Tag Archives: marketing

When you put “Knife” in the title…

8 Jan

When you put “knife” in the name of something, it grabs your attention. Sure, a knife is a common enough item, but it’s also dangerous, and when you use it out of context (kitchen), your mental eyebrows go up. So let’s see what happens when you add “knife” to the conversation.

Take–for example–the book I’ve chosen. Lois McMaster Bujold is a great author; love her Vorkosigan books. To my shame, I haven’t read her Sharing Knife series, but that’s mostly because I love sci-fi and not fantasy. It seems silly, because there’s a reason why the two genres are lumped together. Both involve going to different worlds, both involve some sort of advanced ability/technology, and both meet alien species. Although in one it’s an extraterrestrial, the other an elf. For me, fantasy has to have some quirk for me to be interested, such as magic using calligraphy, or low-magic politics-heavy (Game of Thrones), or urban fantasy (Dresden Files).

However, I remembered the name, didn’t I? Which is the point of this blog post–“knife” grabs your attention.

Take this electronic dance party (EDM) band–Knife Party. If you’re even peripherally into EDM, such as myself, you’ve heard of these guys. They are really good and throw in fun quotes by some serious sounding woman saying, “You blocked me on Facebook, and now, you’re going to die.” Again, the word “knife” grabs your attention. After all, a knife party is not something you want to be invited to. It’s like playing stabscotch–sure, it looks cool when someone else is doing it, but when someone is trying to stab a knife between your fingers over and over again, it’s not so fun.

Do I want the sharing knife? But I am curious… what is it? It doesn’t have the same effect as saying, “Year of the Cat.” But maybe if we add “Black Cat,” would you be more likely to pick it up? It’s hard to come up with another word that grabs your attention like that. Okay–“sex” always grabs your attention. But unless you want to put in that book section, your list of grabbing words shrink.

Can you come up with some other words that grab your attention? Let me know in the comments below!

Aren’t We Woke? Buy Our Products!

29 Nov

I ran across the term “conscious capitalism” the other day and it gave me an uncomfortable vibe. Not that I object to corporations doing good, but because I don’t like such an obvious heart tug. It’s good for the Earth, but how does this help a company’s bottom line?

I’ll admit, my first prejudice against this term came because I heard it in a commercial – told by a recent female college graduate. With her “like, you know” cadence, I couldn’t help thinking, “they must be just giving MBA’s away.” But again, I wasn’t the ad’s demographic. They’re trying to convince teens to go to their school. “Get out in four years, get your business degree, change the world for good.”

So I did some surface-level research. “Conscious capitalism” seems to be a new branding on traditional business practices. This reminds me so much of mission statements that go no where. Sure, [your grocery store] gave $X million to charity, but where did that money come from? Maybe from all those screens when you’re checking out to give money to the [whatever] fund? So really, did the grocery store give that money, or did you?

Does it really work? Suburu has rebranded themselves completely as the green-loving, earth-caring, responsible car manufacturer. Were you more likely to buy a Suburu after this? Me, not really, but again, I’m not their demographic. In the conscious capitalism article, they used Whole Foods as an example of how this worked, and just then… everything clicked.

It comes down to the business adage, KYC – Know Your Customer. People who buy Suburus and go to Whole Foods tend to be liberal, younger, and make a higher income. These are people who participate in Climate Marches. To keep their customer base, they can’t come across as those capitalists (even though they are), they have to tell their customers “we’re like you–we believe in the movement.”

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but even the cynical like me still believe in free trade coffee. (I watched the documentary Black Coffee and it completely changed my mind on this issue–go ahead, it’s streaming free!) When I go to the shelves, I see a brand that says “free trade,” it might even have an accreditation label… but how much research am I going to do to determine how free trade it is? I’ll just pay the extra couple of bucks, get a better cup of joe, and feel righteous.

Is something locally sourced? From where? How would you know? My wife has supported CSA’s (community supported agriculture) before and so you knew exactly where it was grown, but that’s a level of commitment beyond going to the store or even the farmer’s market.

So I’ll admit, I’m biased against “the cause” because I don’t believe that their motives are genuine. But I’ll admit, I may be missing something. If you know what it is, let me know in the comments below!

“And you know me, I’ll have another [ad].”

22 Nov

Radio is a very personal medium; it’s just you and the hosts. Your brain makes you believe that you have a personal connection with the speaker, even though you’ve never met. So when a host does a commercial, they’re counting on that connection… and sometimes it falls flat.

I used “Double L” as my perfect example. As previously mentioned, I listen to two or three terrestrial radio shows, only one of which I listen to live. I get that through iHeartRadio, the ClearChannel conglomerate that bought up 18% of US radio stations. However, iHeart is rather clever, and realized that people listening to Sacramento commercials doesn’t do them any good. So a year or two ago, they set up an algorithm that replaced local commercials with commercials in your market area. However, the average listener has tuned out the glossy ads, so hosts are encouraged to do live reads, which can then be recorded for later use.

It’s a brilliant idea and works very well on stations where you’re listening to that host on their show. However, this is where the cleverness fails. iHeart has decided to take those ads and broadcast them to regional listeners. After all, KNIX is the Phoenix country station–you’re in Phoenix! You must listen to KNIX and know these people!

Here’s the problem – there are 23 AM and 39 FM stations in the Phoenix metro area. I don’t speak Spanish, so 10 of them are out, but that still leaves 52 stations I could be listening to. I only listen to Country when I’m in the bar, so sorry, Double L… I don’t know you.

It almost seems like a violation of radio listener social contract. “Check your Corona Beer stash!” Sorry, LL, I don’t drink beer – I’m a liquor drinker. So yep, my stash remains as it always has… ZERO. I’ve also heard Spanish language ads on my podcast because… well, you’re in Phoenix, right? You must speak Spanish!

James T Harris is another example of this. When he says, “You know how much I love grilling…” Jimmy, I hardly know ye! Of course, if I’m hearing his commercials, it tells me that iHeart’s algorithms are getting closer to the mark… at least, you’re in the right genre.

I learned long ago that iHeart charges advertisers different rates. If you want to be heard just on regular radio waves, you get one rate. If you want to be ALSO heard online, they charge you more. Which is why there’s not as many local ads–they have to fill it with “We’ve gone one on one with Bono to ask him [whatever he’s bloviating about now]!” or “Here’s the top Earth, Wind, and Fire songs you’ve thumbed up!” I couldn’t name a single EWF song with a gun to my head. Sure, when they play them, I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I know that one,” but I’m obviously not their demographic for that. iHeart don’t care… they’re just trying to avoid dead air.

Am I the only one who’s bugged by this? Do you recognize the personal nature of radio – or am I fooling myself? Let me know in the comments below!

Only You Can Prevent Branding

21 Nov

Smokey the Bear is seventy years old. This US Forest Ranger mascot has been telling people to stop forest fires since 1950–obviously we stopped listening to him, since the number of fires seems to have increased since then. At what point do we let the corporate brand go?

Now Smokey is a government employee, and unlike corporate sponsors, he doesn’t actually have to show progress towards his goals. That’s why he’s still working past retirement age. I should go into a scree about public service announcements (PSAs) and how bad they are, but let’s keep on topic.

Take Mr. Peanut, this dapper man was born in 1916, and back when you actually wore monocles to correct vision in one eye or a drooping eyelid, this was very useful. I saw this guy for decades on the side of a grain elevator / factory / something in Clinton, Iowa, five stories high right near Beaver Island and the corn processing plant. Planters even decided they needed a hipper, happenin’ mascot for their nut sales, so they killed him last year. (blink) You don’t remember that, do you? That’s because, phoenix-like, he emerged from the ashes as a Baby Peanut / Peanut, Jr. So… good leap of faith there, Planters!

Oh, boy – Aunt Jemina is the grandmama of them all. Born in 1889, she’s had several face-lifts over the years, the pancake brand has been around for over a century. And this year, enough rocktivists decided she was the source of all the African-American’s pain, and she had to go. This ticked off the family of the actress who’s face graced the box, since she was an Oscar-award winning actress who pitched the heck out of that product back in the 50’s.

BTW, what did she win the Oscar for? She played Mamie in Gone with the Wind, the sassy house slave who didn’t put up with Scarlett’s crap. However, that’s also the symbol of the kept black woman, so someone decided that film was the equivalent of Birth of a Nation and had to go. BTW, Birth of the Nation is shown in EVERY film school in America. Because despite the fact that it lauds the Ku Klux Klan as heroes, it’s the also the first feature-length film.

So Flo? You’re passing ten years on the Progressive stage. Better watch out! Actually, if you watch, you’ll notice how much Stephanie Courtney has changed the character to go from the It Girl to the goofy omnipresent woman whom even her goofier sidekick / younger replacement hasn’t been able to overcome.

What’s your favorite / most hated mascot? Do they need to change with the times or is there something comforting in the familiar? Let me know in the comments below?

Where is Coconut Grown in Germany?

8 Aug

German Chocolate is my favorite type of cake – my wife makes it for my birthday every year. However, there’s nothing German about it. Coconut does not grow in Northern Europe. So where the heck did the name come from?

The answer is that it’s a marketing ploy–this one happens to be a hundred years old, dating back to the turn of the century when they’re trying to sell a new recipe to an unknown public. Jake’s Coconut Chocolate Cake is a tactical risk; German Chocolate Cake sounds exotic.

This is an extension of the “different languages sound exotic” argument I made a few days ago, however, people keep doing this! Take, for example, this rather pedestrian example. This is a coffee machine where you get the option of “Dakota Roast” or “European Blend.” I can buy that there’s a favorite blend in Europe… why the #*$& would I care if oil frackers in North Dakota like their coffee a little darker? Do I imagine Sioux indians riding across the plains drinking coffee? Is the brew in Fargo worth travelling for?!

There’s lots of examples of this. Texas Roadhouse comes to mind instantly (great bread). There’s cars called the Tucson and Sedona, or my favorite, the Montana. When you’re driving in Arizona, this is not that exciting. The Arizona Bread Company sounds great in Arizona… the St. Louis Bread Company, not so much… which is why it’s called Panera outside St. Louis. 🙂

Wearing words that you don’t understand on your shirt is also weird… but hey, it looks cool, right? This is a Chinese example, but I remember kids wearing French phrases on their shirts in high school (thirty years ago), and I thought it was stupid then… especially since I could read French. If it says something cool, I’ll give it a pass (like my wife’s handbag which has a whole Psalm in Hebrew), but if you’re depending on someone else to tell you what it means (like tattooing Chinese characters on your skin), buyer beware!

Am I alone? Obviously this technique works or marketers wouldn’t do it, but am I the only one who notices? What examples do you find particularly outrageous? Let me know in the comments below!

Making Breakfast Sexy

30 Jul

As a mortal, I sometimes weaken in the face of fast food. So a couple days ago, I went to a McDonalds to order something terrible for me, and as I waited for my food, I watched the menu screen. Apparently, corporate thinks that simply having you in the store is not enough, on the menu they have to show… what I can only describe as “food porn.”

Clever reveals, black background, slow zooms – I have to admit that it’s incredibly good video. Video… not just good pictures, slow, sensuous shots of pouring coffee. I can’t describe how… sexy it was pouring black liquid into a cup for five seconds.

Look at this shot – soft lighting, perfect focus. You know that they probably use some glossy liquid instead of syrup because it shines better. Steam probably recorded over several minutes to get the best cycling image. I know half this stuff tastes awful to me and I can’t help but have my mouth water.

Mickey D’s is by no means the only user of these techniques. Open the menu at any chain restaurant (IHOP, Denny’s) and you’ll see the same images, although usually with white backgrounds, which inspires you to be happy about your selection.

Just like the grocery store, the more expensive selections will be at the top of the menu, cheaper ones won’t have a picture and be placed lower. Next time you go cereal shopping, check out the difference between the brand name corn flakes and the generic – you want to make love to the brand name, don’t you?

It obviously works, but it’s disturbing once you notice it. What marketing have you noticed that “once it is seen, it cannot be unseen?” Tell me in the comments below!

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