#RTM: Is Anyone Listening?

Ah, Oscar Season. Tuxedos. Gowns. Borrowed jewelry. War rooms. Tweets.

What used to be simple television events are now coined RTM (Real Time Marketing) experiences — opportunities for brands to flex their social and content muscle during highly visible programming. The question though is that besides the Twitterati and us marketers… is anyone really listening?

Right now, across the U.S. digital and PR agencies are prepping their war rooms with RTM contents that will take place Sunday night. The goal: Who can create the most buzz.

Examples of past “winners” include Oreo last year during the Super Bowl and Arby’s at this year’s Grammy’s.

Winning means a combination of capturing a moment in the event that stands out, that is relevant and can also be tied to the brand and the brand essence.

In an Ad Week article this week, David Armano, one of the preeminent voices on social and content strategy (and a former colleague) made an excellent point, “Marketers who criticize real-time tactics are losing sight that there’s some meaty sociological behaviors going on behind the scene here fueling the real-time movement.” Not only do I agree, but lets keep in mind that very little happens in marketing that isn’t fueled by an insight. For big events like the Oscars, the insight is pretty simple: its a social event that already draws brand dollars through traditional channels to reach an audience with an increasingly short attention. So rather than spending the reported $1.3M for a commercial, why not take your chances that a moment will happen during the Oscars that is right for your brand.

Maybe the question isn’t is anyone listening, but rather are the RIGHT people listening? Savvy brands know where their audience is and, as a marketer worth his or her salt will also know, when they are there. Even if your audience isn’t on Twitter, that’s ok. A successful RTM campaign will get to more traditional channels too — the Oreo tweet got picked up in WSJ, Yahoo and the NY Times.

So keep a look out Sunday night for more than wardrobe malfunctions and let us know Monday who you think won the night.

The Mall Fountain Reimagined

The fountain at the mall is a destination among the hustle and bustle.  It’s a place of gleeful excitement for children throwing coins (who am I kidding? I still like to throw coins in), a rest stop during a busy shopping trip or a meet up point for friends. Every great mall has a fountain. And now, artist Charles Long has reimagined the mall fountain with his sculpture, Fountainhead, installed at Dallas’s NorthPark Mall. Part of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Xchange program, Fountainhead is a virtual, interactive electronic sculpture that has dollar bills and coins projected on it, which gives the impression of water as they flow down. A zen-like soundtrack plays in the sculpture’s area. Three kiosks equipped with iPads border Fountainhead, each a donation point for one of three charities: Bookmarks, part of the Dallas Public Library located in NorthPark, Dallas CASA and the North Texas Food Bank. Here, visitors can make donations either by dropping coins in a slot or swiping a credit card. A coin will appear on the iPad that donors can flick towards the sculpture, where it makes a virtual splash.

Without a doubt, this sculpture grabbed my attention when I turned the corner at NorthPark. For as much as the fountain at the mall is a destination, it’s also expected and doesn’t change since they’re typically permanently installed, which is part of what makes this so cool. After soaking it all in, I immediately wondered how could this approach translate into something that brands could build on as a promotional show piece – maybe a giant virtual Brita filter sculpture fountain could be set up in Times Square or a huge virtual chocolate sculpture fountain could rain Reese’s Pieces at the NCAA Final Four. Or perhaps, brands could simply sponsor art in their retail space so that every time someone reads the artwork description or stops to make a donation, their logo reiterates brand recognition.

Again, this sculpture is a cool new take on an expected element in a busy retail environment. The fact that three local charities benefit as a result of the piece is a great bonus.

Video and Photo Credit: Emery Martin via Vimeo

IKEA’s RGB Billboard

IKEA is all about making use of the space you have and doing it with a flair of design. Its latest billboard in Sweden truly hits that home, showing three different messages depending on which bulb is lit up.

So simple and smart and true to brand, this execution is spot on. I think in this day and age, it’s too easy for brands to complicate their message. Between a kagillion different social media and online avenues and just as many print and PR options, a brand’s message can get muddied, confusing and even lost if not executed with precision. More is not always more. That’s why this IKEA billboard is so striking to me. They could have used this space to put up a digital billboard with three different messages, but it wouldn’t have been as poignant as the three messages overlapping, truly using the same space.

What simple campaigns have inspired you?

EuroShop 2014 Highlights

TPN’s Brand Environments Expert, Jon Jepsen, Highlights the Best of the Best of EuroShop 2014…

EuroShop is one of the retail related trade shows that us ‘Brand Environment’ folk get truly giddy and excited over. It’s really inspiring from a creative design perspective, covering everything under the sun related to retail and digital technology. 

We mine the biggest nuggets from the halls designated to what the Europeans call ‘Shopfitting’ (Retail Design, Architecture, Lighting, Fixtures, Displays and Visual Merchandising).

Since the show is only held every three years, it allows exhibitors to go all out with creating highly creative and dramatic ‘Brand Environments’ that dazzle the senses. It’s also a little easier to spot design trends when you’re not seeing the same thing year after year.

Some of the retail design trends we saw compared to the 2011 show…

  • The use of cement tiles, textured panels and highly textured woods accented by dramatic lighting.
  • White remains the dominant color with accents of bright bold color and natural woods.
  • LED technology continues to advance with more appealing warmer kelvin temperatures, and its streamline nature has translated into more creative applications.  
  • Multitouch digital technology built into tabletop experiences is blossoming in a big way.

A reverse trend compared to 2011 is that exhibitors seemed much less concerned with appearing eco-friendly and environmentally conscious.

Click this link to download our favorite pix and videos.  

Enjoy! Jon 

Brands Stepping Up For Your Love

A number of brands are stepping up their social game this Valentine’s in efforts to capitalize on consumers’ commitment to their phones and social media. With specially created content, they’re hoping to lure shoppers in through their hearts.

For the more sentimental, Pizza Hut and OkCupid have teamed up for their #CommitToGreatness campaign, asking folks to share your proposal idea for a chance to win free pizza for life.

For those that opt in, Dunkin’ Donuts is offering to turn tweets into a video you can send to your valentine.

Could these sentimental campaigns create true brand love and commitment? Will they result in additional purchases or a sustained brand relationship? What do you think?

Or, for those that take to humor…
Nothing says Will you be my Valentine? like toilet paper. Charmin has joined in the holiday of hearts by offering folks the chance to “tweet on a sheet”. With #CharminLoveNotes, Charmin will make you a “charming” love note with your tweet for your someone special.

The good news is, at the very least, these brands can track and measure their campaigns and gain valuable data and information on the role social and mobile played in the overall customer journey, helping guide future campaigns.

Valentine’s Day Gets a Facelift

Millennials, described as “confident, connected and open to change” by PewResearch, are living up to their characteristics according to TPN’s Seasonal Pulse New Year 2014 study.

Among all generations, millennials are the most likely group to “change it up” this Valentine’s Day. Thirty percent of millennials are planning to celebrate the romantic holiday differently than last year (see graph below), providing a huge opportunity for marketers to influence their plans – especially if millennials are trying to impress a new special someone.

Further, 21 percent of millennials plan to stay home and cook a special meal this Valentine’s Day. As notorious foodies who are always online, millennials will be hunting down new meal inspirations across social media and the web. Grocery retailers and online brands should be targeting this generation as they plan for their night in.

While 29 percent of millennials do plan on going out for a meal, those staying in, including myself, won’t have to make a last-minute reservation or spend an arm and a leg on food. Maybe it’s me, but I think millennials may be on to something.


Source: TPN Seasonal Pulse, New Year 2014

For more information regarding TPN and our Seasonal Pulse findings, please visit www.tpnretail.com.

Beacon Bummer?

All you have to do today is say “beacon” in a meeting and people pay attention. Its “the” hot play in buzzword bingo right now.

The good: Targeted in-store messaging in real-time through a device that is constantly in the consumer’s hand. 80% of people walking through a retail environment are on their phone at some point during the experience. The beacons themselves are very affordable to install and, when placed properly, can cover a range of up to 1,500 feet. In short, to steal a line from my colleague Manolo Almogroit connects the physical world to the digital one. Hell, it even works with Blackberry!

The not so good: The beacons can talk to the phone but only if the consumer has the retailer’s app loaded on their phone and has Bluetooth enabled. How about awareness? Us marketing folk know about beacons but does the average joe? And, even if they do, push messaging to an individual’s phone could hit a point of diminishing returns pretty quickly leading to many smart phone users turning push notifications off. Yes, many people are on their phones in the stores but the reality is they aren’t all shopping or show rooming; they are texting and posting.

Digiday has a great write up on the new technology weighing the pros and cons. From our perspective, Beacons absolutely bring dynamic retail to the forefront, enabling practices in physical locations based on habitual trends of shoppers. But, lets not praise it as the next great thing quite yet. Many obstacles still stand in the way.

Can an Old Retailer Learn New Tricks?

Many probably thought innovation and rebirth for “the shack” would never happen after the retailer seemed to have its two worst years in sales throughout its history. Earlier this month RadioShack opened its first custom concept store in Manhattan in attempts to connect with its target through in-store mobile and tech integration. Bravo, RadioShack.

Within the new concept store, mobile and in-store tablets provide on-demand information, access and engagement opportunities. While the 80+ year retailer hasn’t quite given consumers and shoppers a clear vision of why to shop RadioShack over Amazon, Walmart or Best Buy, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

With in-store technology now a must within the dynamic-retail space, RadioShack is showing that it has learned what many already know: evolve or fade out.

And, it’s not just established, traditional retailers that are experimenting with in-store engagement to win shoppers back. Upstarts like Sneakerboy (launched in August) are attempting at blending the physical and virtual to create an optimal experience by creating spaces for showrooming. Online experiences have drastically shaped shopping expectations so wherever consumers and shoppers are, they expect a dynamic experience.

Will RadioShack’s in-store efforts be enough to woo dynamic-retail shoppers? By making the space more of an on-demand environment, will it be enough to build brand relevance to the shopper that has long ago discarded it?

Digiday Retail Summit: The “TLDR Version”

My recent attendance to this year’s Digiday Conference inspired me to make this post more suitable for the folks that like their articles small and bite sized (like a KIT KAT mini).

The Retail Summit was unlike any conference I’ve participated in. It was designed for the new generation of attendees who invented the term TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read).

Each sessions was brief, but to the point. 15- 2o Minutes max. Forcing presenters to focus only on the key points vs. having to “fill-up” a 30 or 40 minute slot. The sessions were interactive and fun. My favorite part was the faux game show where randomly selected panelists from the audience were given questions to answer about the previous day presentations re-engaged the audience’s recall of the key take-aways from the event.

Key Learnings from the summit:

  • Mobile will continue to play a key role in helping bridge the e-tailing + in-store experiences.
  • Consumer expectations of better in-store experiences are derived from their online experiences.
  • Retailers must focus in areas that Amazon can’t compete (for now): local stores + number of retail locations.
  • Big Data is way too big to manage. Data needs to be parsed into “Smart” data in order for it to be useful.
  • Innovations with in-store technology will provide new shopping behavior insights, much like what Google Analytics brought to the web.
  • Showrooming behavior is the new normal. Retailers + brands that don’t embrace it will not succeed in the future.


Brands Bring Their “A” Game to the Big Game

The Super Bowl has evolved from an NFL championship game for diehard fans to an American event that appeals to everyone, even if your team didn’t make it to the big dance. It’s become a time for socializing with family and friends for people of all genders, races, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. And let’s not forget the food. We’re talking serious food. Super Bowl Sunday is just behind Thanksgiving when it comes to the amount of food consumed by Americans on a single given day. So much for those New Year’s resolutions — but what’s one day, any way?

For many, the food may be enough of a draw. But for most, they want to see not only a great, nail-biter of a game, but entertaining commercials that will be buzzed about for the weeks to come. And since this Super Bowl was no nail biter, the commercials truly had an opportunity to shine. This year, more so than any year in the past, brands have either previewed their ads in their entirety or presented teaser ads to build some anticipation for the big day. Part of me feels this is like opening presents before Christmas, but I understand the thought behind getting momentum behind your ad and also building brands ambassadors who love the ad and will call it out for people to watch.

Because of the diverse audience that watches the Super Bowl now, long gone are the days of airing strictly beer and car commercials with bikini-clad babes (sorry, Spuds MacKenzie). Commercials have to be smart, memorable and either witty or heart touching in order to resonant with a broad scope of the audience. So here are my favorite commercials from the 2014 Super Bowl that not only run the gamut but should score big with the pumped up game day crowd.

The Crowd Pleaser with a Heart: Bank of America U2 Invisible

What better way to get people excited through a commercial than with exclusive, free music from one of the biggest bands ever, U2. It’s free for day and for every download, Bank of America donates a dollar to RED. This commercial has strong black and white visuals of the band in front of a pumped up crowd with a pumped up inspiring, NEW song. This aired early on in the Super Bowl and there was plenty of chatter about it on social media as soon as it aired. Sure, it was a simple, straightforward commercial but it hits home with the star power in such a way that shines a good and gracious light on Bank of America.

The Heart Strings: Budweiser Puppy Love

You’ve got the trademark Clydesdale. You’ve got a cute lab puppy. You’ve also got a continuing storyline from last year’s “Brotherhood” ad. The “Awwwww” factor is at a level 10 here, people. (Oh, and a swim suit model just to check that box for the fellas.) Budweiser has the Heart String ads down pat and has another hit on its hands already, with almost 35 million views on youtube at the time of this post. Does it sell more beer? Hmmm. Maybe? It’s a formula that works for them and ties them to the heart of America. That connection builds recognition and breeds loyalty, which is what any brand hopes to achieve because while it may not be an immediate uptick in sales, it’s a leg up on the competition. (Good thing Budweiser released this one early since viewership in the 4th quarter of this game is likely questionable).

The Statement: Cheerios Gracie

Cheerios’ latest is a followup to last year’s commercial “Just Checking,” which features the same interracial family on an ordinary day. It’s unfortunate that in this day and age that seeing this type of family on television was controversial for some people, but it was. Groups called for boycotts of Cheerios among the backlash. With this ad and its placement of it during the Super Bowl, Cheerios is reinforcing its statement that love is love and family is family in a big way. The description for this ad on youtube is “When families eat breakfast together, amazing things happen.” When brands stand up for what they believe in, amazing things happen too. I tip my spoon to you Cheerios! (I love this so much more than the Nelly knock off for Honey Nut Cheerios – that ad might have been relevant back in the early 2000s when Ride Wit Me was still getting regular airplay, but it has no traction for me today).

The Imaginative: Audi Doberhuahua

Though it takes a bit to get to the point that Audi’s new hybrid A3 is all about design without compromise, this ad is a win for me on a number of levels. It has a bizarre factor (a doberman head on a chihuahua body looks crazy) that people will remember. It pokes fun at the Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercials that drive all us dog lovers to claw out our eyes (and the fact that she is in on the jab is great). It reinforces the idea of adopting a shelter dog. It also makes Audi feel attainable and not so hoighty-toity, snobby; it feels more real, which will ultimately broaden its appeal to a new set of buyers that may not have considered it before.

The Huh or the Left Field: Maserati Strike

This is a strikingly beautiful commercial, for that, there is no doubt. It’s epic on so many levels, but it has people scratching their heads because of the stretch between the working men depicted and Maserati is just that a stretch. This new car may be less than $70,000, but I would not equate that with attainable for the everyman or every girl, as the case may be (Quvenzhane Wallis, as talented as she is, seems like an unlikely choice to be a Maserati spokesperson, especially given she’s not even old enough to driver). But, you know, I’m still thinking about this commercial and still trying to wrap my brain around it, so it’s got me thinking a lot longer than some other commercials. Maybe that’s just the intent after all – to plant the seed of Maserati and to make you think that dream isn’t so far off in the distance.

The Reunion: Dannon Oikos The Spill

John Stamos has been the Oikos spokesman for a while and his involvement finally pays off, bringing something more to the table than his winning smile and shiny hair: a Full House reunion (well, a mini one). Fans of the show have been clamoring for a reunion for years and given the demographic as well as fit for Oikos, what better time to give it to them than during a Super Bowl commercial. This reunion of Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier was buzzed about earlier in the week when the trio made an appearance on Jimmy Fallon in a very Full House-esque skit, complete with Stamos channeling his “Uncle Jesse” to sing Teddy Bear to Jimmy. (Click here to see) While this commercial doesn’t have the A-list star power of some others that aired tonight, it has a nostalgia that people can get behind, remember and think of fondly when they’re standing by the yogurt case debating which one to buy.

What were your favorites? And what did you REALLY think about the Bob Dylan Chrysler ad?