Aug 3, 2015

Going Viral: The 5 Best Guerrilla Marketing Pranks

Advertising seems to have less and less of an effect on consumers every day. More people are skipping commercials while watching television programs, thanks to recording services like DVR and streaming services like Netflix. And online ads are easily ignored by Internet surfers. So companies today are looking for new ways to reach people.

Many are taking to the streets with guerrilla marketing campaigns that are designed to shock and awe those who experience their stunts live. And, if all goes well, videos of these stunts can go viral online through social media. Here are five of the best guerrilla marketing pranks:

1. Carrie Gets Coffee

Few people actually believe in telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind. But what if you actually watch it unfold in front of you? Well, as this promotional prank for the remake of the movie “Carrie” shows, most people will become believers — or at least terrified — if someone with telekinetic powers shows off her skills before their very eyes.

The setup for this prank was genius. They rigged the cafe with remote controls, pulleys and springs so it all looked horrifyingly real when a patron flips out and lifts a man off the ground and makes books fly off the shelf.

2. MorphCostumes Has a Mannequin Army

MorphCostumes makes a line of form-fitting body suits that cover a user from head to toe. When worn, the white versions make people look exactly like mannequins. So what better use is there than heading to a Gap store on 5th Avenue in New York City and standing around like statues to dupe customers? Apparently New York’s Finest didn’t see the humor, as a small army of police officers showed up to put the Morphsuit-wearing marketers in cuffs. But they did get the attention they wanted for the product before being set free.

3. Nivea Makes You Sweat

Unlike the MorphCostume team, most people haven’t been arrested. And even for those who have, the notion of being wanted by authorities is enough to make even the coolest customer freak out.

That’s what Nivea did. The company organized a fake news report and intercom announcement in a German airport to scare unsuspecting fliers. Many of the victims try to laugh it off as a coincidence at first, but naturally become more stressed as they see their own photo on the broadcast. That’s when the cops show up to ask them if they are “stressed” before opening a briefcase and offering them an extra-strength deodorant. Brilliant.

4. LG Makes Armageddon Come True

Korean electronics maker LG wanted to prove that its newest flatscreen television set is as realistic as they come. So, the company replaced a window with a TV screen in an office building and had job candidates come in for an interview to test the prank. A meteor striking the city was displayed on the screens to see how the interviewees would react. The campaign was called “ultra reality,” and based on the freak outs of the interviewees, it seems as though the TVs really can replicate reality.

5. Scared Straight Against Drunk Driving

This prank is absolutely terrifying. This prank was orchestrated by the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport for its “THINK!” campaign to curb drunk driving.

When a regular bar-goer stops in the bathroom and takes the time to wash his hands, he is shocked to see a person crash through the mirror. Although it’s only a dummy and not a real person, the sheer horror of seeing this must have made people think. And that’s the whole point of the campaign.


Jul 30, 2015

IMC Campaign of the Month: Apple Watch

Apple faced an uphill battle marketing with the Apple Watch. Wearable consumer tech is still a relatively new phenomenon, at least where typical apple-watch-vogue-ad_6114-970x647-csmartphone functions are concerned. Other leaders like LG actually released their own smart watches before Apple even started promoting theirs. Marketers puzzled over the initially slow and pace of the Apple Watch marketing campaign, but Apple may just have been living by the maxim “slow and steady wins the race.”

The tremendous patience and control with which Apple introduced its Apple Watch to the world is a big reason Apple Watch is our IMC Campaign of the Month.

While LG, Samsung and other competitors hit the ground running with typical multi-channel campaigns to reach the widest possible (yet still viable) audience, Apple held off, teasing the world first with a 12 page ad in Vogue magazine. One very specific audience: fashionistas.

Marketers started buzzing about why Apple was marketing the Apple Watch specifically to women. The fact that the highest end Apple Watch costs $17,000 might have something to do with the choice of outlet – people reading 12 page Apple ads alongside stories about Manolo Blahnik or Valentino probably don’t blush at high ticket items.

But not all readers of Vogue are able to afford the things they read about in the magazine – many read about them and dream big, yet unattainable dreams. With the Apple Watch’s least expensive version costing just $350, suddenly a sexy, highly fashionable, highly valued item becomes much more affordable for the average consumer. A series of cover photographs of popular models wearing the Smart Watch cemented its image as functional fashion. When a trend is sparked with fashionistas, it becomes visible just about everywhere – from the arms of celebrities to the arms of fashion bloggers. Before you know it, everybody wants one. (more…)

Jul 27, 2015

5 Ways to stop wordsmithing and start messaging

stop wordsmithingFor lack of a better word, marketing and communications work is squishy. It can be hard to know if you’re creating a strong deliverable. For most business owners, messaging can be the worst. Who hasn’t sat in on an agonizing meeting waiting for the president and the operations guy to stop arguing over whether or not something is going to “move the needle.”  Or worse, the horrible and annoying quarrels over the oxford/serial comma.

In my short-lived career as a restaurant manager 100 years ago, we used to go to wine tastings all the time. It was really fun, especially if you liked to drink as much as I did back then. But unfortunately, none of us really knew anything about wine. So we came up with this phrase that meant nothing but sounded really impressive. “It’s oblique, without being obtrusive” I would state, twirling my wine in the glass while lifting my best impersonation of an educated eyebrow. It sounded really good and most people usually got home or sobered up before they realized it meant absolutely nothing.

What most business people are doing when writing anything, from a mission statement to a tweet, is coming up with stuff that just sounds good. We’re coming up with our own versions of “oblique without being obtrusive.”  I say let’s stop this now.We need to focus on sending the right message, NOT using the right words. Here are five ways to help  create the best messaging ever for your company, product or brand:

1. Create a Core or Integrated Strategy Statement. This is the statement that covers what you do, why you do it, and how you do it, in a nutshell. It doesn’t have to be pretty and it doesn’t have to sound particularly good. It just has to resonate with the key players in your organization. It has to be the one where people say “yeah that’s us” unequivocally. This is not the same as a company strategy statement. This is a simple 2-3 sentence phrase from which all messaging can be derived. These are the statements behind all the taglines, tweets, web content. Once you’ve got this, the conversation then revolves around whether subsequent messaging is aligned, or reflects, that core statement. NOT whether it’s better to use the word “strengthen” or “empower.” (Seriously, that was a 2-hour conversation.) Mine is this:  “Wax Marketing does integrated marketing and communications services.”

2. Understand the audience you’re trying to reach. I’m a firm believer in creating personas and writing messages for those personas. Stop writing stuff with you as the audience. If you know who your primary targets are – the media, your customers, your influencers, your employees, for example – you’ll understand when someone translates those messages for that particular audience. Chances are your employees absorb information in quite a different context than your customers. Be cognizant of those differences.

3. Be aware of requirements for the messaging channels you need to use.  I have a client that is a group of super cool dermatologists. What I love about them is they really know their patients, even though they range in age from 2 to 90. They know that each patient is going to acquire information in a different way. And they understand that information in a medical journal needs to be presented differently on Facebook, for example. Our conversations revolve around where those patients get their information. The disagreements happen there, and they’re productive. My point is, once you know your audience, you know the channels. Again, just make sure that messages translated for those channels align with your core strategy statement.

4. Understand that what sells well, doesn’t necessarily read well.  (more…)

Jul 24, 2015

Connecting strategies that lead to success

connecting strategyThis blog post first appeared on PRSA’s ComPRehension.  Although most marketers accept that integrating marketing communications is a powerful approach, campaigns today seldom realize the full power of the methodology commonly known as IMC.

Most of us  synchronize our earned and owned media in some way.  Many of us have learned empirically the right combinations of tactics that lead to the most engagement, or the highest landing page traffic. What’s often missing in campaigns is the ability to plan, manage and measure the synergy that occurs as a result of powerful IMC strategies and strong linked tactics.  It’s the acceleration caused by this synergy – the combination of marketing efforts that add up to more than the sum of their parts – that provides the best results.

Synergy looks and feels different in every IMC campaign. The good news is there are common elements to successful IMC campaigns that result in increased synergy.  The first is message alignment. IMC requires a persistent, consistent messaging strategy across channels. A core, or integrated, strategy statement should drive every campaign message. This statement is rarely shared with an audience. It is simple, to the point, and states what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  For a healthcare practice, it might be something like “We’re here to provide the best care in a safe environment.” An organic food company might use “Delivering the healthiest products to families.” Every single message should be aligned with this basic message.

Another important ingredient to powerful IMC campaigns is of course to choose the best combination of messaging channels.  Most people understand the importance of selecting channels that are right for the target audience.  However, it is crucial to select a set of secondary channels that boost the performance of the overall campaign.  If you think about it, you know which messaging channels complement each other. It can be as simple as automatically linking your Instagram account to Facebook, or as complicated as buying digital billboards to supplement a PSA.

The selection of channels is part of creating a strong IMC strategy.  Too many projects are defined with only goals and tactics, without the strategies that provide the bridge in between. A good strategy  should be a consistent, long-term part of an IMC plan. (more…)

Jul 20, 2015

Donald Trump’s inadvertent lesson in messaging

@bartthedog as Trump


Years ago, I “carried a bag” in the technology industry. There were very few women in the industry – I think three of us sold those kind of services in Minneapolis at the time. Every time I see or hear Donald Trump I’m reminded of the bombastic salesmen against whom I competed in the late ’80’s and early 1990’s. In fact, these were the ones who called me honey  and patted me on the head right up until I stole their business. Then they just got mad – which made me very happy.

Let me explain this persona of this “sales guy” I know so well. They weren’t (and aren’t, for that matter) bad guys, they actually had good intentions and many were loving husbands and fathers. They have one major common characteristic that brings them down every time however – they don’t believe in messaging. Don’t confuse this with the Don Draper persona. Although Draper could shoot from the hip, he planned his creative and messaging carefully. Although like Draper, the Donald Trumps of the world are also highly skilled in the art of persuasion, they don’t believe in the power of the carefully crafted message. Nope, not for them. Send them your talking points and they’ll make up their own every time.

Like Donald Trump many of these sales guys eventually become entrepreneurs. As a marketing consultant, I’m working with them instead of selling against them. Unfortunately many have retained their old habits of shooting from the hip and ignoring attempts at messaging. (more…)

Jul 16, 2015

Microsite Marketing: Is it Right for Your Brand?

shutterstock_254812159A microsite or mini-site is a stand-alone website that rose in popularity as a marketing tool in the mid-1990s with the growth of Google’s then-revolutionary pay-per-click business model. Microsites are still a great way to create a brand-oriented experience for consumers, and serve as a landing page for search results. TopRankBlog reports optimized microsite landing pages improved site conversion rates by up to 200 percent. Microsites give your brand a chance to shine without the extraneous information and features that your primary site may contain, and here is a look at how you can leverage microsites into your marketing strategy.

Provide Focused Content

Microsites can give customers and consumers a landing page for a specific product or service, campaign or project. Not only can they highlight one aspect of your business, they can increase awareness of your brand as a whole to consumers who might not be familiar with you. By keeping your microsite simple and easy to navigate, it can direct consumers to what you want them to see. To achieve this, think about exactly what it is you want to highlight and stick to it. Don’t get off topic; consumers will become interested in your other offerings if you can grab their interest in the one thing you’re highlighting.

A key component to microsite design comes in the earliest stages, when creating a hierarchy for your site. (more…)

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Jul 13, 2015

The internet did not create Reddit’s problem

RedditThere’s new fear among business owners based on the recent hubbub at Reddit after the firing of Victoria Taylor and the subsequent “exit” of CEO Ellen Pao. Although most companies don’t have 36 million users or even thousands of employees, many are afraid that the kind of discontent voiced so passionately by Reddit users could happen to them as well.  What if this discontent experienced a tipping point and caught fire in a LinkedIn group, for example, or someone’s private Facebook page? Could customers or employees become so incensed that the situation goes viral for them as well? ? I’m sensing a kind of panic right now. The kneejerk reaction seems to be a lock down of online policies, and  micromanagement of organic engagement on social media.  The justification for this behavior is that without the internet, this wouldn’t happen, right? WRONG.

The internet doesn’t cause problems, it brings them to light. What happened at Reddit is a communication problem, and as far as I’m concerned it’s lucky that the internet brought it to their attention. When I was a manager in the 1990’s, it could be impossible to know what was being said over lunch, or on the phone, or at happy hour. Sometimes we didn’t know there was a problem until a costly trend in turnover brought it to our attention, and that could take months. I covered a territory with nine profit centers in six states, plus a corporate headquarters 1,000 miles away. I tried as hard as I could to meet with employees and customers as much as possible, trying to ferret out possible issues before they caused real damage to the bottom line.  Occasionally someone would come and talk to me about an issue, but it had to get pretty bad for someone to email me, or worse, pick up the phone. Problems didn’t boil over quickly, they percolated behind the scenes causing much more damage.

Arka Ray is the CEO of Sidelines, a company that develops engaged native ad experiences.  His recent commentary about Reddit and community management is so relevant when he says (more…)

Jul 9, 2015

3 Reasons to use project management tools

Mike Salem, CEO, Vorex

Mike Salem, CEO, Vorex

Integrated marketing means managing a lot of different channels, including the synchronization of those channels. Lately I’ve met more and more public relations and communications professionals who are training in project management, even going so far as to receive their PMP certification.  Most of us, however, are using a mix of online tools, spreadsheets and even sticky notes to manage our work. Mike Salem, CEO of Vorex says that “Online business management solutions – such as professional services automation (PSA) and project management platforms – automate your daily operational tasks so you can have more time to think big picture and how to strategically grow your business.”

PSA and project managemetn tools can help keep you organized and on track toward greater efficiencies. Here are some examples of common challenges that many marketers face and how PSA and project management tools help combat these issues:

1. Complex tasks

In the  marketing world, projects are very much deadline-driven. Each integrated marketing project has a multitude of tasks tied to it that each have a specific deadline that must be met if you want to deliver the product on time and keep the client happy. Time is an invaluable business asset, and maintaining control over a project schedule can be the difference between profit and loss in any given month. With a project management platform that ties tasks to a time-associated schedule, marketers can have visibility into the status of projects and ensure teams are on track to meet all pre-determined deadlines.

2. Dynamic workforce

One of the biggest hiring challenges for marketers is the difficulty in forecasting project-based work. You have to focus on the now and the natural ebb and flow of revenue and profitability. Understanding the complete financial landscape is critical in making intelligent task allocation decisions that positively influence the business. Having a PSA tool that not only tracks budgets and expenses, but also provides reports and overall visibility into the financials of a business can help  analyze task assignment and overall project ROI.  The ability to allocate tasks and automate dependencies and assignments is key.

3. Too little time

 The sole salesperson at most small services organizations tends to be the business owner. Tasked with operational management, sales, strategic growth and overseeing day-to-day project management, it’s hard for an agency owner to find time to plan and execute their big picture strategy. We need to be able to see every aspect of the business to make sure it’s running smoothly and efficiently. By automating simple, yet time-consuming tasks such as time and expense tracking, billing and invoicing, and project statuses, business owners can quickly and easily keep track of how their company is doing by looking at a single, cloud-based dashboard. This frees up time to focus your efforts on securing new business and growing the company. Project management tools should be easy to use, with a “view” into the status and task allocation of every project at any time.

If you’re interested in trying out cloud-based PSA/project management tools, Vorex currently is offering a free 14-day trial here




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Mike Salem, CEO, Vorex
Jul 6, 2015

Event marketing inspiration

Special Event Badge Lanyard Conference Expo ConventionEvent marketing typically only consumes 20 percent of a company’s budget, according to inbound marketing software platform HubSpot. Meanwhile, 67 percent of B2B marketers consider event marketing its most effective strategy, reports an infographic by WebDAM. Event marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or even complicated to be highly effective. You can set up an event in hours and get started on improving public awareness for your business. Here are some ideas to get started:

Create a Learning Event

Educate your customers on how to use your products while empowering them to improve their lives or own businesses. Host an event at a community center on how to use your sales software, create original jewelry, master organizational strategies or anything else that relates to your business. Then, ask your students what other types of resources and classes they need to succeed to get targeted ideas for follow-up courses. Remember to ask for students’ contact information to start an email list for future events and product promotion. And before you dismiss class, sweeten the deal by offering a discount or free swag to help spread the word about your product.

Start a Meetup Group

Find your ideal target audience by hosting a Meetup group on anything from travel to entrepreneurship to working moms. Events can be held anywhere you want, such as coffee shops or your own office. You can promote your Meetup through social media and to your current contact list. Plus, you also benefit from the exposure on Meetup with a built-in audience who is looking for a wide variety of groups and events. (more…)

Jul 2, 2015

IMC Campaign of the Month: PEMCO’s #12

PEMCO may not be the best known insurance agency in the country. In fact, it’s a local outfit in the Northwest, ranked 6th in consumer awareness behind giants like Geico and Allstate. But with a keen understanding of their ideal buyer, a bright idea and a clever deployment of integrated marketing communications, PEMCO put themselves on the map at a time when even the biggest brands scramble for their share of the spotlight. PEMCO went viral just before the Super Bowl XLVIII.

For many years now, PEMCO has shown a remarkable grasp on the personalities of their buyers, right down to idiosyncratic quirks that make Pacific Northwesterners memorable and in regional esteem, lovable. In 2007 they launched a lighthearted campaign centered around the many personas found in the Northwest, to such widespread success that consumers suggested their own ideas for characters with distinctly local flavor. It’s therefore no surprise that PEMCO was aware its audience is passionate about football, or more specifically, the Seattle Seahawks.

As we’ve discussed before, “thou shalt know thine audience” is one of the core commandments of IMC. (more…)

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