Tuesday, November 29, 2011

To Attack or Defend?

By Embra King

The common phrase heard in football locker rooms and military camps "the best defense is a good offense” seems to be well respected in their respected fields. But does this ideology work when it comes to advertising, is it really better to attack another's product than to promote your own? Samsung seems to think so and without naming any names challenges the iPhone and its apparent dim, Starbucks drinking, following.

The commercial, which aired last week, depicts long lines of bohemian Apple phone users standing in line waiting for the iPhone 4s. As they grumble about the “sketchy battery” and lack of physical changes to the phone, they catch a glimpse of preppy people not waiting in line using the already released Samsung Galaxy S II.

Near the end, Samsung tries to pitch that they have a bigger screen, and it runs on 4g network. However, the only feeling I come away from my multiple viewings was how silly it is that Samsung has narrowed down the iPhone user into this arty hipster, apparently blind to the fact that other phones are out there.

Attacking the completion is nothing new in the wild world of advertising. Audi and BMW have always taken stabs at each other resulting in things such as this billboard campaign. Apple also ran its own attacking campaign, the famous “I am a Mac, and I am a PC” stint. It is a tactic that politicians utilize many times over: “Vote for me because the other person is awful.”

As a consumer, I am more drawn to seeing why I should buy a product, not why I shouldn’t buy the other guy's. To me, it seems to take away from your product. If what you're selling is worth talking about, than talk about it. Sure, it makes for some fun, witty advertising, but does it really help move your product?

The fact is, Samsung is jealous; no one is waiting hours and hours to buy their phones, a fact that they poke fun of in their commercial. Apple has a huge share in the phone market thanks to their branding power and creation of beautiful easy to use products. With all this being said, I do like that Samsung has tried to take on the giant that Apple has become.

I just wish they had shown a little more backbone and mentioned the phone by name.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Logo Issues

One of these logos is for a headphone company, the other a blog for moms. A little tricky to decide which is which when they are next to each other; imagine trying to do so if they weren’t side by side.

A company’s logo, once established, is much more than a picture or set of text; it is layers of brand recognition that are available to a consumer with a single glance. When you see two golden arches you, immediately know it is McDonald's with their Big Mac’s, golden French fries, and that McRib sandwich that seems to not want to die. We have thousands of memories, experiences, and opinions that are all linked to this single logo.

It is like this for thousands of brands across the world; they build a huge brand that can be fit into one single image. It makes advertising much more compact. We do not need McDonald’s mission statement stamped on any of their ads, or the side of their building; we just need to see those golden arches, and we all know exactly what is being offered.

But what happens when your logo looks almost identical to that of another company's? Well, for hip hop artist Dr. Dre’s headphone company (Beats by Dre), and Disney’s newly acquired mommy blog (Babble), this has seemed to happen. I came across this by chance; when I thought that the ad banner on my computer was for a new set of headphones and not a blog that features articles about vegan Thanksgiving meal ideas.

The point I am trying to make is that, when you're designing a logo, you want to make sure there is nothing out there that can easily be mistaken for yours. Maybe these two companies have such different markets that this will not be an branding issue, but for me it was. I was not able to see the Babble logo and instantly think, “That’s a website for women to go and learn about healthy foods for their children” or even, “What logo is that?” I was thinking about over-sized headphones and west coast hip-hop.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Power of Community

Last week AT&T released a new commercial entitled “Responsibilities”, a thirty second piece that plays on the idea that everyone in a typical office uses their smart phone for everything but actual work. It has received an explosion of views, about 700,000 YouTube views in just the first four days of being online. Now while this commercial is funny, its popularity doesn’t stem from its humor, or the quality of the product it is selling, but rather it is all the attention it has received on Reddit.com.

Nate Dern was making his commercial debut after three years of auditioning and decided to share his success with the community of Reddit. He posted his video on the site last Monday and to his surprise gained an explosion of views over the course of that first day as hundreds of people “up voted” the video promoting it the front page for all to see. People seem to have fallen in love with the idea that one of their own, a fellow Redditor, had made it into a TV spot, and all he says is a simple “Huh?” As this blog post was being written, Nate Dern’s commercial debut has 2882 total “up votes” on Reddit and was at one point the number one link on the websites front page.

What this phenomena is demonstrating is the marketing power that third party post sites are capable of producing. The AT&T commercial is not the first company to benefit from being posted on Reddit, however.

The spread of Chuck Testa’s taxidermy commercial and the video of Judge Williams beating his daughter exploded into the homes of millions, thanks to the community voting system of Reddit. The site has become a powerful tool for spreading news, images, videos, and complaints about companies or services. According to businessinsider.com, Reddit had 1.8 billion viewers in the month of October alone. With this kind of viewership, companies would love for their products or services to get some percentage of this attention.

One reason that Reddit is a powerful tool for spreading information in such a rapid manner is the fact that it does not create exclusive social circles like Facebook or Twitter, but instead lets anyone post and everyone view these posts. Once something is posted, anyone can view it, and those who have created a free account can vote for or against the post. The more positive votes a link receives, the closer the post will move towards the front page.

The problem with all of this, however, is that the products in the commercials are not the ones benefiting from all the publicity; it is the actors themselves. Sure, thousands of people have viewed the commercial, but at the end of it, are people thinking I want that phone, or “Man, well executed, huh?" The millions of views that Chuck Testa’s first commercial received has not translated into increased sales. It has, however, spawned many spin-off videos and started a small demand for Chuck Testa t-shirts. The brand loyalty in this case is to the Mr. Testa and Mr. Dern, not the product they are selling. People online are pushing for Dern to be featured in a second commercial with AT&T and maybe this time with a couple more lines.

What advertisers need to learn is how to harness the communal benefits of sites such as Reddit or Digg, to create attention around a product much like it has for people. The static advertising word that Don Draper lived in is dying, and we are move into a marketing world run by the consumer. It is becoming apparent that companies need to figure out the best way to harness this communal power. It has shown its ability to create an almost cult following for people such as Nate Dern and Chuck Testa, but its potential for creating such a buzz around a product is yet to be tapped.