DOES THE NEWS MEDIA REALLY MEAN TO UNDERMINE A BRAND?
Yes, you heard the news.
The biggest brands in U.S. wine country, Napa and Sonoma, have been destroyed by wildfires.
Wineries, gone! Hotels, gone! Vineyards, gone! All gone, gone, gone!
Up there in California, it's like the dark side of the moon.
Maybe you've seen the news photo of the Malaysian gentleman who'd been visiting Santa Rosa.
He was staying at the Hilton Sonoma. In the photo, he's walking past a pile of charred rubble that used to be his hotel.
Gone! The Hilton is gone!
Who ever heard of losing a Hilton?
DEVASTATION, MAYHEM AND DEATH!
Yes, there are problems in Napa and Sonoma. Businesses have been destroyed. People have died. It has indeed been tragic.
And that's exactly why the Fabulous Honey Parker and I were planning on staying away.
We had business up there. We were planning on driving the CoupleCoach to Napa to interview couple entrepreneurs. We were gonna go all Charles Kerault on 'em.
We had delayed our plans in order to avoid hitting everyone during the harvest.
Then the fires hit. We saw the news. Oh, boy. We thought, Wow, let's just leave everybody alone. We'll go next year after they've cleaned up.
THEN, WE RECEIVED WORD THROUGH FRIENDS WHO ARE DEEPLY CONNECTED IN WINE COUNTRY
We were told in no uncertain terms, "Get up here!"
The person saying this has a business that supports tourists visiting wine country.
This person has lost all of her business. Visitors have cancelled their plans from now through February.
Because the news media in this country is vast and busy and immersive.
The 24-hour news cycle saturates the populous with ongoing stories and endless images of unimaginable devastation.
So what do you do?
You cancel your vacation to Devastation Land!
EXCEPT THAT, LIKE SANTA CLAUS, DEVASTATION LAND DOESN'T EXIST
"Despite the fires, the majority of businesses in both Napa and Sonoma remain open."
That quote is courtesy of the award-winning experiential travel magazine, AFAR.
It comes from an article they published online about two weeks ago. It's called, "What You Can Do to Help Wine Country Now--and Later."
Among their six tips, "Plan a visit."
And it made Honey and I say, "Of course. What were we thinking?"
It reminded us of the year that we changed our spring travel plans.
We are regular visitors to Jazz Fest, that immense and sonorous party on the New Orleans fairgrounds during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May.
IN 2005, WE HAD DECIDED TO TAKE A HIATUS
We had an immediate about-face.
What better way to support a town we love, whose major industry is tourism, than to come back as a tourist and bring tourist dollars?
The welcome we received was extraordinary.
Never have we been any place where people were so happy to see us.
We were even exhorted to take a Devastation Tour in order to understand intimately what had happened there.
SO, WHAT IS THE NEWS MEDIA BRAND IN THE INFO-SATURATION AGE?
It seems that the one way we're supposed to feel about it is we're getting the absolute horrifying truth at any minute of any day.
Here's the problem: it's like a microscope.
The news focuses narrowly on minute details without the context of the larger picture.
Hilton Sonoma destroyed!
Man visiting from Malaysia loses everything!
You know what else?
Seven wineries in Sonoma destroyed!
You know that that means?
Approximately 418 more wineries in Sonoma are still standing.
THINK THERE'S STILL A PLACE TO TASTE WINE?
Two hotels in Santa Rosa were destroyed, one of them the Hilton.
Cursory research shows at least three more in the area are closed.
Trip Advisor lists 75 more hotel options in Sonoma.
Think maybe there are a few other places to sleep off a day's wine tasting?
The 24-hour news cycle is largely about spectacle.
The spectacle of flames, destruction and death play to the old journalism adage, "If it bleeds, it leads."
Ironically, there are plenty of stories about how California wine country needs to lure tourists back to Napa and Sonoma.
WOULD THESE SUBSEQUENT STORIES BE NECESSARY IF NOT FOR THE FIRST ONES?
And those stories don't bleed.
They certainly aren't going to lead.
There just isn't much news value in, "Most everything's OK! Whoo!"
It seems that one of the best things we can do for our sanity is to avoid 99% of the news.
It just isn't worthy.
I have preferred news sources, they are time-honored and reliable. They go in-depth and tell you all of the what, where, when, how and why.
There are details and context.
When the superficial news media are reporting things that leave me scratching my head, my preferred news sources fill in the blanks so the stories make sense.
IN THE MEANTIME, WE'RE GOING TO WINE COUNTRY
Honey and I will be on location for Hot Shots and for CoupleCo, and we will return with stories.
With any luck, you'll enjoy them.
They will be about the brands and the people behind them.
There will be no devastation, mayhem and death unless it's relevant.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with a teaser for CoupleCo.
It's fun, and the risky subtext of mayhem and devastation is certainly part of the allure. The stories these people tell are about how a business and a brand can survive--along with the marriage that launched it.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
HOW THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN, PART II
In last week's screed, "How the Heck Did That Happen," there was talk of personal brand, ownership of a business by an employee, and making the customer feel welcome and comfortable.
To recap, I was on the road from the Uintas to the Ozarks (that would be Salt Lake to St. Louis if your geography is airport-centric), and was analyzing all of the customer-service touchpoints in that experience, from curbside at SLC to barside at a major chain hotel.
In conclusion, some of the day's experiences were excellent, others were fleeting and unmemorable.
But it had me thinking about something that impacts the way each of these people treated me during that day.
I had asked my surprising and interesting server in the bar, "What is the one way you want your core customer to feel about your business?"
She said, "I realize that my customer has been traveling, and I want them to feel comfortable and welcome."
Ultimately, it left me with a new question.
WHAT'S MY PERSONAL BRAND AS A CUSTOMER?
As a customer, what is the one way I want my service provider to feel about me?
This seems especially significant in light of the uniquely 21st century challenge of air travel.
Once, air travel was an idyllic and puffy-cloud land of women in pencil skirts and white gloves and men in hats and ties.
The experience has devolved to the level of bus travel.
People love to hate airlines.
They hate hate hate airlines.
And maybe it's worth starting this tale at my front door.
Last week, before I left for the Ozarks, a friend came knocking.
HE WAS THERE TO BORROW SOME DRIED BASIL
Yes, we have that kind of neighborhood.
Friends come around to borrow ingredients.
This fellow who came for the basil has an interesting personal brand.
Speaking superficially, he is the Jerry Garcia of high-school biology teachers.
He has long hair and a bushy beard, and wears a lot of tie-dyed clothing.
That's really the only resemblance to the late leader of the Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia was a juvenile delinquent who grew up in San Francisco and was sent to the army for stealing his mother's car, and died of a heart attack while in an addiction recovery facility.
My friend grew up on an army base in rural Utah, is science-minded, and is dedicated to shaping young minds for tomorrow in the face of great odds.
THE HIPPY-ISH FAÇADE BELIES A DISCIPLINED AND RESPONSIBLE CHARACTER
So when he came knocking, dressed in a tie-dyed T-shirt and olive hiking pants, his long hair pulled back, I opened the door, he looked at me, and he said, "Fancy."
I had on khaki pants, loafers and a dress-shirt. I said, "I'm flying."
He said, "I know. I do the same thing when I fly."
Apparently, he understands that if he gets on a plane looking like a hippy, he will not experience the best service.
We both try to dress a little better than the rabble. In surveys, flight attendants admit that they treat passengers better if they're dressed better. And neither of us wants to be one of those people who gets on a plane wearing pajamas.
THERE MAY BE NO BETTER PLACE TO EXAMINE CUSTOMER BRAND THAN IN AIR TRAVEL
In a business that is hated by a great number of the people patronizing it, I have learned to enjoy it.
That's because I've learned how to do two things.
1) How to control the experience to my benefit.
2) How to be a desirable customer (even though people who know me may consider it an act).
And it really doesn't take that much.
Controlling the experience requires trying to always be early, understanding your options, and making a modest investment. In many respects, air travel is cheaper than ever. By paying a little more to obtain the conveniences, it's easy to mitigate the unpleasant, mass-transit aspects of the experience. TSA Pre-Check, Clear, purchasing certain upgrades, getting credit cards that afford benefits like premium lounges and early boarding, it all helps mitigate the stress.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, THING ONE INFORMS THING TWO
Not controlling the experience leads to stress.
Resistance is pain. Especially if one approaches air travel as an antagonistic experience, it can end up being antagonizing and painful.
Imagine walking into a retail store and saying, "I hate this place! Serve me now!"
How inclined is anyone going to be to serve you?
Just for fun, an exceptionally skilled salesperson may try to win you over.
Most will just try to stay away.
IMAGINE WALKING INTO THAT SAME STORE DRESSED IN PAJAMAS AND BEDROOM SLIPPERS, CARRYING A PILLOW AND SUCKING A PACIFIER
Yes, I've seen it.
And it sends a message.
Yes, I might sound elitist.
But in an overcrowded, over-busy, overbooked environment, snap judgments are inevitable. "Hey there, uncouth slob, what can I do for you?" You get what you give. When you're George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic, you can travel first class looking like a rainbow-haired wild man and people will love you. I've seen it happen. The rest of us? We have to work a little harder.
By going in dressed well (and that doesn't mean being dressed expensively or being over dressed, just dressed in clean, business casual or smart casual), a customer doesn't allow for anyone to make the same snap judgments as if one was dressed in sweat pants and a T-shirt with a profane message about your mother.
By smiling and returning smiles, a rapport happens. Sure, there are times when it doesn't work. Gate agents can be nasty. Trying to win over those pissy people can be a challenge worth taking.
AND ULTIMATELY, ACTING LIKE YOU BELONG THERE SCORES BIG POINTS
Not acting entitled, acting appreciative, and making it clear that being locked together in an aluminum tube for 5 hours will be a pleasure, one becomes the Desirable Customer.
Yes, this probably sounds very Norman Vincent Peale.
So what? It works more often than it doesn't.
My core customer service professional is someone who works hard, is underpaid, and tries to keep a smile on her face despite enormous odds in an environment that is ever more like working in an urban bus station.
What is the one way I want my core customer service professional to feel about me?
That I'm going to make her job easier and more enjoyable.
YES, YOU'VE HEARD ME ADMIT TO BEING A CURMUDGEON
Yes, I can be a cantankerous lout.
I am able to wear a mask!
But, the Fabulous Honey Parker?
She is an ace at this.
She makes people love her.
One time, she got out of her seat to go to the lavatory.
She was gone for about 20 minutes.
When she finally returned, she was clutching a dozen little bottles of bourbon to her chest.
Seems she'd made friends with the flight attendant in the galley.
AND HEY, FREE BOURBON
The bottom line: both Honey and I have worked in service industries.
Maybe that gives us empathy for the people who serve us.
Yes, we both have the capacity to make a customer service agent cry.
But guaranteed, even if we do, neither of us will never be that person you see at the customer service counter yelling, "Do you know who I am?!"
Because nobody wants to know that person or who they are.
It's a brand that everyone has experienced, and feels one way about.
And it's never the good way.
Fly big. Fly with fun. Fly with a smile. And you become a customer brand that professionals enjoy serving. Or over-serving with a dozen bottles of bourbon.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
HOW THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN?
I've left the mountain west and have traveled to the heartland.
I'm here to see a client.
I'm in the bar of a famous hotel chain.
It's a Saturday night, and the place is about half full. It's not long before a server comes over, welcomes me, and the next thing I know--
She's sitting on the arm of the chair next to mine, we're deep in a conversation, I know what her fiancé does for a living, and I'm having a great time.
I DON'T EVEN HAVE A DRINK YET AND I DON'T CARE
We'll call this woman Enid.
That's not her real name. But like her real name, it is unusual and it contains various letters.
Of course, eventually, Enid needs to get back to her actual work, and I need to place my order.
So, we do that.
And over the course of the next hour or so, she pops back periodically to check on my adult beverage needs.
And during those brief conversations, because it's part of what we do here at Slow Burn Marketing, the subject turns to personal brand.
I remark upon hers.
I say, "We define brand for the small business owner as the one way your core customer should feel about your business. So, what's the one way you want your core customer to feel?"
ENID DOES NOT MISS A BEAT
She is definite and concise.
She says, "I realize that my customer has been traveling, and I want them to feel comfortable and welcome."
Feeling comfortable and welcome means different things for different people.
I could've been a road warrior who showed up with a laptop, digging into my CRM software.
I could've been a family on vacation.
I could've been a team of reps here for a sales meeting.
She attenuates her degree of hospitality accordingly, for the person or people she's serving.
She knows how to read not only the room, but each table in it.
AND I'M WILLING TO BET THAT SHE GETS THE TIPS
It's hard to imagine anyone spending five years working in an airport hotel bar if it doesn't pay well.
But there's also another quality at work here, something I did not address with Miss Enid, but seems a significant quality so often missing in the workplace--especially one with a transient customer base.
Enid owns this bar.
Not on paper. This gigantic international hotel chain does not have a written agreement with her conveying rights, tenure and title to the bar.
NONETHELESS, WHEN SHE'S THERE, SHE OWNS THE JOINT
This is her bar and welcome to it.
Enid is one of those people The Fabulous Honey Parker and I enjoy stumbling upon: Someone we'd love to hire if indeed we had a business that actually hires people.
We don't have that. Honey is Slow Burn Marketing's President For Life, she keeps me around, and I do not get a salary.
Few employees would be willing to endure such an arrangement.
Nonetheless, "I'd Hire That Person" is a game we play.
And people with a passion and a commitment to their work, a joy for the job, and a strong sense of personal brand (regardless of whether they actually understand it in those terms or not) are huge and valuable.
THIS EPISODE IN THE HOTEL BAR ALSO GOT ME THINKING ABOUT THE ENTIRE TRAVEL DAY
How many different people did I interact with during my day?
How many service employee touch points did I go through?
There was the harried customer service agent in the airline's self-check-in area
There was the impersonal and efficient bag-check agent behind the counter.
The courteous, efficient hipster millennial working the Clear kiosk.
The big, goofy, smiling and happy TSA agent making sure nobody in the Pre-Check line was packing water.
YES, THERE ARE EVEN GUYS AT TSA WHO ENJOY THEIR WORK
In the premium lounge, there was the odd and grinning desk agent who may or may not have been on opiates.
The happy and efficient bartender in the premium lounge.
The frustrated and sweaty gate agent who laughed as he apologized over the PA for the failure of the fan in the over-warm gate area.
The first-class flight attendant who remained funny and engaging despite having to keep running and jumping through multiple hoops. (I high-fived her on the way off the plane.)
The hotel shuttle driver who pulled up to the exact spot where I was standing at the curb, opened the door, and laughed when I said, "See how you knew?"
The hotel desk clerk who was bubbly and fun after only five days on the job.
AND THEN, THERE WAS ENID
A server I don't know who plopped on the arm of the chair and started a conversation that led to this random blather about personal brand, ownership, and making the customer feel welcome and comfortable.
There were dozens of customer service touch points throughout my travel day.
Each of them was with the representative of a particular brand.
Some of them did better than others.
Some of the experiences were fleeting and unmemorable in the grand scheme of things.
But it now has me thinking about something that impacts how each of these people treated me during that day.
And it's my personal brand as a customer.
What is the one way I want my service providers to feel about me?
That's a whole other screed of a very different kind.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
DID YOU TRY SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING AND IT DIDN'T WORK?
Just a different twist on the old chestnut, "I tried radio advertising and it didn't work!"
Well, did you know what you were doing?
Or did you ram your own uninformed agenda down the throat of whoever was trying to help you?
That is meant in the nicest possible way, of course.
And it's a rhetorical question not meant to implicate you, personally. You, of course, would never do that.
It's meant as a cautionary note to people we all know who have all the answers despite having none the training, experience, or insight to have an actual, informed opinion.
SO, WHY ARE WE HERE?
Why am I beating on the "I tried it and it didn't work" drum?
Because I'm tired of hearing things like, "Social media advertising doesn't work!"
I was just reading an interesting story from AdWeek.
The headline: "What National Geographic Did to Earn 3 Million Snapchat Discover Subscribers in Just 3 Months."
Subhead: "A new streamlined design plays up more photos and less text."
OK. National Geographic. Talk about a chestnut.
Why on earth is one of the oldest, stodgiest, great-grandpa brands in the world mentioned in the same sentence as a frivolous, six-year-old social media nitwit platform that lost half a billion dollars last year?
BECAUSE MAYBE IT ISN'T AS MUCH FRIVOLOUS AS IT IS EFFECTIVE
The National Geographic Society is one of the world's oldest and largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions. (Thank you for that tidbit, Wikipedia, one of youngest and largest sources of potentially flawed information on the internet.)
The National Geographic Magazine, launched in 1888, has a global circulation of 6.5 million per month.
The National Geographic Channel is available to almost 90 million pay TV households in the US.
What the heck is National Geographic doing on Snapchat, a platform infamous for its use by disgraced US congressman Anthony Weiner as Weinervision?
Simple guess: National Geographic is looking for eyeballs and wants to be relevant to a younger generation.
And instead of being stodgy and poo-pooing social media, they are embracing Snapchat.
AND IT IS PROFITABLE
The article's subhead makes total sense in the age of the short attention span: "A new streamlined design plays up more photos and less text."
You're trying to reach people with no attention span who are watching a tiny screen in the palm of their hands.
More photos and less text just makes sense.
And it has to be pithy and intriguing.
Like the image of a purple microbe with the headline, "What are flesh-eating bacteria and how do you fight them?"
Yikes. Tell me more! Click.
But let's go back to the headline: "What National Geographic Did to Earn 3 Million Snapchat Discover Subscribers in Just 3 Months."
Are those 3 million Snapchat Discover subscribers actually doing them any good? It's Snapchat! A platform that loses more money than the territory of Guam has in its annual operating budget! More money than GEICO spends on their annual media buy!
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PEOPLE AREN'T STUPID
They hired an expert digital media executive away from digital giant Vox Media and did what needed to be done.
In a nutshell, Nat Geo's revenue from Snapchat is up by 58 percent.
Stephanie Atlas, who leads the Nat Geo digital team, says, "When you're competing against Cosmo and Kim Kardashian, you really have to think about a way to get people interested in what our value proposition is, which is strong visuals and piquing people's curiosity."
OK. My curiosity is piqued.
And I did something that, just 12 hours earlier, I swore to the Fabulous Honey Parker I would never do.
I downloaded Snapchat.
I created an account.
And I went in there.
AND I WAS COMPLETELY BAFFLED!
How do you use this thing?!
I fumbled around for a while. Then, lacking immediate access to a kid, I searched Google.
I found a blog post by one Emily Steck, who was a salve for my digitally frustrated self when she said, "For all the buzz and chatter around Snapchat, it's not a very intuitive platform. It's difficult to discover easily content or simply know where to find everything. Snapchat is a lot more complicated than it lets on."
Anyway, I stumbled through for a bit, and finally found National Geographic.
"Could The Remains Of Santa Claus Be In This Turkish Church?" Intriguing music. Video inside a grand cathedral.
"Is This The world's Most Venomous Fish?" Underwater footage and eerie, dark music.
"Why Are Some Dogs More Aggressive?" A dog bares his teeth as a busy techno track burbles away.
They are being pithy making money.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SMALL-BUSINESS BRAND?
Can Snapchat work for a local business with a brick & mortar location?
I did some digging.
Found some evidence that yes, it's possible--despite the fact that the typical monthly ad spend on Snapchat is $40,000.
Take a nitroglycerine pill. Using local geofilters, a small business like a coffee shop can get away with an ad spend as low as 5 bucks.
But how do you do this?
I have no idea.
Because I do two things really well.
I HELP SMALL BUSINESSES CREATE EVOCATIVE BRANDS THAT CAN ATTRACT CUSTOMERS
And I can help market those evocative brands in ways that are often considered "Traditional."
For anything else, I go to a specialist.
That's because I'm smart enough to know what I don't know.
I can dabble in digital.
But that's not my expertise.
And I don't want to become that fool who makes sweeping, uninformed judgments about new media platforms and sounds like the guy that used to make us crazy when I worked in a building full of radio experts: "I tried it and it didn't work!"
It didn't work because you are know-it-all whose fear- and ego-driven agenda is standing between you and advertising success.
NOT THAT I HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS
This is just fair warning to anyone who scoffs at social media advertising.
Since good radio advertising seems effortless, many people come at it and say, "How hard can it be?"
It's easy to just slap some random thing on the air. It's very hard to do well.
Social media advertising takes simplicity to a whole new level.
Never at any time in history has it been easier to place an advertisement.
And just because you can log on, open an account, and give them your credit card number and target your demographics to certain death doesn't mean you're doing it right.
In blog post entitled, "Snapchat marketing campaigns: 5 great case studies that produced results," Paul Roberts at Our Social Times says, "Success as a brand on Snapchat depends on knowing your audience, knowing the platform and knowing your product. Find the sweet-spot between all three and you could be onto a winner."
Want to be like a stodgy old heritage brand dating from the 19th century?
Find an expert and embrace social media.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
ARE YOU STUCK ON YOUR BRAND?
And if you were paying attention on or after September 25, you've seen the video.
It's ridiculous. Those of us who appreciate the value of brands and trademarks and intellectual property rights have been having a good laugh.
And judging from the near 400,000 views at YouTube over the last week, it seems there are a few of us.
The video is called simply, "Don't Say Velcro."
It features an ostensible cast of lawyers for Velcro explaining why you should not be using the registered trademark name "Velcro" for describing just any hook & loop fastener--and they're doing it with a big, goofy rock anthem that recalls "We Are The World."
HAVING TROUBLE RECALLING "WE ARE THE WORLD?"
It was the 1985 charity single for African famine relief.
Recorded by a vast supergroup of musical stars, it was a big, swelling rock song dreamed up by Harry Belafonte, written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, produced by Quincy Jones, and featured almost anyone you can name.
It became famous for a note pinned to the entrance of the studio: "Please check your egos at the door."
And now, 30+ years later, Velcro is borrowing the conceit of the rock super anthem as an awareness tool to get you to stop saying "Velcro" every time you encounter a hook & loop fastener.
BECAUSE IT DILUTES THE POWER OF THEIR TRADEMARK
The patent for Velcro-brand fasteners expired many years ago, so there are plenty of other hook & loop fasteners out there.
Why does this matter to Velcro?
Every time the trade name "Velcro" is used to describe some other brand, it increases the risk of Velcro Companies losing its trademark--and that would be catastrophic.
Did you know the generic word "aspirin" used to be a trademark?
IT WAS A HUGE MONEYMAKER FOR THE GERMAN PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY, BAYER
But because the name fell into rampant use by other companies around the world, and Bayer didn't defend it sufficiently, they lost their trademark.
It means they lost the exclusive right to market their own creation under its brand name.
Bayer also trademarked the name, "Heroin," which was marketed as a morphine substitute lacking morphine's addictive side effects, but that's another story.
As is Bayer losing the heroin trademark in 1919 in the wake of World War I under the Treaty Of Versailles.
As we often do here in the weekly screed, we digress.
Because you, like us, appreciate ridiculous trivia.
So, back to the ridiculousness of this Velcro video.
THE ABSURD, ANTHEMIC POWER OF THE VIDEO IS CAPTIVATING
The over-the-top craziness of this band of lawyers is impressive.
As is the production value--and the sensibility that created all this.
As part of the song goes:
And we know that this is confusing,
because Velcro Brand is who we are.
But if you call it call 'velcro'...
we're gonna lose that circled 'R'.
This is called 'hook and loop,'
This part's a hook, this part's a loop.
You call it 'velcro,' but we're begging you,
This is (bleep)-ing 'hook and loop.'
And yes, the "bleeping" is part of the video, the word they bleep is never heard, and you know exactly what the word is.
And Velcro Companies claims to be doing this on behalf of all brand names that struggle to protect their trademark, like Rollerblade-branded inline skates, Xerox-branded photocopiers and Band-Aid-branded bandages.
BUT HOW DID THIS CRAZINESS HAPPEN, AND WHAT CAN WE GET FROM IT?
This is a perfect storm of cooperation, sensibility, creativity, and an overarching plan.
The video was created by a North Carolina digital agency called Walk West.
In the making-of video (yes, there really is one), a Walk West Creative Consultant named Penn Holderness says, "Velcro Companies came to us with this educational brand campaign. We had a blast just looking at their creative brief and we said, so what if we just really kind of turned this into a ridiculous 1980s 'We Are The World' style benefit but for something that really is a first world problem?"
OK, it started creative. But how did the actual lawyers feel about it?
In the video, Velcro Companies' Legal Consultant Alexandra DeNeve says, "When they came back with this concept it was, for me, it was just like 'Eureka!' That's it."
Mr. Holderness goes on to say, "Once we met them and saw not only how approachable, friendly, [and] real they were and they were bold and they wanted to...take some chances... Velcro Companies has a really good, close-knit relationship between marketing and legal. And you kind of needed that."
I queried a friend and business associate who happens to be a certifiable smart person. She's also a lawyer and an entrepreneur. She says of the Velcro effort, "It's so uncool it's cool! And that's a pretty massive triumph for an IP issue. I also like it that these lawyers come across as endearingly human in all their geekiness, especially the guy who points out hooks and loops."
BELYING THE CRAZINESS IS RELEVANCE AND COOPERATION
In all the years I have been doing this, lawyers are often referred to as the Advertising Prevention Department.
Here's the thing about lawyers: If you can talk to them before you start working, if you can make friends with them and understand where the lines are, you really can go to the edge.
Lawyers can be friends of creative work if you bring them in early.
And at the risk of coming off as a cockeyed sexist piglet, I'm going to note that the lawyer quoted earlier is a woman.
Many screeds ago, we discussed a hedge fund manager we know who likes investing in companies with female CFOs.
He says the female CFOs often have a better outlook, that their approach to the job and the company is more holistic and not just about the balance sheet.
Maybe that extends to female lawyers. I queried our friend and business associate on this. She replies, "Interesting and complicated question. I think it's generally true. I also think that because of the gender-related pressure (and racial, for that matter) that any such tendencies tend to get suppressed in larger firms. Which is a real shame. But there's tremendous unspoken pressure (against the backdrop of "we love diversity!") to be just like the power people, who are mostly WASPy men... and so it goes."
Speaking as a WASPy man, this latter challenge is disappointing. But again, I digress.
CARRYING THE CONCEIT THROUGH TO OTHER TOUCHPOINTS
One of the problems with stunts like this video is often, they aren't carried through to the rest of the advertiser's touch points.
Velcro Companies has thought this through.
Now, using the trade name "Google" as a verb us another trademark problem. Nonetheless...
If you go Google the phrase "Don't say velcro," there's a link to their website, with the video right there in the banner, under the headline, "We ®VELCRO® Brand."
Beneath that, there's the headline, "Never a Noun. Never a Verb. Always on Brand."
The copy says, "We know. You don't mean to be a serial verber, but we decided to clear a few things up about using the VELCRO® trademark correctly--because we're lawyers and that's what we do. When you use "velcro" as a noun or a verb (e.g., velcro shoes), you diminish the importance of our brand and us lawyers would lose our *insert unfastening sound.*"
AND, YOU'RE INVITED TO JOIN THE CAUSE
Another headline reads, "Take a Stand with our VELCRO® Brand."
"It's not about doing it for us, it's about doing the right thing. Successful brands around the world need your support to help protect trademark guidelines. Pledge to end the era of broken trademark laws."
And you can opt-in for an email list.
And oh, just by the way, you also have the opportunity to find out all about the various Velcro products and how they improve your life.
And yes, they're even down to the minutiae of hash-tagging #dontsayvelcro. And tweets from fans are embedded in the "Don't Say Velcro" page.
BUT CAN THE SMALL-BUSINESS BRAND REALLY DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
Maybe not as enormously production intensive.
But it's entirely possible to start a movement, tongue-in-cheek or otherwise.
Online videos can be produced fairly inexpensively. Big expensive production value often isn't a requirement--but being thoughtful and consistent is.
In an age of WYSIWIG, drag & drop web development platforms, a dedicated website for the movement can be created very quickly and inexpensively. But again: thoughtfulness and consistency.
Using Facebook to promote the message can be done fairly cheaply. With the right material, people will pay attention. (Presently, a video for one of our clients has reached 2,000 people, almost 25% of whom have watched it more than once, 70% of viewers are staying all the way through it, and almost all of them are watching it with the sound on. The media cost? 50 bucks.)
Conflict is engaging. Humor with a core of truth is engaging. Letting people in on the joke and letting them play is engaging.
But like anything else, it needs to be done thoughtfully and with planning. And with consistency.
And it needs to inspire the core customer to feel the right thing. Never just a joke for its own sake. Like, "This is bleeping hook and loop," always, always, the right thing.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.