Unicorn-icopia of Marketing Silliness

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Is it just me, or are unicorns the next vampires? The mythical horned beasts have been popping up all over lately.

On the big screen, Buttercup the Unicorn joined Woody, Buzz and the rest of the crew earlier this month in Disney’s box office champ Toy Story 3 while a unicorn-obsessed little girl is one of the characters in the upcoming Despicable Me. Last week, the chuckleheads at ThinkGeek were slapped with a cease and desist order over their Unicorn Meat product, an April Fool’s joke that started selling as a gag gift. The product calls itself “the new white meat” and the Pork Board – you know, the folks selling “the other white meat” – failed to see the humor in ThinkGeek’s fake food item. Sparkly meat aside, animators, marketers and jokesters are employing everybody’s favorite magical horse to help sell products and provide giggles online.

There are dozens of YouTube series featuring unicorns and even tons of online t-shirt companies screening the little critters on anything that will stand still. But the Golden Unicorn definitely goes to Wrigley’s: Launched way back in April, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit’s Serenading Unicorn continues to be one of the net’s most-talked-about promotions. With a puppet created by the masters at Jim Henson Studios, Juicy Fruit has created one of the silliest and downright bizarre online advertising campaigns that we’ve seen in quite awhile. The Serenading Unicorn is a fluffy puppet that knows how to sing (or lip-sync) heartfelt hits by Culture Club, Michael Bolton and Boys II Men. The concept? Juicy Fruit wants you to send something sweet to somebody you love. Since they haven’t figured out how to send a piece on gum online (yet!), you can send the next best thing – the serenading unicorn. Using the special website or Facebook, lovers of unicorns and soft rock can receive musical serenades from the singing unicorn. The little guy is a huge hit, boasting nearly 60,000 followers on Facebook, and has popped up in trending at Twitter. He even has his own channel at Playlist.com. The supreme goofiness of a unicorn singing “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” while a guy in an owl costume plays guitar is apparently to sweet to resist. The success of Wrigley here is really all about being silly and during the summer it certainly works.

But let’s hear it from you: Are unicorns on the verge of a major comeback? Perhaps you’re more of a Pegasus fan. Can you believe I just wrote 400 words about unicorns? Discuss below!

The Politics of Facebook Pages

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Barack Obama’s successful 2008 presidential bid proved that social media and digital PR are vital to the success of politicians. We have ushered in a new era, one in which politicians and voters connect online for a refreshingly honest dialogue. Now nearly three years since the Change posters took over our towns, Facebook is filled with politicians selling their ideas and looking for votes. There’s just one problem. For the most part, their Facebook pages totally stink.

Take California gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Brown’s page, for example. Less of a ringing endorsement for Brown, the page should be called the “Why Meg Whitman Sucks Page.” Yes, Brown should use his page to respond to competitor Whitman, but not the whole page. Nearly every status update says something about Whitman, signaling that Brown simply is offering the same old mudslinging through new technology. And let’s get one thing clear: Just because you have a Facebook page doesn’t make you hip or “with it.” Brown’s FB copy is so dusty that it might as well have been written in calligraphy on a scroll. His PR peeps aren’t exactly helping with the “he’s too old” image problem. On the plus side, Brown has a cool “Fighting For” page that breaks down his causes. It’s way too wordy, but at least it’s well thought out and gives voters a checklist of his campaign promises.

Whitman scores no love in the FB department, either. Where Brown suffers from being long-winded, Whitman’s page is as vague as eBay product descriptions. What’s she stand for? What’s her experience? Who knows, but she does have photos of her in South Gate and clips of her Spanish radio ad! In a mislabeled section called “Join Meg” we find what her top three priorities are which, when clicking on them, redirect us to her website for more details. This is a belly flop for Whitman; as someone new to big-time politics, who she is and what she wants to do have to be front and center. The biggest shocker here is how flat and uninteresting the whole page is, especially considering the fact that Whitman made her mark with new media. It has zero personality, and for a newcomer, this is a big mistake.

I point this stuff out not to show my utter distaste for modern politics (that’s just a bonus!) but as a learning tool. Politicians like Brown and Whitman are salespeople, plain and simple. Facebook success depends on being concise, engaging and current. Without these components, the tool is misused and more than just not worth the effort – bad social media marketing and PR can be death to a campaign.

Videos that Sell TV, TV that Sells Videos

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Where television ends and where viral videos begin gets harder to determine everyday. TV is using viral video to promote new television shows, while videos are about to be viewed the same way we watch regular television. This week saw the lines between TV and online videos become even blurrier thanks to Google, Oprah and the Muppets.

Google released sneak-peaks into its first retail product, a small receiver box for the much-hyped Google TV. Google TV is the latest in the company’s global media empire. Partnered with Dish Network, the box functions as a gateway to the Internet. Using a traditional remote, the box will pull up your favorite YouTube videos, including your custom-made playlist as well as your email, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The little box may not be much to look at, but the power it wields could open a new world for those looking to bridge the gap between television and the Internet. The exclusive pairing between Google and Dish is set to launch this fall; per usual, exact details on when and how much Google TV will cost are still as vague as every other upcoming Google product.

She may be saying goodbye to hosting daytime television, but Oprah Winfrey isn’t going away. Her OWN (that’s the Oprah Winfrey Network) is set to launch in 2012 so O already is on the hunt for the next TV superstar. Oprah made a video of her own asking viewers to send in audition tapes while America gets to vote. As with all things La Winfrey, some utter hysteria has already erupted over the contest, despite the fact that it isn’t even halfway over. Millions and millions of folks have voted and fan favorites are already established. Zach Anner‘s fans made a stink this week when his numbers dropped, citing a conspiracy to force him to lose. (Anner is a contender with cerebral palsy and a very funny audition video.) The Anner-maniacs have even said that people at OWN have intentionally sabotaged his numbers because “Oprah doesn’t like handicapped” people. Scary No. 1 fan behavior aside, it all proves the point that videos can sell everything. Even people we don’t know.

Lastly, online videos can bring old brands from television back to life. Jim Henson’s Muppets have experienced a bump in popularity over the last few years, thanks to a series of viral videos. The even has a new movie in the works. The latest video, a staring contest between Animal and the drummer from OK Go, is Muppet gold. And a reminder that the classics can live forever, thanks to viral video.

Chasing the Ice Cream Man Online

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Ding! Ding! Cashing in on the current food truck craze while appealing to our sentimental summer memories, some of the most popular purveyors of frozen treats have revived the old school ice cream truck by using social media, online marketing and viral videos.

If ice cream were hip-hop then Good Humor would be the Grandmaster Flash of the dessert world. Good Humor has been the original gangster of on-the-go ice cream since 1920. The company is credited not only for coming up with the idea of the ice cream truck that we recognize today but also was the first company to put ice cream on a stick. So it is fitting that Good Humor is giving away thousands of dollars to lucky stick holders to celebrate its 90th year in business. Chasing the Good Humor Truck is the title of the Facebook page where users can share memories of Good Humor, vote for their favorite treats and get all the details on the 10,000 Winners Sweet Stakes. The contest encourages folks to woof down ice cream bars (like my personal fav, Strawberry Shortcake) in hopes of winning music downloads, t-shirts and $10,000 dollars. The sticks are stamped with “instant winner” messages along with codes to punch in online to so players can collect their goodies. Photos of the trucks from years gone by are on Good Humor’s website while new promotional Good Humor Trucks are making appearances at events all summer long.

Also having a b’day this summer is Dairy Queen’s Blizzard, which turns 25. DQ is knocking posers like the McFlurry in their proper place by pumping up the presence online and on the street. The Blizzard Mobile (or the BlizMo) is going across the U.S. handing out free goodies. Followers on Twitter can find out where the next stop on the tour is while the Facebook page has the deets on coupons and tips on how to win free Blizzards. Facebook also is being employed to RSVP to Blizzard birthday parties all over the states. The whole journey of the BlizMo is being captured on viral video and placed on DQ’s YouTube channel where viewers can see host Chad and other Dairy Queen friends on their soft-serve swirl of a road trip.

Both brands are wisely using social media to convince consumers to leave their houses and spend money. Sweet!

Finding Your Blog Identity

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Blogs have turned into the modern-day version of those bodice-ripping Harlequin romance novels. All the elements are there: the drama, the love stories, the catfights and the fact that what you’re reading may or may not have been written by the lady in the fur coat with the small dog on the back of the book cover. The point is that in today’s blogosphere, some of our favorite reading is actually composed by committee.

Come on. You didn’t really think that there was just one person over at Huffington Post or Tech Crunch burning the midnight oil for your reading pleasure, did you? The best blogs are online magazines are built by villages of folks committed to telling the story in a singular voice. Yet how do we find our blog’s voice? Should we enlist others to help with the heavy lifting?

I was spurred to ask these questions after reading KevinMD.com for what seemed like hours. While I cannot say definitively if the title of “social media’s leading physician voice” is something to be proud of, I can say for sure that Kevin MD has a strong and undeniable voice. Long known for its practical advice straight from the mouths of Kevin and his team of doctor-collaborators, the site currently provides an unheard voice in the debate over health care. In effect, the site now has added a political flavor to an already spicy recipe of science, doctor’s orders and medical breakthroughs. Consistent throughout the blog is the tone. Kevin and Co. is selling a knowledgeable blog that is easy to read and lives up to your expectations. Voices emerge when we blog about our passions and things we have strong opinions on. Blogging for our business should get others excited about our company and services too, right? Our fever for the blog should be contagious; otherwise, maybe we need a career change. Seeking out current topics and new stories that relate to our blog helps us develop strong, relevant blogging identities.

In this case, group blogging is successful. In the recent case of Perez Hilton, not so much. When it comes to blog contributors, think of the New York Times. Rarely is there a guest writer in NYT that stands out like a sore thumb. Contributors for your blog are no different from NYT contributors (except for that high-paid writer thing). They need to be writers who “get it” and are able to speak your blog’s language. Until you can identify such contributors, towing the line yourself remains the best solution.

But what say you, Brandsplat readers? What blogs give great voice? Are you aspiring to be “social media’s leading voice” about something through your blog? And does blogging by committee actually work? Discuss in the comments section!

The Sizzle & Fizzle of Soda Pop

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Corn Syrup is the devil. Diet colas actually make you fat. Soda is the cause of childhood obesity. Blah blah blah. In the worlds of online branding, social media marketing and online advertising, ignorance is bliss when it comes to promoting America’s favorite fizzy beverages. Sure, they’ve taken some major PR hits in the past decade. But if you were to glance at soda companies’ online presence, you’d think everything was hunky dory. The publicity and promotional value of online marketing is not lost on the likes of Coke and Pepsi, and therefore every avenue has to been put into play in hopes of turning the carbonated tide of public opinion.

Pepsi has received kudos for its overhaul of Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew (or White Trash Red Bull, as it is called in certain circles) went right to social media marketing to give its trailer park image a boost. The company had big success with its “DEWmocracy” promotion, which allowed online visitors to vote for their favorite new flavor. So popular was the promotion that the company once again let the public decide on a new flavor, and the numbers this time around are even more impressive. According to an interview with Mountain Dew marketing guru Brett O’Brien in Adweek, the company has seen an increase of nearly 800,000 Facebook fans since June 2009. Consumers voted online, via text message and on social media sites. The winner? MTN Dew White Out, a clear version of the neon green, highly-caffeinated soda. Pepsi deserves a pat on the back for taking Mountain Dew out of the gutter and back on the minds of young soda drinkers.

Maybe they could help out the folks at Diet Coke. If there ever were a beverage that suffered a groin kick it would be Diet Coke. DC, the ’90s drink for models trying to get off cocaine, has been in a slump thanks in large part to bad press and a stagnant image problem. Sadly, despite Coca-Cola’s best efforts, the brand seems stuck in an era gone by. The website tries to imitate a health-conscious sort of lifestyle magazine with recipes and a video series aimed at the US Magazine crowd. It’s a clunky, slow-moving website with a flatter taste than a Fresca left out in the sun. Facebook and Twitter are in play, but again, they aren’t really being fully explored so it’s hard to say how effective they are.

Still, it appears that all soda companies are doing something right. Time magazine reported last week that sales are up 2.5% for the first time in five years. But let’s hear from you, Popheads. Spill you favorite guilty pleasure soda or gripe about bad beverage ideas in the comments section below!