Brand-Building Through Catastrophe

Ad Age today has a thought piece by one “Tim Leake, senior VP-chief marketing officer at advertising agency RPA.” Mr. Leake says using natural disasters as marketing opportunities is “the icky thing to do.” Of course, he also answers a clear “no” to the the question “Should we just stay away?”

So, here’s what you do to make sure that devastation and sorrow make a contribution to your brand’s further implantation into targeted minds:

How should we say it?

Sometimes, to stop acting like a brand and start acting human, it helps to purposely do things that the brand wouldn’t normally do. A high-end production is likely to feel like an ad. A CEO speaking to her webcam is likely to feel more genuine. Or, if the brand’s Twitter stream is normally filled with product-centric messages, maybe share a screen-shot of a note from the people behind the brand. This will help put some distance between how you “normally act” and the gravity of the current situation.

Play humble and concerned, in other words.

Lovely stuff, Mr. Leake.

Home as Marketing Platform

The Consumer Trap has several core theses. One is that corporate capitalism, through its constituent firms’ relentless expansion and refinement of marketing operations and campaigns, is every bit as totalitarian a social order as ever there was or will be. Another is that, thanks to its peculiar nature (it works in part by doling out pleasures and conveniences) and superior deniability (it is competitively and privately, not centrally and publicly, developed), market totalitarianism is far more successful and secure than state totalitarianism ever was or will be.

Consider then, the nature and logic of News Corp.’s “Home of the Future.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Big Brother’s police agencies enjoyed only telescreens in the homes of certain persons of interest. In Leonard Cohen’s 1998 “Tower of Song” lament, the complaint was about our system, but only that “The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor.”

consumer house Quite so, but now corporate marketers are turning their attentions to how to deploy artificial intelligence technologies to make the entire house a marketing platform.

“Home is the next and most powerful marketing canvas,” said [marketing researcher Simon] Gosling. “The rules are changing … we are stepping towards a new ecosystem of machines, screens and devices, where brands can share stories with consumers in their homes.”

This is the explanation, per Advertising Age, of

“a 2,000 square foot ‘Home of the Future,’ created by News Corp. and ad tech company Unruly in partnership with marketers including Amazon Launchpad, PepsiCo, Heineken, eBay, Unilever, HTC, Nokia Health, and Tesco. The installation opening today in London has been created to give marketers and agencies a first-hand experience of the connected home, and a chance to think about how they might use it to engage consumers.

“Artificial Intelligence is hardest at work in the kitchen, which is stocked with brands from Unilever and supermarket chain Tesco. In this room you can give your AI system a budget and a license to search for deals from different brands and supermarkets. And cooking becomes simple, as your fridge talks you through every step of a recipe and then alerts the family when dinner’s ready. You might find a new item in your shopping basket that’s been placed there as a free sample, based on your preferences, and then let the AI assistant know whether you like it and if you would recommend it to friends.

“Much of the technology is voice-activated. ‘By January, Amazon had sold 11 million Alexa devices, and by 2020 Alexa is expected to have added $11 billion of revenue,’ Gosling said, as evidence that voice control will play a key role in interactions of the future. ‘This is about helping brands to understand new technology,’ Gosling said. ‘Normally there’s a lag where brands get into a space after the consumer, but we have identified where consumers will be in 2020 so we can get there before them. We are being disruptive in our own business.’ Asked if the future home will be for the wealthy, Gosling said, ‘Everyone’s got a phone. Everyone’s got a TV. And millions of people have got an Alexa.’

“News Corp. bought video advertising company Unruly for $176 million in 2015. News Corp. brands, including Dow Jones (which has created a hologram to bring the stock market to life), publisher HarperCollins, and foodie site Taste.com.au, are evident throughout the Future Home. So why is a video advertising company launching a home of the future? An Unruly statement said, ‘Unruly get brands’ videos seen, shared and loved. We do this on mobile and desktop… and we’ll continue to do so in the next era of advertising, which is the connected home… We’ve built Home to study the development of this new platform, enabling us to guide our clients in this exciting new frontier.'”

Cultural Heroes

nero fiddle In the year 2017, in a world that needs to solve its problems of runway wealth maldistribution/population growth, ecological non-sustainability, and politico-military chaos, what are the leading lights of corporate capitalist innovation worrying about and working on? This, per Advertising Age:

“This is a unique moment in the ad industry,” Mr. Joe Marchese said. “If we don’t work together, ad-free models will continue to proliferate.”

“We are trying to figure out how to create new models that transfer attention more efficiently,” said Fox TV marketer David Levy.

“We know there is a need to lower the ad load because we inundated consumers and they are now tuning out and blocking,” said Helen Lin, president-digital investment and partnership, Publicis Media U.S. “When you increase the number of ads, your lift potential is reduced. We know we have to do something before consumers completely block out.”

Lovely, ain’t it?

Marketers Don’t Get It

snake Scott Goodstein, CEO of Revolution Messaging, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. Mr. Goodstein, who fancies himself a rebel and sees his work in helping reduce politics to marketing as somehow liberating, says “[i]n future campaigns, Democrats will need to devote even more resources to social networks than they did in 2016.” So, yeah, wow, very deep, Scott.

Meanwhile, Goodstein asks us to “Imagine if Mrs. Clinton had ditched the script, the teleprompter and the overproduced videos and posted a cellphone video telling America that she was fired up on an issue.”

Earth to Scott: Not only was/is Mrs. Clinton mega-obviously not fired up about anything but her own social climbing and power-seeking, but what, pray tell, would be left of her without all the political marketing? Again, mega-obviously, the answer is “nothing.”

Your industry — political marketing — is, despite your self-serving fantasies, inherently and fully part of our mounting crisis. Telling better lies is not the way forward.

It takes this kind of cluelessness to do what Goodstein does, despite it all.