Category: Marketing

26
Jan

Mary Tyler Moore And Broad Girls: Why Culture Always Needs Funny, Strong Women

 

 

Broad City

This week saw the season finale of two different series about women whose story arcs have been surprising, fresh and appealing, not because they’re shocking in their bad behavior, but in how realistic it is, especially to a Millennial audience that desperately craves authenticity. HBO’s Girls and Comedy Central’s Broad City may not be on-air ratings smashes, but you can be sure that their target audience is binging — perhaps on their laptops or with their parent’s HBO Go passwords; most likely with a second screen in hand, but they are tuning in for the kind of authentic, experience-driven content that marketers should take note of.

Even as ad sales models are shifting in our ever-changing industry, audiences will always be drawn to television, so long as the content feels culturally relevant and speaks directly to them.


Forty years ago, America’s Sweetheart on the small screen was Mary Tyler Moore, a traditionally beautiful good girl, who’d risen to fame playing the eternally patient wife to Dick Van Dyke on his title show, before being granted her own namesake series, which lasted seven seasons and won, at the time, a record-breaking 29 Emmys. From 1970 to 1977,
The Mary Tyler Moore Show appealed to a wide audience of women, especially those who were young and working full-time, because it was one of the first shows to portray an independent, childless working woman who, on top of everything, was succeeding. Mary was smart, driven, hard-working, kind and gorgeous. She had the career, a love life on her terms and strong female friendships, to boot. Mary had it all.

But where Mary succeeded — in both her fictional life and the very real network ratings — by being aspirational, creating something today that appeals to this generation of young working women must be approached differently. Instead of searching for role models, today’s Millennials want authentic and complicated, experience-driven characters.

Which is why the girls of Broad City and the broads of Girls are so appealing to this generation.

They defy inherited expectations about career, clothes and relationships. Which isn’t to say  Abbi and Ilana are dismissive of looking good and having glossy ideal lives, they certainly want careers and love. In their sketch comedy humour is used to hilariously pick apart these expectations.

Unlike Mary, none of them are in truly successful careers, relationships or even necessarily well-dressed. On Broad City, Abbi, the straight-laced of the two, is desperately trying to work her way up at a SoulCycle stand-in that doesn’t fully embrace her, while Ilana, her sexually fluid, polyamorous best friend drifts from job to job as she’s asked to leave each of them. They drink, they get high, and they navigate dating in the era of Tinder and “Hookup Culture” in a way that all feels fresh, and, most importantly, real.

It’s no coincidencegirls that both series were developed by their stars, who took their real-life experiences to parlay them into fictional versions of themselves. In Girls, show creator and star Lena Dunham’s main character, Hannah’s, friendships are as dramatic, if not more than her romantic relationships, something Dunham has said was important to portray in contrast to shows like Sex in the City, which had previously set the standard for portrayals of female friendships among young working women.

Says Dunham, “I kind of also felt like it was aspirational about friendship… for me, that kind of friendship is elusive. I feel like a lot of the female relationships I see on TV or in movies are in some way free of the kind of jealousy and anxiety and posturing that has been such a huge part of my female friendships, which I hope lessens a little bit with age.”

Millennials defy our expectation. Their lives are complicated, messy, exciting and unique. They don’t want to be spoken down to, they don’t even want our encouragement; they want to see themselves, or at least recognizable version of themselves, in their entertainment and even marketing. And as the business of television and how we reach our audiences continues to change, now, more than ever, content of any type has to be more than just marketable and engaging. It has to be real.

20
Oct

Clarity Builds Strength: How Brand Transparency Builds Consumer Loyalty

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Reviewing their inspiration board. Via CNBC.

We loved working with the Flex Watch founders and their investor, Marcus Lemonis, on a recent episode of this season’s CNBC’s series “The Profit.” When we met with team Flex, our role was simple — re-aligning the brand, which was faced with a tangle of confusing advertising and slumping sales. Like many businesses, Flex launched strong, but lost its way in the clutter of market competition. When they launched in 2010, the company, whose tagline is “Time to Make a Difference,” had a clear vision and purpose-driven direction. They offered 10 colors of watches, donating 10% of the profits to 10 set charities. A straightforward and well-defined approach that saw strong company growth for the first two years. But as Flex caved to market pressure and begun expanding their offerings to include more expensive items and redirecting their market to a newer “hip” consumer base, sales began to falter.

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Flex Watches pitching Flip Flop Shop. Via CNBC.

As the episode showed, the team struggled to find solutions; however, with renewed focus and outside help, the team was able to connect back with its authentic, essential brand, telling its story with purpose.

The Flex team problems aren’t unique. Losing sight of brand story and an overarching vision and mission aren’t just the problems of early days of frenetic start-ups, they can happen at any stage of growth. Take for instance, behemoth brand McDonald’s. With weak sales and sluggish growth, the fast food giant needed a way to re-shape public perceptions. With the launch of the global digital campaign, “Our Food Your Questions,” the company hopes to remind customers of its original brand promise of quality fast food. Will today’s nutrition-smart eater trust the brand to deliver its promise? It’s probably too soon to tell. But we can generalize that messaging reminders and repeats of brand values or promises do not pivot a brand for growth or spark nutrition, dietary or food conversations the public cares about.

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Marcus Lemonis and the Flex Watches team. Via CNBC.

Some companies align brand, story and message tightly, gaining competitive advantage without sacrificing history, essence and identity. Southwest Airlines, for example, has built its brand around trust from its niche origins as a low-cost air carrier. By positioning itself outside the mainstream largess of other commercial airlines, the company has developed loyalty and trust while also using brand story to broaden conversations beyond ticket prices. With its “Transfarency” campaign, Southwest adds layers into its brand history while leading a conversation people want and care about.  

These case studies illuminate the importance of aligning brand fundamentals. Cast your brand story too far away from your vision, mission, values, and personality, and you’ll soon lose your place with audiences. Maybe McDonald’s can afford a “do-over” in the public’s mind, but not all companies have unlimited talent, money, and resources to create a cultural reinvention. Besides, consumers today tend to see right through such messaging-cum-brand story. Athletic clothing line Lululemon has yet to regain the trust of its once passionate brand loyalists. Once its CEO lashed out at his target consumers about the “right” kind of bodies fitting into its yoga pants — poof! He went all the way “downward dog” and lost brand trust (and his job), while the company’s stock and its brand story took a hefty hit and has never fully recovered.

That’s because we’re living in an age of brand transparency. Consumers expect a real partnership with companies, more than marketing. It means doing research and matching core brand offerings to what consumers want, need and value. They’ll buy from you so long as you make their lives better, even a teensy weensy bit. It means giving consumers key information about the brand, company, and products, which is often achieved through the brand personality. It’s giving a peek into not just how the business “works,” but long exchanges with the values and passions of the founders and the company. And if this isn’t authentic or genuine or transparent, like the Flex Watches before their brand pivot episode, you’ll find yourself adrift amidst the competition.

08
Jul

By The Numbers: How Data Should Drive Our Storytelling

Data-driven storytelling is a buzzy phrase right now, but what does it mean? In broad strokes, the phrase suggests a new era of demographic-tailored brand messaging. Brands are experiencing a new wave of creative freedom, where they can finally leave behind market research and strategies that began in the 1920s.

Data allows the dynamic of storytelling to meaningfully engage with consumers and audiences. Because companies have access to technology and new data-capture techniques, it’s now possible to collect, store and decode billions of information bytes about customer likes, dislikes and behaviors, allowing us to predict what people are doing, what they might want or consume in the future. It’s a formidable leap for brands, which as we know, are in the business of storytelling. And storytelling is deceptively simple. It’s using messaging and the brand’s attributes to make people’s lives better. Adding data to that equation can inform brands in developing content and media or champion ideas that people will want, and that matter.

Let’s be clear, data contains dazzling potential, but it’s still pieces of information, numbers, and part of a social context. While we can use data from social media tracking, for example, to build models, predict tastes and wants, it’s still difficult for data and science to reveal all. Whether culled from samples, surveys, research or charts, data works when paired with the dynamics of everyday life. Along with data, our worlds are “thick,” as cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz described it, with codes and meanings.

As Director of Strategy and Research at Oishii Creative, providing context for this data for our clients and using it to shape our approach is a key part of my role. It’s important to combine raw numbers with culture and culture dynamics and the applicable disciplines of studying how we humans invent and form ideas, values and behaviors, opinions and experiences in everyday life.

For example, we recently partnered with 24-hour preschool network Sprout on a series of brand spots as part of a rebrand. As a network for kids and parents, we knew we had to reflect and tell the story of modern families, and the family mindset. For the campaigns, not only did we look at the raw numbers of what makes up a family today, such as birth, marriage and divorce rates, but we also looked at sentiment, feelings and values people have around their families. We found that even with relatively high divorce rates, people believe in love and the institution of marriage. Most research points to a new era of marriage and family, whereby people don’t just blend, but they create their own version of the marriage ideal, one that works for them. That’s the power of culture. It’s the remaking of tradition in the new context. Commitment to family in its core form remains strong; it’s taking shape in new ways. Culture and data together help us understand this.

So, when you’re strategizing your next campaign, it’s important to run the numbers. Market research samples can be small and biased, so sometimes, in order to get a real idea of what your audience is looking for, it helps to merge a broader cultural picture with a more rigorous scientific view. And to do that, you’ve got to go to the source. After all, numbers don’t lie.

24
Jun

What’s Next? We Look to the Future for PromaxBDA

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We were thrilled to once again partner with our longtime friends at PromaxBDA to develop a branding package for The Conference 2016, the international organization’s annual event for those of us working in media, marketing and design for the entertainment industry. Having

Promax_Conf_Final PROMAX LOGOS _6_09_16.00_00_28_19.Still012 previously created the Conference and Awards opens and branding for PromaxBDA in 2014, it was especially exciting for us to have the opportunity to work on their 60th anniversary!

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This year, we were tasked with exploring how our industry constantly reinvents itself, with new forms of content and distribution

Promax_Conf_Final PROMAX LOGOS _6_09_16.00_02_02_04.Still009changing the media landscape. As veterans of this industry, it’s something we deal with everyday.

Drawing heavily from PromaxBDA’s Promax_Awards_Ceremony_Final.00_01_06_08.Still024 tagline, “Create What’s Next,” we wanted to create a symbolic journey through the different stages of creativity. So, in our fully-CG opener, we embraced the new modes of Promax_Awards_Ceremony_Final.00_00_42_04.Still011 communication and technology, such as social media and virtual reality, while giving a nod to the old plastic arts as seen in architectural and sculptural forms.

Promax_Awards_Ceremony_Final.00_00_28_06.Still007 Promax_Awards_Ceremony_Final.00_00_10_24.Still003And while there’s a lot of uncertainty in our industry, we wanted our piece to celebrate the optimism of the future. We realized that, ultimately, our success in “what’s next” will be dependent on our ability to find new ways to communicate and connect with others.

04
Dec

Decoding Modern Families

Anyone who celebrated Thanksgiving with their loved ones or who’s planning an upcoming holiday dinner knows it’s hard to please every family member. Perhaps no one understands this better than marketers. With continually diversified options for what screens families watch, the choices compound the task of reaching each family member. So, we were thrilled when PromaxBDA gave us the opportunity to share our take on the constantly changing definition of the modern family and how best to emotionally connect with them.
Head over to Brief to read the whole piece.

02
Jul

Step 2: Why Your Company Needs to Build a Brain Trust

Now that we’ve talked about creative entrepreneurship, let’s build a brain trust, shall we?

It takes more than one person and half an idea, which is why entrepreneurs need to set art, imagination and design loose into the company. One’s particular if not unique talents are small in comparison to a generative, empowered brain trust. By setting talent into motion, they can systematize imagination and let art and strategic design help solve problems collaboratively.

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A company is only as good as its people. For imaginative and capable people, everything is a canvas for the imagination, to paraphrase Thoreau. But with not so capable people, ideas are a punishment to be endured. So, cultivating great talent means not only finding the right people, but also planning and building out a brain trust. As Steven Johnson has argued, most of us walk around with half ideas in our heads; and we need others to test our assumptions, put them into practice and, ultimately, accomplish our visions.

Talent who can create, spread and adopt ideas are integral to a brain trust. They animate the organization’s environment and shape its culture – no wonder creative teams need to be intellectually, creatively and temperamentally diverse. From loud to quiet, left to right-brained, logical to free-form, a blend of perspectives and skill-sets is what makes an exceptional creative team. While the process is a raucous bustle and tussle of talking, arguing and sharing, it’s how truly innovative ideas take root and grow.

We’ve built this into our culture. Transcending the design discipline to include social scientists, MBAs and humanities graduates, our brain trust is unconventionally dynamic and collaborative.

It’s not unusual, for example, for one person to question the purpose of the traditional upfront while another deconstructs a logo from a different perspective or investigates the history of lower thirds, transitions or swipes. As Johnson puts it, “chance favors the connected mind.”

17
Jun

The State of the Industry Remix

Can you see your humans in the clutter of brand work? Photo courtesy of Thomas Brault via unplashed.com

Can you see your humans in the clutter of brand work? Photo courtesy of Thomas Brault via unplashed.com 

While waiting for the venerable Lee Hunt and his annual New Best Practices talk at PromaxBDA, a quote came to mind:

“Branding is the manifestation of the human condition.” –– Wolff Olins

How can a vague psychological term relate to the future of television, let alone programming, bumpers, IDs and promos? But we see a connection between this concept about the human condition and Mr. Hunt’s strategy-oriented observations and analysis of our industry.

The truth is, industry best practices and the state of design spool out from the invisible thread of us humans. It always starts with a curiosity and drive to aggregate and distill information into something usable.

People want to be more than facial hair. Photo courtesy of Ryan McGuire via gratisphotography.com

People want to be more than facial hair. Photo courtesy of Ryan McGuire via gratisphotography.com

The future of television depends on how well we understand all that is knowable about us humans, particularly the ways science, technology, education, social science and demography tell the story of us.

Do you know how to untangle the thread?

30
Dec

Audiences Want Stories With Context & Connection

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, Oracio Alvarado

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, Oracio Alvarado

Co-Founder & Director of Strategy and Research Kate Canada recently wrote an article for MediaPost about how brands can authentically provide context and connect with their audiences.

You can read the full post here, but we’ve included an extract:

Today’s audience is craving a real connection, and authentic stories that represent the changing demographics of the American landscape are one of the most powerful ways to establish that connection. Stories tap into the emotions we all share. Stories are universal ways of telling our personal view from the individual and tying it all up with what’s going on in the city, country and globe. Our job is to create stories of possibility and resonance.

I see two related opportunities for brands to meaningfully connect with audiences using story: as content for context and as content for everyday storytelling.

Content as Context

2014 was the year for telling the Big Family story, content as context. The 2014 Coca-Cola America Super Bowl spot and Honeymaid’s This is Wholesome commercial are examples of telepathic compelling campaigns; piquing our emotions without running too much in the way of sentimentality. In these spots, we see the “wide screen format” of storytelling as context. It gives the reader the emotional landscape.

Content for Everyday

The smaller but nonetheless still potent pieces of the story are what I call snap-shorts of everyday life, the smaller bits that make up our big picture. P&G’s Tide with a Problem-Solving Dad doing laundry and French-braiding his daughter’s hair; the Thank You Mom featuring kids and falling and learning with lots of support from mom; Chevy Malibu’s The Car For The Richest Guys On Earth piece or the Cheerios Here’s To Dad where the narrator looks straight into the camera and says, “We make the new rules… this is how to ‘Dad.’”

As advertisers, we are responsible for taking the constellation of social dots of demographics, sentiments and media connectivity and turning them into tactics and actions, shaping the data into meaningful ways of reaching out and engaging with consumers. In so doing, we will be able to, as David Ogilvy suggested, respectfully and empathetically become trusted partners with consumers, smart and savvy social beings who live in the world.

07
Nov

Agency Post Profiles Kate Canada Obregon

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Our Co-Founder/Director of Strategy & Research Kate Canada Obregon has written extensively about the power of data in helping brands to better understand and connect with their audiences in authentic ways.

Agency Post recently profiled Kate on the marriage of social science and research in Oishii Creative’s work for both design and brand clients.

Here’s an excerpt:

Should creative ideas always be based in research and data? How does this foundation provide brands with a more impactful strategy or campaign?

The best creative emerges from a conversation with qualitative and quantitative data sets. I like to know the facts and the big picture that numbers can readily tell us. With that said, numbers do miss the subtleties of opinions, perceptions, and desires. This is where semiotics, ethnography, or other social science methods are extremely valuable tools. The best campaigns I’ve worked on are those where I’ve been able to dig deep into all sorts of data and turn up something unexpected and new. These campaigns end up being the most timely and talked about beyond a quarterly life cycle or the next ad buy season. I like partnering with clients who want to be relevant and let the research lead them beyond trends and into real meaning and relevancy. Audiences and consumers want this, too. 

Check out the full interview here!

16
May

Why Ad Agency-Created Products Fail

Why Agencies Fail_Mona Lisa

We read a recent Fast Co.Create piece by Leif Abraham, partner at Prehype, a New York-based venture development firm creating new digital products and companies together with startups and bigger corporations. In “Spike and Die: Why Products Created By Ad Agencies Fail,” he argues that the current culture and agency business models just aren’t conducive to real product innovation. Namely, that agencies trying to do product work typically treat the production of an app or product in the same way they treat the production of a TV spot.

Abraham says this has two effects:

1. It’s a torch relay

Just like in a TV production, each person finishes his or her work first, before the next one starts. That means the designer completely designs the app before the developer even starts to code anything. Though this can sometimes work, it also bears some risks, such as the developer finding mistakes in the design at a very late phase in the process.

2. An ad agency is not set up to maintain

In a campaign process, people are used to making some thing, put it out there and then never touch it again. This does not work with products, because they need on-going maintenance and a dedicated team to further develop it and deliver support.

As a result, product-like launches coming out of agencies don’t have long-term plans — or budgets — in place to maintain and sustain them.

Abraham further offers a few suggestions for how an agency could become a real player in the world of product innovation. Agencies should treat product development more like the founding of a new company — acting like a startup — versus treating it like another project. This inevitably marries the creation process with the business side of things. And both agency and client are equally invested in the long-term success of the product. To quote Abraham, “…if, as an agency, you believe in and enforce the rule of ‘my success is your success,’ you will have an interest in things running efficiently as possible.”

His other point is something that we at Oishii Creative are very passionate about, and have written on extensively, which is building company culture. Some of our best ideas come from fostering an open and collaborative environment; what we like to call “generative workspaces.” When your team feels excited about building a company — and not just a product — then ultimately, they’ll also feel incentivized and committed to the other aspects of the business.

As our VP Kate Canada Obregon recently wrote on The Agency Post, people like to work in open office spaces, or ones that promote a collaborative spirit, because they feel connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. It’s about creating community within the office, and ultimately, the effects of this virtuous cycle translate into your output as a company, whether that’s launching a new product or a new TV campaign.

A vibrant and generative company culture takes the long-view for clients and projects. This isn’t always easy because it’s not a matter of providing short-term fixes or campaigns to fill holes. It’s about coming up with innovations that work seamlessly and consistently across platforms. This kind of generative culture asks more of staff and creative resources than replicating the status quo. It means working harder and longer on projects that hopefully, many are willing to do. Because what it really comes down to is thinking and creating with the future in mind, and always finding ways to partner and deliver for clients.


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