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If There’s No Place In Heaven For Zach Sobiech, There’s No Heaven For Me

I’m a nonbeliever. I make no quarrels about it and I make no fuss about it. I have no problem with those who believe. I just don’t.

But recently someone gave me hope for a greater humanity. Zach Sobiech taugh me about life, love and the importance of being someone everyone else could believe in, no matter how much time they had left. I won’t muddy up his beauty by continuing to type. Here he is, in all of his amazingness.

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Advertising Thoughts, Marketing Thoughts, social media, Uncategorized

The Rise of Experiential: Marketing’s Next Evolutionary Step

experiential-marketing

Experiential marketing is exactly what it sounds like. And yet it is so much more than anything consumers and marketers have been able to grasp yet. But some are getting close. Indeed, experiential marketing and advertising is creating a new level of consumer interaction that goes beyond selling products to consumers, but guides them along a path that is intelligent, intuitive and, well, the next step in the evolution of marketing sales.

Read this brief selection out of Darrell Rigby’s groundbreaking Harvard Business Review article, The Future of Shopping to get a better idea of what I’m talking about…

“It’s a snowy Saturday in Chicago, but Amy, age 28, needs resort wear for a Caribbean vacation. Five years ago, in 2011, she would have headed straight for the mall. Today she starts shopping from her couch by launching a videoconference with her personal concierge at Danella, the retailer where she bought two outfits the previous month. The concierge recommends several items, superimposing photos of them onto Amy’s avatar. Amy rejects a couple of items immediately, toggles to another browser tab to research customer reviews and prices, finds better deals on several items at another retailer, and orders them. She buys one item from Danella online and then drives to the Danella store near her for the in-stock items she wants to try on. As Amy enters Danella, a sales associate greets her by name and walks her to a dressing room stocked with her online selections—plus some matching shoes and a cocktail dress. She likes the shoes, so she scans the bar code into her smartphone and finds the same pair for $30 less at another store. The sales associate quickly offers to match the price, and encourages Amy to try on the dress. It is daring and expensive, so Amy sends a video to three stylish friends, asking for their opinion. The responses come quickly: three thumbs down. She collects the items she wants, scans an internet site for coupons (saving an additional $73), and checks out with her smartphone. As she heads for the door, a life-size screen recognizes her and shows a special offer on an irresistible summer-weight top. Amy checks her budget online, smiles, and uses her phone to scan the customized Quick Response code on the screen. The item will be shipped to her home overnight.”

Decades ago, these ideas would have seemed to come from some futuristic novel or movie, but now they seem all too real. Consumers can receive mobile alerts from their favorite brands when an item they might enjoy goes on sale. If it’s close to lunch time, consumers might receive a text message when wander within a 100 foot proximity of a restaurant they like inside a shopping mall or casino. With modern technology like smart phones, tablets, interactive maps and more, experiential marketing almost seems like a natural step. But it actually began in the 90s, and has taken off ever since. Unfortunately, however, few companies have taken advantage of modern technology to develop experiential marketing and advertising to the full extent that they can.

Let’s take a step back and ask an important question: What exactly is experiential marketing? According to Tyler Lacoma of Demand Media in his article What Is Experiential Advertising, it “uses modern forms of communication and interactivity to approach marketing from a different, more personal angle. It combines salesmanship with the ability to connect with consumers and give them something to encounter and interact with, rather than just see or listen to.” With such a broad definition, experiential marketing could include a wide array of advertising tactics. Indeed, when a consumer buys something from Amazon.com and they begin to receive recommendations of other similar items that they might like, would that fall under experiential? Most likely, yes. Amazon is interacting with their consumer using prior behavior to help them find something else that they might like, while also garnering increased revenue for their company.

nike+

That said, what is it that experiential marketing brings to the table that traditional and even newer forms don’t, beyond Amazon’s consumer history product matching? It is the deeper level of interaction that consumers don’t just prefer, but crave. With the invention of the loudest communication tool in the history of the world, social media, consumers desire to connect on a deeper level with brands than ever before. They don’t just want to buy the latest pair of Nike shoes, they want to post pictures of them to show their friends. They want their Nike+ mobile application, which comes free with their shoes, to show all of their peers how they are using their latest pair of Nikes to set a new personal record at their next 5K. And they want it all to be intelligently streamlined and easy to use while offering exciting and cutting-edge interactive capabilities. It’s about developing not just buyers, but followers. No problem, right?

Well, yes and no. The problem is that developing these experiential campaigns isn’t cheap, and the companies that have the budget for them don’t necessarily have the inclination. If traditional advertising has worked in the past for these successful organizations, then why do they need to spend all that time and money when their standard mix of television, radio and print are working just fine? Hell, they spent close to a million dollars to develop a cutting-edge website, what more do consumers want? Of course, that isn’t always the case. Many forward thinking companies like Nike, Amazon and Apple understand the shifting landscape of modern marketing. But even the ones that have made the leap into this new era of advertising aren’t finding it all fun and games.

While experiential marketing seems to have a great deal of promise for a new era of consumerism and interactivity, there are (as always) going to be some downsides. These intelligent systems, like the ones described in The Future of Shopping are sure to lead to some Big Brother-esque fear of intrusion. Just how much is too much in terms of what a company knows about you? Or, how much communication is too much? Sure, the intelligent offerings created for our fictional character Amy were a blessing for her, as she clearly enjoys shopping and had a need for a product ASAP. But what about the millions of other consumers who give a bit of personal information at the register or online in order to get the initial 10% discount, but don’t want to be pestered every day about a new pair of shoes that just went on sale?

As the term “experiential marketing” indicates, those who are participating are creating a unique brand experience. It makes the buying process easier, more intuitive and more fun for their consumers. But like any new paradigm, there will certainly be kinks to work out. Not everyone who buys a pair of Nike shoes wants to be part of that community. Maybe they just want to go for a jog in peace. So there will be trial and error, of course. The right experience needs to match the right brand, and perhaps even more importantly, the right consumer. The last thing we can do is assume that everyone wants to join the cult of your company. Many will. Others won’t. And that’s okay. But either way, this is a very exciting new level of marketing that we should all be considering in our next campaign.

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Advertising Thoughts, Marketing Thoughts, social media, Uncategorized

Why Red Bull’s Advertising Makes Me Want to Jump Off a Mountain (In a Good Way)

We all remember those old Red Bull television commercials. You know the ones I’m talking about. Shaky cartoon. Innuendos everywhere. Odd banter between strange characters. And the fact that we remember them speaks highly of the advertising, or budget, or both, of Red Bull. But over the last few years, Red Bull has somehow managed to make a fluid transition from cheesy oddball commercials to extreme, life-inspired viral videos that have swept the world off its feet. Their new video efforts have even earned them comparisons with the glory days of Nike advertising. Indeed, Red Bull has made its way from corny side conversation to extreme sports enthusiast. We see Felix Baumgartner plastered in Red Bull gear leaping from space. We see people in squirrel suites (so I’m told they are called) zoom mere feet above the sharp treeline of a tall mountain. We see surfers thrashing across perilous waves. And you know what? It’s actually really cool. My wife may kill me, but I think I’m going to have to try that “squirrel suit” jump in the near future.

Type “Red Bull advertising” into Google and you’ll get results like Red Bull as Adweek’s Ad of the Day, a Mashable article entitled “How Red Bull Takes Content Marketing to the Extreme” and AdAge talking about a Red Bull video catapulting to the top of the chart. AdAge even named Red Bull’s historic 120,000 foot free fall from space video as the best integrated campaign of 2012. But why did this transition happen?  And has their strategy worked?

After doing some digging, I learned that the “cartoon” advertisements that we all knew and, well, maybe liked, had been aired “for 23 years in 160 countries” (Beuker, 2010). Red Bull had been sponsoring extreme sports for quite some time as well, but their brand identity did not really reflect that. Enter: The digital age. In a Fast Company article by Teressa Iezzi that ranks the Red Bull Media House as the world’s 29th most innovative company, Iezzi describes how Red Bull was able to capitalize on their vast knowledge of extreme sports by creating videos and selling them online. But it wasn’t until they realized that this extreme sports lifestyle was really the DNA of their brand that they made the decision to transition their advertising away from the cornball cartoon ads, and more in the direction of Nike-esque advertising.

And has it paid off? According to Yahoo Finance, Red Bull maintains a 40% market share in what is understood as one of America’s fastest growing industries (projected 86% growth over the next five years). But what’s more important is how ingrained this company has become in the very extreme culture it has supported for so many years. Oh, and let’s not forget the huge revenues they are making off of these amazing videos. According to Iezzi, they spent just $2 million on a video that went on to reign “atop iTunes’s sports, documentary, and overall movie sales charts for a week, at $10 a pop” (2012).

So what do you think? In my opinion, Red Bull is the coolest energy drink company in the world. But, I also drink a combination of Rockstars and Mosters on a near daily basis. To be honest, I haven’t had a Red Bull in years. So is a positive opinion as important as an actual sale? Has Red Bull’s immersion into extreme culture through iconic videos and historically extreme events (think 120,000 foot free fall) persuaded you to buy a Red Bull? Or, perhaps more importantly, has it changed your image about their brand? Something is obviously working for them. All I know is I love their marketing.

Oh, and for old time’s sake, here’s one of the cartoon style Red Bull ads, which they are still coming out with from time to time.

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Update

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted. And no, it’s not because I have nothing to say. I’m two semesters into my masters degree at USC and things have been crazy. Here’s a summation.

The presidential election went the right way. Thank God Americans chose a route towards a better culture, a more inclusive culture, and a forward one. I’m not saying Obama has all of the right answers, but I believe him when he says that he will find a way to balance the budget. Furthermore, the most important thing is the idealisms that America is headed towards with this election. Wow. We did it. A lot of great advertising has happened recently. It hardly gets noticed these days. There is so much media now that things really have to stand out to make a difference. The Houston Texans are currently the best team in football. Yes, I agree. But they will not win a Super Bowl. You know why? Matt Schaub doesn’t have the experience. $20 says it winds up New England in Houston for the AFC Championship, and, I’m sorry, Schaub doesn’t have the elite status to beat New England. The Patriot defense can’t stop Arian Foster? No, probably not. But, there’s a difference when it’s all on the line and there are only minutes to play. My bet (and I live in Vegas) is always on the dude who rules the elite stage … and that’s Brady. Movies. Well, I’ve heard Skyfall is solid. Frankenweenie sucked. Can’t wait for The Great Gatsby. That oughta be good.

Thought For Today:

It’s been too long since I voiced my opinion here. But, as I was gazing upward tonight, I thought to myself, ‘Stars make cities.’ Now, that is interpreted how you like, but I thought of it like in a different way. I looked up and saw few stars. What a sad and unambitious sky it was. But then I realized, the number of stars you see in the sky is probably inversely proportional to the number of stars that live in your city. Furthermore, the fewer stars you see in your sky, the higher competition is in your town. So I thought of it like this, and obviously, there are the clear scientific city ambiance answers for this, but who cares. There are only a certain number of amazing achievements and legendary people that can occupy a city an any given time. So if you look up and see very few stars in the sky, that means you’ve got to step you game up and make something happen for yourself. If you look skyward and see tons of stars in the sky, well that just means it’s time for you and plenty of other intelligent people like yourself to start making something of yourselves, and your city.

This story doesn’t have a very “green” moral. But it does make sense. So get on it. Look to the sky at night, and let the stars dictate how you play your cards.

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When Everything Becomes Backwards

So much of the argument around current public policy these days centers around government … When it’s convenient. Then it centers around those on welfare … When it’s convenient. Then on (fill in your pundit speech here) … When it’s convenient.

Look, if it were as simple as I am about to make things, then the world would be full of incredibly happy people, with homes overlooking rivers, bays, and oceans. But it’s not. However, the problem is that things get incredibly “muddied up” by all of the double-talk and skewed analyses that occur around every conversation among pundits, strategists and correspondents these days. The ideas are not as difficult (or as simple) as they may seem.

First, those on welfare are there for a reason, and no, it’s not because they want to be there. Whether it is the fact that these individuals are veterans of war who came back with no “applicable” skill set for the workplace, they were raised in homes that had no money to invest in the almighty education, or they were a victim of circumstance. Go ahead and ask them. Honestly, there are VERY few drug users or street dwellers who got there by making a bold statement in the fourth grade that when they grew up, they wanted to wind up where they are now. It’s easy to talk about the “agony” of hard work and making it to where you are currently in your executive level job and private parking spot (over the top, I know), when that hard work consisted of completing high school and going to college that was partially funded by your parents. It’s even easier to say that when you had a stable home from which to complete homework every night to maintain a solid GPA and get a good night’s sleep. Furthermore, it’s even easier to say that when your family can afford to put you into Little League and Pop Warner, to make friends and go to movies, and to simply have the basic necessities that helped you attain those first few levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. It’s not so easy, however, when these things are not so readily available to you.

Secondly, the government sucks. Yes. We get it. The things the don’t do are terrible. And the things that they do for us are expected. Right? Right Tea Party? Yes, how dare they try to increase taxes on the wealthy. They absolutely earned and should keep every cent. Not like they have American capitalism to thank for how successful they’ve become. Not that they have the freedom to pass through different social and economical classes that America provides to get to where they are. Oh, what’s that? Oh, you were born rich? Even better then. You definitely deserve all of that money you’ve got. You’ve earned it.

Look, we’ve all got our share to pay. We live in a country where you can go to a restaurant dressed in a well-fitted tuxedo, a tank top and a nose ring, or a t-shirt and jeans, and we should be thankful for that. And if you’re not, perhaps you should consider moving to the Middle East. There, you can hang out with only elite individuals like yourself. Oh, but they’re Muslim. I forgot. And they don’t accept different religious views in their countries. And you hate that. Jesus Christ.

I find it somewhat impossibly hilarious that many wealthy, conservative individuals are religious. I mean, really? Speak about Jesus more, please. Because, what would Jesus do? Would he take a fish and a loaf of bread, and create the potential to feed hundreds with it, but store it in his freezer to only make life better for himself?

But there are liberal who are wealthy too, and they simply hide behind the curtain of a few “lovely” donations each year to charities of their choice. Of course, redeeming the tax credits at the same time.

Everything is backwards right now. Everything is so spectacularly bipolar that it’s enough to make any logical thinking human being sick. Mexico has a huge gap in their economic classes, is that what we want? I am not advocating the Occupy movement by any means. I think they went about it the wrong way. But hell, at least they made a statement. Look, the top earners in America can afford a few extra taxes. And stop giving me the shit that you earned it, so you are entitled to it. Romney paid less than 15% income tax when he made $20M in 2009. Seriously? 15%? I’m glad that last sentence looked like a censored expletive, because it kind of should.

I’m still young so maybe my ideals are in a different place. But when a family is considering buying their fourth luxury vehicle this year, and are making the “tough decision” of sending their offspring to either Harvard or Yale (yes, I know this is a bit of a caricature, just go with it), while other families are trying to decide between rent and a meal tonight, it doesn’t take much to figure out why there is such an alarming issue of bipartisanship in America. Wake up upper class, things are not as simple for these lower classes. They aren’t there by choice.

The problem, however, is that history, and currently, the news is written by those in power. I work in advertising and I understand the power of communication. Wealthy groups can afford to present themselves in an honest way. The “trickle-down” theory I believe they call it. Sure. That works. Except it doesn’t trickle down when you are buying yachts and mansions and cars and horses (Dressage? Really Romney?) and second homes and dinners and everything that goes with it.That’s not trickling down to the middle and lower class. Actually, our salaries are pretty much the same, all the while your annual bonuses make my ten year plan look like shit. I guess you really are just that much better than I am, right?

Just think about the next time you spend $400 on an executive dinner. Then think of the reasons you got to your executive level status. I mean, really think about it. Could you have done it if you had come from the inner city? Ya, your dinner could have just paid for some family’s rent…

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The Burn

Her eyes. Yes they struck brilliantly. Harshly and yet beautifully, like a flame. Each one illuminated and surged with striking resemblance to the meridian of a great solar eclipse. Flaring and burning and penetrating all at once. It was a beauty and depth that could only be imagined but never truly captured or enjoyed. His eyes struggled to meet hers, and yet every time they did in their raw, carnal embrace, they would retreat and react as similarly charged magnets do when pushed together. She was there with him, as fully as anyone could ever be in the physical sense, and yet, he knew at the same time, she wasn’t. Not really. Never really. She wasn’t with him. She was dominating rather than sharing or allowing. No matter how long they had known each other, how many times they had made love, she was never really there. Not really.

They met hours later at the bistro on fifth. The instant he saw her he was awestruck, angry, sad and aroused. Every passion flowed from him, only lacking the literal sense. It pained him to watch each bouncing step of her passionate body as it drove purposefully down the sidewalk. She knew everything that was happening. Every moment. Every step. Every jostle. But she would never allow that to be known. As far as anyone could tell, she was but the quintessential picture of ignorant perfection. The Homer Simpson to Bodecelli. The Peter Griffin to the Sisteen Chapel.

It angered him because every step she took was another step of indifference toward him. It pained him. Her arrogance and loveliness all at the same time. Perfection just seemed to waft from every orifice that shone from her impenetrably penetrable beauty. She shone and gave but never became. She simply was and would ever be.

She waved and entered the restaurant. As he sat on the patio, she cleared droves of patron into clear paths of linear streams of which she could easily navigate in straight lines. She created runways. She embodied consumerism without ever presenting any part of it.

She sat. And the moment that she did he could tell that every instance of his being was in a particular spotlight from which he could no longer, or would no longer, try to escape. Pangs of hunger arose from his instincts. In his utter determination, he would have her on that very table along the streets of New York. But his sense would only have her on the bed in the Biltmore.

Upon her curious face, she showed nothing but success and dominance. That was particularly defiant in his eyes. But what could he do? He was in love. And she never would be.

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The Tide

Floundering, fishy-tailed and exotic, I flop around the crisp, golden sea. Aquatic. Free. Accepting.

Everything flows through me as I flow through it. Life is not what I am living but what I am a part of.

Then a cold wave washes over me. I drift to the shore wearing nothing but business suit and brief case.

Never mind the freedom I had. Rather, what chains can I acquire?

Here I am at shoreline. I am given a choice. Drift me back to sea and kill me with freedom.

Or float me to shore and survive me with shackles.

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