Cap’n Crunch Offers a New Definition of Retargeting

The practice of retargeting, or serving Internet surfers ads based on previous online behavior such as pages visited, is synonymous with digital marketing. However, it is possible that retargeting is not limited to online advertising. Cereal brand Cap’n Crunch seems to have created a new twist for what retargeting means. The brand is 50 years old, debuting on stores shelves in 1963. Like many cereal brands, Cap’n Crunch sales have become stale. Competition from private labels and a push to de-emphasize sugary cereals led the brand to the edge of extinction as recently as 2011. Today, Cap’n Crunch appears  to have new energy, and it can thank a new conceptualization of retargeting for it.

So what is this new meaning of retargeting? Cap’n Crunch is turning its marketing efforts to its former users- adults who ate Cap’n Crunch in their younger years. External pressures on cereal marketers to not target children in advertising has created a need to think differently about how to communicate the brand without running afoul of advocacy groups intent on eliminating advertising to children. A late-night Cap’n Crunch talk show will debut on the brand’s YouTube channel on May 7. New content will be added every other week through the summer. The animated show will feature Cap’n Crunch doing mock interviews of celebrities and fictional characters. The character may have the appearance of being for kids, but the content of the Cap’n Crunch Show is aimed squarely at adults.

Any brand fighting for survival is actually in a fight to remain relevant. What audience segment can relate to Cap’n Crunch best? Its former target market- people who enjoyed Cap’n Crunch growing up but moved on to other breakfast options as they got older. Now, Cap’n Crunch hopes to tap feelings of nostalgia among ex-fans and influence them to introduce their children to the brand. Cap’n Crunch sees its best option for maintaining and growing brand relevance resides in trying its own form of retargeting to connect the target audience with their past.

Marketing Daily – “Cap’n Crunch Launches YouTube Talk Show for Adults”

SlimFast Focuses on Motivations, not Sex

Marketing means a lot of different things depending on who you ask, but at the core of all marketing activity is serving customers- helping them fulfill their needs and wants. While a great deal of emphasis is put on internal strategies and processes for carrying out marketing (e.g., product development, marketing plans, and performance measurement), the fact remains that customers’ concerns influence marketing decisions. Thus, marketing should focus on selling to customers’ needs more than selling products.

Motivations = “Get What You Really Want”
A current example of how marketing is the set of activities conducted to fulfill the needs and wants of customers is a print ad campaign for SlimFast. Print ads for SlimFast’s “Get What You Really Want” campaign delve beyond standard feature-benefits presentation we are accustomed to seeing in ads. Instead, SlimFast goes to the underlying motivations that people might have for wanting to lose weight and get fit. The tone of the ads is surprisingly provocative as the motivations targeted are not surface level benefits (e.g., lose weight) but deeper payoffs for using the product. Different versions of the ads include these messages:

  • Stated thought: “I want to show off my new confidence,” Inner thought: “I want to show off my new ass.”
  • Stated thought: “I want my jeans to go on easier,” Internal thought: “I want my jeans to come off easier.”
  • Stated thought: “I want to get into my new pants,” Inner thought: “I want to get into someone else’s pants.”

At first glance, some people might criticize SlimFast and say it is resorting to sex appeal to sell its “slimming” products. After all, advertising has a lengthy history of selling sex, right? Not necessarily. Sex and the need for intimacy are based on human emotions and are needs that people desire to have fulfilled. SlimFast is positioning its brand as a means to an end; in no way do the ads suggest”buy SlimFast and you will score.” Instead, SlimFast is aligning its brand with lifestyle choices that will enable people to achieve their personal goals.

Are There Limits?
The SlimFast “Get What You Really Want” campaign is effective because it is a departure from status quo advertising in this product category. The theme of the campaign is Marketing 101- responding to buyers’ wants and needs. The blend of humor and sex is a novel presentation of the core message: SlimFast can help you achieve what you want. Are there limits to using this provocative mix of humor and sex? Sure, this approach would not likely not resonate as well if it were for an automobile brand or a new style of running shoes. There is a line over which overt sex appeals could detract from a brand’s value proposition, but SlimFast walks that line adeptly in this campaign without crossing it.

Marketing Daily – “Provocative Ads Intro New SlimFast Positioning”

Traditional Media and the Buzz Lightyear Effect

The decline of traditional media has been well documented and highly lamented in recent years. But, if more proof is needed of the shift away from old-school mass media as marketing channels, look at the results of a recent study by Aquent and the American Marketing Association. Responses from 2,600 marketing executives send yet more signals of the demise of traditional media. In fact, the top five channels that will see a decline in focus from marketers this year are:

  1. Newspapers: 32%
  2. Consumer Magazines: 28%
  3. Radio: 24%
  4. Trade Magazines: 22%
  5. Television: 21%

 If these communication channels are going to get less play, what will take their places? Perhaps not surprising is that mobile marketing and social media will experience the largest increases in focus among marketers at 82% and 76%, respectively. The shift in focus from traditional media to digital channels reflects the expansion of tools available in the marketer’s toolbox, but what does it say about the future of traditional media?

Instead of writing obituaries for newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV, a more appropriate response to these trends is to understand that traditional media is not being permanently replaced by digital communication channels. What is transpiring reminds me of what happens in one my favorite movies, Toy Story. Woody’s status as Andy’s favorite toy is jeopardized when Andy receives a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. Woody is no longer the go-to toy as Andy is enamored with the bells and whistles in Buzz’s repertoire. In the end, Woody and Buzz co-exist to make Andy a happy child (not to mention go on to make two more movies and a lot of money for Disney and Pixar).

Like Sheriff Woody, traditional media may have lost some of its prominence but will not be replaced by the shiny new toy that is digital marketing. Like tools in a toolbox, traditional media and digital channels have certain strengths and capabilities. Marketers are wise to use all resources at their disposal to build their brand and manage customer relationships. If Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear can work together, so can traditional and digital media.

Marketing Charts – “Marketers Say They’re Shifting Focus Away from Traditional Media”

Information is Gold for Advertisers

Information is like gold – you mine it, sift it, and hope that you find nuggets that pay off. For marketers, obtaining feedback from customers and others is the equivalent of prospecting for gold. It can be hard to obtain, it may contain junk that is worthless, but it is a quest that we must pursue because of the potential benefits. The challenge is how to gain valued insights without being intrusive.

The need for information should not be lost on any business that sells audience access. Mass media advertising, event sponsorships, and social network sites are channels in which the properties selling ads or sponsorships should look to enhance value by providing their partners with opportunities to mine for gold – collect market research data. An example of how advertisers can be given added value through market research capabilities is Twitter’s new survey feature. Twitter is giving some of its top advertisers access to users by allowing them to invite users to take a brief survey. The feedback advertisers receive will enable them to evaluate their Twitter ad campaigns and adjust tactics as needed.

If you are selling marketing real estate such as advertising space, you hold a valuable asset. Add value to that asset by enabling your advertising partners to tap the channel to collect information from your audience. Information is like gold; help advertisers with their gold mining efforts by giving them tools to collect information from your audience.

All Things D – “Twitter Rolls Out Surveys – And Reminds Us Why It Cares about ‘Consistent User Experiences'”

Social Media: A Staple of Retail Advertising?

Consumers are accustomed to retail advertising consisting of heavy doses of newspaper inserts, mail circulars, and other mass delivered one-way messages. The traditional model will soon be a distant memory if predictions arising from a recent study come to pass. A survey of grocery marketers conducted by Valassis found that the traditional reliance on print media as an advertising channel will be declining dramatically in the next five years. Today, three-fourths of grocery executives use print media for marketing purposes. In five years, the number dwindles to 17 percent. In contrast, the proportion of grocery marketers saying that they will use social media as a marketing channel will rise from 12 percent to 65 percent during the same period.

Skeptics might interpret these findings as grocery marketers perhaps being too euphoric about social media. However, it seems that bullishness on social media marketing may be based on impact rather than hype. A new study by Ryan Partnership on retailers’ social media activity found that connecting with shoppers via social media is not just cool, it has observable payoffs. Among the study’s findings on how social media impacts shopper behavior were:

  •  44% of shoppers surveyed indicated that a retailer’s social media update influenced a purchase
  • 36% said following a retailer on social media led to trying a product
  • 18% said they tried a brand because their friends like or follow the brand

Social media alone is not changing advertising; how we consume information has created a need for new communication approaches to reach and engage audiences. It would be understandable if some advertisers resisted a shift away from traditional media to rely more on social channels. After all, “traditional” means that it is customary practice, it is the way it has been done in the past. But, consumers are not hanging on to the past – they are using the tools of the day to acquire and share information. So, marketers may long for the good ol’ days, but we must align our practices with consumer behavior.    

Is Your Message Authentic?

In my last blog post I shared a commercial for Ragu spaghetti sauce that featured a young boy walking in on his parents spending quality time in the bedroom. The spot is humorous, but one has to question how such a message advances the Ragu brand long term. Another commercial I saw recently had the opposite impact, in my estimation. A Wendy’s commercial touted the “Wendy’s Way,” a commitment to serving quality products. The messenger was Wendy Thomas, daughter of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and the restaurant’s namesake.

The strength of this commercial is its authenticity. The message is a straightforward, heartfelt effort to communicate the brand’s values. And, the message source evokes a favorable emotional response. Although Wendy Thomas does not have the same sense of ease in front of the camera as her late father, she is a capable brand ambassador that keeps alive the legacy created by Dave Thomas.

Brand messages should be authentic; they must communicate purpose and meaning to the audience. People do not buy products because they want them; they buy products because of what they do for them. Human nature leads us to ask the question “What’s in it for me?” when considering a product purchase. Your brand messages should provide answers to that question. Wendy’s answers the question by touting the quality customers receive.

What’s in it for your customers to buy from you? Do your brand messages answer that question? Authenticity, not audacity, builds brands. People should think about your brand because they admire it, not because they laughed at your 30-second commercial.

Saucy Ads Don’t Build Brands

What is advertising? It is communication with a target market with end goals of building a brand advancing a business. Any investment in advertising should be undertaken with this basic concept in mind. Or, if you a prefer a what-advertising-is-not definition, simply reference a recent commercial by Ragu. Unilever’s spaghetti sauce brand is running a campaign called “Long Day of Childhood.” One of the spots shows a boy coming into his house after school calling “mom, mom.” He finds her and realizes why she did not answer: Mom is “busy” in the bedroom. Although we do not see what the boy sees, his face says it all! See the commercial below.

The commercial is a YouTube hit with more than 1.4 million views. Ragu has three other commercials from the same campaign posted on its YouTube page, none of which have more than 100,000 views. Unfortunately for Ragu, views of a humorous commercial will not translate into more customers. Although Ragu is the market leader in spaghetti sauces, its market share has slipped. Brand awareness is not an issue, so what Ragu needs is to connect with consumers in ways that make Ragu more relevant in their lives. While some adults may be able to relate to the boy in the commercial, does the spot draw people closer to the Ragu brand? Probably not.

Thanks for the laugh, Ragu. I like a brand that does not take itself too seriously. Ultimately, brand marketers will be evaluated on whether their efforts resulted in higher sales and profits. I am not convinced this campaign will make that happen.

Ad Age – “Ragu Explains the Ad Where the Kid Walks in on His Parents”

Prime Time is Real Time, Unless You are NBC

The London Olympics are the talk of the sports world, if not the entire world. A glance at trending topics according to shows Olympic-related hashtags are prevalent around the globe. Social media and mobile technology combine to make the 2012 Summer Olympics a new consumption experience as we can follow events in real time. Unfortunately, we cannot watch some of them in real time. In the U.S., marquee events are saved by NBC for broadcast in prime time. If you do not want to know the outcome of a medal race in swimming or gymnastics competition, stay off social media during the day. Also, it may be a good idea to avoid watching NBC promos for the Today Show as they could leak the outcome of the event you are about to watch.

We have become accustomed to on-demand access to information and entertainment. NBC seems to be stuck in the TV-dominated media generation, building its broadcasts around prime time hours. Although it should be noted that there is quite a bit of live event programming broadcast each day on NBC-owned channels, airing prime time events that have already occurred just does not fit today’s media culture. However, there is a good explanation for NBC’s approach to broadcasting major events on a delayed basis in prime time: We are not the customer, so it does not matter what we want.

The customers that NBC must satisfy are its advertisers and by extension, Olympic sponsors. Corporate partners want to achieve the greatest reach possible via TV. The time frame in which that is most likely to happen is prime time. The largest number of eyeballs will be watching during that time regardless of whether events or live or recorded. The Olympics are essentially a two-week mini-series for NBC. Its aim is to maximize viewership of the mini-series. Given the realities of the 9-5 American work life, prime time is when the most people will be watching… even if they are watching what amounts to a re-run.

Make Every Day Super Bowl Sunday

Like millions of other people, I cannot wait for the Super Bowl. The two-week break between the conference championships and the “Big Game” is excruciating- let’s play already! And as is the case most years, I do not even have a vested interest in the game as I do not have strong feelings to cheer for either the Giants or Patriots. I just want to watch the Super Bowl, enjoy the company of my son’s church youth group, and of course, watch commercials. So do many other Americans; a recent survey by found that 37% of persons surveyed watch the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials.

It’s a marketer’s dream come true: People wanting to see ad messages. Unfortunately, that sentiment is limited to Super Bowl Sunday and precious few other occasions such as the Academy Awards broadcast. Otherwise, most of us actively avoid commercial messages. Why? They can be intrusive, annoying, and irrelevant to us. What makes Super Bowl commercials different, and what can we learn from Super Bowl advertising to make us more effective communicators each day of the year?

The Super Bowl has become a cultural celebration as much as it is a championship football game. Advertisers are joining in the festivities rather interrupting our lives as is usually the case. The most popular Super Bowl commercials seem to share a characteristic that people can relate to the message. Whether it is the appearance of a popular celebrity, depiction of a humorous situation in everyday life, or a message that creatively captivates our attention, the best Super Bowl commercials resonate with the audience. In contrast, most ad messages are not as effective because the focus is more on the product and its capabilities, not how it fits with users’ lifestyles and adds value for them.

Let’s adopt the mindset of Super Bowl advertising every day of the year. Marketing messages must be conceived, designed, and executed from the customers’ viewpoint. We must constantly put ourselves in the target market’s shoes and ask the question “What’s in it for me?” Do our advertising messages provide a satisfactory answer? Our goal should be to strive to make marketing as appealing daily as it is on Super Bowl Sunday. May your team (or your brand) win this Sunday.

The Spirit of Radio

Invisible airwaves – Crackle with life – Bright antennae bristle – With the energy – Emotional feedback – On timeless wavelength – Bearing a gift beyond price – Almost free…

Lyrics from “The Spirit of Radio” – Rush (1980)

I am pretty sure that my favorite band was not singing about the virtues of radio as an advertising medium, but the song may just be an ode to radio’s effectiveness for connecting with audiences. A recent study found that exposure to a radio ad campaign resulted in higher levels of consumer response across all stages of the purchase funnel. The magnitude of impact varied from brand awareness being 10 % higher to a whopping 38% lift in brand recommendation and 39% lift in brand affinity. In other words, radio works!

Results of research on the impact of radio advertising suggest an ability of radio to engage listeners on an emotional level. The greatest difference between the exposure and non-exposure groups was in “feeling” responses of liking and advocacy. It is challenging enough to break through advertising clutter to get your audience’s attention, let alone eliciting positive feelings about your brand. Radio seems to have the potential to meet a vital need of tapping into the emotions of an audience.

One huge question is left unanswered: Why? What characteristics of the audience and the medium make radio effective for connecting emotionally with listeners? One possible explanation is that the favorable mood created by a radio station’s programming may influence the audience’s receptivity to ads. Also, radio spots can create powerful mental imagery as we supply the “video” in our minds to the audio of a radio commercial. This level of engagement with a message can have a positive impact on its “stickiness.”

The lesson learned is to not give up on radio just because there are newer, trendier communication tools like Facebook and Twitter. As long as people are listening, marketers should tap the spirit of radio to strengthen emotional bonds between their brands and customers.

Media Post Research Brief – “The Power of Radio”