Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perspective On Changing Techniques of IMC

When considering a perspective on integrated marketing communication, it is important to realize that in an age of 24/7 digital media consumption, transparency is playing a major factor in a constantly changing game of how target publics view brands. Protecting the quality of a client’s brand has never been more critical. All integrated communications resources must be taken advantage of to benefit both the client and consumer.

With an ever increasing social media based communications concept, consumers no longer desire the “one way street” approach of communicating. Especially with the use of social media, there is a drastic need for an integrated marketing strategy of not only online ad campaigns, but also consumer engagement.

For many brands that have actively implemented the use of these online communications, consumer engagement has proven a positive tool in helping to develop a stronger, more improved relationship between the brands and their publics. Social media has been a remarkable tool in protecting brand reputations. This concept has mostly taken shape in the form of blogs and recently through Twitter.

Brands without efficient response to this form of dialog within the past year have in turn suffered drastically negative exposure at the hands of consumer social media. After a Southwest Airlines flight unknowingly asked “Clerks” and “Chasing Amy” director Kevin Smith to leave the plane because he was deemed over weight, Smith and his over 1.5 million Twitter followers made sure Southwest was aware of his dissatisfaction. Musician Dave Carroll’s frustration with United Airlines' due to a nine-month refusal to compensate him in repairs after he witnessed baggage handlers literally tossing guitars, including his own, led to a YouTube music video about the experience with currently over seven million views.

Both incidents have cost the two brands considerable negative publicity. Stronger social media and consumer engagement by both companies could have prevented the magnitude of these situations. As a result, customer relations and public relations are becoming more intricately mixed, and brand reputation has become highly transparent and damageable.

This is why all our clients must seriously consider integrated communication as a crisis management tool. This concept of operation demands fast, proactive communication equivalent to the speed of consumer response. A rapidly developing consumer social network requires more listening on the part of the brands we represent. Today, timeliness is everything.

When YouTube footage of Domino's Pizza employees defiling food was posted last April, the two days’ time it took for the company to respond to the video was more than enough to cost severe damage to the brand. Had Dominos responded quickly and effectively, harm could have been minimal in comparison.

In addition to the concerns of reputation management, this new era of consumer engagement provides the opportunity for brands to excel in creative innovation. Various Facebook and iPhone applications (apps) have already proven a key component in the promotional techniques of differing brands. A personal favorite of mine, the Burger King “sacrifice 10 friends” Facebook app’s sharing ability, incentive to use it, and humor all contributed to making the campaign a widely received success.

Amid the tech-savvy glamour of using online marketing tools, it is important to refrain from the dismissal of older forms of media. Despite critics’ declarations that print is “dead,” it is merely evolving. Some print aspects have and will change radically from what they were. Print’s new form will either become more directly focused or complementary in integrated marketing techniques. In the wake of what print will become, the great point is to understand what role it will play in effectively amplifying a client’s communication strategy.

Developing a focused method of using older mediums in today’s integrated communication can hold a significant impact in conveying a brand’s message. Working in conjunction with South-Africa based agency TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, The Zimbabwean newspaper developed a campaign to promote accountability of Zimbabwe’s government for the collapse of the country’s economy. Across the city of Johannesburg, murals, billboards and flyers were designed and covered with Zimbabwe’s 100 trillion dollar bill to demonstrate the worthless of the bill due to the Muagabe regime. The unique, innovative tactic of this campaign was paramount in carrying The Zimbabwean’s message.

The most important perspective in embracing integrated communications is to understand the demand for consumer engagement. Utilization of integrated communications will only increase over time and the keys to maximizing its potential are creative innovation and proactive reputation management. Fortifying our client’s brands though these methods will help ensure efficient brand management.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Galactic Fail Worth Bragging About

A few weeks ago, the University of Mississippi Associated Student Body gave a crushing blow to any return of the school's old mascot, Colonel Reb, who was first banned from the sporting event sidelines in 2003. This blow came in the form of a student body poll asking whether:

Yes, I do support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.

No, I do not support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.

The key scare tactic used in this "push" poll was that if students voted NO, then they would not be involved and the university may still continue in the creation of a mascot without student input. Whether the method in which this poll was applied is ethical still remains in question; however, the end result was a 75% vote for YES, including my own.

But six days prior to the vote, a comedic revolution began. To make a serious situation more light-hearted, a group of four Ole Miss students began a website, facebook group, and twitter promoting Admiral Ackbar, a squid-like character from George Lucas' "Return of the Jedi," as the forefront candidate of choice and reason why students should vote yes. This parody, based on the Ole Miss Rebel connection to the Star Wars Rebel Alliance, eventually led to national media attention as well as one of Google's top 10 searches of the week.

The day after the vote on February 23, I knew that it was time to call the one man who could weigh-in on such a candidate possiblility and pop-culture effect as Ackbar. Before the day had ended, a call was placed to the personal publicist of Star Wars creator, George Lucas.

His publicist, Laura Muhlhammer, although thrown-off by such an odd topic of request, was very open to the idea of doing a short Q and A with Mr. Lucas. Letting me know she would have to check his availability, she collected my contact information and told me she would call me the following day.

When she called back I was informed that unfortunately Mr. Lucas would not be available for an interview until some time in June due to his schedule. As this would sadly lose its timeliness by then, Laura at least offered me this statement on behalf of Lucasfilm and herself which she also emailed me:

"We are flattered that our Star Wars fans at the University of Mississippi are considering electing Admiral Ackbar as their mascot. The last time we checked in with Admiral Ackbar he was leading the Rebel Alliance Fleet on a critical mission so it will be difficult for him to show up for the games!"

Considering the level of contact I had gotten in touch with, the closeness to a actual interview, and the end result, I would have to say this was not only an epic fail, but a GALACTIC FAIL worth bragging about! In this situation, I worked as a professional and was treated as such. Though I did not achieve what I had hoped, I still have the satisfaction of knowing I pushed my limits of possibility. If I had the option to do it all over again with the same chances, I would.

This situation is a reminder that we are fueled just as much by our failures as we are by our successes. What we do with them makes us who we are.