Chevy & Google Earn a Bit of Oscar Night Glory

Kudos to Chevy and Google for their filmmaking-themed commercials during last night’s broadcast of the Academy Awards!

Chevy’s ad was a winner in many ways — the first being that Chevy joined with MOFILM to give filmmakers a chance to have their creation seen by the world. What a fabulous and perfectly relevant way to include your brand in the excitement around the Oscars and gain attention for some budding filmmakers at the same time.

The “Speed Chaser” commercial we saw last night was created by Korean filmmakers Jude Chun, Eunhae Cho, and Sunyoung Hwang, the overall winners of Chevy’s Oscars Program Video Contest. The brand says that, “In the film, the Chevrolet Cruze shows you can find imagination anywhere from the Silver Screen to a playdate with friends.”

I don’t know that Chevy Cruze is responsible for all that, but the commercial is super-adorable and really hits the mark. See for yourself:

You can watch the films from all of the international winners on MOFILM’s Chevrolet Hollywood page.

We’re All Storytellers

“Storytellers” is probably one of the most overused words these days in the advertising and marketing industry. But with their “We’re All Storytellers” ad, Google proves once again that they’re truly connected to how people use their services and know how to tell a great story that resonates with their audience.

In the commercial, you see all kinds of people creating their own films–and using Google to help them learn more about technique and how to create certain parts of their films. The strong and heartfelt narration is actually part of the speech Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton gave in his TED Talk: The Clues to a Great Story.

Stanton says stories “can’t be artificially evoked,” and I think that’s what is so wonderful about both commercials. They’re real. The tone set in both the Chevy and Google stories is so relevant to the Oscars and the life (and childhood) of people in the film industry. At one minute a piece, they prove you don’t need a lot of time to tell a great story.

Both show kids, full of imagination and experimenting with film and friends. While Chevy’s is more fun and has a light, imaginative spirit to it, Google’s is a realistic depiction of how filmmakers often start and learn along the way. They’re both utterly terrific, and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.

Put Yourself in Skechers Shoes: A Minimalist Ad for a Minimalist Shoe

As a former avid runner and lifetime sneaker freak, I’m not yet a big fan of Skechers as a performance shoe. But I am a fan of their new commercial featuring marathon runner Meb Keflezighi.

Skechers is obviously trying to change its reputation and become more of a player in the performance market–re-signing Meb as a brand ambassador and signing a multi-year deal to be the shoe and apparel sponsor of the Houston Marathon (see Runner’s World article). So you’d think they’d try and mimic the other “in your face” sportswear giants like Nike, Adidas and Asics, with loud, heart pumping, endorphin boosting ads. But no, they went the smart route.

Keeping It Simple

The Skechers GOrun Ride 3 commercial is beautifully simple in story, in visuals and in words. I love it and I’ll explain why in a second, but first, check it out for yourself:

What did you think? It’s a lesson in minimalism for advertisers. This ad mostly sticks to the basics. Visually, it’s bright, sunny and oozes warmth and friendliness with it’s small town look. Even if you don’t know who Meb is, which I didn’t, you immediately sense he’s known in his sport all because of two simple words repeated as he passes through different parts of town, “Morning, Meb!” People know him, and by the scenery changes with each person he passes, you can see that he runs long distances.

Meb’s morning run is simply narrated. In just one line, with a few nicely placed pauses, we learn about the shoe’s features and who Meb is. Here’s the script:

It features a lightweight and sleek design along with plenty of cushion to go the distance, which is why it’s the shoe worn by America’s number one marathoner…Meb. 

Toward the end, we see an average man sit down in his house (the house we saw Meb run into) effectively showing that this man, like every non-professional athlete does at some time, imagines himself as Meb while he runs. There’s some cute little banter between the man and wife, and with seemingly little effort, Skechers has just appealed to two audiences with one ad — the marathoner/serious runner and the average person who’s running to stay fit.

“Put yourself in Meb’s shoes,” are the narrator’s final words. Cliche? You can argue that, but I’d call it perfect. That’s exactly what Skechers wants you to do. Sometimes cliche works.

Motivation Behind Marketing: What’s Your Motivation?

“It’s important in life to know what our motivation is.” –DeVon Franklin

It’s also important in marketing and advertising to know what our motivation is. And that’s what I’m going to focus on here today.

What is your motivation?

Be honest. If your motivation is to sell products, you might see some success, but you will not continue to be successful.

A Greater Motivation

Photo of Steve Jobs with quote

Let’s look at Apple. What would you say their motivation is?

You could probably argue that selling products at least factors into their motivation, but it is secondary. Bob Borchers, a former iPhone product marketing engineer, said (I’m quoting from the article “Former Apple employee recounts how Jobs motivated iPhone team”):

Steve Jobs didn’t have a specific device in mind, but instead gave the team a mission: create a phone that people would love so much that they’d never leave the house without it.

Does that sound like a man or a company whose primary motivation is to sell?

No. That’s what once made Apple unique and what other companies, especially Samsung, are now catching up with. Your motivation has to be to make great products people will love. The bonus with that is that those products then kind of market themselves.

Motivated by Money

We all know people who are motivated by money. We can see it a mile away. Their sales pitch is disconnected from customers, it’s truly all about them. And you get a sense that they will tell you anything just so they get what they want. Is that who you want to be?

I admit, there are exceptions. Some people, some companies who are motivated purely or mostly by money can be successful. But they are often successful at the cost of something greater—humanity, the environment, other people’s economies.

Look at the finance industry and all the wrongdoing that caused the U.S economic collapse. Those bankers, Wall Street traders, etc.—the ones who caused this mess—were all motivated by money. Greed.

Look at the oil industry. Sure, their advertising makes it seem like they’re interested in the environment or the earth’s future, but we all know they’re interested (at least for now) in one thing above all else—profits. And they do quite well in that category.

Eventually, I hope, that will change as consumers become more aware and demand more change. For now, it’s up to you to be the change. Ask yourself who you want to be. Which type of motivation sounds better to you?

What about You?

For me, I like Apple’s motivation—to make great products people will love. I find it authentic and more fulfilling. Imagine what would happen if every company were motivated by that—what a wonderful world we’d live in.

So, if you’re not getting the response you want on social media or in sales, maybe it’s time to rethink your motivation.

Are you just trying to sell to people? Or do you want to give them great products and services they will love?

Convertible VW Beetle Makes for a Fun Getaway Car in the Winter

I keep laughing every time I see the new VW Beetle ad. So I had to share it with you. If it’s not advertising perfection, it’s pretty darn close.

Here’s why it works:

1. Creative and memorable

The idea of driving a convertible car through winter is a different one. And it’s often a challenge for dealers to sell convertibles in the winter, so I love how creative the agency (Deutsch) got here. Ski masks. Perfect.

2. Excellent story sequence, direction and attention to detail

A guy goes into a store with a ski mask on. We didn’t yet see the guys driving in the topless Beetle, so we assume what the customers assume—that this guy is here to rob the place. And one of the first camera angles after he enters shows this menacing figure from the back and then we see a female customer backing away from him slowly. We know something’s up, but we’re not sure what until he goes to the register.

Even the song in the background is part of the fun, as this YouTube commenter notes:

Screenshot of YouTube comment

3. Different also equals memorable.

A guy in a ski mask doesn’t “want any trouble” and actually pays for his goods. That’s different. Then we see him running out and we’re still not 100 percent sure what’s going on until he gets in the car with his other ski-mask-wearing buddies.

4. Humor well done is always a winner.

As we hear sirens in the distance, the driver tells his friend, “You know you forgot to take your mask off, right? We should probably get out of here” and off they go…driving in their convertible VW Beetle in the winter.

Well played, VW.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite commercial right now?

A Tornado, a Goldfish and a People-Focused Company Make for Compelling Advertising

Last week, I mentioned that a trend I think we’ll see more of in 2013 is authentic storytelling—using true stories to create compelling advertising. This week, I’d like to show you another example.

Belfor is a property restoration company. In 2011, Carol Tice of CBS News called them “one of those big, successful companies you never hear much about.” (SeeHow Belfor Grew to be #1 in Disaster Recovery.”)

Recently, due to two commercials—one 30 seconds long and the other one minute long—not only do we know their name, but we know what they do and who they are as a company, as a brand.

All that is due to a very compelling story and the personal touches mentioned that give us insight into Belfor.

Here’s the 30 second ad:

We’ve all watched in horror as news reports show towns devastated by tornadoes and other natural disasters. But we don’t often get to witness the recovery. Belfor is a company that specializes in such recovery.

What makes the company memorable is its company culture. Read the CBS News article mentioned above and you’ll see. Belfor CEO Sheldon Yellen, who appears in the ads, drives a company culture that’s “intensely people focused.”

We get that impression along with the notion that they truly care through their documentary-style ads. Here’s the minute-long one:

Companies that are great know that the little things matter. Belfor, through storytelling, convinces us that they are a caring and great company. As Yellen says at the end, Belfor is “restoring more than just property”—a tagline they obviously take to heart.

Look for your company’s stories. If you don’t have any worth sharing, maybe you need to change your company’s culture. And if you do have stories, then what are you waiting for? Tell them in a compelling, people-focused way.

Army Strong: 1st Infantry Division’s Suicide Prevention Campaign Gets Personal

We’re already seeing examples of one of the biggest trends of 2013—authentic storytelling. Marketing campaigns are getting more and more personal, with real stories from real people.

You may be surprised—or not—to know that one organization leading the way is the U.S. Army. Recently, I came across a campaign from the 1st Infantry Division that aims to tackle suicide prevention among soldiers in a more effective way.

I spoke with Mollie Miller from the 1st Infantry Division who filled me in on their “I Know How It Feels” campaign. A campaign that was born and executed within this Division by their own Public Affairs team—not by an agency.  The campaign captures actual soldiers admitting things like:

“I know how it feels to choose the harder right,” talking about taking time off to treat an injury.

Poster with soldier talking about asking for help

“Soldier on.” We’ve all heard the saying, meaning tough it out and keep your mouth shut. Who’s tougher than a soldier? The 1st Infantry is trying to change the meaning of “soldier on” and show everyone that being tough means asking for help. That’s strong.

Straight Talk from the Army Chief of Staff

According to Miller:

In late 2012, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno instructed leaders at all levels the Army refocus their efforts in the realms of suicide prevention. Despite a constant “attack” on suicide, the formation seemed to be losing ground in the effort to prevent soldier/family member suicide. Gen. Odierno asked Army leaders to focus their efforts on several key areas including stigma reduction, combating isolation, and resiliency. In an effort to communicate suicide prevention, stigma reduction and resilience messages to audiences who seemed to have turned a deaf ear to the traditional leadership-driven, buzz word-rich messages, the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs team launched the “I Know How It Feels” Campaign.

The poster-based campaign is designed to show soldiers, family members and civilians they’re not alone in their struggles. The goal is to motivate them to get help “at the first signs of trouble, rather than waiting until problems seem monumental and unfixable.”

The posters feature actual soldiers, civilians and family members discussing their own personal struggles and what they did to overcome their challenges, like this one below featuring Lt. William Milzarski.

Soldier asking for help with nightmares

Lt. Milzarski shares his story about the war he brought home and how he sought help for recurring nightmares that disrupted his life.

Talking about feelings and getting help isn’t something anyone in the military is used to. So, it’s especially nice to see real soldiers brave enough to speak out. And it’s even more gratifying to see the positive response their honesty is bringing.

“Outstanding” Response

Reaction from soldiers, families and even the public have been very positive. Miller says:

The reaction has been outstanding. The audiences that we targeted (1st Infantry Division Soldiers and family members) as well as several secondary audiences (local community members, Army veterans, extended family members) have been praising this campaign here on post and throughout Facebook. Comments like “outstanding initiative” and “I wish the Army would have done something like this a long time ago” have followed every poster’s launch on Facebook.

This is a campaign that all marketers should take note of–an example of how to target a tough audience and step into delicate territory at the same time.

Follow the 1st Infantry Division on Facebook to see more of the fantastic things they do. And stay tuned to this blog, because I’m on the lookout for more powerful examples of using real-life stories in marketing, advertising and social campaigns to share with you.

The Best Super Bowl Commercial Wasn’t Actually a Super Bowl Ad

Fitting that Super Bowl commercials kicked off with an ad featuring prom (Audi’s ad)—an event everyone gets hyped up for but it never lives up to expectations. Sound familiar?

So much money spent on Super Bowl ads, yet most are still ho-hum, proving that money can’t buy creativity.

A few ads did stand out though, Taco Bell’s “Viva Young,” Amy Poehler’s Best Buy ad, VW’s “Get in. Get Happy” ad.

My winner is Coca-Cola’s first ad of the night—and, psst, it’s not really a Super Bowl ad. It has aired before (one source I saw said in Summer 2012, but it was uploaded to YouTube in November).

Yes, I’m giving them the sentimental vote—for a few reasons.

1. Messages promoting peace and kindness are needed right now.

With wars and violence raging in many countries and civil discourse being overtaken by loudmouths in Congress and elsewhere putting ego before progress, we need reminders that humans can be nice to one another. We need reminders that we’re all in this life together, so let’s choose kindness over vitriol and violence.

2. Coke proves they’re “the real thing” by including real acts of bravery and kindness.

According to Guido Rosales, Latin America Integrated Marketing Communication Director for Coca-Cola, as quoted in Fast Company’s article, Coca-Cola bought usage rights of real footage from security cameras, and re-created what they couldn’t purchase.

3. Waxing a bit nostalgic, Coke goes back to their roots.

If you were around in the ‘70s, you most likely remember the iconic Coke ads with a multicultural group of people singing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…” It’s an idea they keep regenerating in different ways, which is great (as long as they do it well) because the idea is timeless.

All of these reasons could be summed up in one word—thoughtful. Coke put time and effort into gaining actual footage to send this message of kindness and peace. And while their tagline, “Open happiness” is corny and not really fitting for a soda, the company is trying to fulfill its brand promise through community and social media efforts and advertising.

Their actual Super Bowl commercial—the Coke Chase, didn’t live up to the hype, but every brand has hits and misses. And speaking of hits…

Slam dunk? Props to Oreo for taking advantage of the mid-game blackout with this tweet:

Oreo tweets during blackout can still dunk in the dark

Note the number of retweets & favorites after only 7 minutes.

Are Consumers Dumb? Yes, and Advertisers Love It!

Dopey, copyright Walt Disney Productions

Dopey, copyright Walt Disney Productions

Companies and their marketers rely on consumers to be dumb—or at least momentarily dumb. You hear a lot about how smart consumers are, but really, that’s a bunch of bull. We still fall for the same tricks and are attracted to shiny objects. Otherwise, JCPenney’s Fair and Square campaign might have worked. (I’ll get back to that in a bit.)

First, before you think this is some sort of attack, I’ll use myself as an example. I consider myself a smart shopper. I read labels, read reviews, compare specs, etc., but I am still a sucker for endcaps and bright designs.

In case you don’t know, a store’s endcap is the product shelving at the end of a row that faces the main aisle. It’s valuable space where they put all the bright, shiny objects they want to sell most. And it works. I just bought a pack of “Dark Side” Skittles because they caught my attention and I was curious enough to throw them in my cart—even though the only “candy” in my cupboard is usually chocolate.

Watch for Red Flags

Right now, one industry trying to take advantage of these sorts of random bouts of stupidity is the auto insurance industry. I got this in the mail from Allstate:

Allstate DriveWise postcard

Allstate wants your reaction to be: “Ooh, look honey, we’re safe drivers, we can finally save more money just by putting this little doohickey in our car.”

But look closer. This is what it does (Progressive has the same thing.)

  1. Call to get your device. You’ll get a 10% discount just for signing up (red flag!).
  2. Plug it in under your car’s dashboard.
  3. Drive safely.
  4. The device collects your car’s driving data (red flag!). You can then track your data and savings online. (Distraction: Wow! We can see how much we’re saving.)

Notice the wording too. The device “collects”—a harmless-seeming verb—while you “track.” They were very careful to put the focus on what you can do, and even smarter to make it seem like they’re helping you. But yes, of course, their device is tracking you. That’s how they’ll determine pricing, by your monitored behavior.

People complain about “big brother” and the government intruding on privacy, but many companies are making much more inroads on mining private data than the government. Allstate’s DRIVEWISE device and Progressive’s Snapshot device are essentially monitoring tools.

All companies need to do is get you hooked—who doesn’t want to save 60 percent, right? (But you’re not going to save that much.) Then later, they can add more and more restrictions until you’re stuck—until we’re all stuck really, as the other types of plans fade away and become more pricey. This is how industries change (like health insurance did), all under the guise of giving consumers more control.

Don’t fall for it. Yes, we will probably always be drawn to fun or fancy designs and bright colors. But take a few moments to read the fine print.

Back to JCPenney

They began with two great ideas:

  1. Let’s do something different from our competitors.
  2. Let’s be straightforward with our pricing and save customers time and money.

Fabulous! Except, we consumers like to be tricked. We need visual reminders we’re getting a good deal. That’s why we clip coupons and shop sales (even on holidays and when we have to line up at 2 a.m.). As much as we hate haggling over the price of a car, we love it too, because ultimately when we walk away, we feel like we won.

Now we have “loyalty” cards that track all our shopping habits and now have these devices for our car that will send all data about how we drive to our car insurance company. All because we don’t want fair pricing—we want gimmicks, prices that end in “99” and sales to make us feel like we win.

Stop being the sucker advertisers want you to be. We have smart phones, smart appliances and smart TVs—isn’t it time we have smart shoppers too?

Restoring the Brand of a Fallen Superstar

You probably thought this was going to be yet another article about Lance Armstrong. No. Amidst all the hubbub over Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and the questions of will he or won’t he be able to come back, another fallen superstar has quietly (and arguably) completed his brand restoration.

Tiger Woods is back—the old, likeable, marketable Tiger.

Nike Golf smartly paired their newly signed superstar Rory McElroy with Tiger Woods in this fun “No Cup is Safe” ad. And Tiger looks as relaxed and friendly as ever.

Nike is the “too big to fail” behemoth of the marketing world. They remain pretty much untouched by scandal by knowing when to drop an athlete and when to hold on. They dropped Lance once he admitted to doping.

With Tiger, Nike didn’t waver. They were one of the few sponsors not to drop the big-name golfer after the embarrassing sex scandal that ended his marriage and left his career as one giant question mark.

Tiger, at the time, was Nike Golf. So, you can say (and I did in my 2010 blog post) that Nike didn’t really have a choice. They had to stick with their moneymaker.

They released a creepy commercial that featured Tiger’s father speaking while we were left looking at the golfer’s grim face. It reeked of “feel sorry for me” and had people all over the Internet talking. A risky move, but one that ultimately paid off.

This latest commercial is Nike’s smartest move yet on Tiger’s brand comeback journey. Pairing Woods with one of the most likeable players out there—Rory McElroy—was a flat-out genius move.

Watch the ad, and notice the old Tiger moves—the flashy smile, the bouncing of the golf ball on the club and then launching it, the trick shots and sly “you can’t touch me” look—are back.

Even if the two top golfers weren’t actually together when filming this ad, this pairing is one we will all look forward to seeing again and again—on the course and in commercials.