Betabrand knows how to break news. Or at least break into it.
The San Francisco-based online clothing company has a history of newsjacking—it made a name for itself when Mark Zuckerberg met with Wall Street bankers in (what else) a hoodie. Zuckerberg's sister Randi stumbled upon Betabrand's $148 Executive Hoodie (think worsted wool) and inventories instantly sold out.
Fast forward to this week, and the small brand has made an art of fast-turn content marketing that this week included a one-take video capitalizing on reports that Silicon Valley legend HP was banning t-shirts in its engineering department to recruit some engineers of its own.
That was Monday. On Tuesday I told CEO Chris Lindland that he had a hit on his hands. By Wednesday Adweek and FastCompany had covered the video. And whether responding to it or simply the news reports, HP Human Resources felt the need to post its own video reassuring employees that the ban was just an unfounded rumor.
I talked with Chris again this morning about his amazing week—and what is says about effective content marketing in general—and powerhouse newsjacking in particular.
A year—and countless awards—after the debut of Leo Burnett's "Like A Girl" video for Procter & Gamble's Always brand, the effort is out with a new spot dealing with a lack of confidence and perceived limitations—and conquering them.
It's worth noting that the themes here, including comments from one girl about how only boys can be heroes, play well with a TV platform that's custom-made for causes like this—if CBS rises to the challenge ("Supergirl," anyone?).
The new spot includes a call to action encouraging girls to share how they're unstoppable at the Twitter hashtag #likeagirl.
And stealing a page from Dove's long-running "Campaign for Real Beauty," viewers are urged to join the effort to champion girls' confidence at always.com.
According to ADWEEK, the brand is also partnering with TED to develop confidence-inspiring content through its educational unit, TED-Ed.
I can't say this spot resonates as much as the first.
But it's got a great message that's definitely worth sharing with girls and women everywhere.
In truth, I would characterize this all as "real-time social media marketing," as real-time marketing has evolved to become more associated with real-time, personalized marketing-to-sales conversion on websites. Think personalized offers displayed to the right person at the right time as part of a retail website experience.
That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about marketing efforts to break through the clutter with highly-relevant social media marketing (and advertising) tied to real-time events in hopes of generating brand moments that get shared and gain widespread attention. The video above is a great summary of some of the most positive elements of Oreo's initiatives.
Of course, there are some who are more than skeptical over the ROI of such efforts—witness this recent piece from Content Strategist. And yes, given the infrastructure some brands deploy for it, real-time marketing may not make a lot of sense.
But for smaller brands, it may be a different story.
While I normally work within the world of larger brands, the Jim Blasingame show has me on from time to time to translate trends in world into possible opportunities for his audience, which is primarily SMBs.
In the conclusion of this recent interview, we'll talk about how for local businesses, newsjacking could make for a low-cost, low-bandwidth proposition that lets these companies demonstrate they are active members of their communities and dialed into the things that matter to their customers.
And they can do it in a way that larger brands will never be able to emulate.
If you thought Poo-Pourri's first video was outrageous, just wait til' you see what Grandma has to say about it all.
In the latest from Suzy Batiz and her Addison, TX-based "spray-before-you-go" bathroom spray demonstrates once again how to market sensitive products by being as up-front and flagrant about it as you can about it.
Clearly, this isn't for every audience.
But Batiz (full disclosure: a past client) knows how to reach the hipper, hard-to-reach 18-35 audience she's after to round out her base of fun-loving women 38 to 64. This new video may even be a, er, slam dunk with all her constituents.
Either way: Who knew bleeping out an everyday word like "flush" could be so fun?
Can a new TV show about a female superhero aspire to create positive messages for girls and women as well as (or better than) a certain viral video from a feminine products brand?
In just the last few weeks, Procter & Gamble's viral sensation "Like A Girl" won the GoodWorks Effie, which is designed to recognize marketers for effectively using their platforms for "purpose-driven' campaigns. That is to say, campaigns that accomplish some social good, beyond (just) promoting the brands behind them.
As most everyone in the world of marketing and advertising knows by now, the video, for P&G's Always brand, explores the meaning of the phrase "like a girl" - and how to redefine it. It's powerful stuff, and since its debut last summer, it has generated nearly 60 million views—and has been likened to some of the best work coming from Unilever's long-running "Campaign for Real Beauty."
Right around the same time, we also saw the release of a six-minute trailer for CBS-TV's new show "Supergirl" from Berlanti Productions—the team behind "The Flash," "Arrow," and the upcoming "Legends of Tomorrow" on CW.
Based on the character in DC comics, the series follows Kara Zor-El, the preteen cousin of baby Kal-El, as she is rocketed to Earth in the moments before the planet Krypton explodes (or the surviving Argo City becomes contaminated, depending on your origin story of choice).
Through the peculiar dynamics of space-time, Kara arrives on Earth many years after Kal-El has grown up as Clark Kent, finding herself in awe of the man (and hero) he has become. As she enters her twenties, Kara must forge her own path, and decide if and how to best use her own considerable gifts to make a difference in the world.
Just as with "Like A Girl," the trailer instantly broke the Internet. In just its first week, it had generated over 10 million views—though no exclusively to fanfare.
Commentary on one side included the usual fanboy outrage, as well as criticism likening the trailer (not without merit) to some of the rom-com tropes parodied in a recent SNL spoof for a "Black Widow" movie, based on Scarlett Johansson's character in "The Avengers."
On the other side: Viewers who looked past the cliches and saw something more promising. (A leaked video of the full first episode seems to have put reviews decidedly in the positive column, with some indicating the worst elements of the trailer are only minor facets of the show.)
'The World's Greatest Heroine'
One can't help but find star Melissa Benoist utterly captivating here.
But as a marketer who has written extensively about cause marketing in books such as THE ON-DEMAND BRAND and BRANDING UNBOUND; as a lifelong genre fan; and, I should add, as a husband and father, I see lots of potential for something that is not only a blast to watch, but something that can make a difference.
This optimism has a lot to do with Greg Berlanti, whose "Flash" has balanced unabashed exuberance with unexpected heart. The Season One finale is chock full of both, served with enough Easter Eggs to fill a master's thesis.
That show, based on another DC property, follows a young Barry Allen and his origins as The Fastest Man Alive. And it toys with our understanding of the character, as well as themes and story lines shaped through 70 years of mythology (including a pivotal moment in the character's history—a moment he handled to disastrous effect in the comics, and tackled in another, more painful and poignant way in the show), in compelling ways.
"The Flash" and "Supergirl" will not feature crossovers for some time, if ever, due to the fact that they air on separate networks.
But press reports indicate they do exist in the same universe. And it is not lost on Berlanti (or fans) that within the mythology, Barry and Kara are bound by a shared destiny at the center of a cataclysm that has been amply foreshadowed in "The Flash."
A Force for Good—or Not?
"Supergirl" is clearly aimed at teenage girls, far more than even "The Flash" or "Arrow," which have found footing with both sexes—and all ages.
So how can "Supergirl" do some good this fall?
1. Play Up the "Girl Power" Ethos.
This appears to be built into the equation.
Just look at the show's (brilliant) tagline: "It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's not a man....It's Supergirl." Throw in Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," and the trailer makes an unambiguous statement. Even better: Despite hints to the contrary, word has it that despite hints to the contrary, the pilot at least avoids indicating that Kara needs a love interest to complete her.
This kind of roll model is not without precedent.
Decades ago, Wonder Woman became a symbol of female empowerment, inspiring Gloria Steinem to feature the character on the cover of the first issue of Ms. magazine. That was three years before Lynda Carter hit prime time as the character, in a version of the heroine pulled from one of the more prominent of DC's alternate realities. And it was 40 years before psychologist Amy Cuddy took to TED to share research with 26 million viewers that striking a Wonder Woman pose for two minutes every day can help women build self-confidence. (Read more on this amazing history here.)
This didn't happen through didactic, "After-School Special" moralizing.
It happened through the simple act of portraying a powerful force for truth and justice who just happened to be a woman.
Berlanti's first job is to entertain, not preach. But there's no reason the show can't redefine what facing danger and demonstrating heroism "like a girl" can mean.
2. Grant Viewers a Whole Lot Less "Cat"
Calista Flockhart's "Cat Grant" character could make for an outstanding rival, so long as Kara's view of "girldom" counterbalances Grant's worst stereotypes.
I'm not (just) talking about the "Devil Wears Prada"-esque elements in general—which are freaking painful to watch. I'm talking specifically about a certain (overly-long, overly-precious) moment between Kara and Cat, after Grant has dubbed Kara's alter-ego "Supergirl":
KARA: We can't name her that.
CAT: 'We' didn't.
KARA: Shouldn't she be called 'Super Woman'?
CAT: What do you think is so bad about 'Girl'? I'm a girl. And your boss. And powerful. And rich. And hot. And smart. So if you perceive 'Supergirl' as anything less than excellent, isn't the real problem you?
Kara seems to take this not as the narcissistic blather of a preening ass clown, but as words of wisdom. Or at least the trailer seems to play it that way, with Kara immediately proclaiming she's all-in.
This character will either provide Kara with a model for what not to be, or a simplistic and negative template for how powerful women establish dominance.
Berlanti's track record—along with word that the show has less of the trailer's most irksome elements—give me hope.
3. Extend the Platform
Find advertisers who don't just fill ad space with empowering commercial messages. Find partners who leverage the storytelling in ways that can be extended into digital initiatives that encourage girls to start being "super" in their own lives, through public service and/or by identifying and building on their own strengths to shape their futures in positive ways.
Which is a way of saying that while the show can't be pedagogic, perhaps extensions can.
A Real Cliffhanger
Will "Supergirl" transcend its cliche-tinged trailer to become a positive cultural influence?
Will consumer brands from the likes of P&G, Unilever and others recognize the potential of this platform, and leverage it for "purpose-driven" campaigns aimed at girls?
And will CBS avoid screwing up a show that CW would ride to long-lasting success?
Time will tell if Kara Zor-El soars high—or bites Kryptonite dust—on these and other scores.
That's how Go2 Production's Adrian Scott puts it when comparing 3D projection mapping to most virtual and augmented reality experiences requiring mobile phones, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard or other consumer devices to enjoy.
In the conclusion of my recent conversation with Scott, we talk about a 3D projection experience we developed for Seagate Technology's brand relaunch at CES this January.
Playing off the "data tile" elements of Seagate's new Living Logo (the world's first patent-pending brand identity), the experience (video at top) features the voice talent of William Lyman (narrator of "PBS Frontline"), as well as an original score from Alain Mayrand, who did orchestrations for the movies "Ender's Game" and "Elysium").
Be sure to check out the behind-the-scenes video, too (directly above).
And then listen to the finale of our audio interview, where you'll hear about some of the considerable challenges associated with trying to pull off a 3D projection like this in the middle of the day, in a very unconventional space—and about Scott's favorite 3D projection project ever.
In part two of my recent conversation with Adrian Scott, head of Vancouver-based Go2 Productions, we discuss why the real power of 3D projections like the ones shown in the highlight reel above isn't the display itself—it's what you (and passersby) do with it afterward via social media.
We'll also hear about some of the emerging technologies that will see 3D projection evolve into something closer to the Star Trek Holodeck—or at least like a certain scene in another fabled space opera.
Can someone who has never worked in advertising really cover it?
Or is it even better that way?
In the conclusion of my recent "exit interview" with legendary New York Times ad industry columnist Stuart Elliott, we discuss what it was like to cover such a idiosyncratic industry without much first-hand experience in the business.
How did being one step removed hinder - or help?
As Elliott says goodbye to the Times, we'll get his views on that topic.
And we'll try one last time to get his predictions for what's next in the world of advertising. His response is worth noting even for those of us who do work in this crazy, wonderful industry.
By now, we're all familiar with the rapid rise of the Internet, the mobile revolution, the emergence of social media and more.
But beyond the technological changes and what they mean to the way we connect with consumers through new platforms, there is the impact of societal changes on how we reflect consumer sentiment back to them.
After 25 years of covering the advertising industry for the New York Times, Stuart Elliott says he never could have predicted that television advertising would be so much less lily white, a little less nuclear family.
In part three of an expansive "exit interview" I conducted with Elliott just weeks after he announced his retirement in December - he points to how ad agencies used to pretend they were bigger, until that became a liability, and why brands had better keep up with demographic trends, or risk being left behind.