unboxed marketing

group therapy for marketers and business owners

Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

don’t forget the manipulators

Posted by Steve Buchholz on April 5, 2009

most marketing is manipulative, but that's a losing proposition as markets change

most marketing is manipulative, but that's a losing proposition as markets change

I recently commented on a Darren Rose post over at ProBlogger where Darren wrote that most marketing is manipulative. Here’s what I said in response:

Darren: You write that marketing tends to try to manipulate. I don’t think that’s correct. That certainly was true in the past, during the golden age of mass markets and mass advertising. But those days are gone.

The inter-connectedness of markets has (appropriately) drive a stake through the heart of that system. Poor marketing continues to embrace those failing strategies, and those attempts are–as you say–manipulative.

However, more and more marketers have seen the light, and are trying to do things better. We’re trying to create products for people rather than finding people for our products. And we’re trying to connect with customers in meaningful, honest ways.

That’s not manipulative at all. And it’s the future of marketing success.

I’m having second thoughts about this. I stand by my thoughts about the future of marketing and the need to erase all manipulation from the craft. However, I think I’m wrong about most current marketing not being manipulative.

Spend a bit of time watching TV commercials (use your DVR to fast-forward through the show), and it’s hard to disagree with Darren. Almost every commercial is full of crap. During one half-hour show on FitTV, I saw obviously manipulative commercials for:

  • Two competing amazing weight-loss drugs
  • A body-cleansing product that remove all impurities from your system
  • A product that will keep even the cheapest razors sharp forever
  • An exercise machine that makes it easy to lose weight.

All those spots are attacking your emotions and your desire to be a better person, but they clearly fall into the too-good-to-be-true category. And for someone vulnerable–for whatever reason–can easily be taken in. That’s not to say the products don’t work; it’s just that the promotional approach is meant to manipulate.

I predict this advertising approach will stop working. Consumers have so much access to information and peer reviews, they can know everything about every product and service you offer. As a result, businesses will need to increase the level of honesty.

Customers will find you out if you don’t.


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shampoo of peace

Posted by Steve Buchholz on March 20, 2009

I’ve become a regular watcher of the new series, Trust Me. If you haven’t seen it, it follows the employees of a Chicago advertising agency as they navigate the back-stabbing waters of their world.

dove's marketing partnership with the tv show trust me is totally unboxed

dove's marketing partnership with the tv show trust me is totally unboxed

Dove is a major sponsor of the show, and the company is using an interesting interactive strategy to escape interruption marketing.


Here’s how: 

  1. In the show, Dove shampoo is one of the fictional agency’s clients. In focus groups and creative meetings, the agency’s creative staff talks about Dove shampoo and advertising strategies. They’ve even shown draft television commercials. By the way, the creative direction (in the show) is fantastic. I looked around for the ads but haven’t been able to find them. Too bad.
  2.  Dove and the show have partnered to build the Be the Creative Director website, where visitors can choose the models, music, and voice talent for the Dove shampoo campaign. It’s actually kind of fun, especially since the site returns the voting results after you make a choice. It also appears the choice visitors make will impact the commercial that ends up being made.
  3. The Creative Director site is sponsoring a $50,000 sweepstakes, which requires you to give up some personal info.
  4. The site also allows you to request a free Dove shampoo sample. (I went with the Heat Defense Therapy version. The red bottle looks cool.)

This strategy is great. By incorporating Dove into the show, it makes sure TiVoers like me hear about the show’s sponsors. The website builds community and interaction and will create return visits.


Nice work, Dove. This strategy is totally unboxed.

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what kind of breading?

Posted by Steve Buchholz on March 17, 2009

for most fast-food customers, breadcrumbs is breadcrumbs

for most fast-food customers, breadcrumbs is breadcrumbs

Had the TV on this past weekend and saw a commercial for a Wendy’s fish sandwich. Besides the weird sexual overtones of the ad–the woman was enjoying the sandwich just a little too much–the narration used the phrase “panko breading” to sell the fish.

Maybe I’m just a rube from South Dakota, but I had no idea what panko breading was. Curious, I researched the phrase. Turns out, panko breading is supposed to be a big deal in food circles.

Maybe it is super-special breading, but do most people know what it is? And if they don’t recognize it as special, are most people going to look it up? Doubtful on both counts. Instead, most people will dismiss the selling point as irrelvant. Why not show potential customers that the breading is special instead of telling us it is by using an obscure word?

Bottom line: fast food is not classy, and a 30-second ad won’t change that. Instead, how about showing me how your fish sandwich is going to help me solve a problem? How will going to Wendy’s make my life easier? Answering that question, not the kind of breading on a slab of fish, will make me consider stopping by Wendy’s on the way home.

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jesus and the stimulus

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 21, 2009

We all love creative ads that tell interesting stories. Of course, there is

american issues project anti-stimulus ad campaign is too little, too late.

american issues project anti-stimulus ad campaign is too little, too late.

true creativity that creates memorable messages, and there is imitation creativity that might make you laugh at the time but is completely  forgettable and ultimately useless.

Using Jesus in an ad that asks you to oppose the federal stimulus bill falls into the latter category.

The American Issues Project is doing just that with what they call a “major television advertising campaign.” The ad blasts the amount of spending in the bill and asks you to call Congress and tell them to stop wasting your money. You can view the ad at the group’s website.

The message is fine. It’s actually somewhat compelling because it puts the $787 billion into context. If you started spending a million bucks a day when Jesus was born and continued the spree to today, you would not have spent $787 billion. That’s an impressive way to show the amount of cash we are dropping on the economy.

However, the ad campaign is too late. The bill passed. President Obama signed it. It’s law. We could all call our congresspeople right now, but it wouldn’t do any good. This pony has left the gate. The American Issues Project would have been far better off running this campaign during the short debate on this legislation. It probably would not have worked, but it could have added something useful to the conversation.

Instead, the group is spending a bunch of cash to run a meaningless campaign. Of course, the organization could just be working for new members, but who would join a group that is willing to waste the donated dollars it receives.

This strategy needs a bailout of its own.

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unboxed rubber hits the road

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 6, 2009

Encountered a dilemma today while creating new radio ads for my employer, a two-year technical college. I want this new campaign to help folks understand that during tough times, upgrading your skills is a great move.

Our agency wrote a draft of the script. (Script #1 below). I wrote a different kind of script. (Script #2 below.)

So, what’s the dilemma? The agency script is fine. It talks about features and outcomes and shows how the college can help people through difficult times. There’s nothing wrong with that. After reading it, I thought about a commercial that wasn’t a commercial. It was just good advice.

I don’t know which one is better since I haven’t tested either yet. And, of course, they both might stink. But I definitely think the second version is more unboxed than the first since it seeks to start a conversation and talk to people about issues they actually care and think about.

What do you think?


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Are you angry as about the economy as everyone else? People just like you have lost their jobs. They can’t pay the bills. They’re struggling to keep a roof over their heads. 


We are in some tough times, and who knows how long it will last. But it doesn’t do you or your family any good to wait and hope for something better. Now’s the time to use your skills and talents to make the life you want rather than wait for something that may never appear.


What have you always wanted to be? And how do you get there? Those are big, important questions. They’re a little scary, too. Answering them requires you to do something bigger, to make yourself better, to take a bold step. There’s a cost to answering questions like that. There’s an even bigger cost to ignoring them.


If you decide to make the most of these tough times, consider all your options. Do you need a degree or on-the-job training? Or do you already have the skills to move into a new career field? Whatever the answer, do something. Don’t wait. Take control of your future.   


This advice offered by Western Dakota Tech. Let us know if we can help. www.wdt.edu.

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godaddy shows who’s your poppa

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 5, 2009

Where Spirit Air failed in its attempt to leverage an edgy ad campaign, GoDaddy.com does a fantastic job driving website traffic from television ads.

The company’s recipe is simple. Buy a ridiculously expesnive ad during the Super Bowl, submit an ad everyone knows will be rejected, make a stink about it, rework the ad so it passes corporate network muster, and post the original ad on your website. Add in beautiful women such as the company’s famous spokesboob, Candice, or Indy car driver Danica Patrick, and you have a killer campaign.

GoDaddy’s unique and effective approach is critically important in a business where many, many companies are offering the exact same service for the exact same price. So what makes GoDaddy stand out? Two things. It has achieved top-of-mind awareness for anyone wanting to buy a domain name. More importantly, it has become the cool place to register domains.

Nice work, GoDaddy.

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pedigree campaign for the dogs

Posted by Steve Buchholz on February 3, 2009

Have you seen the new Pedigree ad campaign? Very cool.

Not only are the ads funny and original, especially the bison version, but the company is using the campaign to give back. Every time you view one of the Pedigree ads online, the company donates a bowl of dogfood to a shelter.

That’s a sweet idea. It combines clever messaging with a social cause that lots of people can rally around. And here’s the true beauty of it-the ads never mention Pedigree. You can practically hear traditional marketers and PR people screaming in their conference rooms.

“We need to mention the product name within the first 5.6 seconds, and we need to repeat no less than 6.2 times during the spot.”

Really? How about create memorable messages that provide value? Do that, and people will remember your name.

The lesson for marketers is simple. Be different. Be unusual.

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