A grab bag of thoughts about Microsoft's new chief executive, the Super Bowl ads, and the push in fashion and beauty advertising and publications to get real.
Usually, when I write this column, I take a lot of little notes about things that either I see in the news or that come up as a part of my job. Each time, I look over those notes and choose one thing that really jumps out and seems to merit an entire 800 words.
This week, I am doing something different. It was a fairly busy week and I have a lot of notes. So, rather than just pick one, I am going to share with you a few things that are rattling around inside of my brain. Maybe we'll find a bigger theme in all of this.
New CEO of Microsoft: What About Ads?
Microsoft announced their new chief executive (CEO) this week. It's remarkable that a company that big and that powerful has only had three CEOs. The first, of course, was Bill Gates himself. Gates gets a lot of grief, but I think that is only because he is compared to Steve Jobs. The two of them really defined personal computing for many years, and it was clear that Gates was "PC" in those great Mac vs. PC ads. But Gates was a visionary in his own right. He may not have been too interested in beauty and design. He was, however, keenly interested in having computing power everywhere. That's why he let anyone build a computer that would run Windows (for a price, naturally) and kept the prices low. For a long time, most people who had a computer, had a computer that ran Windows, and a lot of people had computers.
Ballmer was a diesel engine. He pushed forward with great force.
Now we have Satya Nadella. He is certainly a new force. I'm not sure that anyone really knows enough about him to be able to predict what he will do with this massive company. It is worth noting that a part of his personal brand is that he is seen as bringing Microsoft into the cloud. That's a big deal, and it could bode well for advertisers. If he believes in the cloud, then it is very much the next natural step from Gates' original vision of computers everywhere. Increasingly that means that there are pervasive and often inexpensive screens throughout our lives. This creates new opportunities for advertisers to reach out to consumers and engage with them anywhere. You should no longer have a device or channel-specific plan, but rather a fluid sense of how you can connect with and accompany the consumer wherever she goes.
Digital Super Bowl Story: Marketing About Marketing
We have totally embraced the notion of the second screen as a key part of the television experience. No other event demonstrates this nearly as much as the Super Bowl. This year, marketers really leapt at the idea that they could use digital and social media either as a companion to the work they were doing on broadcast, or as an alternative channel.
The best example of the first idea -- to use social as an integral part of the experience -- was Esurance. I got a notification that a lot of my friends suddenly started following Esurance on Twitter. Big surprise: they were all excited about the chance of winning a huge stack of cash. Esurance's concept of having people follow them as a way of entering a sweepstakes is a good one, and one that is bound to be repeated. Using a social action as a call to action is simple and easy for the consumer. Yes, Esurance, in a sense, just bought a bunch of Twitter followers. But they have those followers now and some portion of them will buy insurance, I suppose. Saying "follow us" is a lot less commitment and a whole lot more fun than saying "call for a quote."
The other tactic was to sit on the sidelines (pun intended, as all puns should be) and make comments through social media. Sometimes these were about the game, but - oddly -- a lot of them were about other ads. I suppose this is acceptable in that Super Bowl ads have become their own attraction. But when we are marketing our marketing, and advertising other ads, I think we are running into a world where we are only talking to ourselves. The consumer is what matters, my friends. Please don't lose sight of that.
Fashion Online Is Driving Truth
Fellow columnist (and old friend) Greg Jarboe recently wrote about fashion vloggers. It's a great read and a really wonderful insight into a growing category. If you work at a fashion brand or have one as a client (or just want to look marvelous), read his work.
Something else struck me as I read this. There seems to be a real push in fashion and beauty advertising and publications to get more real. This could be using models who look like real people, or it could be the un-Photoshopping of pictures. That is coming from the top-down. Big names are purposefully taking the gloss off their images to connect better with their consumers.
But it is also coming from the bottom up. Part of the appeal of these fashion vloggers is that they are, in fact, real. They are accessible. They are people that we feel like we know. There is no effort to make them real. They're real!
I like to think about this -- that the proliferation of channels and media to the masses have actually had a real impact on culture and the way that brands behave. Some people believe that the Creative Revolution -- the big change in advertising that brought more imaginative art and copy into ads -- was the result of the overall cultural revolution of the '60s. More people wanted beauty and love and color in their lives. That naturally spilled into advertising.
Today, people want more reality in their lives. If brands don't give it to them, they are going to make it themselves. That's what is happening with fashion and beauty.
And it is probably happening with your brands as well.
OK. That's all. The notebook is empty again. I will begin to fill it up again and we'll see what we have in two weeks.
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Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.
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