Are Controversial Ads Worth It?

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The battle for attention in the advertising world is intense. Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from the competition. What is a company to do when the good ideas are either: taken, over-used, or cliché. How do they breakthrough, without breaking?

The growing trend to enter the consumer’s mind is to use controversy to excite, whether it means using humor or anger to grab attention. Controversial campaigns are high risk, high reward, so caution should be used when employing such tactics.

The recent viral advertisement campaign by Kmart, dubbed the #shipmypants ad, uses word play to promote Kmart’s shipping service. The responses have been between calling this ad, a smart, hilarious campaign, to sophomoric and cheap. Regardless, the numbers don’t lie, people are talking. Whether it’s good or bad, is still up for discussion.

Do you believe that any press is good press?

If you intend to use controversy to jumpstart a campaign here are some questions for you to answer. Since controversy evokes strong emotions:

1.Are you being controversial just to be controversial, or does it have a specific link to your brands purpose?
2.Does the dialog relate to your brand message and positioning, or is just a quick hit to highlight something new?
3. Have you prepared for the backlash and unexpected consequences?

When controversial marketing campaigns work, they usually have a high initial response rate but die off as quickly as they rise. So to sum this all up, are controversial ads worth it? In the short run, maybe, in the long run, no, unless you have a plan to continue the conversation. And if you’re going to go this route, do it sparingly as you cannot reliably gauge the response.

At the end of the day, if you are having trouble breaking through the white noise, what will you do? Play it safe or go for it?

The Head Down Revolution

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If you live in a major metro market, then you know what it’s like to walk down the street and see 90% of the people with their heads down buried in their phone. I was one of those people, until I found myself standing in the middle of the street in Manhattan writing a text and nearly getting hit by a taxi. From that point on, I made sure that I was always looking up. But I am definitely in the minority. And this post is not about the safety, or lack thereof, when it comes to texting. It’s about how marketers can capitalize on this Head Down Revolution.

According to Statista, the U.S. mobile phone penetration has reached 81%, representing 223 million consumers. And those consumers spend an average of 4.7 hours per day glued to their smartphones. More importantly, is the role that texting now plays in our everyday lives, especially when it comes to marketing. For an eye-opening example, texts have a 99% open rate compared to 20% for email*. Pretty amazing, huh? Now I imagine that smartphones are currently in the midst of fine tuning their hardware to introduce features that can block such correspondence. But who knows when that will come?

So until that day, marketers have a humongous opportunity to take advantage and focus their outbound efforts on the behaviors of the smartphone user. A behavior that is now second nature, and while receiving a text from a brand may seem like a nuisance at first, it is certainly less of one than an email. Also, if you’re sending info or content that isn’t selling, but more serving them something of value, then you’re more likely to be able to maintain that dialogue.

And isn’t a dialogue what we want? It opens the door, and leads to traffic. And when you have enough traffic, ultimately it will lead to transactions. It’s this approach to marketing, partnered with the aforementioned tactics, that can build the awareness and engagement you’re looking for.

Now how about a little “social experiment”: The next time you’re walking down the street, take note of how many people’s’ heads are down. It truly is a sight to see. Just think, those eyes could be engaged in your brands message. And if the message is “timed” to when your customer is in the market for a new product, it becomes relevant and timely — a very powerful combination.

*Credits: Jack Loechner — Editor of The Center for Media Research; SinglePoint; Statista

I think I trust you…

HTSAF_iThinkiA survey* was recently released with two startling statistics that revealed 42% of consumers found brands less trustworthy today, while 48% believed brands can have a positive impact on the world. Now those are two opposite sides of the spectrum if we ever saw one. But more importantly, how do we bridge this interesting divide?

After going through some thoughts about politics they touched on the most interesting path: Understanding the culture of your target consumer and effectively tapping into it remain key. So, building your brand and its identity around a cultural insight is paramount. Find it. Inspire and positively provoke your target with it. Then craft and design your creative campaign around it.

Lastly, be relentless in searching out these cultural insights. Remember, insights are not facts. They are something you discover about your brand or consumers that no one else can own. They belong to you. So say “NO” to the obvious. Reject the ordinary. And, initiate around the extraordinary. So who’s bridging this gap today, you ask? Here are a few off the top of our heads:

  • Subaru — Recognition for LGBT campaign
  • Tesla — Being forthright about their mistakes, and fixing them
  • Chick-fil-A — Authentic and plain spoken
  • Dove — Authenticity and respect through their  “Love the skin you’re in” campaign

What Sparks Our Fire? Waking up everyday searching for insights that emotionally connect brands with consumers.

*The ‘Truth About America’ report from McCann

 

Headline vs Body Copy

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When we see an article, advertisement or even a movie title, our interest is typically based on the headline or body copy. A catchy headline can draw you in to want to experience the body copy, which is the general idea of marketing. This same principle also applies to how we profile the people we work with. Are you a person that just wants the high level facts? Or, are you more analytical and someone who wants all the details? Also a great tool to use for prospecting, and getting to “know” your audience before you engage them. (Psst, agencies, do this when meeting new clients… it will help you determine who you can connect with when in a room.)

It also very much the practice of how we engage with brands that are marketed to us. And as marketers, this is something we must always consider when strategizing around how to connect with our customers. While imperative to a comms strategy, keep in mind that this approach does vary by placement. For instance, at the point-of-sale, it’s all about the headline, a.k.a. an eye-catching design that visually lures you in. But, while a catchy headline may do the trick at retail, most online shoppers want the specifics before they hit ‘buy’. Therefore, body copy can make a world of difference between conversion and abandonment when it comes to digital commerce.

Nevertheless, it’s important to find a balance between the two. To understand the appropriate place to lean at the appropriate time. So, when you’re implementing your marketing communications strategy, think of it as if you were a boxer — determine which blow will have a stronger impact, head or body. It’s all the difference in determining whether you win the bout against your competition, or have to head back to training camp.

P.S.
Me, personally, I’m a headline. I like to get to the point within five seconds or less. So if we ever email, you’ll likely feel that in our exchange. However, this post is more for the body copy lovers out there. Hope you found it insightful and applicable. 

To Serve, or to Sell, that is the question.

As marketers, we are mostly programmed to SELL, SELL, SELL! However, in this day and age, it seems it’s more effective to serve. Recent studies (according to us) show that consumers are more interested in receiving information that will educate and enrich their lives. They want a story. Content. An experience. Something usable beyond just a “buy this now!” call-to-action.

To do this, we must think about our engagement strategy, and look for ways to immerse our audience in the brand, rather than simply sell it. We must tap into the emotional sensibilities, and bring their normal, everyday experience to life in a way that serves a bigger purpose — to create an unbreakable bond, that ultimately results in sales.

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Here are some ways this is being done…

  • Virtual Reality: Create a new world to experience your brand (Check out what Tom’s did)
  • Augmented Reality: Bring the retail experience to life wherever you are (See how the IKEA Catalog enables you to place furniture in your space before you buy it)
  • Bots: Brands becoming personal assistants (Casper gives you someone to talk to on those sleepless nights)

There are many partners out there specializing in these methods (Blippar, LSTNR, Moth+Flame). And if you want to proactively bring new, impactful ideas to your clients and consumers, we suggest you tap into them.

So don’t get stuck in the world of selling. It’s a one-dimensional way to drive engagement and conversions. Change your approach. Be multidimensional, it will serve you well.

What Sparks Our Fire: Taking the initiative to find new ways to turn simple ideas into ones that serve a bigger purpose.