8.30.2006


Mayfield Flavour Decision '06

I first read about Mayfield Dairy's campaign to launch new flavours in Stuart Elliott's "In Advertising" column in the New York Times. His column reviews the campaign and included one fact that piqued my curiousity greatly: that the campaign was built by the Johnson Group, for advertising and Waterhouse Public Relations.

Hmmm. Why would Mayfield choose both an ad agency and a PR firm to run this campaign? What was it that PR brought to the table? I figured the answer to those questions would make it a great case study for my presentation in Halifax so I called Waterhouse to find out why. I spoke with Nathalie Strickland, APR, about the campaign.

She said Watershouse and the Johnson Group worked together to get the Mayfield business because, together, the could bring the best of each discipline to the table. Nathalie noted that while it is generally accepted that advertising can send out messages to people repeatedly and can push sales up in the short term, but what it can't do is make people feel a part of that message. The underlying belief in the very smart Mayfield Flavour Decision Campaign '06 is that PR is better equipped to build relationships, brand loyalty and repeat buys in the long term.


The other part I loved about the campaign is that it truly engaged the public. Rather than just introducing new flavours and tracking sales to see which was the most popular, Waterhouse and the Johnson Group built a whole campaign around engaging its customers and asking them what they thought, what they wanted. The campaign, as seen from the inside, was a great example of using PR to build relationships in the consumer market.


The Mayfield example was a great addition to my presentation in Halifax and sparked some very interesting discussion during the Q&A session. Many thanks to Nathalie for her time!

8.28.2006


Back to School

One week left of summer holidays, and then it is back to school. (Mothers everywhere rejoice!) Back to school means back to making lunches, back to helping with homework, and back to a bedtime schedule.

As happens every summer, my kids (who are naturally little night owls) pushed their bedtime a little later and a little later with each passing week. I cannot say that I discouraged it. Truth is, I am a night owl as well, which means that I am not a morning person . . . so the late bed times suited me fine because that meant everybody would sleep in. And I have enjoyed every morning all summer - no alarm going off and the kids sleeping peacefully when I finally crawled out of bed.
Bliss.

But soon, there will be hell to pay.

Yes, next week, when I have to fight with the kids to get them to bed long before they have been accustomed, and then fight to get them up in the morning . . . pure hell. Oh sure, the first couple of days, it isn't bad. They're excited! New teachers, back with their friends, new clothes to wear . . . but it wears off fast. Then I am faced with trying to drag their grumpy butts out of bed. And speaking of grumpy . . . when the excitement begins to wear off and their abbreviated sleep time starts taking its toll . . . they are g.r.u.m.p.y.

In a release today on Medical News Today, they give some tips for healthy back-to-school sleep habits for children and teens and I think they are all really important. While we slack off the rules a bit in the summer, regular bedtimes during the school year are essential to a child's happiness and success at school.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends these basic daily sleep requirements:
Preschoolers: 11-13 hours
Elementary School Students: 10-12 hours
Pre-teens: 9-11 hours
Teens: 8.5-9 hours

And kids aren't any different than adults . . . they worry too. Upcoming assignments, exams, or friend troubles at school can keep kids from falling asleep. Our kids have all used the Glo to Sleep, on occasions when worrying was keeping them awake, so we were really pleased last month when Calgary's Child Magazine featured the Glo to Sleep in a "What's New" column, because the Glo to Sleep is such a great tool for kids too. Thanks to the mention, we've equipped quite a few kids with the key to a quick transition from awake to asleep. (Now, that's good back to school gear!)

Here's to hoping I survive next week!

8.26.2006


Blue's New Tv Spot

I love the spot of Labatt Blue. The 30-second spot looks at all the fake things in our world: tans, boobs and more. The closer is that Labatt Blue is the real deal.
It's all about authenticity!!!

8.23.2006


Astroturfing

It's inevitable, right? The things that start out small but grow because they're actually popular (aka movements) and then they get exploited for less authentic reasons (aka campaigns).

Example? How about the recent Paris Hilton contribution to You Tube? It's a pretty clever move by her publicity machine to reach out to a massive audience outside the mainstream media. But, it's also what's called astroturfing - planting a manufactured piece into a more organic environment. Of course, it's happening everywhere, like with the new teen flick 'John Tucker Must Die', having its own space (aka being marketed) on MySpace. Of course, MySpace also proved to be too commercially viable to be left to its own devices and it was swallowed up by News Corp. Too much ad revenue to resist for Rupert!

It's not like this is new - there have been fake film critics reviewing movies, "news" stories that are spoon-fed promo pieces and more - but what's interesting about the Internet, of course, is that access to audiences is no longer mediated by a third party - no media owner or journalists in the way. There are no gatekeepers (that's a whole other blog!) and so it's complete market access for advertisers.

More and more, you're seeing advertising diverted from network TV to specialty TV channels and the Internet. I'm not suggesting that using sites like You Tube and MySpace for commercial enterprise is wrong in anyway. Not at all. It's only my suggestion that capital flows like water and it doesn't really know boundaries. When a new space opens up, capital will flow in and, usually, change things.

8.22.2006


Work Hard, Sleep Hard

Companies are apparently aware that if their employees aren't well-rested, they are less productive. And according to an article by Stephanie Armour for USA Today, some companies are addressing the issue of fatigue. One company offers their employees free Starbucks and Red Bull. (That would be so scary for me . . . I talk about 100 miles an hour after a venti non-fat vanilla latte! And it's like a nasty amusement park ride when I come down from it!) Other companies are offering "nap times". The article says that "employers understand that sleep is a huge part of living life in a healthy fashion and employers are putting more programs into place."

Well, the research into this problem can end right here, people. You need to buy your employees a Glo to Sleep.

All those busy executives flying back and forth, across the country, or the world . . . imagine how their productivity would increase if they could easily fall asleep everytime they were in the air.

Or what about doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers? They have crazy schedules! Shiftwork makes it especially hard to drift into la-la land. But our shiftworking customers (including nu
rses, firemen, and cops) have told us how much the Glo to Sleep has helped them sleep more and sleep better. The Calgary Herald recently reported that the Calgary police department has launched an internal sleep study so they can institute formal policies to deal with sleep-deprived officers. I have a policy for them: a standard issue Glo to Sleep. Get a gun, badge, uniform and a Glo to Sleep.

Same with the military. Standard issue. Imag
ine how hard it is to sleep in the middle of Afghanistan? But with a Glo to Sleep . . . no problem. (And I'm not just saying that . . . we've had parents buy them for their sons stationed in Iraq and the feedback has been great!)

We have even sold a Glo to Sleep to a "working girl". Yep, that's right. But, hey! They need their sleep too to be productive. And like I said, it's hard to sleep during the day.



Everyone needs a Glo to Sleep. (And wouldn't it be nice if your employer got one for you?!)

We shall not rest until everyone has a Glo to Sleep!
Well . . . we will rest . . .
because we need our sleep to be productive . . . so . . .
we shall work hard, and sleep hard, until everyone has a Glo to Sleep!!


8.15.2006

Squidoo: Lens of the Day
Squidoo is the brainchild of marketing genius, Seth Godin. It's a cool site where people are encouraged to create a "lens" on a subject they love and know alot about. Squidoo is relatively new (like us!) and I was keen to create a Glo to Sleep lens. Every weekday, the staff at Squidoo chooses a "lens of the day" - in their own words, they select a lens that "stands out in the crowd - a lens that is unique in topic, approach and personality".
After returning home from a short holiday, I was so excited to see that we had been chosen as Lens of the Day!
With confidence, I have been telling Tim and Jamie that "someday" we would be Lens of the Day. I have to admit, I thought it would take a bit longer, but I couldn't be more thrilled that our story has stood out amongst thousands of lenses.
Thanks, Squidoo! This is a great honour for us!




8.14.2006

It's Official - PR is Alive and Well

Well, I haven't been blogging this week as I was talking a bit of vacation as part of traveling to Halifax for the 25th anniversary celebrations for the Mount Saint Vincent University Bachelor of Public Relations program. Saturday, I presented on a panel alongside Natalie Fisher-Spalton of World YWCA in Geneva and Sandra Macleod of Echo Research in the UK in front of our PR colleagues. We all agreed there was an increasing demand for authenticity from the public and this doesn't mean the death of PR, it means all the more reason for PR professionals to up their game and deliver what our organizations' publics demand.

8.08.2006

Is PR Dead?

I've seen this around on quite a few blogs, including
Intuitive Systems. If your definition of public relations is that it is strictly media relations, then I might be willing to agree that traditional media relations practices are dead and it's a whole new world out there. If what you mean is that PR is about spin and controlling messages, I might want to venture out and agree with you . . . but then, wait for it . . . a recent poll covered in a story by the Washington Times comes out and reveals that half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003, up from 36% last year. This increase comes despite abundant coverage harpooning this idea in traditional media like the op-ed pages of the Old Gray Lady, international "mainstream media", satirical news media like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and blogs aplenty. Someone tell the Bush cabal spin is dead.

During my Bachelor of Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University we learned from the very beginning that the public relations is the two-way, symmetrical communication between an organization and its publics. If anything, the Internet and its related technologies, the www, blogs, etc., actually create MORE demand for PR. Suddenly, companies that thought they didn't need to connect with the unwashed masses are now, essentially, media companies. In particular, blogs drive home the point that people want to connect with the companies that make the products and services the use or that influence their life. Just ask Kryptonite, the bike lock company what happens when a post in an internet forum tells bikers the company's lock can be jimmied with a Bic pen. Whether they liked it or not - they HEARD from their customers. Gone are the days when you could willfully ignore your publics or tell them they could order their car in any colour they liked as long as it was black.

I have many more such examples, some of which I will talk about in a panel discussion this weekend for the 25th Anniversary of the Bachelor of Public Relations program at MSVU. It should be a very interesting session and a great chance to visit with many of my un-dead, fully employed PR colleagues. More from Halifax later in the week.

8.06.2006


Questioning Authenticity as Marketing Tool

I, of course, believe what I tell myself and therefore think that authenticity is cornerstone of developing a brand (and being a person, for that matter), but I have doubts too.

That's right, I'm not so naive as to believe everything I believe with the same level of certainty. I'd make a shitty president.

At any rate, after writing about authenticity and superlative marketing messages, I thought about a curious tag line I read on a billboard a month ago while biking down a highway in the Columbia Valley in British Columbia. The billboard was for a new property development and it read:

rent the lifestyle . . .

Wow. This is a marketing campaign about aspiration. I can't afford to buy the lifestyle, but I can afford to rent it for two weeks in July!

"Lifestyle" is a big trigger for me. As a gay man, there are few things I find more irritating than having my existence referred to as a lifestyle or lifestyle choice. Shopping at Banana Republic and driving a Jetta are lifestyle choices. Being a homo is just sort of the way things are - sure I can accessorize (avec Jetta & smart chinos from the Banana) but I can't make a different choice when I'm tired of the current offerings.

All that said, a vacation property definitely falls into a lifestyle choice for me. The question is, does it make it any less authentically my lifestyle if I rent it vs. own it? Is it a question of having a lifestyle instead of using one? If the net result is two weeks at a vacation getaway and the experience is identical save for ownership -is there a difference?
I'm inclined to think it doesn't matter. After all, the owner and the renter both end up with the same access to biking trails, quaint art stores and mediocre restaurants, no?

Of course, all this leads to a discussion of target market and key messages and the inevitable: how do we reach them?, and we come full circle with idea that there are people who want to getaway for a few weeks without the investment in one property and, hey, why don't we offer the chance to rent. The messages get developed and tested, tweaked and refined and someone offers up that this isn't just a vacation spot, it isn't just about a getaway or about making just one choice. No, this one billboard (and accompanying marketing strategy, I'm sure) is about escalating this choice into a defining moment of lifestyle. The cabin, the bike trails, the arts stores and the bad restaurants are a part of something bigger!

And so, my chosen profession poses consumption questions on the same playing field as those things that are core to one's self, those innate an unchangeable things about you that affect the path of your life.

Authentically speaking, I don't like their pitch (ad in the bottom right corner). I'll take my business to the charming Windermere Creek B&B with the old log cabin and the chance to get away from turning my vacation into a lifestyle.

Clearly I'm not the only one asking this question . . . just Google "authenticity" and "lifestyle" and have a read . . .

(Notwithstanding the bad restaurant comment, I must give a shout out to a fabulous restaurant in Invermere called Portabella - fantastic little spot with an inspired menu that's brilliantly realized. Thanks to Scott & Astrid at Windermere Creek for the recommendation!)


Where's Truth?

Vanessa directed me to
Seth Godin's blog and one of the best posts I've seen in a long time. He wrote:

Belief

People don't believe what you tell them.

They rarely believe what you show them.

They often believe what their friends tell them.

They always believe what they tell themselves.


It's not just that this is true - it is - it's that it actually can have devastating consequences. Stephen Colbert said it best on Oct. 17 , 2005 when he coined the term "truthiness".

At a time when "the" news is supplanted by satirical news programs because they actually talk about what's happening, when desparately thin actresses lie about having eating disorders when the truth is as plain as the bony chestplate grotesquely protruding from their bodies and over-hyped everything swims all around you - how do you find the truth?


I don't even mean some big philosophical truth leading to self-actualization, I just mean basic truth like, does the
Glo to Sleep work? How can you make people believe?

In a word: authenticity. For any person, any business, any brand - it has to be about authenticity. It's not a guarantee of success but it's the place you need to start.

There's a great quote from Fanny Brice that I first read over 15 years ago:

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?”



8.02.2006

Thank you to our Glo to Sleepyheads!

I have to confess - there are days when we're working on getting the word of the Glo to Sleep out to "traditional media" that it's frustrating. We have this huge issue - that if it were considered a disease it would be an epidemic - which you think would trigger some form of interest. Plus, we have a product that really works and have the real stories of real people that it really helps. And still . . . you can't imagine how hard it is to get people to cover this story. Fortunately, we have crack reporters covering real issues like a Canadian coffee franchise switching to cup sizes called - are you ready - small, medium and large! I kid you not. This appeared in a national newspaper with a HUGE photo - the total real estate of the
article was nearly a half page!

But - we keep the faith! At least, Vanessa makes sure we all stay totally motivated - I think it's her unofficial job as the Oracle for Line 49. And, there are those people like Florence Cardinal, a fellow Albertan, who truly understand sleep and who didn't just write about the Glo to Sleep, she wrote about why it works. There are others that have covered the Glo to Sleep and happy, rested Glo to Sleepyheads which has been great. And, until the whole world knows about the Glo to Sleep - we'll keep working at it!