Category Archives: Case Study

The Premiere Strategy

If you’ve ever talked to me about marketing, or even if you’ve read my other posts, you know how much I love the Australian talk show Gruen Planet. I first fell in love with this show before I even watched it, when it was still called “The Gruen Transfer”.*

A few years back I was perusing commercials on YouTube, when I came across this case study of how the show was first introduced to Australia, through the marketing agency known as The Monkeys**.

There is a key phrase in this video that perfectly explains why this strategy went so well: rage turned into engagement.

Companies today give millions of dollars to be able to have the engagement and response seen in this case. Though no specific social media is used as a platform, this strategy does what is most important to succeed in social media: it presents a scenario, and opens up a conversation. Anger is a powerful emotion, and when used in marketing it is very difficult to keep it from spinning out of control. The Monkeys did a superb job of presenting their audience with a terrible scenario (the public channel airing commercials) and replacing it with a better proposition (no commercials, just an awesome new show with a well-known comedian as the host).

When The Monkeys presented an opportunity for anyone to make a commercial, they allowed their audience to feel like they are participating.

Though I could practically write a book about how much I love this strategy, there is one key factor that every campaign should follow: it tells a story.

*Eventually I’ll explain what the “Gruen Transfer” is, but if you’re curious you can learn more about it here.

**When this case was published, The Monkeys was known as Three Drunk Monkeys. I applaud them for their branding audacity.

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Reacting is important.

I know I’ve said this before, but it needs to be said again: social media is about conversations.

The best way to manage social media is not just by being proactive, but by being reactive. A good example of this is Oreo.

During the 2013 Super Bowl, Oreo had a marketing team staying up all night to watch the game. Their preparedness came in handy when the stadium had a blackout, and they were the first ones to react. Though many companies tried to bring wit via Twitter, Oreo had an image and punchline conjured up within ten minutes of the event.


It’s easy to pre-write ads and have them automatically publish throughout the week, but by the time your tweet comes out it’s already outdated.

Real-time reactions are the only way to strike advertising gold.

I love your copy.

When people hear the word “brand,” they usually think of a company’s name, logo, and the products or services they provide. But a brand shouldn’t be just that.

Branding is how a company is characterized and set apart from its competitors. This characterization is shown just like our own personalities: through communication. You learn about a person’s character by how they speak, what they talk about, their body language, even how they react to a rude comment. A brand needs to be the same way.

One of the most creative NYC companies that does this is Manhattan Mini Storage. This storage company really understands its target audience, and brands itself as a true New Yorker, as seen in these billboards below.

Apartments are small.

Apartments are small.

These ads demonstrate the need for storage, while empathizing with its audience, and being witty.But branding isn’t just clever copy, it’s also about an always evolving brand, and the world around it.

New York is a  notoriously liberal city, so when election time comes around, Manhattan Mini Storage isn’t afraid to take a stand.

Though this type of copy can be risky and may alienate a few customers, it plays to the overall character of the brand. I’ve never personally stepped into one of these storage facilities, but I know where they are when I need storage.

This marketing might not be applicable to everyone. This works well for Manhattan Mini Storage because its target audience has a stereotyped personality to lock onto. not only that, but storage companies usually advertise to increase awareness and stick in your mind. These don’t need to be especially informative or technical, they just need to make an impression.

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Amnesty International: Too Graphic to be Effective?

Earlier today a friend asked me about my thoughts on a BuzzFeed post titled “The Most Powerful Ads Of Amnesty International“.

This post has a compilation of some of Amnesty International’s most compelling and graphic images, such as these two below:

These pictures are heartbreaking, and really illustrate what the brand is fighting for. But are they effective? To answer this, we need to look at a few factors:

Does it grab attention? Definitely. The pictures themselves are very clever, and subtle enough to make people  double-take the image and look at it closely to understand the message.

Does it educate? Sort of. While the message is made clear that torture and inequality is happening today and in America, it’s not exactly clear how prevalent this issue is, or who are the main perpetrators and victims of torture.

Is the call to action effective? No. The call to action in a for-profit is usually to buy the product or service. When nonprofits advertise, however, the call to action varies widely from asking for donations, signing a petition, volunteering, or other actions that fit the needs of the nonprofit’s campaign. In this case, Amnesty International has no call to action. It may be that this campaign was simply designed to educate but there is no push for viewers to learn more, and no resources (like a URL) for viewers to use to engage with the campaign.

Is it engaging? No. Though this factor may seem redundant to the call to action, it is very important. When there is a call to action, the ad needs to have a certain level of urgency, especially when dealing with a tragic and graphic issue like this one. If a campaign isn’t engaging enough, people will not care. But if it is grotesque, it can sometimes shock the viewer, and make them feel like the problem is too big for them to fix. It is important to make sure a campaign gives a certain amount of inspiration so that the audience feels the need to help, and believes that they can contribute to fighting the issue.

If you’re interested in this last factor, I highly encourage you to watch the clip below. This is from Gruen Transfer, an Australian talk show about advertising, and they are discussing a heavy topic of slavery in a commercial with Emma Thompson. The clip is at 19:00 (I’ll try to embed it later with it queued up at the correct time).

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Dollar Shave Club

It’s hard to determine what will become a viral video. Marketing firms try their hardest to create formulas and procedures to create them, but as soon as an equation seems to fit, a new viral video breaks all the rules.

Currently, it seems that the most shareable/popular videos are either made by quirky individuals or by gigantic companies with enough money to get the word out quickly. So it was a refreshing thing to see when a new company, Dollar Shave Club, became popular overnight.


The company has relied only on this video and Google Ads for marketing, and it’s done very well. Within 48 hours of being uploaded, the video attracted over 12,000 people to sign up for the service ( As of today the video has ranked over 10 million views.

This video has qualities from both corporate and homemade movies to bring it into the viral hall of fame. The CEO of the company, Michael Dubin follows a tight script similar to the comedy of Old Spice commercials. But for me personally, I find the small start-up feel of the commercial helps it appeal to viewers.

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Apple’s 1984: Who’s Big Brother now?

In 1984, Apple released a commercial that changed the history of advertising.


Though this commercial was only aired during the Super Bowl, it caused ripple effects around the country, being shown incessantly on news shows that night. The commercial won many awards, including the 1984 Cannes Grand Prix and “Best Super Bowl Spot” in the entire game’s history.

This commercial didn’t dumb down its audience, but called them to action and actually think…at least, that’s what Apple was trying to say.

Fast forward to present day and Apple has taken over the market. Though Apple tries to maintain its legacy as the innovative brand, it is thought of by many as the Big Brother of computer and mobile companies. Samsung made that point clear in a 2012 commercial:


Though the ad above did not make as many headlines as Apple’s 1984 ad, it does raise a very good point. Apple can be innovative and new, but it can no longer be the “rebel” brand. Sorry Apple, but the iPhone is the mainstream “must-have”  product for everyone in America over the age of 13. So much for being unique.

With this change in market share came an unfortunate change in Apple’s marketing strategy. Apple’s innovations have decreased in magnitude with every new product (Really, iPad Mini?). Not only that, but the commercials themselves have taken on a much duller approach, with no literary allusions or epic statements, but with an invisible crowd of lemmings shouting together like on Sesame Street:


Maybe it’s time for a little revolution.

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Social media is about conversations…and jokes

Between Tumblr and Reddit, it’s obvious that people like funny things. One of the best ways to get people to notice your brand is through humor, which can be particularly difficult when you’re a brand with very professional and serious values. Luckily, Taco Bell doesn’t need to act serious.

Recently Taco Bell has gotten a lot of free advertising through its Twitter feed and Facebook page being shared all over the internet. But a lot of companies use these two sites, so why is Taco Bell doing so well? Because Taco Bell responds to almost all tweets and facebook comments directed at the company, usually with a witty remark.

One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is because it connects everyone with everyone else, allowing a twelve-year old to (potentially) have a conversation with Beyonce or Bill Nye. It’s not often that a famous Twitter user will respond though, so when someone like Taco Bell genuinely takes interest in what you’re saying, and doesn’t just give a robotic response, the internet notices.

Here are some examples of Taco Bell’s recent Twitter triumphs:

Drake Bell and Taco Bell make fun of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s name for their new baby.

And this is from a  battle between Taco Bell and Old Spice:

Taco Bell also does a great job of talking to customers

And finally, Taco Bell not only engages, but it really appeals to its hard core fans

Update: The swimmer is said to be receiving the speedo next week


*All pictures have links to original source.

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Bell Bajao: advertising with substance

Some companies want amazing advertising, but you can’t have amazing advertising without a good product. In Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow, he pushes marketers to look at the process of marketing not just from the point of communications, but all the way back to the research and development stage. This nonprofit campaign called Bell Bajao, or Ring The Bell, has a beautiful and striking ad because it has an innovative business plan.

By calling on men in society to take a stand, and teaching them to simply make abusers aware that they are being watched, allows, entire towns to stop domestic abuse and feel empowered.

PS. I found this campaign through the AdC Council’s amazing blog,

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TED: What is your brand’s body language?

Watch this TED Talk: it’s amazing and this blog post relies on you watching it.

Warning: the text below has spoilers for the TED Talk above.

In Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, she demonstrated how our body language not only dictates how others see us, but how we see ourselves. As I watched this video, my first thought was, “all those after school specials were right, you need to fake it till you make it!” My second thought was, “what does body language look like for brands?”

Brands assert their personality and values through all communications, both within and outside of the company. Because brands aren’t physically people, they’re dominance and character is mostly seen through word choices and images/sounds associated with the brand.

The following picture is a perfect example:

Powerful Yogurt, because Greek yogurt is for weaklings.

I found this shelf of yogurt at the grocery store a few weeks ago and I just died of laughter. Apparently, yogurt companies think that they need to look dominant to appeal to men, and the only way to be dominant is with the color black and toned abs. You can also see the differentiation in brand through the no-nonsense font and the word “powerful”; much different than the more flowery “Swiss” yogurt next to it.

This is a silly example, but big brands really do pay attention to every word choice and every image being released to the public. What ads have you seen that you think show dominance?

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People for Smarter Cities

Company: IBM

Campaign: People for Smarter Cities

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather France

This sign has a curve to provide shelter from the rain

This sign has a curve to provide shelter from the rain

The curve in this provides seating space

The curve in this provides seating space

This campaign is innovative for a number of reasons. The first is that it caters to the customer first. This piece of advertising does not just scream at people walking by to pay attention (which is what it often feels like when you walk down the streets of New York everyday).  The campaign, much like IBM’s brand, seeks to help the consumer with their everyday needs and provide a service.

The other, more obvious piece of innovation is the piece itself. The minimalist design drives the idea of innovation, and how to create a solution to everyday problems through one simple alteration.

I’m sure I’ll see many ads in the next few months trying to think “off the wall” like this soon, but IBM will be the root of that movement in my mind. The number one takeaway is that the ad gives to the consumer before asking for any participation.

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