

Playing these tricks on consumers also affects the brands of the three bureaus.  Brand awareness of the three major credit bureaus cannot be that strong, since they all basically do the same thing.  A lot of people mistake AnnualCreditReport.com with FreeCreditReport.com in thinking they can get the one free copy of their credit report with no hassles.  I’m sure FreeCreditReport.com has the most brand awareness, but usually nowhere in the advertising does it state it is an Experian website, so the company is performing a bit of brand cannibalization in not communicating the website is an Experian property.  You can check out all of their ads as I found a great YouTube montage of all the them in one video here-

So what are the alternatives here?  Well, I can think of a few.  Firstly, they can make it a  lot easier for customers to opt in to their credit monitoring services rather than trying tirelessly to opt out.  Another option is to actually put a link on the “Triple Advantage” jargon so people understand what the features and benefits of the program are so they can make an informed decision.  Finally, each credit bureau could increase the presence of the parent companies  into their offshoot websites in hoping of driving consumers to their own website and discovering the many other products they have available.  One example is “AutoCheck” which is basically the same thing as the way more popular “Carfax” which advertises all over the place.  On their site, you can see it is an Experian property, but only as a subscript of the logo and a small disclaimer at the bottom of the webpage.  Perhaps if they re-branded to be “Experian AutoCheck” and “Experian Triple Advantage”, they would grow brand recognition as well as not confuse people with the repetitive message of “free” on the FreeCreditReport.com commercials.

As we know, nothing in life is free and people will be disappointed if they go to the website expecting such things and not receive them.

Did Chrysler hit the target?

In probably the second most talked about commercial after Super Bowl Sunday (behind VW’s “The Force” ad), Chrysler’s cinematic ad featuring the City of Detroit, a thumping sample from Eminem’s “One Shot”, and scenes of the rapper driving Chrysler’s new “200″ sedan to a theater in Detroit. He then dramatically walks up on stage in front of a gospel choir to deliver the message “This is the Motor City….and this is what we do.”  You can see the ad for yourself right here-

On one hand, I think the ad hits the mark not only because of its high-quality cinematic production value, but also because it is conveying the message that Chrysler cars are made in Detroit which is a city that is hard working, produces great quality cars, and is on the rise again due to their strong work ethic and “never quit” attitude.

On the other hand, I think the ad missed the target because of who is featured in the ad. The sedan being showcased in the commercial seems to be a “sports sedan” that would most likely be purchased by the second half of the 18-54 key demographic who watches the Super Bowl. The problem with that is I cannot imagine that high of a percentage of people in that second half of the demo would be familiar with Eminiem and might wonder who the heck the guy is driving the car. If that is the case, then why would he influence their buying decision to pick up a Chrysler 200?

Again, I think it was a very well done ad, however, I just question its effectiveness in reaching Chrysler’s target market for the new 200.

What are your thoughts on this?

The most interesting marketing case in the world

Screen cap from Dos Equis' website with message from "The Man"

If you can’t read the text of the picture on the left (you can also click on it to enlarge), here is the telegram message that greets visitors to www.DosEquis.com if you click on the “Meet the Man” page to find out more about “The Most Interesting Man in the World-”

“My friend, welcome.

Congratulations on making it this far and finding my place of refuge. It is unfortunate I cannot be there to greet you in person. But feel free to look around, and get to know a little bit ABOUT ME AND MY INTERESTS. You might discover something about yourself in the process.

Good luck, and Stay Thirsty, my friends.”

Euro RSCG New York has generated a brilliant and engaging campaign here for Dos Equis (owned by Heineken) with this man as he is a direct play at the psyche of the American man, which is the exact demographic they are going after.  The campaign seems to be working, since sales of Dos Equis have been up every year since the campaign began in 2006.

His catch phrase of “Stay thirsty, my friends” is classy, brief, and easy to remember.  That’s pretty much the trifecta of a good advertising/marketing message. It definitely helps brand recognition as well.  If you were to ask someone which beverage used that slogan, it would be a very high probability the person asked would recall it to be Dos Equis.

"Stay thirsty, my friends."

The campaign has been wildly successful in the virtual realm as well, with an impressive 936,000-plus people “liking” the Dos Equis Facebook page featuring “The Man.”  Fans post their own creative tidbits about “The Man” on the page’s Wall with some being very funny and others, well…not as much.  There are also numerous Twitter accounts which claim to be “The Man” and dole out comparable one liners about him.  The Facebook page also features a tab to “The Most Interesting Cargo Hunt” game as well as a tab including information on a touring performance headlined this fall by Andrew WK called “The Most Interesting Show in the World.”  An Alexa search shows the online campaigns have driven the exact traffic they are looking to sell product to; the male, 18-34 demo.  Another captivating part of the campaign is there is somewhat of a story to follow.  Each commercial features “The Man” in different adventures, so the viewer is always wondering what will happen next.

Four years seems like a long time for one ad campaign to run.  However, due to its success in getting more people to drink beer, I can see Dos Equis being able use this campaign for quite some time.  In the current economic slowdown, it’s important to give people value for their money.  This campaign gives the illusion of luxury to the consumer when they are, in fact, just buying beer.  Well done, Dos Equis.  Well done.

Definitely NOT how to promote your band…

Saw this from @ClubDistrict on Twitter via the LA Times.

Photo courtesy of the LA Times

Seems like these guys should probably fire their manager or themselves.  They did have good intentions, however, as all proceeds from the song “Traffic Jam 101″ will go to the organization “Homeless Children America.”  The sad part for the band is they will likely have to reach into their pockets a bit deeper since they will most likely have court fees to pay for their arrests related to this stunt.

“A” for effort though, right?

Sincerity of Zuck’s bucks

Photo from http://screencrave.com/tag/the-social-network/

I heard through various media sources today that Mark Zuckerberg is donating $100 Million to the Newark School District as a charitable donation.  What brilliant timing on his part!  The movie  about his creation (or alleged “acquisition”) of Facebook called “The Social Network” is due out in a week and this generates TONS of PR for Zuckerberg and Facebook.  The announcement is going to be made on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”  this Friday.  Quite an effective announcement strategy, I must say.

One just has to wonder if there are any other motives behind this donation other than getting good press for himself and further building buzz for the movie.  On one hand, the donation looks like a desperate attempt to gain approval at a time when millions of people will see the film and form an opinion about the guy as a result of the story told by director David Finch and writer Aaron Sorkin.  On the other hand, it is an enormously generous donation to a school district that is lagging behind the rest of the state in testing and could use the extra funds as they missed out on a large amount of funding due to the state’s loss of a federal education grant because of a clerical error.

I’m of the school of thought that if you want to donate your dollars or efforts to a cause, by all means please do so.  However, if you parade around announcing your good deeds to the world, it diminishes the perceived sincerity of the act.  Regardless of it’s sincerity, this is a shrewd PR move for Zuckerberg and his partners that will potentially get more butts in the seats at theaters when “The Social Network” is released on October 1st.  It definitely has people talking about him, the film, and Facebook and as they say;  ”Any PR is good PR.”

My five social media "don'ts"

After reviewing my Twitter followers this evening I was also looking at some of their tweets to see if I really needed to be following them as well.  There were quite a few followers who I had no interest in following back and I will touch on why in a minute since they had committed some of the five deadly sins I am about to list here.

Some of these are pretty obvious, but I think they need to be stated in case someone new to the social media scene comes across this blog and can learn something.  So a “wag of the finger” (courtesy of Stephen Colbert) to these people for exhibiting the worst social media behaviors in the world.

Don’t do this- This will be called the “minutiae award.”

Tweeting/posting about where you went for coffee and then where you picked up a paper and every other small detail about your day-to-day life isn’t very interesting to your followers.  That’s because we all most likely do the same things as you.  Keep the number of tweets about yourself down unless you are reporting on some sort of live event that people could follow along with.  In that case, you may want to add a hashtag to group them all under one name/event.

Don’t do this- Have someone in your company using social media that doesn’t know how to spell/type

I sort of discussed this here in a previous blog post which was something Wells Fargo was guilty of doing.  I’ve seen numerous spelling mistakes by @ask_wellsfargo, not to mention the fact they air their dirty laundry on Twitter by asking people to tell them if they have had problems with their accounts.  Besides the sloppy mistakes, having an intern do your Tweeting/Facebooking just isn’t rewarding for your followers to read.  Having a VP or high level manager participate in social media makes for a much more rewarding experience for them and for their followers.

Don’t do this- Have a little birdie as your profile picture on Twitter

This either means you are a spammer and have been around long enough not to get banned or you don’t really know what you’re doing on Twitter.  It is critical to have something (picture, logo, etc) unique to identify yourself in the social media universe and if you cannot master this technique, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

Don’t do this- We’ll call this one “mixing business with pleasure.”

On Facebook if you don’t already have a separate page established and are “friending” people to grow interest in your business, you might not want to be farming and kissing people.  If I’m interested in your music and you send me a friend request, I’ll usually add you.  I don’t, however, want to see your back and forth between your friends or what crops you have grown in Farmville.  I can certainly hide your updates for farming and whatever Facebook applications I don’t want to see, but it’s just not a wise move if you’re trying to get people interested in what you have to offer.  A major red flag in this category is when political discussions occur on Facebook.  In participating in political discussions, you run the risk alienating a portion of your audience who would otherwise be interested in your page, product , etc.

Don’t do this- Tweet links from Mashable, TechCrunch, etc without giving them credit for it.

This is probably my number one pet peeve on Twitter and will get you un-followed very quickly.  A lot of “marketing” people who follow me have ended up to be Mashable clones and it was getting to be quite a pain to see the same articles in duplicate or triplicate so I un-followed them.  Get your own content!!

So that’s the list.  Follow these rules and you’ll avoid being de-friended, un-followed, and also any wags of the finger.

Location-based app participation

While I was on vacation this past weekend for a wedding in Lexington, Kentucky I was at a couple of pretty amazing places.  One I won’t divulge due to the homeowner’s privacy, but the other was Spindletop Hall.  What came to my mind on the long drive home back to Des Moines was if people are at a great event or at a beautiful place, what is their propensity to use their phones with location-based apps to tell their friends where they are?  I realize this is where Foursquare comes right into play, but in thinking about location based apps potential for long-term success, what is the likelihood that people will use them when at these events?

The use of mobile Twitter and Foursquare apps make it very convenient for people to use their phones to share their locations, but I know when I am at fun, fast paced events like wedding receptions, I’m too busy talking to everyone to think about tweeting about it.  Perhaps it depends on the event.  If I’m at a baseball game or hanging out at Starbucks or Caribou using their wifi and enjoying a coffee, there is plenty of down time to access my phone to share where I am.

Businesses should be thinking about how their customers use Twitter or Foursquare when at their establishments and adjust their social media strategy accordingly.  Target, for example, should probably not count on many of their customers to use Foursquare when they are shopping at their stores. Generally, when people are shopping, they aren’t thinking about telling people when and where they are shopping but about what things they need to buy. However, many companies are beginning social media participation incentives for customers who do check in on location-based apps, so perhaps those would be good entry points.

It’s difficult to pinpoint how successful companies will be when implementing marketing programs around mobile social media apps and there are tremendous challenges in getting high participation rates in these types of programs.  What these apps provide, however, is yet another way to influence customer buying decisions and if companies can find creative ways do so, it enhances their brand even more and adds another way to interact with their customers.

MLB- YouTube watchdog

Recently, I was at one of my favorite sports websites and tried to view a video that was a highlight of a recent Minnesota Twins game.  Well, unfortunately for me, the video was taken down by Major League Baseball (MLB) for copyright violation.  I continued to search for other relevant baseball highlights and came up empty.  I couldn’t find any broadcast highlights of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run.  Nothing from the Yankees’ clinching game 6 victory in this past year’s World Series.

What is the point of this “strategy?”  I understand why they may want to keep highlights of a recently played game as copyrighted material in hopes to drive web traffic to the team websites, the MLB Network, or MLB.TV.  One would think the league would want to have as many highlights on YouTube to continue growth of their very well known brand.  Perhaps MLB’s marketers or crack legal team know their target audience doesn’t go to YouTube for their baseball highlights.  If that’s the case, I would dispute that with this research I found by ESPN that shows most sports fans are in the 18-34 age demographic and are male.  Fairly obvious, right? Oh, and at the bottom of the page it mentions that “68% of Avid Sports Fans used the Internet in the past 30 days.”  Oops!

MLB is trying to push their World Series DVD sets on fans of teams that win the Autumn Classic.  I get that and it makes great sense.  However, there has to be a way for fans to have the best of both worlds.  Some free, some paid content.

Perhaps there is a very memorable game in the regular season that someone wishes to see over and over again.  An example of this would be the recent no hitter by Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.  One for me would be last year’s heart-stopping AL Central Division tiebreaker game between my Twins and the Detroit Tigers.  I am hogging 3 hours of space on my DVR right now because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get that game on DVD or be able to see it again elsewhere.

At least they have full games from the current season available to stream if you have the MLB.TV subscription.  Why can’t they offer every game to be downloaded for a low price with copy protection?  They also have a classic game section where you can view (for $6.95 a year) some classic games, but there is only a selection of thirty games.  Why not raise the price and include much more?

It would be great if they made partial highlights available on YouTube (and possibly disable embedding to cover themselves on the copyright front) on their own MLB channel there to supplement highlights available at MLB.com.  The supplemental highlights could include more plays, player/manager interviews after the game, and maybe recaps by the team broadcasters.  I think that could be a great way to drive more traffic to MLB.com or affiliated team sites, yet still grow the brand by keeping some sort of presence on YouTube.

In my opinion, FREE drives brand growth on the internet.  The more free material your customers can get, the more likely it is they will be driven to some sort of purchase down the road and become life long customers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think their online strategy is decent in driving revenue, but I believe MLB is not seeing the forest of larger revenue streams through the trees of their paid content and constant pulling down of videos on YouTube .

Domino's profits double due to new campaign

Recently I did a blog post about the bold strategy of Domino’s Pizza changing their pizza recipe in response to customer feedback and in hopes of increasing sluggish sales.

Apparently, the initial campaign has been a resounding success.  In fourth quarter 2008, Domino’s saw profits of $11 million, or 19 cents a share.  This past quarter they saw their profits increase to $23.6 million, or 41 cents a share.  That is an amazing result especially given the current sluggish state of the economy.

It seems as though the strategy has worked in the short term.  As the AP article I found on the subject states, “The question remains, though, whether Domino’s can keep the momentum going, or whether the novelty of the new recipe will wane.”

I believe if Domino’s can continue their involvement in social media to supplement the campaign, they may be able to see sustained success with this strategy. This could be where they see a large segment of new customers who perhaps may not have tried the new recipe otherwise.  I’m basing this on the supposition that people will see their “friends” in social media spaces talk about the product and based on their friends’ input, a new segment of people will try the pizza.

The problem is, when this campaign first began, Domino’s was using a lot of television advertising to supplement the new website and social media campaign. A lot of people who saw those commercials and were interested in the new recipe most likely tried it once (based on the  profit figures).  However, if the ads don’t continue to remind people about the new recipe and continue to promote the Domino’s brand, they could see an even bigger drop off in sales.

If I were in charge of the campaign, I would start supplemental ads regarding the popularity of the new pizza recipe that would include metrics of their success. Perhaps something like, “X out of X people LOVED the new taste of Domino’s Pizza! Why not try it and see what everyone is talking about?” Then it includes the people who have tried it and reaches out to those who have not as of yet.