Ok, as a marketer that’s a DUMB question, right…
I discovered Twitter not too long ago. Actually, I “tried it on” when it launched, but only started tweeting when it started to gain critical mass (So maybe I’m not that much of an early adapter but I shouldn’t admit that, right?) Anyway , now I’m in love with Twitter because it gives me a place to be myself, which honestly, is not necessarily a great thing for business. Hmmm, let me say that another way, it’s not as much fun to use Twitter as a business tool (as an act of transparency, we have two clients currently on Twitter and the team is having a blast sending out tweets).
As a communications professional I should be tweeting about ROI marketing strategies, strategic brand alliances and how to run a successful WOM campaign (I’ve certainly executed my share of them). BUT, I’d much rather start a novel on Twitter (I did, it was bad), or just write about random, goofy things, that might not make any sense to anyone (“maybe gooseberries are God’s gift to the peeps”) but that make me chuckle. As a lifestyle pr person we know what we should and shouldn’t say (I recently remarked on PETA’s campaign to rename fish sea kittens and wondered if I was asking for trouble since I represent fashion brands and some do fur). But living an edited life IS NO FUN AT ALL. Honestly, all work and no play makes Val a pain in the butt to be around.
So, in the midst of putting together spokesperson and sponsorship deals, launching a new website and television program featuring creative ways to live the good life “for less” (can we possibly afford Kelly Ripa for a guest appearance) I’m going to tweet about whatever strikes my fancy. It takes the edge off. Everyone has to find their own bright spot out there andmine is being silly and strangely transparent (if you know me) on Twitter.
Follow me at http://twitter.com/valival
Follow BBC at http://twitter.com/brandbuildingco
Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas? What does Christmas "look" like? Is it the unveiling of Simon Doonan's witty, irreverent windows at Barneys? Santa's reliably jovial appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Salvation Army bells on every corner? The "miracle" tree at Rockefeller Center? The rush, bustle and flurry of gift buying, receiving, and yes, sadly occasionally returning? I guess the question on everyone's minds this year is what does a pared back Christmas look like? We're interested in observing how some of America's biggest brands are approaching their consumers this year, examining which carefully crafted holiday campaigns will set just the right tone and hit their mark:
Williams-Sonoma Brands: Thanks and Giving campaign to support St. Jude's Hospital. For the fourth year, a portion of proceeds from holiday purchases will benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The campaign has helped raise over $6.6 million dollars for the cause. The takeaway?: Let your holiday purchases make a difference to those less fortunate.
The Gap Brands: NEW! Shopping made Simple: 4 Stores - 1 Checkout. Gap has finally, cleverly grouped their four brands (Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Piperlime) into one shopping experience with one low flat-rate shipping price ($7), and free returns. The takeaway: Gap makes it easy to get through the holidays with your mind and wallet intact.
Barneys: Have a Hippy Holiday Sweepstakes: Barney's offers good vibrations with peace-themed gifts, free shipping on all online orders, and a chance to win a $2500 shopping gift card. The takeaway: Even luxe consumers could use a little lovin' this season.
Bath & Body Works: Experience the Season: Buy 1, Get 1 at 50% off: Bath and Body Works invites consumers to get in the holiday spirit with three new tantalizing fragrances, Twisted Peppermint, Vanilla Bean Noel, and Winter Candy Apple. The takeaway: You can get in on the holiday spirit even on a budget.
How the "Average" American became the star of the 2008 Presidential Election.
From "Joe the Plumber" to the myriad blogs, viral campaigns, and grassroots efforts, it feels for the first time in modern history that the power of deciding the election has been placed directly in the hands of the average US citizen. Thanks to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and text-messaging--the way we get and share information today--voters have greater access to information, they can research what they don't understand and they can and will share that information with others. There are valuable branding lessons to be learned of the ingenuity and potential challenges of hyperspeed marketing that will guide our future campaigns, electoral or not. Microtargeting helps you know exactly who and where you need to reach Although Howard Dean was the first to understand the power of the internet to help build a campaign from the bottom up, Obama was the first to truly harness the internet's power to revolutionize the way to run a campaign. From mobilizing unregistered, previously uninterested voters to raising record amounts of cash, Obama succeeded in using the internet to find out exactly where he needed to be. The challenge: Your connections to your audience must be meaningful or you risk burning them out. The internet has made detectives of us all Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe warns in today's New York Times, "You do focus groups and people say, ‘I saw that ad and I went to this Web site to check it'...“They are policing the campaigns.” Case in point, I was very surprised by some of the small-business claims made by Obama and McCain during the debates and immediately researched their quotes. Got my answers and discussed with at least 10 people. The challenge: Never fudge little details or you risk losing your audience when, not if, they find out. An excited, mobilized audience is a loyal one I've been twittered, I've been Facebooked, I've been enticed, cajoled, guilted, and bribed to get out my vote
today. Whether my colleagues, friends, and local businesses are for McCain or Obama, their message is clear: they are excited, mobilized and won't take defeat lying down. To this, Plouffe reminds us, “Without the candidate who excites people, you can have the greatest strategy and machinery and it won’t matter.” The challenge: You must deliver a consistent message that inspires and be prepared to make good on your promises.
How brands are seizing the moment to offer affordable luxury to cautious consumers.
An interesting theory that developed after World War II was that lipstick sales are an excellent way to gauge the pulse of a flat-lining consumer. What economists found was that as the economy dipped, lipstick sales tended to rise, illustrating that to even the most fractious consumer, a small, attainable indulgence was considered necessary, a reviving jolt to the consumer’s heart.
Not only is this a smart idea—giving consumers an entry point to an otherwise unattainable luxury brand—offering “affordable luxuries” to consumers is a necessity in today’s economy. Ultimately, the consumer will do one of two things to squeeze a little luxury out of her diminished disposable income; she will remain a) brand-loyal, buying an item from her favorite luxury brand at the lowest price point, or she will become a b) brand-replacer, substituting a cheaper alternative for her favorite luxury brand, and the retailer runs the risk of losing her for good.
The scenarios are endlessly fun to dream up. Brand-Loyal Scenario: While this may not be the moment for a Nanette Lepore’s gorgeous “Cheek Cheek Velvet Coat” ($635), this is certainly a time to scoop up her collection of flats for Keds, ($20-40). Brand-Replacer Scenario: If Guerlain’s long-wearing KissKiss Laque ($28) is financially out of reach, L’Oreal’s Infallible Never Fail Lipcolour Compact ($8.39) is right on target.
How the presidential candidates are using creative branding strategies to capture voters' imagination and attention. We all know that a teeny-tiny, ever-so-slightly, very important occasion is upon us. Come November 4th, the United States will have a new leader, one we fervently hope will usher in an era of peace, prosperity and respect for the dignity of all mankind. As true pillars of bipartisanism (and discretion), we would never reveal who we plan to vote for, but let the records show that we have unbounded respect for both John McCain and Barack Obama. What we CAN reveal is our equally unbounded respect for the level of ingenuity and creativity we have seen in the lead-up to this election by the supporters of both parties. Naturally, we are drawn toward the aesthetics, style, and effectiveness with which each party has delivered its campaign messages and objectives, with the result of making the public a) care about the elections, b) recognize that their vote does matter, and c) get out the vote in anticipated record numbers.
There are some serious iconographic images and slogans at work here such as, "Change We Can Believe in" and "Great AmeriCain Hero," which will be remembered along with classics like "I Like Ike," "Give 'Em Hell, Harry," and "Tipeecanoe and Tyler, Too." We delight in the myriad ways the parties and their supporters have expressed their messages, prompting celebrities from both camps like Halle Berry, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel and Elizabeth Hasselbeck to pick their team and help spread the word. As our own tribute to the artisans and creative minds at work, we have compiled a roundup of our favorites. Clockwise, from top right:
- Artists for Obama: Poster artwork and imagery donated by artists to raise money. The two pieces here are by Scott Hansen and Shepard Fairey
- Great AmeriCain Hero: Logo designed by none other than La Hasselbeck, herself
- Obama Flowers Keds Shoes: Designed by VoteObama
- Palin Power mini buttons: Note the "i" is a lipstick -- Will anyone will soon forget the bulldog/hockey mom line? I didn't think so. Pure genius.
- Obama Necktie: Designed by the American Necktie Company
The bicycle trend returns with a bobo edge. Today's quote comes from Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who charmingly announced this as the year of the return of bicycles, while covering the shows in Paris. We couldn't agree more, but would add that from New York to Paris to Milan, this is also the year of the leg--perhaps as a result of all that bike riding--gams are out in all their glory on all the runways this season. This has caused some to lament 'Where Have All the Pants Gone?', but we say, who cares? Why not get your gams out girls, while the gettin's good? Consider this shorts slide show from style.com, particularly the luxe satin shorts from Lanvin, bow & lace-trimmed short shorts from Chloé, and slouchy boho prints from Wunderkind. Gets the mind racing about the possibility of zipping around en velo in style, no? The successful marketing of the bicycle has arisen by simply igniting the imagination of potential riders, making it once again, a chic, continental past time of yesteryear. This time around, the accompanying fashions and accessories to the bicycle trend have a more bobo feel, appealing to the young, affluent bohemian bourgeoisie, concerned with helping the environment, but wanting to stay fashionably relevant and on the cutting edge. Although we are reluctantly sliding into our autumn/winter attire, we are inspired by Mr. Cunningham and the immeasurable benefit bike-riding contributes to the environment, not to mention ourselves and our gams, we've decided to join the bicycle fray and start our spring training a little early. Here's a breakdown of New York City's intricate web of "Greenways" and our hit-list for hitting the pavement in style:
- Paul Frank Julius Hearts Me Cruiser at Target in black! SO CUTE!! : $380
- Spanx by Sara Blakely Patterned Tights, for keeping your tootsies warm: $28
- Protec Classic Helmet, great alternative to "mushroom" head: $44
- Sigg Butterfly Dreams Water Bottle: $21.99
- Rebecca Taylor cute, cuffed Tweed Shorts: $260
We couldn’t help but notice some of hottest looks for fall took a bold cue (or two) from Carla Bruni Sarkozy’s divine state visit wardrobe last spring. We’ve been drooling over Banana Republic’s stunning violet fall coat all the while thinking, “Ooh-la-la!....hmmm, where have we seen this before?”
Clearly, this is the signaling of what will become a long-term fashion love affair with the French First Lady. While certainly not the first time a sartorial muse has emerged from public office (Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana, bien sur), this could be the first time clothing manufacturers are able to respond with lightning speed to a public demand for “First Lady Looks.”
With stores like Spanish retailer Zara, H&M, and even GAP, that follow “fast fashion” business models to decrease the timeline from design to production to distribution, the “pillbox hat” of 2008 can be yours in no time at all. According to reports, Zara can take a design from drawing board to rack in two weeks flat. This is an incredibly smart move for retailers in need of ways to move products in a shaky economy as Sarah Palin's "specs" are virtually impossible to find at the moment, a major coup for designer Kazuo Kawasaki.
In the upcoming presidential elections, where it has truly become the “year of the woman,” it remains to be seen whether we will look to Sarah, Michelle,or Cindy for fashion inspiration. Judging from recent appearances by all, we can guarantee that retailers will be awash in fitted suits, vibrant jewel tones and decadent fabrics come late November, perfect for all of our holiday celebrations.
Fashion, Photo-Finishes, and Forty-something upsets in Beijing
We here at BBC are flush with Olympic fever from all of the incredible stories coming out of Beijing this week. Jason Lezak’s unbelievable photo finish during the US men’s freestyle relay caused us to practically keel over in excitement as the US overtook favored France by .08 of a second. Dara Torres’ “age record”—at 41, becoming the oldest swimming medalist in history—has us declaring forty the new fourteen, as Torres swam alongside and overtook swimmers young enough to be her daughters. But the story that really has us buzzing is the gold-medal worthy classic-chic ensemble pulled together by Polo Ralph Lauren for the US Olympic Team. As international brands are using the Olympics as a platform to capture the attention and cement the future buying power of China’s increasingly wealthy citizens, fashion gold at the Olympics should be an indicator of PRL's potential for success abroad. With PRL’s signature classic-elegant chic in check, the US Olympic Team has cast asunder the work-out wear of yesteryear in favor of tailored shorts, blazers, knits and PRL’s signature polo shirts. You can catch your own Olympic fever with PRL’s gorgeous line here--but act quick, before it sells out.
From “zip-ping” to “velib-ing,” sexy alternative transportation solutions take the sting out of filling up When considering alternative transportation solutions, Mireya Navarro asks in her New York Times piece this week if it’s “really possible to be passionate about a compromise,” to which we reply, “yes, yes, and MORE yes!” As gas prices have everyone rethinking that three-year SUV lease, car manufacturers and cities around the world have devised stylish solutions for alternative transport and we can’t wait to get on board. Navarro writes, “For decades, automakers pitched cars as sex symbols, as extensions of drivers’ freedom or affluence or eye for beauty.” We think there is nothing sexier than keeping an eye on the environment while zipping about town and celebs like Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Susan Sarandon agree. Here are some highlights from our favorite alternative solutions.
Bike Borrowing: A pay-as-you-go system, the velib’ in Paris was such a huge hit when it launched last summer, more bikes are being added as we type. Other cities around the world include Barcelona, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, with Washington D.C. debuting the US market this summer. City Car Sharing such as Zipcar, CityCarShare, igo and City Car Club have you covered in New York, London, Chicago, Philly, and the Bay Area, to name a few. Users pay small monthly fees and then rent by the hour (we’re talking $5.00, people.) Hybrids: We thought Toyota had this market locked up with the Prius, but we just saw our very first Smart car in New York City this weekend – adorable! Mercedes and Porche also have hybrids (who knew?) and you can check out a slew of others here.
Beverage makers lighten up on the caloric toll of our favorite summer drinks. We haven’t thought about Bridget Jones for awhile, but the new crop of calorie-conscious, nutrient-rich smoothies this summer reminded us of her amusing discovery that too much of a "smooth thing" can cause a diet infraction of the highest order:
“Monday 23 October 128 lbs, alcohol units 0 (v.g. Have discovered delicious new alcohol substitute drink called smoothies-v. nice, fruity), Cigarettes 0 (smoothies removes need for cigarettes), smoothies 32, calories 4265 (4135 of them smoothies)
Perhaps taking a cue from Bridget’s unfortunate findings, beverage makers have noted consumers' preoccupation with overall well-being in addition to diet and are marketing leaner smoothie alternatives with nourishing properties that wont put a damper on the best healthy intentions this summer. The "smart snacking" trend is becoming more prevalent across the snack food category as companies vie for market share with products that give consumers more bang for their buck.
From Left to Right:
- Starbucks new Vivanno Nourishing Blends has protein, fiber, two flavors and only 270 calories
- Naked Juice new Bare Breeze Smoothies have 100 percent juice, no added sugar or preservatives and weigh in at only 260 calories.
- Pinkberry Smoothies have fresh fruit and their signature, lo-cal frozen yogurt at only 70 calories per ½ cup.
- Jamba Juice’s new 3G Engergizer (part of their Jamba Functionals line) has natural caffeine and tons of vitamins with only 310 calories.