John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
(619) 465-6100
Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
June 2010

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June 29 2010
Sometimes, you have to spend money to make money. It’s true in marketing, and it may be true in national economics as well. Here’s the story of Ireland, where seemingly prudent spending cuts and tax increases made in response to an economic collapse have hamstrung the country’s recovery, from The New York Times via
Advertising copywriter blog link

Perhaps our two most recent U.S. presidents and congresses got it right, or at least more right than the leaders of Ireland, Greece, and Spain. In a competitive global economy, that and Yankee ingenuity may be all the edge we need. (Hey, when Tesla Motors launched its IPO today, traders drove its stock price up 41%, and that’s on a day when the Dow dropped 268 points. What might the outcome have been if Tesla was based in Ireland or Spain? Ayup.)

American brand owners could be picking up the scent of opportunity among the blood and turbulence still ahead. Of course, the downside remains: in a global economy everyone’s connected.
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June 28 2010
Now that Ford Motor Company has firmed up its plan to kill off the Mercury automotive brand (Ad Blog May 28 2010), it’s looking at ways to rebuild what’s left of Lincoln (Ad Blog May 11 2010). Here’s the story, from the Wall Street Journal:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Just 12 years ago, in 1998, Lincoln was the #1-selling luxury car in the U.S., generating as much as $2.5 billion a year. Today, its sales figures place it at #8 among upscale car brands. Although that’s still in the top ten, that’s far down the list for a non-niche brand. Lincoln is a brand without an image.

The thing is, sales – #1 or otherwise – may have contributed to the problem. Marketing people tend to focus on the effects of marketing and branding on sales, but rarely consider, let alone direct, the effect of sales on marketing and branding. That top-down approach ignores half of the marketing-sales feedback loop. If Lincoln is known today as the car that takes you to the prom or airport, it’s because a large volume of Lincolns were sold to limousine and rental fleets. Those fleet sales were pursued, a sales tactic that conflicted with the marketing strategy and yet went on with no adjustment to strategy or tactic.

It’s proof once again of what I’ve long maintained: sales is branding. In fact, in many non-commodity categories, sales are the only reliable following and leading indicators of branding because they are accountable, real-time, and, most important, consumer-driven.
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June 22 2010
I thought this was funny. An online retailer sold a parody canned meat product for April Fool’s day the description for which included the claim that it was “the new white meat,” which of course drew a strongly worded letter from the National Pork Board. Here’s the story, from the Associated Press via
Advertising copywriter blog link

There really was no other choice for the pork people, who have to defend their trademark (“Pork: The Other White Meat”). But a 12-page letter from the legal representatives? I think a single-page letter from the marketing side would have been sufficient to (a) determine that the product was a one-off and would not be carried as regular stock, (b) assert trademark priority, and (c) join the fun with a retailer which, after all, does also sell actual pork-based humor products like bacon gumballs.

The National Pork Board thought like a corporation instead of a marketer, and the opportunity to be proactive in defending the brand while simultaneously marketing the industry it represents vanished like chocolate-dipped bacon at the Del Mar Fair.
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June 19 2010
The best out-of-the-box marketing concepts don’t seem like marketing concepts at all. Sponsorship of a jazz festival has proven to hit the right target market with the right message in the right way for CareFusion, a medical device manufacturer based right here in sunny San Diego. Here’s the story, from my hometown San Diego Union-Tribune (CA):
Advertising copywriter blog link

Sponsorships like this are the original social media campaign, and can still resonate every bit as powerfully as the new media version. If anything, the compressed nature of a real-world event, spanning hours or days instead of an online social media campaign that unfurls over months or years, provides even tighter targeting and a more-focused message platform. Plus, the year-to-year link maintains a continual brand connection while allowing constant reinvention, enabling an elusive blend of consistency and freshness.

Notable: sponsorship of the jazz festivals takes essentially all the company’s annual marketing budget. Yet, the ROI appears to have been tremendous: global brand recognition, an almost instant boost in awareness, and access to the C-level executives that comprise the primary target market. Unfortunately, the article did not reveal sales figures, which would have helped validate the approach.

I like seeing examples of smart marketing. And I really like seeing it from companies based in my neck of the woods. I have not done work for CareFusion. And the way things look, anyway, it doesn’t need a copywriter; it needs more sales staff to better leverage the one-on-one connections it reaps from its sponsorships. Now that’s how you go directly from marketing to sales. Cool!
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June 17 2010
AOL has sold social networking site Bebo, just two years after paying $850 million for it, citing the investment required to keep it going. Here’s the story, such as it is, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Of course, the purchasing company thinks it’s getting the better part of the bargain, picking up an established social networking site for what seems to be pennies on the dollar. The open question, is whether it’s worth even those pennies.

Note, too, that the company buying Bebo is neither a media company nor a web company. It’s Criterion Capital, an investment company. Its managing partner says Bebo is “an attractive media platform.”

For what, I wonder.

See, platforms are the easy part. It’s content and participation that are the tough things to get dialed in, assuming the plan includes maintaining or building Bebo as an active social networking site. Thing is, AOL wasn’t able to make it work. But an alternate plan might be to leverage the platform to serve up advertising. Oh boy. Just what the world needs.
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June 16 2010
FIFA, the organization responsible for the World Cup, is serious about defending its authorized sponsors against ambush marketers. Here’s the story of how 30 women got ejected from Monday’s game, two Dutch women ended up in court, and one commentator got fired, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

Well, there are orange mini-dresses and there are orange mini-dresses. These specific dresses were provided by Bavaria, a Dutch beer brand, presumably with the intent of seating a group of matching women together. Identical dresses were part of a giveaway promotion earlier in the year. The brewery also arranged the seats (the bit that got the commentator in trouble, because he allegedly provided tickets from his allotment for his family and friends). Most of the women were locals who only looked Dutch, hired for the occasion, making it noteworthy that the two arrestees are identified as actually being Dutch (perhaps employees of Bavaria or its marketing agency?).

So, clearly, this was a calculated marketing event.

Still, orange? There was no logo visible, so the flap is all about the color orange. I saw the photo and immediately thought of the European mobile brand Orange, which is part of France Telecom. In fact, without the news stories identifying the ambush marketer, I’d never have known who was behind it.

The news coverage is part of the ambush marketing event, which means it’s still going on.
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June 4 2010
Today I have a story somewhat related to yesterday’s story about advergames aimed at children. The FTC says Kellogg’s falsely claimed that their products improved school performance and enhanced immune systems in advertising aimed at parents. Here’s the story, from MSN Money:
Advertising copywriter blog link

With the Frosted Mini-Wheats campaign, Kellogg’s got in trouble because it followed (poorly) a popular rule in direct marketing. It tried to substantiate a specific claim with a specific result from a specific study. All of which should have lent credibility, and did, except that the result was fudged to the point of incredulity. I’m no math whiz, but a copywriter with a bit more education in basic statistics (don’t they require media planning courses any more?) would have questioned the validity of claiming a 20% improvement based on one outcome out of nine.

As to the Rice Krispies claim, that’s just sloppy copywriting. The copy should have made clear that the “better health” claim was connected to the ingredients, not the product itself.

It’s notable that the market has responded: Kellogg’s packaged goods product sales have been on a downward slide. After all, nothing sells like the truth.
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June 3 2010
A recent UC Davis School of Medicine public health study reveals a link between children’s advergames hosted on corporate sites and unhealthy eating habits. Here’s the story, from UC Davis:
Advertising copywriter blog link

I am a parent of two young boys as well as an advertising copywriter and marketer. We set these things called limits on our kids’ commercial TV and computer time. And, after school and on weekends, that limit in our house is pretty close to zero. (Come to think of it, the last program the kids watched on broadcast television was the Rose Parade, and we watched KTLA which has, in addition to the A-Team of Bob Eubanks and Stephanie Edwards, no commercial breaks.) Sometimes, the kids get to watch a movie on the weekend. As for computer time, unless they’re doing schoolwork, we require them to spend time with a typing program before playing a game or visiting one of a handful of Mom-and-Dad-approved sites.

I think basing the study on websites promoted on after-school TV may have skewed the results. Thanks to standardized testing and budget cuts, less and less actual instruction goes on in the classroom these days. Kids today have so much homework that there isn’t time for after-school TV, especially taking into account any extracurricular activities, socializing, or just time to play. I think children who watch after-school TV are children who aren’t completing their homework, which these days means they’re getting only a partial education. That lack of education translates into poor choices, in entertainment and in food.

These are kids, though, which is why parental involvement and setting limits are essential and can’t be outside the bounds of the study. Branded sites that attract kids (such as, to name one with which I am all too familiar) are absolutely relentless in their commercial messaging. See, that’s the point. With rare exceptions, they’re not about providing free entertainment. And they’re certainly not about delivering nutritional information. They’re about delivering a marketing message directly to their users and consumers. That advergames do so should come as no surprise to anyone. Except, apparently, researchers.

Here are more Ad Blog entries related to advertising and marketing aimed at children (some you have to scroll down to reach): December 7 2009, October 24 2009, July 8 2009, December 17 2008, August 4 2008, July 30 2008, November 13 2007, October 30 2007, October 23 2007, October 18 2007, March 19 2007, February 28 2007, January 15 and 31 2007, December 19 2006, November 14, 17 and 20 2006, October 2, 3 and 27 2006, June 11 and 12 2006, April 4 2006, January 20 2006, November 22 and 30 2005, October 20 2005, June 27 2005, April 14 and 27 2005, March 16 17 and 24 2005, February 17 and 28 2005, December 22 2004, November 15 and 16 2004, June 5 and 7 2004, December 5 2003, November 13 and 21 2003, May 6 2003, and April 16 2003.
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June 2 2010
Speaking (the other day) of automotive brands, here’s an article about one of the most significant vehicles – and brands – of all time. Indeed, it may be one of the few automobiles in history that can truly be called iconic. It’s the Volkswagen camper van, and here’s the story of its 60th anniversary, from BBC News:
Advertising copywriter blog link

VW gave the world two iconic vehicles, the Type 2 (van) and the Type 1 (the original “Beetle”). I’d venture to say that the original Willys Jeep was an equally iconic vehicle. After those three, anything else feels like it belongs on a second string, within a set of vehicles that are classic or beautiful or historically important but not quite icons.

What’s interesting, is that all three of those sociocultural icons were birthed, not by brand development studies or marketing strategies or focus groups, but by need. All three are prime examples of functionality over form. And yet, each form became iconic designs, not through manufacturer intent but through consumer application.

Want to build an iconic brand? Start by meeting a need.
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Backwards in time to May 2010

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John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
6877 Barker Way
San Diego, California

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