Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Archive for June, 2008|Monthly archive page

Our world, summed up in one photo

In Insight on June 30, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I love this photo, courtesy of Arkitip (hat tip to Rob Walker for calling to my attention):












It says so many things to me:

I’m so rich, even my trash bags are Louis Vuitton.

Our consumer culture is just so much garbage.

Spending money on fancy labels is like throwing money away.

Just because it’s trash, doesn’t mean it has to be junk.

Whatever you do, don’t let the neighbors know you have garbage in your house!


I’m sure there is a not insignificant portion of our society who would see a photo like that as aspirational. If you are LVMH, the owner’s of the Vuitton brand, what do you do about this sort of thing? As a PR professional I always bristle at the “any publicity is good publicity” line. No one ever says, “any advertising is good advertising,” and this is the perfect example of why brands want to control their marks, and why doing so is impossible.

WALL-E, the marketing v. the product

In DINU, Ideas on June 30, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Seth Godin wrote about the new Disney/Pixar movie WALL-E this morning and I had a similar experience regarding the marketing of the film, as well as my reaction to the movie itself.

What little I did see of the main character, WALL-E, prior to the film turned me off. He was dribbling a basketball in commercials during the NBA playoffs (which were on ABC and ESPN, which is owned by Disney), or he was playing with a soccer ball in commercials during the UEFA Euro 2008 soccer tournament, which, you guessed it, aired on ESPN and ABC. Those commercials broke a key marketing rule for me: It’s hard to create a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU) if you take the characters out of their element. It just doesn’t make sense to have WALL-E playing with a basketball, it’s not part of the movie, or more accurately, the movie’s universe.

So, going in I didn’t have high hopes for the film. But, like Seth, I came away impressed that they had made a really nice film that didn’t stick to the animated movie formula: talking animals, celebrity voice actors, etc.

Talking with Rich Gallagher from Liquid Architecture he wondered how ultimately this film will be received, not by critics or consumers, but by the brass at Disney. Yes, WALL-E is visually one of the best animated films we’ve seen and overall it is a terrific movie, but what will the sales of the soundtrack look like? Will it move Halloween costumes, children’s fast food meals and pajamas?

Hopefully winning awards, which this film should do, will be enough.

The (Sports Marketing) World Is Flat: FanZones

In TSMWIF on June 26, 2008 at 4:27 pm

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany organizers unveiled official, sponsored FanZones.  These venues featured huge screens where literally hundreds of thousands of fans who didn’t have tickets could watch the matches together, for free. The idea came from the experience of the 2002 FIFA World Cup where a quarter of a million fans gathered to watch the host nation, South Korea, advance to the semi-finals.

The always sharp Sports Economist is in Germany where thousands have been following Euro 2008, which is being hosted in neighboring Austria & Switzerland. I think you are going to see an explosion of this sort of thing in the future. It’s a great idea for the Olympics or even the Super Bowl, which is usually held in a city not represented by the two teams on the field.

Of course, the organizing bodies have not only provided a unique and compelling venue for the fans, they’ve also generated a new revenue stream, charging official partners more money to feature their brands in these FanZones. It will be interesting to watch and see what brands take advantage of this new opportunity most strategically. Mobile phone companies, food and beverage and sports gear companies would all seem naturals for taking this to the next level.

Celebrity Endorsement – Does it help build a DINU?

In DINU on June 23, 2008 at 4:36 pm

The Sunday New York Times business section featured a pretty lengthy article on the trend of celebrities and brands. Nothing real new here, but the article painted the tactic in a fairly positive light, and backed it up with sales statistics.

I agree that for certain brands, and certain celebrities, tie-ups can make a lot of sense. I liked what Totes did with Rihanna. Rather than take advantage of her hit song, Umbrella, simply by using it for a commercial, they worked with her to design umbrellas.

Now, this is a good match today, but will Rihanna always be known for the song (how long will she be known at all?). I’m having a hard time thinking of really long term deals between companies and celebrities. Arnold Palmer and Pennzoil. Michael Jordan and Nike. But has a musician or actor been aligned with one brand for a decade?

Conversely, look at some of the success brands have had creating their own celebrities: Jared (Subway), Mr. Whipple (Charmin), Madge (Palmolive). Or even characters: The King (Burger King), Ronald McDonald (McDonalds).

Do you need to borrow celebrity cache? Ask Starbucks, Google or Red Bull.

Celebrity endorsement can be used effectively, but you have to understand what your goals are. Is it long term brand growth, or short term gain? Does a celebrity make sense not just today, but could you see being with them in 10 years?  Perhaps you’re better off creating your own icon, one that you can control and one that won’t also be promoting several other products. Do you even need a celebrity at all, or is it better to let consumers project their own emotional cues onto your brand? Ideally you want to build a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe for your brand. If you do so correctly it’s more likely that you will create your own celebrity or that celebrities will be attracted to you and use your brand, not because you paid them, but because they are consumers too. And that’s much more compelling for other consumers.     

Nike, Tiger and the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe

In DINU on June 19, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Yesterday I wrote about the Sony Ericsson WTA tour and their need to connect with the casual tennis fan. I recommended they work on creating a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU) that goes beyond the excellent tennis action they offer.

Also yesterday, Rob Walker, posted on a recent Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods that ran in conjunction with the recent concluded U.S. Open. Walker explains that the ad was seen by some as risky; if Tiger lost the ad could have flopped (Woods won the tournament). But Walker saw it differently:

“But — what if Tiger wins? If he does, surely the coverage will be all about his awesome mental toughness and so on. Just like in the Nike ad! In fact, the ad would seem like part of the narrative of the tournament, almost like real-life Tiger was taking his cues from the inspiring marketing campaign.”

Bingo! Nike created an ad that didn’t just run alongside the tournament, it complemented the narrative of the tournament. That’s the essence of the DINU concept. Now Nike his woven its brand, the Tiger Woods brand (and the difference between those two is, to borrow a Walkerism, murky) and the U.S. Open into one narrative for consumers. If you are invested in the U.S. Open, if you are invested in Tiger Woods then you are now invested in Nike. Here’s the ad:

Now, maybe you’re brand isn’t Nike, and maybe your spokesperson isn’t Tiger Woods and you may not be a sponsor of the U.S. Open, but the concept is still the same. Take the time to develop the back story, provide rich, vivid details and infuse your brand with emotion.


The (Sports Marketing) World Is Flat: Women’s Tennis Association

In DINU, TSMWIF on June 19, 2008 at 11:42 am

An article in today’s New York Times describes the ambitious marketing plan for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, which highlights the many stars of the Women’s Tennis Association.  It’s a bold new move that features an international cast of athletes and highlights several of the global tournaments they compete in.

One of the challenges noted in the article is how to promote the sport beyond the four Majors (US Open, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbeldon).  Larry Scott, the chairman and chief executive of hte Sony Ericsson WTA Tour brings up a valid point that relates not only to my feelings regarding the ‘flatness’ of the sports marketing world, but also the need for brands to create a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU):

“How do we get them (casual tennis fans) more deeply engaged and follow the sport on a more regular basis and get an emotional connection to increase viewership, sponsor interest and measure return on investment, and help build the players so their equity goes up?”

That’s the (several) million dollar question. One area where sports like tennis and golf really struggle is the focus on those four major tournaments. The rest of the season, for the casual fan, just doesn’t exist. The other challenge is that team sports can call on a history to help develop a narrative. When the Celtics and Lakers battled for the NBA title, it wasn’t just Kobe Bryant v. Paul Pierce, it was the memory Magic v. Bird and Chamberlain v. Russel.  When Venus Williams battles Maria Sharapova, no one recalls the great battles between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, there’s no connection.

A print advertisement from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s global campaign.

But the WTA can try to create a narrative over the course of the season. Make me care about the tournaments in Bogata, Stockholm and Mumbai. I’m not saying that’s easy, but until I do, the Tour will be a four event sport. Part of this falls on the individual event organizers as well. They need to take risks and try different things. If I were running a clay court tournament I would make my clay blue. A gimmick, yes, but everyone would know which tournament was mine. The NHL proved you don’t have to play every game inside an indoor arena by staging an incredibly popular game at an outdoor venue. Now it’s becoming a yearly event.  If several of the smaller events could would hard to increase their profile, the tour as a whole would benefit.

I would look to see what else the casual tennis fan cares about. Is it international travel? Reality shows? Self-improvement? How can elements like that be worked into a larger narrative that goes beyond the on-court action (while not taking away from it)?  Just a thought, but a reality show featuring women who travel the world following the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour that has a positive message of female empowerment would seem pretty compelling to me. Get yourself a strong woman like Jackie from Bravo TVs Workout, throw in Anna Kournikova and a local at each tour stop and you’ve got a nice mix. Maybe they ambush a local consumer who has entered an online contest on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website.

That’s just some ideas off the top of my head, but women’s tennis has a lot of great assets, they now need to create that Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe that pulls in viewers for something more than just the great tennis on offer.


Creativity doesn’t grow on trees, it grows on vines

In Ideas on June 18, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Witty, dry and subtle. In other words, the Brits did it:


Authors and the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe

In DINU on June 18, 2008 at 10:44 am

British SAS soldier turned author Andy McNab has made the news by offering to auction the name of a villain in an upcoming novel. For the right price, your name will appear in his book and the proceeds will go to charity.

I love the idea of McNab integrating his fans into his work, and I certainly applaud his desire to donate the proceeds to a charitable endeavor, but I do have concerns as well. When creating a fictional universe that requires consumers to buy in to your creation, will this gimmick shatter the illusion? Character naming is a vital part of the fictional universe. If a name isn’t believable, readers can quickly tune out. Is McNab creating a character and then simply applying a readers name? What if the character is supposed to be a Russian weapons dealer and the winning bid comes from George Lopez? What if the winning bid is from a woman?

I’m sure McNab has some passionate fans who would love to be a part of the DINU he creates in his books. How are they going to feel if the winner is someone who hasn’t even read a McNab book, but has money to burn and thought it would ‘be fun’ to be in a book? 

I think this is a great idea that could have been even better by engaging his most ardent fans earlier in the process. Beyond just a name, could the character have some characteristics of the winner? By collaborating with his readers McNab brings them into his world in a way that is deeper than just a one-off name.

Creative Inspiration

In Ideas on June 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Photography has been a powerful tool for more than 100 years. It can inform, illuimate, educate and inspire. Today, technology allows photographers to bend the art form to their will, creating truly breathtaking images. Here are a couple I’ve come across recently that blew my mind:


Jason Tozer – NASA astronaut?


No, that’s not a planet on the outer edge of the galaxy, it’s a soap bubble.






Trey Ratcliff – Global chronicler of the monumental


The Völkerschlachtdenkmal was built to celebrate the Battle of Leipzig in 1813, known as the Battle of Nations.





Alexey Titarenko – Haunting images of the proletariat



The ghosts of St. Petersburg











Art makes everything possible.

Don’t believe me? Ask Seth Godin

In Ideas, Insight on June 17, 2008 at 9:04 am

Seth Godin has a post this morning that in some ways echoes the sentiments I posted yesterday. No, I don’t think Seth is reading my stuff, but I do think we both hit upon a universal truth. I used the example of Russell Davies as a guy who grabs an opportunity to do something rather than wait for all conditions to be perfect.

Here’s, in part, is how Seth concluded his post today:

“The object isn’t to be perfect. The goal isn’t to hold back until you’ve created something beyond reproach. I believe the opposite is true.”

 Last month I created the WordPress Marketing Bloggers Network (see list of members on the right). Yeah, it could probably be better and I’d like to put more into it. But it is a worthy idea and a worthy effort and I won’t be sitting around in a year wondering if I should try to make it happen.  Yes, we should all strive to go beyond what we are currently creating, marketing or designing, but waiting until it’s perfect isn’t the answer either.