All Articles Tagged "marketing"
The Super Bowl is more than a football game. During commercial breaks and on YouTube, companies are playing a Super Bowl of their own, competing to capture the world’s attention without embarrassing themselves. Any Real Housewives Of Atlanta fan can tell you how difficult that game is to master.
First possession of 2013 goes to Volkswagen. If you haven’t seen their ad featuring a proud Minnesotan talking like he works weekend shifts at the Jerk Pit, you clearly don’t work in a cubicle. Catch up, so you can engage in one of America’s favorite pastimes, a round of “Is That Racist?”
Does it matter that 100 Jamaicans are okay with the ad? Would it make it better if White Jamaicans existed? Do they exist? (FYI, they’re 3.2 percent of the country’s population. Yes, I Google’d and YouTube’d it. I was intrigued.) None of this really means anything. Some people find the commercial offensive. They may or may not be Jamaican.
Volkswagen knows their happy little commercial has a little edge to it. Edgy enough to talk to 100 Jamaicans. And make a back up ad. But standing out this time of year sometimes requires taking a little more risk. Success is determined by a simple premise: If the controversy outshines the product, you lose.
When the controversy puts an ad at the top of the news hour across the country, and the world collectively says, “Oh, that’s not so bad.” Companies like Volkswagen win. Bonus points if a few people say, “I love this ad” or “That’s a nice car he was driving.”
Here are a few attempts from Super Bowls past where companies have pushed the envelope to varying degrees, with varying levels of success. Is it a touchdown, or did they fumble the advertising budget?
Lauren Maillian Bias of Gen Y Capital Partners, Brings Together Technology, Marketing, and Investing
Lauren Maillian Bias started a vineyard and winery when she was 19 years old, launching her into a world of start-ups, investing, and technology. After starting her second company, Luxury Market Branding, and becoming active in the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), she was a founding partner at Gen Y Capital Partners, an early-stage venture firm supporting tech start-ups from Gen Y entrepreneurs, where she now serves as managing director.
In addition to her work in the venture and start-up world, Maillian Bias is also active in philanthropic endeavors, particularly in New York City, where she sits on the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the board of the New York Urban League. She is also a lifetime member of the Children’s Aid Society, works on education initiatives with the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, and serves as a judge to Start-up Chile.
Maillian Bias spoke to Madame Noire about how her past shaped her investing future, diversity among investors and entrepreneurs, and how to improve that ratio.
Madame Noire: Tell me about your background and how it led you to co-found Gen Y Capital Partners.
Lauren Maillian Bias: I have been a life-long entrepreneur. My first company was successful, but creating a vineyard and winery from the ground up was an extremely labor-intensive undertaking. Through my membership with YEC, I was exposed to this whole other perspective on entrepreneurship, which is primarily technology driven.
Most of the young entrepreneurs around the country are starting tech companies. They are easy to start and easy to scale and you can start with minimal resources, which was the opposite of everything I found my entrepreneurial journey to be up until that point. I got excited to watch people who I met through YEC launch their companies and grow their companies, so I learned a lot about technology companies, specifically around operations, strategy, marketing, and branding.
I have a bachelor’s of science in international trade and marketing and I found myself in this niche of advising a lot of start-ups around marketing, branding, how to run your company, and media buying for your company. I then started to invest in them as well, became an angel investor, and really liked it.
As for Gen Y Capital Partners, a friend from the YEC came to me and my partner Jeremy Johnson and asked if we would be willing to start this fund with him. We looked at what makes early-stage investing really successful and it was having an additional value add. Things such as networking and advising helped companies excel and see success in some form or fashion. We knew there was something we could do with the network that we could collectively create, and out of that Gen Y Capital was formed.
MN: What do you do at the company? What is its strategy?
LMB: My role at Gen Y Capital Partners is managing director, so I manage the fund. When we came together to create Gen Y Capital, the sole purpose was to identify and successfully invest in early-stage tech companies, hence our tag line “By Gen Y, For Gen Y.” My partners and I are all Gen Y and we invest in companies that have at least one Gen Y founder.
We also use YEC to virtually accelerate the companies we invest in. They have access to peer-to-peer advising and they have all the benefits of being a member of YEC, which is an invite-only organization. All the companies we invest in through the fund are automatically invited, and we’re able to pull together an incredible, dynamic group of limited partners to invest in the fund. Our limited partners are people who are just like us: they had a successful company and are really passionate about technology companies and supporting the future of what they believe innovation should look like. All of this enables us to provide targeted assistance and support and expertise to companies that we fund.
MN: What other companies have you started?
LMB: I am personally very motivated by the opportunity to be one of the early movers or early adopters within the various industries I have a passion for. My first business was a vineyard and winery and out of that, I started a marketing company called Luxury Market Branding, where we do strategic marketing, branding and media buying and planning for luxury goods. We started out doing wine and spirits, and we have since moved into hair care and skin care.
Out of that, we started working with a lot of brands that, while they were not all tech start-ups, they used technology in some light, whether it was for marketing, branding or ecommerce. Out of that, I became more passionate about marrying tech with marketing and branding. I’m most motivated by being able to see what could be potentially major opportunities leveraging technology.
Advertising and marketing trade publication Advertising Age announced its 2013 Agency A-List honors this week, highlighting a black advertising CEO as its Executive of the Year. Steve Stoute, CEO of Translation, is a partner with Jay-Z for the agency, which launched first as a multicultural firm but now serves as a general market agency.
Stoute came from the entertainment world, if you couldn’t tell based on his ad agency partner, working with Sony Music Entertainment and Interscope Geffen A&M Records. His connections in the entertainment industry are appealing to his clients, which include State Farm, A-B InBev, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola. Transitions was also behind the marketing campaign to introduce the Brooklyn Nets basketball team.
Entertainment is a hot industry, but Stoute told Ad Age that there’s more to it than that. “…I think our strategy department is the best in the industry,” he said. “The thinking in our agency never gets the credit it deserves because we have a celebrity. We are first and foremost a strategic and creative shop. And second, we have a Rolodex in entertainment and sports that’s unique in the industry.”
Elsewhere on AdAge’s list, LatinWorks, a Hispanic-focused shop, was honored as multicultural agency of the year, and the number three advertising agency, Grey, has Michael Houston serving as managing director and CMO.
Once upon a time (today included), there was a Queen Bey who reigned unchallenged over every facet of the pop star kingdom. Her unparalleled commitment to outperforming the lesser royals allowed her to outshine them all. Except in one dark area. Being larger than life alienated her from the masses.
Always looking to improve, Queen Bey set her sights on the Web. Other starlets had used social media to their advantage. Surely the Queen could as well. She launched a website! And a Tumblr! Sprinkling out glimpses of her life for the masses to consume, artistic candid photos and handwritten open letters to those that inspired her. Everyone ate it up… for the most part. Some complained. The Queen was showing more of herself, but she wasn’t really telling us anything about who she was.
Bolstered by the delight of fans or the criticism of detractors, Queen Bey decided to take her online presence a step further. She launched The Beyhive blog on Tuesday. She billed it as “my way of showing all the inspiring things I come across every single day… through my eyes.”
Here’s Where the Fairy Tale Gets Real…
Beyoncé’s latest endeavor satisfies the minimum qualifications to be called a blog. The Beyhive is “a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links” (Marketing Terms). The blog features: photo links to the star’s latest cultural and artistic finds, a collection of the notes she writes to newsmakers (previously found in the News section), street style photographed by her stylist, and an archive of fan art. All listed in chronological order.
It’s cute. But she could have just made a Pinterest board.
Let’s look at what other celebrities are doing with lifestyle blogs:
- Goop, launched by Knowles-Carter clique member Gwyneth Paltrow, features interviews as well as editorial heavy features on products, destinations, recipes, and more.
- Little Monsters, the brainchild of the only other performer allowed to make eye contact with the Queen, Lady Gaga, is a full-fledged social network for fans of the provocateur.
- Life & Times, spearheaded by husband to Beyoncé’, Jay-Z, is a full-scale online publication that runs branded video, op-eds, and accompanies all its images with at least a paragraph of text.
If you’re feeling a little lucky today, it might be because it’s December 12, 2012, or 12.12.12. The special day has couples racing to the altar, hoping to secure a little wedded bliss from all the good vibrations that are floating around.
According to USA Today, this could be a particularly good day for Las Vegas. The city has seen its revenue from quickie weddings drop by a third since 2004. They hope to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime date to drive their faltering business. The story says newlyweds are an $800 million per year business for the city.
“Chapels from the rundown courthouse area to the ritzy Strip are jumping at the chance to sell 12-12-12 packages at three times the normal price for weekday ceremonies during the wedding offseason, from November to April,” the article says. Companies offering wedding specials are relying on Chinese numerology (the numbers one and two are yin and yang) to sell the date.
Today could also be a good day for giving. The 121212 Concert is taking place today to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Bruce Springsteen will be among the talent taking the Madison Square Garden stage tonight to raise money for the Robin Hood Relief Fund, which fights poverty in New York City. The hashtag #121212Concert is already up and running. And you can livestream the concert its website starting at 7:30 pm ET.
And finally, for everyone else who won’t be getting married or going to the big concert, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts Twitter giveaway. It started at 6am ET and continues through 6 pm ET, awarding a dozen free donuts every hour. Answer the question, “With whom would you like to share a dozen donuts?” with the hashtag #DDozen and you could be a winner. If anyone out there wins, send us a picture. We’d love to post it.
Details on this one are a little fuzzy, but here’s what we know: AOL planned on unveiling a $10 million marketing campaign this week that was to include a TV commercial. That commercial had been styled by June Ambrose, the star of VH1′s Styled by June and a stylist to stars including Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey. She was bringing in elements of the “Mo Money Mo Problems” music video that she worked on in the 90s. Namely, according to Ad Age, the commercial was going to feature people dancing around an AOL logo and some sort of shiny outfits that looked like the ones Mase and Diddy wore. Ad Age has a photo that was on Ambrose’s Instagram account, but when we took a quick look, we didn’t see it.
Internal issues have apparently derailed the campaign, pushing it to 2013. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong took a deep interest in the commercial, going so far as to attend the auditions for the dancers for the ad. Jolie Hunt, the company’s chief marketing officer, didn’t like the way the ad was going. Armstrong came up with the idea for a big marketing splash late last year, setting a deadline for this month, The Wall Street Journal reports. Separately, Hunt is leaving the company after only joining in July.
All that insider-y stuff aside, it is a curious thing when a company makes an abrupt left turn on a $10 million investment. AOL has been in financial trouble these past couple of years, struggling to keep up with tech companies like Facebook and Google. The change could be another byproduct of a company in flux.
Or it could be the result of “too many cooks in the kitchen.” On this we’d like to toss out a warning to everyone working in the business world: Gathering opinions and insight from multiple sources is a good thing. But involving a ton of people on a project can do more harm than good, becoming an impediment to the decision making process. A select person (or persons) has to be in charge in order for things to move forward.
All that aside, I would like to see what this commercial would look like. It could either be brilliant or lame beyond belief.
For the uninitiated, native advertising is branded content that appears as an ad or sponsored post on a social network or publishing site. Social sites such as Buzzfeed, Tumblr, Twitter, and even Facebook have led the trend, making their ads more integrated into the articles they publish and less of an interruption for users.
Think of Promoted Tweets that show up in your Twitter stream or the sponsored posts from Old Navy or Virgin Mobile on Buzzfeed. Besides more social sites, publishers including The Atlantic, Boston.co, and Mashable have all introduced native ad options in recent weeks. Most recently, Skype announced that it will expand its advertising platform in 2013 to include native ad types such as interactive video placements.
For advertisers, these native formats have pros and cons. To start, the company must prepare unique ads for each platform they advertise on, in order to seamlessly fit in with the content, as opposed to creating one display ad to spread out over various platforms. That takes time and money. But the ads generally perform better.
Twitter has been very public about how well its ads perform. An average Promoted Tweet sees between one and three percent click-through rate (CTR). In comparison, the average CTR for Google’s Display Network in the third quarter of 2012 was 0.18 percent.
However, like advertorials and other types of branded content before them, native advertising can be misleading or confusing for readers and users. In October 2012, in-app social and mobile advertising company MediaBrix found that 88 percent of US internet users said they had been confused by a video that looked like regular content but turned out to be an ad. Additionally, Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and Twitter’s Promoted Tweets had also been misleading for 57 percent and 45 percent of respondents, respectively.
While consumers aren’t thrilled about most ads out there, they believe ads should tell a story. According to Adobe’s State of Online Advertising study from October 2012, 68 percent of consumers think online advertising is annoying and 73 percent said that advertisements should tell a unique story, not just try to sell a product.
Looking at the black community specifically, 62 percent of black consumers that digitally connect with a mobile devices told Nielsen they are OK with advertising if it means they can access content for free.
According to several sources including Nielsen, black consumers also respond better to advertising that is inclusive of their community and relevant to their lives. By creating a unique native ad, brands can connect with the black audience in a way that other types of advertising just can’t do.
Therefore, if you have to sit through ads, wouldn’t you rather have them not interrupt your experience, tell an interesting and relevant story, and fit into the overall theme and feel of the site you’re currently on?
Many are heralding native advertisements as the next game-changer in advertising. Others note that it is just advertorials for the internet age. However, with the growing interest in these types of ads, and the attitudes consumers have toward them, this is a shift in online advertising.
By focusing on angles that are interesting to customers—storytelling, relevant content, integrated experiences—advertising can become less annoying and more eye-catching and shareable, traits that are necessary in this social-sharing age. And while users aren’t thrilled with the sometimes misleading nature of native ads, this shift will eventually lead to advertising that will work seamlessly for consumers.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year or so, Pinterest was the break-out social site of 2012. In September 2012, the site came in at number 50 in comScore’s top 50 most-visited websites (not just social sites; all websites) with 25.3 million unique visitors that month. ComScore reported that Pinterest reached 26.7 million uniques in October.
The site was founded in March 2010 by CEO Ben Silberman and reached more than 10 million US monthly unique visitors in February 2012, the fastest independent site to do so, according to comScore. Additionally, we know that Pinterest skews heavily female.
But, there is a growing interest in Pinterest from the black community and several entrepreneurs and social media folks have taken to the site to connect with them.
Krystle Sims, the owner of young.black.nappy, a company that sells t-shirts promoting black artists, natural hair, and Afro-centric pride, says she has seen an increase in black women not only on Pinterest, but also more interested in talking online about artistry and crafting in general. With a focus on natural black hairstyles and hair care, Sims said her target audience has been black women, ages 18 to 35, who are obsessed with natural hair or transitioning to natural hair.
On Pinterest, Sims posts images of natural hair products and styles, artwork featuring natural hair, and more personal pins including recipes, home décor, and craft ideas.
“Over the last year or so, I have noticed there are a lot more African-American women in my city and in my age range of mid-20s who are really looking for inspiration,” she told Madame Noire. “They are educated, they are looking for their purpose, they are really passionate about something, and they are really going for it and finding ways to make careers out of their passions and supporting other black women who are doing the same thing. Pinterest is a great hub for women who are doing that and looking for inspiration.”
Mike Street, a Harlem, NY-based digital strategist, has been looking into how the black community, and black women in particular, are using the site.
“We are seeing African-American women leverage the platform,” he said, though there is not yet any public demographic data on Pinterest. “There are hair and beauty bloggers who have been using it to send people back to their sites.” He added that Oprah has also done a lot with Pinterest and that brands are starting to figure out best practices for using the site.
Retailer Uniqlo used Pinterest’s visual nature and scrolling feature to launch a campaign in June that made the graphics they pinned look animated when users scrolled down the page. UNICEF took Pinterest’s aspirational nature (as users post items they want to buy, for example) to promote ways that less fortunate people around the world desire basic needs like food and clean drinking water.
The blog African-American Brides took advantage of the popularity of weddings on Pinterest and joined the site earlier this year to post engagement photos, hairstyles, and other inspirational ideas for African-American women planning their weddings. Fast Company also recently outlined how female-owned businesses have been using the site to reach out to customers.
Robin Foster, a writer for Examiner.com, uses Pinterest to share African-American history and genealogy, as well as tools and resources people can use to help find out more about their own history and genealogy. She has been working with genealogy since 1985, promoting products, tools, and resources people can use to learn more about their history.
“When I first went to Pinterest, I could not find anything on genealogy, so I thought, this is an open field,” she told Madame Noire. “People want to know who they are and where they come from, so I saw it as a good possibility to become a go-to person on Pinterest about this topic.”
She is very excited about the possibilities for Pinterest for businesses, especially since the site just launched business pages, which allow companies to use actual brand names on the site and verify the accounts. Pinterest plans to introduce more business-specific tools in the coming months.
Focusing on an African-American specific topic, she has found, actually attracts a wide variety of followers, not all of them black.
“Pinterest attracts all races and all colors of people,” she explained. “The African-American experience is one that is still being told. There are quite a lot of pictures, for example in the Library of Congress, and there is a lot of history out there that people are intrigued by, so my goal is to make that visual and make that info available so people can learn.”
Advice for Marketers
Sims’ advice for people who want to get involved with Pinterest is to just have fun with it.
“A lot of social media is planning… and there is a place for that,” she said. In her day job, Sims is a social media specialist for a distribution company. “But Pinterest, at least for now, is one of the last bastions of social media where you can have fun. Of course, think about where your links are going and make sure there is a purpose, but have fun with it.”
Foster encourages companies and business people to link together all their social media accounts. By linking Pinterest to Facebook, blogs, and other communities, the conversation can be extended beyond the visual nature of Pinterest, and you can go deeper with your communities.
The visual nature of Pinterest is what will keep the site popular for African-American women and consumers overall, Street said. “On social, photos over-index. Photos are the social currency that we exchange now.”
It’s been 18 months since The Oprah Winfrey Show left the air. Ms. Winfrey has kept herself busy managing a magazine, an XM radio channel, a television channel, and an online presence that includes a content channel on The Huffington Post. Despite all of this, the New York Times recently questioned whether the era of Oprah has come to an end.
The absence of daily face time with her millions of fans has impacted Winfrey’s brand in ways even she didn’t anticipate. Her magazine and website experienced a decline in revenue and sales. Her television network’s rough start is well documented.
If anyone else’s name were attached to these projects they would still be deemed a success. But high expectations are a common side effect of greatness. Lady O doesn’t seem to be checking for her critics’ opinions anymore. Instead she is setting her sights on expanding her audience to include a younger demographic.
Can Oprah Be Hip?
Oprah is influential, but she stopped being cool in the 90s. The median age for an O magazine reader is 49. But Ms. Winfrey thinks she has something to offer younger generations. At her magazine’s annual conference, she said she would like to attract women “in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.”
Oprah has made it clear that she won’t stray from her message of “living your best life.” Rightfully so, it is clearly her passion and has become a primary part of her brand along with interviewing the most noteworthy names in pop culture. Oprah seems to be hitting her stride in adapting the latter to new platforms. Appearances by gossip blog favorites Evelyn Lozada and Maia Campbell on self-help guru Iyanla Vanzant’s show, Fix My Life, hint that she is working out how to use one of her trademarks to boost the popularity of the other.
Spirituality For a New Age
Oprah was originally criticized for her New Age spirituality that didn’t identify with a set religion. But the inclusive nature of her faith is the perfect fit for younger audiences. A recent study found that 72 percent of millennials, the generation between 18 and 30 years old, say they are more spiritual than religious.
Despite not identifying with a religion, or maybe because of it, young people crave spiritual direction. Holistic lifestyle topics like wellness, spirituality, and healthy living are becoming increasingly mainstream. Oprah was already covering these topics on her show. She continues to use platforms like OWN to bring spiritual advisors of all kinds to a mass audience. Now is the perfect time for Winfrey to lead this conversation for a new generation.
An Army For Oprah
At 58, Oprah can’t speak the language of millennials, but she can empower people who do. I want Oprah to be satisfied with hanging out with Tyler Perry on the weekends and leave him out of her business. His 12-hour block on TBS is more than sufficient. OWN and her bevy of multimedia channels needs to empower a new generation of spiritual ambassadors that promote her message.
An army of young, diverse men and women empowering other young people to live their best life is a powerful image. In exchange for Oprah’s stamp of approval, this band of brand ambassadors will bring a much-needed hipness to the Oprah brand and bring fresh content and followings to her other platforms. This strategy is nothing new to Oprah. She’s producing most of daytime television (Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, and Dr. Oz) using the same formula.
Taking shots at Oprah has become a popular pastime but it’s silly to bet against her at this stage in the game. Her public journey to reshape her career shows us all how success happens. Most of the time you’re not a hit straight out the gate. Greatness requires a never-ending process of trial and error that constantly reevaluates and recalibrates your efforts.
The woman credited with getting Middle America to vote for our nation’s first Black president does not have the option of sitting around twiddling her thumbs. It would be irresponsible for her and her influence to sit at home and count coins. Dreams are easier than ever to achieve, and we need someone to remind us of this. If anyone is up for the job, it’s Ms. Winfrey.
MEET Melissa Dawn Johnson: As the President of Atlanta headquartered, Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group, Melissa Dawn Johnson has worked with professional athletes, including NFL players, corporate executives and influential leaders. Her clients she have included Common, NBA-All Star, Carmelo Anthony, World Cup soccer star, Oguchi Onyewu, Mary J. Blige, MillerCoors, and more. This brand strategist has also had her own segment on CNN and contributes to Essence and The Huffington Post.
MN: What did you dream of becoming when you were a young girl?
MJ: I had about 15 careers as a little girl. I wanted to be a dancer and a doctor. I also wanted to do hair and makeup. One thing that remained constant was my love for people. This passion is what attracted me to marketing. However, it was a book I read when I was 14 years old that changed my life… written by Myles Monroe [and] titled, Understanding Your Potential. In his book, Myles talked about the importance of knowing what you want to be. He said the greatest discovery you can have is to learn why you are on Earth. Miles also wrote the forward to my book, Brand Me: Make Your Mark, Turn Passion Into Profit.
MN: What types of services does Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group offer?
MJ: We… specialize in elevating the influence of leaders through consulting, curriculum and coaching. We show clients the power brand leadership method. Our overall mission is to change the world one leader at a time. We work in the business and sports spaces. My job is also to help our clients think about the “what ifs” that could occur and threaten their brand (i.e. lawsuits, negative media coverage) and help them develop strategies so they can continue to move their brand forward should unfortunate events occur.
MN: How do you ensure you focus your marketing efforts to suit each individual client’s specific needs?
MJ: That’s a great question. The universal challenge leaders face is understanding how to take what is valuable about them and making it invaluable to the world. What I tell my clients is that every great company is built one leader at a time. Understanding human motivations, understanding what drives humans to succeed as well as getting in tune with our clients’ needs is how we achieve our goals. We take a holistic lifestyle approach with our clients, challenging them to look at their leadership skills in every facet of their lives.
That said, we have turned clients away. Many who want success don’t understand the process… to achieve the success they want. I’ll tell you this, when you get clear about what you want, opportunity will come to you.
MN: What resources did you use to finance your business?
MJ: I started my business three years before I actually opened the doors in October 2006. I got a roommate to make it easier to pay off debt. I also started a business plan. I thought about the people I knew who could be potential clients, and I started developing relationships with those people. I studied the industry. I did my best to pre-sell my business before I left my job.
Regarding the money I initially invested in my business and a friend from high school gave me a couple of thousand dollars to start my business. It was enough to get me through the first two months until I got clients. I started my business in my home.
MN: Is it easier to get results while working with celebrities and top firms than it is with lesser known artists and businesses?
MJ: It’s not easier to get results working with celebrities. Celebrities are about 20 percent of my business. [C]lients need to be open to feedback. It’s important to be open to grow as a leader. Mindset is more important that status (i.e. celebrity).