My, Branding has Changed

December 17, 2010

By Meghan Tetwiler, Brand Planner @ NYCA

How should a brand connect with today’s sophisticated consumers?

Over the course of a few short decades, the playing field for brands has changed dramatically.  Believe me, Hollywood’s depiction of Mad Men martini lunches and chain-smoking brainstorming sessions is no longer an advertiser’s reality.  With their fingertips on the Internet and mobile phones, today’s consumers have access to quickly retrieved information, are in control of when/where/how they receive content, and are more discerning about the information they consume.  This increase in consumer sophistication demands that brands evolve their approach and build lasting relationships.

Static media messaging touting a pithy catch phrase may have been the way for brands to win attention in the past, but today it isn’t enough.  In order for brands to meet consumers’ demands, they now must work harder to go beyond screaming, “buy me” and deliver What’s (really) In It For Consumers. Creating experiences that bring a brand’s ingenuity to life and opportunities for people to personally experience the benefits of a brand’s products and services are now necessary to impact purchasing behavior.

In theory, brand marketers can easily agree the era of marketing plans built solely on one-way communications are no longer sufficient.  They nod their heads when there is opportunity to incorporate experiential branding into their marketing mix.  What is difficult for them to stomach is when it comes time to reallocate traditional print/TV budgets to interactive online, retail or event-based experiences.  I see even my progressive clients struggle to embrace experiential branding.  It’s tough.  Gone are the days when marketing plans can be recycled year after year.

One common first step made by companies integrating experiential branding is that each brand must discover how to connect with its consumers through a shared passion.  This allows not only the tried and true one-way consumer interceptions but also more interactive consumer/brand engagements.

Check out the entertaining, educational and interactive experiences the brands below have created in effort to strengthen consumer bonds.

These are just a handful of 21st century brands that have successfully made the leap into experiential branding.  I’d argue the experiences these brands are creating, from Apple’s Genius Bar to Nike’s Running Club, are personalizing their brand offerings and, in turn, successfully contributing to winning over their consumers’ hearts and pocketbooks.

As this year winds down, its time to start thinking about the future.  I look forward to dreaming up interactive experiences to deepen each of my client’s relationships with their consumers.


Our World

April 26, 2010

By Lynne Roswall, V.P., Director of Production @ NYCA

It’s that time of year again – when winter turns to spring and the Encinitas Street Fair begins the season in full swing.

While hand-holding couples peruse the clothing stands, handmade artwork, bamboo Salad tongs and cutting boards, jazz / new age / classical music floats in between the bodies walking from stall-to-stall. Families stroll in-time with their kids and their teenagers walk a few feet in front of them, escaping. Consumers talk amongst themselves about the things they want to purchase; they have direct conversations with merchants, listen to their stories (some repeat it to their friends or loved ones) while some find interest in – or are coaxed into – handling the items on the table.

Brands are constantly trying to seep, seemlessly, into our lives and become a part of those conversations. Some have made it. Like badges of honor, our favorite logos are showcased on hats, bags and t-shirts.

Inside the walls of NYCA, we work intensely on the best ways to reach you to help our brands grow! Maniacally focused, we cull the work down to the right word, the right image, the accurate stat, the proving points and the most poignant, clearest way to pierce through the clutter of everyday messaging and entice you. We want you to pause, if only for a moment, and ask you to consider us before you pass us by and go on to the next booth.

Tweets, Facebook ads, email notices and new product requests, videos, commercials, print ads, URLs – all encourage you to come closer, stroll up to the table and try us out. We want you to hear our story, be interested in it, talk about us to your friends and loved ones. And, through the music playing, alongside the strollers and teenagers, maybe you’ll become a fan and wear us proudly… seemless.


Being there means your brand cares.

March 23, 2010

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @ NYCA

A client looked me in the eyes this week and told me, “Michael, it’s better to be fast and wrong than slow and right.”

I think it was directional in nature. Still, it was quite a statement. It’s conceding that the speed needed to move at in today’s business environment is reaching a pace of acceptable recklessness.

Woody Allen said something like, “99 percent of success in life is showing up.” Not sure if it’s exactly how he said it, but you get the point: you don’t have to be perfect, just raise your hand and be counted all the time. That’s harder these days as there are so many places to be.

Reminds me of how my mother forced me to go to kindergarten even when I was absolutely dying from excruciating, intolerable, at-the-doors-of-death-pain with a tummy-ache. I didn’t do much schoolwork that day but the important part (to my mom and teacher – you can say, my customers) was that I was marked present. And being there, even physically wounded, counted more than being fully mentally present.

Today’s marketing environment is a great deal about brands being here and there. And these days, with the proliferation of .coms, social sites, applications, and meet-ups, there are so many more parties where one needs to be seen that you could well show up underdressed. What’s a brand to do?

The perfectionist’s motto, “measure twice, cut once,” has become: “cut, oops, cut better, oops, cut, repeat constantly, just keep cutting.”

Why such a rush? Is it worth it? Our successful customer is saying “Yes.” Because consumers have a seemingly all day and night hunger for content and they demand to be served promptly and frequently with constant feedback and the occasional coupon.

Like any close and good relationship, brands and consumers don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Mistakes are overlooked and, because we do move so fast, they are forgotten in a matter of several tweets.

Are we saying that quality isn’t as important as quantity? This makes me queasy but I think so. Quantity is taking precedence because touching all those touch points means you’re there for me in all these places, all the time, and the sum is: you care.

Now, of course, some mistakes are more grievous than others. Be sensible as you speed along, but keep that speedometer pressing on the red as we head to another party at which to be seen.

When he protested that Macintosh wasn’t ready yet to launch, Guy Kawasaki was assured by Steve Jobs, “Don’t worry, be crappy.” They launched and they made it better on the run. Quite a run it’s been.

So here’s the dress code: even if slightly untucked here and there, make sure your brand shows up. Often.

In other words, “Get your business out of bed and get out there right this instant or else!”

Just like momma said.


Love and fear of metrics

June 30, 2009

By Michael Mark, creative director/ceo @NYCA

 
I have a love and fear of metrics because I am a story teller. It’s because I care about my audience, even more than my work.  I want to know how they feel, think, what they want to do once they get touched by my work. This is the real creation – the change, what we call at NYCA: the grow!

That’s why I love good advertising.  We use ideas, pictures, words, media to connect to millions on behalf of our clients. And the best part is the analysis to see what happened.

“How are you feeling, honey?” That’s a tender and perhaps worrisome moment – as you listen for the reaction. In advertising it could be the verdict on the campaign you worked so hard on for months.

It’s the most dramatic of pauses as we wait on the answer – far more telling than the unveiling of the strategy or creative idea. Unfortunately, that is where too many agencies stop – and I can understand why. It’s scary to hear the news.

But it would be a lonely, unfulfilling lie if we didn’t know how people reacted to what we put out there. How can you have a healthy nurturing relationship if you don’t have intimacy?  So we have to find out. Sometimes we ask our lover, “How does this feel?” (really, really scary). Same thing at work – kinda. We need our connection points, our messaging, to be well-directed, true in intention and hard-data effective.  It is a professional, personal and emotional matter. In truth, it is all that matters.

John Harris’s talk on TED is remarkable. He has done some great work on following people’s feelings on the web. See how it makes you feel.


Bad Boy Brands – fatal attraction?

May 26, 2009

By Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO @NYCA 

Frigging Manny Ramirez got me thinking. Well, actually it’s the people who are buying his jersey now, since he’s been suspended from baseball for steroids, who’ve got me scratching my head.

Why would they want to wear his shirt, his name, his dreadlocks, now? If they want to align with a profeadvert-dean-gap_lgssional ball player with equally impressive stats, they can choose others. I guess they like being associated with a bad boy.

And that got me thinking about bad boy brands. Do they sell? Can they sustain a relationship or are they stunt workers?

The Gap used James Dean (by today’s standards a weenie but considered by many to be the original bad boy) posthumously for one campaign, to give generic khakis attitude.

Howard Stern’s grossness put Snapple on the map – and got him kicked off the air, too. And let’s be fair to the bad girls for fear they’d kick my butt: the used-to-be-hot Paris Hilton has or had a perfume, a clothing line, a shoe line, a TV series (I liked her in that for two episodes).

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The controversy-magnet Madonna starred in a TV spot for Pepsi, only to get it pulled. Sacrilege wasn’t the choice of the next generation back in 1989. She kept the $5 million.

 

 

As for product brands with attitude, here are a few:

Axe Body Spray for young men show girls get a sniff, girls go wild, boys are devoured. Sales are up. Makes sense; youth is a natural with brands that reject the status quo. Harley Davidson, the eternal renegade, has theme restaurants for those who weren’t born to ride but live to eat Bad Boy. They are the best at being Bad. Carl’s Jrs.’ commercials get their customers hungry for more than meat. 

 

Paris made a spot for them too, cleaning a car with her body while eating a burger.  Big idea? No, but that’s clearly not the point. The idea is it’s a bad idea.

But not all bad is good. You think Hertz would take back OJ if they could? You think McDonald’s has forgotten Kobe’s extramarital encounters? He was off the payroll faster than he can turn and shoot. So I guess when it comes to brands, there’s Bad and there’s bad.

There’s a PR campaign coming out for Michael Vick. Are you going to buy something from him? How about dog food? On the other hand could a hybrid have a nasty attitude? I’d like to see a touch of road rage among all the pretty puffy clouds and spinning odometers.

Last week’s “American Idol” finale featured the black leathered eyeliner and nail polished Adam vs aw-shucks missionary Kris – a sanitized bad boy vs every Dad’s dream for his daughter. America voted for Mr. Clean.  That’s ok Adam, maybe you’re not a bad boy if you’re too popular?

In the end, it is a rare brand that can sustain a pure bad boy reputation and relationship on a mass scale.

Just proves that, like Manny, bad boys make you think but are hard to live with.


Manufacturing a Conversation

March 27, 2009

 How to message to more than one target audience

From one of our resident geniuses, Michelle Edelman: President @ NYCA

Most good marketers stayed awake during the class which discussed that “targeting” meant what it sounded like: not being all things to all people, but finding one part of a buying population that you could own and driving a single message toward that group.

And then they graduated, only to discover that many brands have more than one target. In fact, many brands have more than one target to accomplish a single sale.

Take business-to-business purchasing, for example. The guy who holds the purse _01independent-projects_03speech-bubbles_bubblestrings is typically different than the guy who has to use the product, and those guys are different from the guy who performs the side-by-side evaluation of the options. Sometimes none of these guys knows each other particularly well, nor do they work together. There are more “no” opportunities in this sales cycle than “yes” ones.

Typically, multi-constituent decision processes are not impulse purchases. They are longer timeline, considered purchases. When working on a multi-constituent marketing plan, the key points to keep in mind are:

Know the roles of the target within the sales cycle. Map out the distinct phases of the sales cycle, flowchart style. Think about how decisions get made in each phase. Who is involved in each part of the cycle? What is their role? Where are the points of interaction between the parties?

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Authenticity and Sports Illustrated

March 20, 2009

From Michael Mark, Creative Director/CEO at NYCA.

 

They came to me naked. One, then another, each young and pretty, some undeniably beautiful, painted, pouting, all undeniably naked.

It was repulsive.

Even pages 95 and 114-115 left me removed and longing for baseball stats.

These were nude supermodels. I’m a paunchy middle age man. I should be in the basement with a flashlight, magnifying glass and a back up set of batteries.

2009-sports-illustrated-swimsuit-issue-bar-refaeliThe Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Issue was here in my hands and my mind was wandering to the economic stimulus package.

It all was too fake. Not the body parts but the whole idea.

Yes it always had been, only this time I couldn’t fool myself. I couldn’t get away from this was a sports pub! And these girls were selling themselves to me so I would buy next years’ subscription to football, basketball, hockey and Rick Riley.

Even the fantasy of 7 countries, 33 models 83 bikinis couldn’t withstand the harsh context of now.

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