Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Brands and schizophrenia

Santanas-Coffee
An example of Mexicans playing with Poly Identity

I feel bad for advertisers (OK, not really) because I often here industry pundits complain that the media audiences are too scattered, and have too much ADD to focus on their messages. Too bad, I’m crying crocodile tears. You see, part of the problem concerning people’s inability to focus on brand messages is a) there are too many of them, b) advertising is partly responsible for the scattered attention span, and c) who cares. Now another interesting problem: poly identities. As multiple worlds proliferate the Web, people are developing multiple personalities. I should know, I have the same problem. I often get confused about which tone and approach to use on this blog, and have found it difficult on some occasions to restrain myself as do not do in the comments sections of other people’s blogs. As a Latino, I have also had to traverse multiple identities. It’s part of life in the border world. My suggestion, if anyone is listening, is that if marketers want to know how to deal with poly identity, then they should take a bus down to Juarez or Tijuana and check out the scene there.

Media archeologist Jonathan Crary interprets the problem perception and identity as a double bind. This, he says, results from conflicting modes of mental engagement originally required of industrial work’s tight focus and the multisensory shock created by exploding urban environments and new media. This is at the root of our contemporary predominance, if not false, diagnosis of ADD:

In a culture that is so relentlessly founded on a short attention span, on the logic of the nonsequitur, on perceptual overload, on the generalized ethic of ‘getting ahead,’ and on the celebration of aggressiveness, it is nonsensical to pathologize these forms of behavior or look for the causes of this imaginary disorder in neurochemistry, brain anatomy, and genetic predisposition… [T]he behavior categorized as ADD is merely one of many manifestations resulting from this cultural double bind, from the contradictory modes of performance and cognition that are continually demanded or incited (Suspensions of Perception> p. 36-7).

He further laments “the sweeping use of potent neurochemicals as a strategy of behavior management” (Ibid p. 37). Amen.

For a clearer picture of what brand developers are thinking in regards to Poly Identity, read on…

trend report – POLY ID:

Gen Y is getting pretty clever at proliferating many different identities for one life. Certainly the Internet invites all of us to generate multiple brands of ourselves, but this generation knows how to work their identities. Each allows for the many facets of one person and lets them escape where they are at or enter new worlds.

Where a brand sits in relation to these broad-ranging identities is critical. If the responsibility of a brand is to reflect and mirror culture, a brand has to ask “What good am I?” a few times over. The more complex and creative one’s web of identities become, the more clever that consumer will be at snuffing out “poser” brands.

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How much is a friend worth?

A study that examines the monetization of relationships. Who’s your best bud now? Nike or Johnny?

Advertising Age – Digital – What’s Making ‘Friends’ With a MySpace User Worth?:

“It’s when I take the brand, put it on my profile page and then all the people would develop a deeper meaning for what Adidas stands for because of where it stands in my own personal story.”

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Vote for “A Community is Not a Demographic”

One things I miss about the good ol’ days of modernity is the massive output of manifestos that artists and activists churned out to contest the prevailing ideas of their world. With names like Futurists, Surrealists, and Bauhaus, people seemed to care a lot about having clear and strong opinions. With the advent of the postmodern world in which all values and morals are relative, it seems as if the Age of Manifestos transmuted into the 30 second sound bite and became solely the province of marketing. Not necessarily so. ChangeThis has a cool project in which people can send manifestos to their Website and readers then can vote for whether or not the manifesto gets published. The goal is to spread useful ideas. I submitted a proposal, “A Community is Not a Demographic,” with the following summary. You can vote here to encourage them to publish it.


In The Forest People Colin Turnbull recounts his experience of living among the Pygmy. He described an uncorrupted dreamworld where the number one crime against the community was hording food from the hunt. The punishment was temporary exile until the offender learned his lesson. Likewise, the memory of my high school punk years has a similar halcyon quality in which the single most significant crime against the scene was selling out. Unfortunately our culture has devolved into a marketing style. So if we are to rescue anything from punk beyond fashion, than it must be the demand for ethical behavior when marketers appropriate “indie culture.” Principles make a real community, because we acknowledge that our behaviors affect each other, just as the Pygmies identified hording as a socially destructive. We need to discard the lamest excuses of the 20th Century, “It’s only business,” and come to terms with the notion that a community is not a demographic.

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Kidzania: branded career paths for the young

I hope this is one Japanese trend that doesn’t catch on.

Advertising Age – Martin Lindstrom Video Reports:

TOKYO (BRANDFlash) — Kidzania, a theme park offering intense brand engagement with young children, is a new twist on branded entertainment. It charges a $30 admission fee to allow children to “work” in one of 70 different kinds of jobs for a day. Young customers are outfitted in uniforms, hats or helmets as they take up their places in child-sized brand venues ranging from a Coca-Cola bottling plant and a Mo’s Gourmet Hamburgers restaurant to a Johnson & Johnson hospital ward and a Mitsubishi auto world. Admission is now sold out months in advance and marketers are fighting to become part of this branding bonanza.

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The age of compression

Bratz

USA writes about an interesting new youth media phenomenon: age compression. The article states:

Jill Brown almost cried the day her 9-year-old daughter sold several American Girl dolls at a yard sale so she could buy a Juicy Couture sweat suit.

It was a painful reminder that the emotional and psychological distance between childhood and the teen years is far shorter than ever.

“It was such an indication of her moving to a different place,” says Brown, a marketing consultant in Northbrook, Ill. “It was also a little bit of an indication that she was starting to solve things for herself.”

Chalk it up to “age compression,” which many marketers call “kids getting older younger” or KGOY. Retail consultant Ken Nisch says it shouldn’t be a surprise or an outrage that kids are tired of toys and kid clothes by 8, considering that they are exposed to outside influences so much earlier. They are in preschool at 3 and on computers at 6.

One of the sad by-products of this trend has been the increasing sexualization of younger and younger kids, as evidenced by the controversy around Bratz dolls. There has also been much written about the “disappearance of childhood.” For me the jury is out. I think often times it’s the parents who act more like kids, and the problem is not that childhood is disappearing, it is that responsible adulthood no longer exists.

You can read more here:
As kids get savvy, marketers move down the age scale – USATODAY.com:

Generation Y, those between about 8 and 26, are considered the most important generation for retailers and marketers because of their spending power and the influence they have over what their parents buy. But just as the 8- to 12-year-old “tweens” are pitched with a dizzying array of music, movie and cellphone choices, the nearly 10 million tween girls also are getting more attention from fashion, skin care and makeup businesses. Last year, NPD Group says 7- to 14-year-old girls spent $11.5 billion on apparel, up from $10.5 billion in 2004.

With their keen but shifting senses of style, tween girls present some of the biggest rewards and challenges for retailers and brands. What’s called for: a delicate marketing dance that tunes in tween girls without turning off their parents, who control both the purse strings and the car. Retailers to tween girls also must stay in close touch with the fashion pulse, because being “out” is even more painful for girls who haven’t hit the teen years, say retailers and their consultants. They’ll drop a brand faster than you can say Hannah Montana if the clothes become anything close to dorky.

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Are media companies imploding?

Deconstruction

Advertising Age – Caught in the Clutter Crossfire: Your Brand:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Somewhere between 254 and 5,000 is a number that represents just how many commercial messages an average consumer gets each day. Attempts to beat clutter only end up yielding more of it, a bitter irony bound to have dire consequences for a business already struggling with questions of relevance and effectiveness. There’s no consensus on it, but just about everyone agrees on two things: It’s way too high, and the industry’s not doing anything to reduce its own overproduction.

That’s our clutter problem — and yours.

I appreciate AdAge’s candor (truly); they are almost as hard on their own industry as we media critics are on advertisers. In particular the article above verifiers my own belief that we give marketers too much credit for forming our attitudes. As the story indicates, there is just too much clutter. How is one to from meaning from this chaos other than, as The Clash would say, to be lost in the super market? This is not to say there other ideological consequences, but rather than position ourselves as victims of marketing abuse, perhaps we have an opening here, a leverage point, if you will.

As one executive quoted in the article states,

“At the end of the day, the ability of the average consumer to even remember advertising 24 hours later is at the lowest level in the history of our business,” said Bob Barocci, president-CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation.

As opposed to this being a problem, I love the situation. However for activists this creates two difficulties. One, to deal with the predicament, the industry will simply create more clutter. Second, how do you spread socially constructive messages in this kind of environment? A PSA would be like a glass of water thrown into Niagara Falls. The solution I think is that more interactive, peer-to-peer media is the solution, not for marketers, but for us activists who want to reach people. If we focus on our own grassroots strategies rather than trying to repeat the corporate model, I think we will ultimately succeed. Look, for example, how much the Internet has transformed national politics. Whereas Dean’s grassroots media efforts flew under the radar of national media, ultimately most candidates are now emulating his 2004 campaign’s approach.

Finally, I have enjoyed Bob Garfield’s “Chronicles of the Media Revolution” in AdAge, and his latest dispatch, “The Post Advertising Age,” is worth a careful read. AdAge also provides a really nice downloadable chart that details a timeline since Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” originally appeared. One choice snip:

Mass media, of course, do not exist in a vacuum. They have a perfect symbiotic relationship with mass marketing. Advertising underwrites the content. The content delivers audience. Audiences receive the marketing messages and patronize the advertisers, and so on in what for centuries was an efficient cycle of economic life. The first element of Chaos presumes the fragmentation of mass media creates a different sort of cycle: an inexorable death spiral, in which audience fragmentation and ad-avoidance hardware lead to an exodus of advertisers, leading in turn to an exodus of capital, leading to a decline in the quality of content, leading to further audience defection, leading to further advertiser defection and so on to oblivion. The refugees — audience and marketers alike — flee to the internet. There they encounter the second, and more ominous, Chaos component: the internet’s awkward infancy.

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The authenticity paradox

Barcode

Ciao! I though I’d alert all the readers out there that I have a new article posted on Understanding Media about the issue of “authenticity” and youth marketing. The site also has a short interview that explains a little bit about where my perspective comes from. Here’s a snip:

Understand Media -> Articles -> The Authenticity Paradox and the Perils of Youth Marketing by Antonio Lopez:

The Authenticity Paradox and the Perils of Youth Marketing

As a veteran of youth counterculture, I’m watching with curiosity the growing importance of youth voices as a gauge for the so-called “real,” not in the philosophical sense, but in the “keeping it real” sense. Marketers are not concerned whether or not adults think what they see is “real”: it’s the skeptical teen audience that is more challenging.

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Ads from a parallel reality

[youtube]-WT-jCanvFE[/youtube]

A clever marketing trick: make a commercial from a fictional product in your book that is unusual, strange and sexy. Add YouTube and the blogosphere, mix and you have a meme. Additionally the Web tie-in is similar to what the ABC series Lost has done with its show by constructing a parallel universe on the Web that features characters, companies and false histories that coincide with the show. In the case of Lost, the program has also devised games that are like treasure hunts which use its various Web sites and video games for generating clues. It’s a vastly more interesting form of entertainment than we are normally accostomed to because it goes beyond the normal boundary of the program, thereby expanding the initial ecology of the media piece. In the case of of Michael Crichton’s book, NEXT, this is a very interesting development for books, his position on global warming not withstanding.

Visit the book’s fictional company at NEXTgencode.

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Buy less crap

Pointless-Crap

I agree and disagree with the criticism of Buy Less Crap. On the one hand I don’t believe we can shop our way out of social and ecological problems. On the other, corporations are the most powerful force on the planet (besides people and nature), so why not change our patterns to force corporations into altering their behavior? We can be like ants who compost the forest floor, but instead we transform the marketing environment with our consumer behavior.
Does Shopping for a Good Cause Really Help? – Newsweek Business – MSNBC.com:

March 14, 2007 – When Ben Davis created buylesscrap.org, a quirky parody of Bono’s (Red) campaign, he thought he’d get a few laughs out of his San Francisco designer friends. But since it launched two weeks ago, the site has received thousands of hits, hundreds of blog mentions—and has raised some very real questions about the spending practices and intentions of “cause marketing” campaigns like Red, which funnel a percentage of profits from the sale of consumer goods to charity. “A part of me was thinking long term about buying as a way to cure things, and feeling that was a bit manipulative,” says Davis, who runs a creative marketing firm. “I think I put a voice to what many people were feeling.”

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A telling shift in marketing

The critique of advertising has been that marketers have no stories to tell, but everything to sell. Clearly the industry sees it differently. And I agree. Even an ad is a story, but usually it’s about the assumptions of our commodities system, and not necessarily one that enriches our spiritual lives. The following story marks a shift, and I welcome it. I think Procter & Gamble’s Jim Stengel is right now when he says business needs to be more about people. Amen to that.

Advertising Age:

LAS VEGAS (AdAge.com) — “Telling and selling” is defunct.

Procter & Gamble’s Jim Stengel described a major cultural shift that he believes is turning the world’s largest marketer into a starter of conversations and a solver of consumers’ problems rather than a one-way communicator. “It’s not about telling and selling,” said the global marketing officer of the company that once lived by that simple mantra. “It’s about bringing a relationship mind-set to everything we do.”

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Diaper demographic

I heard in a talk by TV critic Jerry Mander that 25% of American kids have TVs in their rooms with cribs. Now this.

WP: TV’s diaper demographic – washingtonpost.com Highlights – MSNBC.com:

‘We don’t know the effects’

While almost all marketers of baby media promote their products as beneficial to a baby’s development, little is known about the impact of television viewing on very young children.

“We’re in the midst of a huge national experiment on the next generation of children,” said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatric researcher at the University of Washington. “We don’t know the effects and we’re letting them watch.”

The notion that television can be educational for preschoolers has been around at least since “Sesame Street” debuted in 1969, aimed at kids 2 and older. It wasn’t until the 1990s that marketers began promoting programming for those younger than 2.

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Trend school

It is a little troubling when marketers are more interested in student work than schools themselves.

Advertising Age – Digital – Want to Build a Hipper Brand? Take a Trip to Trend School:

Real school was never this cool.

Aaron aired an art film and talked up his favorite Jordan sneakers and Nike ACG jacket. Jennie unwrapped a self-styled hand-knit Bart Simpson blanket and needlepoint artwork, just before Alex showed off photographs he took in Cambodia, including one set for exhibition in a Swiss art gallery. Six years of classical piano and two years of electronics lessons brought A.J. here with a recently composed digital-music sample. James revealed his blogs, the newest featuring his cellphone number and an invitation to text him a story. Mauricia earned a round of applause for her passionate reading of an original poem.

The cooler-than-you-ever-were panel of 16- to 25-year-olds capped off the day for attendees at Trend School, a monthly one-day forum created by Creative Artists Agency’s Intelligence Group at New York’s Soho House.

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Viral hoax marketing terror stunt

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Klaxoncow’s comment posted on the above YouTube video:

You’re clearly not a bomb expert.

Just to clue you in: Bombs are traditionally not covered in LEDs which trace out the shape of a cartoon moon person giving you the middle finger.

Generally, as terrorists don’t want their bomb plots foiled, they tend not to decorate their bombs in bright lights advertising their presence and then leave them lying around for weeks.

And…

Advertising Age:

It was also a great study in the use of persuasive language. Boston authorities were quick to call the event “a terrorist hoax”‘ while others called it a “prank.” In our own industry we struggled with what to call this. It was referred to as a “viral campaign” by some. PRWeek referred to it as a “publicity stunt.” BrandWeek called it a “marketing stunt.” The Hollywood Reporter referred to them as “ad lights.” Bruce Schneir, a security expert and writer on contemporary security issues summed up the incident as a “‘Non-Terrorist’ Embarrassment in Boston.”

Meanwhile, a New York Magazine cover story subhead declares: “Understanding the Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll

Writing about the ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ fiasco in Boston, the above commentary comes from an AdAge column by Noelle Weaver. I think she hits upon the importance of language to frame an event or situation, but also how crucial cultural perspective is in determining whether someone gets a joke or not. This has been my biggest concern regarding homeland security practices. It’s one thing to do a data sweep of any pattern, name or key word, it’s a whole other thing to get its context. In terms of perception, environment is everything. No doubt that in a climate of fear anything can be interpreted as an enemy attack. This is why propaganda depends more on context than actual content. Unfortunately, when everything that is anomalous is identified as an act of terrorism, in a diverse society the entire population is threatened with criminalization. And when marketers are accused of terror plots, how do you think artists are going to be treated?

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Guerrilla marketing leads to terrorism scare

Lightfllipper-1

Once again we encounter the befuddled world of marketing in which the sales pitch gets misconstrued as terrorism. Is this what culture jamming was meant to be? Read on…

Boston devices a cartoon publicity ploy – Yahoo! News:

BOSTON – Several illuminated electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. Most if not all of the devices depict a character giving the finger.
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Peter Berdovsky, 27, of Arlington, was arrested on one felony charge of placing a hoax device and one charge of disorderly conduct, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said later Wednesday. He had been hired to place the devices, she said.

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Mind reading consumer desire

Brainwash

Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things:

Neuroscientists report that they can use brain scans to predict whether someone looking at a product will actually buy it or not. Dr. Brian Knuston and his colleagues at Stanford University put images of 40 objects in front of 26 subjects undergoing brain fMRIs. By analyzing which parts of the brain light up, the scientists were able to forecast what the subject’s decision would be before he or she vocalized it. According to the scientific paper they published in the current issue of the scientific journal Neuron product preference activated the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), while excessive prices activated the insula and deactivated the mesial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) prior to the purchase decision.”

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Digital Media Marketplace: The Next Frontier for Media Reform



“Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy” (Jeff Chester)
I’ve mentioned Jeff Chester before. He has done remarkable work on the issue of media mergers and mass marketing. His darkest views focus on the “brandwashing” of America, but he also has innovative ideas for a progressive media, which are highlighted in the following Alternet piece:

AlterNet: MediaCulture: Digital Media Marketplace: The Next Frontier for Media Reform:

Progressives will need a steady influx of cash to help pay for all the organizing that must be done and also to underwrite the costs for multimedia production. Ultimately our new media system is about the production and distribution of multimedia content. If we are going to change the hearts and minds of the public, the key 21st Century place to do so will be via digital media. That’s why it’s urgent now that we place ourselves squarely within the emerging digital enterprise to help harness its media and financial power for social change.

Imagine, a progressive Web 2.0 service owned and controlled by low-income residents of New Orleans. It could be a powerful independent media force serving as an agent for justice, while offering a variety of programming revealing what the mainstream media continues to ignore. Such a service would also be a place for community conversation, and a networking hub that could help generate revenues. It would help make more visible, especially through local online search services, the array of progressive voices.

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Food marketers to tone it down

You can thank the media literacy movement for this:

Advertising Age – FTC, HHS Call for Strict Standards in Children’s Food Marketing:

Two government agencies are calling on advertisers to market only healthier food products to children in the continuing clampdown on children’s obesity.

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