Articles by Rachel L. Newman
"My dad just got iced." I saw this status update on Facebook the other day and knew it probably had nothing to do with hockey or joint pain. A wee bit of research revealed that Icing is a new drinking game wherein someone gives a Smirnoff Ice to someone else, who must get down on one knee and chug it. If the person being "iced" pulls out their own concealed Smirnoff Ice, called "ice blocking," the icer has to drink both bottles. People are icing and getting iced all over the country largely due to the promotional efforts of now defunct website www.brosicingbros.com. Whether the game (and website) was conceived by Smirnoff parent Diageo (they deny having any part in its creation or promotion), or bored frat boys isn't important. Icing reveals the value of understanding complex social relationships, not simply studying (and catering to) demographics.
On May 6th, Pedigree UK launched its 2010 adoption drive with a viral video campaign about an abandoned dog named Charlie. The story of Charlie is told one video at a time, with the next part of Charlie's fate only shared after the current part receives 25,000 views. For every view, Pedigree will donate £1, up to £100,000. Episode three, "The Long Walk," was just released. As of now, we don't know whether or not Charlie will be euthanized. Charlie doesn't deserve this; no dog does. We need to find out what will happen to Charlie, and each view gets us closer to finding out and helping animals at the same time.
First, Hardee's showed you its B-Hole. Then, Bud Light Lime gave it to you In the Can. Now Axe, with all the class and finesse we've come to expect from the brand, wants to Clean Your Balls. On the surface, this seems like nothing more than your typical nether regions marketing. But look under the hood, and Axe's down under approach has more in common with early marital aid advertising than beer and fast food.
Back in June, Miracle Whip broadcasted its condiment manifesto to Gen Y. Punctuated with the official quivery chalkboard script of all advertising-spawned youth movements and set to a swaying, poly-ethnic crowd kickin’ it kiddie-pool style, a bored (yet defiant!) voice-over proclaims: “We are our own unique, one-of-a-kind flavor. We are Miracle Whip. And we will not tone it down.” Hmmm. A hipster decree from a 76-year-old sandwich spread most famous for its supporting role in my great aunt’s deviled eggs? The campaign was hard to swallow.
Not much surprises us these days. And that, by and large, is the way we like it. We have more control than ever over our lives. We bank and shop on-demand online. We use RSS feeds to filter our news. We carefully manage our public image by broadcasting the most appealing pieces of ourselves -- photos, status updates and MP3 playlists -- on our blogs and Facebook pages. Recognizing this demand for control and customization, more marketers are asking us to help shape their products as we see fit. So it's surprising to see some new businesses thriving by keeping us in the dark.
The Levi's brand saddens me so. It could be so much cooler. It could, really, be the PBR of denim. Industrial, durable, worn-in and well-worn. American. Iconic. An underdog. But no. Instead of quietly offering itself up as what it is: a historied, high-quality, understated, no-frills alternative to the flash and arrogance of designer denim, it is clamoring schizophrenically to be everything to everyone. Oh, Levi's. What are you doing? Wait a minute. I know. It's called "trying too hard."
IKEA fans are all a-Twitter over the company's recent font change from Futura to Verdana. Designed to be easy to read at small sizes (like catalogs and computer screens), Verdana will be used in IKEA's print and digital communications. What seems on the surface like a simple, subtle shift -- one that arguably fits the company's brand of streamlined, smart, affordable design -- has triggered an onslaught of negative reaction so filled with bile that one might think the company switched to Comic Sans or Jokerman.
Given that I last wrote about Hardee’s Biscuit Holes, I couldn't resist continuing the theme of fried dough. This time: doughnuts. Specifically, Krispy Kreme’s new international “Fave Fan” contest, celebrating six dozen years selling original glazed. Open to Krispy Kreme doughnut lovers in Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and United Kingdom, "Fave Fan" invites customers to write, in 72 words or less, “how Krispy Kreme has made their lives special.” A winning contestant from each country receives 12 dozen doughnuts over the course of a year and a plane ticket to Krispy Kreme’s U.S. headquarters, where they will go head-to-head in a competition to “design the best doughnut.” Why Americans aren't invited to participate probably has something to do with the company's 2007 bankruptcy (and $3 stock price, down from a high near $50), but why celebrate an American brand through an international contest? Is "Fave Fan" the secret ingredient to a Krispy Kreme comeback, or is their marketing team one original glazed short of a dozen?
Hardee's “Name Our Holes” campaign sure has lathered up the Internet. AdAge calls Hardee's out for "upping the ante in the fast-food smutfest," and Reuters dismisses the campaign as “obnoxious.” Which it is. But it is also hilarious. It's easy to see why some claim advertising has reached an all-time low, but isn't something else going on here?
Regardless of how you felt about Michael Jackson when he was alive, it is difficult to deny the extensive and irreplaceable contributions he made to music. It is also difficult to deny his truly amazing ability to reinvent himself as an artist in spite of --and in the face of-- personal tragedy and public scandal. As frail as he seemed, especially toward the end, Michael never stopped working on his image and music. A life lived in the public eye taught Michael from a young age to never stop moving. Sometimes forward, sometimes backward, and often times in circles. The Michael Jackson brand was truly malleable. For four decades he captivated us, for better or worse. Even in death he continues to do so.