Bits & Pieces?
Like them or hate them, Matt Stone and Trey Parker are marketing geniuses and many of us could learn some things from them. For the people that don’t recognize those names, how about names like Kenny and Cartman? Matt and Trey are the creators of the 15-year running “South Park” and have created a small empire from an idea that started off as construction paper cut-outs. With a successful TV series, a box-office hit (Baseketball) and numerous other side projects and endorsement deals, they are the epitome of success.
And now, they have finally cashed in on the most obvious and most sought after item of all for South Park fans: Cheesy Poofs. The favorite snack of Eric Cartman, these cheese puffs (basically puffed Cheetos) will now be sold in Wal-Marts beginning in August. The prediction is for huge sales, if for no other reason than the novelty of it.
But more to the point of this post is the fact that Matt and Trey were able to take a fairly simple idea and turn it into a blockbuster by following some very basic marketing rules that even the professionals can sometimes forget when getting caught up in details.
- Connect with your audience – South Park is such a tremendous hit because it strikes a chord in those of us fed up with the level of PC-ness these days. The biggest reason (IMHO) for the success of South Park is that they use kids to say all the things we’re told we can’t. Who can really be upset with a kid? After all, they say the darndest things.
- Make your message simple and straightforward – If it makes sense to a fifth grader, how hard could it be for an adult to understand?
- Avoid the small print – There are some times when this is impossible, however people never read it and tend to think the more of it there is, the less they can trust the message. The only mumbling in South Park is done by Kenny, and only the other characters can understand him. Sounds like legalese, right? The rest of the messages on South Park are right there in your face for you to deal with however you choose.
- Protect your brand – South Park is known for being brash, bold and very opinionated. It doesn’t matter what the topic, on every episode you know there will be moments that make you laugh and moments that make you cringe. That’s their brand. It’s what they stand for. Can your brand say the same thing (and stick to it)?
There is no question that once a show has reached the level of success that South Park has that there are some very smart marketers behind it. Matt and Trey are two of the best. Who are some of the best celebrities/marketers that you know? Timberlake? Gaga? Beyonce? Shaq? Kenny Powers? What do you think?
Let’s face it, as humans we tend to stick to our daily routines. It’s a relief that mostly lives in our subconscious. It comforts us. It’s what we’re used to and that’s generally easy to deal with. But with our routines comes ruts. Mental roadblocks that usually put’s everything on hold until we can get back on our self-indulged schedules. This is where the problem comes in. It’s not always as easy as flipping a switch. As a matter of fact, it can take a lot of energy, time and focus to get back in your creative zone. I have one solution for you. Whether you embrace it is your call, but I think everyone should do this. Ready? Go and spend some time in the woods. Get out of your comfort zone. Shake it up a bit. Go where there’s nothing to taunt you this way or that. No car horns, lights, concrete, advertisements or annoying people telling you what you should be doing. Go back to the basics. Spending a couple of days in nature is sort of a re-boot for your brain. It leaves you feeling refreshed and gives perspective on what you need to do. I think spending too much time in one place, particularly in the city, is problematic as it tends to shape who we are. In the same sense, doing the same thing over and over and over limits are ability to explore our inner selves and what we’re capable of. So the next time you find yourself looking out that window pouting to yourself because you don’t know what to do next, consider looking at your calendar, pick a campground, and take yourself out.
Those of us in the advertising business have invariably heard the term “Creative is king.” Coming from an industry known for developing some of the great pop-culture references of all time (think “Where’s the beef?” or “I want my MTV”) it’s no surprise that this is a common phrase in ad agencies across the land.
While being creative is definitely a very important part of advertising, and those that do it well can truly leave a mark on society, I’d argue that there is one phrase that might be more accurate: Common Sense is King.
I’m not trying to downplay the creativity required in advertising or those who come up with the ideas that leave people asking “Did you see that new (fill in the blank) commercial?” I’m just suggesting that common sense has a very important “checks & balances” role to play with creativity. I would argue that the three branches of good advertising are creativity, strategy and common sense. If any one of these is left out of the mix an advertisement has the potential to go terribly wrong.
Our industry prides itself on being creative but also digging into our clients’ business to completely understand their goals, missions, strategies, etc. And after hours of research and concepting there are still far too many ads like the one above that don’t pass the common sense test. If you want a laugh (or cry depending on your point-of-view) check out adfailure.com to see more.
It’s easy to understand how, when entire teams of advertising and marketing professionals are focused on making sure logos are correct and no typos exist, sometimes the bigger picture can get lost. But when a 13-year-old looks at your hard work and sees something you missed, consider that an epic fail.
So while creativity and strategy play very important roles in the development of all marketing elements, common sense plays the ultimate trump card. Long live the king.
It’s one of my lifelines. It’s something that I try and bring with me everywhere I venture. I’m constantly looking for more. Drugs? No. Not unless you argue the properties of physics. I’m talking about music. Which one could probably argue has similar effects on the body. Personally, sound has the ability to alter my mood, outlook, energy and creativity (among others) in a moment’s time. So. Sometimes I try and use this to my advantage. For instance, right now, I’m listening to a band called Efterklang. Long drawn out tones with soothing notes, a variety of voices and a repertoire of instruments puts me in a state of thought and emotion. Something I think suits whatever it is I’m trying to ultimately describe in this post. But. If I was handed a project, say for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (a hip, young, edgy client), I’d quickly sift through my library and find something like Miami Horror. With this bands uplifting melodies, steady beats, and a mixture of synths and electro-ism I feel better connected with the persona and clientele of 88Nine. It also gives me the energy I want in order to design something, I feel, would fit into 88Nine’s positive and edgy image.
Now this is just me. Your choice in music, depending on what you’re trying to achieve, could be completely opposite of mine. Or maybe you’re just not into music. But I think not only our work, but our outlook and day-to-day personalties derive from whatever was just emitted from our car speakers, our headphones, our computers or whatever that noise is coming from in the office next door. So the next time you’re having a rough day or feel like your creativity is stale, try searching for some new sounds.
Heres a few bands that immediately were adopted into my library (along with the two above):
It was a day like any other when one of my colleagues said, “I can lead a horse to water… but if there’s no water there… well… I don’t know how to help you.”
I said a day like any other, because the tone was sarcastic and he was being facetious—and the comment ended in the room bursting out in laughter. A day like any other, because most conversations here have a dry sense of humor and a lot of “inside our walls” meaning—which would explain why all of us were rolling on the floor laughing, and you’re probably not. So let me explain.
In the past, one might refer to that old cliché and say, “Advertising can lead a horse to water, a great concept could make him take a drink.” And in the past, I believe that was true—even in the world where there were no clear product differentiators. We did campaigns for parity products quite often, and most times the best campaign and the best media buy won. Providing the product was at least on par with the competitors. In those days (not many years ago), we’d be thrilled if we got a key differentiator or two. That made our job cake.
The humor, irony, sadness, and truth about the observation my colleague made is in the definition of “water.” A little context is in order: the comment was made in a conversation about how the marketing funnel has changed. How, the “water” that we referred to in the past as meaning “the product,” now means so much more. It is also ironic that we had this conversation before Sue’s trip to SXSWi and her post on Joseph Jaffe’s book, Flip the Funnel. The point of all of this is that it is no longer just about you as an advertiser spreading the word about your product or service.
It is no longer about drawing consumers into the marketing funnel and into the vortex of advertising, until they get dizzy and start to believe you and then buy your product. It’s now all about ensuring that there’s really good “water” at the destination. Think exceptional customer experience. Truly differentiated product features. And just as importantly, a way for loyal customers to become evangelists. In other words, these days, if we lead a horse to water and there’s an abundance of clean, clear, refreshing water, that horse will tell three friends and those friends will tell three friends—all by tomorrow morning. Hence, the marketing funnel has been flipped into a megaphone and the message is carried by customers.
There are still plenty of brands who believe that advertising should do all the work. Or that success is achieved in the marketing mix. Or conversely, that the answer is digital, or social media, or that their website is the be-all and end-all. Those are all important, but the best brands have realized that it starts at home—great product, exceptional service and a medium by which to share. But that doesn’t mean a brand is alone to create the ultimate “watering hole.” The last part of my colleague’s comment was, “…I don’t know how to help you.” Well, that too, was purposefully overstated and he was again being facetious. Because if there is not substance there for a consumer to quench their thirst, all of our hard work goes for naught.
Today, the lines have blurred between clients and agencies. That’s if we are doing it right. Today, much of our work is as brand consultants, customer experience representatives, and deacons for the evangelists. We can even be product developers if we need to be. We are realists when we have to be. A good agency is a great Litmus Test, because if the water is tainted, the word spreads faster than if it is pure.
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