When innovation isn’t a sustainable marketing effort…

A company in Austin, Texas – Blue Marble – is starting to use QR codes in a novel approach to marketing and advertising.   The company will place a QR code on top of buildings that will show up on Google Earth and Google Maps – taking approximately one year to show up.  The service will cost $8,500 plus a recurring $200 support fee.

Rooftop QR Code Source: Mashable.com

Although this marketing effort is a unique way to use emerging media and technology, it does not seem to be a viable advertising tactic.  Blue Marble states that Google Earth is a popular phone application and that placing the code on buildings that show up on the app will allow users to receive rich content from it.  This advertising effort most often will miss its target and additionally not even be recognized by consumers. Consumers will mostly ignore the codes because it doesn’t engage them and it’s placed in an area that they’re not expecting.  The wait time for the QR code to show up on Google Earth and Maps will also prove to be a downfall for the unusual advertising approach.  If QR codes do not catch on to the general public or even if their usage slows in the next year, a company will have paid almost $10,000 for a useless picture on top of their buildings.

This idea is innovative, but does innovation always mean achieving objectives or effectiveness? No.  An ‘A’ for effort, but an ‘F’ for feasibility. 

Source: http://mashable.com/2011/10/05/rooftop-qr-codes-google-maps/

Advertising appeals…is there a correct dosage of sex, humor & fear?

Advertising appeals such as sex, humor and fear can have numerous effects on audiences – some bad, some good.  As the old adage argues, “Sex sells.” With modern advertising containing countless sexual appeals, it can be presumed sex does sell.  Humor, just like sex, can have positive effects on audience attitude and may lead to sales in the long run.  However, advertisers must be cautious when using sex and humor as it may have an adverse effect on the audience.  Humor can create a relationship with consumers, which can enhance their thoughts and feelings toward a brand or product.  When using humor, however, it must be done in a balanced manner – not too much, but not too little.  If a high/extreme humor appeal is used, it may alienate the audience from the message and they may not remember/recall the brand or product advertised. Advertising that creatively incorporates a product or service in moderate humor appeals will be more effective as it relates the message to something entertaining that an audience may later recall. Moderate humor will allow a relationship between the audience and advertiser, while increasing the likelihood of the viewer to decode the message more effectively.

Fear appeals can be somewhat different from sex and humor appeals and must be used cautiously so as to not create too much arousal or anxiety.  A moderate level of fear can motivate an audience to seek ways to alleviate the fears that may be caused by the message.  For example, if a girl watches a commercial about HPV and is afraid that she may get HPV if she doesn’t receive the Gardasil vaccine then she may seek more information about vaccine to assuage her fears. If excessive fear appeal is used, however, it may cause too much arousal or anxiety and the audience will employ defense mechanisms such as ignoring the message altogether. Advertisers and marketers must be wary of the amount of fear they inscribe in their marketing communications because they may alienate their audience entirely.

In terms of effectiveness, gender differences exist – as they most always do – in the manner an audience will respond to an advertisement.  Men may interpret humor that uses more competitive or vulgar appeals better rather than humor that contains less.  While women, on the other hand, are less likely to enjoy raunchy humor.  If an ad makes a jab at another’s expense, women are more inclined to feel emotions and interpret the ad as distasteful. The same goes for sexual appeals used in advertisements.  Vulgar and excessive sex appeals may be repulsive to women, while men tend to welcome escalated sexual appeals.  Biologically, men and women are wired differently in relation to arousal and anxiety.  Therefore, when faced with messages incorporating fear women tend to have a lower tolerance and higher avoidance than men.  Men tend to have higher coping ability with fear-based messages.

Largely, advertising appeals are tricky.  To be used effectively, many aspects of appeals must be considered carefully.  There is not a one-size fits all approach, so advertisers must adjust accordingly to each specific audience involved.

Skype CAN be educational!

According to an article, published by Mashable.com, Skype launched a network in March 2011 specifically for teachers called: Skype in the Classroom. The teacher network now boasts 15,000 teachers worldwide sharing/collaborating projects and video-conferencing with other classes and professionals in their prospective fields. Tony Bates, the CEO of Skype, sat down with Mashable to discuss the impact that Skype in the Classroom has on education. His positive outlook of the teaching network emphasizes the importance of a video-conferencing tool in classrooms.

The article is particularly interesting because there are many positives that can come out of the teaching network. As the article mentioned, teachers are able to collaborate on school projects and share their work with others that would normally be inaccessible.  Skype in the Classroom is invaluable because it allows students to work with others and/or have personal experiences with various teachers and professors across the globe.  Specifically advertising/marketing classes can collaborate in more specific ways with the use of Skype. The platform can also enhance students’ learning and global perspective rather than restricting them to only one regional or national perspective.

It is important for educators from the advertising/marketing world to engage their students with this type of experiential learning.  It can also help students by providing them with a mode of connecting with industry professionals that would otherwise be out of reach.  Instructors should implement these professionals into their classroom instruction whenever possible to enrich classroom learning.  Additionally, teachers in all disciplines and fields should embrace this technology and innovate new ways to use the platform for better classroom engagement. This initiative is of great significance for education overall and even more for higher education. West Virginia University’s P.I. Reed School of Journalism would benefit from outside professional and academic collaboration. Personally, I would have enjoyed my advertising and communication classes more if Skype and other engaging platforms would have been used more often.

Millennials…more selective than ever.

According to an article on AdAge.com, Ford has tapped into the mind’s of millennials on Twitter to establish key marketing tactics that will allow them to effectively engage the millennial audience. Since millennials are a coveted market audience, many brands are seeking specific techniques to sway this young generation into becoming brand consumers and enthusiasts. Ford’s marketing team delved into these young minds to uncover insights that they realize is necessary to have a meaningful brand relationship.

First, Ford illustrates that self-expression is important to the millennial generation because it allows them to customize their car – transforming it from a mere vehicle into personalized “lifestyle enhancer.” Second, Ford notes that connectivity is all the rage with this ever-connected generation. With that said, connecting the cell phone and its features to automobiles is not an option – it’s a must.  Next, they identify gamification and its increasing importance. By incorporating gaming into automobiles, it will increase the engagement of the millennial consumer.  Access to the brand is becoming an important aspect to the young generation. They want –and have even come to expect – interaction with brands.  Last, Ford emphasizes that brand as content is important to always observe; by watching what millennials do with brands, marketers can constantly educate themselves on how to best reach and engage with them.

The key marketing tips presented from Ford’s perspective of millennials can be applied to many brands seeking to enchant the highly sought-after generation. Self-expression, connectivity, gamification, access, and brand as content have become increasingly important in every aspect to the millennial consumer.

Not only automobiles can be customized, many products such as shoes or phones or computers are customizable. For example, Nike reached the young demographic many years ago when it introduced the ability to customize everything about the shoe you order on their online store.  Millennials can be described as being self-absorbed. As a millennial myself, anything we can make more personal to us will make us fonder of the product.

When it comes to connectivity, the millennial consumer is the epitome of demanding everything at their fingertips. Brands must seek ways to incorporate this connectivity at any second they can. Once a millennial loses touch with their connection, they become disengaged will all surroundings – it’s their life-support.

Gamification keeps the youthful consumer occupied and entertained. Brands must be able provide methods of constant engagement that keep the consumer coming back for more. Foursquare has evolved from just checking-in, to a simple game that keeps users coming back to earn and win prizes.

As mentioned before, millennials are self-absorbed; this causes them to expect access to brands on “their” time. Brands must be willing to actively engage this youth when they say it’s time. And last but not least, mining data and information from this important demographic is ever important. Learning their content sharing characteristics and expressions is a guaranteed way to always be abreast of their changing trends.

If brands can find techniques to achieve these key marketing tactics they will undoubtedly increase their brand presence with the millennial generation. In the end, the millennial generation can either make or break a brand. So brands must tread carefully.

Integrated Marketing Communications – Is it for everyone?

Integrated Marketing Communication is a marketing model that encompasses building consumer relationships with clear, consistent and impactful messages that are data-driven and consumer focused. The concept of IMC is to produce synergy among marketing efforts to influence and affect behavior in specific target audiences. There are five key features of IMC that effectively build an impactful marketing strategy.  First, all IMC efforts should be consumer focused.  Thus, marketers must acknowledge that consumers are in control and they must understand their attitudes, perceptions and behaviors. Since consumers are becoming increasingly fragmented, IMC is driven by consumer data and analysis. Secondly, all forms of potential contact must be used. Brands must be present where the consumer is; these touch points are always important, even if they are all not equally as engaging. Thirdly, all messages must be consistent and have a clear voice. This is where synergy comes into play. Uncoordinated messages will send an ambiguous message to consumers; coordinated and consistent messages will produce synergy. IMC seeks to build relationships with consumers. This fourth key feature is important because without it one may lose consumers. If you build strong relationships with consumers, the relationships will most likely last and be mutually beneficial. Last but not least, the fifth key feature of IMC is to influence and affect consumer behavior. Affecting behavior is the ultimate goal for any marketing communication strategy; if a desired behavior is not achieved, the strategy was then a failure.  Together, all five of these features produce maximum impact and synergy.

As an advertiser, it is important to embrace IMC because all communication efforts must be clear, consistent and impactful. If advertising efforts are inconsistent and unclear, messages will not be impactful. It is also important for advertisers to be individually consumer-focused rather than mass media focused so that they can segment audiences appropriately for greater engagement. It can be difficult to implement IMC without necessary diverse skills sets. It can cost additional money and human resources to effectively embrace and implement IMC; therefore, the agency must have approach IMC with an open mind.

Advertising agencies may encounter many problems that would impede their efforts of becoming a full IMC agency. First, as mentioned above, an agency may not have money resources to embrace IMC fully. Employees may not possess the skill-set or knowledge to effectively manage and implement IMC efforts. Consequently, agencies would need to resort to hiring more employees to execute IMC. An advertising agency most often will only execute a specific area of marketing communication efforts – advertising. With that said, it would be hard to implement IMC if an agency is only overseeing advertising efforts. Public relations, marketing and advertising specialists would need to be housed at the same agency to effectively coordinate all IMC efforts.

Though IMC may not be for everyone, it can certainly be said that implementing an integrated marketing communications approach to organization/company communication efforts will have a positive long-term effect – for the company and the audience.

Looking for schools that teach IMC at the master’s level? 

Consider the following:

IMC Online @ West Virginia University: http://imc.wvu.edu/

Northwestern University – Medill: http://www.medill.northwestern.edu/imc/

Loyola University: http://www.luc.edu/gsb/academics_msimc.shtml