Archive | May, 2008

Hung-over and Under 30. New Audience?

26 May

Over this past weekend I watched a few too many hours of television. Many of my favorite shows are accompanied by commercials that target the audience of a single 20 to 30 year old who has late nights out on the town.

Personally, with graduation on the horizon and job hunting lurking around the corner, I usually do not like to associate myself with this crowd. To my surprise this crowd has a large following; companies like Dunkin Donuts and Mountain Dew are targeting this very audience in a very interesting way.

Both Dunkin Donuts and Amp Energy Drink from Mountain Dew share a core message:  Our product is the answer to your rough night.

Dunkin Donuts is promoting a new coffee drink to help get through a day after the “all night blowout.” Their commercial shows a few roommates cleaning up their house after a party while singing the lyrics, “all night blowout.” The roommates get through the cleaning while drinking a Dunkin Donuts beverage.

Amp Energy Drink also uses a musical number in their commercial that displays a large crowd joining together in the “walk of no shame” while sipping on their Amp Energy Drink. They also sing repeatedly that they “will not be ashamed” even though, as the commercial implies, they’ve made a few mistakes while under the influence.

These commercials give birth to a new target audience. Both products use actors of similar age, 20 to 30 years of age, and communicate the message of helping those “tired” after a hard night. I predict that many companies will be targeting this audience more and more. I just hope they will shy away from this trashy message and show these energy drinks as ways to help students study or business people prep before a presentation; that would be much more positive.

What other campaigns are currently targeting those under 30 years of age and in need of a hang-over cure?

Above the Influences

26 May is another important factor when creating a “sticky” message. A story with details is more believable than a story without. Chapter four of Made To Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, explains that “concrete details don’t just lend credibility to the authorities who provide them; they lend credibility to the idea itself.”

When stories are absent of details it leaves the audience with unanswered questions. A prime example of this is with the “Above the Influence” public service announcements. The two psa’s that stand out for this are “The Conversation” and “Sent.” Both psa’s feature a young adults on their cell phones talking to their friend about the other night. Each person is shocked to find out about their behavior from their friend.

The audience never is told what happened the night before or why the young adult cannot remember about their own behavior.

Now, I understand that these commercials leave out details to get people thinking but leaving things up for interpretation can get the message confused. A message without details is at risk of not being communicated. After viewing these psa’s, the audience may think that perhaps the young adults were absent minded or maybe they just fell and bumped their head that night. If this is so, then the message is completely lost.

Why not get straight to the point? The issue of teenage drug abuse is very important and needs to be clearly communicated, don’t you think?

Abstract Messages

26 May art uses shapes and colors to represent a message. The painting, shown left, resembles a face, however, we cannot determine whether the face is of a man or a woman.

Messages can also sometimes be abstract. Chapter three of Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, explains how concrete language is important to creating a sticky message. A message must be clear and easy to understand for people to remember it. Being able to glance over a message and quickly understand the point ables the concept of “stickiness.”

As I was going over some fashion Web sites I stumbled upon a message that uses abstract language. It’s hard to be creative with language when communicating a message and this is why “concrete” language is important. uses abstract language that connects to a link:

“You’ve found where the industry insider holds court over the who’s who in fashion. Get clued in with all the news that’s fit to hint.”

After reading this, could you have guessed it was talking about a link to a fashion magazine? The phrase “fit to hint” is not easily understood and is definitely not some

This whole message was a hyper link that took you to Hint Fashion Magazine. Now, I understand that was trying to be clever and creative but I had no idea what I was getting myself into once I clicked my mouse.

I propose to improve this message: “Hint Fashion Magazine. Looking for the latest fashion news and trends? Get the Hint.” This would be concrete and still clever.

Woo, Stick or Tip

14 May

“Woo,” “Stick” and “Tip” are all words used to describe successful pitching. There are many great how-to books on ways to win over an audience. As public relations practitioners, we are constantly trying to find the best way to communicate key messages. Tiffany Derville mentioned in my Advanced PR Writing class that being able to express your key message is crucial to public relations.

The Art of Woo, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, discusses how to use strategic persuasion to sell ideas. “Woo” is a fun way of describing the act of winning someone over. I enjoy that the authors give specific steps on how “woo” works. Step one is to survey your situation, which reminds me of a situation analysis section of a public relations plan. Step two is to confront the barriers, which then reminds me of a problem statement. Step three and four discuss how to make your pitch and secure your commitments.

Made to Stick, which we are reading in my Advanced PR Writing class by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, explores the sustainability of message and ideas. This book is a wonderful compliment to The Art of Woo because it gives the reader tools to keep an idea constantly communicated and explains why other ideas “die.” Made to Stick breaks stickiness down into six principles; the first two are my favorite. Principle one is simplicity. A message needs to be easy to remember by the audience. Principle two is unexpectedness, which is my personal favorite. When someone is taken by surprised they listen. Even a pleasant surprise, rather than shock value, is still “unexpectedness.”

Selling ideas with strategic persuasion and making them stick is all proven in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. He shares stories of ideas and products that have been able to “tip” into our lives and create moment for change. I’ve actually never “read” this book, however, I have listened to it on tape. During my drive to Seattle, Wash., I could picture all of the “tipping points” that Gladwell describes in his book. The Hush Puppies story is my personal favorite and I encourage everyone to read or listen to this entertaining and educating book.

So whether you are “tipping,” “wooing” or “sticking,” remember to always keep your audience and key message in mind.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

12 May

Currently, I am enrolled in Tiffany Derville’s Advanced PR Writing class at the University of Oregon. This week our class learned how to write shareholder letters. It became particularly interesting to notice differences in the executive’s photographs after reviewing several from Target, Chiquita and Disney.

Each executive had a completely different look to their style of dress and expression. For example, Chiquita’s Chairman and CEO, Fernando Aguirre, looks very accessible with his friendly smile and country-club style of dress in the 2005 annual report. Aguirre makes you feel happy to be a shareholder with his arms down by his side and one hand in his pant pocket. Even his body language gives you the impression that he’ll jump out of the paper and hand over your financial returns on the spot.

Chiquita’s 2005 annual report lends a positive image to the reader with it’s use of bright colors and a happy-go-lucky CEO. Surprisingly, Disney’s annual report gave me a completely different impression than Chiquita. Robert A. Iger’s “paparazzi” photo expresses a boastful attitude; he is almost too good to even acknowledge the shareholders he addresses in the letter. Iger is dressed in a tuxedo on the red carpet looking away from the camera with a smile. I wonder what their public relations team was thinking? Did they have a time crunch at the last minute? Maybe they entirely forgot about a photo and stuck one in before printing? The audience always needs to be addressed in the letter as well as in the author’s picture.

In any case, as public relations practitioners, we need to remember that a picture really is worth a thousand words and evokes emotion. The CEO’s picture can overpower the letter and leave a huge impression even if the shareholder letter is upbeat and friendly.

Electric Shock

5 May

Shock the people and they will listen. Isn’t that how it is in every situation? I believe it is. The moment people are shocked, the moment people turn their attention to the situation. This is true for the latest Vanity Fair scandal and Kate Moss’ new lingerie advertisements. 

Pictures of Miley Cyrus, taken by the famed Annie Liebovitz, raised so many moral questions and sparked so much interest. All of the energy has brought the attention to Vanity Fair magazine. It’s true, bad press really is good press.

The Cut, New York Magazine’s fashion blog, interviewed former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown. She comments,  “I just thought, ‘There Annie [Liebovitz] goes again! Driving up sales!'” she said. “I saw her here tonight and I congratulated her. I said, ‘Great job. Now just put one of those out every quarter.’ It’s terrific for newsstand and it gets Si [Newhouse] off your back.”

Another celebrity perfect for the use of shock value is Kate Moss. The model is always all popular in the blogosphere, including and The Cut. Her name alone is tied to numerous scandals and now she is in the midst of another “haute” topic. The Cut describes that the new Agent Provocateur bridal ad campaign features Moss in controversial circumstances where she, the bride, is shot in a “red underwear holding slices of wedding cake looking like she’d just trampled a pair of popes.”

Agent Provocateur’s co-founder Joe Corre “wanted to express his views on marriage and the Vatican: ‘For me, the idea of marriage, of two people committing to one another, is incredibly beautiful. But at a certain point you hand over the control of that to a different organisation, to something that is disconnected, whether it’s the Church or, if it’s a civil wedding, the Government. I think perhaps people should question that because what if the authority concerned is corrupt and its intentions are not as pure as the ones you had in the first place?'”

Even though many people disagree with controversial campaigns it sure looks like a good way to go. From a public relations standpoint this does usually does not help to connect with your target audience, however, it creates a strong presence. What do you think about using shock as a strategy?