Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Big Brother's Role in Marketing

Picture this. You’re 16 years old, having a pajama birthday party, watching some television with your friends, talking about how fun 16 will be, and how delicious a pizza sounds right now, but how you hate what it does to your pubescent skin. Your friends empathize with you, and then you transition to talking about how fun it would be to t.p. your cute neighbor’s house.  

Your chick flick cuts to a commercial break, and it’s a commercial for Dominos! Wow, good timing. That rolls right into a commercial about Pro-Active acne treatment. What are the chances? That is followed by a State Farm teenage drivers insurance incentive ad. Suspicious.  Last but not least, those cute little Charmin bears tell you to pick them up when you have to go. Whoah.

Then you see it. A text message in the corner of your television screen that reads: 

“We are watching you.”

It may sound a bit 1984 to you, but it’s actually looking more like 2014.  The “We Are Watching You Act” is currently being discussed in Congress. The bill has not yet been passed, but it’s sparked a debate and is speculated to gain a fair amount of support.  Marketers such as AOL and Verizon are working to install cameras and microphones in users’ cable boxes to better serve them with personalized advertisements.  The box can detect through conversation and action what advertisements to show you. 

I suppose this is no great surprise with all of the intrusive data tactics currently employed in digital marketing. Marketers are very excited about this opportunity to capitalize on this new definition of direct marketing. 

Being in the marketing industry, I am all for having data to back up your marketing plan; but as a human being, I have to ask how far is too far? Food for thought: If you have to spy on your target audience to sell them your product, maybe they aren’t your target audience. And maybe you need to rethink the success of your brand. 

Mood: Uncomfortable

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On Ditching Sheep for the MilkMan

Sometimes, I just can’t sleep.  It doesn’t matter how many sheep I’ve counted, how many hours of exercise completed that day, how few hours of sleep were completed the night prior, nor (contrary to the premise of this blog) how many glasses of milk, warmed or not, that I’ve drinken. Drank? Drunk? I digress.

The other night was one of those nights for me. After hours of restlessness, I turned to my friends Lucy and Ethel. There’s just something about the faded black and white, and the incessant “splainin” after an inevitable mishap that help calm me into sleep. What does that have to do with drinking milk? Not much. But it was on an episode of I Love Lucy that I was watching on Hulu that a “Got Milk” advertisement popped up. They told me that if I was having trouble sleeping, that I should drink some milk, and that they were there for me.  They wanted to help me. Up in the top corner of the advertised web skin, I saw a phone number for 1.855.MILK.ZZZ.

Of course being the marketing junky that I am, I had no choice but to 2 a.m. bootycall the milk man. I was greeted by a friendly operator who consoled me for my sleep deprivation and offered me six melodic options to help me fall asleep. I’d have to say that the world’s most boring man reading the number for Pi was my favorite. Though the gleeful milk maids frolicking under milkfalls and the montage of my fellow Americans yawning were close seconds.

While it’s possible that my level of amusement is in direct correlation to my lack of sleep, I did quite enjoy this marketing stint.  And I did fall asleep shortly after. While your bladder may discourage you from adhering to the glass of milk before sleep recommendation, I encourage any insomniac to forego counting sheep, and try calling the milk man.

Mood: Delirious

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Saying No to Size 0... And Any Other Size

A size is just that. A size. A number. Any connotation behind that number, negative or positive, is something that we as a society have unfairly placed on it. A size is just a measurement of our body. How we feel about that measurement is completely up to us.

Dove, known for their Real Beauty campaign, recently launched a series of ads with the slogan "Say No to Size 0." There is a print ad circulating that seems to match a very similar Victoria's Secret print ad.  I see the statement they are trying to make, and I am all for diversity among models, but I see three problems with this tactic:

1. Underwear is not the same as soap
2. I haven’t forgotten that the marketers behind Dove are also behind Axe
3. Trading contempt and criticism of one body type for another isn't fixing anything

I love the Real Beauty Campaign. The video where they show the amount of makeup and Photoshop that goes into making a beauty ad- amazing. It reminds me that my face is ok if it has pores. As for telling me to say no to size 0 because women who are a size 0 are fake and unhealthy- I am a size 0. And I take offense to being called fake and unhealthy. Society may have us convinced that only fat people get self-conscious, but having spent many of my awkward teen years being teased about my lack of weight and having rumors spread about me having an eating disorder, I was equally as self-conscious and self-loathing. No one wants to be hated for their size, regardless of how large or small.

I also love the Victoria’s Secret brand. I realize that the VS Angels are a rare breed and that most women do not actually look like that, but knowing what they look like in lingerie somehow makes me feel sexier when I purchase my underwear there instead of at Target or Macys. Judging by the diversity in age and weight span I see at their store, I’m assuming that I am not the only person or type of person who feels that way. Is the quality or material any different? Probably not. It’s all about how I feel. I feel sexy, therefore, I am sexy.

VS makes me feel sexy because it’s modeled sexy. Dove makes me feel beautiful because it is marketed as beautiful. Both of these campaigns have one key message that we ladies can pull out: "Embrace Your Inner Sexy." Embrace it. It's there. Whether you are a size 0 or a size 14 or any size between or beyond, beauty is not about a number, it's about a lifestyle and an attitude. Instead of stressing over fitting into our favorite pair of jeans, or what the number on the scale says, let's just do our best to take care of our bodies and enjoy life. Eat healthy, exercise, but also splurge occasionally for the large popcorn and sitting at the movies. Life is about balance. Balance leads to peace, which leads to confidence, which leads to embracing our inner sexy.

Don't say no to size 0. Say yes to a sexy and beautiful you.

Mood: Sexy-Beautiful

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On Superbowl Sunday- Behind the Scenes

This Sunday is one of the most important marketing days of the year.  In a few hours, crowds will swarm the Super Dome donning their Ravens or 49ers paraphernalia, advertisers will swarm our … well, everything… with their best laugh evoking or tear jerking attempts at persuasion, and we will swarm around our favorite brands of fried chicken, buffalo wings, and chips. More than 111 million people will be glued to their televisions.

But none of these reasons are why this Sunday is so important. TheSuperbowl is important because along with a myriad of products and services being marketed and sold, more than 10,000 children, teens, and women will be also be marketed and sold as sex slaves.

The Superbowl is one of the largest sex trafficking events in the U.S.  Approximately 12.3 million adults and children are forced into prostitution and trafficked around the world.  

In this industry, the pimp owns you. Sometimes the perception is that prostitutes are dirty, or that they chose that lifestyle, or it’s just harmless entertainment.  The truth is, those children and women who are being prostituted were most likely sold into that industry and cannot escape without facing severe abuse or death.  The average age someone is trafficked is 13 years old.

These young boys and girls are often abducted by someone who entices them with promises of love, or fulfillment of their future dreams.  The pimp then claims ownership on their lives and bodies by forcing them to work for them by selling their bodies to provide income. Pimps also will often physically brand the individuals being prostituted- whether by burning them, tattooing them, or carving into them.

When you brand a product or service, you control it- it is entirely under your ownership.  It no longer has its own identity, but rather the identity that you label and enforce on it.  No human should ever be owned or branded by another individual.

To see a number like 10,000 or 12.3 million can be daunting.  It is tempting to feel overwhelmed, and to look away from the problem at hand. But what if instead of looking at 10,000 objects being marketed this weekend, we focused on the 1 thirteen year old girl whose first run-in with flattery has led her to a life of sexual, verbal and physical abuse. Or the 1fourteen year old boy who just began the process of finding his identity and his place in this world, only to be told that he no longer had one. What if instead of rescuing a number, we rescued a name? That is something worth cheering for.

Mood: Capable

To learn more about this problem or to learn how you can get involved, you can visit the resources below.

• Hear first-hand from former high class call girl, Annie Lobert, her story of how she survived and how she is now setting others free.

• Watch and share the video "The Candy Shop" (A Fairy Tale About the Sexual Exploitation of Children). This is a visualization of the child trafficking industry and how they are profiting. It is estimated that sex trafficking brings in $32 billion a year worldwide, and $9.5 billion each year in the U.S. alone.  
• Support the following organizations:

StopTraffik  A movement of individuals, communities and organization fighting to prevent the sale of people, protect the trafficked and prosecute the traffickers.

A21 Campaign  This organization advocates for individuals who have been trafficked and seeks to abolish the human trafficking industry.

Compassion You can sponsor a young boy or girl for a small monthly fee to help keep children from being trafficked or from becoming pimps.

Friday, November 9, 2012

On the Grey Poupon Society of Good Taste

I am highly skeptical of Facebook apps and am the first to close out of any page that wants access to my information or to post on my behalf.  Though I have snuffed and blocked countless app requests, I just couldn’t resist Grey Poupon.  Yes, you read correctly.  I threw my Facebook app morals out the window for a silly jar of mustard.

I think it was maybe my pride that did me in.  Telling me that I had to “cut the mustard” and be approved to like their page.  That if I was not deemed worthy or lacked good taste, my “like” would be rescinded.  Of course I would make the cut.  Who are you to tell me that I am not tasteful enough to like your trivial yellow goop?  When the Society of Good Taste first commenced, I rejected their app request because I’m better than them anyway.  But as time ticked on, there was this nagging pull running deep inside of me beseeching me to prove to not only myself but to everyone around me that I, Sarah Michelle Matley, CAN cut the mustard!
But I digress.  The moral of this slightly hyperbolic blog post is that exclusivity, teamed with curiosity, with a dash of creativity, makes for a delicious ad spread.
Oh- and I totally made the cut.  As if it was every really a question.

Mood: Tasteful

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On #FirstWorldProblems

This morning I came across a video ad for Water is Life called“First World Problems Anthem.” This PSA style advertisement features individuals living in third world environments speaking about first world problems as popularly hash tagged on Twitter.
Perhaps this ad centers a bit heavily on guilt, and, ironically, those using the hash tag are usually alluding to the fact that they are aware that they are not experiencing a real problem; but there is an undeniable truth that we all too often forget.
If you are reading this blog, there is a very high likelihood that you are in the top 2% of the wealthiest people in the world.  As I watched this video, my irritated haste to finish my cup of coffee before it crossed the lukewarm border was suddenly irrelevant.  When I stop and consciously think about my life, I am too incredibly blessed to even begin to put it into writing.  Besides the obvious things to be thankful for (friends, family, health, food, water, etc.) there are so many more blessings that I often present as complaints.
Recently a friend was telling me about her experience at a silence retreat.  She said that during this weekend of zero verbal communication, she realized that every time she wanted to say something, it was a complaint.  “It’s cold in here” or “I’m hungry,” “This food is gross” or “I’m tired.”  It made me think about how true this is in my life as well.
Whether I’m complaining about work, family, friends, technology, etc., there is so much unnecessary negativity each day.  I’m not saying we should all hold hands around the campfire singing Kumbaya and talking about how awesome double rainbows are, but maybe we could benefit from a more positive life view. All of us can think of that one person we know whose positivity lists our spirits- that person that we actually enjoy spending time with because we come away refreshed. And of course we all know a few negative Nellys, Nancys and Neds.
This year, as we approach the season of Thanksgiving and the season of family, friends and giving, let’s make a conscious effort to convert our griping into gratitude, because we are truly blessed.
If you would like to join me in this self-improvement initiative, I have included a Thanksgiving exercise below that I used previously when teaching middle school students.  It may feel cheesy at first, but I can never walk away from this exercise without feeling renewed.

Instructions:  Write down 5-10 of your most common complaints.

1. Everything is so expensive that I rarely have enough “fun money.”
2. Traffic is horrible.  I have to leave early in the morning to make it to work on time because it takes me an hour to get there.

Now re-write your above statements as reasons to be thankful.
1. I am very thankful to bring in an income that enables me to have a place to live, one or more cars to drive, multiple outfits to wear, a variety of meal options, power/running water, and even sometimes allows me to do fun stuff like travel or go to the movie theater.
2. I am very thankful to have the financial means to own a car and the physical means to drive it.  I am very blessed to have a paying job in this economy that I do not have to walk to.

Whether we are tweeting, talking, or just thinking to ourselves, a little positivity can go a long way. Of course if you do not have time to complete the above exercise, you can always boost your spirits by watching my favorite curly haired optimist.

Mood: Thankful

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On Presidential Marketing

It’s that time of year where American flags fly high and Facebook feeds flood with both positive and negative (educated and uneducated) comments about who will be the next leader of our country.  I really can’t imagine the pressure of being a political leader, or any celebrity figure for that matter; having your every word and action scrutinized by the nation- even across the world.  Not only are your political and moral stances judged, but your specific word choices, vocal tones and body language, the tie you wear, how much your wife spends on her wardrobe, how you raise your children, etc are being put under the media microscope.  People across the world are sitting in front of their televisions or radios, waiting to put you in a box.  Every single moment has an impact.

I would imagine that typically presidential candidates might be able to assuage their insecurities by knowing that while half of the country hates them, the other half loves them.  It’s almost expected that once you are in the Republican or Democratic box, you will be endeared by your political party.

What is peculiar about this year’s election is that while both candidates fit in their perspective boxes well enough, their parties aren’t particularly excited to associate with either box.  As one SNL skit jokes, “You can either stick with what’s been barely working, or take your chances with [Romney].”

This year, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney not only need to fight against their opposing party, but they also need to win over their own party.  It is especially important, as this season winds up, that every word and action these candidates make directly impact their personal brand as well as their party’s brand.  Like any marketing campaign, every word, color, style, sound, and movement either reinforces or negates their brand image. This is not a job for them to be themselves; rather it is a job for them to be their box.  It’s targeting on steroids- attempting to prove to their target that they still want this “product.”  For the next four years anyway.

Which box do you fit in? Take this quiz and find out.

Mood: Un-convinced