Friday, May 29, 2009

Multisensory marketing: cool or creepy?

Despite the oodles of creativity marketers try to force out of their brains, advertising has a common trend. Around 80% of brand advertising is done through visual or audio means. Appealing to only two senses obviously puts the average advertiser at a disadvantage. But it’s difficult for most brands to even attempt to come up with a way to appeal to the other senses.

Difficult, but not impossible. Businesses have attempted multisensory marketing approaches. Some are successful (or at least cool), while others are… well… just plain weird.

I’m compiled a list of a few multisensory marketing strategies – the cool, the stupid, and the creepy.

Cool: Earlier this month, a company called Grasshopper developed a clever rebranding plan by taking its new name literally. The virtual switchboard and voice mail provider sent out packages of chocolate covered grasshoppers to their chosen top 5,000 influential marketers. The lumpy packages had an attached tag with a link to a video explaining the marketing campaign. This idea quickly turned into a viral marketing success, as it was all over Twitter and Facebook in a matter of days. (The only thing more disgusting than eating grasshoppers is the OCD Twitter habit the top 5,000 marketers share.)

Read more about this campaign here.

Creepy: Brotherhood Bank, based in Kansas City, Kansas, states on their website that “handshakes, smiles, and warm greetings are liberally distributed at all our facilities.” And they mean it. Workers must shake the hand of all customers entering the building. However, Marketing Director Steve Hale says, most of the better-known customers get a warm hug from their banker. He proudly claims the bank is “built on touch”.

That’s just weird. Who goes to the bank to get hugged? And since when are bankers considered even remotely nice people? I’m pretty sure Deal or No Deal forever crushed that dream. Hypochondria aside, even Howie would never touch the banker.

Stupid: Last year, Lee Myung-bak, President of South Korea, decided to use a department store trick and in his campaign strategy. A perfume called “Great Korea” was developed especially for his run for president. The scent was supposed to represent feelings of hope, victory, and passion. The perfume was secretly sprayed at public gatherings, and was then sprayed again at the polling booths to trigger the voters’ memory.

The political world should refrain from stealing ideas from Abercrombie and Fitch. If we’re not careful, soon we’ll be displaying wall-sized photos of half-naked politicians at rallies.

And though I find it difficult to believe the tactic was actually successful, it does help me rationalize Obama’s victory. I’m assuming his perfume was of a similar make, and inspired feelings of hope, change, and stupidity.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Delta really wants me to keep flying Southwest...

I don't really want to be a hater but I am left with few options. I was on a Delta flight about a month ago and left my iPod in the pocket on the seat in front of me. Ok, completely my fault and I take full blame. As I am in baggage claim I realize my mistake and ask a Delta agent to help. She is somewhat friendly and proceeds to go back on the plane to look for it. No luck, it is gone.

So while waiting for my bags I call Delta to report it as missing in the hopes someone turns it in. When I get home I go online and report it as well. I then get on Twitter, find @deltaairlines and tweet them several times.

A week goes by with no response...on any communications medium.

So I call and email again.

Three weeks go by, then I get this...

Dear Mr. Faulkner,

Thank you for contacting us through We are sorry for the delay in responding to your message. (hey, if you are going to be on Twitter then BE available on Twitter. See @southwestair on how it is done right)

Unchecked articles that are turned in to Delta are held in our Lost & Found office for a period of time, awaiting owner identification. At the end of that time, they are salvaged and we are unable to retrieve them. Therefore, we would no longer have your property in our possession. (so you take almost a month to get back to me to tell me how to reclaim but THEN tell me it is too late to claim????)

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your selection of Delta and look forward to serving you whenever your plans call for air travel. (no sweat, I will fly Delta again when I absolutely positively have no choice)

Aaryn ------ (I blocked the last name as I don't want to smear an individual who just happens to work for an airline with crappy customer service)
Claims Manager
Central Baggage Service

To whom it may concern at Delta - I look forward to driving an hour and a half to a different airport just so I can fly Southwest. I am going to be doing at least 40 more round trips this year so I will let you do the math on that and figure out what good customer service really costs.


Chris Faulkner

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The NRSC markets dirty

The NRSC is up to something that is a little strange in Washington these days…

They paid off their debt. “Every last nickel” of it, they say. Though the committee inherited $4.9 million at the beginning of the year, they’ve overcome their financial burden. The NRSC believes they’ll be the first of the Hill committees to erase their debt. At the end of March, the DSCC had $10.86 million, the DCCC had $8 million..

Though these results may simply be a reflection of the NRSC’s pledge to financial responsibility, I think there’s something more happening here.

The NRSC knows how to play – and market - dirty. Their appeal to donators is just bloody better than the other Hill committees (literally).

Upon visiting the NRSC site, a pop-up advertisement instantly appears, blocking out the content on the site itself and blocking out any trace of optimistic, go-team-go thoughts you may have held. The impending block of black, highly reminiscent of an America’s Most Wanted poster, features a grayscale picture of Arlen Specter. In blood-colored text, the pop-up reads, “Support the NRSC and Stand up Against Former Republican Arlen Specter”. A contribute button is below, taking visitors to a page where they can donate to the NRSC.

With a clever marketing scheme and some relatively simple graphic design techniques, the NRSC has successfully made Specter appear as evil as Voldermort. Seven books later, a lot of Americans are itching for some Harry Potter-like glory… no wonder the NRSC got out of debt.

The other committees should jump on board. The DCCC has resorted to raffling off their Party’s greatest prize: Obama. Contributors who donate automatically get a chance at winning a pass to a June gathering, where Democrats from all over the country will get together to celebrate Obama’s first 100 days.

The site also claims Speaker Pelosi will be attending the event. Judging by the raffle’s minimum required donation ($5), I’m guessing the DCCC is expecting Pelosi to “forget” about this, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Social Media Throwdown

A form of media has finally evolved that’s able to keep up with the pace of business: social media. Though quite a few forms have popped up in the last year or so, Twitter and Facebook continue to be the most popular.

To many Americans, these two sites are uttered in the same breath. For some, it’s one or the other. Quite a few college students who helped birth the Facebook giant view Twitter as a threat to their precious networking site. “Tweeting”, on campus, is often viewed upon as an infectious disease; no more harmful than the swine flu, but every bit as annoying.

Though America’s student body has yet to fully grasp onto Twitter like they did to Facebook, the business world is taking a different approach. Facebook is utilized, but it’s not as popular as Twitter. Why? It’s not as effective for online marketing purposes. Here’s why:

• Facebook is full of information. Most users have extensive profile information on their sites, ranging from hometown to Favorite TV shows. The personalization possibilities appeal to the non-business users. But the parts of the Facebook profile that would be most useful for businesses– statuses, groups, and work descriptions – are small pieces of the puzzle, hidden in a mess of personal (and sometimes, just plain useless) information.

Twitter, on the other hand, is solely about current statuses. (For those of you unfamiliar with the site, it’s basically made up of the “updates” you can post on Facebook). Businesses can post tweets all day about their products, their staff, etc. – without boring readers with the unnecessary. Twitter even limits tweet length to 140 characters, forcing the user to use a straightforward approach.

• Twitter’s straightforward approach makes it better for direct communication between businesses and individuals. Users are more likely to respond to your tweets with feedback or answers to your questions because there’s no indirect communication forms to distract them. Facebook users will often get caught up in photo albums or other wall postings and forget the initial reason they visited your page.

• The newsfeed that Facebook users check for new content is limited to their base of “friends”. Until a business has either accepted a friend request or added a friend themselves, another user cannot view their status updates. The process to add all potential customers is lengthy, and besides, most users aren’t willing to search for any and all people who may be interested in their products.

• Twitter offers a better approach to networking possibilities. Though your main newsfeed is made up of users you “follow” (done with a click of a button), “hashtags” allow your Tweets to be viewed by anyone, regardless of whether you’re following him or her. Interestingly, the hashtag trend wasn’t started by Twitter (some crafty users figured it out). By learning some simple abbreviations, and fitting them into your tweet, you can post your status onto feeds of other users who use the same hashtag. Therefore, you can effectively target your message to people with similar interests.

For example, the hashtag #tcot (top conservatives on Twitter) unites conservative bloggers who wish to interact with other conservatives using the site.

Though you don’t need to follow your fellow hashtaggers, using the feature ends up narrowing down the Twitter population to those users you’d most want to interact with, anyway.

• Twitter’s more mobile friendly. Facebook phone applications tend to be slow. On Twitter, all you really have to do is update your status, which is as simple as a text message. Those with Blackberries (and even those without – the Verizon application is pretty handy) can Tweet quickly.

Put some thought into your social media decisions. Both sites offer useful features, but both have the potential to waste time if not used correctly. And if you’re a college-minded individual who’s vowed to stay away from the Twitter universe, rethink your decision. It’s not that bad.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Governor Daniels of Indiana Smacks Down Baby Boomers

Governor Daniels of Indiana is not an easy guy to figure out. He confuses members of the press and political people of both parties. Why you ask? Because he is a leader.

In these times of GOP doldrums when we do see someone who bucks the conventional wisdom and easy path, it is so uncommon it usually confounds us.

Case in point: The Butler University commencement speech of 2009. A nice safe, warm and fuzzy send off for the graduating class right? Wrong, more like a 2x4 to the collective face of baby boomers who, quite frankly, deserve it. Read some excerpts from this incredible speech below.

"As a 10-year-old, new to Indiana, Butler basketball was about the only entertainment our family was able, or at least willing, to purchase for me. On countless frigid evenings, someone's dad would drop us off in the Fieldhouse parking lot, and someone else's dad would pick us up, after watching the Bulldogs either beat or scare the pants off some big-name larger school.  I might stumble over my own college's fight song, but I still know yours by heart."

Hey, it is Indiana so of course it is going to open with basketball. He went to Princeton so who can blame him for loving Butler athletics.

Even though the whole notion of a "generation" must be discounted as the loosest of concepts, within limits it is possible to spot the defining characteristics of an age and the human beings who create it.  Along with most of your faculty and parents, I belong to the most discussed, debated and analyzed generation of all time, the so-called Baby Boomers.  By the accepted definition, the youngest of us is now forty-five, so the record is pretty much on the books, and the time for verdicts can begin. Which leads me to congratulate you in advance.  As a generation, you are off to an excellent start.  You have taken the first savvy step on the road to distinction, which is to follow a weak act.  I wish I could claim otherwise, but we Baby Boomers are likely to be remembered by history for our numbers, and little else, at least little else that is admirable. 


All our lives, it's been all about us. We were the "Me Generation."  We wore t-shirts that said "If it feels good, do it."  The year of my high school commencement, a hit song featured the immortal lyric "Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today."  As a group, we have been self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and all too often just plain selfish.  Our current Baby Boomer President has written two eloquent, erudite books, both about..himself. As a generation, we did tend to live for today.  We have spent more and saved less than any previous Americans.  Year after year, regardless which party we picked to lead the country, we ran up deficits that have multiplied the debt you and your children will be paying off your entire working lives.  Far more burdensome to you mathematically, we voted ourselves increasing levels of Social Security pensions and Medicare health care benefits, but never summoned the political maturity to put those programs on anything resembling a sound actuarial footing. 

At this point the squirming in seats of the parents section must have been almost audible.

Our irresponsibility went well beyond the financial realm.  Our parents formed families and kept them intact even through difficulty "for the sake of the kids."   To us, parental happiness came first; we often divorced at the first unpleasantness, and increasingly just gave birth to children without the nuisance of marriage.  "Commitment" cramps one's style, don't you know.  Total bummer.

Let no uncomfortable topic go untouched.

As time runs out on our leadership years, it's clear there is no chance that anyone will ever refer to us, as histories now do our parents, as "The Greatest Generation."  There is no disgrace in this; very few generations are thought of as "great."  And history is not linear.  Many generations fail miserably at the challenges they confront, and their societies take steps backwards as a consequence.  Consider Japan before World War II, or Americans in the decades before the Civil War. And yet in both those instances and many others, the people who followed did great things, not only redeemed all the failings but built better, fairer societies than their nations had seen before.  In fact, true greatness can only be revealed by large challenges, by tough circumstances.  And your opportunities for greatness will be large.

Your generation can be great…especially compared to your parents.

And please, just to revise another current practice, be judgmental.  Whatever they claim, people always are, anyway - consider the healthy stigmatization of racist comments or sexist attitudes or cigarette smoking.  It's just a matter of which behaviors enough of us agree to judge as unacceptable.  As free people, we agree to tolerate any conduct that does no harm to others, but we should not be coerced into condoning it. Selfishness and irresponsibility in business, personal finances, or in family life, are deserving of your disapproval.  Go ahead and stigmatize them. Too much such behavior will hurt our nation and the future for you and the families you will create. Honesty about shortcomings is not handwringing.  Again, this is a blessed land, in every way.  Amidst the worst recession in a long time, we still are wealthier than any society in history.  We are safer, from injury, disease, and each other than any humans that ever lived.  Best of all, we are free.  The problems you now inherit are not those of 1776, or 1861, or 1929, or 1941.  But they are large enough, and left unattended, they will devour the wealth and, ultimately, the freedom and safety we cherish, at least in our thankful moments.  So you have a chance to be a great Butler class, part of a great generation.

Take that political correctness.

In a brief, intelligent yet straight forward head shot the Governor has done what almost no one in Government, media or certainly academia has had the stones to do…lay guilt where it belongs.

A lot of my friends keep asking me if this guy is going to run for President and I just say "he is doing too good a job as Governor for us to spare him." But of course doing your current job really really well is a great way to get promoted.

You can read the entire speech here.

Chris Faulkner