Tag Archives: Branding

What’s the Buzz about Buzz Marketing?

Buzz Marketing is not a new marketing technique for getting the word out about your product or service. Simply put, buzz marketing is the practice of having volunteers try what you are selling, then having them create a “buzz” about it by chatting about their experience with the people they interact with in their daily lives. With the addition of the internet and social media, creating exciting buzz campaigns can be sensational or engaging.

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This type of marketing is a word-of-mouth technique on steroids, and sometimes great campaigns go viral and the buzz-maker’s opinions become very influential. According to University of Pennsylvania’s Marketing Professor Jerry Wind, “People recognize the power of word-of-mouth in convincing, influencing, affecting consumer behavior, since it has more credibility than traditional advertising. But, it’s a fairly recent development for companies to try to create a structure around the practice, to harness and direct the way that word-of-mouth spreads — and to attempt to measure its effect on sales once the ‘campaign’ is complete”.

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When depending on people to engage with potential consumers by talking about, posting opinions about or blogging for companies to influence purchasing behaviors, ethics may become an issue for some. The Ford Focus Buzz Marketing campaign discussed as a fine example of buzz marketing included giving volunteers a “free” Ford Focus for 6 months in exchange for the promise to engage with potential consumers. I believe that Ford walked a fine line between what is ethical and not with their Focus campaign.

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According to Automotive News, “the 2014 Fiesta campaign will recruit 100 people in May and give them a new Fiesta for a year to create digital content about the vehicle, including tweets, blogs, photos and videos to be shared via social media. Ford calls these people influencers. But this time, the influencers — not Ford’s ad agency, WPP’s Team Detroit — will generate all ideas and content used in traditional advertising”. This strategy depends on the belief that consumer behavior is shaped and influenced by peers and other consumers.

What was the result of this campaign? According to Gearoid McKendrick at UCD Dublin, the campaign received 6.5 million YouTube views, 6,500 follower on Twitter and 3 million Twitter impressions. There were 540,000 views on Flickr, over 15,000 fans on Facebook and almost 1 million Google search results for ‘The Fiesta Movement’. 27,000 blog posts were created and pre –launch awareness of the Fiesta rose to 37% among 16 – 24 year-olds. Most importantly Ford received 50,000 requests for information about the Fiesta in the first 6 days of sale. 97% of these leads did not own a Ford car. Very impactful!

With these tactics in mind, one of the best buzz marketing campaigns out there today is the Syfy channel’s Igniters campaign. This oft-laughed-at, science-fiction-based television channel has grown and expanded into a massive imagination based interactive conglomerate. Syfy now includes all manner of engagement: Interactive TV programming, interactive websites, mobile apps, videos, games, blogs, social media sites which pushes the limits of imagination, science, tech, art & design and creativity. The Igniters campaign seeks and finds early adopters, influencers and the coolest of the coolest fans of Syfy who they all igniters.

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According to the Syfy website, in conjunction with marketing firm PSFK, in order to become an  Igniter, one must be passionate in three areas:

  • FINDING THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything, from nutrition and diet to electronics
  • DOING THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing such as new stores, styles, drinks and food
  • SHOWING THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say, whether it’s financial matters to car buying

People who are chosen to be Syfy Igniters are not paid promoters, but influential advocates for the Syfy brand. According to the Syfy Igniters website, Syfy hopes that “by opening doors to new ideas, and opening eyes to thrilling new perspectives, Igniters will make the unbelievable…believable”.

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Igniters influence viewer/consumer behavior by posting opinions, promoting programming ideas, sparking trends, blogging and engaging with other Syfy fans. Since its debut in 2012, Syfy reports that Igniter’s “insatiable need to be in the know and to tell others about it” has created an undeniable buzz within the Syfy community and beyond. This direct engagement solidifies the relationship between brand and consumer, and today the campaign is strong and vibrant, just like the Igniters. An effective buzz marketing campaign indeed.

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Of course, ethics should always play a part in who influences who and how. Since this campaign does not monetarily compensate their Igniters, and it is the pure joy of the power of influence that drives these brand advocates, opinions and ideas should be looked at from that point of view. Brand advocates do not usually post anything negative, so the people engaging with Igniters should keep that in mind. Is the Syfy Igniters campaign ethical? Yes, I believe it is, as long as there is full disclosure on who they are and what their objectives are, everyone involved will be happy.

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Competitive Intelligence: Is it Ethical?

Competitive intelligence (CI) is very important in the fast-paced world of business. According to the Entrepreneur website, CI essentially means “understanding and learning what’s happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible. It means learning as much as possible-as soon as possible-about your industry in general, your competitors, or even your county’s particular zoning rules. In short, it empowers you to anticipate and face challenges head on”.

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Key points of this definition, as pointed out by Stephen Haag, author of Management Information Systems for the Information Age:

  1. Competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal business practice, as opposed to industrial espionage, which is illegal.
  2. The focus is on the external business environment.
  3. There is a process involved in gathering information, converting it into intelligence and then utilizing this in business decision making. Some CI professionals erroneously emphasize that if the intelligence gathered is not usable, or actionable, then it is not intelligence.

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Ethics does come into play since there is a fine line between using the intelligence you have gleaned illegally or not-so legally. Using information that was gathered legally through many sources, like Spyfu, SEMRush, Ispionage and KeywordSpy are considered legal, since it is public knowledge you are researching and getting analytics about. Illegal information gathering and usage includes exploitation and exposure of trade secrets.

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Take the case of the five HTC employees who used competitive intelligence to learn how to better use their technology to meet the needs of their clients. They used external information to create a new product to gain a better share of the saturated and highly competitive smart phone market for HTC. Little did HTC know that these five employees planned on taking this intelligence, along with trade secrets to “start their own design firm, and had been showing-off internal projects – supposedly resources from the upcoming Sense 6.0 – as a way to demonstrate their creative portfolio to investors”, as reported by Pocketnow.com.

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 It seems that these highly-respected designers and engineers took the external intelligence they gathered to the extreme, and thought they could use that information, in combination with what they knew to be HTC trade secrets to best the company they worked for. The Pocketnow.com website reported that they even went further by “embezzling more than one million dollars, submitting phony expense reports and fraudulent supplier invoices”. They were all arrested and HTC is tight-lipped about what secrets were absconded.

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 In the end, competitive intelligence is very important in the business world. How else would any company be able to be competitive without knowing what their competitors are doing, what external factors of their industry may affect their decisions and how to act upon the information gleaned. Just make sure that ethics are in the fore-front before jumping ship and going the illegal and unethical route.

 

Jaime’s Restaurant: A Hidden Gem

Hunting for a hidden gem, I went to Jaime’s Restaurant located in the beautiful and historic Davis & Furber Mills at 25 High Street in North Andover, Mass. On my  visit there, I had the pleasure of talking with one of the owners, Jaime Faria, who has tirelessly run the restaurant with business partner Wally Santos since November 2010. Along with its collaborative and fresh menu, dedicated staff, cool-vibe atmosphere and great beers on tap, Jaime’s Restaurant is well worth seeking out.

Jaime's Blackboards

As you work your way inside the refurbished machine shop mill to Jaime’s, you are met with high, industrial ceilings and brick and mortar walls, evidence of the wool industry in North Andover that lasted from the late-1800s until the 1980s. Sprinkled throughout the restaurant hang giant blackboards with colorful chalk displays of the menu and specials offered. An inviting atmosphere.

Jaime's Deck

The main dining room has casual seating with a semi-private area for special events or parties, but the bar is the star! As you walk past the open kitchen, the bar wraps around the large  room with seating for dozens of customers. Rock music plays at a conversational level and there are several TV’s to catch the game of the day. There’s even outdoor seating for warmer weather dining, which is nestled in between brick buildings.

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Although the restrooms are in a common area, the view of the original machine shop gears and flywheels painted bright red adds to the appeal of the building and the restaurant’s ambiance.

        nbt aleJaime's Potatoes

 When I sat down at the bar, I was met with a bowl of handmade potato chips served with a tangy and addictive chipotle-ranch dressing. I munched on the kettle-style chips as I cruised the menu, which is changed seasonally.

Jaime's Rolls My choice for food included Sesame Crusted Tuna Ahi, Vegetable Spring Rolls and Chicken Tinga Quesadillas, served with a cold and delicious Newburyport Pale Ale. The Tuna Ahi was thickly cut with generous slices cooked perfectly, served with an Asian slaw and wasabi. A liberal portion of spring rolls was crispy with snappy veggies inside, along with a tasty ginger dipping sauce. The quesadilla was grilled and large enough for three with succulent chicken, spinach and blended cheeses melted together in harmony, dotted with a cilantro crema. Delightful.

Jaime's Beer

North Andover has many dining establishments to choose from, as well as a few good hang-outs for locals, but none compares to the coolness of this well-loved place. The deck will be open in the spring, and I am looking forward to going back to dine outside under the stars and to converse with the regulars. I suggest the next time you are looking for a hidden gem, no matter what season, think of Jaime’s Restaurant. You will not be disappointed.

Calvin Klein Ads: Too Hot for the Public?

When I think of advertising that stretches the limits of what is decent, I think of the Calvin Klein brand. In Australia, public billboards portraying carnal activities or mostly naked models are banned. Some can understand why. Several advertising campaigns in the last few years alone have raised a lot of eyebrows: CK

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  ck 3 There are scenes of sexuality in various state of action with more than one partner at a time, where lines are blurred and the brand is displayed in a very overt way.

Personally, this type of advertising does not offend me. The heavily-sexual overtones, the erotic innuendo and aggressive themes of the advertising is shocking to most, which is the objective of these real “attention-getters”. Look closely at each ad, and you may find hidden clues to the intention of the participants in the ad.

It is widely known that sex sells, and some of Calvin Klein’s ads are hot, sexy and alluring. It is just what the Calvin Klein brand wants their target consumer (14 to 50 years olds who
desires modern fashion forward products) to think of when they think of Calvin Klein. It is intriguing to see a brand accept alternative lifestyle choices, however, these type of ads should be thought of as provocative and controversial, since they are, and left to adults to ponder, admire and/or repel in a less public setting.

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However, as a proponent of the First Amendment, it is Constitutional to advertise your brand as you see fit, as long as it is legal. Moral advertising is a much grayer area, however. What is considered proper by some may be thought of as offensive by others. Displaying a giant billboard of any of the ads shown in this post could be considered depraved, since young eyes may view these sexually-charged ads. Many people agree with this view, since Calvin Klein has had massive push-back from the public at large where public and massive billboards were exposed in New York City (and as previously mentioned, banned in other places).

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So why would the Calvin Klein brand insist on displaying an advertisement that will certainly bring negative responses from the public at large? In advertising,  the old adage rings true…”there’s no such thing as bad publicity” – which is the same as “any publicity is good publicity”. Controversy is contagious and memorable. Calvin Klein is making use of sex to sell their brand through their advertising, using both traditional and digital methods, and they are doing it very well.

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A browse through the Calvin Klein website and a visitor will find a section where the “average” CK underwear-wearer can post their own photos. A giant billboard also pushes the #mycalvins hashtag feed to everyone who passes by, the very same billboard that is banned in Australia. But talk about acceptance and engagement within their target group (and beyond), since hundreds of photos are posted and shared.

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Calvin Klein has embraced on-the-edge advertising,  just as other companies have, like Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana, using sex and suggestion to solidify their brand and sell product. If popularity of Calvin Klein continues to grow, stimulating and controversial ads will continue be made and displayed in public, too hot or not, for the public outcry against the brand has not been as strong as the positive reception with its consumers.

Hershey’s Nuggets Dilemma

Hershey’s Nuggets Dilemma 

Recently, two friends of mine opened a bag of Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment, looking for their personal favorites. I listened to the two of them as they had a hard time finding their much-loved chocolate nuggets, which was intriguing. This is where the ensuing dilemma unfolded over the next hour or so about Hershey’s marketing flaw, and ultimately, their packaging mistake.

My two friends were a (albeit small) focus group for this particular Hershey’s product. Set out on the table was the contents of the Hershey’s Nugget Assortment bag, with four little piles of nuggets clustered together. There are four different types of chocolate nuggets in this assortment bag: Milk Chocolate, Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Almonds, and Special Dark Chocolate with Almonds.

For almost an hour I listened to the two of them talk about the quality of the chocolate, their favorite flavors offered and what they would like to see in the assortment, as well as why Hershey’s decided to put such similar wrappers on the four different chocolates in an assortment bag. This is where my marketing ears really perked up and I had to see for myself what they were talking about.

Upon closer inspection, they were right. The two girls separated the chocolates into piles because they could not discern between the flavors by simply looking at the wrapper.  A marketing flaw was being exposed: the company did not do enough consumer research to know that the packaging was confusing and not well-liked, as least not by these two Hershey’s lovers. My friends stressed that the chocolate is awesome, a great two-bite piece of joy, but finding her favorite flavor wasn’t easy when looking into the bag. Here’s a photo of the four different nuggets:

                                         HERSHEY NUGGETS ASSORTMENT

As you can see, three of the chocolates are in gold wrappers, with the Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds and Milk Chocolate with Almonds almost indistinguishable from each other, unless you carefully inspect the tiny writing up close. Only the silver-wrapped Milk Chocolate is discernible from the rest.

Looking at both my friends sitting with their glasses at the edge of their noses, trying to read the wrapper to put the chocolates in the right pile…what a site! I thought to myself, this is a packaging mistake that came out of a marketing flaw. Even the colors associated with the chocolates on the exterior bag didn’t match the chocolate’s wrappers on the inside…see Red, Orange, Silver and White on the exterior of the bag:

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Unless the consumer speaks up and lets the company know that they love the chocolates, but the wrappers need to distinguishable (without offending them), how can this mistake be changed? What a dilemma.

I chose to go the proactive consumer route and write this to let Hershey’s know that their Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment chocolates are loved, but their packaging is not. And as a writer of the Wilder side of marketing, I suggest adding a bit of pizzazz to the wrappers:

Milk Chocolate:

METALLIC SILVER

Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds:

METALLIC GOLD

Milk Chocolate with Almonds:

METALLIC BLUE

Special Dark Chocolate with Almonds:

METALLIC RED

Once the color scheme (whether it is with these four metallic colors or four other easily identifiable colors), the color theme needs to be carried through onto the exterior packaging as an assortment bag or when sold separately so everything is cohesive. Confusion gone, consumer happy.

In the end, my two friends will not stop buying or enjoying Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment bags, but until the packaging is changed, consumer confusion will remain.

Bravo Avocado!

 I love avocados. They are my favorite fruit. Creamy and buttery with a subtle but complex earthy flavor. Delicious. When I was younger, I used get so excited when the dark, ripe fruits were available in my local market, after waiting months during the winter absence. Oh the joy of those first few fabulous fruits of the season. That was twenty years ago and a lot has changed since then. Today, thanks to the year-round growing season in Mexico and the creation of the Haas Avocado Board in 2002, these tasty little darlings are available to the average shopper any time of year.

Although I am a big fan of the succulent fruit, not everyone enjoys eating them.  It has been a challenge creating new ways of incorporating the wonderful avocado into my weekly meal plans that are appealing and tasty. Usually avocados are relegated to the role of guacamole side-kick or chip-dip. The new animated commercial from the AvocadosFromMexico.com created a cute dancing avocado TV commercial to show that avocados can be eaten for BREAKFAST:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7fte/avocados-from-mexico-rise-and-shine

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Now, I have been eating avocados for breakfast for many years, like millions of people world-wide. But for those who never thought of eating avocados in anything else but guacamole, this sticks-in-your-mind, pretty ditty sends home the message to try something simple like avocados on wheat toast with a little salt for breakfast. It is just wonderful marketing.

At the end of the 15 second spot, the call to action is to visit avocadosfrommexico.com website, which I did to check out their other marketing efforts. They have nutritional information, extensive recipe listing, prep tips and delicious celebrity guest shots (read: Mario Lopez), all promoting the greatness that is the avocado.

If this short but sweet TV spot can change one person’s mind to try an avocado, either for breakfast or by itself, then it has done its job. I personally think that this type of marketing will broaden the reach and awareness of the amazing avocado, and sharpen focus on the Avocados from Mexico brand. Bravo avocado!

I was motivated to write about the effective ad and post my favorite breakfast recipe in solidarity with other avocado lovers everywhere. These easy to make Popeyes are delicious and good for you. ..give them a try!

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Scrumptious Avo Popeyes

  • Per person:
  • 3 slices fresh, ripe avocado
  • 2 slices cooked bacon (preferably maple flavor
  • 1 slice of your favorite bread
  • 1 large egg, 1 slice ripe tomato (preferably plum)
  • A few baby spinach leaves
  • Butter spray
  • ———————-
  • With each piece of bread, remove a half-dollar size hole (set aside holes for another use).
  • Put some spray in a skillet and turn up to medium heat.
  • Put the bread (with a hole in it) in the skillet to toast.
  • While the bread is toasting, crack open an egg and gently drop it into the hole in the bread.
  • Once bread is toasted, gently flip over to cook the egg on the other side.
  • Remove from the skillet when the egg is done and place on a plate, egg side up.
  • On top of the egg, put a few baby spinach leaves.
  • On top of the spinach, place a slice of tomato.
  • On top of the tomato, put 2 slices of bacon.
  • And the best part…place 3 slices of avocado on top of the whole Popeye.
  • Eat and Enjoy!

 

Old Spice: Thank Your Grandpa!

Old Spice.  An iconic American brand recognized world-wide and loved by generations of loyal customers. Since 1938, Old Spice has been worn by millions of men and adored by millions of women. One whiff of the original Classic Old Spice scent, and I am instantly transported back into time, for both my Dad and Grandpa wore the Old Spice Cologne. I can pick out the smell of Classic Old Spice in a crowd, for it lives up to its reputation (and its self-described aroma), as a “clean, masculine scent”.

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In my household, my husband and two sons all use Old Spice products, namely the deodorant and body wash product lines. The other day, I happened to catch a glance at the back of a Classic Old Spice deodorant container to see the inconspicuous banner announcement: “IF YOUR GRANDFATHER HADN’T WORN IT, YOU WOULDN’T EXIST”.  Well,  then…“Thank You, Grandpa”!

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This boastful pronouncement not only caught my attention, but struck me to be as assertive and confident as the men who use Old Spice. It is well-known that Old Spice marketing have bold, out-of the-ordinary and memorable advertising. Who can forget the “MOMSONG”? Or the “Man on a Horse” spot? These ads are elements of a grand campaign design that elicits a consistent message that is a mix of tongue-in-cheek hubris and manly pride.  Curious, I decided to delve deeper into their marketing efforts.

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When visiting the Old Spice website, you are met with an in-your-face ad showcasing the very buff and manly Terry Crews in a fight with a mini-manly Crews whisker on his face. Another effort to combine humor with you MUST pay attention to me message. It’s weird, but it works. Just like their self-proclamations you find when checking out he Classic Old Spice product line. The theme of longevity is applauded with the tagline “It will still be around, even after Nuclear fallout” while reiterating that Classic Old Spice Cologne helped the world procreate and prosper. Classic is right!

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Continuity abounds, right down to the pop-ups that push the manly-to-the-max and proud of it theme with “Make Your Eyeballs Smell Good” , or “Let Our Server Make Love to Your Computer” CTA tags for their Videos and Downloads sections. Their social media reach is extensive and popular, with several platforms engaging deeply with fans and followers, all while promoting their manly appeal and impressive product lines. Every channel purports the same message of smelling good while doing manly things is OK!                                                                              old spice 7

In the end, the very creative and effective marketing campaigns Old Spice foists upon the world may not appeal to everyone, but the people who appreciate this audacious approach can also relate to the themes they exploit. So, the next time you smell or wear an Old Spice product, be grateful you are alive and remember to thank your Grandpa!

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KFC Chicken Corsage…Why Stop There?

As I prepared for my son’s Senior Prom, I started looking on the internet for a corsage for his date. I came across one of the funniest and most intriguing corsages I have ever seen: The KFC Chicken Corsage.

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Yes, that’s right! A corsage that is made with a chicken drumstick as the centerpiece. The two-minute advertisement that promotes this new item is purposely awkward as the pretty date receives an “Original Recipe” drumstick, surrounded by baby’s breath on a wristlet. The girl replies that the corsage “smells so good”.  Oh my!  Too funny.  At the prom, when the boy closes in on the girl for a kiss, she leans over and takes a bite out of the drumstick corsage instead. It is a quirky, but very creative marketing stunt!

The Kentucky based KFC joined forces with local florist Nanz and Kraft to create the Limited Edition KFC Chicken Corsage for a mere $20.00, which is less than what the smallest wristlet corsage cost in my neighborhood. Don’t fret…if your date prefers Extra Crispy or Grilled Chicken, it can be made! How is it possible that the chicken will be fresh? When you order the corsage, it comes as a kit. According to the florist’s website:

“Chicken not included (duh.). Each corsage kit includes a $5 KFC gift check, so you can customize your corsage with Original Recipe, Extra Crispy or Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Whichever best matches her dress. Local corsages will have fresh baby’s breath and out-of-town corsages will have silk baby’s breath.”

 Choosing chicken that “best matches her dress” is a riot! The language is consistent between the florist’s website and KFC’s, with a tongue-in-cheek tone. As of today, the first 100 Limited Edition KFC Chicken Corsages were SOLD OUT. A second batch of 100 is now available “due to the popularity of poultry”.  Whew! I was worried for a moment.

 

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This effective marketing campaign got me thinking about how KFC can expand on the edible prom accessories theme. Maybe next year they can offer a KFC French Fry Boutonniere, the KFC Chicken Tenders Necklace with Dipping-Sauce Locket, cool KFC Hot Wings Earrings, or perhaps the KFC Biscuit Bowtie.  This way both boys AND girls can eat their accoutrements.

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Why stop there? KFC can propose a KFC-Wrapper Prom Dress Contest. You know…the best dress made with KFC food wrappers will get an all-expenses paid prom night. People who are talented enough to make a dress out of KFC wrappers would go crazy for a contest like that. Talk about exposure.

Or KFC can expand into edible arrangements for proms, weddings and special events. Can you imagine a giant edible chicken finger arrangement, dotted with other KFC products on a stick, as the centerpiece? If a chicken corsage sells out, then why not expand on the idea to include other ways to sell KFC products. It is way-out concepts like this that made the KFC Chicken Corsage a success.

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If KFC would like to hear some more of my possible marketing ideas, I am open and willing to work with KFC’s Marketing Agency: Quantum Communications (QtheAgency), or with KFC themselves. I like their Wilder way of thinking!

Dine Out Boston! Restaurant Week Continues

In Boston and surrounding suburbs, 200-ish restaurants take part in the Restaurant Week promotion run by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Twice a year, for two weeks of weekdays in March and August, participating restaurants offer fixed-priced meals. For the last 13 years, this promotion has run successfully. According to the sponsored website for Boston’s Restaurant Week, after a much-needed makeover, the name changed to Dine Out Boston.

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This year, a new feature was added to the promotion. Three pricing tiers are offered: Lunch $15/$20/$25 and Dinner $28/$33/$38. This expands the promotion’s reach into a larger consumer market with more affordable choices at Greater Boston top restaurants. That is good news for participating restaurants to get greater exposure, and good news for foodies that can now afford to sample some of Boston’s finest cuisines.

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Dine Out Boston has also joined with the Freedom Trail Foundation as a charitable partner. All participating restaurants donate $100 gift certificates that are auctioned off through DOBauction.com to benefit programs run by the Foundation which creates the “most successful ideas for how to experience American history”. A copacetic arrangement.

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One other benefit for diners is the American Express bonus offer. Each enrolled card receives a $5 credit on any purchase over $21. An easy task with a lunch for two at one of the many choice restaurants participating. Offerings include many different cuisines in Boston and surrounding towns, all of which are sure to delight.

Getting word out about the promotion is spread through the Restaurant Week Boston website, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a  very funny YouTube video, Google +  and Instagram accounts, Pinterest interest and a huba-huba blog.

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This blog links readers to frequently updated content and encourages comments and interaction. Since the promotion is currently ongoing (March 16-21 & 23-28), the social media penetration is deep and engaging.

For all those who always wanted to get a taste of spectacular cooking from some of the finest chefs in Boston at can’t-pass-up prices, give Restaurant Week a try. Dine Out Boston!

 

Helpless but not Hopeless

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Faced with the challenge of connecting two films that have wildly diverse themes: Isolation from human interaction and digital interaction overload, I settled in for a night of movie watching and note taking. To represent the theme of isolation, the film Life of Pi was chosen. To represent the theme of interaction overload, the movie The Internship was on deck. What I experienced that night made me laugh, cry and in the end, left me with the belief that just because you are helpless, it doesn’t mean that you are hopeless.

The main character of the Life of Pi is a boy named Piscine “Pi” Patel. Pi overcame bullying and religious confusion during his primary school years, to become a young man who “just wanted to love God”.  While growing up on the family Zoo in India, he was a Hindu vegetarian who recognized parts of the Islam and Christian religions to love God in his own way. The sale of the Zoo and transport of the animals, one of which included a special Tiger named Richard Parker, and Pi’s family to Canada on a Japanese tanker, resulted in a life changing experience.

A shipwreck caused the Japanese tanker to sink. Pi found himself adrift in a lifeboat with a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena and an orangutan. Soon, the hyena attacked the other animals, as hyenas would normally do in the wild, only to be eaten by Richard Parker the Bengal Tiger, who was hiding under the lifeboat’s tarp. I wiped away tears as I watched this poignant and mesmerizing film unfold. Pi felt helpless when he realized that he was stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a man-killing Tiger. But was he hopeless? No.

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Switching gears to The Internship film, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as salesmen co-workers, I also wiped away tears, but from laughter. These two forty-something salesmen lost their sales job when the watch company they worked for went out of business. In desperate need of employment, they realized needed to be part of the new digital era. An application for an internship at Google accepted by the Google panel when the men used an “out-of-the-box” method of thinking. I thought to myself, they were employing traditional sales tactics of changing a negative into a positive with genuine enthusiasm. Funny interview and well done. They were on their way to Google.

Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) quickly finds out how complex and competitive the new digital era is with strange, new rules. What do you mean you can’t take home from work salsa, chips, pudding, sushi, ice cream and pizza? No drinking with the boss? Or dating co-workers? Very funny Green Paddle, Red Paddle scene. Predictably, the weird old guys were left out when voluntary groups were assembled, along with other (more) geeky interns. These quirky salesmen felt helpless amongst this group of young, misfit techies. But were they hopeless? No.

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In both movies, although they are grossly different, they did share a common thread: overcoming adversity. Hope, perseverance, determination and sheer will motivated the men to survive. Pi survived the shipwreck and 227 days isolated at sea. Billy and Nick survived the slow death of watch salesmen and embraced the digital era. The men may have been helpless, but not hopeless, which made them stronger people in the end.

Welcome to the Modern World

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Have you seen the new Esurance commercials where they claim that in just 7½ minutes, you can save money on car insurance? The newest ad stars Beatrice, an “offline over-sharer” who “posts” her vacation photographs by literally taping them to her living room wall, which she thinks is saving her so much time and is so much quicker than (snail) mailing them. Quick like getting a quote for car insurance in 15 minutes. Beatrice’s baffled friend says that she can save more than that in ½ that time. Beatrice “unfriends” her since she doesn’t understand. But it is Beatrice who does not understand that is not how any of the things she does works. The commercial is funny and effective.

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The Esurance online insurance company, backed by Allstate, has been trying to position itself as a modern insurance company, with better services and savings.  To anchor into the consumer’s mind that Esurance is the better way to do things, the advertising stresses that it NOW only takes 7 ½ minutes to get a better insurance quote. Exactly HALF the time it takes Esurance competitor Geico.  This is a more modern approach and memorable.

The integrated marketing campaign Esurance created puts some teeth behind its slogan “Insurance for the Modern World” by having several ways consumers can become involved with the Esurance brand: an interactive website, an excellent Esurance blog, a Twitter account, a FaceBook page, a Google + account and a many YouTube postings. The deep penetration into the social media world by Esurance certainly does cement the notion that they are indeed modern. Their up-to-the-minute posts and involved consumer interactions create brand loyalty and trust. I was impressed with their social media strategy and I do feel welcomed into Esurance’s modern world.

 

Doberhuahua Brouhaha

There were a vast array of Super Bowl ads that gained the attention of the social media world, as well as the admiration of millions of viewers. In my opinion, there were some awful ads (Chobani YogurtGoDaddyMazerati), and a few great ones (Budweiser, T-Mobile, Chevy), but the most original ad was Audi’s Doberhuahua spot.

When I saw this ad, I nearly spit out my beer laughing so hard. The sports bar where I was watching the game was crowded and loud, so the ads message didn’t carry well, but the image of those weird science-experiment-gone-wrong, mix-breed dogs caught my attention. The buzz about the odd commercial created a viral Doberhuahua Brouhaha. I wanted to see what all the talk was about, which had to wait until after the game.

I had the opportunity to view the Doberhuahua ad again the next day in the quiet of my living room. The message of “compromise is bad” did come through but the automobile that was “designed without compromise” , the Audi A3 was overshadowed by the creepy dog. A split-second look at the Audi A3 logo on the car, followed by the last screen announcement of the Audi A3, and that’s all the branding within the commercial that was displayed, at least that is all I saw. The advertisement was creative and visually stimulating with a memorable dog creature but it did not connect the product with the message.

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An informal survey amongst friends, family and co-workers (two weeks after I first saw the ad during the Super Bowl) resulted in a good news-bad news scenario for Audi.

Survey results: Doberhuahua Survey

Good News

Question:

Do you remember the Super Bowl Doberhuahua commercial?

Results:

19 out of 20 surveyed not only remembered the ad, but thought it was very funny.

Bad News

Question:

Do you remember what the product was in this commercial?

Results:

Zero, not one person, could remember that it was an Audi commercial. Three (3) thought it might be a car ad, but was not sure.

Oddly enough, during conversations about memorable car ads, 12 people mentioned that Audi’s Quattro commercials (featuring a sour tow truck driver who is lamenting about the one that “eluded” him) to be very memorable. A much better job connecting the message and the brand’s product over the Doberhuahua ad.

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In the end, the mixed reviews about memorability, message and brand can be useful tools in tweaking messaging and branding in future ads. If all ads that Audi create can be as attention-grabbing as the Doberhuahua spot and as good at connecting message with the brand, then it will hit the mark more squarely on the nose.

Loon Mountain Message: Drive North!

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As I was driving home Tuesday night from work on Route 495 North near North Andover, Massachusetts, a digital billboard was alit on the left-hand side of the highway, high above the traffic below, blazing the message to “Drive North”. This was a curious call to action phrase, and the marketer in me immediately tried to scan the ad, but merging into traffic forced me to pay attention to the road.

In a flash, the digital message changed to advertise another company’s business. Again in 20 seconds or so, a third ad was beaming from up high, and was difficult to miss. The colors emanating from the billboard were brilliant and flashy. Finally the first ad reappeared, and I was able to view the entire ad, which stated: “Winter Storm Coming” at the top of the billboard and “Drive North” under it, with a glowing image of a winter wonderland. A Loon Mountain logo was prominently displayed in the right-hand corner of the ad. Nice, I thought…a snow storm was indeed coming and due in the next day.

This is a glorious, shining, ingenious piece of targeted marketing, pertinent to the soon-to-be-weather, and what Loon has to offer, in a 20-second very hard-to-miss digital billboard ad. Yes, Loon Mountain is approximately 110 miles from where the billboard was displaying the ad, but it certainly put a seed of thought connecting the impending storm with coming to Loon, and what they have to enjoy. The traffic was moving along so I didn’t catch a third viewing, but I absolutely wanted to check out Loon when I got home. And I did.

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What I learned was that Loon Mountain has an involved social media presence. Loon invested in several sites:

Facebook   Twitter   Instagram   Foursquare   YouTube   Pinterest   Blog

They promoted their awesome ski and snowboard facilities through photos, video, daily tweets, daily posts, blogs, and stories. Their website is decent, with easy to navigate links. The Ice Castle is featured as well as supporting “Loon-raised” Annalisa Drew, who is going for Gold at the Sochi Olympics.

Lodging, lessons, events and activities are all found on the home page. Curiously enough, though, I had to go several clicks in to find their non-downhill ski/boarding activities which include Tubing, Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing. Very cool, very fast downhill Zip-Line activities are also offered. Little about these activities are promoted on their social media sites, which surprised me since it does attract people who likes to visit mountain resorts but who doesn’t ski/snowboard. Which brings me back to the digital billboard ad.

It was refreshing to see Loon Mountain grasp traditional marketing concepts as outdoor signage. I do wish more promotion of their non-ski/boarding activities is done to broaden their market share, but what they did with the outdoor signage was fantastic. Their call to action to “Drive North” drove me to check out their website and various social media outlets.

Using a mix of traditional marketing techniques and new media tools that includes an interactive social media model has helped strengthen their brand and promote the greatness that is Loon. I would not have looked up Loon at all if it were not for the strategically placed digital billboard.

When I see Loon commercials on TV, they don’t motivate me to check out what Loon has to offer, but the billboard did. That is a goal of marketers, to get action from their advertising, and ultimately, to increase sales. I may just visit Loon to use their non-downhill activities, and they may eventually get my money, all because of a successful digital billboard ad.

A Name To Call Our Own: Syfy

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Since the Sci Fi Channel was born in 1992, many people were mistakenly referring to the Sci Fi Channel with different spellings and configurations: SciFi Channel, Sci-Fi Channel, SCIFI Channel and on and on it went. The brand name Sci Fi was confusing because the network was using a GENRE (Science-Fiction) for a brand name and did not have an original brand name of its own. As reported in the New York Times: “We couldn’t own Sci Fi; it’s a genre,” said Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Sci Fi who became the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. “But we can own Syfy”.

The seemingly weird spelling of the new brand caught many off-guard: Syfy with a Capital S and a small yfy = one-word branding. There were those who scoffed, ridiculed and out-right laughed at the rebranding decision. The Business Insider Strategy Webpage called the rebranding to Syfy a “disaster”, claiming that around the world, the spelling Syfy is slang for syphilis (an STD).

The Syfy Channel did take it on the chin from loyal viewers and hard-core sci-fi fans. Sci Fi president, Dave Howe (and Bonnie Hammer’s successor) defended the rebranding and said in an interview with Fast Company:

“We were very strategic about how we positioned it, how we communicated, how we made sure our audience didn’t think that this was just another excuse to abandon the genre. We were very specific about why we were doing it and about  why we were about creating a brand that was extendable into new platforms. Then we had a whole roster of sci- fi/fantasy shows that reassured people that actually we were going to be a bigger and better sci-fi/fantasy network as opposed to one that was going sci-fi light.”

Michael Engleman, Executive Vice President and Marketing/Global Brand Strategist for Syfy explained that the Sci Fi Channel rebranding needed during an interview with Boston.com:

“We wanted to create a brand that was broader, more relatable. In a lot of ways our branding was catching up to what we were doing with our programming. We were already pushing the boundaries of the traditional definitions of nonfiction with shows like Eureka and Ghost Hunters.’ So how could we recalibrate our brand to be still firmly rooted in the genre of  science fiction but attach ourselves to this much larger idea, which is the idea of imagination? How do you create a name, how do you create a brand that will open doors to audiences that wouldn’t identify themselves as science fiction fans”?

VP Craig Engler discussed in an interview with Tor.com that the brand had three key reasons for a change:

1. We needed a brand that’s portable and can work in places like Netflix, iTunes and on DVRs. In those environments we can find ourselves competing for space on a text-based menu system where “sci-fi” and “Sci Fi” are indistinguishable.

2. We needed a brand that can support new businesses

3. We needed a brand that’s seen as inclusive to potential new viewers, and a brand that reflects the broad range of imagination-based entertainment you’ll find on our network.

To help with the rebranding task, the executives of Sci Fi channel went to Proud Creative, the self-described creatively-led multidisciplinary design studio based in London. Their website boasts being known for “delivering appropriate and memorable solutions”.

In collaboration with ManvsMachine Studio, Proud Creative listened to what the Sci Fi channel wanted “an ownable and distinguishable brand identity; retaining the positive associations from the genre of science fiction, whilst appealing to a broader audience and embracing the benefits of imagination”.

Well, it looks like Proud Creative did just what the executives asked for and helped deliver a memorable logo and new branding that encompassed their genre, audience and ideas of imagination with Syfy.

The name change also came with a new tagline “Imagine Greater”, instead of the Saturn-like planet logo of the Sci Fi Channel. This new slogan encompasses all that the brand thinks of as imagination boasts the Syfy website: the full landscape of fantasy entertainment, the paranormal, the supernatural, action, adventure and superheroes.

This new brand is memorable and could be trademarked, a giant advantage over the old Sci Fi name that could not be trademarked due to is broad genre attachment, and trademarking can lead to other associative branded Syfy Ventures (like Syfy Games or Syfy Kids).

When researching how and when the Syfy one-word name spelling was first thought of, then Sci Fi VP Craig Engler discussed in the same interview with Tor.com that the origin of “Syfy” went as far as a year back, when a new hire Michael Engleman was brainstorming one bleary-eyed night:

“We specifically began considering Syfy about a year ago, when Michael Engleman joined the network as our new VP of Creative. It was a great time for us to get the perspective of someone new, and Michael happens to be a creative genius, which helps enormously”.

In Michael’s own words in an interview with Up-Load.com:

“I knew how important our roots are, and knew where we wanted to go in the future, and I asked myself a simple question. What if we could change the name without ever changing the name? Five minutes later, with a ballpoint pen and a piece of scrap paper, Syfy was born”.

A creative genius indeed. The Syfy rebranding is a success. And now it is on to bigger and better things. The “Imagine Greater” slogan and what it means to encompass all things imaginative from using social media to choosing programming diversity for a broader audience and a bigger marketshare for the Syfy Channel will be discussed further in my next blog.

I’ll be back, Geeks!

Syfy: Not Just For Geeks Anymore

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The programming and offerings at Syfy has changed throughout the years, but was always, and still is, based on imagination (hence their tagline “Imagine Greater”).

In 1992, the newly formed and originally named Sci Fi Channel had a programming mix that included genre movies, classic science-fiction TV-shows and a spattering of monster movies.

Soon the programming changed to meet the customer’s needs and budget of the network at that time. A snapshot of programming milestones is displayed below and gleaned from the innermind.com website:

1992: The original Sci Fi Channel aired for 24 hours, with infomercials 3-7 a.m.to fill air-time.

1993-1994: Infomercials was dropped, which was a move forward for the new network, with 1-3 a.m. block a repeat of the 8-10 p.m. block. Modern sci-fi TV shows added, like Quantum Leap and a science-fiction trends show called Sci-Fi Buzz was created.

1995: The original Sci Fi website was created called the “Dominion” now called syfy.com (which is fantastic), as well as the Science Fiction weekly on-line magazine and the Sci Fi magazine for geeks looking to read about sci-fi. The 1st annual Twilight Zone marathon for the New Year began (with much delight for the viewers).

1996-2000: Anime dubbed in English was added, with original programming showing up in the line-up. Horror was becoming a regular featured genre.

2001-2008: These were big growing years for the Sci Fi Channel… Sci Fi Pictures is created to make original B-movie films that let the viewer escape into fantasy or fun-bizarre non-reality experiences, and with titles like Dinocroc,Frankenfish and Mansquito how can you not have fun?

Delving into disaster movies of the peculiar variety were also made, like Polar Storm and Deep Shock, along with horror movies like Rock Monster and Boogeyman, along with a handful of alien and space danger movies. Successful mini-series productions by Steven Spielberg called Taken won an Emmy for best mini-series, and Battlestar Galatica went on to become a 4-year-long running series. Paranormal programming was added with the popular show Ghost Hunters, as well as non-sci-fi programs like WWE wrestling (who signed a multi-year deal).

2009: Sci Fi Channel rebranded to be named Syfy  to encompass a broader view of imaginative programming. Original shows like Warehouse 13 and Haven were produced to add to their original series already popularized like Eureka and Stargate SG-1.

2010-2013: Face Off, what is considered a competition “reality” show, tops the charts as one of the most popular Syfy shows, adding to the list of unscripted programs like Destination Truth and Fact or Faked. Defiance becomes a much-watched show about post-alien invasion Earth, a common theme taken to the extreme.

According to the Syfy website:

“We’ve always defined “sci-fi” a lot more broadly than most people. For us “sci-fi” includes a broad range of imagination-based entertainment, including science fiction but also fantasy, the paranormal, adventure, horror and larger than life personalities, among others.”

The programming seen today reflects this attitude. I believe that with the broad idea of what sci-fi is, Syfy has tapped into a large and involved fan base that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. I personally love sci-fi, B-movies (the weirder the better i.e Sharknado-combining disaster with monster sharks or Sharktopus-combining a shark and octopus), paranormal, horror, classic TV with a twist (think Creature Double-Feature – a childhood favorite show) and creative competitions.

As long as Syfy keep cranking out programming that reflects both love for the old and new in the sci-fi scope of what they define it as, they will continue to show that they are not just for geeks anymore (there really is something for everyone), and I am confident that they will have continued success.

 

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

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Syfy is an outlet I go to and watch when I want to take my mind off of real life. Since its debut on my cable network as the Sci Fi Channel in 1992, I was hooked. The USA Network (a partnership venture at that time between Universal and Paramount Studios) picked up the new channel, which seemed like the perfect match for my geek needs. 

 The original programming included classic science-fiction movies and television shows, like Dracula, the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. The two studios had many shows and movies in their vaults collecting dust which the conceptual designers, Mitchell Rubenstein and his wife Laurie Silvers, believed would find a home with a niche group of fans, like myself, who loved science-fiction, monster movies and the bizarre.

Over the last 20 years, Syfy went through many transformations: changes of ownership, modification of programming and most importantly, a new image through branding. Over the next few weeks, I am going to delve deeper into the each of these categories Syfy dealt with in a new blog posting.

In this first blog, I am going to discuss the changes of ownership Syfy went through to become what it is today. In 1989, a communications lawyer named Mitchell Rubenstein decided to start a cable-TV network. He was not a science-fiction fan, nor was his lawyer wife Laurie Silvers.  They were all about business and the bottom line. Through their research and his vast amount of connections and business prowess, the network idea was pitched as the Sci Fi Channel, but according to the Orlando Sentinel, many challenges were ahead for the new network become a success:

  1. Can Rubenstein get cable operators to carry the Sci Fi Channel?
  2. Can the new Sci Fi Channel get enough advertising support?
  3. Was there enough Science-fiction movies and shows out there to fill a 24-hour network?

The answer to all these questions was a resounding YES! It took only three years to get the USA Network to buy out the network from Rubenstein and Silvers for 8 million dollars.

I believe that the science-fiction based network was a good idea, and so did millions of other people. Once USA Network starting broadcasting the Sci Fi Channel, it “set out to push the limits of possibility and imagination on television”, according to the current Syfy Channel website, which it did do. Between 1994 and 2004, the ownership of the Sci Fi Channel changed hands several times with a myriad of new owners: Viacom, Seagram’s, MCA, Matsushita, Barry Diller (head of USA Universal at that time), Vivendi Universal, GE’s NBC, and then finally settling with NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, where it stands today.

Comcast Corporation is a huge company with many holdings and diversities. According to the Comcast Corporate website, “Comcast’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) was on June 29, 1972. On that date 430,000 shares of CMCSA were issued at $7 per share. On November 18, 2002, Comcast and AT&T Broadband combined to form the new Comcast Corporation.”

Today stocks are worth $46.06 per share. Syfy may be a small part of the huge Comcast conglomerate, but I believe that it has helped boost profits for shareholders. Today the NBCUniversal website boats that ‘Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year-round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent businesses (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities.

Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in more than 99 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)” And I agree…the network has become a booming success. Next week I will discuss the programming changes within Syfy in order to capture and grow a larger audience.

Until then…live long and prosper, sci-fi geeks!

Syfy…Engage!

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In 2009, the Sci Fi Channel underwent a chancy rebranding to encompass more genres than science fiction, space and monster movies. The new name Syfy was a one-word brand that could extend into new platforms and demographics. Today, nearly five years later, Syfy has incorporated action-adventure, mystery, fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, monster/disaster movies, unscripted reality shows and the WWE with the classic sci-fi genre essentials.

According to Craig Engler, Syfy has also integrated social media marketing and viewer engagement into not just something the brand does, but as a part of the brand itself, as a part of who they are. The results are a broader audience, diverse programming and an expanded brand presence, with Syfy viewed in more than 98 million homes.

The success Syfy is enjoying today didn’t happen overnight. According to Dave Howe during an interview with CoCreate:

“We were very specific about how we positioned it (Syfy), how we communicated and how we made sure our audience didn’t think this was just another excuse to abandon the genre.”

Understanding their audience, the psychographics behind why they are watching, viewer behavior, their consumption of media and the way they can accept imaginative ideas was key to identifying and pinpointing untapped markets.

The genre of science-fiction is largely seen as a geeky-white guy thing, but Syfy research showed that women, Hispanics, African-Americans and the under 21 crowds were just ripe for the picking. Show like Being Human, Face Off and Defiance (a video-game/TV show hybrid) has taken hold of these demographics.

According to an AdWeek report, Nielsen showed that this is the current audience and reach:

  • Syfy is in 98 million homes. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy is the best place to reach Igniters. (Simmons)
  • The gender skew of the channel is 56% male and 44% female. (Nielsen)
  • 47% of Syfy’s audience is A25-54; 42% falls into the A18-49 demographic. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy’s original programs rank in the Top 10 in their respective timeslots. (Nielsen)
  • Among 18-34s, Syfy posted double-digit gains for both men (17%) and women (21%) in Q1 2012 compared to Q1 2011. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy has been a Top 10 network for 17 years consecutively. (Nielsen)

In order to capture the essence of Syfy, the slogan “Imagine Greater” was created to identify Syfy as “a media destination for imaginationbased entertainment.” Many interactive strategies for communicating and distributing content online emerged on multiplatforms, including:

Syfy Sync– Live two-screen app which uses audio content recognition to allow viewers to access exclusive content at various points in Syfy shows and socialize it instantly

Syfy House of Imagination – Interactive website and film

Syfy Everywhere – which provides viewers exclusives and full episodes of their favorite shows anytime, anywhere from any device, and will soon be released on Xbox.

Syfy Ventures – which serves as the business development and enterprise unit for Syfy with three key goals:

(1) develop immersive trans media experiences

(2) create robust new revenue streams

(3) launch targeted products and services that exemplify its “Imagine Greater” tagline worldwide.

Syfy’s rapidly expanding portfolio includes four major business lines:

  • Gaming
  • Kids
  • Online & Mobile
  • Consumer Products

From these lines emerge five consumer sub-brands:

In order to expand the brand and keep the brand fresh, a smart campaign aptly named “Igniters” was created. Igniters targets artistic, highly imaginative consumers that not only sparks trends but have a say in “driving consumer behavior for new products and brands by sharing it instantly through social media and portable, everywhere access”, stated a Syfy press release, adding that Igniters are very active in social media, in touch with fans and the base of the Syfy audience, and are innovators who can influence others.

It went on to say:

“Through a custom study conducted in partnership with PSFK, Syfy demonstrates how and why this consumer is more powerful today than ever, creating a new marketplace – The Imagination Economy.

According to Syfy, PSFK and Simmons, Igniters are those who:

  • FIND THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything.
  • DO THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing.
  • SHOW THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say.

This campaign will not only expand the Syfy brand beyond imagination, but drive the marketplace it created, and I think that’s the idea!

With all this going for Syfy, I believe that viewer engagement, social media activity (Syfy Social provides unique social experiences 52 weeks a year via Facebook, Twitter and other social media) and the creativity of the human mind will keep Syfy, and fans alike, around for generations.

So, let’s make it so!