Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Weird and the Wonderful

Every once in awhile, here at "Muse" headquarters, we come across marketing ideas that seem both strange and poorly developed, as well as ideas that are brilliant. Today we thought that a few of these weird ideas, and a couple of wonderful smart ideas might be in order.
The Weird
First on the bizarre marketing ideas is the ubiquitous KFC. Their restaurants are everywhere and they are the leader in chicken fast food marketing. Still, that doesn't seem to satisfy their need to brand everything imaginable. After a 2004 campaign to "brand" pot holes, their newest campaign is to wrap fire hydrants and public fire extinguishers with a "Fiery Grilled Wings" advertising campaign.
We find the whole thing a little disconcerting. Sure, cities need cash big time, and these public/private marketing campaigns might help to bring in some dollars. Yet, the idea that you can now brand emergency equipment with a marketing campaign seems both a little desperate and frankly a little dangerous.
You can read more about it here, and how the city of Buffalo, NY is experimenting with the idea, but don't rush to market yourself in this way. This is not the way to be a good corporate citizen.
Second on the weird (or maybe woeful) is about the Sears Company. We have written about Sears in the past, and generally not in the most glowing of terms. Sears continues to be desperate for sales, and trying to attract a younger demographic. Fair enough, kudos for them for at least trying. Their newest venture is to hook up with "French Connection" the UK based company that brought us the FCUK logo, creating a firestorm of consumer protest oh so many years ago.
Well, Sears is a tired brand, and so is French Connection. So it makes sense that the two would come together and create a line of French Connection branded clothing to be available exclusive at Sears stores in 2011. The spokespeople talk about "contemporary fashion" and "luring a younger demographic", but it all seems a little desperate and ill conceived.
Does Sears plan to alienate their core demographic when the teens rush their local Sears for FCUK wear? We think not.
Finally, we took pause at an article in the New York Times Media section with an article on fake online purchases through social networking sites and virtual worlds. Presumably marketers think this is the "next big thing", to push products through fantasy worlds like Mallworld, Facebook and Mytown. Volvo, MTV and H and M are into this right now, as are "stars" like Snoop Dogg and Paris Hilton.
This "trend" is so old world. It was tried at least five years ago and was a bust. Now marketing agencies, and companies desperate for *any* sale (fake or not), are trying it again.
Our prediction? good money after bad. This won't stick, and after the initial rush of buying fake jewellery from Paris Hilton, the thrill will be gone. Run, don't walk, away from this idea.
The Wonderful
Our first wonderful idea comes from a viral video to promote Google Chrome. Using some new technology called HTML5, the video is a mash up of the "Arcade Fire" song "We Use to Wait" and some nifty interactive technology from ""
In terms of interactive, the user enters in the street address that they grew up on. As the video plays, google earth and other technologies scroll through your hometown address and show you what it looks like now. Users can then write themselves a note to their past self, post and save their childhood address experience, and share with others.
It's a beautiful and compelling interactive piece of viral video. Nothing works better to evoke emotions that touch on our nostalgia and remembrance of things past. Check it out here:, and enjoy the experience.
Second on the wonderful list is experience billboards. Billboards that come alive with real buzzing bees. Banrock Station, an Australian winery, put up the cash to develop a living billboard of honeybees in Devon, England. The campaign was to assist "Save Our Swarms", a non profit group campaigning to boost the population of honeybees in England.
It is remarkable, both in it's simplicity, and in this advertising vehicle coming to life with bees swarming to spell out S.O.S. You can see the video HERE. Now what can you do on your campus to create a living breathing billboard experience?
Finally for the wonderful, we couldn't help mention the consumer and advertising magazine called "Contagious".  A UK based publication, Contagious scans the world for the best in marketing, advertising and consumer trends. A recent case study focused on the shifting business plans of Levis. It is full of gorgeous high resolution photos and has become an industry standard for the marketing and creative design communities.
Inexpensive? No. The quarterly publication comes with the princely subscription fee of $1500 per year. You are welcome to contribute to the "Retail Muse Contagious Subscription fund", but in the meantime, we found it at our local university library. It is worth checking with your campus library or marketing department to see if they have a subscription, or will get one. A pretty big ticket item, but an amazingly worthwhile one.
That's all we have for this week! Enjoy your bee billboard, salivating over your new pricey magazine and wrapping those campus fire hydrants with your "hot and fiery" specials for the week.
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