Posts Tagged ‘branding’

Apple Watch: PR Blunder or PR Perfection?

May 14, 2015

Two words can instantly spark a heated debate: Apple Watch. The device has created two schools of thought- it sucks, or it’s genius. Try to find someone on the fence and you’ll be sorely disappointed. For Apple “fanboys” like me, there’s no doubt it’s a cool device – well-designed, fills a niche no other technology I have does, and above and beyond any other wearable on the market. To everyone else it’s “Why do I need it?” “Why would I spend $800 to not look at my phone as much as I do now?” or “They’re just dumb.” Debate aside, one thing seems to escape everyone talking about it. If you’re debating the watch, Apple’s unmatched PR machine is working.

Does anyone need a smartwatch?
Apple Watch is a hard sell. It has incredible capabilities but do mainstream consumers think they need them? Probably not, but they may want them eventually and Apple has the clout to make that happen. Before Apple Watch, smartwatches were clunky, fairly ugly and nearly all were marketed to the same audience as Casio’s calculator watches from the 80s. They had no mainstream appeal and even less functionality.

On the other hand, Apple has an ecosystem of more than 3,500 apps for Apple Watch alone and 1.2 million on iOS. Developers will innovate new apps specifically for Apple Watch, leading to more coverage of the watch, more interest and more debate as the device’s appeal continues to grow.

Apple is making smartwatches cool.
Apple’s already won the battle in making a smartwatch cooler than they’ve ever been. But is that enough for a device with a price tag ranging from $349 to more than $14,000? Apple’s betting on fashion-aware celebrities and consumers to adopt the watch. And shortly before launch it was already around the wrists of Beyonce, Pharell, Drake, Sam Smith, Katy Perry and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld. Meanwhile the Apple PR team made no small effort to make sure the watch was reviewed by fashion magazines from GQ to Vogue and the most influential watch experts in the world, making the device known as more than just a “mini-computer.”

In order for Apple Watch to be successful it needs to be seen as cool, fashionable, desired, capable and most importantly worth your money. For an item nobody truly needs, Apple’s already proven that they’re able to make people want it. In the end, that’s all that matters. The reviews have been positive (with a caveat here or there), the thousands of articles keep on coming, the debate wages on, yet the bottom line remains – Apple has already sold 3.2 million watches in just over a month.

The Apple Watch is already set to outpace the iPhone in first-year sales. It looks like their PR team is succeeding where others have failed, again.



Why Understanding the Customer Leads to Effective Advertising

March 21, 2014

I took a psychology class in college that was titled; the art of persuasion.  In the class, we were taught how to understand what is going on inside a person’s mind and how to persuade him/her to your way of thinking—sounds creepy right? Well I loved it, which told me advertising was the right field for me. Not because I like manipulating people, but because I like the idea of putting myself in other people’s shoes, to identify what their problems might be and working towards a solution.

On a professional level, advertising is all about problem solving, it’s how we create a desire for our client’s products and services. Advertisements pose problems and provide solutions all the time; do your feet stink? Use our client’s foot cream and the stench will disappear. Do you want longer eyelashes? Use our client’s brand of mascara and you will instantly have long, beautiful eyelashes.  The key to effective advertising is not only in the creativity, but in the solutions presented to the audience.  The question grabs the audience’s attention, but the solution provides a reason why the product or service is ahead of its competition.

In a recent branding campaign for one of our automotive clients, we made a point to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. We asked ourselves, what do customers want out of their car buying experience? The answer we developed was: they want to feel important.  Some people might assume that price is the driving factor and yes, people do want the best price for their car, but every dealership highlights their low prices, so what is the one thing that can really set a car dealer apart? Their attention to customer service (see what I did there, posed a question).

In order to differentiate our client from the competition, we wanted customers to feel special and realize they would receive a VIP experience when purchasing a vehicle from this dealer.  In fact, customers become an exclusive member of their “club” after making a purchase!

The crux of this campaign relies on the customer needs- the moment the customer walks through the door, he/she is treated like royalty.  Additionally, the customer is regarded as an insider who receives exclusive deals, tips and tricks and other perks, all while getting the best prices and customer service possible.  Now, tell me that is not a customer service dream come true.

Another campaign that communicated what it’s like in the customer’s shoes was Lincoln’s MKZ campaign.  The commercials are recorded from the point of view of the customer, in an interview format.  The potential buyer interviews two separate cars; an MKZ and a competitor (such as Lexus). The customers are asking the two cars important questions like; what kind of suspension do you have?  This campaign is a great example of the customer being in control of his/her purchasing experience and decision making, and they love that.

Lincoln Commercial can be found here:

While it may be common sense, it truly does make a difference for advertisers to know their audience on behalf of clients. We learn time and time again that customers are not solely focused on price, but also the experience the product/service provides. Being aware of that can sometimes be a challenge to advertisers, but can also be an advantage. Hey, at EZG we’re all about solving problems.

If you have an advertising problem that needs to be solved, reach out to us at

Which brands won at the Oscars?

March 7, 2014

Sure, everyone loves a good awards show.  Glitter, glamour, gowns, and stumbling celebrities make for great theater.  And while the nation (world?) tuned in, there were a few brands that deserve special recognition for making of the most of their exposure:

  1. Best Intentional Product Placement: Samsung
    Samsung takes home the prize for what’s been dubbed “the selfie seen around the world.”  Host Ellen DeGeneres set social media on fire when she whipped out a white Samsung Galaxy, grabbed some pals, and took a selfie with Hollywood’s hottest stars.

    What a spontaneous coup for Samsung, right?  But the plot twist is a familiar one: Samsung paid big sponsorship dollars for product placement through the evening, and the selfie was a smoothly executed part of the plan.  Yes, we’ve seen that one before, but high marks for execution and follow through.  Bravo.

  2. Best Surprise Product Placement: Big Mamas & Papas Pizzeria

    Big Mamas & Papas Pizzeria scored an unexpected on-air win when Ellen called on them for a celebrity delivery.  They knew they’d be tapped for backstage hunger pangs, but didn’t realize their pizza would be shared with the A list.  According to NBC Los Angeles, “The restaurant didn’t spend a dime on the stunt and received advertising for free, all thanks to DeGeneres’ desire to feed her celebrity family.”

    The store is now trying to capitalize on their Oscar appearance by selling their apparel right on the homepage.  Can they roll the momentum into a sequel?

  3. Best Unintentional Product Placement: Coca Cola
    Coke doesn’t necessarily deserve free advertising, but they got it when their logo appeared on those surprise pizza boxes.  See?  Stay loyal to Main Street and reap the benefits.

    Having the brand splashed on camera (and all over social media) was made sweeter by the fact that Coke yielded its traditional Oscar sponsorship to Pepsi this year.

  4. Most consistent brand to take 2nd place: Pepsi
    Ah, Pepsi.  Will you ever win?  Or are you destined to spend blockbuster dollars, only to yield the spotlight.  Perhaps Leo should take over as official Pepsi spokesperson.  Yeah, I went there.

Stay classy, Hollywood…until next year!

What’s in a Hashtag? Entire strategies!

February 27, 2014


Pound sign, number sign, hashtag; whatever you want to call it, this little symbol has impacted the marketing sphere for all who work in the communications industry. It’s hard to remember a time when hashtags weren’t part of marketing campaigns because they play such a significant role when building a strategy. In fact, in some cases the hashtag is the strategy.

Since hashtags are supported on multiple social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest) marketers realize using hashtags can be advantageous for bigger picture gains. Hashtags can be used to reach target audiences in a fun, engaging and social way that other forms of marketing materials can’t. By using hashtags, brands can create a quick connection to a large group, and if brands are really smart, they’ll connect the hashtag with a feeling. Creating an emotional connection enables the hashtag to leverage a positive brand image for an organization or individual. For example, Honda aired its touchy-feely #HugFest campaign (starring Bruce Willis) during the Super Bowl. Honda purposely did not mention their brand within the hashtag, in order to generalize it and position it to a larger group. Honda then went the extra mile and supported the #Hugfest social media campaign by launching a series of YouTube videos. Doing so caused the #HugFest hashtag to take off like a Civic Coupe on a race track. Marketers at Honda clearly know that everybody can use a hug now and then, and were wise to correlate a “warm and fuzzy” feeling with the famous auto maker.

Additionally, hashtags can be used as a fierce weapon to differentiate brands from competitors. For example, Yoplait Greek Yogurt flipped their lid and created a duel with competition brand, Chobani (the Greek yogurt giant). After realizing they would rather win the “who’s better” battle fair and square (instead of swooning shoppers with studly John Stamos) Yoplait formed the hashtag #TasteOff as a way to motivate customer feedback. A risky move that even Uncle Jesse couldn’t combat.

Yoplait invited real consumers to go spoon to spoon and vote in the #TasteOff on Twitter. Ladies and ‘gents, Yoplait won the brand battle right then and there. At EZG, we can stand behind a hashtag campaign that inspires direct engagement with consumers and promotes real brand loyalty across social media. Consumers want to be involved; they want to be spoken to and know when they’re being sold. Through a simple hashtag, Yoplait kicked off the conversation that inspired brand loyalty amongst consumers, a tasty move indeed.

At EZG we participate in hashtag specific campaigns on behalf of our clients. We conduct industry research and survey the conversations taking place on social media in order to be active social listeners. When monitoring hashtags, we filter out the noise and find the windows of hashtag opportunity where our clients can promote their brand, position the brand ahead of competitors, or just simply engage with an existing audience. Whether it is a brand specific campaign using a designated hashtag, or a hashtag that is used during an event, we understand the power that hashtags have and we love it.

What are some of your favorite hashtag campaigns? Comment and let us know which brands you think use hashtags effectively or tweet us @ebben_zall.

Two great brands that tweet great together

October 4, 2013

Just a few weeks ago I posted about “staying on top of the media mix,” looking at how the industry lines between PR, advertising, and social media are blurring to create effective marketing campaigns. I discussed how Honda’s #WantNewCar campaign strategy implemented all three elements cohesively and engaged with target audiences.  And guess what? Honda is at it again!

In my opinion, the car-maker is blazing past other automotive companies when it comes to utilizing social media as a powerful marketing medium. Honda has taken to Twitter to promote a new feature added to the 2014 Honda Odyssey: a tiny, built-in vacuum that is fueling a social media surge that has sucked in the Twitter feeds of major consumer brands. Yes, a minivan and a vacuum have started a conversation that turned into a viral marketing sensation. The promotion of the newly designed Odyssey kicked off with a series of cute commercials, featuring the vacuum at center stage. If you haven’t seen the clip yet, check it out here:

After Honda captured viewers with the commercial, the marketers turned their attention to twitter. While scrolling feeds on October 1st, I noticed that Honda began tweeting @ other brands, using the vacuum as a conversation starter. Honda posted tweets that demonstrated the sucking power of the vacuum using products from companies like Oreo and Lego.  Consequently, those brands began to retweet the clever pictures and captions to their own audiences, and the campaign gained viral stardom.   

Who would have ever thought that Oreo and Honda would engage in a cross-promotional twitter strategy that appeals to the mass market?  Here’s a slide show of the images and tweets posted by Honda:

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More and more on social media we’re seeing corporate brands using digital platforms to push their overall brand or a specific product. Whether they’re taking advantage of timely content (like Oreo’s Super Bowl Blackout ad), or launching a planned campaign  like Honda’s Odyssey vacuum effort, social media helps to get the message directly in front of the consumer.

Honda’s social media strategy was successful because:

  • The tweets were short and to the point.
  • They targeted brands that share their audience (families with small children) – parents can relate to lost Lego’s and cookie crumbs on the floor of their car.
  • Targeted popular brands with a large following, and using dynamic images that were designed to be easily shared amongst large groups of people.

In public relations, we are our clients’ storytellers, so it’s our duty to know which mediums act as the best platforms to get the message out. In our work with automotive clients at EZG, keeping up to date with campaigns from brands like Honda is a no brainer, so we always think of ways that we tie broader corporate campaigns to our local clients. Whether companies use other brands to help push their message, piggy back off of a corporate campaign, or blend traditional advertising and PR with social media, integrating messages and media is what delivers the best and most convincing campaigns.

Staying on top of the media mix

September 6, 2013

When it comes to PR, advertising, social media, and marketing, it’s all blending together. Many times, these disciplines cross over one another as the digital influence continues to grow and becomes intertwined with other tactics. The different spheres are no longer their own element. Social isn’t just a Twitter account, and ads are not just aimed at people watching TV; every piece is being integrated. As everything meshes the goal is still the same – to influence the audience with your message. So why not become a fluid brand and spread your message across all channels? Two brands that really come to mind when thinking about integrated campaigns are Honda and VitaminWater.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t escape Honda’s Summer Clearance campaign, it was everywhere. Whether you were watching TV, on Twitter or Vine, or listening to the radio, Honda utilized all of these outlets to fuel their annual Summer Clearance event. They advised consumers to use the hashtag, “#WantNewcar” to express why they want a new Honda and they could win one. Honda’s commercials then also featured some of these tweets. This campaign enabled Honda to do a very important thing: engage with the consumer and reward them for it.

honda pic

The sport drinks arena is a competitive one, so VitaminWater came up with a campaign to differentiate themselves from the others. Like Honda, they implemented a hashtag (#MakeBoringBrilliant) and used it not only on Twitter but across their ads as well. They got their audience talking about their brand, and engaged with their consumers.

vita water pic

These are the case studies that jump out at us, because from social media management to traditional PR efforts, advertising and creative design, EZG handles a continuous mix of tactics to build the best strategies for clients. The best part about it? We get to keep an eye on the ever-changing landscape, and look for ways to take campaigns to the next level – with kudos to campaigns like Honda’s by RPA and VitaminWater’s by CP&B.  If you’ve seen campaigns that put brands in the best light by integrating their message across different channels, please share!

Boosting brand with video production

August 15, 2013

Public relations – and marketing in general — never seemed boring to me.  Even in the early days when I was faxing letters to the New York Times (yes, faxing), the ability to convey a story through channels that reached such a wide range of audiences was a fascinating exercise.

Today, the core of that buzz is the same.  It’s about the story.  And yet the channels available to us have expanded tenfold (stay tuned for more on this from EZG TV).

Video production is a great example that we’re seeing more of every week.  A medium that used to be reserved for big budget clients looking to mass-market has now become a tool we can use on a variety of levels.  I dug into this a little in PRNews, examining when it’s appropriate to use film clips in-house and when it makes sense to seek out a production house.

That’s a valid discussion, as we use deploy video for quick Facebook clips, YouTube channels, multimedia press kits, corporate branding exercises, and of course B-roll and commercials for more traditional broadcast placement.  We have longstanding relationships with production professionals who can do a far better job than we can of creating sophisticated, crisp content that will play well with more discerning audiences.  Those studios are expensive, but they play a key role in maintaining client brands in some circumstances.

Hemenway & Barnes, investigated these options earlier this year.  H&B is the oldest law firm in Boston (celebrating its 150th year in 2013), an EZG client, and was looking for a way to convey its traditional values through a modern vehicle.  When it came to developing a video overview of the firm’s history, a high end production house – in this case, Moody Street Pictures – was absolutely appropriate for the job.  Our internal team could certainly have filmed interviews and spliced together clips that conveyed H&B’s character, but to capture a culture that has persevered for centuries it was more powerful to invest in a higher end product.

The resulting video series has generated outstanding awareness of the firm and stayed true to its traditional values.  For H&B, it speaks well to the firm’s client base and influencers; for EZG, it becomes another effective storytelling device as we interact with the media.  A lower-budget effort would have cheapened the look and feel, and in this case the brand itself.

We know more video is on the horizon, and likely more innovative channels through which to distribute it.  PR continues to bring the ultimate media mix to the table, keeping us engaged at every corner.

Soup, sincerity, and social media

August 28, 2012

Just add substance and stir

Too often, social media and traditional media are separate thoughts. Why this is, I’ll never understand – I’ve always been vocal about social media as an outstanding tool, but not as a replacement of traditional media.  The fascinating part is interacting with these two channels, as it becomes clear from the public relations side that each one informs the other…when they’re working together, they create a powerful combination for brands.

A recent act of kindness captured on Facebook serves as a great reminder of this.  A good story travels a long way, and social media helps propel legitimate topics into the spotlight.  This month, we saw a story unfold organically that typifies how media channels can interface, and the difference between making noise on the Internet and telling a real story.

In this case, we have a Facebook post from a New Hampshire resident looking to fulfill one of his grandmother’s last wishes: a bowl of Panera Bread’s clam chowder. Both PR Restaurants (a Panera franchisee) and the family got more than they bargained for, as the post went viral, traditional media saw the story, and the PR team was able to help extend its reach.

The post was simple and heartfelt:

My grandmother is passing soon with cancer. I visited her the other day and she was telling me   about how she really wanted soup, but not hospital soup because she said it tasted “awful” she went on about how she really would like some clam chowder from Panera. Unfortunately Panera only sells clam chowder on Friday. I called the manager Sue and told them the situation. I wasn’t looking for anything special just a bowl of clam chowder. Without hesitation she said absolutely she would make her some clam chowder. When i went to pick it up they wound up giving me a    box of cookies as well. Its not that big of a deal to most, but to my grandma it meant a lot. I really want to thank Sue and the rest of the staff from Panera in Nashua NH just for making my grandmother happy. Thank you so much!

Facebook fans grabbed onto the good deed, and the story spread to over 731,000 people. As popularity and ‘likes’ continued to grow, the genuine, human aspect of the story stood out among the countless posts that cross the desks of traditional media members. What started as an innocent “thank you” became a signpost that captured the spirit of Panera’s brand, garnering local and national news from television [WMUR], daily newspapers [Nashua Telegraph], and online media [Huffington Post, Yahoo!, etc.]

On the public relations side, this stands as a culmination of several elements…maybe corny to call it a minor “perfect storm,” but let’s go with that.

  1. A brand ambassador (the Panera Bread bakery cafe manager) acted in perfect coordination with the values of the company.
  2. An end-user recognized the act and became another ambassador for the brand in a social media setting.
  3. The sincerity of the exchange overcame the skepticism of traditional media when it comes to online endorsements.
  4. The PR team had the opportunity to extend the story without tarnishing its sincerity.

This last point is among the most important, because we hate spin.  We hate the thought of spin and we hate the perception of spin even more.  We are, on the contrary, storytellers – and that’s a significant distinction.  Sometimes our team finds the story, and sometimes the story grows on its own.  In all cases, we work with the media to bring the story to life using the tools at our disposal.

If we were to separate channels and say that social media and traditional media stand alone would limit our ability to pass the story on: they are intertwined, and always will be.   This case is a perfect example, showing us how social media legitimized a beautiful story for traditional media, and four elements – the Panera brand, Facebook, the media, and public relations – pulled together to make it visible.

[Note: special thanks to EZG’s Jenn Tatelman for lending firsthand insight to this post.  She is an absolute warrior.]

Follow you, follow me: Nike’s experiments for the little people

March 1, 2012

Nike turns its own brand on its head

For the past couple decades, there’s no question: Nike just did it.  From a brand perspective they built a powerhouse campaign that moved everybody and started from the top down, with superstars reminding us how hard it is to be your best.  Funny – consistently talking about taking action and trying hard gave the company an almost iron clad leadership position.

Now the game has changed, and Nike is well on its way to figuring out the new paradigm.  But here’s some irony for you…as the company is doing a lot to stay ahead of smaller competitors that could eat into market share, they are also writing a public playbook for those competitors to follow.

The change in branding philosophy reflects the new digital and social age perfectly.  The focus on stars telling us how to act is giving way to us telling them; empowering the audience is generating a new level of loyalty that can be tracked, yields customer data, and continuously engenders trust in the company.   Fortune Magazine chronicles the shift nicely, noting that “In place [of athletes] is a whole new repertoire of interactive elements that let Nike communicate directly with its consumers, whether it’s a performance-tracking wristband, a 30-story billboard in Johannesburg that posts fan headlines from Twitter, or a major commercial shot by an Oscar-nominated director that makes its debut not on primetime television but on Facebook.”

In essence, Nike is not just asking consumers to help promote the brand (a common social media goal), they are rewarding them by integrating their thoughts and personalities into the campaigns themselves.  In an era of seemingly continuous athlete scandals, consumers get the opportunity to tell the world how hard they work, and what it means to compete.

Consider that stroke of genius — Nike has essentially asked consumers to torpedo its own historic branding approach.  And who wouldn’t love that?

The risk is that in this environment, a leading marketing idea doesn’t stay unique for very long.  For the many thousands of companies scratching their heads over social media, this will hit them like a cartoon rocket booster.  Let the games begin.

Lead the way, Wile E.

My beer runneth over: Sam Adams in a Marathon partnership?

February 23, 2012

Legalized hookie-playing, public drinking, and incessant screaming at complete strangers; only in Boston. Monday April 16th 2012, also known as Patriot’s Day here in Boston, is a historic holiday commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord – but more famously, it plays host to the 116th annual Boston Marathon. And amongst the large majority of twenty-somethings living in Boston, this sacred day is known as Marathon Monday, which mixes equal parts lining Beacon Street to cheer  marathon runners (extra shout-outs to the most outrageous costumes) and a day-long marathon of drinking.

This year, Samuel Adams is tapping into Marathon Monday by partnering with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) to unveil its new Samuel Adams Boston 26.2 Brew for the 2012 race. According to the Boston Herald, the beer will have less alcohol and a lighter body compared to other Samuel Adams products and will be on tap exclusively at marathon-related events and pubs along the race route in Boston. For local brands like Sam Adams, the traditions of April 16th are a great opportunity for promotions, but how does the Boston Athletic Association benefit from this partnership?

Marketing partnerships, if well-executed, can be very beneficial in boosting a company’s recognition and profits. With each company bringing their own brand equity to the table, an alliance can help each party acquire new customers and users in previously untapped channels and venues. However, choosing a partnership should be a careful and thoughtful process. Participating companies must share similar goals, levels of service, and quality to achieve positive results on both sides — otherwise the connection will be confusing in the eyes of customers.

The Boston Athletic Association may be entering this territory through its partnership with Samuel Adams.

The mission of the BAA is to promote a healthy lifestyle through sports…And beer marathons are not often associated with what most people consider to be a healthy lifestyle! It seems the benefits in this case will be heavily weighted in favor of Samuel Adams which as a result of the partnership, has the right to use the “Boston 26.2” name on the new bottle.  The beer branding provides a direct connection to the social activities of race day which, let’s face it, receives many more participants than the actual race.

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