All Filler for Miller

Watch a set of advertisements during any major television event, and you are bound to see a spot for a Budweiser, Miller, or Coors product. Domestic macrobrewers have notoriously gigantic budgets for ad campaigns, and in terms of sales of their flagship offerings, the rate of return on investment is excellent.

Initially introduced in 2007, Miller 64, Miller Brewing Company’s foray into the ‘ultra-light’ beer market is named after its total calorie count per 12 fl oz. Originally dubbed MGD64, it was launched nationwide after favorable testing in Miller’s home base of Wisconsin. Supported by the usual multi-million dollar ad campaign, everything went according to plan for the brewing giant, right?

Wrong. Within a market increasingly in favor of higher quality craft beer , the product has never gained true traction with consumers. Often perceived as ‘watered down,’ weighing in at only 2.8% ABV, the beer has struggled with its image as a serious option. In the roughly 5 years since its introduction, Miller has rebranded the product multiple times, each iteration failing to increase sales in any meaningful way. The company also attempted to capture a set of non-beer drinking drinkers with a 64 calorie “lemonade” malt beverage under the same brand, but the effort was fruitless, leading to a near instantaneous discontinuation.

Sales of the golden swill were down double digits in 2011, so Miller elected to redesign the brand with an updated label design (a key indicator of brand loyalty in the beer industry) and a new ad campaign. The latter, centered around a catchy ‘sea shanty’ song, features active and attractive 25-35 year olds, but in addition to the actors, the lyrics to the tune and the slogan “Brewed for the Better You” make it obvious that Miller has a clearly defined new target demographic in mind.

Notwithstanding Miller’s spirited efforts to make Miller 64 work, the most glaring issue is the evidence that the market for these products is extremely slim, if not entirely nonexistent. Even in spite of a health-crazed society, ‘healthy beer’ is a fairly obvious oxymoron, and very little can be done by advertising to popularize it on a large scale. By contrast, the popular SkinnyGirl cocktail brand, offering lower calorie mixed drinks, hit all the right notes with a similar target demographic, enough to merit a reported 120 million dollar purchase by Beam Global last year.

So when is enough enough? It seems that occasionally, even when armed with the influence and funding necessary to push a product on a global scale, marketing can fall short of a product that doesn’t fit consumer wants, needs, or expectations, and the best course of action is simply to let go. In this case, the payoff from the latest endeavor remains yet to be seen, but it may be time for the diluted barley beverage to go the way of its predecessors: down the drain.

A Nod to the Legacy of Dick Clark, America’s Oldest Teenager

This week’s news of Dick Clark’s passing elicited great sadness. Clark was an impressive figure who was greatly admired and respected; over the course of a long and fruitful career, he worked to create a brand that today carries significant weight for members of multiple generations. His many television and radio programs were influential and enduring; through his work, Clark helped define American pop culture for the better part of the 20th century.

Most notably, American Bandstand, television’s longest-running variety show, was responsible for introducing new artists and the latest dance moves to people across the country. The show also helped bridge the color gap, “giving music freedom and equal opportunity,” according to Stevie Wonder. Older generations will also remember the Pyramid game shows, winner of nine Emmy awards, while for younger fans, the spirit of Clark’s brand was defined by the eponymous Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

Clark dedicated his life to being ‘America’s Oldest Teenager,’ bringing families together in front of the television with a youthful and energetic spirit that was contagious for people of all ages.  Throughout the course of his career, his name and face came to epitomize the lighter side of things, creating happy memories and nostalgia for millions. He will be remembered as an icon of the entertainment and media industry, and the brand that he built will continue to stand for pop culture.

The Price of Gut Instinct is High

Ad Age’s CMO Strategy recently published a survey of 243 CMOs and other marketing executives about their current practices, yielding some surprising results. With an alarming 28% of the respondents claiming they establish budgets based upon ‘gut-instinct’ and perhaps more surprisingly, 7% saying they do not base strategy upon metrics at all. It is time for marketers to look toward new tools available to help track ROI and plan more effectively.

Marketing performance management (MPM) has always been a key tenet of any marketing department, but to be fair, until recently, metrics reporting was an enigma of sorts; the type of data collected provided statistical representation of customer behaviors, but offered very little insight into correlations that would serve as actionable information to help improve efficiency. The advent of the internet, along with its provisions of social media networks and mobile technologies, has begun to revolutionize the model for these types of analytics.

In scale and speeds that were never possible prior to the internet, meaningful data that transcends mere numerical counting has allowed marketers the opportunity to make huge strides in MPM strategies. With new and improved resources available, marketing executives in the 21st century should   focus on the ability of measurement and analysis to predict what will happen next. It has become essential to react quickly to a changing market to maximize marketing ROI, and the strategies for those reactions are better informed than ever before.

The adoption such useful metrics-based reporting by CMOs has been less than speedy, especially when compared to the staggering statistics associated with the rise of digital. With increasing pressure on  marketing executives not only to achieve better results while also managing to reduce overall costs, decisions should be guided by measurement and not just “gut instinct.”

Does the Glass Slipper Fit?

Late March is here, and this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships (lovingly referred to as March Madness) are once again captivating the nation with exciting action. One thing missing is a true Cinderella story – no mid-major school to defy the odds and inject excitement the tournament by upsetting top seeded teams. Cinderellas are typically a primary source of the drama for which the annual spectacle is famous. Without their presence, the allure of the tournament is somewhat dulled.

A trio of teams remaining in the ‘Sweet 16’ entered the tournament seeded #10 or higher in their respective 16 team region, but the three schools are perennial Madness participants. Xavier, North Carolina State, and Ohio are still fighting for the chance to hoist the trophy and cut down the nets when the tournament is all said and done. Despite the fact that none of them are true surprises, the teams are still managing to play the role of the disruptor. These teams enjoy the luxury, having already overcome stronger teams, of having the pressure transferred to their opponents, raising the intensity of each matchup as teams are eliminated leading up to the Final Four and championship game. Even without the true ‘Cinderella,’ the temperature increases as the stakes are raised thanks to these upstart squads.

In the sports world, as in business, disruptors are the true driving force behind greatness. New ideas – the innovative and, more importantly, the unexpected – turn the wheels of change across industry. For example, Redbox’s emergence disrupted the business of DVD rentals, changing the long-standing establishment of video rental stores for the better, and hurting major players like Blockbuster. Netflix’s streaming model further changed the climate; today, the unexpected changes brought on by newer technologies have completely revolutionized the industry.

In all likelihood, the fire of the three ‘semi-Cinderella’ schools will soon be extinguished by top seeds, but the possibility for one of them to attain the ultimate goal and achieve greatness is still real. Like the players and coaches, businesses should keep the dream alive and strive to introduce their own brand of excitement into the establishment.

Junction CEO Featured on Panel at JFAM Live! Conference

Atlanta-based strategy firm Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) is proud to announce its inclusion by New York-based The Gramercy Institute in The Journal of Financial Advertising and Marketing (JFAM)’s Live! Conferences. The next edition of the semi-annual series will be held Friday, March 9th, 2012 in New York City addressing the Future of Financial Media: Owned, Earned, & Purchased. Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, will represent Junction on a panel of experts discussing the importance of utilizing branding to convey a marketing message.

Bill Wreaks, CEO of The Gramercy Institute and Chief Analyst of JFAM, has assembled a number of high ranking, knowledgeable, and experienced marketing professionals from top financial firms to provide insights into the future of financial advertising. Says Gareleck, “Bill has chosen individuals who are the true trendsetters on the cutting edge, adding immense value to the next installment in an exceptional series of conferences.”

“We are honored and excited to speak as an advocate for marketing that follows the philosophy of being progressive, creative, and plugged-in,” says Gareleck. “We look forward to the opportunity to interact and learn from other industry leaders, helping better inform the solutions we offer our clients.”

More information and news about upcoming events related to JFAM Live! can be found on Junction’s blog at www.junction-creative.com/wordpress.

Love Is in the Air

Valentine’s Day is often accused of being a ‘manufactured’ holiday, created for the purpose of exploiting consumer behaviors for profit. The occasion is certainly profitable, but the ambiguous St. Valentine gets a bad rap for all the wrong reasons.

Holidays are exceedingly powerful stimulus for retail businesses. This holiday in particular capitalizes on arguably the strongest human emotion – love. As it turns out, consumers love celebrating Valentine’s Day. Against the trends associated with a weak economy, consumer spending on the occasion is on the rise. In 2012, the second largest retail event of the year will generate more than $15B, which amounts to an average of more than $100 spent by each American adult.

There are no other major consumer holidays in the first part of the calendar year (sure, car dealerships may offer sales for President’s Day, but you don’t have to buy your mother a gift.) Valentine’s Day also falls conveniently right after the hangover from December’s holiday season subsides. Retailers enjoy the benefits of the renewed consumer enthusiasm, leveraging the familiar branding of red and white hearts to drive sales.

Advertisers are equally satisfied with the opportunities that the holiday presents. Immediately following the ultimate advertising event, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day presents a chance to strike again while the iron is hot. Having already rolled out new expensive and impressive campaigns, the creative juices are kept flowing in order to make a connection with the consumer at yet another touchpoint. The timing is right; some of the ads that emerge for Valentine’s Day even manage to be as original and effective as those crafted for the Super Bowl.

Notwithstanding the accusations aimed at the ‘industry’ of Valentine’s Day, the holiday is more important than just giving spouses across the country a romantic opportunity; it is actually highly beneficial across a number of industries. Whether from the perspective of the retailer, the advertiser, or the consumer, the appeal of the day is clear.

SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile)

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), developers and manufacturers showed off their latest innovations. Powerful computers, ultra-slim OLED TVs, concept cars, and other cutting-edge products were on display, generating plenty of buzz with attendees and industry insiders.

For marketers, there was nothing more exciting at this year’s show than the unveiling of some impressive new geolocation technologies for smartphones and other mobile devices that can pinpoint a user’s position (only if opted-into.) The concept of leveraging where a consumer is for increasing the impact of marketing isn’t itself particularly new; geolocation technology has existed in some form for several years. However, only more recently has the practicality of this type of marketing been drastically improved as users become increasingly connected to the world around them.

The portmanteau SoLoMo may seem like just a catchphrase for the new capabilities of geotargeted marketing techniques, but it has immense value. These three characteristics define an effective campaign in the current market, because local sharing and collaboration among people is driving the trends. As consumers become increasingly mobile, social channels have become the essential touchpoint for brands. Consumers are stronger and more vocal advocates than ever before, and utilizing the Geolocation software on display at CES to find them will allow a message to be enormously more powerful.

The advent of contextual advertising was a major step forward in digital marketing, and geolocation has now pushed its potency above and beyond. What are the limits for the future?

Oh, The Horror!

Years after the internet gave birth to ‘viral’ marketing, the industry is experiencing the early stages of a cultural shift: the use of memes to push commercial interests. Memes, ideas or behaviors that spread from person to person in a social environment, are now being communicated mostly through the media and the internet.  The impact is significant to consumers, whether consumers are aware if it or not.

Traditionally, scary themes would make an appearance around Halloween.  And yet, now, these prominent memes no longer resurface just for Trick or Treat.  Vampires of both the horrific and harmless variety have become increasingly prevalent subject matter in books, television, and film, spawning a ‘vampire mania’ and creating numerous successful media franchises. Borders Books, although closed, had an entire section dedicated to “Teen Paranormal Romance.”  TV shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead capitalize on society’s fascination with the idea of a zombie apocalypse. This premise is so powerful that it has fueled an entire segment of the film industry for nearly 50 years following 1968’s Night of the Living Dead.  Fear of the supernatural, the mysterious, and the macabre is an experience shared by all people, making these subjects appealing and easily relatable for audiences. Leveraging this idea, publishers and studios become wildly successful as these series garner remarkable followings.

Not every meme needs to become incredibly popular to achieve some commercial success. Meme creation and promotion is geared to many of the same goals as viral marketing, meaning that often times, a meme may only create a small but very solid following, which can constitute effective internet marketing in certain niches.

So as All Hallow’s Eve approaches, consider how effectively many businesses utilize memes in marketing. Campaigns built upon these ideas work because they are tuned to experiences that are shared by users. Make a connection with these touchstones and tap deeper into a market.  And watch out for zombies!