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

Woman on city street looking at smartphone

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

Creatures of Habit

Brands and marketers spend a lot of time and money with “new and exciting” initiatives based purely on trends that are influencing their consumers. But what they should be doing is improving their existing products and marketing efforts based on consumer habits.

As consumers, we are programmed to intuitively select the products and brands we need based on what looks familiar (e.g., the easiest decision to make). And as marketers, “the goal is to make consumers repeat their purchases by matching the value proposition to their needs.” Consumers don’t want to spend the mental energy when shopping (online or in-store for that matter), so why make them?

Branding, Design, Advertising, MarketingThe solution for brands lies within understanding the habits of their consumers, and evolving or improving upon them based on what their brains are programmed to be looking for. And unless consumers are absolutely screaming for a change, and the return is solid for your business, then making a dramatic change is no bueno.

Brands like Coke, Tropicana, GAP, and many more have undergone redesigns in some capacity over the years. Consumers didn’t demand it. They weren’t educated on the change, nor provided a real rationale. The result was backlash, and even a decline in sales, which pushed the brands to quickly go back to the original. A lot of time and money lost. However, sometimes it pays off (only if the demand is there), but often times it doesn’t.

There are more examples and insights we could share, but we simply don’t have the time, nor blog post space to do so. That said, we want to leave you with this very simple message: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if you decide to fix it, make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the habits of your consumers.

Marc-eting 101: Hello Digital, Meet Analog

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Today, most businesses are riding the waves of digital marketing. When asked, “Where do you think the non-digital brand experience fits in?” here is what Marc Sampogna, Canopy’s Managing Director, had to say…

As we continue to see the world of marketing shift further and further into digital, we have to ask ourselves: Does the analog (print, TV, OOH) brand experience fit in anymore? Well, of course it does. But it’s really a matter of how brands and marketers want to spend their budgets. As we know, digital is the most efficient means to reach an audience, measure it, and do it with more modest budgets. But does it leave the profound impact that non-digital channels and tactics leave? The answer is…. not yet! Traditional media has made efforts to tie-in their digital platforms to ensure their brands are accessible, relevant and shareable. But digital isn’t designed to return the favor. So, what’s the outcome? Well, as marketers, we need to recognize the new paradigm, and be very picky about how and where we want to connect with our target. It comes down to who they are and where they get information. Gen X, Y, Millennials, are all digitally connected and rely on this to drive their purchasing patterns. And that makes up a significant piece of the market. Boomers and above are adjusting, but have greater appreciation for traditional because they grew up with it. And while I continue to ramble on, I’m not sure if I’m answering the question of whether or not non-digital/traditional/analog brand experiences fit in anywhere. But if I look at how cyclical trends have become, from fashion to art, I’d have to say this would apply to marketing. Digital will at some point evolve to finally turning around and introducing itself to analog, and who knows, maybe they’ll get along.

 

The Changing Times

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It’s nothing new or surprising to learn that traditional newspapers are struggling. Online news sources are both cheaper and more efficient for consumers. But, there is still something to say about the quality and trustworthiness of old-school newspapers, especially the likes of The New York Times or The Washington Post.

There are reports that The New York Times may soon introduce another subscription, a shorter newspaper, to try and keep it’s print business as profitable as possible. The newspaper would be offered at a lower price point and likely include a digital subscription. This version could have a positive influence on the younger audience who want a quick-to-read newspaper that fits their lifestyle of needing information in the most efficient way possible.

It will be interesting to see the influence this change will have on print newspaper advertising.

What Sparks our Fire: The New York Times looking for new ways to continue engaging consumers and addressing the shift to digital.

Would you be interested in a shorter version of The New York Times?