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Living Up To The Hype? – The MS Surface Unveiling

If you’re into new technology, then you probably heard and read about all the hype and rumors that led up to Microsoft’s secret press conference yesterday. With all the chatter on social media, blogs, Web sites and other media channels; I was anxious to see what they had unveiled. But did what they unveil live up to all the hype or was it a big letdown?

I understand how businesses would want to create a lot of hype before their big press conferences. Hype attracts more media and attracts more attention resulting in more traffic to their site and hopefully more sales. Auto manufacturers tend to build up the hype right before the big auto shows. Others build up a lot of hype leading up to big conventions and gatherings like E3, SouthBySouthwest, and Apple’s Developer Conference. I think Microsoft was a little jealous of how much hype Apple gets before it’s big press conferences and followed in their footsteps for their great unveiling.  Microsoft definitely did a good job of building up the hype and talk prior to thier big unveiling. People were predicting everything from a Microsoft television to an iPad killer to a Xbox controller/tablet/phone super machine. What they ended up revealing though was the Surface. It’s a tablet computer that looks to be a competitor against the iPad and possibly netbook computers.

 

So did it live up to the hype? Yes, no and maybe.  I think it has some interesting technology like the magnetic cover that is also a keyboard. The confusing part is that they released two versions. One runs on the upcoming Windows 8 while the other runs on Windows RT, a mobile OS. One seems to be more of a tablet competing against the iPad while the other looks to be more of a netbook competitor with a faster processor and an OS that it will share with regular computers. It does make me wonder if Microsoft was torn at which way to go with the Surface and ended up going both ways. I could see one of the versions eventually becoming obsolete down the road as more people buy the other version. One thing I think could have helped it live up to the hype is if they integrated it with the Xbox system. Imagine playing Xbox games on it or using it as a Xbox controller. That would appeal to the millions of gamers out there. The biggest let down though and the reason why most people really can’t cast any judgment yet is that they didn’t release any info on the battery life or the price points–two very important things a consumer looks at when purchasing a tablet or netbook computer.

 

In the end, I think Microsoft did a good job of creating a lot of buzz, rumors, hype and talk before the big unveiling. There are still a few questions that need to be answered but overall, I came away somewhat impressed which is huge for someone that most would label as an Apple-Fanboy. Living up to the hype can be a daunting task, especially when the company is partly responsible for building the hype and fanning the flames of the rumor mills. If done right, it can be a great way to increase awareness of your product or service, but if done wrong, it can sink your product or service before it ever goes on sale. For competitions sake, I’m hoping that the Surface is a success and will push Apple to create even better iPads.

 

 

 

The Rising Temps and Your Brand

It seems like it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen cooler temperatures. I almost welcome 90-degree weather now with the mercury pushing 100 for what seems like eternity but is more like four or five days. With these ridiculous temperatures sweeping most

Cooler
Cooler (Photo credit: Benson Kua)

of the country, I start thinking about advertising and marketing and whether most companies adjust their messages according to the weather.

 

Obviously, the bigger brands have more money and can adjust their messages and branding according to the seasons. One good example would be Coke. In the summer, Coke is cold and refreshing. It’s sometimes shown being poured over a glass of ice. But in the winter, Coke is usually in a classic glass bottle in a winter scene with polar bears that apparently enjoy a refreshing Coke to wash down the seal. It’s like a winter wonderland, but the feeling of ice cold is not portrayed in the Winter advertisements. They also show the iconic red can a lot which brings a feeling of comfort and warmth to the viewer.

 

The airlines industry also does pretty well to adjust their message and branding according to the seasons and weather. In the Summer, they still show some Caribbean destinations but they also focus more on the popular destinations that don’t have beaches or oceans. It seems like Europe is a popular destination that is pushed by the airlines in the warmer months. But in the Winter, it’s mostly sunny beach destinations in Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean that are pushed by the airlines with an occasional snow ski destination thrown in.

 

So while all the big companies adjust their branding and message with the seasons, should every business include the season the ads will run in the advertising briefs, along with the typical demographics and other important factors? I would say in extreme cases of heat or cold, that it could be beneficial to consider adjusting your message to the extreme temperatures. For instance, with the extreme heat blanketing much of the nation right now, I would expect to see more pool stores advertising. As people seek relief from the heat; a cold, refreshing pool would be a very tempting buy right now. The other day on the radio, I heard a commercial for a hot tub company, which is the last thing people would probably buy in this hot weather. But if a hot tub company sold people on the idea of turning the heat off their hot tubs and perhaps even dumping ice into the now cold tub, it could be a refreshing escape after a long day at work. Now all of a sudden something that looked unappealing and close to torture in this weather is a refreshing and cold tub with massaging jets.

 

I think another important thing to consider is the color palette that is used in your branding and messaging depending on the air temperatures. In this extreme heat, you want to avoid using darker colors like red and brown and use cooler colors like blues and pastels. So if you are selling furniture, choose the lighter colored materials. You may not be able to control the colors of your products, but you can still adjust the colors of the background, the scene, and the copy. If you don’t do much advertising and marketing, then you may want to choose more neutral colors that work well in the hot weather and the cold weather. I do think adjusting your message and branding according to the seasons could help many businesses as people seek relief from the intense heat or bitter cold.

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“I Want That!”

When I’m watching TV with my 4-year-old daughter, I am no longer in charge of the remote. I have to watch her shows or experience the crying wrath of a little one determined to get her way. So, every day when I sit down and watch TV with my daughter, we watch cartoons and kid shows and just like when I watch my shows, there are commercial breaks. While I like watching TV commercials, I’ve never gotten as excited and easily sold to as my daughter.

Obviously all the TV commercials are targeted towards the young ones on the kids program channels but I never realized how easy it was to market towards kids until I had my daughter. Literally as long as the toy or product is not intended for boys, she wants it. It’s obvious that she wants that product because she is jumping up and down beside me while yelling into my ear over and over and over, “Daddy, I want that! Daddy, I want that! Daddy, I want that!”

 

As an advertising creative, I am in awe of how easy it is to sell toys and products to kids. I either want to design a toy and make millions or just work with clients that have kids in their demographics. I’m thinking that I could literally take a block of wood, draw a face on it and call it Princess Pine of Dinosaur Valley and create a compelling TV commercial that would have my daughter jumping up and down wanting that Princess along with all her dinosaur friends. You say it’s not that easy to make a toy for a kid and sell thousands of them? Then what about the Pet Rock?

 

The Pet Rock was actually created by an advertising creative whose name is Gary Dahl. Dahl jokingly created the Pet Rock along with a 32-page manual on how to take care of your new pet and sold more than 1.5 million of them becoming a millionaire. The cost was in the box and manual as the actual Pet Rocks were just simple gray rocks that you can find at a garden center.  Just think how many he could have sold in today’s world where there is cable TV with dozens of kids’ channels? My daughter would undoubtedly be jumping up and down screaming, “Daddy, I want that Pet Rock!” I would want to name it ‘Rocky’ but she would probably name it ‘Princess’.

 

If advertising to kids is as easy as I think it is, especially when compared to advertising to adults, then why don’t clients and their advertising agencies just change their demographics to kids?  Kids can be great influencers to their parents as I can attest to. So rather than advertising a minivan to soccer moms, advertise to the kids who will be riding in back. Show the kids all the cool storage places that they can hide their toys and how they can watch their favorite cartoons in the DVD entertainment center. Maybe even sell vans stocked with cool toys that the kids will love. Or perhaps include a toy store shopping spree with each purchase of a minivan. Basically, make kids jump up and down pleading to their parents, “Daddy, Mommy, I want that!” If parents are anything like my wife and I, they’ll eventually cave and buy that toy or that minivan for their kids.

Opt-In versus Opt-Out: The Science of Participation.

When it comes to brands extending their message, many businesses have newsletters or weekly deals or other incentives for customers and fans to opt-in to. But if you’ve been in the business long enough, you soon realize that a low percentage of people end up opting-in to your newsletter or deals or updates. So what if you turn the tables and have your customers opt-out rather than opting-in? Would they be angry or fine with the decision? And will your conversions increase?

 

If you are inviting your customers to receive deals and weekly newsletter after they purchase an item, they probably won’t have any ill-will towards you if you have the opt-in box checked rather than unchecked. They obviously liked what you were selling and the price that you were selling it, so they probably wouldn’t mind being reminded of upcoming deals or new products or receiving articles on how to get the most out of the product and/or products they bought. In the end, if they don’t want to receive or read your newsletter or deals, they can always either delete the message or opt-out by unsubscribing. You obviously want to give them the choice to uncheck the opt-in during the checkout process but having that opt-in checked rather than unchecked will most likely result in more participation and a larger e-mail database.

 

Another area that I notice an opting-in strategy is with online games, e-books and software.  In order to play the game, get the software or download the e-book; the customer must first provide their email address. Sometimes the sites also require one to register with a username and password but many just require one’s email in order to get the link to download or access what the customer is wanting. This type of required opting-in can potentially turn some people away as they fear their email is going to some spam database. It’s important if you do pursue this avenue of increasing your e-mail database that you are upfront in informing your customers why you need their e-mail and what you intend to send them in the future. You could even have an opt-out box for them to uncheck if they don’t want to receive any future emails.

 

By having your customers choose to opt-out as opposed to opt-in, you should see an increase in customer participation, as many customers don’t mind receiving future deals and news about a product or products they bought. One great way to get their email in the first place during the checkout process is by informing them that their receipt will be emailed to them so they can save it digitally in case they need to return the item during the warranty period. You can also email them any warranty or rebate info.

 

Obviously, the opting-in and opting-out process will be different for different businesses especially with one’s that are gathering info offline as opposed to online like discussed above. The key is to provide a valuable reason why you want to keep in touch with your customers and potential customers. With a good enough reason, your customers will not have a problem providing their emails and they most likely won’t choose to opt-out from future emails on deals and newsletters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Más or Live With Más Money?

First of all, I think the new Taco Bell slogan “Live Más” is a good change. ‘Think Outside the Bun” was a good slogan but with the increase in healthy alternatives to ‘bun’ food elsewhere, it was time for a change. My Spanish is a bit rusty and I didn’t exactly know what más meant and had to look it up. It means ‘more’ if you are wondering. I’m sure if Taco Bell sticks with the slogan, that everyone will know what más means in a year or two. While the slogan is great, I do question the most recent spot featuring the Doritos Locos Tacos.

 

 

I’m sure the tacos are great and I can see how doing some cross-branding with Doritos is a great move as I suspect the demographics are almost identical. So far, it’s all going good but then I saw the commercial. The commercial features a young college-aged man going on a road trip with his friends. That in and of itself, I can relate to as I’m sure college-aged kids can too. When I was that age, I went on plenty of road trips and hitting the local Taco Bell would be a good choice to take a break from driving all day and night. This is definitely living más for a college kid. But it’s the purpose of the road trip in the commercial that falls short and doesn’t deliver.

 

The young man has grabbed his friends and hit the road for a 965-mile road trip to a Taco Bell restaurant. The reasoning behind the road trip was that the Doritos Locos Tacos were tested in just a few markets last year and the closest one to this young man was 965-miles away. I can understand one crazy friend who perhaps would have done this during his college years, but the fact that he was able to get some friends to go along with him is not believable. With the rise in gas prices and college kids on limited budgets, it’s understandable that they would save up for a road trip to see a concert or hit the beach for spring break or go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras but they wouldn’t spend hundreds of dollars on gas and a whole day on the road in order to buy a $1.29 taco. I would of hoped that one of them was an economics major or a marketing major so they could have pointed out the costs to get there as well as the popularity of Doritos and how one would expect this taco to reach all stores as it would seem to be a popular choice for teenagers and college students. But apparently there was a lack of those two majors in the car.

 

I think if they would have made the destination of the road trip more believable and more of an aspiration for that age group, it would have been a more effective commercial. At that age, there’s something memorable about driving all night with your friends to arrive in ‘paradise’. Whether that ‘paradise’ is Mardi Gras or Daytona Beach or Coachella or Burning Man; it’s something many in this demographic can relate to and have experienced or dream to experience. Pursuing one of those road trips and perhaps hitting the Taco Bell along the way is living más. That is the type of road trip they should have focused on instead of putting so much focus on the taco that it becomes the road trip destination. Thankfully I only have to drive a couple miles to get my Locos Tacos. I may not be living más, but I’ll end up having más in my wallet.