Featured in “We Ask the Experts: Which Brands are Killing it Right Now?”

After an intense Advertising Week filled with panels, old colleagues and new partners, pockets stuffed with business cards, crowded concerts with watered-down free drinks, buzz words, startups touting “Download my App!” and 4D goggles from Marriott– I was amazed I could put two sentences together. But a very nice reporter approached me outside the Ipsos Girls’ Lounge activation and asked me to share a brand who “Killed it at Ad Week,” besides my own company, of course. More than happy to tip my hat to the marketing team at WebMD and their wellness lounge at Liberty Theater. Smart, contextual marketing. They knew the crowd and they catered to them. Cheers!

http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/which-brands-are-killing-it-right-now-160533

Advertising Week

We Ask the Experts: Which Brands Are Killing It Right Now?

#AWXI attendees laud marketing peers

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I Rented the Runway

It’s becoming impossible to pull off the same dress twice. With the proliferation of shared photos via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. — everyone’s seen it. And though it’s unlikely you’ll be tagged in a “She Wore it Twice!” post in a gossip magazine, your friends WILL notice. Ten years ago, you could rotate the same dress for years among different social circles. Today, not a chance. Many of us had doubled, tripled our wardrobes in college due to the close proximity of suite mates and sorority sisters.  But after graduation, our choices became limited to our own closets.

I had heard of Rent the Runway, but was wary of receiving a dress without having tried it on first and then having to return it immediately after wearing it. Too much pressure. What if it looked nothing like the picture? Was too tight? What if I doused it in wine after a night out? But recently, I put those worries aside. With a week-long work engagement approaching in Las Vegas with many high-profile events, I needed a solution. I didn’t want to empty my checking account on dresses I’d only wear once.

So I did it. I Rented the Runway. I viewed tons of dresses and styles online, but the part that really sucked me in were the personal reviews — and pictures of real women, fellow renters. It’s one thing to see a 6′ tall, 90lb. airbrushed model shot against a green screen. It’s quite another to see  how real women rocked the dress at a wedding, at a party… for their engagement photos. It was so much more intimate, and helpful. I could say “Ok, silver shoes worked better than the black… She wore a size 6 and a red clutch and she looks about the same size as me. And she said to wear a strapless bra with this one.”

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I reserved two dresses and they were set to arrive two days before I took off for my work trip. There is a 4-day and an 8-day rental option, the latter a little bit more $$, but when you’re traveling out of town, that’s your safest bet.

While I waited for a courier to deliver my dresses in Manhattan, I received an email that one of my reserved dresses had been returned damaged and that they had personally picked out a nicer dress in a similar style to send me. The curiosity killed me, I was online in seconds to search the name of the dress on their web site. Wow. It was 100x nicer than the original dress I had picked out — and more expensive. But they covered the difference. It’s the dress displayed above.

Both dresses I received came in two sizes. They will include a second size at no charge, which is super smart. Did the dresses look brand smackin’ new? No. They were definitely pre-worn, but in good condition and drycleaned. For night-time events, I think they both worked perfectly. For daytime, I might be a bit more cautious. But I definitely recommend this service and will use it again.

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Here are my tips:

  1. Pick a dress that is less popular. The dresses with the most reviews had obviously been worn the most.
  2. Rent the accessories to go with it, especially a nice clutch.
  3. Order a few dresses for a week-long trip.
  4. If you’re not completely satisfied with anything — call or email Rent the Runway right away. They’re extremely responsive.
  5. Don’t tell everyone you’re wearing “Rent the Runway” like I did. Keep it your little secret.

Kudos Rent the Runway, you’ve made my DigiDay!

Rainbow

Trader Joe’s Brand Audit

Few grocery store brands capture the loyalty of consumers like Trader Joe’s. I admit I’m a recent convert, having never had the patience to wait on a line 100 people deep before — especially in Manhattan. My obsession with Trader Joe’s began with a grad school project on their disregard for social media. I was amazed that they were one of four major brands that shunned Facebook and Twitter. Reading they were an $8 billion company , my curiosity took hold. What the hell made them so damn special?!

I visited the Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side and was mesmerized by colorful walls, friendly “crew members,” low prices and a rather fun grocery-shopping experience. Trader Joe’s crew members, dressed in Hawaiian-themed attire actually approach you and don’t run in the opposite direction when you ask where the chicken broth is located.  I didn’t even mind the line that wrapped the second floor, it went quickly. I also loved the fact that I walked out the door with four super-filled bags of groceries and spent under 100 bucks! That rarely happens in the city.

Since my first time, I’ve returned. Why? Because EVERY single product I’ve tried, I’ve liked. Every single one. From the breakfast bars to the coffee beans to the frozen pesto pizza to the Arrabbiata sauce for $5! I hate jarred sauce — but this stuff is good! Almost every item is $2.99. How do they do it? They only have 4,000 SKUs. The average grocery store has 150,000, which is just not cost-efficient.

I still stand firm in my belief that their social media ignorance leaves them open to a public relations disaster. Plus, they face the threat of posers and bloggers speaking on behalf of their brand, and not always favorably or accurately. But this time, I took a step back to audit the brand from all angles — Positioning, Essence, Hierarchy, Logo, Tagline, etc. High scores pretty much for all, except their tagline, “Your Neighborhood Grocery Store.” Ugh, that doesn’t say much of anything, might as well be a bodega. But it’s not. Check out my Trader Joe’s Brand Audit below:

Kudos to Trader Joe’s on their Brand Marketing, now let’s just get cranking on the social media, so you can Make My DigiDay!

Rainbow

Did Someone Die in Your House?

After a recent marathon of American Horror Story and the thriller flick Mama starring Jessica Chastain, I just need to know ONE thing.  Was anyone killed, murdered, and/or dismembered in my 100-year-old townhouse??

Sure, when you’re the first tenant to ever rent or live in a brand new property, you think, “Ah, clean slate.” But let’s not forget what we learned from Poltergeist — your new home may have been built on top of an ancient Indian burial ground! You’re never safe from the tortured souls of the past. Maybe you don’t believe in any of that or could care less if someone was strangled in your bedroom as long as it brings down the asking price, BUT if you are mildly curious, there’s a search program for that. Of course, there is.

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With justifiable marketing savvy, DiedinHouse.com launched a week ago. For $11.99 for one search, why take any chances when on the house hunt? Some states are not required to disclose this fact…and if you knew a homicide occurred behind closed doors, it could actually help you close. Though personally, I could never stomach living in the shadow of a former crime scene.

Here’s a sample description you may receive on a property:

DiedinHouse.com description

Their Facebook page seems to be more engaging than their web site. Check it out and see if you recognize any of the homes:

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Nice niche you’ve found there. Congrats, Died In House, you’ve made my DigiDay!

Rainbow

#MakeBoringBrilliant: Subway Surprise

As a digital marketing consultant, I am regularly approached by publishers and advertisers with the same request:

“What is native advertising? How do we do branded content? How do you make a video go viral?”

I can never sum this up in a few sentences. But from now on, I will reply with these three words, “WATCH THIS VIDEO,” before I even begin to launch into best practices. And, please do (click on image below). It’s two minutes of your life and it’s worth every second.

#MakeBoringBrilliant Panhandler Prank

Why This Video Went VIRAL:

  • It’s relate-able to those who commute by subway
  • It provides a SURPRISE
  • It’s less than two and a half minutes
  • It’s FUNNY!

Why Advertisers Love NATIVE ADVERTISING:

  • Video Views (Over 100,000 as of this post and it was posted 5 days ago!) — it is hard to reach that with a purely branded video
  • Vitamin Water is integrated seamlessly into the content which is true to the College Humor brand
  • Vitamin Water-branded landing page on trusted College Humor web site provides authenticity

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  • Video is also hosted on YouTube — reaching even more eyeballs and appearing in search results
  • The opening billboard contains both the College Humor and Vitamin Water logo, and the hashtag: #makeboringbrilliant which ties in organically with the content

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  • There is a post-roll video ad — which is super-effective, because it’s yet another funny video ad, but this one is completely Vitamin Water
      • Viewers HATE pre-roll, akin to “banner blindness, where users are frantically searching for the X button to end it NOW!
      • BUT it you have a post-roll video ad played at the end when viewers are already engaged, they’re more likely to absorb and remember a brand’s advertising message

I’ve admired Vitamin Water’s #MakeBoringBrilliant campaign underground and I love the online extensions. Content Marketers take note — this is an excellent example of native advertising.

Vitamin Water, you have made my DigiDay!

#BikesWithBenefits

Last weekend, I indulged in speed-dating, but not the usual kind where a bell dings every 7 minutes. This was a weekend-long advertising strategy speed date. After being introduced to my teammates in Griffin Farley’s Beautiful Minds Competition, we were inseparable — mentally, spiritually and physically for the following 24 hours. And after making it to the finals, our date went even longer — another 4 nights!

We all had one thing in common, we wanted to find a career track where we could be creative and strategic, and we wanted to WIN.

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Griffin Farley’s Beautiful Minds was created to pay tribute to a wonderful strategist who died too young. Instead of the standard scholarship fund, Bartle Bogle Hegarty New York honored their former colleague with what he did best — create groundbreaking propagation strategies and mentor aspiring strategists. Although my team had never met him, we felt his presence all weekend.

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After a day of insightful lectures from renowned industry strategists, including BBH Chief Strategy Officer Sarah Watson, we were read a creative brief at 4pm, and had until 1pm the next day to deliver an impactful presentation in front of the judges. The Client: Citi Bikes. The Task: Create a strategy to increase membership to 100,000 riders by May 2014 (they currently have 50,000).

As fellow competitor Bart Motes shared on the Huffington Post, one question rang through our heads that night:

“Do you want to sleep or do you want to win?” 

My group did not sleep. We gchatted, brainstormed and wrote our deck until 3am Sunday morning and met again at 9am. We were cranky, on edge and nervous. We had to present in front of  judges at 1pm, and our idea still had holes in it.

Magically, and with the help of Red Bull, multiple cups of coffee and pure adrenaline, we pulled our presentation together. We also had amazing mentors Gautam Ramdurai, and Brooke Rothman who taught us the power of drawing a virtual red thread throughout our presentation. Brooke told us our communications message and strategy had to flow through to each of our touch points, so that our audience would exclaim “I got it!” when we unveiled our concept.

We assumed the other groups (10 in all) would be bitching about the NYC commute and subway hell, and how bikes afford you freedom, blah, blah, blah.  We had to be different. We looked at the problem — why weren’t more people signing up for Citi Bikes? Was it because those blue metal machines were a little dorky? Seen as a tourist-mobile? Yes, maybe. So, we sexed it up.

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We not only zoned in on the demographics of our target group (New Yorkers, 21-40, college-educated), but who they really were: Pleasure/adventure seekers, commitment-phobes who ignore risk, and it got us thinking about a certain type of friend…

The Magic: Bikes With Benefits

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The Barrier: New Yorkers perception of Citi Bike has prevented them from letting loose and sealing the deal

Our Communications Objective: Change the target’s perception of Citi Bike from a typical transportation mechanism into an opportunity to maximize pleasure with minimal commitment

The Strategic Idea:  Encourage New Yorkers to embrace Citi Bikes as a lifestyle resolution

Benefits: Affordability, Flexibility, Convenience, Disposable

Connection Moments: Late summer/fall when people are returning to NYC and getting back in the flow; Mondays — highest signup day of the week

Touch Points:

  • Media: Out of Home and Mobile
    • Outdoor TVs streaming video footage at prime docking stations. Someone cruising the docking station may get inspired to hop on and take a ride!
    • Outdoor Ads: Reaching consumers while they’re peering into the subway tracks or waiting for the bus and considering alternate prospects.
    • Mobile: Since 1/3 of mobile users do this in the morning — check their phones before they get of bed, we would employ dayparting, and also target ads at the end of the day when someone may be getting a late night invite.

     

  • Experiential events: Dock-to-dock speed dating — even if there’s ZERO chemistry, you’re still burning calories! Potential partnership with How About We or OKCupid. TV special on NY1 or New York Live (NBC)
  • Social: With the hastag #BikesWithBenefits, launch a crosstown competition (East Village vs. Williamsburg, Chelsea vs. FIDI)  – where Citi Bike riders can spill the beans on how many bikes they’ve ridden, how many miles they’ve logged. Bragging rights for the group who’s got the most notches on their bike post!
  • Digital: Equip Citi Bike’s most vocal advocates and riders with webcams so they can share their solo escapade — streamed online and on Outdoor TVs
  • Word of Mouth Marketing: Provide Citi Bike members with Buddy passes to share

Our ICE-BREAKERS for creative speak for themselves:

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The Result: The judge’s panel included very influential industry innovators and when their mouths were left hanging open at the end of our presentation, I didn’t know what to think. Did we go too far? Should we have toned it down?? Turns out it was a good response. We took home top honors and won the inaugural Griffin Farley’s Beautiful Minds Competition!

I involuntarily teared up, and I AM NOT the emotional type. It’s extremely rewarding to see a large group of advertising strategists (over 100 people present at the final round) — get your idea!

Cheers to Team E, you not only made my DigiDay, you made my month! #BikesWithBenefits!

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P.S. A special shout-out to Angela Sun for organizing the inaugural event and coordinating it seamlessly.

Twitter’s Vine Battles Instagram Video

I was surprised when I recently received an email from Twitter promoting Vine: A new app for creating short, looping videos. It’s an obvious response to Instagram’s new capability to host short-form video clips. But Vine is not a new app. Yes, some people do live under a rock and may not have heard of Vine or seen its 6-second loops, but the key for any digital marketer is to ABP — Always Be Promoting! Having a reactive versus proactive approach makes Twitter look desperate. And with Instagram in the spotlight once again, Vine usage is drying up like flowerbeds in Las Vegas.

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Is it possible that in one week Instagram video has already had an effect on the amount of Vine posts to Twitter? According to MarketingLand, YES. And it’s a dramatic dip. See below.

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Here’s WHY: Instagram is a one-stop-shop. As users, we are inudated with Apps, social media outlets, blogs and sharing tools. If I already have an Instagram account with followers that allows me to #hashtag to my heart’s content and post my photos simultaneously to all my social media accounts — why would I not prefer to use one super App (Instagram) as opposed to two?

Instagram Video has taken the best of Vine and innovated, extending video clips to 15 seconds in length and most impressive, providing 13 filters. That’s a feature alone that will get more users to try it. It’s what made Instagram photo sharing so popular, the opportunity to make your photos look 100x better than the original.

I think Vine was revolutionary, but unfortunately most great ideas can be copied. And it was.

There is still hope for Vine, but in my opinion it applies to pre-roll video advertising. Whenever I see a pre-roll ad begin to play with a 30-second countdown clock, I’m either looking for the “close ad” button or opening another window to look at something else (similar to TV channel flipping).  BUT, a 6-second video looped ad, Vine’s premiere advantage, would keep users engaged and ala, they may actually absorb the advertising message. Vine is in tune to the average internet user’s attention span, and that may still prove to be its one and only advantage.

Vine, you still make my DigiDay, I have a super short attention span, 6 seconds works for me!

Rainbow