A New Advertising World – Part 1

Depending on your television viewing habits, you may have noticed a gradual change in advertising over the past few years.

Not too long ago, prescription drug manufacturers could not advertise on television.  Instead, they focused on trade/B2B magazines targeted to physicians and other medical industry professionals (as well as direct mail, trade shows, branded merchandise and samples).  I measured the effectiveness of literally thousands of these advertisements, in dozens of publications, over many years.  Print advertising rates are based on many factors, but are primarily driven by audience size (circulation quantity), quality (subscriber profile), page size, page color and frequency.

It was quite apparent that these companies had large budgets when it came to advertising.  Instead of the standard one page advertisement with color, their advertising was often 4+ pages printed on heavy-weight glossy card stock.  And sometimes, they would advertise more than once within the same issue.  Because most people outside of the medical industry don’t have the opportunity to see this kind of advertising, what you also missed was a page or two (or more!) of contraindications.  That’s a fancy word for side effects, how the drugs interact with other drugs and conditions that would warrant avoiding the drug and complications that could arise as a result of taking it.

Fast-forward several years and regulations have been lessened to allow drug manufacturers to advertise on television.  Most drug manufacturers jumped at the chance to advertise on television because it brought prestige to their product.

The biggest change is that they’re no longer targeting the doctors and medical industry professionals but the end-consumers and patients.  “Ask your doctor about [drug name here]” is the new normal.  They’ve altered the marketing dynamic by creating consumer demand to supplement physician knowledge.

What hasn’t changed?  The need to incorporate the contraindications as part of the advertising.  So the same commercial that spends time praising the amazing benefits of the drug being advertised must also spend time telling you all the bad things that could happen too.  While it’s probably a good thing that they have to disclose that information, they’re sharing it with those who aren’t qualified to make complicated prescription decisions.

Is having to include negative information in the commercial ultimately hurting their marketing efforts?  There’s certainly an increased volume of television commercials for prescription products.

Why do you think they’re working?  Do you think people simply tune-out that part of the message, or is there some other reason?  Or, do you think they don’t work and the drug manufacturers simply have a budget large enough to advertise on television despite incorporating a negative message?

Part 2 on this topic has been published.

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Big Lessons From A Mini Contest

This past weekend I was selected as the second winner of Dorschel Automotive’s #winsmall contest.  I won a free weekend-long test drive of a Mini Cooper and now have a 1-in-12 chance to win a free 2-year lease of a Mini.  It was a great experience to trade in my Mini Van for a Mini Cooper, even if just for 3 days.

Their contest had 3 great components which could be applied to many marketing campaigns.  Learn more about them in my first video blog!

Marketing Lessons From Johnny Bravo

Arthur Catalanello & Barry WilliamsThis past weekend I had the thrill of meeting a celebrity from my youth, Barry Williams.  You might know him by his character Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch, or even his alter ego Johnny Bravo.  He was in Rochester to participate in a local production and had a solo show, “Growing Up Brady.”

As someone who watched every episode (multiple times) of The Brady Bunch in my youth, it was personally exciting to meet him.  If you grew up in the 1970s, Greg Brady was someone who most guys wanted to be and most girls wanted to be with.

His local event was a lot of fun for fans of The Brady Bunch.  He shared stories about filming the series, spoke of his relationships with the cast and discussed the various spin-offs and specials that followed in subsequent years.  Additionally, he sang, showed rare home movies from behind the scenes, he taught audience members how to dance like a Brady, took questions from the audience and made time for a “meet and greet” after the event.

Barry Williams unintentionally taught the crowd a few marketing lessons that afternoon too:

  1. Play to your strengths.  While some cast members have tried to escape their Brady Bunch past to an extent, he’s seemingly embraced it.  He’s had a long acting career on stage, but he recognizes that he’ll always be primarily identified with Greg Brady.  Why not turn that into a strength and a positive?  He has.
  2. Identify your core values and messaging.  Barry was asked a few times why he thought the Brady Bunch has been as successful as it has.  His response was that the show identified the values and messaging it wanted to focus on, and it stuck to them throughout its run.  That was true of most of the spin-offs and specials.  The least successful of those were when they decided to have the characters tackle much darker and more serious issues.  When they seemingly abandoned their core values and messaging, viewers didn’t approve.
  3. Humbleness = Likeability.  It was apparent from his opening rap song, “The Real Greg Brady” (a parody rap song, sung to Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”) that Barry Williams has a great sense of humor and does not take himself too seriously.  He can laugh at his past – especially the bad dance moves shown in clips from the Brady Bunch Variety Hour.  Humor often wins people over and this was no exception.
  4. Honesty and transparency brings and strengthens loyalty.  Barry Williams was forthcoming with many details about The Brady Bunch and even incorporated a Question and Answer session into the show.  There were no polished, politically correct, canned responses that I could detect.  In marketing, honesty and transparency brings and strengthens loyalty.  I’m sure his fans left Saturday’s show with a stronger connection to him than before.
  5. Everyone wants to be “cool.”  People want to be cool and brands want to be seen as cool.  When asked to comment on the celebrity guest appearances on The Brady Bunch, he spoke of Don Drysdale, Joe Namath and Davy Jones.  You could see his excitement when he said that Joe Namath recognizes him to this day.  Even Johnny Bravo, “Mr. Cool” in Brady Bunch lore, looks up to someone.  🙂  Makes you wonder which brands the “cool brands” look up to.

Sometimes, marketing lessons come when you’re least expecting them.  Now that’s groovy!

Super Social Bowl

Did you watch Super Bowl XLVI?  As a fan of the New York Giants, I was certainly glued to the television until the very last play.  The game set records not only for television viewership, but for social media activity as well.

Being in the marketing industry, I’ve always paid close attention to the advertising during the game.  As social media integration and proliferation continues to increase, it was interesting to see how it changed the advertising this year.  The biggest change I noticed was how many of the ads were “leaked” in advance.  This helped generate buzz and social media conversations ahead of, during, and after the game.  But, the big question is, did it work?

According to analysis reported in Advertising Age, here are the top 10 according to the quantity of social media comments generated:

Super Bowl XLVI Top Commercials by Social Media Comments

My personal observation is that most of the pre-event social media buzz on Super Bowl commercials centered around the Honda CRV Commercial featuring Matthew Broderick with references to his Ferris Bueller character.  Interestingly, that ad (which was leaked in advance) didn’t crack the top 10 in the Bluefin Labs analysis.

Since social media tends to have more of a long-term ROI, it may take quite some time to determine which strategy worked (leaked vs. not).  The immediate impact is that social media helped spread out the cost-per-impression, because it helped extend the reach beyond the televised spot.  While I “unplugged” from social media to concentrate on the game, many viewers did not as the 2012 Super Bowl set records for tweets per second and total social media comments generated.

As to my personal favorites, my top 5 were:

  1. Mars/M&Ms – “Just My Shell”
  2. Chrysler – “Halftime in America”
  3. Volkswagen – “The Dog Strikes Back”
  4. Anheuser Bush/Bud Light – “Rescue Dog”
  5. PepsiCo./Doritos – “Sling Baby”

Which were your favorite/most memorable commercials from this year’s Super Bowl?  Did you “unplug” from social media during the game as well, or were you actively engaged in social media?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

If I had $1 for every business owner who thought he/she knew their customers very well, I’d be wealthy and retired at this point.  The sad reality is, most businesses think they know their customer, but their perception is almost always inaccurate (and sometimes by quite a bit).

I once worked with an established retail business in Rochester, NY that sold men’s fine clothing.  They were convinced their clientele were, on average, “male, 50 years or older, from the eastern suburbs, wealthy and watched prestigious networks on television like CNN.”  While that seemed plausible, I still conducted market research analysis with two main goals.  The first was to verify their customers’ demographics and the second was to research the media consumption of the actual demographic.

When the data was tabulated, it showed their customer base to be much younger and less affluent than they thought.  As a result, different television networks were a better fit.  Imagine their shock when I demonstrated how their advertising would be more effective (and cost-effective) on MTV instead of CNN!

Since seeing is not always believing, the client wanted to stick with the media plan involving CNN.  I was able to convince them to incorporate MTV into the plan as a trial, and suggested they simply ask customers if and where they saw their television commercial and keep a manual tabulation next to the cash register.  At the end of one month, MTV had a 3x advantage over CNN.

Seeing that MTV was significantly less expensive than CNN at the time, by concentrating on the proper network for their customer base, they could cut their ad spend, double their advertising frequency and triple (at minimum) their impact.  Now that’s what I call bang for the advertiser’s buck!

If you own a business, how well do you think you know your customer? If you haven’t conducted market research recently, I’d suggest there are many things you could learn.

Did You Get a Lexus for Christmas?

Did you get a Lexus for Christmas?  You know, the beautiful luxury car, complete with the bow on top and the little jingle playing faintly in the background.  Me neither!  Do you know anyone who has received a new luxury car in such a way?  Me neither!

Advertisements serve multiple purposes, including brand awareness and brand envy to name a few.  While their commercials are likely a pipe dream for 99% of the population, they are memorable.  In fact, throughout the month of December, it’s difficult to watch any television channel without coming across one of their ads.  Chances are, you’ve seen one or more of the variations.

But maybe their purpose isn’t to cause you to run out and purchase one for your loved one without their input on model, style, color and without their knowledge.  Then, you somehow arrange for it to magically appear in your driveway with a big red bow on top that’s the size of a golf cart while you creatively surprise the recipient.  Perhaps Lexus is thinking more strategically and more long-term than that.

Quick! Can you recall the last commercial you watched for Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Jaguar, BMW or Infiniti?  I’m sure you’ve seen them, but they’re likely more of your “typical car ad” than something as unique as Lexus’ approach.  When it’s not unique (even if slightly more practical), it often gets lost in the clutter.  So if/when you’re in the enviable position of being able to purchase a new luxury automobile, which brand might you think of first?  Which brand will create as much joy?  Which one would be seen as a priceless gift?

As unrealistic as their ads might seem at first for the majority of viewers, I’m guessing they’re actually quite effective in the long-term for creating brand awareness and brand envy.

What other television commercials do you recall from this past holiday season?  What made them stand out?

Do You Fit The Demographic?

Nearly twenty years ago (yikes!), Bruce Springsteen wrote 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).

Technology and how we watch television has changed tremendously since 1992.  Who could have imagined we’d watch streaming video on smart phones?  After all, cell phones were the size of a shoe box then!

What hasn’t changed is there’s still a lot of junk on television.  With far greater than 57 channels to choose from, why is it that we have so little quality to choose from?  I had lunch with some old friends not too long ago and we discussed one show in particular that they swore I made up as a joke.

Television channels exist to make money, mostly through advertising.  They use research to illustrate the demographics of their audience and set rates for commercial spots accordingly.  Below are 10 shows currently on air with descriptions mostly taken from their websites.  It makes you wonder what the demographic profile is for their audience.  See if you can spot the fake.

  1. Pawn Stars (History Channel).  Pawn Stars takes you inside the colorful world of the pawn business at a shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
  2. Hairy Bikers (History Channel).  A classically trained French chef who loves motorcycles pairs with a motorcycle mechanic who loves food to travel the back roads of America.
  3. My Strange Addiction (TLC)The compelling stories of individuals battling unusual obsessive behaviors.
  4. I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (TLC).  As impossible as that sounds, apparently there are tons of women who receive the surprise of their life with each new episode.
  5. Sweet Home Alabama (CMT).  Inspired by the movie of the same name, a southern bachelorette (or bachelor) searches for love among 22 contestants (11 from the country, 11 from the city).
  6. Silent Library (MTV).  Modeled after a Japanese game show, six friends vie for a cash prize by imposing unimaginable, beyond hysterical stunts on one another in a library setting, but they must maintain their silence to win.
  7. Jerseylicious (Style).  A “docusoap” that follows the owner and employees of a renovated hair salon in New Jersey, showing off Jersey fashion and style.
  8. Beer Money (SNY).  A fast-paced, non-traditional New York sports quiz show, with cash given away to people (in bars, tailgating, on the street corner) who know their New York sports.
  9. Hillbilly Handfishin’ (Animal Planet).  A reality show about noodling, the sport of fishing for catfish using only bare hands and feet.
  10. American Loggers (Discovery).  Follow brothers as they carry on the family tradition of harvesting timber in the Maine wilderness.
  11. Swamp People (History).  Follow Cajuns who live in the swamps of Louisiana during the 30-day alligator season.

I’ve actually seen about half of the above shows.  Some are actually interesting, although I can’t imagine I’d be considered in the target audience for most of them.  As for the fake?  Trick question – they’re all legit.

What show do you enjoy despite not being in their target demographic?