Thursday, April 3, 2008

Short Takes: 4.3.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • iMedia has some interesting observations about the U.S.'s third largest advertiser announcing it will shift half of its advertising budget to digital in the next three years. The announcement that GM is making this seismic change isn't really surprising, considering how integral the Internet has become to shopping for a new car (or to any other part of daily life.) But as the article points out, "GM will need to go beyond simple search and display, and that means one of America's biggest brands may have to start thinking small." If GM only thinks of the Internet as an advertising medium and doesn't use its considerable budget to explore social media, viral and WOM marketing, microsites, games, and other online experiential techniques, this bold move won't help them reverse their slide.

  • The L.A. Times has an article about how some beauty brands are targeting high school cheerleaders because, "they are often the girls others look up to." I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, finding and impacting influencers is an established marketing tactic; on the other hand, I question if this is an ethical tactic. Maybe it's just my inner teen geek speaking, but I can't help but wonder what kind of world it would be if teens looked up the smartest, hardest-working peers rather than the ones enhanced with free beauty products provided by marketers. Cosmetic brands have as much right as others to reach the teen market, but I don't have to feel good about this tactic, do I? (Interestingly, the company that hooks brands up with cheerleaders has turned down medicinal and meat products--indoctrinating young girls to the cosmetic industry's standards of beauty is okay, but eating protein crosses the line?)

  • And here's another marketing article that left me feeling uneasy: The New York times reports on a campaign by tobacco giant Reynolds American to attack legislation that would give the FDA power to regulate the tobacco industry. Their ads show a man portraying the FDA, trying to keep too many plates spinning; “Their own scientific experts warn that the F.D.A. can’t do their job properly and warn that lives could be at risk,” the ads say. This sort of disingenuous marketing hurts all marketers. Did Reynolds previously express concern that the FDA was overtaxed? No. Does it make sense that a company in an industry responsible for the leading preventable cause of death in the United States would suddenly be concerned about "lives at risk"? If they were, they'd put themselves out of business. You can argue that cigarettes are legal so campaigns like this are fair game, but it is patently obvious they care more about undermining proposed Federal regulations than saving lives. This sort of clumsy and insincere marketing only causes consumers to distrust all advertising.

  • You could see this post on the Buzz Machine blog being just another diatribe about Wal-Mart, or you might gain insights about why corporate culture matters. Jeff Jarvis' contention is simple: In a world of social media and increasing power in the hands of consumer, "No amount of PR and no number of company blogs can make a bad company look good — or smart." Wal-Mart recently made headlines for suing a severely brain-damaged employee who was hit by a truck; they wanted to claim part the money she won in a lawsuit. As Jeff points out, Wal-Mart cannot make a positive change to their brand in the new age of social media if they have "no moral compass." The blog post goes on to imagine what would happen if Google, with their famous "Don't be evil"motto, took over operation of Wal-Mart. Jeff is right--in a world where consumers control more and more media, you cannot hide who you really are.

  • Now this is experiential marketing: Taco Bell and Sports Illustrated have combined to let you be the photographer on a swimsuit shoot with model Daniella Sarahyba. It's a fun microsite, but I have to wonder what this does for Taco Bell. To me, this seems like plug-and-play advertising--Taco Bell tries to make a brand association between the hot model and their "really hot" Fiesta Platters, but the linkage is weak at best. SI might've been better of finding a camera brand to sponsor the site, or perhaps a tourist destination might've turned the model's local travels into an enticing travelogue. Marketing experiences are only as good as what they say about the brand, and while this site is fun and well executed, it doesn't really say much about fast Mexican food.

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