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Trends, commentary, and insightful rants from the bleeding edge of advertising, content & branding.

DEEP BLUE BRANDING

Or what can Avatar tell us about effective advertising?

1)   Don’t Suck.

 Seems obvious, and it is, but this rule is broken all the time.  Let’s just start from a place of doing something well. Mmm’kay! It’s a good life lesson really not just for an Avatar listicle.  Hey, if you say you’re going to re-invent film-making then you need to actually go ahead and re-invent film-making.  Box. Checked.

 2)   I.T.S.S.  (It’s the story stupid)

 Yeah, bad acronym, but the point is that people still care about a simple story well told.  We can quibble over a few things (dialogue?) here and there but Avatar is your classic hero’s journey, your basic quest and growth story.  And you know what? People love that! They still do…maybe they just needed to see it with fresh eyes.  The authenticity of that simple Aristotelian good/bad, 3 act, sword in the stone story still sings with audiences.

 3)   Immersive story-telling equals Brand Immersion

 “This 3D stuff is gold, Jerry! Its gold!” Used to be that a great performance was enough to suck you so deeply into the story you didn’t want to leave.  Or the writing was so vivid and provocative you couldn’t put the book down.  Looks like Cameron has raised the bar just a wee bit in that regard.  Lots of online buzz about Avatars viewers who have sunk into depression because they can’t actually “live” in the world of Avatar.  The sense memory of that world (Pandora) is so real you desperately want to return.  Could the same soon be said of a branded experience? Well…its just content.  Well crafted content with a story people care about (see above).  So, you might laugh at world centered around Tide w/Bleach but if the story and the brand come together to create something really experiential people will pay attention.

Think about it this way, Avatar is essentially a 2.5 hour commercial for Greenpeace and people walk out “loving it.”

 4)   Community. Community. Community.

 We might be sick of hearing about brand communities. But damned if it doesn’t still work.  When passions are ignited people come together if whatever forums are available to discuss and extend and deepen their relationship with that “idea” or “story” or “product.”  Why does creating an outlet for brand communities still work? Essentially because its not a gimmick. It certainly can be in the wrong hands but if you make something good (see rule #1) and then provide clever and provocative ways for folks to share about that good thing connections are going to happen.  People will find a way to do it themselves (I’m sure there are Avatar meet-ups happening) so you might as well benefit from it in some way.

 5)   Three D – Schmeee D.

The technology is just the tool. The Idea is the Engine.  Cameron had apparently been dreaming about the idea of this world and this story for years. And then developed the technology to bring it to life.  This is the proper order of things, not “hey, what do I do with this cool 3D camera?” You start at the molecular level with a creative idea that’s powerful and then realize it in the best way possible.

Filed under: advertising, avatar, brands, consumer choice, online advertising, social media

Five Questions for Zappos CEO: Tony Hsieh

Zappos CatalogTony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos.com was kind enough to debut a new feature on Black Match. Five questions for a CEO. For those under rocks, they sell shoes.

1)   What advantages for the Zappos brand come from being so accessible and  transparent across social/digital platforms?

At Zappos, our #1 priority is our company culture. Our belief is that if
we get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like delivering great
customer service or building a long term enduring brand, will happen
naturally on its own. We’ve formalized the definition of our culture into
10 core values:

Being transparent isn’t really something that’s specific to social/digital
platforms. Core value #6 is “Build Open and Honest Relationships With
Communication”… It’s just part of who we are.

2)   As a company that has famously avoided broadcast advertising in favor
of “actions” that advertise (i.e. free shipping) what was the trigger point for your recent ad campaign? How are you/will you measure success (i.e. sales only)?

We take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and
invest it into the customer experience instead.  However, we do spend as
much money on direct marketing as possible when it pays for itself.
Using hypothetical numbers, this means that if we spend $1 on paid
advertising, if we get back $10 in sales, then we will spend as much money
as possible as long as we continue to hit that ratio. The problem is that
there isn’t enough advertising inventory out there that meets that ratio.
What we found was that if we invest some money in offline brand
advertising such as magazine ads or TV ads, then that improves the ROI of
our online campaigns, so that altogether we are still hitting the ratio
that makes sense for us.

3)   Is there an overall strategy for your participation in digital/social media or has it come about organically?

It’s really been organic. We aren’t really about “digital/social media” (a
term which I personally dislike). We’re really just about figuring out
ways where we can best express our core values (our culture) and our
commitment to great customer service. We’ve found that Twitter has been
great for that, but so has the telephone, which is why we put our 1-800
number at the top of every page of our web site. The telephone isn’t very
newsworthy, but it’s one of our best branding devices.

4)   Has/How has the Zappos brand been challenged over the past 12 months?

I think the biggest challenge with building our brand is that Zappos is an
experiential brand. Anyone can start another web site tomorrow and make
the same claims that we do about delivering great customer service, but
it’s not until you actually purchase something from us, or call our 1-800
number, or visit our offices, that you can start to tell the difference
between another company and the Zappos brand and culture.

5)   There are obviously tricks that traditional retailers are stealing from you (I’m looking at you piperlime.com); are there dance moves you’re borrowing from traditional/brick and mortar retailers?

We really don’t focus very much on what other retailers are doing. We just
focus on what our customers and employees tell us and then try to deliver
the best customer experience possible while still meeting our financial
goals.

There are a number of interesting widgets that Zappos has in play, including this great Google/Zappos sales mash-up.

Filed under: brands, ceo, consumer choice, online advertising, recession, social media, supergenius llc, twitter, zappos, , , , , , , , , ,

Why We Blog

thacarterAgency blogs suck. That’s why we write one. It is a strange feeling to communicate in a medium you despise. Deep down, you despise blogs too. With rare exception, blogs do not add anything to your life. They are time-suckers. They are usually poorly written. They breed like gnats. Of these creatures, there are few things worse than the corporate blog, which are typically just glorified vehicles for press releases. Of the corporate blogs, there are few things worse than the advertising agency blog, because it has the stench of desperation. You can see someone, somewhere in the organization decided the blog had to be clever – because we’re an AD AGENCY, dammit – and so you have the obligatory twist of whimsy. But since it’s still a corporate communication, it has to go through legal, PR, IT, and some poor junior copywriter whose job it is to keep the blog from doing anything that would slander the reputation of the company. The result is inevitably unreadable. Why do we blog? I’m sure the readers of this blog are using the word ‘hypocrite’ along with their epithet of choice, and they’re probably not wrong. We might be hypocrites, or worse. We snark. We steal from popular culture. We bite the hands that feed us. We link to the sites that pique our interest and occasionally offer meta-commentary. We post opinions as fact. We have an alarmingly high opinion of ourselves. We lie to ourselves while pretending to be brutally honest. We’re maddeningly inconsistent. None of which you’ll find on a typical agency blog, except for the alarmingly high self-regard. If these were other times in history, we’d streak, or skywrite, or perform magic tricks. We’d paint, drink absinthe, and become expatriates. In some eras, we’d be hailed as prophets, in others, heretics. But this is 2009. And that is why we blog.

Filed under: advertising, online advertising, skateboarding cats, supergenius llc, , , , , , , ,

Link By Link – All a-Twitter About Stars Who Tweet – NYTimes.com

Link By Link – All a-Twitter About Stars Who Tweet – NYTimes.com.

Yeah. Celebs are “twittering.” Makes the bile rise at the back of your throat a bit. But really a useless, pandering bit of online copy – rather tell us who is doing it well (I’m looking at you Hammer. I kid you not, he’s on his game.) And does it matter? And what stars is it working for? Blah blah and so on. In the twilight of the republic I see the NYTs is now just a boot black for US Weekly.

Filed under: online advertising, social networking, supergenius llc, twitter, viral,

You Are Not Viral. Stop Trying.

funny-pictures-strings-forte-pleaseSo you’ve decided to save some money this year by crafting a funny, on-message, stealth viral campaign.

Congratulations. You’ve already failed.

Here is the sad, honest truth that keeps a lot of creative people cranking out a lot of subpar home videos and releasing them to the web:

Viral is a lottery ticket. So many factors have to be working with you that it is impossible to predict the success and failure of any one idea, no matter how brilliantly conceived and on-target. In fact, the brilliantly conceived, on-target viral campaigns are the most doomed to fail. Here’s why:

It’s not the perfect storm. For a viral campaign to really catch fire, every wind has to be blowing in your direction. For ten years now, everyone in Hollywood has been trying to recreate the campaign for The Blair Witch Project. This just happened to be the first movie that utilized the web as its main promotional medium, by creating a virtual, creepy, unpolished world that heightened the verisimilitude of the movie itself. It couldn’t have been done after that, it couldn’t have been done prior to that. It only worked because there happened to be dramatic technological upheaval and a new form of communication.

The idea has come and gone. Let’s stay with arguably the most successful viral movie campaign of our lifetimes, Blair Witch. In the wake of that film, a hundred movies tried to do exactly the same thing with a thousand times the budget. But viral is a fickle mistress: once you’ve seen it, it’s over. I mean, over. The target for Blair Witch probably didn’t notice the desperate attempts to catch their attention, because they saw it the first time, when it was still cool.

Your competition has multiplied. By a million. When you make the leap to the web, you’re no longer competing for eyeballs with other marketers. You’re competing for eyeballs with everyone who owns a computer. There are a million people in Los Angeles alone trying to craft “viral” videos to advance their career, to land an agent, to hit the big time – and they don’t have a product to push. Andy Samberg creates a viral video on SNL every couple of weeks, has a million people watch it on television, and (aside from Lazy Sunday) still can’t get much viral traction. Professional entertainers can’t do this. It’s hard.

You’re smarter than a doorknob. Afro Ninja. Numa Numa. Star Wars Kid. Some of the most popular viral videos of all time. What do they have in common? They are viscerally stupid. They’re humiliating. They are the web equivalent of a blooper reel. If you’re smart enough to say the words “viral marketing campaign,” you’ve intellectually excluded yourself from being able to judge whether a viral video will succeed or fail. Your sense of humor is not America’s. Please trust us.

You can embarrass yourself. A lot. Because the most successful viral videos tend to be the most outrageous, marketers frequently assume that outrageousness will get noticed. This is deadly thinking. For every Bruce Campbell Old Spice or JC Penney’s ad that gets traction, there are a thousand misfires, some of them crippling. Agency.com is a smart agency in general. How did this happen? But by far, the majority of viral efforts just never get noticed at all. And that’s embarrassing enough.

Viral does not mean free. Pay to play, baby. Unless your video features NSFW images of people doing unspeakable things (or a skateboarding cat) you can’t just release into the wild on its own and expect some sort of wildfire runaway hit.  You want people to know about it? You want your viral thingy to get seen? You better be prepared to ante up for that viral goodness.

This is not a screed against web content in general. The smartest thing you can be doing is looking for new opportunities to spread your marketing message via the internet. Just don’t go looking for the viral force to be with you.

Filed under: online advertising, skateboarding cats, supergenius llc, viral, , , , , ,

Your Kung Fu is Good. Mine is Better.

nokia-bruceleepingpong08-20081125-105839-sm3Here’s Nokia with a decent example of the kind of non sequitor oddness it often takes to go viral (hate the word!) these days. Funny still works and utility (our favorite) works best of all, but cool & strange also makes the clicks go AAAHHHHH. What’s the concept? Bruce Lee secret training videos. Unearthed for your viewing pleasure. It looks real. It’s fake. Doesn’t matter as it certainly passes the “wonder what that’s about” test. Yeah…Bruce Lee SCHOOLING some chump at ping pong with all the high kicking tools at his disposal. Did it catch out attention? It sure did; however, from our point of view when do this kind of thing (viral that is) we like the linkage to brand to be a bit more obvious (or even remotely obvious). That’s just our ten cents. If the idea is strong enough it can carry the logo (i.e. it can overcome consumer negativity about branded videos.) Why? ’cause funny is funny and cool is cool. No matter if it is sponsored. And, of course, this is why real UTIILITY wins every time.

Filed under: online advertising, viral, , , , , , ,

Have You Seen My Avatar?

Virtual AvatarsWe here at Black Match have long been citizens of the virtual universe, now it seems the rest of the marketing world is catching on. Whether it’s working within a pre-existing universe like Second Life or creating a custom universe like MTV’s Laguna Beach, what’s hot at the moment is virtuality. Second Life is up to 400,000 users and counting – exchanging real money – and savvy media properties are angling for awareness among this concentrated but highly influential population. Look no further than this New York Times article for a quick bit of insight on how some very youth oriented properties like MTV are pushing the envelope.

“At MTV, reality has always been a moving target. Sixteen years ago, the network heralded the era of reality television with “The Real World.” Three years ago, it pushed the genre further with “Laguna Beach: The Real OC,” in which the mundane lives of a clique of pretty teenagers were presented in a way that appeared scripted and dramatic.

Now the cable channel aims to push the boundaries of false reality one step further. This week, MTV will introduce Virtual Laguna Beach, an online service in which fans of the program can immerse themselves — or at least can immerse digitized, three-dimensional characters, called avatars, that they control — in virtual versions of the show’s familiar seaside hangouts(see article).”

Filed under: brands, online advertising, social networking, supergenius llc, Uncategorized, , , , ,

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Super Genius LLC is a digital media and creative incubator that excels at bringing fresh, new thinking to existing strategy as well as blank-page strategic development. Our mission is to open up unique and exciting ways of connecting brands and consumers.

"The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." William Gibson

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