Friday, August 29, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 5: UNIQUENESS

It goes without saying that effective marketing to youth is both unique and impactful. In fact, youth are perhaps the audience who demands uniqueness the most in their advertising because of the competing sources for their attention, their dynamic multiuse of media, and their relative low tolerance for pithy, info-focused messages. Hit them hard and hit them fast. As my co-blogger and fellow B!G Executive, Olga, wrote in her previous post, if you can also make them laugh, then awesome!

As I’ve introduced in previous posts in this series on marketing to youth, uniqueness is rooted in Gen Y’s strong sense of individuality. Bland or generic brands simply have no place in the spectrum of bold designs and transparent, authentic company values. This was the problem, among others, faced by The Gap at the end of the 90s when customers began to fall out of favour with the unoffensive blue and white style that the store was so well known for. Gap became dull and quickly lost touch with changing consumer trends. There was nothing to make its brand voice unique and identifiable among the din raised by all other casual apparel retailers.

In comparison to the other youth marketing best practices which we’ve analyzed here – transparency, participation, and relevance – uniqueness stands out as being perhaps the most uncontrollable and challenging to master. How do you inform a brand manager how to come up with a witty zinger subject line in the email? How do you suggest a standout call to action in an experiential marketing campaign when it has never been attempted by the brand before and there’s no basis for determining whether it will prove to be a success.

Uniqueness is a gamble.

It’s a risk that brands must take to show that they can be unconventional and hip, while also retaining the legacy aspects of the brands values that appeal to the demographic. Condom manufacturers (from Europe) have always seemed to excel at this:

A real standout though - and I seriously wish I could find an embeddable clip to show - is, a microsite created specifically for a HP laptop contest. MacLaren Momentum, a Canadian promo agency created it and integrated the online campaign with some pretty scary tv spots that are currently running on Much and MTV Canada. Great ads that immediately capture one’s attention and pique interest. Why? Because they’re unique and unlike other sales ads for electronics and back to school shopping.

Although not specifically targeted to youth, another famous commercial from HP stands out and perfectly conveys the simplicity of the ‘click and print’ message:

Also clever is this from Guinness, too bad it didn’t show here:

But uniqueness from the Gen Y perspective implies originality as much as any twist, pun, and memorable tagline. Sure, your spot is quirky or obscene…but has it been done before and been overplayed too much? Marketers’ zeal to have a commercial or campaign out the door with a zippy message can sometimes do more harm than good if that message has been diluted and worn out in the consumer’s mind. Enough already with the Telus animals and the Rogers Wireless teenagers on summer vacation. Go home, Abercrombie, with your intimidating abdominals and idealized WASPy lifestyle. No one lives like that!

…I wish my high school experience was like that…so full of beauty and boredom. Suddenly I feel like I’m not wearing enough pointless dogtag chains. And stop trying to pay homage to the semi-nude B&W style of photography of Herb Ritts:

Being derivative and unoriginal can only get a brand so far with a young audience. Gen Ys crave creativity and novelty. New content, media, or ideas all resonate with the ring of a tuning fork to young consumers’ ears. Repetitive messages and different plays of the same game really are unsustainable brand strategies that do nothing to push the brand forward in new directions and build itself a new avid base of customers.

Being unique is a great quality. You stand apart and can assuredly state that your values and message is your own. For marketers that’s a golden ideal in brand building and it’s a moral that youth consumers live by.

So there it is, the best practices for youth marketing. It has to be transparent, participative, relevant, and unique. Hit all these, with a little bit of luck, and some magic pixie dust, and you'll have an effective campaign that stands out and still builds the brand.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 4: RELEVANCE

Relevance is the name of the game today in our five part series of youth marketing best practices.

You know those songs we have in our iPods that are really embarrassing and we don’t really share with anyone? Well, mine came on shuffle today, Hilary Duff’s “Wake Up”…so as I laughed and strutted my way home I reflected about Hilary Duff.

Where has she gone? What has she even done lately? It really does seem like she vanished off the face of the planet. The somewhat ephemeral nature of popstars is not particularly new or earth-shattering, but it is a useful context for tonight’s topic. Teens cultivate a remarkable bond with bands, celebrities, clothing styles, and friends, and then just as easily drop them from their folio of favourites. Record companies have encouraged and played to this fickleness and churn and prepare their next star far in advance of their fifteen minutes.

How does one explain this churn in youth consumer attitudes? It’s because new things become relevant in their lives. Like the Kirk and Spock performing a slingshot maneuver around the sun in a Klingon Bird of Prey in an attempt to go back in time in Star Trek IV, the Voyage Home (see minute 1:40…!), youth frequently can have a very strong attraction and repulsion from consumer brands. This is natural and all based on relevance.

When Gen Ys like something, it is strongly based on how relevant it is to their lives and its fit within the context of their other interests. Relevance implies a meaningfulness to me and an compatibility of my own values with those of the thing. For example:

  • Obama is relevant to me because we share the same opinion of certain issues
  • Triscuit crackers are relevant to me because they’re not made with trans fat and I am careful about what I eat
  • Applying for graduate school bursaries is relevant to me because I am desperate for cash during a time when I have no income!

In marketing, relevance is therefore highly intertwined with the explicit (spoken) and implicit (assumed) values of the brand. To appeal to youth, these must be easily communicated and the relevance to them made singularly clear.

Experiential marketing is actually a useful technique in which to analyze relevance as a factor for marketing to youth. Consumer experiences are rich, holistic brand moments in which the individual plays the lead role. This form of marketing is effective to convey relevance because it hits the consumer at a moment they have actively opted-in to. A simple example: you try a potato chip sample in the grocery store because you want to. You’re likelihood to actually buy those chips is now much higher because of your active role in the environment of the grocery store. Compare your likelihood to buy the chips if you sampled them in-store versus on the street outside of a subway entrance – a situation that is irrelevant to the act of eating junk food.

Last year’s Virgin Festival provides some useful examples of experiential marketing being widely utilized as a way to drive home relevance of the brand to the target market. The psychological equation goes: ‘I am attending the Virgin Festival, General Motors is also attending the Virgin Festival, therefore GM is relevant to me and the context I’m in’. The same logic applies to why brands will sponsor bands or tv shows. It associates your interest for that band or show to the brand itself.

Here’s Virgin Mobile:

And xBox:

And Energizer:

…wow, look at that line. I actually played this last year at the Festival and won a beach ball!

But relevance must mean more than just making sure that the brand message hits the right themes and notes with the audience. It must also mean more than being present in situations where the consumer has a higher perceptual tuning to the message you’re selling (the grocery store, the Virgin Festival…). The biggest opportunity for relevance to be increased in youth marketing comes from leveraging the power of CRM programs. Building these out to a level of sophistication that captures varied forms of activity and interaction that youth may have with a brand is absolutely essential. Consider the profile of a the following young man who loves Axe bodyspray (otherwise known as glorified Glade air freshener for armpits):

  • Purchases two cans on sale at Shoppers and swipes his Optimum card at the register
  • Goes online to enter promotional codes from the cans he just bought on a special Axe microsite
  • Watches a clip on the microsite and send it to his friends through a form on the microsite
  • Enters a contest through his phone and participates in a viral MMS campaign for Axe

So this guy’s obviously avid, but consider the tremendous marketing potential of all the data that was collected. The frequency, the overall spend, the logins and online referrals, the multiple touchpoints now captured for this one guy…not to mention the shopping cart data collected and owned by SDM through his swipe of the Optimum card. (SDM can sell direct mailing and merchandising opportunities to Axe based on the collection of this in-store individual consumer data)

As discussed yesterday in relation to participation, CRM programs has the ability to integrate complex patterns of consumer activity and match this to existing demographic fields. The psychological profiling is limitless.

Very scary, yes, but the good news? With all the data we give up daily into the consumer world, we’re making it easier for marketers to hit us with messages that are relevant and meaningful. Marketing is no longer mass. As Tony Chapman states, it has moved ‘from mass to mind’, underscoring the greater emphasis on personalized marketing specific to each consumer.

Relevance must be a strong part of any campaign for youth. Relevant marketing campaigns stay in the consumer’s hands and mind longer than generic ads and are great methods of deepening a preexisting relationship. Although youth are highly skeptical and dismissive of marketing which can be too cloying and sycophantic for their personal information, they do respond to marketing that recognizes their unique individuality.

Tomorrow we will examine the fifth and final youth marketing best practice, uniqueness.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 3: PARTICIPATION

Today we’re going to analyze Participation, Part Three of our series on Marketing to Youth.

I am lazy. I love being lazy. That’s part of the reason why this blog post is a few hours delayed tonight! Youth are lazy about a lot of things. Don’t misconstrue it as apathy, just consider it to be the antithesis of other very intense relationships that youth have for things that interest them. So if I’m not actively engaged in something that excites me, stimulates me, or challenges me, it’s easy to see why I might be dragging my feet.

For marketers, activating youth on things that interest them really does depend on giving them opportunities for participation. It’s not good enough anymore to focus on the traditional facets of CRM-based marketing: name, address, age, and gender. Youth are complex individuals and binary variables in some database do not accurately reflect the mosaic of their interests, attributes, and consumer actions.

Don’t ever think that “relationship-marketing” should continue to mean culling consumer mailing segments from a master list and sending each person direct mail with their correct name and address. This is far too simple to be the norm for an actively consuming demographic which feels comfortable opening up to marketers. Encouraging a dual communication strategy in relationship-marketing – based on actively listening and responding to individual consumer voices – is essential to intensify relationships and retain consumers.

And youth will love it.

Seriously. When has a Gen Y not shown an ability to speak their mind? To create something individual? To put their stamp of approval on something? Remember, this is a generation raised by parents that pushed excellence and socialization on kids at a very early age. Giving feedback comes naturally to us.

So let’s call this the “Participation Motivation”. It’s a need to be heard and to be responded to. To be liked and to be given the right rewards. It’s also the cause of a really strong affinity for deep personal interests. For example, I write this blog because I have a strong personal interest in building my brand. We previously discussed Lovemarks and the same guiding principles apply: Gen Y is hardly apathetic about things that interest them and will wax lyrical on brands, issues, people, media, or things that are meaningful to them. Often this is satisfied by forms of creative expression.

And here’s where marketers come in. The good campaigns realize how the concept of ‘participation’ has evolved from providing census-style information to providing first-person insight into their relationship with a brand. It’s like a mass form of focus group research. I really admire the brands which have been able to activate consumers to create ads and commercials for them. It’s terrific word-of-mouth marketing and gets people to reflect on why they are close to a brand. I like to think that this brand reflection mirrors Maslow’s self-actualization stage in the hierarchy of needs!

Who encourages participation: Nike, Obama, Radiohead (first they release the In Rainbows album for free online, then they have a contest for who can create the best music video for each of the songs. Watch the terrific user-gen video for ‘Reckoner’. Great strategy.)

Watch more cool animation and creative cartoons at aniBoom

And remember this Super Bowl ad for Tide-to-Go? A consumer created it.

Nick Haley, an Apple fan, created a video commercial for the release of the iPod Touch, it achieved traction on YouTube, and the Apple team actually brought him in and produced his commercial. Impressive!

Who does not encourage participation: Rogers Wireless (how exactly can I develop my relationship with them on a more cerebral level…?), many apparel retailers actually (there’s limited brand development beyond perceptional massaging through mass ads and in-store experience. Room for much more experiential marketing that involves consumer participation)

Youth really do love the brands that are meaningful to them. They’ll engage with those brands in unique and varied ways, for example, adding “Ford Mustang” as a friend on one’s Facebook page….not to suggest anything…

Participation is critical and must be present in every touchpoint with youth consumers. It doesn’t matter whether they love you or hate you – it’s important to get feedback from this vocal and quick-thinking group.

Tomorrow we will examine relevance, my favourite of the four key aspects of marketing to youth.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 2: TRANSPARENCY

We’re at Day Two of the Analysis of Youth Marketing. Today we’ll examine transparency, a critical factor of effective marketing to youth.

Youth value authenticity and reality. These qualities permeate their online and offline lives where ‘defining oneself’ is as much an act of self-expression as a pastime and filler of spare time. Customizable iPod skins, modular and unique Facebook pages, and rich media applications that allow users to generate their own content are embedded in the social lives of youth. These examples – emphasizing the personalization of youths’ consumer lives – aren’t exactly shocking when you consider how Gen Y was raised. Highly involved baby boomer parents have cultivated our individualism and forged a sense of self in Gen Ys that could cut through concrete.

The relevance for marketers is that this personalization is never unauthentic. Gen Ys are encouraged to be themselves and put their stamp of individual approval on every aspect of their lives. So for a brand to masquerade as something it’s not or to primp and posture itself as ‘hot shit’ to an audience that has not yet validated that assertion can mean brand seppuku.

To be less wordy, this means that brands that are not transparent about themselves do not succeed in a youth market. Why? It’s the same reason why we hate posers. They’re just lame.

Here are a few signs that you marketing reeks of lame-i-tude and is not transparent enough:

  • Excessive use of teenage slang and speech patterns
  • Portrayal of teenagers by 25-30 year old commercial actors
  • Pompous style that suggests that your brand is cool and is somehow an authority on what youth like

But it’s not just trying too hard that can get a brand in trouble.

For a marketer to be transparent with youth consumers requires full disclosure about the purpose of the communication, the intended action to be taken by consumers as a result of the marketing, and the future relationship that the marketer would like to develop with them. There’s no way that this can all be communicated in one unique touch with a consumer, but if the style does not suggest that everything is on the table, then the youth consumer has no interest in even including the brand in their lives.

Remember, youth receive thousands of competing messages a day. Why should we listen to you in particular? The hook is as much excitement and buzz as it is the ability to portray yourself as a real brand with values that we can identify with.

So let’s analyze:

Who is transparent: Coke, Nike, Converse, Marilyn Manson (actually yes…when has he not

…btw, I’m a huge Manson fan. Watch one of the most offensive moments on television here.

Who is not transparent: NKOTB, High School Musical (despite its massive popularity), Dove (Unilever also makes Axe…think about the contrasting brand values), Rogers Wireless

…boo. Too much product placement, too distant from reality, too offensive to youth sensibilities. I do not identify with these actors. My friends do not identify with these actors. Missed. The. Mark.

Instead, let’s see a great example of an on-message commercial that has zero pretenses and speaks to the needs of young buyers:

(Or maybe I just like the beat…)

To marketers, the value of being transparent is that they can devote less time to embellishing false claims and more time to doing what the brand does best. Less energy is wasted thinking about how to tart up the brand to appeal to youth consumers and more energy is spent thinking about how to effectively develop meaningful relationships with the right consumers.

Youth are fickle and will as quickly drop you from their consuming lives as you were added to them. Marketers must expect and be prepared for this. You can be delightfully surprised when your brand actually achieves a modicum of traction and staying-power among this highly mobile and dynamic demographic. Transparency – underscoring the honest and authentic description of a brand in marketing communications – is essential to for any youth audience.

Tomorrow we’ll analyze participation, the second critical variable in marketing to youth.

been on message or uncompromising in what he says?)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marketing to youth: Part 1: INTRODUCTION

I really don’t mean to frequently piss and moan about how marketers just ‘don’t get it’ when trying to connect and build relationships with Gen Y, but it’s a topic I feel really deserves more analysis.

With very rare exception, young consumers will affirm that they are not affected by marketing – that somehow they are able to discern truth from fiction, pitch from pulp, and weed out messages that are irrelevant and uninteresting to them. I’m not disputing that youth are adept colanders of information. Our generation has a remarkable capacity to handle multimedia simultaneously and segment our attention among multiple competing sources. Consider how easily we browse the internet, talk on the phone, on MSN, use Facebook, and watch streaming video at the same time. Marketers have difficulty among this cacophony so the typical response is to scream louder at youth consumers, thus adding to the noise and the overall muting of each marketer’s message.

Hear that humming noise? I know the under-25 readers of this blog hear it. Yeah…it’s the sound of a thousand different marketing messages competing for your attention. No wonder Gen Y considers themselves savvy and selective when it comes to consuming. They are able to pick and choose among an immense spectrum of brands competing for their attention and money. Who’s the boss? You.

So when analyzed in this sense, it’s no wonder that youth consumers think highly of themselves when it comes to knowing what to buy and the perceived insignificant impact that marketing has on them. They are (and always were) the authority on what was bought and what was not.

Now, let’s stop thinking that we’re immune to marketing. Obviously you make one decision over another and one brand out of the 100 competing for your attention ultimately gets it. What has made you select that one company? Is it your friends? Youth consumers are information seekers as much as they are willing participants in a culture of conformity and popularity. They’ll be high frugal and choosy about where to spend dollars, comparing features and specs for many types of products, but they are also highly influenced by friends, perception, and traditional marketing techniques that rely on primacy, recency, and spontaneity.

And what about things we allow into our lives but that we don’t purchase. Those who say marketing is only meant to make us purchase things that we don’t want/need are missing a whole other perspective. What about all the marketing that goes into intangibles: who we vote for, what social causes we get behind, what environmental issues we choose to devote attention to, what neighbourhood in a city we choose to live in, what free online applications we choose to use, what songs we download and don’t pay for, what tv shows we stream, what slang we choose to adopt, what celebrities we identify with, what courses we choose to take in school (yes…industrial and professional associations make big investments into educating and funding school programs so that their profession has a future harvest of labour). How can youth now honestly make the assertion that they are unaffected by marketing?

With that aside, I propose to help articulate some ground rules for defining modern youth marketing. Over the next four days I’ll be writing about four important concepts that are essential for marketers to realistically engage youth consumers:


We’ll look at examples of marketers who have done things right and those who might need a little work.

It’s funny when people say that they are immune to marketing. Maybe they’re immune to screaming advertising, but not marketing. As an eternal optimist, I’d like to believe that a better understanding of how marketing affects Gen Y will ultimately precipitate fewer irrelevant ad blitzes by out-of-touch companies looking to increase market share, but greater tactical executions which companies use to deepen and nurture relationships with their best customers.

Although they’d never admit it, Gen Y customers reflect positively on marketing that is relevant and meaningful to them personally.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The weekend links

Hey everyone, see our new survey poll at the right. Here are today's fresh weekend links:

Is it me or does Microsoft's site look even more unintelligible and unintuitive then ever before? See this and other sites through the years in this retrospective of online screencaps.

Good Magazine analyzes Amtrak, a great first-hand analysis about why the US train system is so messed up. Embarrassing. The US wants a comprehensive energy policy but can't even get its act together for a national train system that works. How does Canada compare?

I want the garden zombie. See this and ten other bizarre things you can actually buy online courtesy of dirty rotten scoundrels.

So Betty Rubble wasn't included in the Flintstones vitamins series because she didn't test well? I'm loving this author and the other articles at

I don't dispute this one bit. Le Corbusier is the greatest architect the 20th century.

Terrific use of out-of-home billboard advertising by the WWF.

It really does look like this when we go shopping. See photographer Denis Darzacq's surrealist take on consumerism.

I'm glad that I can safely experience these various views through glass floors around the world.

Pimped-out snails as part of a public art project in London. Cool guerrilla tactics.

Smmmmmmoke......all the cool kids are doing least that's what older generations' tobacco marketers would have you believe.

Mad Men - a show I finally finished downloading for free and must now begin to watch religiously. Michael Bierut's analysis of the show's 'art of the art pitch' description is pretty smart.

Retro modem sounds. Ahh...1995!

Artistic and inspired ads from a WWF campaign. Viewer discretion warning.

Really? Does that also mean that all truth is an illusion? Lol, the Nietzsche Family Circus is pretty funny. Press refresh to randomly create your own.

And finally, something light and pretty funny to end a lovely late summer weekend - hilarious "look out behind you" photos!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to school marketing: High School Conformity: the Musical!!!

The back to school retail crush is the second largest moneymaker for retail stores after Christmas. It’s when teen and kids apparel manufacturers roll out the latest styles and new clothes are bought for the next school year.

From a marketing perspective, back to school advertising fascinates me because of not only the sleazy shillery used to position the retail brand as the ‘arbiter of cool’ but also because the message must appeal to both kids and their parents.

The extent of my back to school shopping will be confined to gasoline and overpriced textbooks. For this, I’m thankful because I don’t have to endure the mania and feelings of inadequacy commonly experienced by kids half my age going back to school or entering high school for the first time. I remember the trepidation and anxiety of that first day. It was like a heady brew of excitement, untested confidence, and seriously laughable preppy thug bravado.

Kids going to school have enough to worry about, so why does it seem that retail marketers are now making them worry about whether they have the right clothes? I’m also sensing that the implicit message of these ads – conformity creates credibility – has become distastefully more palatable in recent years. It’s a common truism that having cool back to school clothes is important, but the difference with these ads is that you must now have the right back to school clothes. Like the retail big-box contagion spreading commercial infection across the suburban landscape, youth personal style and individualism is being nullified in favour of The Standard.

Who is The Standard? They’re the star of the back to school ad. They’re Nietzsche’s Ubermench, only in high school. The Standard is guided as much by rationality and reason as the desire to confirm. They’re identifiable by prominent logos and popstars brandished on neutral and unoffensively coloured clothing. They take a leading but never standout role. This is the person (notice that I didn’t say individual…) who all students strive to be.

How is The Standard advertised? Pay close attention in back to school ads for any of the following portrayals of The Standard:

  • 25-year olds playing high school freshman performing highly acrobatic choreography in school hallways
  • Token black hip-hop dancers shown immediately adjacent to The Standard (notice that The Standard is invariably white)
  • Lip syncing lame lyrics, for example “I’m going back to school, and it’s so cool”
  • And finally, The Standard is always shown as fitting in among the other Standards. This is critical.

So with that short preface, let’s evaluate some of the worst offenders in back to school marketing:

SEARS: Don’t just go back, Arrive

This spot amazes me. So Vanessa Hudgens, The Standard of High School Musical has been paid to lip sync and pulsate to an over-synthesized song about going back to school. If you can’t stomach the commercial enough to watch (and I can’t say I blame you), her dilemma is that she can’t decide whether to be The Preppy, The Rocker, or The Glam on her first day back. In the final act of the commercial, these three styles merge together to create some trashy-looking excuse for an outfit.

The tagline, "Don’t just go back, arrive" is intriguing and memorable. It’s stance is almost threatening and bullish to teenagers who are asked to rise to the challenge and go back to school as an indomitable fashion force.

Effective? I’m not sure… How easily will kids remember that this message is associated to Sears? Overall, this ad really doesn’t offend me because the message still resonates with the attitude that it’s ok to have a personal style. They’re also not hocking actual articles of clothing, more like an assemblage of awkward, juxtaposed pieces.

Listen closely to the lyrics though. My biggest criticism of this ad is the lyric “Be smart, look sharp, if you’re gonna survive”…um, what???

JC PENNEY: Get the look – The Breakfast Club

At first blush, this is a pretty lame excuse for a commercial. The director has reproduced and dehydrated the original John Hughes movie down to a highly clip-focused one minute homage. They even cast kids to look like Ali Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Anthony Michael Hall. The cover version of Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t you forget about me’ kinda blows, but alright…that’s what kids listen to today.

With the exception of the campaign tagline “Get the look” which whiffs of conformity, there’s nothing really offensive about this ad. But it’s stupid right? I mean, the people for whom The Breakfast Club was a relevant movie are now in their late 30s and early 40s. Why would they care about back to school shopping..............?

Wait, so you mean this ad is really targeted at the parents and not the kids? Smart.

TARGET: The Jonas Brothers

I’m really sorry for posting this, but we’re a youth marketing agency and the Jonas Brothers are a highly influential brand to our target demographic. Nothing offensive here, other than perhaps the Jonas Brothers themselves. It’s your standard celebrity endorsement ad, not a whole lot of conformity, other than perhaps subtle message to shop at Target because that’s where the Jonas Brothers were advertised.

Effective? Maybe for teenage girls. It depends on how well they can convince their moms that celebrity endorsements are more powerful than cost-savings, so therefore they should choose to shop at Target.


A bunch of ads here, all of which are uncompromising in their sleazy salesmanship and unabashed lack of morals.

#1: The Kiss

What an appeal to terrified moms fretful over how their children will be accepted and well-prepared for school. Wal-Mart’s value proposition is, of course, its cost-savings over competitors. This message is prominently made clear in the voiceover at the end. I also think that the actress playing the mom needs to lay off the Dramamine. She sounds like she’s lucid dreaming when uttering the line “that’s why I go to Wal-Mart”….no, that’s why you’re hypnotized into going to Wal-Mart!

#2: Hannah Montana

Wow…why is that 12 year old little girl dressing like she’s 23?

This is only a half-spot, 15-second commercial so it packs a small punch. The difference between this and a longer spot is that the focus is on the articles of clothing rather than the overall style (this would have required a story arc). And do kids entering school need to ‘bring it on’? Bring what on?

#3: “I can’t go with her…”

“I like your top” – there, 10 seconds in and the audience has already been informed that the reason why this new girl is allowed to sit at the lunch table with the other girls is because they think her style fits in with theirs.

And that’s really what back to school advertising is all about. Yes, I’ve left the worst commercial to the end because I think Wal-Mart really made no qualms about the message it wanted to convey in this spot. How about the line “she needs to feel good about herself without breaking my budget”? This assertion only reinforces the insecurity of many young girls to feel included and popular by having the right clothes. Obviously ‘feeling good’ comes from only having the right clothes for back to school, and not from a more intrinsic, self-derived confidence with oneself.

Wow Wal-Mart, what a stinker.

But the question that I just want answered is why is this older woman talking to herself in the middle of a busy high school hallway….?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Your face beyond Facebook: Self-Marketing Part II

Now that you are done clearing up Facebook and removing that video of you jumping on top of a cop car from YouTube, we can move on to positive online person building. I've convinced you that you need your website. Here's how it goes.


Building a webpage may sound difficult and these examples were not done by amateurs, but this does not mean that your website has to outdo anyone’s in Flash animation banners – unless you are looking to get into web design. People come to learn about you. For those who are coding impaired, there are some services that can help you drag-and-drop your content into place and have comprehensive tutorials. is a good example and it also offers affordable hosting. Geocities’ PageBuilder tool is another great one. Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of web design. The old rule stands: Keep it simple, sweetie.

Your website should contain three basic elements:

1. A good photograph of yourself. This may even require a trip to a photo studio. Look friendly and approachable, but let your clean, crisp dress ooze professionalism.

Would you like to have this fella over for dinner? (This is Max Billings, B!G's pres. He's probably very flattered.)

2) Your resume. I cannot emphasize how important it is that all spelling is correct and all your verbs (designed, implemented, assisted, etc.) are all in the same tense. Make sure the spacing on the website is just as you wanted it in IE, Firefox, and Safari. Your drag and drop website should help you with that. If all else fails with the formatting, save it as a PDF file and have your “My Resume” link lead directly to the PDF file. Make sure that there are no red or green underlines, like in Microsoft Word, especially under your name. They will show up in PDF.

3) An introduction. This will serve as your one-size-fits-all cover letter. Briefly describe yourself and have a short paragraph for each of the following: past, present and future. Highlight major professional accomplishments and your future projects.

Link, Link, Link

Linking to other websites, those relevant to your own experiences of course, is very important. It provides more insight for your viewers into what you have accomplished.

It also serves as proof that you really are involved in these activities - some employers tend to wonder sometimes. If your local newspaper mentioned your track and field abilities in an article, link to it. If you volunteered at a charity event, like a race, link to the event. It underscores your accomplishments and dedication to your goals.

It’s all about you

Besides the basics, you may want to discuss things you are really passionate about and the direction where you would like to take them. The Bright Ideas Group’s very own Sid Wahi has a website full of his mini-shrines to his most coveted activities, namely web design and stock portfolio and his high school experiences – you would too if you went to school in the Himalayas. Devang has a display of his travels and scuba diving expeditions. Remember, pictures are worth a thousand words so instead of describing your travels or rock climbing adventures, put up a few photographs, maybe one per blurb.

Write what you know

Your website should include topics that will present a more accurate picture of your personality. Are you an enthusiastic reader or film buff? Build a page of reviews and recommendations of your favourite movies and books, with brief but deep analysis. Avoid giving a worst-ever list of books and movies. You want your readers to get positive vibes.

Be like Roger. Show your thumbs.

Do you have a flare for finance and developing your own analysis for the way the markets/economy is going? Sid’s website includes articles about the mortgage crisis and analysis of his own stock picks. Even if your portfolio isn’t skyrocketing at the moment – and who’s is in this day and age (those who sell short)– don’t be ashamed. Learn from your mistakes and evaluate errors. Employers see strength in well evaluated faults. Incorporate these into your write ups.

Don't feel bad if thing's don't go your way. Learn from your mistakes.

Keep it real

Finally, remember to be honest. If you are considering this, you probably have a few things going on already and are just looking for a way to discuss them. There is no need to exaggerate your past feats or future aspirations. If your future goal is to climb Mount Everest, but you haven’t even been to an indoor rock climbing course, you’ll look like you’re blowing hot air.

The viewer should leave thinking that they have learned something about you and with a burning desire to find out more.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Your face beyond Facebook: Self-Marketing Part I

In the sales field of any industry, be it real estate, cars, retail or wholesale, the sales person must sell themselves in addition to the product. Their manner, their appearance, their skills, and how interesting and engaging they are in conversation all count a great deal. This is why golf courses exist: first hand interaction and getting to know your employees and partners better. You probably won’t get an invitation to go play golf after a brief networking/information session or an introduction through an acquaintance. That doesn’t mean that potential contacts can’t get to know you. Some may reach far to find out more about you. Reach back!

Since they will be checking their e-mail anyways, they may as well Google your name. What comes up is up to you and you have a significant amount of influence.
The internet is a very powerful tool for positive self-promotion. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Join organizations

Alright, you want positive associations to your name online. This means you have to be proactive. Join organizations that you are really passionate about. Remember, quality over quantity. I’m very much into the Bright Ideas Group but not much else.

Incidentally, if you search my name on Google, I come up as an artist on ArtNet (which I’m not – the other Ms. Ivleva does some great paintings and I don’t mind) and me in all the other sites on the first page.

This is one of her paintings. Olga's watercolours are lovely.

Contributing to an online publication is another great way to increase your web presence. Schulich’s Insider Media Group publishes articles online as well as in print. All the writers’ names are searchable along with their articles. Remember not to just join any organization: really spend time choosing one or two you can make a certain contribution to and focus strongly on those.

These organizations are likely to already have their own websites and when you start your own – and you are going to have to start your own – you can link to those websites to build an even stronger network.

Need to know basis

Facebook may seem like a great place to meet people but it’s also notorious for the potential to burn people’s characters. You and your friend’s albums may be littered with photographs of keg stands, mud wrestling matches and displays of your superhuman ability to, ahem, “roll.” You know who you are.

This photo, albeit illustrating some sort of athletic ability, does not scream "hire me!"

Some people, even recruiters, may think this all makes you a pretty fun person. Not so much in terms of an employee, especially if the company’s clients can also access this material. At a recent seminar of the Undergraduate Consulting Club, an MBA intern at the Boston Consulting Group emphasized that the interview never really ends and job hopefuls are even (candidly) evaluated for their manners and ability to hold conversation at dinner. This is certainly also true for your online persona.

Here are some steps to minimize your risk from Facebook exposure:

You may not need to delete your Facebook account. After all, what you
do in your spare time is your business. I strongly recommend making your account visible to only your friends, including your display picture.

A fun night, yes. A good display picture when looking for work, not exactly.

This one is too often overlooked. Search yourself on YouTube and GoogleVideo to ensure that your last nude dive into the pool at the summer’s party didn’t make it to public portals. A friend (or say, the BBC) might have caught you in some questionable activities when you didn’t know that the cameras were rolling. Case in point.

I met Devang Asher, a self-promotions extraordinaire, in Hindi class last year. He says he started his website because it is incredibly important to buy your domain name as everyone will be a brand in the near future. With the wide-spread ability to reach millions of people at a click of a button, you can easily capitalize on your own brand name. If you want to reach more people with fewer slashes on your business card, your own domain name is the best way to go. is significantly easier than

I’m going to provide more tips on what to include on your website in tomorrow’s post. I figured I’d give you some time to take those photos off Facebook first.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Virtual teams: achieving a Skynet level of efficiency

Despite the room space in the Schulich basement (for which we’re grateful), the Bright Ideas Group really does operate like a virtual organization. There is no fixed place where we meet, no fixed time, no fixed office protocol. As a result we have had to develop our processes and project coordination competencies to a much greater degree, relying on frequent informal communication and enforced deadlines. B!G’s virtual organization is bound by the tacit understanding shared by all Associates and Executives regarding the project objectives, industry characteristics, and evolution of the account.

That being said, there are still days when I wonder how no one else is on the same page as me!
Managing a virtual organization must come with significant challenges and we face these as we grow and develop stricter business procedures and project standards. Here are a few of my favourite virtual organization best practices and some anecdotes of how I’ve had to learn them the hard way!

Internalizing a few of these suggestions might help you mold your virtual organization from this:

…to this:

Don’t be afraid to delegate

Rarely are projects completed because individuals fall into their organic roles and competencies naturally. Delegating responsibility to Associates, especially in situations where management and team facilitation is performed remotely allows the project lead to maintain a semblance of control and accountability. Individuals on the team understand what specific deliverables they are responsible for and the team is better able to complete work separately.

Unfortunately I’ve had to learn this rule the hard way by previously taking the tack of “not micromanaging” and instead providing overarching strategy and vision rather than concrete, measured (and measurable) chunks of work.

Deadlines are useless without checkpoints

“Have it done in a month”, I used to say. No good. It was done in a month, but the actual work was only performed ridiculously close to the deadline and often showed significant gaps in the insight and scope. Of course one should set deadlines, but considering that you’re not working in a physical office with your team where you can have daily progress checks, it might make sense to also set sequential, doable hurdles for each Associate on the team. These course corrections are critical so that each individual understands not only the context of the work they have since completed, but the context of the work that they have yet to complete.

I learned this lesson the hard way when it was obvious that far more analysis needed to be performed on a client deliverable. Although it’s no excuse, the client was out of the office and would not see the deliverable for another two weeks – at which time it would be right at the top of her email inbox!

Encourage lateral communication

This is a wonderful thing to precipitate among the team because it achieves an almost viral traction for the purposes of team-building. Associates talking to each other and sharing their insights. Collaborating and coming to solid knowledge-based conclusions. It’s beautiful! While sufficient managerial guidance sets the framework and guidelines for the project to be completed, lateral communication among Associates in each team imbues feelings of self-actualization in A good virtual manager must set up the avenues to facilitate lateral communication among the team, including a private Facebook page, intranet, Google Docs, or regularly scheduled Skype conferences.

I’m not sure I ever learned this one the hard way – I love to talk and love it when my team can do the talking for me!

So those are just a few of my thoughts on how a virtual team can be successful. Although this was an original post, I must give significant credit to a recent article for providing me with the inspiration for this topic – a lot of their points about managing virtual teams resonated with my experience with B!G.

To any clients reading this, you'll be happy to know that this semester, our Associates and Executives have all been implanted with transponders and are wirelessly synced to Skynet's neural cortex.

Inefficiency is futile!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The weekend links back to our regularly scheduled programming. Congratulations to Canada btw for racking up a bunch of coin in the Games lately.

Fond wishes to Isaac Hayes, soul brother and composer of one of my favourite songs, Walk on By.

Olympics mascots fascinate me. I just saw the red Fuwa from Beijing run across the beach volleyball court in between plays. I think it was Huanhuan. It's so lumpy and rotund that maybe they could substitute the mascot for the ball.
Check out the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Games mascots. I like Quatchi. He looks like this huge tub of fur and has some odd body dysmorphic disorder.


No not DVD Easter eggs, actual eggs. I never considered ovo-advertising as a legitimate medium.

I know there are a bunch of pages like this (probably lifting content from each other too...), but still this is pretty memorable and interesting to look at. See the 24 most unforgettable advertisements.

I really like BrandDoozie, and I'm looking for a way to apply it. I'm bookmarking this page nontheless, I'm sure it will be relevant at some point down the road.

This link is a long time coming, but Cindy suggested this link about how B-Schools are branding themselves. I guess you could say the Schulich is branding for sustainability, diversity, and undergrads!

Beautiful photography with light distortion techniques. Another fantastic link courtesy of Stumble Upon - why hasn't everyone downloaded this already??

With a massive ad budget and a legacy brand to work with, why shouldn't Coke have a collection of amazing artistic ads?

So, how do I explain My Little Zombie Pony?

Powerful new thinking coming from Audi - this one's for you, Chris!

And finally, some thought-provoking insights from the folks at The Marketing Student about the terrors of Gen Y when social media technology and parenthood converge.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our new poll

Check out the new poll question, 'How do you feel about the new Bell ER ad campaign?'

Hopefully we'll get some good results from this considering how ubiquitous it is around the city!

How to pass the marketing interview: Part two

The Bright Ideas Group will be recruiting new Associates and one Executive (Research & Analysis) for the Fall. This is always a fun time for me because I get the pleasure of meeting a new crop of students who are still wide-eyed and bushy-tailed and have not become disillusioned with school, marketing, or me!

We begin advertising the open positions in the student emails next week, so in advance of the applications we'll receive I thought it's probably a good thing to describe some of my own tips for passing a marketing interview. I've already written about the things to say and the things to not say during a marketing interview, so let's discuss how one can prepare for the interview.

(Note, I assume everyone already knows to shower, shave, get professionally dressed, turn off cellphones, arrive on time, bring copies of their latest resume, and thoroughly pre-read their I'm not going to cover those obvious tips, let's leave that to the Schulich Career Development Centre)

1. Stay informed with world events. You will be asked about a current news story or event that you're following and what it is about that event that interests you personally. Frankly, good business people stay up to date anyway with the latest goings-on in the world as part of their normal activities.

2. Stay informed about marketing campaigns. You will definitely be asked about marketing trends and the evolution of modern consumers. Platitudinous or uninformed answers that rely too much on self-oriented analysis about how you yourself behave as a consumer are a nich-nich. For example, don't say that you think television ads are not impactful anymore because you've become a savvy critic of marketing and are able to parse relevant from irrelevant ad pitches. It might be helpful to do some pre-research before making pronouncements like that.

3. Stay informed about Canadian ad camapigns. Start actively thinking about the ads you see everywhere around you: in Google SERPs, in magazines, on your phone, at events, and in the stores. Collect a bunch of campaigns in your portfolio of mental examples to pull from at any point during the interview, at your leisure of course!

4. Buy a copy of Marketing Mag or subscribe to a few free enewsletters. Good ones are Creativity Online, Sherpa, eMarketer, and Ad Age. These are great to stay up-to-date with developments in the industry. It's not impressive though to say that you've

5. Assemble a mental list of critical points that you want to cover. Never expect that the interviewer will touch on every aspect of your experience, every facet of your skills, and every accomplishment in your life. Additionally, by knowing how to turn the interview into a professional conversation rather than a tense question-and-answer session, you're better able to cover those critical points if they were not already brought up.

Overall, I think it's essential that you clearly explain what value you bring to the position you're applying for and the organization in general. It's not impressive to run on about what you hope to get from the prospective position without being explicit about what the organization will get from you. If you can't even sell yourself, then what good are you for a career in marketing???

And also, loosen up, because seriously, this isn't finance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Bluenotes jeans commercial: hit it outta the park!

Bluenotes has a great new ad campaign of TV spots and a few prevalent billboards in locations downtown and on the subway. It’s evidently repositioning the brand with an older, more college-educated, ‘indie-kid’ vibe, rather than as a brand for tween girls seeking low-priced, unflatteringly ass-hugging jeans.

The campaign takes a lot of elements from other apparel and accessories campaigns:

  • Storytelling – the product is imbued with some intangible character that comes with experience and wardrobe tenure
  • Original – the jeans are unique like the people wearing them
  • PYTs – pretty young things!
I laud the team at MacLaren McCann for this whole rebrand and the ethos of the campaign. Although jeans are just distressed heavy pieces of fabric, it’s the whole backstory to where they came from, what you did in them, and how they’ve grown with you that makes them a compelling buy. Your jeans have essentially become an old friend.

Watch the new Bluenotes jeans commercial here and read the analysis from Marketing Mag here

And check out Mom Jeans, my favourite label:

Funny Mom Jeans Spoof
Funny Video! This is a spoof on how some women start wearing those high waisted pants after they get to be a certain age. You know this is true because you see women wearing them all the time.