Fads: They Eventually Crumble

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Gourmet cupcake chain, Crumbs, recently made news because it is closing several of its stores due to poor and declining sales. Crumbs is now in the middle of a complete brand shift and moving their products into grocery stores. It is yet to be seen if this move will save the company but one thing is for sure, more Crumbs stores are going to close. This brings me to a question, is it really worth it to hitch your business to a fad or trend?

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As we are seeing with Crumbs, businesses built on fads will eventually come to an end. This isn’t the first time this as happened either, there was Krispy Kreme with their hot donuts, Brazilian steakhouses with their swords full of meat and who could forget Crocs and their ugly (as far as I am concerned) shoes.

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I don’t blame these companies; fads are a great way to make a quick buck if you can capitalize on them, but be careful building a business off of trends. If you do at least have an exit tragedy ready to go because it will end and when it does you don’t want to be scrambling to figure things out as the ship goes down. Crumbs may make it through this, but they should have seen it coming and had this business shift planned a long time go.

Author: Gary Balakoff

 

Applebee’s Instagram: Power to the Foodies

#FantographerUser generated and influencer content is a great resources for advertising and Applebee’s is taking this strategy to the next level with their Instagram account. Starting in July and lasting for 12 months, they are turning over the account to their diners. User must go to a microsite to give permissions and ok the privacy policy stuff, after that anything posted with #Applebees or #Fantographer (the campaigns title) will get posted on their Instagram. Applebee’s even brands your post with a nice boarder to tie it into the campaign.

I like this idea for multiple reasons… It is easy for users, Instagram’s popularity, simple to manage and explain… but the real reason I like it is that is utilizes user generated content for the campaign. User generated content is becoming more popular in advertising but it is still a relatively untapped resource for companies and brands. Why do I like user or influencer generated content so much?

  • It shows you care about your customers and what they have to say
  • You are engaging with your consumers/audience
  • It creates authenticity and honesty in your advertising
  • Work of mouth: More likely to share content because they created it
  • An emotional connection, people get excited to see their posts used
  • Creates a level of transparency for the company
  • People love to talk about themselves and share pics
  • It is free or relatively low cost content

iPhoneI could probably go on, but I think you get the idea. User generated content can be a great tool for advertising. Sure there can be some negatives to using this type of content, issues like having to monitor very closely to avoid negative or inappropriate content, what if no one shares content for the campaign, technical issues, etc. However those companies that look past these issues and take a chance on their audience can create a campaign that has a bigger impact than several traditional campaigns put together.

So if you don’t mind taking a chance and have faith in your consumers, reach out to them and see what they can do. Who knows they just might surprise you and help create one of your most powerful advertising campaigns?

Author: Gary Balakoff

Taco Bell, Star Wars and Luke Skywalker

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As a huge fan of Star Wars and Taco Bell’s Dorito Loco Tacos, I would like to use Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star to highlight what I like about how Taco Bell handled the launch of the Cool Ranch version of the Loco Taco.

When Taco Bell launched the Doritos Loco Taco (can’t believe it took so long for someone to figure that amazing combination out) it was an instant success.  In fact it became the fastest selling Taco Bell item of all time (source). Personally, I think they are delicious and contributed to those sales figures. It wasn’t long after the release of the Nacho Cheese flavored taco that chatter for a Cool-Ranch flavored one started.  Talk of a Cool Ranch Loco Taco seemed to be everywhere, friends, co-workers, social media, radio and TV. I kept hearing people say, if Taco Bell was making a Nacho Cheese one, it only makes sense to have a Cool Ranch one. However, there was no announcement or release of a Cool Ranch taco and Taco Bell was sitting tight with just the nacho cheese one.

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This brings me to Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (because we all know the original trilogy is all that matters, but that is a completely different post). The strategy Taco Bell chose to go with is much like the strategy Luke Skywalker employed to destroy the Death Star in the movie. At the end of the movie Luke is part a squadron of fighter pilots that must hit a specific target to destroy the evil empire’s massive starship, the Death Star. Luke is able to get himself within striking distance of the target and is moving in to take the shot. As he does so Darth Vader (the enemy) starts chasing him. Now Luke has a fairly clear shot, although from some distance, but chooses to get closer and closer to have a better shot, even with Darth Vader closing in on him. Despite the pressure of Darth Vader about to shoot him down, Luke stays his course and gets in position for the perfect shot… BOOM, destroying the Death Star and saving the day.

Taco Bell, much like Luke waited, even with all the pressure to release a Cool Ranch Loco Taco, for the best possible moment.  Think about it, the Nacho Cheese flavored taco was breaking sales records and a Cool Ranch flavored one would have just added to those sales, but that would have given Taco Bell only one wave of excitement, with the flavors running parallel.  Instead Taco Bell waited and waited, even with all the demand, till the right time when the hype was calming down for the Nacho Cheese flavor. Then, with a very strategic launch, started a brand new wave of excitement with the Cool Ranch flavor. This may not have been easy, but by taking the same approach as Luke Skywalker and waiting for that perfect shot, Taco Bell created two very successful product launches for each of the flavors, not just one combined launch with the flavors together. They even made light of it in their commercials for the Cool Ranch Loco Taco.

With your campaigns, do you have the nerve to go against popular opinion? Can you stick to the plan you think will get you the most success even with your customer base and/or critics saying you should do something else? Will the Force be with you like it was for Luke Skywalker and Taco Bell?

Author: Gary Balakoff

Top 3 Reasons I Love Marketing

Since I started this blog to share my thoughts on marketing, advertising and branding, I thought, what better to write about in my first post, than my top 3 reasons I have a passion for marketing.  I can remember the exact moment I got the marketing bug and knew this was the industry that I wanted to work in. It has everything to do with the 1980s Pepsi Challenge taste test promotion.  Yes this Pepsi Challenge:

 

I was a sophomore in college and sitting in the first day of my Introduction to Marketing class.  The professor was discussing what we would be learning for the semester and describing some of the activities and projects we would be doing.  Then he plays a video (on VHS) highlighting some of the biggest marketing campaigns of all time.  One of those campaigns was the Pepsi Challenge and after the video is over he informs us that we will be holding our very own Pepsi Challenge later in the semester as a case study.  He staged a Pepsi Challenge style taste test to see whether or not we could tell the difference between various colas.  The experiment was looking to prove if it was the marketing behind the colas that made us prefer one over the other or the actual taste.  Well regardless of the lesson we were supposed to learn, that was it, I was hooked, and I should probably call up that professor and thank him.

It wasn’t long after that I declared my major in Marketing and began signing up for every marketing class that I could.  So what is it about marketing that makes it so exciting?  I could probably list a dozen reasons why I have such a passion for marketing, but when it comes down to it, there are 3 main areas that really attract me to this industry.

  1. Entertaining/Emotional: I put these two together as one because as I thought about them, they seemed linked to each other.  Marketing can create such an emotional and entertaining experience that I think is one of the most important aspects to this industry.  You can have all the numbers, facts and information you want, but it is the emotional reaction you create for someone, what they remember. Being able to take an idea, build a marketing piece from it and have someone react to it or be entertained by it is such a gratifying moment. It is what makes all the hard work, the trial and error to get it just right all worth it. It is what draws me to an ad or commercial.  When I can watch TV and have that one ad, out of all the ads, grab my attention and make me react to it, it reminds me of why I love this industry.  Think about some of your favorite commercials, ads or marketing pieces and more times than not, there is an emotional value or entertainment value behind why you like it.  Obviously I want someone to remember what I am selling, but if I can create that entertaining moment for them, I know I’ve got them, I know I nailed it.
  2. Creativity: Something I really enjoy with this industry is being able to get creative. Coming up with ideas and shaping them into a campaign; thinking to myself, “that idea is out there… now how do I make it work?” I enjoy the creative process of brainstorming and considering every idea, taking parts of this thought and mixing it with parts of another. Not knowing where my inspiration will come from or what will make the final product start taking shape.  Creativity makes this industry exciting and keeps it from getting boring or monotonous.  It is your creativity that helps you to stand out and your work to get notices. Something I have learned over the years is to not be afraid, that not every idea will be a good one, but if I keep learning and keep pushing myself creatively, they will start to work more and more.
  3. Team work/Brainstorming: I briefly mentioned this in my previous point, but for me, it deserves its own mention.  When I start to develop a campaign or a promotion I usually have a ton of ideas floating around in my head. I just start jotting down anything that comes to mind, all on one piece of paper. After a while I will start to eliminate ideas and bounce them off my co-workers trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.  This has been the set up for several of my jobs, where teamwork was encouraged and everyone could share ideas. I’ve always liked this process of brainstorming and getting others input. Sometimes it just takes a small jolt from something another person says to get your idea to take shape. I have always felt that in marketing, constructive criticism is necessary. You can’t worry about the criticism or being told an idea will not work. Sometimes it takes that criticism to grow and be successful. Working with a team and brainstorming keeps marketing exciting for me and creates a sense of camaraderie.

I could easily go on with this list, but for me these three really stand out and make my job in marketing so enjoyable.  Looking back at my decision to pursue a degree in marketing, it was definitely the right choice.  This is the industry for me and while it may not be for everyone, I thoroughly enjoy it. It brings me satisfaction and gives me a drive for successful.

Are you involved in a marketing position? What do you like or maybe dislike about marketing? What about marketing keeps you going every day?

Author: Gary Balakoff