January 27th, 2014


The Grammy Awards Show –
Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar & Soap?

By avery

The Grammy Awards had taken a slide in the last five years. From publicity stunts to unseasoned performers; the show was starting to lose credibility and my desire to watch it.

While the Grammys were happening last night, I was catching a late dinner with my wife at a restaurant near our home. I saw one of the TVs playing the awards show, and dismissed the screen without a second glance. What was I going to miss? It doesn’t help when you’re not getting the audio to a music show either.

After coming into THINK creative group this morning, I learned exactly what I had missed. Ali and Joel came in and began asking me about all the great performances last night. Last night? I didn’t go to any shows last night. Oh, the Grammys? Why would I watch that anymore?

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I was quickly told that there were in fact very good performances, and a number of them. From Beyonce and Jay Z, to Pharell, Stevie Wonder and Daft Punk, to Imagine Dragons and more, they told me about all the great collaborations and spectacles. They made me pull up the performance by Imagine Dragons, and as I watched I realized they were right. The performance was brilliant, combining rap and rock and lights and even paint. The whole office had gathered around my desk now, and we were all being taken further and further into the moment. The video was just reaching to the climax of the song when…

Imagine Dragons

A commercial. WHAT? What happened to the rest of the video? Was there a glitch? Was that where this particular upload finished? Surely they wouldn’t put an advertisement that has nothing to do with the artists or even entertainment right in the middle of the actual video! But sure enough, after 30 seconds of watching people happily clean their dishes with a new soap product, the video came back to playing. We watched the last 15 seconds with a deflated wonder, as the plot and energy of the last three minutes had just been removed. And just as quickly, the video finished.

Slotting commercials into entertainment is nothing new. Everyone knows the American Idol winner will be announced right after the break, and nearly every TV show has four cliff-hanger moments that align with the commercial breaks. But breaking up a three minute piece? With no warning? That’s rather hard to take.

As advertisers ourselves, we completely understand the relationship between entertainment and the sponsors who make those events possible, but there are certain practices that push too far. The videos today nearly always play with an ad before the chosen video itself begins. To us, the viewer has already paid enough attention to gain access to their content. And so people continue to debate what is acceptable and what isn’t.

My final thought then leads to content marketing. What if the soap company had created a spot that talked about how much soap bands must use on the road, or how the grammy’s would clean all the glasses that people drank from? Very specific and perhaps more work right? This is the future.

Superman

Think of the superman campaign that Gillette ran as the movie “Man of Steel” hit theaters. Gillette gathered different people to ask “How Does Superman Shave?” since he’s invincible to everything on earth. The spots gained millions of self-directed views, gained widespread media coverage and created huge word of mouth. Or take Arby’s from this year’s Grammy Awards itself, who tweeted in reference to Pharell’s familiar hat, “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs” which has already gained nearly 1 million hits in less than a day. Not every piece of content marketing must be expensive—you just need to be paying attention, have real conversations and be willing to take a few creative leaps.

Arby's

As consumers continue to get better at avoiding traditional ads, blindsiding them isn’t going to help. Instead, marketers and brands are on task to create more relevant, useful and entertaining content that aligns their brands with positive public perception. At THINK creative group we also encourage and help our clients to create content that people want to see, not that they’re forced to view. People want content, and we must become better at creating it.

January 16th, 2014


New York Times Update – With the times or dated?

By Dawn

The New York Times began 2014 with resolutions ready, in the form of a new website. Just after the last confetti and streamers were cleared from city that never sleeps, the news giant that calls New York home released a refreshed iteration of their massive website on January 8th. The changes are both subtle and impactful.

UPDATE #1
The first change users will now see on NewYorkTimes.com lies on the homepage. While the layout wasn’t massively redone, there are enough changes to take notice for avid readers. If anything, we agree the refresh for the news company’s homepage was subtle but positive.

UPDATE #2
A larger change that users will notice on the site is the navigation. In a bold move, the New York Times has moved away from a purely traditional navigation. In the top left corner, the site now features a cascading tree menu, reminiscent of their mobile apps. The unifying move makes sense as companies seek to create a similar experience for users across all platforms.

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UPDATE #3
The commenting system is entirely new and we are very interested in the implications it creates. On the new site, comments are stacked on the side of the articles, allowing users to make their notes next to the actual text they reference. This is different from 99% of other websites (we happen to be coding a site like this now, so we may be a bit partial). It allows you to stay on the article while reviewing comments and taking part in discussion. This higher visibility will likely encourage greater dialogue and discussion between readers—it’s both communal and engaging.

UPDATE #4
One final change we would point out is the removal of pagination for articles. Instead, long articles will simply continue to scroll down as users read through the articles. Not only do articles flow vertically, there are arrows on either side that bring readers directly to the next article—similar to how articles are stacked in the paper copies. We’re very curious to see how this element develops over time and if it will become a pet peeve of readers who like to use the pagination as a mental bookmark when they have to pause and come back to the article.

All in all, we believe the New York Times made good improvements with their updated site. It will be interesting to watch how users adapt to the leading technology from a staple in the industry. We’re looking forward to seeing how readers like some of their bold, new changes. If newspapers are to remain dominant in the digital age, they must lead the way in organizing information for fast access of broad content.

June 19th, 2013

Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” Campaign –
The Art of Controversy

By avery

Kmart Header
How do you start a conversation? The best ones have multiple points of view to allow an exchange of ideas to occur. Without multiple views, you end up creating a monologue, where the audience nods along with the speaker (usually with glazed-looking eyes).

While there are many avenues to creating a conversation, few are more reliable than controversy.

By its definition, controversy is a prolonged debate or dispute. It pulls people into a conversation. It involves them intellectually, as well as emotionally. These are key elements that marketers aim for.

If it’s so successful, why doesn’t everyone aim to be controversial? Because it’s a risky device—you can’t control a conversation. Instead, it places the subject’s perception in the hands of the public. It removes power from the creator and places them in a reactionary position.

Now keep in mind, a controversy is different from a debate because it connotes both positive and negative views of a topic. It creates enemies. On the other hand, creating enemies can be one of the quickest ways to make friends. Agreeing on what you’re against can sometimes be simpler than agreeing on exactly what you’re for. This is used in the political landscape all the time. The question is: can you create enough friends to outweigh the enemies you make?

When used intentionally, controversy is most often seen in new entities. This is because it’s a defining tactic. Think of new artists, young politicians and start-up companies. Even if they continue being controversial down the road, it’s usually about the same general issues, rather than new topics. Why? Because they’ve already drawn their lines in the sand. But if you draw too many lines you can quickly cut off too many people. Anyone outside of any line can quickly leave the camp you’ve built. Referring back to the political arena, this is why politicians are so strictly coached to stay on a certain few topics and avoid the rest.

So why then is Kmart—which has been established for over 45 years—creating controversy now?

If you’re connected to the internet (which I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this), you’ve either seen or heard about Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” and “Big Gas Savings” commercials. If you haven’t, click below to watch their most impactful spots in the last decade. They were created by the creative agency DraftFCB. Using obvious plays on words, they’ve put out some decidedly low-brow humor.

The reactions were almost instantaneous. The initial commercial quickly rose to 20 million views, and was picked up within hours by The Today Show, Forbes, USA Today, CNN and ABC. Thousands of online comments praised the humor, while thousands of others chastised the vulgarity of it. The group “One Million Moms” gained publicity by decrying against the ads, and suddenly controversy was born.

USA Today
While most publications have focused on the consumer response to the campaign, I’d like to focus on the publications themselves. Can you think of the last time Kmart was a main topic on the news? Probably not.

DraftFCB didn’t just provide a positive value of humor for Kmart, they also created a negative value with the vulgarity and watched as the controversy created itself. Remember that Kmart built itself as a family brand, from traditional Americana ideals about what a family is and how it should act. In a sense, Kmart is drawing new lines in the sand in an attempt to create new friends, knowing it will also make new enemies.

The arguments for whether this campaign will raise Kmarts bottom line are being made in other articles. What we’re looking at here is that thousands of publications are covering what was an extremely boring brand.

DraftFCB didn’t simply create a funny and raunchy campaign for Kmart—they set out to create controversy. And we think this calculated risk to be bold was smart. It’s a move that admits the desperation of the brand to become current again, but also a willingness to take new risks. Now it will be up to the public to decide whether the American family has changed enough to accept this direction, or whether Kmart will speed up its long, downward spiral.

At THINK creative group, we learn every day from our own experiences and by keeping a close eye on those around us. Only time will tell the full the story of how this campaign affects Kmart’s bottom line, but it is sure to be a case study worth following. Will this change be a successful refresh like Old Spice? Or will it be a disaster like JC Penny? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

April 19th, 2013

Do You Really Want the Truth?

By avery

Have you ever seen a TV commercial and thought, “that’s not how it really is.” Whether it’s a sprawling grass cattle farm for McDonalds, a gleaming Chevy tearing through mud, or a soccer mom using the Swiffer in high heels, we see certain advertisements that present a glorified version of real life. If you’re like us, sometimes you wish they’d just tell you the truth.

But do people really want the truth? One company is betting they do, and it looks like they’re winning.

Newcastle Brown Ale, the English beer company, along with the marketing agency Droga5 launched a new campaign and brand positioning at the end of 2012, called “No Bollocks.” Its aim is simple: cut the crap.

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“Due to the explosion of craft and mass brands adding new brews to the market, plus Newcastle’s low communication awareness, the brand’s volume has been in constant decline since 2008,” says Droga5 in their case study on the campaign. “We were too big to be seen as craft, and too small to outshout the big guys, so we had to find what was both true about the brand and unique to the drinker and bring it to the forefront in a way that sets us apart.”

Newcastle Posts

“Drinkers told us that beer advertising was the most gimmicky, far-fetched and downright deceptive of all the ads on TV,” they continue. “They asked why more beer brands didn’t just cut to the chase, so we did.”

NewCastle Tap

Newcastle Brown Ale Brand Director Charles van Es. adds, “We want to be transparent about the fact that we’re marketing to you and the fact that our beer comes from England.”

People are responding. Since the start of the campaign, Newcastle’s Facebook fans went from 59,384 to 718,659. In fact, they’ve redirected their main website directly to their Facebook page now. Brand awareness has increased 200%, and continues to grow as the advertising world reacts to their campaign. Most importantly, Newcastle closed 2012 with 6% greater sales, the first growth since 2008. It seems that beer drinkers everywhere were ready for “No Bollocks.”

They’ve been committed to the idea through success and criticism, even in the face of commenting complainers. While plastering on their Facebook cover photo “Your place to complain about our ads” the company hasn’t shied away from criticisms or tried to quiet them. This continued commitment to honesty has in-fact created even more support for the campaign. If you look on their threads you’ll notice fans defending the brand against any nay-sayers.

This campaign serves as a powerful reminder to marketers and brands alike. At think creative group we know reality itself is often boring, messy and always imperfect. In a landscape that’s so overpopulated with hyper-reality, there is a strong desire for more realism, even at the cost of a little sparkle.

The question is: Would you rather have a glossy picture of a brand you know is fake, or a down-to-earth understanding of their strengths, weaknesses…and what they can really offer?

December 18th, 2012

Happy Holidays Photos 2012

By aliparmelee

At think creative group, we work hard every day. In the spirit of the season, we decided to take a few minutes for a little “thinkerton bonding.” Enjoy our completely-normal holiday photos!

 
Hmm, we’re seeing calendar potential here…
 

November 15th, 2012

Pinterest Welcomes Brands

By avery

If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, chances are some of your favorite pins have come from brands.

While not officially recognized in the past, brands have made a huge impact on the Pinterest community, providing more than pushy ads. Titans like Coca-Cola, Anthropology, Whole Foods and more have been inspiring pinners with creative projects, recipes, DIY projects and more. Small brands have shared personal photos, stories and their own projects with the community. The distinction between advertising and pure art has grown faint in a refreshing direction.

Yesterday, Pinterest decided to open up the online pin board officially to brands. You might even call it a reward for good behavior. Their announcement blog stated, “Thousands of businesses have become a part of our community, giving great ideas, content, and inspiration to people on Pinterest.”

So far that relationship has been beneficial both for the social site and the brands posting on it. Pins on the site with price tags generally get more likes than pins without (15 vs 11) and pinners are buying what they see. Brands such as Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and others have seen online growth by more than 200% in less than a year using the site. Social media has been questioned on conversion for brands, but Pinterest began attracting large purchases right from the start.

So what does this “official” inclusion for brands mean? It paves the way for easier access for brands. Pinterest hasn’t released information about monetizing the site, but it seems that so far, brands have already been doing quite well themselves. The opportunities only seem to be growing.

November 1st, 2012

Social Mobile Rises Above the Storm

By avery

Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast Monday with a force the northern states weren’t prepared for. High water, downed trees and power outages for miles quickly turned the world upside-down for many as the hurricane made landfall. My home lasted till about 5pm Monday till the lights gave out and I was cut off from the connected world.

But there was something new this time. In past storms, when the power went out and phone lines were down it was the equivalent of going back in time. Candles lit the rooms and everyone went into survival mode, boardgames included. In the last few years I’ve been able to make a few calls with my cell, but it was all rumor about what was happening out there.

This time the hurricane hit, and I was as connected as ever. Sure we still had the candles and boardgames, but my smart phone was there too, connected and well. I was still viewing weather reports and looking at pictures coming in by the minute, showing where the storm was, what it was doing and how everyone else was doing. I was talking with friends about what their yards looked like, and seeing the damage first-hand that was sweeping through NJ and NY particularly.

For the first time at this level, our technology really rose above the storm. On Monday the word “Sandy” was mentioned 4.8 million times on different social media channels, up from the daily 3,000 times the word is normally mentioned.

An average of 10 pictures per second have been posted with the hashtag #sandy since the storm began, keeping a steady stream of first-hand accounts of the storm’s progress and results.

This is fascinating to me, because we’re entering an age of consumer technology that is rising above the elements, and I see social media on mobile devices being at the forefront of that progress. As we become better at crowd-sourcing information and technology, I see mobile quickly leading to a world that’s only disconnected if you want it to be. On the other hand, we could all use a few more family nights around the table.

January 17th, 2012

Trending for 2012: Facebook Customization

By Allie

Just as we predicted, one of the biggest trends for Facebook in 2012 is trending towards Facebook customization. You’ve probably seen this, without putting your finger on what it actually is. The easiest way to explain it is that business pages can use software to create custom tabs on their brand pages including anything from nicely designed pages that feature YouTube videos, contests, giveaways and even shopping carts. While this technology has been out there, it has been limited by price tag, until now. There are finally a few options popping up that are great solutions for small to medium-sized companies.

We may sound like a broken record, but we can’t say it enough—it’s not enough to just be on social media and have people ‘Like’ your page. You need to have a dialogue, not a monologue. And Facebook customization is a great opportunity for a brand to be proactive and begin building relationships with their customers.

As self-proclaimed Mashable fanatics, we knew they could offer up a great little introductory piece on best practice for Facebook tabs. Much of what they have to say is in-line with what we recommend to our own clients:

One thing the article does not mention is the fangate tab trend. Depending on how you feel, these are the pesky  default landing tabs that kindly request you to ‘Like’ the page in order to be privy to whatever exclusive goodies or giveaways that might lie behind the fangate. This is a great way to get ‘Likes” from people who are genuinely interested in your brand—but does require some incentive to get people in and keep them in. Our biggest concern with this is that you then need to have a blueprint in place to keep them interested and engaged once you get them there.

Which brings us to our next point—it’s clear that Facebook customization works best as part of a social media plan…it’s strategic. Too many tabs will just turn people away, the way too many clicks on a website might. Tabs needs to be relevant, layouts clean and easy to navigate and a great incentive never hurts. That’s why we create navigational charts for our clients on Facebook, similar to how we strategize their websites. It helps to visualize how and what you plan to communicate.

This trend is widely applicable to all types of businesses and organizations and we can’t wait to see how it transforms fan pages, especially when Facebook Timeline is introduced for brands. We have already begun exploring some great options for clients like FUZION and the New Haven Public Library below:

January 11th, 2012

Social media secrets

By Allie

You may have come across a certain person in your daily life—a social media hold-out who believes it’s all just a passing fad. One of our favorite bloggers, Jay Baer, recently published an article entitled “9 Surprising New Facts About Social Media in America” that even a late-to-the-social-media-party goer can’t ignore.

First, a little more than half of Americans have a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or somewhere else. That’s HUGE! Social networks such as Twitter are used less than platform giants like Facebook, but represent an incredibly diverse number of Americans—roughly 55% are white, 22% African-American, 15% Hispanic and 3% Asian. We agree Jay, a very interesting statistic.

He calls heavy social media users “super socials” and defines them as the kind of people who use social networking sites several times a day or more and estimates them to amount at around 46 million people. They make up a large percentage of Twitter’s daily users and ‘worship’ their smartphones—but really, who doesn’t love their smartphones?

The most important thing to note about these “super socials” is that they are very likely to interact with a brand online. This is done primarily through major networks like Facebook, because it is so easy to simply ‘like’ a brand and stay in the loop.

As we tell most of our clients, just being on social media is not enough. It’s what you do with your ‘likes’ that influences a customer. Jay Baer found that most consumers are influenced on Facebook, despite what they may believe. Facebook is a champion when it comes to subtly using existing online relationships to influence a user. In other words, when you see your friend checked in at Kitchen ZINC and raved about their pizza—you may feel inspired [or compelled] to try it out for yourself. See that, influenced!

January 6th, 2012

Those fun Instagram filters caught someone’s eye on Obama’s staff

By Allie

think creative group is full of a bunch of social media savvy, competitive FourSquare playing, iPhone loving, nerds. Being current with social media is important for all of us, not to mention, we like it. So needless to say, we are all on the app of the year for 2011—Instagram. [One time I even took an Instagram photo of Joel on Instagram—it was very meta.]

So, when President Obama joins our little, but burgeoning social network—we know we’ve all stumbled on to something kinda cool.

Most of Instagram’s growth has been leveraged by its social sharing through Facebook and Twitter, which is phenomenal. But now they are stepping up even more—I guess you have to when the President is involved. Until today, the photos that were shared to Facebook were nothing more than a small low quality thumbnail. But Instagram is taking their integration with Facebook to the next level to include full size high res pictures—this is a game changer for them. This will seriously improve the user experience. We’ll be able to add to our timelines, share with groups, share with networks and start pushing Instagram photos all over Facebook, all the while bringing lots more users to their platform.

I follow a few brands or celebs on Instagram—Starbucks, STA Travel, FourSquare, E! and Stefan from the Dave Matthews Band. It’s basically like Twitter with photos and I get a cool behind the scenes look at the daily happenings. Political allegiances aside, it could be cool to have the same sneak photo peek at the daily life of the people at the head of our country. It will be interesting to see if Instagram really does end up being a good niche market for Obama’s campaign.

Until we see how this continues to play out, all I have to say is—Welcome to Instagram President Obama, did you see that photo of my trip to Paris for New Year’s? Make sure you double-tap to like it if you did!