Ljloz78’s IMC Blog

Just another WVU IMC weblog

Let’s be creative, wait, let’s not. March 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 9:13 pm

I have been reading a lot of articles about creativity lately and I have come to the realization that a sure-fire way to kill creativity is to box it up, number it and attempt to define it. Creativity is a personal process, born of personal experiences and personal revelation. In group settings, creativity by the quieter, more introverted members is often times lost to the boisterous appeals by the more social of the group. I am not saying that creativity does not exist in group settings or when following a planned method, but it makes what should be a natural process unnatural. I read a funny article on the five tips on how NOT to be creative and found it to be straight-forward without pretense and was in itself a creative approach to helping people be creative. [You can read the entire article at http://www.creativity-portal.com/articles/angie-dixon/not-creative.html.]

1.      Never talk to strangers

2.      Never go to new places

3.      Never ask, “what if?”

4.      Never think about the alternative.

5.      Never ask, “what do you think?”

Obviously, by reversing the “never,” the tips turn out to be really useful guidance in becoming creative, or rekindling creativity. In a nutshell, get out and live. Reading journal articles about how to be creative doesn’t cut it. Sitting around thinking about how you can be more creative doesn’t work either. These things may help you write an article about being more creative but I can’t see how they will actually make you more creative.


Interacting with marketers

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 9:11 pm

I noticed during a commercial for a high-end SUV that an informational bar popped up in the middle of the commercial. The bar said that by clicking on it, you could get more information on the vehicle. That revealed a look inside the vehicle, options available to the consumer and more detailed information on pricing. I have also seen a couple that are like mini-movies or infomercials. I think this level of interactivity with the consumer and the ability to gain more immediate in-depth information about products is the wave of the future for all television advertising. I have often times found myself trying to remember something I had seen on TV to look up later, maybe an interesting toy or a company that I wanted to know more about. But the problem is that I would generally forget about it after the show came back on or I was hit with some other form of distraction.


This idea of engaging the consumer immediately to see what is so great about the advertiser’s product may well become essential in making advertising on television successful. I think this concept can also be expanded into allowing consumers to order the product directly upon seeing the commercial, requesting more information or coupons, or having oneself added to a mailing list. Ordering the product can be especially useful for products that are generally bought on impulse, such as pizza. If, every time I saw a food commercial and though, “hmmm, that looks good right about now,” and could immediately order the food, I would probably eat take-out twice as much as I currently do. It may also work well for flower and gift giving companies. The ads that remind us that Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day is just around the corner could make use of not only the reminder, but also the ability to order the product right then, before the consumer forgets again. Additionally, if I could request information or coupons about products as I see them, or learn more about them immediately I would probably make for a better consumer.


These types of interactive marketing techniques are already being implemented on the internet and on our phones, allowing consumers to click on ads for more information or to visit a website. The line between one form of media and another are quickly becoming blurred and I don’t think it will be long before we see the use of interactive marketing as a regular part of our television watching experience.


The loss of tradition…and traditional marketing

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 9:09 pm

Sponsorships are an interesting phenom as far as I am concerned. I wonder how much companies pay to have their name permanently or semi-permanently associated with a television program, charitable organization or sports team. Is there a quantifiable return on this kind of investment that would offset the cost associated with this kind of endeavor? Of course, perhaps the better question is, is there a qualitative return on this kind of investment that outweighs that of traditional advertising? I suppose that depends on the sponsorship.


I am always annoyed by the shameless defacing of great football stadiums (or any team stadium) with company logos; great stadiums that signify long and rich histories that have been swallowed up by the corporate demons and high dollar expense of super star athletes and multi-million dollar facilities. Great stadiums like Mile High, Three River and Veterans have been lost to this phenomenon. But the fact of the matter is, companies need new places to place their product where they will be recognized and accepted by consumers and sports franchises need someone to help them foot the cost of operations. An example close to my heart is FedEx Field, the current, and fairly new home, of the Washington Redskins. The Redskins last stadium, which is currently used by the Washington Nationals, was their home for 36 years/seasons and was named for a U.S. politician (RFK Stadium). A lot of fans felt this sense of loss when the new stadium name was revealed because the history and greatness of the team felt compromised by marketing and franchise greed.


Regardless of my distaste, does it work? Is it any more effective than rotating :60 spots on television? Or do we simply ignore the company associated with the conduit (in this case, whomever they are sponsoring.) I don’t know but it does seem as television becomes more cluttered and consumers have more options to ignore advertisements, sponsorships and product placements will certainly become more prevalent.


Finding Creativity March 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 7:45 pm

This week’s class discussion was about creativity, which got me thinking about what creates creativity. I have been a reporter on and off for the past 16 years, starting back in high school and really, before my daughter came along, it was the only really creative thing about me. I had never considered whether or not I was creative or if my work inspired others to be creative though I can remember pouring over my lead for hours at a time, organizing the words in just the right way to draw readers. I always believed that my job was to bring the facts, and just the facts, to readers so they could then come to their own conclusion. But thinking about where you can find inspiration for creativity, I found myself gravitating toward a couple of key outlets.


I believe children can be an inspiration for creativity. Have you ever looked at a child’s art? I often think of Jackson Pollock when thinking of children’s work, not just because of its supposed randomness but its use of color and abstract tendencies that draw creativity from the viewer. (Just as children make us guess what they have drawn, is it daddy or a chicken?, Pollock makes us wonder, but typically about how it makes us feel.) Pollock created work that on the surface could mean nothing, but inherently held emotions dependent upon the viewer. Pollock liked to number his work instead of naming it, in the hopes of not leading viewers to an idea but letting them create an idea on their own. Each time I see a Pollock, in a book or in person, I am amazed at the depth of feeling I get from it, in fact, it is a feeling of the same caliber as when I see my daughter take a piece of chalk into her tiny little fist and scrape it across our asphalt. I feel a part of the painting, as I feel a part of my daughter’s “work” because the artist has allowed me entry into his/her mind. I think the more abstract art is, and let’s face it, both Pollock and children meet that qualification, the more it forces the viewer to dig deeper and experience more of his or her own creativity.


I also believe religion, faith, and spirituality can be great places to find or at least make room for creativity. It is a means by which 86% of the world can relate and though the concepts may not all be the same, finding enlightenment and inner peace is a dominating theme for all religions and spiritual paths. With the evolution of cell phones, laptops, the internet, mp3 players, etc., consumers (and creative types) can find themselves inundated with messages they don’t necessarily want to receive. Attending your favorite local church service, doing some meditation, or going to a yoga class can help you focus your creative energy and help you unplug from the rest of the world. Plugging in to religion/faith/spirituality can help us relate better to consumers and ourselves, thereby helping us be more creative and more in tune with the needs of our consumers and our clients. Inherently, religion involves thoughtful reading, soft music and a quiet place to harvest your own thoughts and these methods of getting closer to ourselves and to a spiritual being can certainly allow us to become closer to our creative side. I found a nice quote about meditation:

“No great work has ever been produced except after a long interval of still and musing meditation” – Walter Bagehot


Whippersnappers and their new-fangled contraptions

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 4:53 pm

I have two sisters much younger than myself (15 and 14) who spent a few days with me right before Christmas. In that time I saw more texting than I had seen or done in my entire life. I also saw more use of the internet for social purposes than I had ever seen before. These two activities, of which I have participated but have limited social knowledge, once considered innovative and novel, are now commonplace and an integral part of a very important demographic’s daily life. The teens of today, once tapped, can become longtime loyal consumers but even in the short term, teens spend nearly $190 million a year on trends.

Up until starting this class eight weeks ago, my knowledge was even more limited. I had a MySpace page that I infrequently update (my “Julie is…” section is still dated from June), I haven’t changed my wallpaper in months (“totally uncool” as my sisters say), and texting, up until we bought our new phones just a couple of weeks ago, was something my husband severely frowned upon (“20 cents a text!” he exclaims). So how did it affect my life? It drove me crazy. My sisters were so obsessed with their phones, they didn’t put them down to even change their clothes. I literally watched one of my sisters take a shirt off, put another one on, brush her hair and put mascara on, all while texting and taking intermittent phone calls. And just to make sure their hot little fingers aren’t getting tired, if they weren’t texting, they were typing away on their MySpace pages. I don’t know what they were typing or how they could possibly have anything to say that hadn’t been said on the phone but they did, at all hours, even when I should be doing my homework. The only thing I can think is that someone, somewhere could be making a fortune off of the expansive amount of time my sisters spend using interactive media. $190 million??? No wonder advertisers are looking for innovative ways to get on the phones and on the web. That’s where the teenagers are.


“…we make a mean team, my Adidas and me…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 10:08 am

A study provided by CI Advertising says “the Internet WWW has been termed a “new” medium. “New” implies novelty. This “new” medium has become part of the everyday life for most people. The Internet environment itself has changed.” That change must be reflected in the way companies market their products and Adidas is a perfect example of this trend. In fact, Adidas is more affected by the rapidity of change in internet usage because of their targeted demographic. Adidas’ target demographic is 12-24 years of age, a technologically savvy group that takes their advertising to go. In order to keep up with this group and remain relevant in their daily lives, Adidas must view interactive media as the hub into which every spoke runs. In other words, every vehicle of advertising should ultimately refer back to Adidas’ website and virtual store, mobile phone services, and the like.


I believe interactive media is continuing to take center stage as consumers rely more heavily on what technology has to offer, such as mobile phones and the web. However, interactive media is still a support medium, offering more details and less hassle to products of interest or products consumed. But consumers must still make that first connection, which rarely comes in the form of a pop-up or banner ad. Otherwise, consumers may be exposed to an offering by accident, while searching on the web for something else or something similar, but marketing by luck is rarely successful.  The internet allows consumers an environment in which to research, buy, and become a part of their product but the original connection will most likely be made through a sponsorship, promotion, or advertisement through a more traditional medium. However, this connection fails if traditional marketing vehicles lead consumers only to the store to buy shoes. Consumers must feel they are getting more than the shoes, they want a trend, a cultural phenomenon, and perhaps most importantly, a relationship with the product, and by extension the company. This relationship is obviously mutually beneficial, because Adidas gets as much out of the interaction provided by the internet and other interactive media, if properly created, as the consumer.


Though I think Adidas’ target audience is unreliable in providing feedback in the form of surveys or questionnaires, they will sign up for newsletters, free stuff and mobile alerts if they like the product. Users/viewers can be tracked through hits and more substantially tracked for qualitative data through sign-ups for “insider” information. Psychographically, using this vehicle is helping consumers feel as though they are a part of the Adidas experience and Adidas is a part of them. I don’t believe Adidas should expect a substantial monetary return on mobile alerts and ringtones, those items should be treated as marketing tools and are just vehicles for the sale of Adidas offerings.


One of Adidas’ main objectives is to increase their market share in the U.S., a goal that makes the internet an integral component. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 87% of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age in 2005 used the internet and of that group, 84% used it to research popular culture. That is half Adidas’ target market using the internet on a regular basis, looking for what Adidas has to offer. [Access the study at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/07/29/44report_web2.h24.html.]


Your Plumcard has arrived

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 9:27 am

I have been thinking a lot about how marketing, specifically integrated marketing, is being used among big companies and discovered that many companies are making the push. But apparently American Express is a marketing genius. If you type in “plum card” into your search engine, you do not find stories touting the wonders of the card, just the wonders of the marketing strategy. Of course, when your target market is businesses who already understand marketing strategies and the best ways to earn your customer, I guess you have to be a little smarter, a little faster, and perhaps, a little purpler. Here is the breakdown of what AmEx used.

The Launch to the Right Crowd… The American Express Open Plum Card launched at the Inc 500 Event in Chicago on September 7, 2007. This event, sponsored and named for Inc Magazine, recognizes the top privately owned companies in the United States. Attendees of the event were each given iPods with a leather case and invited to be the first to apply for the card. Scarcity Marketing… There was a limited first release of 10,000 members, something blogger Jim Bruene calls “scarcity marketing,” putting a number on how many, to get more than enough consumers interested. [You can access the full post at http://www.netbanker.com/2007/11/american_express_plum_card_uses_unique_marketing.html.%5D Bruene noted that the Plum Card website had a countdown clock and a waiting list, which he couldn’t get on fast enough. And so it seems that even savvy businesspeople can be dazzled by marketing.

Spotlighting the Consumer… American Express OPEN also ran several television ads, which most of you have probably seen. The campaign features small businesses and congratulates them on receiving the new card. The television ad I remember was for a company called Pinkberry, someone I had never heard of. The frozen yogurt company is mostly in the western part of the country but that did not stop me from wanting their product. The campaign was simple and astoundingly brilliant. Feature companies in your ads to encourage other companies to apply for your card, and hint at the idea that if they are card members, perhaps they will end up in your advertisements as well. I guess nothing gets a business like free advertising and a pretty new card too. Andrew Jacob, founder of the Jacob Group, says he believes these commercials are currently the best on television. “What better way to get small businesses to apply for the Plum Card than to get them fantasying about being selected by AMEX to be on their commercial? While it would be a long shot, Small business owners “believe” in what they are doing, “believe” they re unstoppable, and “believe their Small business is so great that they may actually have a shot at making it in the AMEX commercial!”

Following the Trend….Though a credit card doesn’t always bring to mind trendsetting fashion, AmEx did hit on a very real trend in American marketing. The color (technically, burgundy) is a fashionable color and represents elegance and sophistication. Tom Julian, president of the Tom Julian Group, says the color “appeals to the emotional side of one’s passions and interests, the individual desire for zest and to be distinct.” Additionally, fruit is all the rage right now, [think Apple and Blackberry].

Making it Accessible…American Express purchased the lead finder (I have no idea what the technical term is called) on Google so that when people went to find it, it was at the top of the page. Another smart move, the company added a tagline to the top spot, “Whose getting a Plum Card? Initial release of 10,000 cards.” American Express also set up a Facebook page so card members could tell everyone how much they loved their new card. Advertising in the Right Place… American Express also ran a series of ads in the Wall Street journal a few weeks after the premiere launch announcing the card. At that point, American Express put out the application invitation to anyone falling within the guidelines: businesses that have revenue between six and seven figures, purchase materials/supplies and inventory in addition to other business items. [You can view the product at www.plumcard.com.]

The American Express campaign’s target audience is certainly one of the most difficult to market, because they know all the strategies and have probably employed most of them. Credit card companies are ruthless in getting people to apply for their cards and anyone who has been to college or a festival or a large tourist attraction knows what I mean. Obviously the campaign was a success, garnering 10,000 card members in less than nine months. However, I will say that American Express has their work cut out for them in differentiating between their charter members and general membership population. With such a heavy push for being one of the first, it is important for AmEx to treat the original 10,000 members as a higher, more loyal class of customers.



Technology – Human Touch = Poor Customer Service March 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 2:18 pm

I am joining the ranks of the less technology challenged…as opposed to the technologically handicapped, which has been my humble abode for many years now. My husband and I got new cell phones this week, the Samsung Rant for me and Blackberry Pearl for him, through Sprint. Our contract had expired with our previous service provider and though we loved them (Verizon) we needed a package that would allow us to do more in our own area. (Verizon currently only provides extended network service to West Virginia, no digital packages and no local numbers.) We had been faithful customers to Verizon for several years and in the process had fallen behind in the digital wonders of mobile communication.

Previous to switching, we only had minutes to talk, no texting minutes, no GPS, no internet service. So we went all out. We got the digital package with unlimited texting, wireless internet service, turn-by-turn navigation, pretty much everything we could get without limitations. And I can’t believe what I have been missing out on! I had been contemplating buying a slim, point-and-shoot digital camera for carrying with me to take pictures of my daughter when we are away from home and now that is unnecessary. My husband and I had also talked about buying a hand-held GPS, but now that seems unnecessary as well. I can read my class assignments from anywhere, check the weather from the car, and even watch clips from my favorite TV shows, all while being away from my computer.

All of this technology had me thinking, though. My friends consistently poked fun at me for being behind the times, but I wonder what I may be giving up by becoming a part of this technology rush. Besides the obvious chunk of change I am plunking down every month, there are a couple of things I may be losing or at least trading, as I get wired. First, I think I lose a certain human touch. As a society, we have been experiencing this loss with frequency, as billing and customer service automates, Tellers no longer have a pulse but are electronic instead, and self check-out can be found in stores everywhere. I remember a particular instance in which I was in town and wanted to order a pizza that I could pick up on my way home. I didn’t have the number so I called 411. The nice operator offered to connect me and at the end of the conversation, told me to enjoy my dinner, how about that? It struck me as odd though I didn’t know why. And then it occurred to me that it was odd because customers so rarely receive this type of politeness, we are so used to the stripped down version of customer service that provides only what is minimally necessary to keep our business, even when we actually come in contact with a real person.

Perhaps this is an angle marketers should be more readily exploring, the integration of the human element into their products and decent, reliable customer service. I think it can be done without minimizing the value of the technology we have at our fingertips, like the use of a company blog or individualized messaging in our emails or on our phones. A good example of this integration of technology and the human element is a blog by Bill Marriott, the CEO and son of the founder of Marriott Hotels. Quirky with a subtle, old-school mentality that really reveals Mr. Marriott as a person and not just an entity of a company, gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling about the hotel. You can view his blog at http://www.blogs.marriott.com/.


Ads are for Kids February 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 9:21 pm

I have concerns about what I see advertised to children, specifically children who cannot comprehend brand awareness. First, and this isn’t typically my style, I wanted to clarify exactly what is considered advertising. Is it just the actual commercials that air between cartoon segments? Is it the program itself, which can appear as a brand on just about everything from clothing to fruit? (For instance, in my house, Dora the Explorer appears on a pair of sneakers, cans of Spaghetti-O’s, and a crate of Clementines.) What exactly is advertising and how is it being used with our children? I started with an absolutely rudimentary and pedestrian approach, I looked it up in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster (www.m-w.com) defines advertising as “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.” What I think is interesting about this definition is there is no mention of selling, or promoting, or purchasing a product. It is simply the act of calling attention to “something.” With children, calling attention to something requires nothing more than bright colors and a recognizable character, whether it be Dora or a cute puppy.


According to an article by the American Psychological Association, this is absolutely detrimental to children who not only cannot distinguish the substance of a product from the promotion of the product, but also cannot separate entertainment from advertising (i.e. the show they are watching from the commercial breaks). A major concern is obesity in children because the majority of children’s advertising is for sugary cereals, sodas, and junk food.  (You can read the entire article here: http://www.apa.org/releases/childrenads.html.) Of course, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the dangers for older children:  tobacco and alcohol use, increased apathy for violence, eating disorders, and social dysfunction.


I am also concerned about creating an advanced materialistic need in our children who cannot yet distinguish their wants from their needs. The National Institute for Media and Family says the average three-year-old child recognizes brand logos with brand loyalty influence starting at age two. This epidemic only increases as children get older. In 2002, according to the Center, children ages four to twelve were expected to “spend” an estimated $40 billion! (Read the fact sheet here: http://www.mediafamily.org/facts/facts_childadv.shtml.) I say “spend” in quotations because these children don’t have jobs and the money they “spend” is in actuality the money that is given to them by a parent or guardian. Which brings me to the main point, that it is ultimately the responsibility of the parents of these children to combat the effects of advertising on our youth.


 As a parent, I feel the weight of these issues every time my two-year-old daughter watches cartoons. Even though she is rarely, if ever exposed to the commercials (thank goodness for DVR!) she is exposed to the branding messages in the shows she watches. Even the most educational shows, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and The Wonder Pets, insinuate a brand by their mere existence. The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communication Commission have passed several initiatives in forcing advertisers to adhere to more ethical practices in advertising to children and there is a plethora of information on the internet about their research, their findings, and their rulings. Unfortunately, finding information for parents to combat the effects of advertising on our impressionable youth is a different matter. So I propose the following to alleviate the effects of advertising on our children, which if used wisely, can be applied to a child of any age.

1.     Turn off the TV. Children should not be watching TV at all before the age of two and should be limited to two hours a day thereafter. There doesn’t seem to be an agreeable time limit for all age groups but really, even as adults, we should be spending more time reading, coloring with our children or even reconnecting with our spouses and less time sitting in front of the TV. Excess television watching causes obesity, short attention spans, and a host of other problems, including those problems associated with being associated to the multiplicity of brands and advertising on television.

2.     Explanations can help. As children grow older, explaining why they can’t have every gadget they see on TV or why eating the “fun” food is not always an option may help ease the stress of not having these luxury items. Simple explanations, like eating too much sugary stuff can make your tummy hurt or counting all the crayons (or whatever inexpensive thing your child loves at the moment) that can be bought for the price of that one product can go a long way. Because reasoning with a two-year-old can cause gray hair (refer to my first blog post for more on this) a simple “no” should suffice for the younger child with little to no reasoning skills.

3.     Talk to your children. It is beneficial to talk to children about what they see on television and how it makes them feel. My daughter and I had a simplified conversation about her fear of a cartoon character stealing her things. As children get older, those fears become more intense and social pressures can do damage to a fragile self-esteem. Discussing what they see, how it makes them feel and finding ways to build character without giving in to the pressures of advertising are good character builders.


There wasn’t anything Super about the ads. February 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — ljloz78 @ 10:04 pm

You can’t have a marketing blog without talking about what is essentially the biggest advertising event of the year, (insert booming, echoey voice here)…THE SUPER BOWL. There had been warnings that this year would be a low point in Super Bowl advertising but nobody said that using DVR during the commercial breaks would make me feel so grateful.

I was most irritated with the Budweiser commercials that insisted on using horses as their focal piece. I was equally unimpressed with the GoDaddy.com ads featuring scantily clad women. The horses playing football several years ago was commercial genious and a CG miracle.  And the first gratuitous, half-naked women ad for GoDaddy.com flew in the face of conventional wisdom that says, “Hey, if you have nakedness, you must have a reason.” GoDaddy.com said, “Why?” And a serious of gratutiously naked commercials that were each crappier than the last was born. Let’s face it, beer, horses and beautiful women sound great  but apparently you can have too much of a good thing. So, just to make sure you are clear on what naked women look like on TV, you can view one of the GoDaddy.com commercials here.

There were a few good ones. I always appreciate comedy in Super Bowl ads (and generally the game is a nail-biter so a little comic relief is nice) and sometimes a little whimsy works well too. I liked the Careerbuilder.com commercial featuring all the signs you may need to find a new job, funny but almost too repetitive for my tastes. The Troy Palamolu  Coke Zero ad was a throwback to the Coca-Cola Mean Joe Green commercial but messing with a classic commercial can be wrought with landmines.

What I thought was interesting was the commercial that ranked the highest among viewers was a commercial written by regular guys who were sitting around eating chips and sitting on their couch. We discussed in our class a couple of weeks ago how marketers are becoming more creative in interacting with their clients and Doritos was an example in our lesson. The chip maker used crowdsourcing, which is essentially a wide net casting call to get people to do their work for them, by asking Doritos lovers to create a commercial. The winner, or in this case winners, would have their commercial aired during the Super Bowl and would also win a million dollars.

You can view some of the best commercials at www.superbowl-ads.com. It is sponsored by Hulu, which actually had a pretty good commercial that aired during the game and gives you a rundown of the best stuff. Hopefully, a stronger economy next year will make for better commercials but in the mean time, mediocrity rules.