On December 1, at the Annual Recreation Vehicle Industry Association International Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Lewis Communications helped Tiffin Motorhomes unveil their newest model, the Allegro Breeze. The Breeze is a 28′ Class A diesel-pusher that isn’t just a new product, but creates a whole new category in the RV industry. Just as luxurious as Tiffin’s high-end models, the Breeze is smaller, more maneuverable and fuel efficient.
In an industry where in the past bigger almost always meant better, a teaser campaign was developed with the tagline, “This is BIG.” The campaign targeted dealers and industry media letting them know Tiffin would soon be unveiling something brand new. The Tiffin website homepage included a countdown clock promising something huge at the industry’s leading annual show. Direct mail and social media posts also helped spread the word of Tiffin’s big news leading up to the show.
The actual unveiling at the RVIA show included an oversized curtain with fake wheels pushed out to create the impression of a vehicle almost twice the size of the Breeze.
When the curtain was dropped attendees were surprised to see a luxury RV half the size of what was expected. Miniature pocket-sized brochures were handed out and the wording on the side of the display changed to say “Small is Big.”
The Breeze was named Best of Show for the RVIA Expo and was featured in RV Business and MotorHome Magazine.motorhomemagazine.com
Team Great Britain, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Gabby Douglas and countless others won athletic gold in London, but which brands came out on top during these games?
In the U.S., NBC’s brand saw mixed results with soaring ratings delivering a huge and positive impact to their bottom line. Unfortunately, the hashtag #NBCFail was ubiquitous during the games and reached a crescendo last night as Bob Costas pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch promoting an appearance by The Who, but only after a pilot for a new sit-com. NBC pays billions of dollars to have the U.S. broadcast rights for the Olympics, and must make hard decisions about how to recoup that investment. It is still hard to see how going out of your way to aggravate your viewers is a winning long-term strategy.
Although Nike wasn’t an official Olympic sponsor, they almost don’t need to be. The swoosh logo was shown on screen thousands of times on athletes’ shoes and apparel. Their guerilla marketing campaign “Find Your Greatness” was brilliant in both strategy and execution by featuring everyday men, women and children finding greatness on a less-than Olympic stage, but still in a town called London.
The Ultimate Branding Machine
One of the less-heralded Olympic partners was BMW Group who found smart and relevant ways to keep their brands and their cars top-of-mind. In addition to TV spots touting their sponsorship, BMW riffed on Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket by driving a Golden Bimmer around London giving free tickets to those who shared photos of themselves with the car. During the closing ceremonies, Jesse J and two other singers were transported into and around Olympic stadium in three Rolls-Royce Phantoms specially built and badged for the event. BMW’s Mini joined in the competition with remote-controlled Mini’s carrying javelins back to athletes finding a way onto hallowed athletic ground that is supposedly free of commercial clutter.
Proctor & Gamble, Omega Watches and several other official and not-so-official sponsors of the games were highly visible with TV spots, online video, and social media memes. The brands mentioned above stood out most to me during these games, but branding is seen through the eye of the beholder.
Which brands grabbed your attention and won Gold in London?
In March, I traveled with a group of our staff to Port-au-Prince, Haiti to look for potential sites to build the first Joseph School. The idea was to send a video and still photography crew to document our time there. I will attempt to describe what we saw, but most people reading this will never be able to grasp the desperate living conditions for 98 percent of Haitians.
First, a little about The Joseph School. A good friend of mine, Jim Bryson, asked our company to help spread the word about a concept he developed while working to assist after the Haitian earthquake disaster. Most Haitian children are forced to live in orphanages because their parents simply cannot afford to take care of their basic needs. For generations, the country has found itself in a self-perpetuating situation in which the majority of the country is uneducated and has no hope of finding jobs to sustain themselves. Children in orphanages are basically turned out into the streets after 5th grade and face a career of panhandling to try to find a meal for the day. In Haiti, there is no long-term hope for “bettering oneself” as we are so accustomed to here. In Haiti, the long-term dream is to simply find sustenance for the day. Period.
Jim’s concept for The Joseph School is to establish a school that can take the 5th grade children and provide them with a free education all the way through 12th grade. His concept is, for the first time, to give the children of Haiti a chance to become leaders, a chance to find a real job and a chance at a future.
All those plans and dreams sound great when you are hearing them in the lobby of an upscale Nashville hotel. They take on an entirely new meaning when you’re riding in an open truck down a main street so embroiled in chaos it is hard to imagine that it has ever been deemed a “society.” Trash is piled everywhere because there has been no trash pickup since the earthquake (a year ago, really?). Trash is piled into every possible place: streams, the sides of the roads, etc. There is no sewer service, so the same stream that provides sanitation to one person is providing the source for cleaning clothes for another, or worse still—drinking water. The entire city of Port-au-Prince smells of burning garbage since that is really the only way to get rid of any trash at all.
The streets are full of dust, dirt and garbage, and untold diseases are kicked up in the air with each passing car. Traffic could easily be the situation one might find if a major city such as Los Angeles was to endure a nuclear attack; there is no real order – the rule of the day for traffic is to stick your nose in and hope it doesn’t get taken off. But somehow they never seem to hit one another. It is truly amazing.
The United Nations has a large presence, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what they are doing. They drive around in tanks with machine guns. I suppose they are “establishing order.” What we wish they were doing is trying to rebuild this country. It looks exactly the same today as it did the day after the earthquake over a year ago. Buildings are still piles of rubble. Many still hold the victims of the earthquake inside them.
But it is against this backdrop of utter chaos, hopelessness and despair that we discovered the most wonderful thing; the resiliency of the Haitian people. In a country that most people would agree has perhaps the worst luck on the planet – the world’s worst poverty, hurricanes frequently rake the country, few if any natural resources left, mudslides in the low-lying areas of the country, and now a catastrophic earthquake and a disastrous epidemic of cholera —we find smiling, embracing, joyful people. People who put on the best clothes they own every Sunday and walk miles to worship a God that most people would assume has turned his back on them.
If these people can have faith and hope living under such extreme circumstances they are faced with, I would contend that Haiti isn’t the poorest country on Earth. They are perhaps the richest. They live purely. They live for the day – thankful that they have been given that day to live. They remain hopeful while living through adversity that those of us who have lived a life of privileged excess can’t begin to imagine. They accept their lot in life with an attitude of thankfulness. They care for one another.
We, on the other hand, would never make it in this kind of environment because we would try to blame someone – anyone – so that we can satisfy our sense of entitlement. We wouldn’t deserve this kind of treatment and because we are Americans, we don’t have to take it. Not us, no siree.
Upon returning home we were profoundly embarrassed looking at our world, because we have lived a life of excess. We’ve gotten pretty much everything we have ever wanted. We live in houses that in Haiti would shelter 100 people. We never have to worry about whether we’ll eat today. In fact, we’ll all complain that we don’t have enough. There’s always that next something we don’t have. We’ll continue feeling our sense of entitlement and we’ll continue to make our life about Us. Life for the typical American is just that way; it is comfortable, it is excessive, and that’s just the way we like it.
So which is the poor country and which is the rich one?
Well, I can tell you that we are going to do everything we possibly can to make The Joseph School a reality. We are going to try to refocus the world’s short attention span on this country that is so desperately in need of the most basic services. But at the end of the day we hope we can bring home some lessons about life – for the country we live in.
The poorest country I know.
I still remember it like it was yesterday. My dad (always one of the early adopters) brought home our brand new, round-screen RCA Victor Color television set. He plugged it in, adjusted the rabbit ears and turned it on. With a low pitched hum, starting slowly from a single dot in the middle of the screen, the screen grew to reveal an ABC news broadcast already underway. Eagerly, we three kids leaned in to be able to see “color TV” for the first time. The problem was, the local TV station wasn’t broadcasting in color yet. So we had a wonderful color TV set that we didn’t get to actually see a color program on for about another three months.
Fast forward to the year 2010. We’re all supposed to just think about TV and it magically pops up, filling an entire glass room in our home, right?
Oh sure, we have 1080p high definition on 120 channels or so, but we’re still very much in the dark ages when it comes to the local affiliate commercial break. It seems as though someone forgot to notify the local broadcast channels in just about every US market that the local breaks are still sponsored by local advertisers.
Even though stations happily broadcast the network feeds in hi-def and tout their HD coverage, the local slot is filled with wonderful lo-def mediocrity. Which means for clients and agencies: that $1.5 million dollar TV ad campaign you just authored in hi-def? Well, it is going to be shown in standard definition. In most cases, in the old 4:3 format of older tube-type televisions.
Welcome to 1965 all over again.
So picture me on a soapbox now, screaming at the top of my lungs at every local affiliate that will invest in the equipment to broadcast a network feed, but won’t take the small added step of upgrading their carting equipment, so they can show local spots in hi-def as well. Fine. That’s okay, we’re just the ones paying to keep the lights on.
Following this logic, may I tell my clients that we can’t do their website or handle their social influence because we’d rather not spend the money to pay for an internet connection? I’m thinking, no. They would fire us and move on to someone who would. We spend months poring over our creative product to make it the very best it can be, and then unless we are prepared to do a national network buy, we are saddled with playing that television spot through the digital equivalent of gauze.
This is not a difficult request. But it does take influence. I suppose there are just too many advertisers out there who are willing to settle for mediocrity. Until the silent majority of local advertisers who are willing to settle for less than top quality will take a stand and demand better, we might as well break out the hip boots and Peter Maxx posters.
Crowdsourcing. All you have to do is utter the word around creative people and you’ll watch a room quickly divide into proponents and naysayers.
Critics love to point at examples like Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Brammo logo project, in which hundreds of designers slaved for a mere $1000. Some designers will tell you that it devalues their thinking; all you have to do is search for the #nospec tag on Twitter to see hundreds of comments opposed to crowdsourcing and specifically to the Brammo contest. (It goes without saying that Bogusky got far more than a thousand bucks worth of buzz out of the competition.)
Another hotbed for discussion of the crowdsourcing movement has been Edward Boches’ blog, where you’ll find more than a few of my comments on the subject as well.
But let’s put aside the debate over crowdsourcing as a source of cheap labor. Let me offer you a better example. One that I think is more pure, more joyful — and in my opinion more promising, as a place where the crowdsourcing movement can lead.
One of my favorite musicians in the world is a singer songwriter out of Austin, Texas named Darden Smith. Check him out. To me, the songs he writes feel like Austin: smart, simple, contemporary, yet firmly rooted in the Texas tradition.
But as much as he enjoys recording CDs and touring the US and UK, Darden gets his greatest joy these days out of something else. It’s a program he created in 2003, called Be An Artist. Professional musicians go into the schools, work with the kids, and before the end of the day, the kids have written a song together. And to hear Darden tell it, sometimes they’re pretty darn good.
But what’s important isn’t the song that results. (Although if you want to check out a few of the songs from Darden Smith’s Be An Artist project, click here.) Is a class full of 2nd graders going to write a better song than a perennial Grammy-winning songwriter team? Um, not every time. And probably, not as often.
But that isn’t the point.
To quote Darden: “Everyone is an artist at something. Everyone is creative. Art surrounds us, from the clothes we wear, the car we ride in, to the music we listen to and the buildings we live in. There’s no escaping it! The Big Three: attention, intention, & the love of doing something. If you have those ingredients, you’re making art.”
Smith isn’t crowdsourcing songs in search of a chartbusting hit. He writes pretty damn fine songs already, thank you.
His motivation lies not in the song that results that afternoon, but in what they’re really creating: a generation of kids more interested in the arts, and more confident in themselves as creative people.
It’s all about the engagement.
Lewis recently helped create a successful joint promotion for Whole Foods Market and the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. A portion of proceeds from a day’s sales went to the Riverkeeper, and sales for the gourmet market were up by 5% the day of the promotion. Lewis also created a new educational brochure for the Riverkeeper.
Creative projects from Lewis Communications received four Gold and three Silver ADDY awards at the recent District 7 ADDY Awards Competition, which includes Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Lewis won for Vanderbilt Sports Medicine, Brannon’s Restaurant, Scribbler Stationery, Aquila Game Preserve, Upstate University Health System — and Best of Show in the Broadcast Television category for Alfa Insurance. Gold award winners from the district competition automatically advance to the National ADDY Award competition next month.
For so many people, social media is exactly that – a place to be social. But during the dramatic unfolding of devastating weather conditions in the state of Alabama, social media became more than just a social website – it became a lifeline for so many. Facebook became a site to literally check-in on your friends’ lives. For those who had already lost power, it was a way to pass along information to the outside world that your friends were among the living.
It also serves as a giant Hallmark card of sorts. For our friends who have lost so much, once they are able to check back in, hopefully the sight of their Facebook wall will help them to get through the next stage – whether it is grieving, recovery or rebuilding. For our own co-workers, the outpouring of love and concern and the many offers of assistance should serve to at least let them know that they are loved, in our thoughts and that their needs are our top priority.
And as the state begins to pick up the pieces of what these tornadoes left behind, the number of pages popping up on Facebook to assist are truly inspiring. The page “Animals Lost & Found from the Tornadoes in Alabama on 4/27/11” helps connect displaced pets with “foster parents” until their owners can be located as well as alerting people as to missing pets. “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes” allows the return of what may appear to be debris to some but could be the only photo reclaimed of a dear family member.
I’ve seen everything from “how to volunteer”, how to donate, how to file your insurance claim pop up within the last 18 hours. It also serves as the most relevant news source to some. After all, the news that’s important to our friends tends to be that which is most important to us.
And while the penetration of Facebook continues to increase, one can only imagine that it will continue to have an important role in these types of events. For me, social media took on a whole new realm of meaning in my life this week.
According to communications research company IDC (IDC.com), Internet usage in December 1996 was limited to only 36 million people, or 0.9% of world population. By June 2009, Internet World Stats measured nearly 1.7 billion Internet users worldwide, accounting for 24.7% of the global population.
For those of us in the marketing and communications industry, the difference between 1996 and 2009 is huge. Although the essence of what we do is unchanged in many ways, it has been like learning a new language as we work to tap into the vast potential of an always on and available online home for our clients’ brands, messaging and promotions.
And now, although Facebook and Twitter have been around since 2004 and 2006 respectively, these new web-based communications channels are again revolutionizing how virtually anyone with a message communicates with an audience.
But, it feels different this time.
The Great Recession of the last two years has really changed attitudes very quickly. Some of the same clients who even last year weren’t interested in a Google search campaign are now very open to new strategies that involve dialogue and engagement through social networking.
So although all of us will be glad when the recession is over and sustained economic growth returns, the pain of a downturn will not have completely been in vain. The quick leap of advancement being made in marketing and communications practices will be good for our industry and good for our clients. And I’m convinced these advancements would have taken a great many years, if not for the financial pressures of the current recession.
Viva la Revolución!