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"Designed by Apple in California," Is it New Coke?


Designed by Apple in California AdI've purposefully not consulted the blogosphere or Twittersphere to give myself the space to consider Apple's new brand campaign, titled "Designed by Apple in California." 

It is an interesting conundrum, because some aspects of the ad are solid, but after giving it a little time to sink in, I still hew to my initial visceral dislike and disappointment upon seeing it. 

First, there is the "Designed by Apple in California," headline — or more accurately the "bottom line," as it is always located at the bottom of a long, poetic string of new agey blurbs, and is meant to encapsulate all that Apple represents. And in the TV ads, the voiceover issues the treacly words, "This is our signature, and it means everything." The choice of " in California" in "Designed by Apple in California," I find particularly affected. California has pretty well lost its lustre as the golden land and this just seems a little bit precious to me. If this notion is meant to be political, suggesting more jobs for California, it just further dilutes the impact by being oblique.

My levels of disappointment begin with the fact that the most famous disruptive innovation company in the world needs the focus of their first post-Steve Jobs corporate advertising campaign to revolve around a tagline that takes a defensive posture about making products in the U.S.Apple's "Think Different" campaign

That the company that brought us "Think Different," is now presenting themselves as a soft touch lifestyle company featuring an asexual person whose face you can't see, accompanied by a lot of whispery, overly sincere language is to say the least, a wet blanket.

I think that the focus on values in and of itself is a good thing, but these values, like "Every idea we touch, enhances each life it touches" or "Who will this help, Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist? If you are busy making everything, then you are not perfecting anything," are more like a designer's stream of consciousness or an entreaty to the impatient consumer to be patient because perfection is an art that takes time. It borders on feeling apologetic, if not self-aggrandizing. 

What happened to visionary, iconoclastic values — of pushing hard to break barriers and change our world for the better — which still spoke to a higher purpose? What happend to creativity that showed rather than telled? This is the ad campaign I'd expect from a "mature" company. Maybe it is the new, mature Apple moving out from the long, Jobsian shadow. While I can understand that and the "need" for that, I can't help but being let down.

What do you think?

Capitalizing on a Trend: the merits of "Catvertising"


Catvertising is the future, and we're on board.

John St., an advertising and creative agency based in Toronto, is looking to the next big thing in marketing by introducing their catvertising innovation: "By 2015, cat videos are going to represent 90% of the content on the worldwide web." That, my friends, is a cash cow waiting to moo. Or a cash cat waiting to purr? You see my point.

Connecting themes and trends in viral content to the overhaul of a company is a brilliant twist in highlighting what is so great and at the same time can be so misleading to clients about modern marketing firms: yes, we're able to look to trends and get creative in using them to promote a business, but we also don't spend all day watching cat videos online. John St., impressively, has been able to address both. 

Many times a company can capitalize on the popularity of a trend and its brand identity will benefit. People like to be entertained, and brand loyalty can be built through laughter, not just for businesses in creative fields. When Old Spice produced The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, it created a viral sensation that crowned it one of the most modern men's care companies in the US.

The lesson here is don't afraid to be funny. When done right, it will do you more good than bad. Also, invest in cats. They're gold mines. 

GM Dropped Its Facebook Ads, Should You?


The Wall Street Journal broke the news on Wednesday that automobile giant General Motors has decided to discontinue its Facebook advertising efforts, which previously accounted for $10 million of its $1.8 billion ad spending.

GM ultimately decided that “paid ads on the site had little impact on consumers’ car purchases,” after two weeks of meetings with Facebook executives. This decision comes off the heels of Facebook’s IPO announcement and its 2012 statement of advertising revenue, which totaled $3.1 billion. 

GM Facebook ads

GM will continue to promote its products on Facebook, but has dropped all Facebook ads.

As a result, Facebook ads have been getting a lot of heat for being ineffective and unnecessary. It’s too soon to tell if GM’s actions will inspire other companies to jump ship, but there has certainly been a lot of speculation on what exactly this decision means.

But just because GM has concluded Facebook ads don’t work for their business model doesn’t mean that the ads are unsuccessful for all businesses.

Facebook ads are not the right channel for every business. They can work really well for businesses that want to segment their ads to different audiences based on this personal information they willingly provide on Facebook. 

For a B2C company that relies heavily on imagery and visuals, it’s not surprising that GM had little success with Facebook ads. A social media ad most likely isn’t going to influence a large purchasing decision, but can be influential in harnessing individual data and funneling that into a reasonable target audience.

If you’re a B2B company seeking out clients, and have the ad revenue to utilize Facebook ads, you can use them to define this target audience by:

  • Industry
  • Job title
  • Location
  • Professional groups
  • Professional interests
  • Past employment

GM will have a higher success rate with television ads; that doesn’t mean your B2B business will.

Facebook ads

Additionally, Facebook is constantly working to improve their ad effectiveness:

Of course, the only way to determine if Facebook ads are a fit for your company is to test some out. If not, simply having a Facebook presence that encourages interaction with past, current, and potential clients is a hugely important factor in improving conversion rates and bringing in business.

Do you currently run Facebook ads? Do you plan to limit them anytime soon?

Is There Room for B2B Advertising In the Super Bowl?


It's no secret that the Super Bowl hosts the most precious ad time of the year. Companies compete to create the most compelling ad; the one that will go viral and be remembered for years to come (Apple's "1984," the Budweiser frogs, and last year's "The Force" from Volkswagen are some of my personal favorites, and I'm not alone).

But while B2C Super Bowl ads have created legends, boosted sales, and promoting brand reputation, B2B companies are left behind in the dust.

B2C companies have a considerably easier task when approaching Super Bowl ads. Most of the best ads each year come from companies with a well-known product and household brand. Budweiser and Coca Cola sell drinks, Volkswagen, Ford, and Honda cars, Snickers (with their popular Betty White-infused "you're not you when you're hungry" ad) candy. The product is already known, which gives them more room for creativity in constructing an effectively entertaining ad. The audience already knows what they're selling.

When B2B companies try and take a similar approach and infuse humor into an ad in which they assume the audience understands their service, it results in some of the worst Super Bowl ads of the year.

The Bad

One of the biggest ad disasters of last year's Super Bowl was the insensitive and puzzling Groupon ad campaign. At this point in time, Groupon was still getting its footing, and not many outside of the tech world knew about the daily deals website. But that didn't stop them from approaching their ad time as if they were Budweiser.

Their first spot, "Save the Money, Tibet," begins with Timothy Hutton speaking about the dangers Tibetan people and their culture face as images flash across the screen, only to find the actor in a Tibetan restaurant (courtesy of his Groupon) who clarifies "But they still whip up an amazing fish curry."

Video courtesy of YouTube

Not only did the company offend the majority of its audience with the audacity of such insensitive spots (see also "Save the Money, Whales), most people still didn't understand what Groupon was, or why they had the brand authority to promote such controversial ads. Essentially, Groupon didn't have the reputation to back up such a risky campaign, and their PR suffered greatly for it in the days following the Super Bowl.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were the Salesforce Chatter.com "Still Doing Impossible Things" spots, which, while clearly trying to be creative (original animation visuals, a "baby" version of Will.i.am, a focus on technology and innovation) presented no clear theme, point of view, or service. They were unmemorable, except for the boredom they instilled in audience members.

Video courtesy of YouTube

Then there's GoDaddy.com's "The Contract." While they were the only B2B company to successfully showcase their "product" with a shot of their website, they resorted entirely to the old adage "sex sells," by showcasing their GoDaddy girls as apparently naked and redirecting the audience to their website for unrated footage.

Video courtesy of YouTube

Ultimately, the ad was lackluster and unoriginal. Although most of the audience could identify GoDaddy as a brand, their ad did nothing to promote their services, and was a turn-off to dedicated Super Bowl ad viewers.

The Good

Google is the only B2B company that has been able to avoid the Super Bowl curse, as their "Parisian Love" spot, a.k.a. "search on," was a heartwarming and inventive ad in a sea of crude comedy. By putting the spotlight entirely on their primary service (search) and using it to navigate and narrate a love story, Google pinpointed exactly what their audience sees them as: an indisputable lifestyle resource.

Video courtesy of YouTube

By tracking important life events through relevant Google searches, Google was able to capitalize on the necessity of their service in a surprisingly human way.

So, can B2B compete in the Super Bowl ad realm?

If Google can do it, you can do it.

There are clearly challenges that face any large B2B company considering buying Super Bowl ad time that aren't there for B2C companies. However, this means that any B2B company that can stand out positively can reap more benefits, as long as they include:

  • A clear explanation/showcase of their service

  • No assumptions about brand reputation

  • A demonstration of their value

This last one may be the most important. B2C companies can rely on comedy to enhance a campaign because their consumers have already made their products a part of everyday life. Budweiser doesn't have to show that it makes beer or necessarily prove that it has the best beer; as long as they have hilarious talking frogs, the brand is going to benefit from the sheer use of comedy.

B2B companies need to find a way to showcase value, innovation, and humanity in their ads that capture more dedication than comedy spots.

What do you think? Are there any B2B companies you would want to see advertise during the Super Bowl?

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The Top 5 Holiday Marketing Campaigns of 2011


Every year, companies compete for the onslaught of holiday shopping dollars by putting their best creative foot forward, creating targeted marketing campaigns that evoke the best and worst of the holiday season.

This year, the most successful campaigns weren't heartfelt or warming, but sarcastic and witty – a sign of the times? – and are memorable in their off-kilter themes. RainCastle took a look at this years top campaigns and made list our favorites of the season.

1. Target – The Christmas Champ

Target's veteran crazy female shopper is no surprise at number one, given her massive success last year and the inescapable buzz that surrounded her return this year. Striking fear in the hearts of all soccer moms, the Christmas Champ trains Rocky-style for the year's biggest sale at Target with terrifying cheer. A fan favorite is her holiday card orchestra, conducted while wearing overtly comical pearls, which is the cherry on top of a seriously scary Christmas season.

Watch on YouTube

2. Best Buy – Game on, Santa

Best Buy took advantage of this year's rise in gamification by capitalizing on the theme of "games," challenging Santa to a game of gifts: with Best Buy, you can finally beat the old guy. Stressed out shoppers of all ages love watching the jovial character flounder as a Mom casually comments from the sidelines, "Aw, guess I didn't leave any room for you."

Watch on YouTube

3. Old Spice – MANta Claus

Like the Christmas Champ, the Old Spice man has been a revolution in character advertising. He's the James Bond of deodorant, and his holiday messages are just as enticing as his past campaigns. Feeling that getting gifts for all 7 billion people in the world is "the least I can do," he starts with Twitter fan @beautyjunkie, and commissions a pair of heels made out of jewelry for the fan. This integration of social media, followed by a look at the 80s-style computer metrics set up to accomplish his giving goals, is the perfect pairing of old and new technology for mass appeal.

Watch on YouTube

4. Ebay – Buy it Now, Buy it New, 12 Days

Ebay's Buy it Now, Buy it New campaign is centered on embarrassing family members who just don't understand. Like the popular "I don't want my grandmother's jeans" ad, the 12 Days ad features a teenage girl who takes caroling as an opportunity to pinpoint exactly what she wants and doesn't want from her list, while chastising the family for last year's blunders –"Especially from you Uncle Dave, were those acid wash jeans?" Bratty, yes, but the purpose of these campaigns is to prove that eBay is where the cool kids shop, for all of their new and used wants. Ebay's target audience will relate to the teenage sass and understand that all she wants for Christmas is an iPad, not a needlepoint pillow.

Watch on YouTube

5. Honda – Happy Honda Days, Car Gift

Another shining example of character advertising, Honda spokesman Patrick Warburton serves as a voice of reason in an otherwise over-the-top holiday season. By removing Honda from the traditional family holiday push – "Are you a millionaire? No? Then you probably don't give cars to people as presents" – Warburton appeals to the average Honda customer (while, of course, highlighting that he is actually a millionaire, because the car on display is for his niece.) Simple, funny monologue-ing, at its finest.

Watch on YouTube

QR Codes: Marketing Fad or Future?


Recently a client of ours for whom we do everything from web site work to direct marketing asked us to place a QR code on their next print ad. A QR code, for those unfamiliar, is a digital fingerprint — that looks like a square made up of a seemingly random organization of pixels — that when scanned with a smart phone, sends the user to a web page where the user can take advantage of an offer, buy an item, learn more etc.. In order to do this, the smart phone user must first download a “QR Reader, ” which will enable their smart phone to capture the data.

A key benefit of a QR code is that it works in real-time. In the case of our ad, if the person reviewing it likes what they see and is presumably carrying their smart phone, rather than needing to call a 1-800 number and go through voice-prompt purgatory, or find a computer to navigate to a web site, they experience the immediate gratification of being directed straight to a site designed specifically for their device, with easily accessible information. The use of a QR code for printed direct mail is perhaps one step more compelling. Rather than having to fill out a post card, find a stamp and mail back a response, you can scan the QR code and go straight to the mobile-formatted content.

From a marketing and sales perspective, not only is this more enticing, but it’s more measurable since you can measure both impressions as well as conversions, something not possible with a post card.

The conversation about QR codes has ratcheted up recently and they are popping up everywhere, on storefronts and posters, at tradeshows, on all matter of printed materials (I haven’t seen any tattoos yet, but I’m sure they’re out there).  QR codes provide a simple, and immediate mechanism for people to respond to an appealing ad or offer.  Have you seen and responded to a QR code or are you using them in your internet marketing mix?  I’d like to hear your perspective.

We’re heading to a tipping point in which mobile usage will be so ubiquitous that QR codes will become one more commodity. But for this small moment in time, they are a fresh addition to the marketing landscape. The time it takes for smart ideas to become commodities is attenuating, and QR codes will probably be standard operating procedure soon enough.

Can You Resist "Me"?


What does the recession have in common with the average B2B website? In both cases, customers are conspicuously absent.

In the (not so) old days of print advertising and collateral, companies generally talked about their products and services, attempting to highlight some sort of differentiated feature or benefit. The customer was often overlooked in favor of "me, my products and I."

Then came the web and the possibility of reaching many more people. Marketers adapted their collateral and advertising for online consumption. Soon people began to see the potential of the web for providing the new dimension of interactivity. "Brochureware" and banner ads began to shimmy and swirl. Their stories were still about "me."

Marketing gurus began referring to marketing as "a conversation" and one in which the customer is in control. Social media sprang from this idea often as a way for businesses to open a dialogue with clients in real time. As far as we've come, in 2010 and the average B2B website's content is still all about "me," a repository for showcasing products or services.

Interactivity and social media are about transforming "me" into "you." They are about knowing your customer so well, you can create an experience that will truly be of value to them.

Take a look at your website. Are you presenting content from the vantage point of your customers, or are you pushing your products and services?

Can you resist "me"?

I Could Be Don Draper

Paul Regensburg as Don DraperFirst of all, let’s get this out of the way. For those of you who don’t know, Don Draper is the protagonist in the TV series, Mad Men, which takes place around 1960 in the office of fictitious ad agency, Sterling Cooper. For three years, I’ve watched Don’s character unfold. The similarities between us are evident.

Don Draper is a Creative Director.
I am a Creative Director.

Don Draper has been made a partner in the agency.
I am the owner of an agency

Don Draper is suave and irresistible to women.
I have imagination.

Don Draper is married to Betty, a dead ringer for Grace Kelly.
I am married to Robin. She is cute.

Don Draper has a secret life.
I know how to keep a secret.

Don Draper chain-smokes and drinks.
I am addicted to Strawberry Smoothies.

Don Draper is watched by millions.
I am read by several.

Don Draper can be ice cold.
I can be luke warm.

Don Draper knows what motivates people.
I am surprised by what motivates people.

Don Draper leads by expertise.
I lead by example.

Don Draper practices tough love, often minus the love.
I practice tough love, often without the tough.

Don Draper is fascinating.
I’m hoping the blog helps me get there.

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