Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Remember who brought you to the dance" - some lines about the the 2007 American Magazine Conference:

What happens when a bunch of people from the magazine industry gather in one big hall for the American Magazines Conference? What would happen if it actually happened here in tiny Malta? How would the many local SOHO design agencies face the big print giants! We could discuss success stories such as 'Homeworks' or 'Circle', but then we could also question what went wrong with 'The Onion' and similar good ideas that did not succeed in the long run.

I discovered the wonderful print industry in my University days. Print is nice and most importantly very engaging. Magazines are considered to be the most trusted advertising medium, much better than the web. At the same time, some think that media is currently in its 'Golden Age', as stated by Beth Comstock, NBC Universal President - Digital Media and Market Development. People are estimated to spend an average of 12 hrs a day with media! In this 'Golden Age', the magazine industry should be at its best, but this is certainly not the case.

Alternative media are shouting for attention and it seems the magazine industry, with its expensive production costs, is having a hard time. Wenda Harris Millard, who previously worked at Yahoo and now is president of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia believes magazine publishers will soon pay the price for the bad circulation practices and the fragile distribution network. Many would add that the 'paying-the-price' part is already happening.

On a positive note, alternative media could (and should) be seen as an opportunity magazine publishers could benefit from as Adam Moss of the New York Magazine thinks.

I am all for interactive media and strongly believe that finally it's all about content coupled with wise distribution at the right time and over the right medium.

The bottom line though is the end user, the reader, the audience. It is this audience that the magazine industry should focus on if it wants to succeed. It could be print, it could be web, but finally it is about delivering relevant content in the readers' preferred format. As editor of Essence Angela Burt-Murray nicely puts it, "Remember who brought you to the dance".

Who cares about the price anyways?

This is not an insightful BLAB...but it is good news. We don't have to worry about price anymore. Radiohead has taught us a big lesson. Prior to the launch of their new album, In Rainbows, Radiohead decided to let their fans decide how much to pay to purchase the album download. And so it happened, 1.2 Million downloads only in the first week! (Average price: $8). What is happening to the (marketing) textbook 4Ps!?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's all about good storytelling..

The Body Shop... Rings a bell or two? Definitely! One can find Body Shop stores [over 2,000 to be precise] in more than 50 countries. The brand The Body Shop is not only known for its full and diverse range of body products, but it also represents the epitome of the phrase going green; anti-animal testing, all for community trade and all that jazz.. The site in fact lists these green initiatives as values, which the International plc. states to follow rigorously.

All this going green affair has raised eyebrows and stirred some hot debates, especially when L'Orèal purchased The Body Shop for an estimated £652.3 million. This is due to the fact that L'Orèal still tests its products on animals, thus contradicting one of The Body Shop's cardinal values mentioned above, resulting into boycotts from customers and retailers from all around the globe. The late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, had to face all of this hustle and bustle caused by the media frenzy in an interview with The Guardian, in which she argued that she sees herself as a means through which she can change points of views and directions within a larger company, thus leaving a huger impact onto the trading society.

This woman strikes me in oh so many ways.. She managed to build an empire and push the envelope in things that really mattered to her; she maintained that businesses can be run ethically and still make profit - she proved her own theory and made it become a tangible reality. Anita started out her business in 1976, her first shop being established in Brighton. She adhered to her own personal marketing strategies with her unique persona and non-business-like demeanour; probably the best and most fitting advertising strategy ever.

Her best marketing move in my opinion is what she terms as storytelling. Dame Roddick built a story around her business in order to put across her message to the masses. She managed to effectively communicate with people through the stories she revolved round her products and this seems to be quite fruitful up to this very day:

'The original Body Shop was a series of brilliant accidents. It had a great smell, it had a funky name. It was positioned between two funeral parlours – that always caused controversy. It was incredibly sensuous. It was 1976, the year of the heatwave, so there was a lot of flesh around. We knew about storytelling then, so all the products had stories. We recycled everything, not because we were environmentally friendly but because we didn’t have enough bottles. It was a good idea. What was unique about it, with no intent at all, no marketing nous, was that it translated across cultures, across geographical barriers and social structures. It wasn’t a sophisticated plan, it just happened like that...'

Coupled with stories is the art of imagery. Visuals can work wonders and we all know that. The Body Shop is seen as something stylish and trendy, something that hip people cherish and make use of. Thanks to good stories and visuals, The Body Shop has created a name for itself and became a big brand. The colour green has now a new meaning and a new 'owner' so to speak.. it is owned by The Body Shop and it is effectively communicated to people.

Dame Anita Roddick died on the 10th of September 2007 at the age of 64. She was awarded the 1991 World Vision Award for Development Initiative, her company being voted as the 2nd most trusted brand in UK in 2004 and received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the Sage Colleges that same year... All of this happened because she believed in her stories and dared to take risks, even if that meant having your first shop positioned between two funeral parlours... What else is there to say? Dream on and communicate your stories... you never know!

Monday, October 29, 2007 Let the BLABbing begin

We've been working on this for a couple of weeks now and here it is. This space is simply an organized blog; the contents, we hope, will be simply interesting for you to read. Contributions (or as we like to call them: BLABs) will be in the hands of Janice and myself.

As the profile clearly says, we're interested in anything related to marketing, advertising and interactive media. We'd like to cover both events and news happening in tiny Malta and around the globe.

Finally, your BLABs really matter! You can comment (BLAB) or simply include our small initiative on your Facebook profile / personal blog. You can also submit news about the products you market or simply like to BLAB about.

So, humbly, let the BLABbing begin.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dualism: sex, gender and ads?

Let's face it.. no one wants to stand near a guy with distinctive body odour [and I mean.. Distinctive!]. So one fine day, the AXE company decided to come up with some pleasantly fragranced body products.. and nothing strange there.. However, a twist besieged the primary aim of such products..

.. and has taken the form of a programme:
Male showering products are usually marketed as a requirement for meeting the standards of the other 'cleaner' sex.. yet AXE takes this fact to new heights.. How? Oh.. by promising sex.

We have all watched an AXE ad, at least once in our lifetime [if not.. just google or youtube AXE.. they'll take you to places you never been to]. We all know [?] what the contents of such ads hint to.. resulting into huge feminist uproars. This is nothing new.. Laurien Alexandre refers to Jean Kilbourne's Killing us Softly [1986], a short film depicting how multi-billion dollar transnational businesses make profit out of women's backs. Furthermore, Kilbourne states [1990]:

‘The ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images,
and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and
normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes
they sell addictions.’

Even the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood [a coalition of healthcare professionals and advocacy groups that is affiliated with Harvard University] is working towards stopping the AXE ads from being aired, arguing that they degrade young women. This line of merchandise is constantly marketed on MTV and MySpace, global windows which lots of young boys and girls more than just peep through.

And for those who believe images rule out sound and music.. the AXE team has made an agreement with what is described as 'the world's naughtiest band'; the Bom Chicka Wah Wahs, who, with their songs and voices, enhance the AXE ads with even more sexual content.. Fully loaded.. yeah baby!

In no way is this post meant to admonish the ads in question. Some boil these down to sense of humour; a good one at that. Others think they are just plain tasteless. Thing is Kilbourne maybe is right in saying that ads sell more than just mere products.. and companies actually invest in light of such piece of knowledge. The math is simple here: Men need AXE to draw women's attention.. they just can't do it on their own. I wonder whether Austin Power's secret to his Mojo was AXE deodorant.. I wonder..

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Nothing new: Mac understands Interactive Search!

I am not an Apple guru and have been discerning my mac book investment for the past 3 months, but the new Mac OS X Leopard is quickly convincing me. There is nothing new in saying that the guys at Apple have succeeded in coming up with User-Friendly applications but the new TimeMachine is the limit. Briefly, TimeMachine keeps track of past desktops, making it easier to go back to previous versions of files even after the user has over-written or lost important file contents. TimeMachine is just one of the many new applications. Check full demo here.

hey women, don't fall for the media circus!

Wasn't planning to blog about this but a (male) friend of mine told me about this:

According About-Face, "Studies have shown that exposure to idealized images of women result in lowered levels of self-esteem and body satisfaction in women." The organization regularly draws up the top 10 offenders and the top 10 winners. A popular offender is SKYY Vodka which is the top offender in the latest 'Gallery of Offenders'. Others 'Offender Brands' include Levi's, Sisley, Guess, Calvin Klein, Dior and Louis Vuitton. Ads. in the offenders include idealized (or stereotype) images of women.

Apart from the offenders, there are the winners. Winners include Keds, Aasics, Eileen Fisher, Nike and Fruit of the Loom. One particular ad. for clothing brand Eileen Fisher, which constantly features in the 'Top Winners List', says, "I've developed an eye for what's real in people and things". In all the 'Winner Brands', there is a sense of warmth, 'group' and most of all include real people, not idealized supermodels.

And here I recall what branding-guru Tom Peters and Martha Barletta tried to convey in 'Trends', one of the Tom Peters Essentials Series: "People-ize your Communications!" Whilst us man like to stand out and be the winners, women are warmer and more emotional. As 'Trends' clearly points out, "women want to feel warmer toward others, by finding points of commonality".

Dove is definitely thinking 'group' and 'real beauty'. I was very surprised not to see Dove in the winners' lists. I should point out though that Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty does feature on the organization's site. Through its culture of embracing real beauty, Dove has also gone a step further by setting up 'The Dove Self-Esteem Fund'.

At the end of this post I have one dilemma. If women agree that certain images offend, that their idea of beauty has been distorted by ads. which big brands such as CK, Guess and Sisley continuously splash in their face, why is Glamour, BRITAIN'S No1 WOMEN'S MAGAZINE? Not allowing the 'Offender Brands' to advertise in this magazine would definitely threaten the feasibility of the project and send out a clear message to the offenders!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marie Digby: just open the marketing Umbrella..ela..ela:

Those of us who have not come across any YouTube video of Marié-Digby until today have got to learn that Marié-Digby is a real You-tube success story, not only from an artistic point of view but also from a marketing perspective. Just take a look at the two screen shots below:

The first one features results of my search for Mandy Moore's cover of Umbrella, the summer hit song from R&B artist Rihanna, the second snapshot, features my second search, Marié-Digby's cover of Umbrella. One can easily see that Marié's most popular video has had 1,959,742 views in just 4 months whilst that of celebrity Mandy Moore got 462,526. In total Marié's videos are said to have exceeded 2.3 million views.

Now this is not a fair comparison since other respective versions of these videos should also be included in total views and Mandy's video was only added 2 months ago. Yet this is definately an indication that sometimes standing out is not the only way to promote a new product, service, brand or even artist. The comparison also hints that big brands (such as the "Mandy-Moore" brand) often fail to be as personal and as intimate as other brands are.

Marié's Umbrella did not stop at You-Tube since MTV included this cover in its popular reality show "The Hills" and Los-Angeles Star98.7 radio also included the song in the music playlist. Sometime after all this was happening The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an article in which it disclosed a record-deal Marié had signed with Hollywood Records much before her videos were posted on YouTube. WSJ accused Marié of feigning an amateur status whilst not revealing her MySpace and YouTube pages her major record deal from the beginning.

From a marketing perspective though all this presents a wealth of insight:

Primarily this was a case of being in the crowd and not be any different from the rest. Marié's case, even if a strategic campaign planned out by Hollywood record as disclosed by WSJ questions the continuous need to be as distinct and original as some creative agencies attempt to be.

Secondly, all this has to be seen in the YouTube context. YouTube allows viewers to control the media channel and the audience like that. Marié is one of us, she does not want to sell anything to us! Marié-Digby as a product provided this same opportunity to the YouTube audience. Viewers could promote someone who shared their dreams and ambitions such as 'becoming famous whilst fulfilling your dream' or 'doing what you really love doing'. It's as if viewers felt the obligation to help out and share Marié's talent.

Thirdly, Marié chose to go viral. Being recommended by MTV is cool but having 2.3 million views on YouTube definately says something about the power of recommendation and how much we trust it more than any rightly branded product or service.

So...well done Marié!

Friday, October 19, 2007

New brand in town: Klikk

Klikk is a new local brand in Malta. I've spotted Klikk advertising on the papers and a couple of billboards. Quite fascinated with the mega big banner they have placed on the retail store. Klikk takes over Forward Tech store. Will update you with some images of the new Klikk store.

Short post: What's your digital world?

AT&T has launched a site totally dedicated to your 'digital world'. My (Our) dependency on the digital world is evident. Making a fuss about it makes good's a digital realization. And by the way, what is Mandy Moore's digital world made of? check site here

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When your brand is 'too little, too late'

Apologies for having to post about this for the second time this week but this ad. is shouting for attention, yet the only thing that attracts my attention is the discrete small print which identifies the source. Why are local political parties afraid of there own brand? Is it because they don't like to portray themselves as being 'too negative, too much' or a strategic decision to make opinion sound as factual.

I've never heard of a Mac product which lacked a bold Apple sign, nicely placed at the centre of a plain white surface And for that matter a local embelishment project that was not associated with one of the two parties.

Politics apart, what happens when your brand is THE problem? When you have spammed your clients too much that they try to avoid you? What do you do when your brand fails to deliver? What do you do when you've messed up your reputation? Re-brand, Re-launch, Change market or give up?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The 1 week brand free challenge

If you have a problem with shopping, you’re obsessed by brands, or you just want to make life cheaper and easier, try following these tips for a less branded lifestyle.

1. Avoid advertising
2. Separate wants from needs
3. Shop around
... and the list goes on.

A friend of mine told me about this site today and whilst I am on the verge of committing myself to blog about ads., ads. and more ads. 'The One Week Brand Free Challenge' is not actually what I was planning to blog about! The Brand Aid site tries to helps anyone who is brand addict to get over it.

In truth brand addictions do exist and from a marketing perspective these addictions are referred to as 'Loyalty', the peak of the customer lifecycle. Just as I am writing this Apple comes in mind. And so below I am posting evidence of brand addictions:

Is it loyalty or addiction? Without giving it much thought I would say that it depends on the product or service. Loyal as I can be I would never queue at the local Apple vendor in the early hours of the day just to be an early bird for the latest Apple product. Then again, it is thanks to these early birds and brand addicts that trends are set and products are turned into the latest fad. And so it comes as no surprise that Steve Jobs refunded back the $100 dollars to each iphone buyer following the latest iPhone price slash.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Call Castille

NO!, not the budget on BLAB! Well not exactly, yet from an advertising perspective this campaign (above) needs some attention. According to Maltastar this campaign was just political propoganda. Surprisingly enough the PM does not agree, and if the statistics quoted today are marketing context, I'd choose to disagree.

According to the budget speech there were 4,500 respondents who contacted the OPM to give their personal feedback. Now considering a population size of approx. 401,880, and at the same time assuming even toddlers can pick up the phone and 'Call Castile', 4,500 responses mean a response rate of 1.1%.

Narrowing down the population to persons who can actually respond and at the same time have come across one of the various campaign ads. makes a higher response rate. Finally, response does not necessarily measure the success of the campaign since the campaign also promoted an open consultation relating the the 2008 budget. So do your math and tell me what you think, or rather, 'Call Blab!'

Sunday, October 14, 2007

testing images

We will soon be conducting a full report on 'The Axe Effect'. At the same time we hope to attract a large chunk of female readers by spraying Axe all over our blog. I've decided to start wearing axe for that matter. Catch you later...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Testing blabs

We are currently testing our BLAB blog, adding news snippets here and there and tweaking the layout. We have not advertised this space but just in case you come across it...any feedback is welcome.

We'll be blabbing very soon