Monthly Archives: September 2011

What’s all the Bukk about?

Last week Hellmann’s and OgilvyEntertainment launched “The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge” – it’s latest campaign designed to show people that America’s best selling condiment can be used not only as a sandwich spread, but as a cooking ingredient that can help families free themselves from some of the most boring dinnertime routines.

“The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge” is a fully integrated campaign featuring a ten-part cooking competition series hosted by celebrity dad, Mark Consuelos. In each episode, celebrity chef, Tim Love and lifestyle expert, Sissy Biggers, compete in a head-to-head cooking contest. The goal of each competition is to create delicious, easy-to-prepare Hellmann’s-based chicken recipes that can contend for Parmesan crusted chicken’s throne as the undisputed king of Hellmann’s chicken recipes.

On hellmanns.com, consumers have the chance to download the recipes and it will be up to them to vote and determine their favorite chicken recipes each week. Voting is tied to a weekly sweepstakes for a chance to win various prizes including a $250 grocery gift card.

So now that you know what this chicken is bukking about, tune in to “The Hellmann’s Chicken Challenge” and find out how you can save your family from the monotony of uninspired dinners.

You’re Fired! How To Lose Friends + Alienate People In Silicon Valley

Remember when people actually said what they meant in emails?  It’s a lost art for sure.  Between legal disclaimers (most of which are longer than the actual emails), web etiquette, emoticons, and general fear of Big Brother, you’re lucky to find anything other than cliches and “dial-in” details in a company email.

Which is why this Note from Carol Bartz, now the ex-CEO of Yahoo, was so refreshing.

Quick backdrop if you haven’t heard the story:  In January 2009, Yahoo hired Bartz as CEO.  Known for her blunt, aggressive style, she was brought in to right the ship and whip the company into shape – kind of like that scene in Pulp Fiction where they bring in “The Gimp”.  Take a look:

In 2010, Bartz made a splash with a much-debated rev share deal that essentially gave Microsoft operational control over Yahoo’s search business.  The deal didn’t pan out. Bartz butted heads with Board members and co-workers. Last week she was fired… and it all went down in a telephone call.

The corporate rules for deposed CEOs are pretty clear.  You’re supposed to go quietly into the night with forced smiles and complimentary platitudes about “stepping down to pursue other interests” or “devoting more time to my family”.  You’re supposed to enjoy the ride on your golden parachute, savor your juicy severance package, and cherish your set of steak knives as the parting gift.

But not Carol.  She chose to send an email to all 13,600 Yahoo employees.  It begins like this:  “To All:  I am very sad to tell you that I have just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board.”

It went downhill from there. In an interview with a Fortune Magazine, she stated that the Yahoo Chairman was reading from a script during the infamous phone call.  She referred to other Board members as “doofuses” before concluding:  “These people f**ked me over.”  (Wow.  Don’t hold back.)

For those of you wondering whether this kind of behavior was out of character for Bartz, check out this shining moment with Michael Arrington at 2010 TechCrunch Disrupt.

Personally, I have no problem with a potty-mouthed, occasionally controversial CEO. I think it’s refreshing in a pro-wresting “what will he/she do next” kind of way.   But what’s interesting about this episode from a brand perspective?  For starters, the symbolism is obvious. Yahoo is, at its core, a communications company.  And it’s pretty remarkable that with one terse email, the CEO and public face of the company completely rewrote the playbook on corporate communications.

Then there’s the issue of gender politics.  Bartz was one of the few high-profile female CEOs in the U.S.  Given the very public downfalls of other female CEOs (see: Carly Fiorina at HP) It’s fair to ask if this story would have been as big of a story had Bartz been a man.  I doubt it.

But the true significance of the Bartz email runs even deeper.   What it really means is this:  in a digitally connected world, it’s getting really hard if not impossible for brands to control their brand.  If a single email from a well-seasoned, closely managed CEO can make this strong of an impact, then it follows that under the right circumstances, a random Tweet or Facebook posting from any employee can also transform how the world views your brand.

And herein lies the Big Idea:  what would happen if people actually started telling the truth in emails? Would racist photos posted online by an operations manager from a beverage company make you think twice about drinking the cola?  Would you buy more t-shirts if you saw a blog posting from factory workers urging you to help them hit their quota and earn a bonus?

Lower-level employees still enjoy relative anonymity – but their actions, deed and words hold real power because they can build or destroy brand equity, either intentionally or not.

It’s a breathtaking yet scary proposition for brands.

Meanwhile, Yahoo’s stock price has risen over 10% since Bartz’s departure.

Legacy Brand x Fresh Partnership (Wocka Wocka!)

Quick. Find the closest millennial, and ask him/her/it to name the original Muppets. You might be surprised to find your youth subject can rattle off an impressive roster: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, perhaps even Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem (featuring my personal favorite, Animal). How does this whippersnapper have such an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters from a show that hasn’t aired in 30 years? The answer, my friend, is the almighty “x.”

In fashion, the “x” symbolizes collaboration between two brands on a particular clothing line or item. It allows both brands to not only combine creative juices, but to also extend their reach across audiences, and into new spaces. The recent “x” found between trendsetting retailer and clothing label Opening Ceremony and The Muppets caught my eye.

With this simple collection of shirts and sweaters, the Muppets show us why they remain so culturally relevant even as the kids who revered them growing up are now being forced to watch iCarly with their own children. The Muppets aren’t just characters, they’re a brand and an aesthetic (and this isn’t their first partnership). Kudos to those who manage them for working with an edgy, millennial-facing brand and finding a new audience.

Signed,

The guy who may or may not have just bought himself an Animal hoody.

Beauty is in the Eye of the Consumer

Beauty is a polarizing concept. One person will tell you that the women who walked the runways at New York Fashion Week exemplify what it means to be beautiful – long, lean, stoic, composed. Another will tell you Tina Fey’s comedic genius, confidence and enthusiasm for hot dogs is what truly defines a beautiful woman. One thing is certain; beauty is more than just a pretty face.

Bare Escentuals has harnessed the concept of beauty and created a branded content campaign that perfectly aligns with their story. A brand that promotes community and acceptance has chosen five new models for their “Forces of Beauty” campaign – without ever seeing their faces. The women were chosen in a blind casting for their personalities, rather than their looks.

See it here

The Forces of Beauty may sound vaguely familiar to the “Campaign for Real Beauty” by Dove, but with one glaring difference. Bare Escentuals began their process with a pool of models and actresses. While some may argue that these women still fit the bill of a “real” woman, the poignancy of the idea is diluted by this realization – until you watch the videos. These “Forces of Beauty” are intelligent, driven, and genuine. They range from an environmental consultant to a second-degree black belt and mechanical engineer.  All of them align with Bare Escentuals brand platform of bringing out your best features with makeup that acts as skin care, rather than cover up.

While other campaigns have focused on empowering women through embracing their bodies, “Forces of Beauty” works to empower women through their personalities – driving home the belief that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. While there will never be a universal definition of beauty, Bare Escentuals has made their opinion quite clear.

Wouldn’t You like to Know Your Sphere of Influence?

At the Gamification Summit NYC, I had a great conversation with Michael Wu, Ph.D of Lithium. I’d listened to Robert Scoble’s Game of Games track twice the day before, so I had social nets and metadata on the mind.

Michael develops algorithms how to find influencers on the web. He breaks down social influence into 6 factors: credibility (influencer’s expertise), bandwidth, relevance, timing, alignment (sharing with the right people and places), and confidence (the target’s perception of the influencer). Michael’s work is currently geared towards business and marketers who want to collaborate with influencers.

But I got to thinking, what if the users could see this contextual information? As it is, social networks and businesses collect metadata about users in order to show them ever more targeted ads, search results or to strike key partnerships. From a user standpoint, the effect is an online experience that is increasingly tailored to the digital patterns of your past. Without diversifying data streams or usage, my concern is that users log-on to confront an ever more precise house of mirrors.

Regarding Scoble’s Game of Games, Facebook and Google+ need to addict users to sharing more and more information about themselves in order to sell ads (and measure results). This is the basis for Google taking a hard line on the real-name issue; it sees Google+ as an identity service.