Archive | November 2008

Lessons From Recent Marketing Missteps and Successes

One of the best parts about being active in the PR blogging community is that I can constantly educate myself on industry trends from some of today’s top practitioners. I have a public relations section in my Google Reader that is an archive of case studies for best and worst practices in both traditional and digital PR.  Recently, I’ve been able to add numerous resources to my collection due to recent PR activities of some well-known brands: Motrin, Papa Johns and Burger King.


In the past week, my RSS was filled with posts about the Motrin debacle.  As people debated whether the incident was blown out of proportion or a significant misstep in marketing history, I tried to decide what big lessons I could take away from this controversy as a young PR pro.

motrin1Audience – The ad clearly targeted moms, and sparked a massive revolution among mommy bloggers who demanded the ad be taken down (which it was and replaced with this message from the VP-Marketing). Although a number of people spoke out in support of the ad saying they didn’t understand why it was seen as offensive, the fact is that a vast majority of the target audience DID find it ignorant and distasteful. As some marketing bloggers have pointed out, focus groups that were done correctly could have helped Motrin prevent this advertising faux pas from escalating the way it did. If Motrin had researched the target audience more clearly, they could have come with a more thoughtful ad that created a positive buzz instead of an overwhelming negative roar.

Conversation is Key– Another lesson learned is that with the explosion of social media in the past few years, marketing professionals have to be aware of this environment – one wrong step can be widely broadcast on Twitter and blogs. Whether working on a traditional or digital marketing campaign, conversations are essential to the campaign’s success. As professionals, we need to learn that relationships are the foundation for good PR and two-way conversations help build these relationships. Motrin and numerous other companies suffered when they talk at their customers and not to them. On the other hand, Motrin’s downfall in this instance occurred when a large group of people started talking to each other on public forums like Twitter, Web sites, and blogs. Conversations – those that companies have with consumers and the ones consumers have with each other – are equally as important for marketers to monitor.


The client campaign I’m currently working on has me immersed in Facebook pages, so when I noticed Papa Johns advertising a free pizza to encourage people to become fans of its page, I was intrigued. According an AdAge article, the promotion is supposed to coincide with the fact that the night before Thanksgiving is a goldmine for the pizza industry.papa-johns

Know Your Strengths – Even though the company doesn’t spend as much money on advertising as its competitors, Papa Johns’ vice president of marketing and communications recognized the value in WOM and used Facebook to establish a strong fan base in the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.

We have to rely on our fans,” he said. “We have to rely on word of mouth much more than Pizza Hut and Domino’s does just from an ad-spend level.”

Provide a Sense of Community – Another reason why the Facebook fan promotion worked so well for Papa Johns is that the company used a platform that the sole purpose is to build – and eventually maintain – communities. On the site, fans can upload their own photos, vote for their favorite specialty pizza, and post their opinions about the product and campaign on the wall and discussion boards. Although some people complained about the offer being misleading (it’s actually buy-one-get-one-free rather than just a free pie), the wall became a makeshift troubleshooting forum when fans had difficulty receiving the e-mail coupon. One fan advised others to check their spam folders, which helped alleviate some of the negativity surrounding the missing coupons. A campaign that builds a community not only enhances word of mouth marketing, it also provides a legacy network that will last significantly longer than the promotion itself.


burger-kingI first got wind of the latest Burger King marketing initiative on my friend’s blog, So Good. It seems that the King has been displacing wallets in various locations around the U.S. When people look inside the wallets, they find cash, BK gift cards, coupons, maps to BK locations, and a message telling them not to worry about returning the wallet to its owner.

Timing Can Be Everything– Although people have pointed out that other companies have launched similar initiatives, what will make Burger King’s so successful is the timing. As one PR blogger pointed out, in our economy’s current state, handouts are extremely well received. The combination of cash and BK gift cards was a nice touch – consumers will think highly of the company that gave them “free money” and will be inclined to visit the stores to use the coupons and gift cards. This tactic will produce more brand loyalty than a traditional advertising campaign, and of course, timing was integral in building this positive reputation because it allowed people to view a brand positively in a time when spending money isn’t on the forefront of their minds.


Revisiting Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point

the-tipping-point-740155Lately, I’ve been on a business book binge. In the last two months, I’ve read several books that friends in MBA programs have recommended. Surprisingly, I’ve found myself easily falling into the nonfiction routine I thought I’d left behind in college.

When a friend told me to read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, I shrugged it off because I’d already read it once. Four years ago, I read it as a college freshman – who was pursuing a biology degree. Relationship building, product marketing and trendsetting meant nothing to me, so I quickly skimmed through the book without thinking about what I was reading.

Now, with a public relations degree in hand and a budding career at a digital marketing firm, I’m engrossed in these concepts, so taking my friend’s advice and diving back into The Tipping Point seemed like a good idea. Exploring the novel again opened my eyes to some theories that directly affect my role as a communicator.

Gladwell introduces his readers to three types of people who are integral to the tipping of ideas:

  • Connectors – “links”
  • Mavens – “information specialists”
  • Salespeople – “persuaders”

There is a chapter about each type of person, and every time Gladwell described their roles, I found myself nodding along, thinking “This sounds like me!” Then I realized that it’s important for PR professionals to hone the skills represented by these three personalities.

Many of the traits are necessary for successful careers in public relations and marketing. We have to be “connectors” who are constantly building bridges between our clients and their audiences. As “mavens,” we should be prepared to provide our network with access to new information. And, finally, we need to accept our role as “salespeople” who are capable of negotiating with and persuading others, whether it’s co-workers, clients, journalists, or audiences.

Another striking and applicable theory Gladwell presented was the “Power of Context.” To describe this context, Gladwell presented an anecdote that showed how crime in New York City dipped dramatically after the city enforced a “zero tolerance” policy for lesser crimes such as vandalism in the subway system. Though this is an extreme example, it shows how vital context is to message reception and that certain environments can be created through proactive measures.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this book, especially if you are in the marketing industry. If the thought of reading a theory-based nonfiction book is intimidating, The Tipping Point successfully breaks the standard business book mold. Gladwell’s background as a journalist allows him to clearly explain his theories, and though some might seem far-fetched, his concepts can be applied across numerous industries and platforms, making this an easy and worthwhile read.

Have you read The Tipping Point? What were your thoughts about the book?

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Happy Election Day: New Tools to Help Us Monitor Historic Conversations

election_2008I am still in awe of how social media and the Internet have changed the electoral process – a process that has remained rather static over the past few elections.

Despite my frustration with the two major parties’ campaigns, I was still inundated with the election itself every time I signed online. With Twitter, facebook, and the blogosphere engrossed in all things Red and Blue, it’s easy to drown in information overload.

Luckily, digital innovation came to the forefront this year and there are several ways you can easily monitor the conversations people are having today about the election and the candidates. Here are a couple that have been brought to my attention that I felt necessary to share:

Tropicana: Fresh Squeezed Tweets


Tropicana’s new site,, is a visual representation of the nonstop political discourse that is taking place on Twitter. Basically, the site continuously checks for tweets mentioning “Obama” or “McCain” and analyzes other words that appear with them. Then, it places these words in bubbles on the graph – the bigger the bubble, the higher frequency of use. The more red a bubble is, the more that keyword is associated with McCain; the bluer, more with Obama. It’s a lot more impressive if you check it out for yourself. Kudos to the amazing team at New Media Strategies (where I work) who helped put this together.

WSJ Web Data

The Wall Street Journal has an interactive graphic that shows “real time statistics indicating candidates’ prominence and popularity on blogs and sites such as YouTube and Facebook.”


You can mouse over the bar graphs for more information such as the number of Facebook friends each candidate has or how many times McCain or Obama have been mentioned in blogs. The site also includes a “What It Means” feature that breaks down each social platform and how it influences the candidates’ campaigns and reputations.

Both of these sites provide valuable information, but they also form central locations for aggregated content so we can all stay up-to-date as this election unfolds. I can only imagine what the 2012 election will look like, and every day I am thankful that I can be a part of this social era where voters can easily engage with one another through a myriad of platforms.

I know there are countless more sites like these out there, so what social media measurement tools have you seen pop up this election season that you’ve enjoyed using?

Update: I also dig the Mapmash hosted on Google maps. It shows how each state’s electoral votes can affect the election.