Has Vogue Gone Rogue?It looks like Marissa Mayer and Kim Kardashian have more in common than business sense—both moguls are also talented at turning off Vogue’s high-fashion audience.  As I’m sure you have seen, Vogue’s April cover features a wedding shot of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West accompanying hashtag: #WORLDSMOSTTALKEDABOUTCOUPLE.

All personal feelings of Kimye aside (I have to, or it would cloud my judgment of whether or not this is a good brand decision), this is not entirely a rogue move for the magazine. Vogue also drew much attention and criticism from their decision to feature Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in 2013.

Yes, I completely agree that Vogue’s brand is high caliber and does not exactly mesh well with the mass-marketed, over-publicized reality TV couple’s image. However, the magazine industry is facing a very difficult time in today’s culture. With so many people getting their news online and through tablet subscriptions, the printed publication has been slowly moving into the land of fax machines and flip phones. The average Vogue reader is currently 37.8 years old, compared to 30 in 2001. As the current market is aging, Anna Wintour knew she had to spice up her brand to help bring in a newer audience.

The Daily Beast put it best: “Between the two of them, Kim and Kanye have more than 30 million Twitter followers. Vogue has only 3.6 million.”

When it comes down to it, Vogue may have alienated several of their current subscribers, but they also potentially opened the door for a slew of new readers. I really don’t even think they strayed from their brand either. Sure, Kimye is no Kate Moss, but Kim is still wearing high-fashion gowns, and Annie Leibovitz’s photos also comply with the current brand standards. The cover has even inspired spoofs from James Franco and Seth Rogen (who are certainly not newbies when it comes to spoofing Kimye) and even Miss Piggy and Kermit, in addition to the many articles and newscasts that are talking about the “controversy”.

Whether or not you agree with Wintour’s decision, you can’t really argue that Vogue’s April issue is #THEWORLDMOSTTALKEDABOUTCOVER, thus making it a smart brand move.

There Is An Airline Doing It Right!

PorterThis post is in praise of airline customer service and an overall EXCELLENT air travel experience.  Yes, really.  A positive one.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were looking for an easy, seamless ski vacation that didn’t involve driving 8 hours to Vermont or flying out west and battling the altitude, the time change and a cross-country flight.  We decided on the ski resort Mont Tremblant which looked to be just the right fit for us, but what sealed the deal was that a small Canadian airline called Porter flew direct between Newark and the local Tremblant International airport.  I liked their tagline, “Flying Refined,” and the price was comparable to other commercial airlines, so we pulled the trigger.

I have never had a more pleasurable flying experience.

Porter flights don’t have a business or first-class section, which means no priority boarding (unless you are infirm or travelling with small kids) and their in-airport customer lounges are open to all customers.  Here you can relax with FREE wifi, a bottle of water, some yummy snacks and even make yourself a coffee, cappuccino or espresso – in a real cup.  Like in Italy.  My husband and I slugged two each before hopping on board.

Once airborne, we had a very short flight to Tremblant (1:10), except that we had to take three approaches to land in what looked like a shoveled driveway in the middle of the snowy wilderness.  (Pretty standard for the more remote airports in Quebec, or so I’ve been told.)  After each of two failed attempts to land, there was a brief announcement from the pilot about visibility and then the stewardess came down the aisle with additional information, including a contingency plan to go to another airport should visibility not improve.  We all felt informed and even the nervous fliers on board weren’t alarmed because we knew exactly what was going on.  Very civilized.

Fortunately, the third time was the charm and we landed easily on our final approach, hopped a shuttle to the resort and had a great vacation.  But then, another inevitable polar vortex of weather was threatening to hit Newark airport on Sunday, so we made the decision to try and get on an earlier flight home, just in case.

When placing the call early Sunday morning, I steeled myself for a long wait, inevitable extra charges and possibly a flat out “no.”  I mean, this was a small airline with limited flights.  After approximately 8 minutes we were booked on a new flight with a short layover in Toronto – no extra charges, no drama.  The nice Canadian lady even apologized that our trip would be cut short by a few hours.  (Really?)

I’m not a fan of layovers, but Porter flies out of Billy Bishop International Airport in downtown Toronto (with regular shuttles to downtown Toronto, which is just a few hundred yards across the water) and is the only airline to use that airport, making international transfers as easy as walking down the hallway.  This also means that the whole airport is actually a Porter lounge, including a huge business center with computers, free wifi and an even nicer snack spread than Newark.  Porter is currently petitioning to have an ultra-quiet jet approved for landing at Billy Bishop (they currently fly only prop planes), which would allow the airline to fly to further destinations, including the Caribbean.  My fingers are crossed that this will go through – and that they will stop in Newark along the way…

I know it may seem silly that I was so floored by Porter’s cute lounges, good customer service and seamless flying experience.  I’m also not alone in recognizing that Porter is kicking butt in the airline space – they were awarded best small airline in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards.

The thing is, flying has become torture for all of us in recent years, so when things go RIGHT, it feels like being given a gift.  This is a sad state of affairs, but it’s also an opportunity for airlines – should they deign to care about their silly customers – to set themselves apart from the pack with small, yet very important details.  Porter has certainly done that in spades.

Oh – and onboard snacks and wine were free…  What’s better than that?

about you1It’s that time of year again, when those of us still riding the “eat more healthy foods” New Year’s resolution train are tempted with the greatest challenge of all:  Girl Scout Cookies.

In fact, I hear their seductive calls in surround sound these days – enticing offers to buy from my co-workers’ daughters, local troops stationed at the supermarket, even a gaggle of Girl Scouts set up outside my favorite department store.  And if you live in San Francisco, you can find them conveniently located in front of your local marijuana dispensary.   Genius?  I think so.

After catching wind of the story, I was eager to know what the Girl Scouts were saying about the idea.  Never having been a Girl Scout myself – but knowing how badly the Boy Scouts have managed “controversies” in recent years – I was curious as to how the organization might respond to naysayers.  Turns out, they’re taking a lesson from the dispensary customers and have been pretty chill about the whole thing:

“Girls are selling cookies, and they and their parents pick out places where they can make good sales,” Dana Allen, director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of Northern California, told Mashable. ”The mom decided this was a place she was comfortable with her daughter being at.” Later, she added, “We’re not telling people where they can and can’t go if it’s a legitimate business.”

According to the Girl Scouts website, “ When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, success, and life.”

I think this young woman and her daughter were simply following one of the cardinal rules of business:  Location.  Location.  Location.  They also identified a customer pipeline based on foot traffic from an established local business that resulted in a major uptick in sales.  I would say that probably led to a big confidence boost for this young Girl Scout, which, after all, is the whole goal of the cookie program.

What do you think?

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As a recent convert to the whole “fitness thing” (aka working out, watching what I eat and how many calories I burn,) I can’t help but comment on the Biggest Loser controversy that’s currently blowing up the Twittersphere.  In case you don’t know, this season’s show featured Rachel Frederickson’s drastic weight loss of over 150 pounds! That’s 60% of her starting body weight!!!

I know it’s unhealthy to be overweight, but it’s JUST as unhealthy to drop such an extraordinary amount of weight in a short period of time.  Not only does it leave one open to injury, but can also lead to health problems including immune system suppression and bad skin, hair and nails and in some cases even an irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps and loss of bone mass.

People, rightly so, are absolutely outraged that Rachel lost so much weight in a short period of time.  But, no one ever mentions that the entire purpose of The Biggest Loser is to, that’s right folks, lose weight.  Instead of chastising Ms. Frederickson for simply following her trainer’s routine, we should be looking into the entire program.

It’s unhealthy to force overweight individuals to go from zero to 60 and expect them to drop serious amounts of weight in a three month period (which is the amount of time allotted to contestants on the hit NBC show.)

Equally harmful to the show’s brand is the fact that the face of the show, Jillian Michaels, claimed she had nothing to do with the extreme weight loss.  Um, hello?  You are the freakin’ host of the show! And you’re telling me that you had nothing to do with this transformation?  I find that a little bit hard to believe.  And, if it IS true, perhaps you should focus more time on your contestants and less time on your own personal brand.

BrosuranceIn an effort to encourage Millenials to sign up for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado launched a series of ads as part of a campaign entitled “Got Insurance?”

The series of ads feature young adults (18-26) in “typical” situations that are intended to be fresh and speak to us on our own level.  Most of the ads, nicknamed “brosurance,” AKA insurance for bros, are offensive, and some might say, stupid.  One of the worst shows a young woman holding a package of birth control pills with a guy standing next to her.  The caption reads, “Let’s get physical.  OMG he’s hot! Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control.  My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers.”

I understand that this ad is supposed to target the “modern woman” who is in control of her life and makes her own decisions.  This ad, however, just makes the girl look, well, not smart.  It’s fine to use birth control, and it’s fine to talk about sex openly.  What’s not OK is the fact that the girl in the ad seems to be saying that she only takes birth control so she can have sex and in no way indicates that she is practicing safe sex.

When targeting a specific age group, it’s important to understand said age group. What people do in their private lives should stay there. This approach most definitely didn’t do it for me.  It is critical for brands and government organizations to listen first, and begin to communicate after gaining an understanding of how and where their target wants to be communicated with. And yes, I said with, not to.

 

Seriously Google, well done.  As a fan of a teaser campaign and someone always looking for new brand experiences, let alone an ultra-cool floating venue, I have been watching the mystery of the Bay Area Barge unfold.  Its amazing how well played this “stunt” was. cn-image-google-barge And,as marketers we know it could have gone so wrong.  Think about the planted light boxes in the Boston tunnels a few years back…oops.

Want to hear more, check out the following Inc. column written by Steve Cody that speaks to the good, bad and ugly of the marketing tease.

Cracking the PR Code of the Google Mystery Barge 

 

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For the past two days I have had the fun time of my favorite goddaughter Emma hanging out in my office.  I have been educated and entertained by The Adventurous Adventures of One Direction , realized how short I am without work heels, and most of all got a lesson is what is cool for the Almost-Millennial generation.  Let’s be honest, I used to brainstorm about reaching Generation Y, so I know how quick Millennials will be out as the target demo.  So where are the next gen hanging out.  According to Emma, it’s all about Instagram.  This may be because some of the other platforms are currently banned for said 12-year-old, but regardless this platform is offering her generation a lot to talk about.

Emma?

Instagram is definitely where kids my age are hanging out. We love to take pictures and share them with our little social circle of followers and followed people. Not only is Instagram a great way to reach out to friends, but it’s also a place for fan pages, business pages, and so much more! I think one of the big reasons Instagram is so popular is because of the fact that you can express yourself creatively. May it be through video or photo; whatever you have posted can have its own originality to it. Before you post a picture or video, you can choose an effect to add to it. You can also focus on certain parts and light it up a little, making even the simplest picture look professional. Unlike some social media, Instagram focuses on visuals, and then adds the option to add words to it. People use this instead of Vine, another mobile social media platform that allows you to take videos and post them, because it gives you the option whether or not to do just a picture, or an entire video. Also, you may edit the video with the effects, like I mentioned before, which Vine didn’t offer. Let’s face it, Facebook is dying. The younger generation is gathering in Twitter or Instagram. The only people who are on Facebook nowadays are parents.

As I mentioned before, many business pages are finding their way onto Instagram. And, while you’re there, you may as well do a promotional activity! Oreo is definitely an example of this statement. A little while back, Oreo hosted the #cookiethis #creamthis competition. The instructions were to take a picture of whatever you wanted Oreo-fyed, and hashtag it either #cookiethis or #creamthis. If the Oreo team found your picture interesting, they would begin to mold your picture into either cookie or cream, depending on what you hashtagged. At the end of the event, they looked at the total amount of hashtags in each category to see which ingredient was the favorite; cookie or cream. Cream won with an outstanding 21,050 to 17,060 hashtags. I can only imagine how cool it would have been to get your picture chosen as art! After looking at all of the pictures they put up, you really wanted to buy an Oreo cookie! Some of the things the artists made were very cool. (See picture). I, of course, would have gone Team Cream. Who wouldn’t?

Not sure which side I am on, but Emma’s reasoning seems to ring true for most social platforms.  Ultimately, it comes down to some of the same reasons people first migrated to MySpace or Friendster.  Its a cool new place to talk about what they want, where they want and how they want it.  It may not be the platform-du-jour for very long, but for now marketers can learn something from Oreo (heck they made it on the Today Show) and for sure something from Emma.

Hello FloNo matter what names we give menstruation, Aunt Flo, Time of the Month, Crimson Wave, The Rag, Period, it still sucks and tends to make others (ahem, men) uncomfortable.  So, when I saw “The Camp Gyno” viral video promoting the Hello Flo Starter Kit, I couldn’t help but laugh at the boldness of the campaign.  Not only does this video remove all stigmas attached to menstruation, but it makes it look cool and desirable for young girls!

The video shows a young, unpopular girl getting her period at camp for the first time- and her subsequent rise up the social ranks as she explains the monthly visits to her clueless peers.  She shows them the ins and outs of menstruation, provides tampons and gives tough love to girls moaning about cramps.  At the end of the video, she is put out of business by the Hello Flo Starter Kit that prepares young girls for their first period.  Each kit includes:

  • A handful of light and regular Tampax Pearl tampons
  • Enough Always pads and liners to get her through her first cycle
  • Get Ready Guide for Parents
  • Get Ready Guide for Girls
  • A cute canvas pouch for taking supplies on the go
  • A Do-it-yourself Feby Kit
  • Surprise Gifts and Goodies

Kotex definitely got the ball rolling on the whole “embrace your body” trend two years ago after making fun of previous ad campaigns.  While the new approach was definitely interesting, I didn’t switch brands. I appreciated the concept, but it just didn’t hit home for me.

The creators of the starter kit and subsequent viral video, however, are geniuses. If ever an age bracket were susceptible to merchandise, tweens are it! Looking back, I know that I would have BEGGED my mom for this kit.  If not for the candy, then I would’ve definitely wanted it for the simple reason of receiving a package in the mail. Hell, if this were marketed for 20-somethings I’d buy it.  Why? Because I absolutely love the premise and am very curious to see what the “surprise gifts and goodies” mentioned above might entail. So, the next time you are marketing a product geared towards a “don’t ask, don’t tell” problem, try to make it funny like the Hello Flo Starter Kit folks did!

For years, stereotypes of men and wodonnareedmen have been played-out in marketing campaigns.  From the happy mom receiving a new Hoover for Mother’s Day to a dad shuffling off to the office leaving mom on the doorstep with a kiss.  But we all know these won’t fly today, they seem down-right archaic and ideas screaming for backlash from every direction.  So one has to ask, why would Clorox take a giant leap back into a dad stereotype?

Clorox’s stereotyping Facebook flub was recently called out by CNN, “Just when you think derogatory stereotypes about dads are on the decline as fathers take a more hands-on role in child-rearing, along comes an online posting by a major brand that shows not everyone got the memo.”

The post more-or-less slammed new dads as being “filled with good intentions but lacking the judgment and fine motor skills to execute well.” Clorox claims it was just a humorous post from a real new dad, but with daddy bloggers on the rise and more men staying at home with kids today than ever, the consumer voice was heard, and heard loudly. And it was not just the men.

So where did they go wrong?  As I have learned working on some mom focused brands, one can never assume there is just one mom-type or just one dad-type anymore.  And all of these types have a voice. In addition, if you are trying to be lighthearted and funny, you have to be very clear and over the top.  And finally, if you are going to toss out some facts about dads have something to back it up.  Years ago we surveyed men and women about who manages chores at home, finding the 86% of women take on the laundry (most by choice).  A stereotype yes, but a result of a survey.  And we used that fact to motivate the both parties; not just point out the mistakes.

Some people say that the backlash is too much and people need to lighten up, others are furious.  But either way the polarizing post has cast negativity on Clorox.  Clorox has taken the article down and apologized, but like a tough stain I think the damage is done.

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In the last couple of days two iconic consumer brands have caught my attention with major engagement campaigns: P&G and AMEX. You question P&G as a consumer brand?  I beg to differ. Even my 85 year old nonna knows that P&G makes Tide.

That is the beauty of their Everyday Effect campaign. The premise is that innovation is (or should be) driven by how it can affect our everyday lives, and they are cleverly showing how their gamut of products do that through Facebook, as well as live events.  Yesterday in NY there were five, yes five, Everyday Effect locations each catering to a different audience, including our four-legged friends.

What’s more interesting to me as a marketer is that the Facebook page has a section for consumers to celebrate their everyday effect through a share your story function. Although the form does not require you to select a product or brand to post nearly EVERY one mentions a P&G brand.  If you click on the Need Some Inspiration option, that is the only place they refer to products as an example, not a requirement.  Because these products are present in and help with consumers’ day to-day, they have an emotional connection to most and are telling P&G’s story for them.  In my opinion, that alone makes this campaign worth the spend.

More on AMEX’s #PassionProject in my next blog.