Hello World: My Formal Introduction, Healthy Advertising and Millenials

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My name is Pashun Ballard and I am a new contributor to Brandiose Marketing. I have 5-1/2 years of Marketing and Communications experience. I have worked in the television and radio industry for about 9 years prior to jumping on the marketing communication pool. I hope to give some expertise about social media campaigns, digital marketing, marketing communications branding and writing from a mid career level. I have worked in various different industries, so I have a generalist perspective.

I look forward to highlighting various marketing communications scenarios and case studies. Marketing affects various aspects of the real world. You can see the effects negative and positive of marketing, communications, and social media throughout our society.

How has health advertising and the upsurge in healthy eating affected fast food and soda sales? According to adage.com

“The amount of soda consumed declined 1.2% in 2012 — down to 1996 levels, with per capita consumption in the U.S. falling to 1987 levels. Still, the major brands increased pricing, leading to a 1.8% rise in retail sales. According to Beverage Digest, the category, which includes energy drinks is worth about $77 billion.

Soda consumption was steady throughout the 1990s, rising about 3% per year, before slowing in 1999. The category has been in decline since 2005.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Empty promises from US Airways

Exit sign in airplaneI didn’t expect to follow up on the previous post about brands destroying themselves through broken promises with another example of poor customer service so soon, but US Airways is too blatant to ignore.

You may be aware that US Airways is undergoing a merger with American Airlines and will be the surviving airline. It also will be the biggest. There has been much news reported about how this merger will benefit investors, the airline industry and US Airways employees. You don’t see or hear much about the impact on customers other than speculation about fares. And I can see why US Airways doesn’t advertise its customer service – because it stinks.

My brother experienced this first hand just a couple of weeks ago. He booked a flight that required a change of planes in Charlotte, N.C. His originating flight departed late because of weather and he landed about 10 minutes late. Incredibly, the plane sat at the arriving gate because – according to the pilot – there wasn’t an agent at the gate to direct departing passengers to connecting flights.

My brother said that people on the plane were yelling to the flight crew to let them off the plane. The pilot announced an apology and said he had called three times for a gate agent.  They all waited, standing in the aisle, for 12 minutes.

When passengers finally were allowed off the plane, my brother ran for his connecting flight. Great news – the plane was still at the gate! But no, the agent wouldn’t let him board because the doors had just closed. He asked her to find him a hotel. She told him no, his delay was caused by weather, which the airline has no control over and doesn’t compensate passengers for. He told her the delay was from waiting for 12 minutes to exit the plane and if it weren’t for that hold up by US Airways, he would have made it on the connecting flight before the doors closed.

The agent refused so he had to find and book his own hotel at a cost of $150 and was rebooked on a flight the following morning.

I started tweeting about how US Airways was trying to use bad weather on one leg of the trip to explain its poor gate service and get out of refunding my brother for a hotel bill he should never had to incur. This is not an unusual tactic used by airlines, which I pointed out in one of my tweets.

Suddenly, my brother heard again from a US Airways “customer service” representative, who this time admitted the airline was at fault, but said they still wouldn’t refund his hotel expense because the airline only reimburses when there has been a mechanical issue. Except this is not what the US Airline website says:

Non-diversion cancellations and missed connections

When a US Airways flight on which the customer is being transported is cancelled or causes a missed connection, due to reasons within the control of US Airways, creating an overnight stay for the customer, US Airways will provide one night’s lodging. US Airways will pay for:

  • Hotel room (US Airways will not cover: room service, alcohol, or movies, laundry or other hotel services)
  • Ground transportation (if not provided by the hotel)
  • Passengers without baggage will be reimbursed upon presentation of receipts for reasonable incidentals such as toiletries needed until they are reunited with their baggage

US Airways will not provide hotel accommodations when a flight is cancelled or causes a missed connection due to circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or Air Traffic Control decisions. Additional exceptions where US Airways will not provide hotel accommodations include:

  • When a customer’s trip is interrupted at a city which is his/her origin point, point of scheduled temporary stay or his/her permanent domicile.
  • When the destination designated on the customer’s ticket, and the flight on which the customer is being transported, is diverted to another city or airport in the same metropolitan area due to weather or other causes beyond US Airways’ control.

In cases where US Airways will not provide one night’s lodging, US Airways will provide passengers a list of hotels/motels, which offer a distressed rate when flight(s) are cancelled.

Whether or not this is legally binding is not the point. It constitutes a brand promise that US Airways has broken. I posted a link to this on one of my Twitter posts and, guess what – my brother got another call from US Airways. This time they offered to pay $75 of his $150 hotel bill.

Getting a full refund for a delay US Airways finally admitted was fully within its control and at fault should not require passengers to play Let’s Make A Deal for US Airways to honor its promise.

Assuming the merger goes through, passengers can expect this kind of “service” to continue. And we as the flying public are apt to see US Airways ad touting size and routes  – but not customer service.


FDA cigarette labels test public’s fears

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is using a classic example of  “fear appeal” to change the behavior of smokers.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration photo

Fear appeals use threats of highlight the negative consequences of not heeding the warning to change attitude and/or behavior. Remember the “Brain on Drugs” campaign back in the ’90s, where a fried egg represented the damaging effects of drugs on teenagers’ brains?

Or maybe you remember this “Don’t Drink and Drive” fear appeal:

Now the government is rolling out new and more graphic warning labels on cigarette packs that aim to show the dangers of smoking through images such as a diseased lung, a smoker wearing an oxygen mask and an emaciated cancer patient. You can view them on the FDA site.

According to USA Today, the new labels represent the most sweeping anti-tobacco effort since the surgeon general’s warning became mandatory on cigarette packaging in 1965. In addition to the grisly images, cigarette marketers also will be required to place 1-800-QUIT-NOW numbers on new packaging, the newspaper said.

“The goal: Slash consumption among the nation’s 43 million smokers and prevent millions more, especially teens, from ever starting.”

But will this particular fear appeal work?

Fear appeals are advertising messages that attempt to create anxiety in the targeted audiences to adopt a recommended response to the threat. Such fear-based advertisements are widely used in health-related communication situations such as health promotional campaigns and social marketing advertising.  The American Cancer Society’s “My Sister Accidentally Killed Herself” ad is one example.

While ads using fear appeal can be effective, as previous campaigns have shown, inappropriate use could also cause consumers to refuse to give their attention to and turn away from such advertisements when they feel intimidated, or even irritated.

Not surprisingly, tobacco companies oppose the new labels. It’s interesting that opposition also is coming from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF) who are concerned it could “set a very dangerous precedent for all other marketers – that the government can tell companies what they must say and portray in their advertising,” according to the ANA.

What do you think – will these labels influence your decision to smoke? Do the advertising groups have a good point, or do you think their opposition stems from something else?


Celebrity endorsers aren’t going away despite the Sheen-like risks

Actor Charlie Sheen public escapades makes this a good time to talk about the use of celebrities in advertising. Sheen was featured in Hanes commercials, which were dropped when negativity about him intensified. He follows a list of celebrity endorsers – Tiger Woods, Michael Vick, Kate Moss, Michael Phelps, Chris Brown, Brett Favre – who ended up being brand liabilities instead of champions. Don’t expect this to deter advertisers from using celebrities, though. Why? Because they draw attention to and help shape perceptions of the brand.

One local example is Reliant Energy’s use of NFL Hall of Famer Troy Aikman in TV spots. Aikman’s agent tries to rope him into endorsing a dental gun, while Aikman practically begs for a shot at representing Reliant Energy. See for yourself:

For the Reliant Energy brand to be tied to an athlete like Aikman, whose performance as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was nothing short of electric at times, is an excellent fit. Consumers likely will infer that Reliant, like Aikman, is competitive, reliable, credible…and delivers even under pressure.

Linking a celebrity endorser to a brand is not without risk, however. Besides undesirable behavior and/or sudden loss of popularity that can diminish the celebrity’s marketing value to the brand, there are any number of potential problems:

  • Celebrity endorsers can be overused by pitching so many products that there ends up being no specific product meaning, or consumers believe that celebrities only do it for the money and don’t believe in or even use the product.
  • The celebrity’s star power can overshadow the brand to the point where consumers can’t recall the advertised brand.
  • A mismatch of celebrity and brand is unbelievable or illogical to consumers.
  • Some consumers can feel that celebrities’ salaries to appear in advertisements add a significant and unnecessary cost to the brand.

What this all means is care must be taken by brands so that celebrity endorsers are evaluated, selected and used strategically, as well as closely monitored.

A recent survey by Starch Advertising Research indicates we can expect to continue to see celebrities featured in print ads because doing so produces a 9.4 percent lift in readership than ads without a celebrity endorser.

Do you think celebrity endorsements are worth the risk?


Is a Super Bowl or American Idol commercial worth the cost?

Photo by graur razvan ionut

You’d really have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the recent launch of the new American Idol season and the upcoming Super Bowl XLV– two of the most expensive advertising vehicles for marketers.

Whether or not advertising during the Super Bowl and American Idol is worth the high dollars that are being spent depends on the company, the product, its integration with other marketing communications and its memorability.

Both the Super Bowl and American Idol draw huge audiences and practically every demographic and psychographic group. They also have some differences, though. With American Idol, advertisers can repeat their pitches multiple times, since the show runs 2-3 times weekly. While this is not true with the Super Bowl, what the Super Bowl offers advertisers is scarcity (a one-time finale) that produces a huge amount of anticipation both for the game and the ads. People who aren’t even sports fans will watch so that they can be a part of the post-game/ads talk.

And yet, advertising during either of these shows does not guarantee success. Just ask any of the dot.com companies, like Pets.com, that went bust after their Super Bowl advertisements aired.

Studies show that the Super Bowl is a great launching pad for a new product or to create brand awareness. Examples cited include Apple’s introduction of the Mac in 1984, and more recent product launches by Chrysler, Gillette and Victoria’s Secret. And when a Super Bowl ad is combined with other marketing communication mediums, such as an online promotion, direct mail, social media and print ad campaign, it can extend its effectiveness for weeks, providing the advertiser is careful not to over-saturate the market to the point of irritating consumers and turning them off.

In my opinion, staying top-of-mind among consumers beyond the Super Bowl or an American Idol episode is the true test of whether the ad was worth the money it took to develop it and the associated media spend costs. This is supported by Lisa Haverty and Stephen Blessing who developed a metric, CogScore, that examines six cognitive principles in an attempt to predict the memorability of the brand from any given ad. CogScore is based on the belief that awareness, persuasion and likeability of an ad will have no effect if the brand being advertised is not remembered as belonging to that ad. In their study, they examined ad recall of Super Bowl ads a year after the game aired. Not only were many of the brands and products not remembered, several were wrongly matched with a competitor’s brand. These are companies that did not get their money’s worth out of their ads.

Business Insider offers a preview of this year’s commercials if you haven’t already seen them and can’t wait until Sunday.

Which commercials do you think will score high in memorability?