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Bring your brand to life where it matters most

8 Feb

Incredible Hulk "fearless" at Square1

Take a long hard look at your brand and what it really stands for. Are your values just words on a page? Or does your company LIVE those brand values every day.

“We live to be innovative and unconventional and yet keep the experience simple for our customer.”

Fantastic. How do you reflect that position on a day-to-day basis away from your external marketing efforts? How do you answer your phone to underline it? How does your accounting system match up? What are you internal processes that support innovation and simplicity? That’s where the rubber hits the road.

Companies that live their brand values – and live with them – find it effortless to communicate them externally. And they get buy-in from the most important brand ambassadors they have: their employees.

Companies that wear their values on their sleeve know where they’re going and how to get there.

I watched this principle in action this week in the offices of Dallas-based Conversion Optimization agency Square1.

brand values on Square1 boardroom glass

They have listed their four key brand values (Curious, Fearless, Creative and Strategic) on the glass wall of their boardroom and each value receives epic personification in the form of a character and an associated value statement.

When you approach the front door, you are accosted by an 8-foot Hulk, who represents Fearless. That’s a big first impression.

The other 3 are placed at strategic areas throughout the office.

Hiawatha "curious" at Square1

Spiderman "creative" at Square1

Soldier "strategic" at Square1

There are tons of other dramatic and creative things going on in their workspace, including a massive combat scene in the creative department.

This is a company that is serious about its values.

How serious is your business about yours?

Creative department mural in Square1


Copeland Stupor Bowl XLVI Part. II

6 Feb

Jill’s Pick:

The vampire craze is a little past due. If Audi had run this ad last year during the Trueblood, Vampire Diaries and the Twilight hype they probably could have really cashed in. Not to say this is a bad ad, I actually really enjoyed it being a vampire lover myself.

In the ad, a guy is driving an Audi to a vampire party, he let’s us know he is a vampire by flashing his fangs. There are shots of the vampires partying under the full moon, enjoying blood bags, tree climbing, playing acoustic guitars, just as all vampires do. Problems arise when the Audi driving vampire pulls up to the party with the new LCD “daylight headlights” on and all of his pals are instantly incinerated by the “daylight.”

The song “The Killing Time” by Echo & the Bunnymen was a perfect fit for this vampire themed ad. And I really liked the addition of the #solongvampires hashtag, it shows that Audi is a forward thinking company and are really “with it.”

Overall it was a good ad and Audi’s new LCD “daylight headlights” could very well be the solution to the overpopulated bloodthirsty vampires!

Christie’s Pick:

This spot had it all: a Rocky-esque montage, zippy red car, relatable hero, the American dream, and promises of summer. Oh, and our hero is a chubby dog. I was excited to explore those ideas, and then I watched it again.

As I wondered what the title “The Dog Strikes Back” was all about, it played though until the awkward commercial-in-a-commercial ending I had conveniently missed the first time around. A little research later and it appears that the chubby dog is 2012’s answer to 2011’s cute Darth Vader kid. And that barking dog YouTube video that I ignored (but everyone went nuts for on Facebook) was the teaser for it.

The story stood on its own without the self-referential Star Wars ending. If I hadn’t watched it again (and again) I would have been so much more satisfied. The teaser with dogs barking iconic music from Star Wars had some relevance to the 2011 spot, and arguably some solid pop-culture cred, but this felt as cheap as “it was all a dream…”

Copeland Stupor Bowl XLVI Part. I

6 Feb

Whether or not we think these ads lived up to the same hype as the game still remains undecided. There’s no doubt that this advertising monster has grown to William Perry* like proportions. A whopping 84% price increase over the past 10 years. And an estimated viewership of 111 million+ fans. The cost of a 30-second spot during the game was $3.5 million, the highest price in history. With arguably as many people tuning in for the advertising as the game itself.

We’ve sifted through the sex, cars, dogs and babies to find our favourites from yesterdays big event.

Andrea’s Pick:

Sure, Clint’s raspy voice is irresistible, and this we-can-do-it spot is captivating enough to stun a room of nacho wielding, face painted fans into a quiet retrospective audience. But what’s best about this ad is simply the strategic headline. “It’s Halftime in America”. It’s a simple concept that says a lot. One line captures the grit and fatigue of a tough game, the encouragement of your coach and the motivation of knowing the game’s not over. The poignant wording enhances the spot but ultimately it’s the relatable emotional experience transposed onto a new subject that makes it so great. Simple ideas with great execution will always triumph.

Danny’s Pick:

The NFL celebrates a century of football with this visually stylish look back at the evolution of the sport and player safety. It comes on the wake of some controversy surrounding a recent rash of head injuries. It’s a stark contrast to the typical garish Super Bowl advertising of the day. Starting with the games humble beginnings in 1906, the yardage on the field reflects an exciting look at the decades past. Rightfully finishing in the end zone with a TD by the games most exciting return specialist, Devon Hester. The final line says it all “Here’s to making the next century safer and more exciting than ever”. A win in my books.

* William Perry. Former Defensive Linebacker a.k.a “The Fridge”

A Winning Idea

27 Jan

Yesterday, Maude Hunter’s Pub posted a single Lottery ticket on their Facebook page and announced that they would share their winnings with everyone that ‘liked’ the post.

With a 50 million dollar pot on the line, the stakes are high – no pun intended. In less than 24 hours, the post has garnered 1,351 likes and 40 comments. For those keeping score, that’s about $37,000 for each person. You’ll have to hurry though if you want to get in on the action – the  numbers are drawn today at 6pm.

But, if we can stop planning out our future fortunes and refrain from pre-selecting our favorite friends for just one second, we can talk about what a brilliant social marketing tactic this is.  Many people wonder how Facebook ‘decides’ what to display on your news feed. Well, we know from social media speaker Jay Baer , it’s not random. There is actually an algorithm that dictates whose posts you see. The probability your activity will show up on someone’s page is based on 3 things:

1. Your affinity with the other party as a whole

Are you in pictures together? Do you have mutual friends? Are you posting on each other’s wall?

2. Your previous action with similar content

Have you liked, tagged, or commented previously on similar content?

3. Time

How long ago was the content created?

Hence, the more you like a brand’s page and like/comment on their posts, the more you’ll start to see their content flow through your news feed. From a marketing perspective, this is the winning ticket. It’s why you see brands transfixed on getting likes.

Red Bull's Like Us facebook pageI’ve written before that a blanket plea for likes just doesn’t cut it anymore. So, it’s refreshing to see some out-of-the-box thinking and content that actually warrants a click.  It’s not the first time too that Jaryd Zinkewich from Maude’s has impressed us with his marketing savvy. Check out the Pint for a Pic post.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see a man about buying a pony.

Photo Credit: Jay Baer

All you need is Unhate

17 Nov

Do the world’s leaders have a sense of humour?

It’s going to be very useful as they are forced to deal with clothing manufacturer Benetton’s new kiss-and-make-up advertising campaign, which sees digitally altered photos of at-odds world leaders.

Benetton ad of Obama and Chavez kiss

Benetton ad with Pope and an Imam kissing

Benetton ad with North and South Korean leaders kissing

The campaign, ostensibly promoting peace and love and all that stuff, is absolutely consistent with past efforts. They’ve enjoyed stirring the pot of public and private indignation for years. This one has already shocked and outraged the Vatican.

What does this have to do with shirts? Nothing. It has everything to do with the Benetton brand and that’s what they’re selling here.

A pretty cool new feature on their website is the Kiss Wall, where you can create an unhate match of any two people – or things – you wish.

Man kissing panda from Benetton Unhate Wall

UPDATE: Benetton just announced that they have pulled the Pope/Imam mash-up due to pressure from the Vatican. I tell ya, they didn’t like the Imam’s dominant position!

MTV lessons on how to “Express Yourself”.

23 Aug

In a previous tweet I referenced a study commissioned by MTV who clearly understands and has managed to stay ahead of their elusive millennial audience, and wants to keep a good thing going. (

So how has MTV done it? I suppose large budgets help. But throwing money at this target audience isn’t the answer – the solution requires far more creativity. And although research can help pave the way for great strategic marketing and advertising, many of the gem insights outlined in the study findings are things that MTV has been doing (well and at light speed) for quite some time.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

One study finding that MTV has managed to dominate is the idea of brand evolution that is as timely and fluid as the very audience they’re working to attract and retain. So what’s the secret? In order to be considered an evolutionary brand one requires creative thinking, strategic and certainly customer insight, but most importantly, a willingness to constantly re-evaluate and reinvent yourself – to be(come) a Madonna-esque brand if you will.

Madonna in Famous Gaultier Cone Bra

Let’s look for a moment at the chameleon that is Madonna. What is it that’s captured our attention and held it for so many years? Is it the fact that she’s a great singer? Arguably, she’s no better or worse that every other female artist out there. So what is her key differentiator? It’s the fact that she isn’t afraid to express and reinvent herself…often. Think back to the 90’s – just because she’d historically wore sheer tops during her shows didn’t mean she couldn’t pull off a Gaultier cone bra with amazing and unforgettable impact. She has continued to make risky moves, but has stayed true to her personality and she’s pulled them off with 100% confidence.

It’s this approach that has Madonna’s and MTV’s audience looking to them as the end-all-be-all for trends in music, fashion and life. So how can we all create a brand connection this deep with our audience? Is it really as easy as it sounds – taking your brand and stretching, pulling and twisting it into variations of itself in order to keep it engaging and compelling in a way that competing brands are not? Absolutely!

The trick is recognizing that you (and the brand police within your organization) need to get creative, act fast when opportunities arise and consider approaches you wouldn’t have previously considered. While you certainly want to keep in mind any foundational work you’ve done to build your brand, you have to be willing to push the boundaries of brand guidelines so new evolutions feel like natural extensions of your brand personality, not just a “strategic plan for creating emotional engagement” – your audience will see right through it.

Last but not least, don’t over think how you will evolve your brand, just follow your brand intuition and have fun with it. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, Express Yourself!