Great product or great marketing?

What came first: the chicken or the egg?

It’s the same type of question when it comes to marketing a product — What’s more important: a great product or great marketing?

Obviously both, but that’s not always the case. In fact, when it comes to marketing, we’re not always blessed with top-of-the-line products to promote. That’s why we’re here. That’s why marketing works.

Perception is the most important word when it comes to marketing. If a consumer feels negatively toward your product, chances are you have already lost them. However, if a consumer has a positive view of your product and/or service, you set yourself up to better reach them. Maintaining that consumer is left up to the product itself.

Dan Formosa, a veteran design consultant, put it best:

Virtually every brand started life with an elevated sense of enthusiasm—every company was, at one time, a startup. Which means there was a time in every company’s history when a person or small group of people developed a product that they believed in. Once developed, they needed someone to advertise, market and sell it. The sequence started with the product, and led to a need to promote it. Over time those companies grew. To sustain themselves they needed new and improved products to sell. Because of that this sequence was often reversed. To maintain their existence companies needed to advertise, market and sell something. They needed to maintain old promises, create new promises, or a combination of both.

Music, advertising, and Millennials

When advertising to Millennials, it is essential to include “the right” music. Millennials see with their ears first. In order to best reach this demographic, it is important to pair excellent music with the product and/or service you are promoting.

Rance Crain says, “Good music can get a spot noticed; bland music can get it ignored.” He further talks about what his granddaughter told him: “If a TV is on and I’m busy with something else and I hear “blah blah blah buy me now blah blah’ I won’t bother to look up, but if I hear great music, the commercial will definitely get my attention.”

One of those great commercials, currently making the rounds, is Hershey’s spot for its candy.

This video has been viewed nearly 3 million times on YouTube alone.

It can be argued this ad is focused toward older Millennials, probably born between 1980 – 1985. But, the use of music and visuals is spot on. Hershey’s did an excellent job of using a song older Millennials are familiar with and making it new with a younger voice. (Note: the song Higher Love is performed by Steve Winwood alongside his daughter, Lilly Winwood). Therefore, marketers not prioritizing music in their ads are in danger of alienating Millennials.

How is Apple killing it with Millennials?

They just get it

They’ve done it again. Those geniuses at Apple have hit a chord with that all powerful, and much sought after, demographic: Millennials.

Chris Mooney, with The Washington Post, reported on Apple’s latest initiative.

“[Apple] is rolling out “Apps for Earth,” in which the App Store will, for 10 days, feature 27 popular apps — including Angry Birds 2, Jurassic World: The Game, and SimCity BuildIt — that have added new environmental content for Earth Day.”

green apps

As stated in a previous post, Millennials are socially active. Instead of hanging back and waiting for change to happen, they advocate for what they believe in.

Apple knows this and took that message to heart with this initiative. Millennials will eagerly purchase these apps like Toms consumers eagerly purchase shoes for two reasons.

  1. These are great products
  2. And, more importantly, because it gives consumers the ability to give back

Apple was smart to hire Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson. It just shows that Apple is serious about helping the environment (and maintaining their stranglehold on Millennial consumers).

Businesses looking at ways to reach Millennials should take notice.

Stephen takes on the symphony

In an effort to build up its brand, the Nashville Symphony created a contest for local graphic designers. The Nashville Symphony asked designers to create a new logo and would award the winner $2,500 as well as several other prizes.

According to contest rules, the Nashville Symphony wanted to “[give] community members the chance to help create a new brand identity for the orchestra and its home, Schermerhorn Symphony Center.” Most marketers have been taught contests are an effective way to reach customers and create a “buzz.” Neil Kokemuller says, “Contests also offer advantages from a research standpoint. When people sign up or agree to participate, you can collect names, contact information and get answers to other research questions.”

However, as the symphony soon found out, you do not mess with Nashville’s local artists. Stephen Jones, a prominent Nashville designer, pushed back against the symphony’s plans writing on his blog: “instead of paying one designer or agency to help identify problems, strategize and create a visual identity, they will instead be casting a wide net by “…inviting local artists and designers to submit their ideas via the Nashville Symphony Logo Design Competition.” The result, Jones argued, “the Symphony will receive multiple entries from creatives in Nashville with no guarantee of giving compensation to these artists and the revocation of rights to ANY work submitted.”

The symphony graciously admitted defeat and backed off its contest. While some contests are a good idea for marketers looking to get the word out about a client, the lesson that should be learned here is: Don’t create contests that infringe on peoples’ ability to make a living.

We are living in the future!

Visiting my local Best Buy! can be a bit of a drag. Sad looking men and women dressed in khakis and blue polos clutter the store. As are customers looking for the best deals on out-of-date video equipment. “Hey, look! Forrest Gump for $9.99!”

Get me out of here.

I was there to look for an HD antenna because I refuse to shell over hoards of cash to AT&T or Comcast. That’s when we met. Sitting there on a table with expensive cameras and a hoard of smartphones was a pair of virtual reality goggles.


I put them on, and was instantly blown away. At first I was looking straight ahead. There, in front of me, appeared carnival barker yelling in to a megaphone. Not too exciting, but pretty intriguing. That’s when something amazing happened. I turned my head slightly. I took off the goggles.

“Are you kidding me?” I said to myself.

I put the goggles back on and could not believe it. There I was: at a Best Buy! in Nashville, Tennessee, a 33 year old man spinning around and around with his mouth wide open. I’m sure the sight of me was probably as intriguing as the sight going on inside those goggles. I could not believe it, with the emergence of Virtual Realty, or VR, we can now honestly say, “we are living in the future.”

Privacy issues aside this technology has the potential to change how wearables interact with us. These devices have the ability to connect bed-bound people to the world like never before. It’s only a matter of time before these devices get crisper images and become more interactive. Marketers would be wise to take advantage of this new technology. Instead of waiting to see what happens, learning how to create stories to reach Millennials in this platform is a must.

What are you waiting for?

Enough with the live! feeds

I was recently having a drink with a friend of mine when we got on to the topic of marketing. He had graduated from a university in the southeast a few years ago with a degree in business. He brought up a professor who had the solution to all of marketing’s problems: Flash mobs.

“It didn’t matter what the scenario was,” my friend told me. “The answer was always ‘do a flash mob.’”

Flash mobs gained popularity several years ago, even making their way to the popular television show, Modern Family.

However, flash mobs have gone the way of eye rolls and face palms.

But, guess what flash mobs? Time to move over because live-videos have arrived on the scene. There is this notion that live-video’s are the “next big thing.” Live video feeds like Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope are more like MySpace and those cringe worthy flash mobs – they will be remembered with funny affection. People will likely say, “Yeah, I remember those. I can’t believe anyone thought that would catch on…” Despite news today that Periscope eclipsed 200 broadcasts this year, these live-feeds are a solution to a problem that no one asked for. Sure, the option is there to look in on random people beat boxing to old school hip-hop. But these live feeds are equivalent to your parents’ generation driving up and down the boulevard – it is something to do when there is nothing to do.

Not to mention these apps lose their “cool” factor when local news anchors and your middle school teacher incorporate it. Instead of being “live!” Millennials will prefer to get their enjoyment from Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube AT the moment they prefer.


Digital world allows Millennials opportunity to give back

As stated in a previous post, Millennials are always looking for ways to be involved. One way this gets accomplished is by eliminating the middleman. Millennials have discovered, through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, they can make an immediate impact. Now that we are living in a world where investigative journalism is no longer funded by corporate leaders in the news business, and where we have seen world news flounder, these sites provide Millennials an avenue to fund such projects.

Since 2009, crowd funded projects for journalism has increased from $49,000 to a staggering $1.7 million.

kickstarter graph

Most project funds went toward the travel required to get the journalists to where the news is happening. Despite more the millions of dollars being funded to journalistic opportunities on Kickstarter’s Web site, only 22 percent of the nearly 3,000 proposed projects received the requested funding. Still, this is a great opportunity for Millennials to give back.

So, how do marketers take advantage of this type of information? By giving back. It would be a simple tactic that would receive a high return in consumers’ eyes. It would be similar to the Toms project, where every pair of shoes sold, another pair goes to an underprivileged person in a developing country.

By funding such projects, a company could advertise that it has given back to the community through funding one or more of these campaigns. The recent announcement of the Late Show’s Stephen Colbert partnering with DonorsChoose generated tons of earned media for his television show.

With shows like his coveting the all-important Millennial demographic, this was a genius-marketing ploy. However, knowing what Colbert does for the community, this was not just a ploy on his part. It is that type of authenticity that Millennials want to follow and be associated with.

Yell the loudest

Emerging Media for Millennials

In this blog, I will discuss how emerging media impacts Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000). Being part of this generation, I will give my impression to the types of ads, marketing campaigns, and other forms of media that target people like me.

Already we have seen how advertisers have had to change in order to reach us. Thanks to disrupters like Netflix, it has become more difficult to get noticed. Cord cutters like Jarrod Purdon are bad news for traditional media. They are now required to come up with new ways (emerging media) to get their messages across.

Yes, it is still possible to increase a company’s brand awareness through traditional media. But, and that is a big but, if you really want to engage with your audience, employing emerging media has been a proven way to create a buzz among Millennials. It’s all about having a conversation, and having that conversation with your target audience and/or consumer.

Take Taco Bell’s build up for its newest item, the quesalupa. Taco Bell incorporated a social media campaign, traditional media with television and print advertising, and generated tons of earned media. These fun, entertaining, and unique forms of marketing are a prelude of things to come in the world of emerging media.

Let’s back up: Those Millennials

When we talk about Millennials, what do we mean? Millennials are more open-minded and passionate of the world around them. According to Pivot’s Executive Vice President of Marketing, Kent Rees, Millennials are socially active. Instead of hanging back and waiting for change to happen, they advocate for what they believe in. Despite growing up in a post 9/11 world, this group remains positive, Rees adds.

He also says they’re more likely to pay attention to who is coming up with the content rather than what the content is.

  • Millennials respond well to visuals
  • They want to “take action”

How to gain access

According to Patty Gillette, senior vice president, Integrated Marketing for Turner Broadcasting’s Young Adults Group, Millennials do not mind being marketed to, as long as it’s entertaining, i.e. Taco Bell’s quesalupa. They want to be given access to games and other features – including free items/giveaways. She says Millennials are drawn to live events, and if you want to connect with them, you have to refresh and create new content for them to consume.

Getting them to “take notice”

Smart and funny is the new rock ‘n roll, says Noel Cottrell, who co-fathered the now-famous E*TRADE ‘Talking Baby.’ Millennials want to be highlighted and part of the scene. They want to be part of the discussion. In fact, Millennials are open to cheap advertising, he says. “Looking cheap” doesn’t matter to them, as long as it’s funny and/or hip. Just take this Mellow Mushroom campaign. Staying on top of new trends also achieves this goal.

It also works to be funny. According to MTV’s Joe Ortiz, comedy is the new currency. “It’s how to communicate [with Millennials],” he says. Risks and experimenting need to be done in order to “keep their attention.” Ortiz believes that we’re not marketing to Millennials, rather we’re creating content for them.

What not to do

Ortiz says it can be a mistake to use “trend language” with teens. “You don’t want to look like a poser,” he says. So the next time you want to include the word “bae” in any form of advertising, stop. Just stop.

Let’s get started

OK guys, now is the time to explore this new world of emerging media.