Sunday, April 24, 2011

What Is Front Page News?

As you may or may not know, I’m Cuban.  My parents were born and raised in Cuba and, like many Hispanic young girls, I had a quinceniera when I turned 15.  I know, it’s unbelievable and adorable.  You can only imagine how my family felt after hearing the news concerning Castro’s resignation.  Personally, I was excited and shocked.  This guy was the dictator for decades that forced my parents and grandparents out of the country.  He survived several assassination attempts and a few grassroots uprisings/revolutions completely unscathed.  All he had to do was put in his two weeks and, “Ta da!” there ends an unprecedented leadership unlike any other in history.  Pretty amazing stuff and, to me, totally newsworthy.

Well, not everyone felt that way.  I barely found the article online and after googling “Castro Resigns,” I had to scroll a little too far down to find an article about it.  Seriously news?  You’re really going to stiff arm Cuba like that?  Unfortunately, there are a lot of reforms associated with Castro’s resignation that make the future for Cuba appear pretty bleak.  Based on several articles I’ve read, it seems like there’s a lot of talk but little to no change.  However, the fact that Castro is no longer the dictator of Cuba is totally news to me. 

The topic of Castro resigning is very personal to me; it concerns my family and I have an invested interested in what is happening in Cuba.  It’s hard to look at the situation from an unbiased angle, but it’s also hard for me to believe this isn’t news worth covering.  This is one of those things that made me think about pitching to media about a client.  You may think you have the most interesting story and your event deserves the most coverage when it really doesn’t.  Castro resigning seems like big humongous news to me, but unfortunately, it’s not to others.  The simple reality of the situation is one that I’ve got to get used to in the PR world.  It made me pretty angry that, what I thought was a historic event, wasn’t on anyone’s front page. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nobody “Likes” Vegas

So this weekend I went to Las Vegas for my friend’s wedding.  As much as I hate attending destination wedding, I was willing to put aside my protesting and hop on a plane to sin city, just this once (I hope you caught the sarcasm, I love Vegas.)  As I’m walking down the strip debating if the shoes I decided to wear where such a great idea, I notice something.  Actually, I didn’t notice something.  No signs of social media.  No hotels where asking you to follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  None of the restaurants had any Foursquare deals like, “First check in gets you have off appetizers!”  This got me thinking a little about who is using social media.  What do people make of organizations who’s social media presence is, “meh.”

Before leaving for Vegas, I took $200 out of my bank account and told myself, “This is the most I can lose playing games without feeling absolutely terrible about myself.”  Mission accomplished, and at an amazing speed no less!  As proven by my hearty donation to the city’s casinos, I’m pretty confident Las Vegas is booming in the economic department.  Does that mean they don’t need anyone to “like” them from a social media perspective?

Plenty of corporate giants have graced us with their presence on Twitter and Facebook to connect with their consumers.  Why doesn’t Vegas want to connect with their market?

The experience of winning and losing money is so personal.  On my first trip to Vegas I won big at a craps table.  I remembered the exact outfit and table where I won. As soon as I arrived, I decided to wear the same outfit and go to the same table that treated me so well on my first visit and test my luck.  I wonder if there is a way to tap into that personal, and often very superstitious, experience and use it for social media purposes.

As if the city of Las Vegas needs any help with anything, they stole my money!  I just thought it was interesting that I had trouble finding any way to connect with them other than offering them my precious savings.  It does bring up the point that superstition has a lot to do with how people act.  How do we tap into this?  This is something I’ll be looking into.....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Target Channel Verses Target Market

I went to my parent’s house this weekend and my dad, knowing that I tend to be “hip” to social media, ran excitedly over to me to show me his new social media discovery.  He said, “Julie, have you seen these things called ‘QR Codes?‘ I bet you haven’t, they are brand new!”  Trying not to sound too snooty I replied back, “I sure have dad. I blogged about them in March.”  He starred back at me looking pretty disappointed and bowed his head.  Poor little fella.  I didn’t mean to rain on his parade, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t know what a QR code was. 

So, my dad just found out about QR codes, which is great, but how long has he seen them around without wanting to figure out what they were? 

This little exchange with my dad got me thinking more about social media and target markets.  As PR professionals, we have to be “hip” to the latest and greatest in social media technology.  However, what happens when a social media channel matches the goals and initiatives of a company’s campaign but doesn’t match their target market?

For instance, Foursquare, a location based social media platform, could be the perfect social media component for a transportation client.  What if the people who use that client aren’t social media users?

This is so depressing.  We all try so hard to be ahead of the curve and yet, still have to consider these people who don’t want to try something new.  In order to really incorporate something new to a target market, you end up not only promoting the company, but promoting the platform. 

When the social media platform is so perfect for the client and not perfect for their target market, what do you do?  In my opinion, which is still very green and new, I would abandon the use of the social media channel.

I know!  It sucks!  Here we all are tweeting our brains out trying to figure out what the next best thing is but in reality, if it doesn’t suit your target market, then why use it?  When something works really well for one client, it’s easy to assume it will work for another.  We have to remember this isn’t always the case.  We do public relations and our concern is the public and their needs.  Obviously our client’s needs are important to us but part of our job is knowing how those two entities can communicate. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Life According to Groupon: The Hungry/Bored Dichotomy

In my last blog, “Fair Weather (Business) Friends,” I talked about the controversy surrounding the Groupon Superbowl commercial.  When doing research for the blog, I came across a new concept for Groupon that sounds pretty interesting.  According to Groupon, people can either be hungry, or bored.

This month Groupon is launching a new phone application, Groupon Now, that gives people two choices: “I’m Hungry” or “I’m Bored.”  Depending on what you choose, it directs you to a nearby deal that fulfills the need of your choice.  Leave it to Groupon to narrow the vast array of human needs and emotions down to just two.  At first, I’m a little thrown off.  Bored? Hungry? My life boils down to a two need state dichotomy? 

Actually, the more I think about it, those two phrases are a little spot...  “I’m Hungry” obviously covers food and “I’m Bored” takes care of just about everything else.  Man I feel like such a waste of space.  Damn you Groupon!

With this new phone app, Groupon does what many other phone apps like Yelp and Places now do by showing you what is around your location.  The upper hand Groupon has on this is not only will it show you what is around, but also give you a sweet deal on it.

After writing my previous blog and learning a little bit about the Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason, the app has me a little skeptical.  The whole hungry/bored thing feels a little too “drink the Koolaide” to me.  This is Mason’s own way of describing the app:

“For merchants, the daily deal is like teeth whitening, and Groupon Now is like brushing your teeth. It can be an everyday thing to keep your business going.”

OK I see where you’re going with this but if there is anything I’ve learned from my years of collecting coupons and deals, there is always a catch.  Based on my personal experiences, the only time food coupons are good for are on a Monday or Tuesday at 2 p.m.  This isn’t exactly when the restaurant is hopping.

In order for merchants to want to participate with Groupon, they have to look at where they are in need the most and make that need more desirable.  With the increased acceptance of this phone app, it may alter the way people see going out to eat.  After a longer period of time, it may even alter when and what we eat. 

Personally, I don’t like where this is going.  Customers are going to start to feel entitled to discounts that simply don’t exist.  I’m going to try it out for a week and see what happens.  Hopefully, I wont go broke getting hundreds of deals on Thai food.

Fair Weather (Business) Friends

Oh Groupon, how I love your amazing deals but hate your media relations.  If you haven’t seen the Groupon commercial I’m about to discuss, please take a look:

This is an assigned topic for my ethics class, however, I’ve been following the Groupon Superbowl commercial controversy since it aired simply based on my own interest.  Personally, the commercial shocked me as soon as it aired.  Without missing a beat, I immediately tweeted my frustration. 

Now that the dust has settled, this is what we know:

  • The Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CP&B) agency was hired by Groupon to create an edgy and informative advertisement for Groupon
  • The contract designed for Crispin Porter & Bogusky was project based (meaning this contract naturally would end- Groupon didn’t fire them)

What I didn’t know:
  • After reading Groupon CEO: We Placed Too Much Trust in Agency for Super Bowl Ads, I found out CP&B also did Burger King’s “Whopper Virgins” advertisements which gave people who have never had a whopper a chance to try it.  The Thai villagers being one of those people.  This advertisement was surrounded with controversy simply because people thought they didn’t respect the hunger issues surrounding Thailand. 
  • CP&B also did the Hulu advertisements that, “highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu.”
  • They ALSO did the Dominos Pizza commercials portraying the idea that the former recipe for pizza was bad. 
Are we seeing a trend here?  The agency is notorious for the skeptical, and, at times, controversial portrayals of the brand they are promoting.  They have found success using this method and, as the article details, the Groupon “ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon."

Now, knowing their reputation, Groupon hires CP&B and what do they do?  They throw them under the bus saying they placed too much trust in the agency "to be edgy, informative and entertaining.”  Groupon founder Andrew Mason goes on to say, “We turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can't rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand."

Seriously guys?  This really grinds me gears!  Now that I’ve been interning at an advertising agency, I’ve come to realize MANY ideas get tossed in the trash even though they might be an agency favorite.  The client is always the ultimate decision-maker.  CP&B did what they do best, and Groupon, for some reason, didn’t have the hindsight to see this advertisement may not be the best representation for the brand.  That part of your brain Mason claims to have turned off should NEVER be turned off.

So once I think I’ve got this all figured out, I come across this article in Bloomberg Businessweek, “Groupon Chief Defends Marketing Approach” Huh?  What I didn’t know about Groupon is the founder, Mason, is quite the unique character.  The company sees Mason “as a serial prankster, dedicating office space to a fictitious character, hiring a performance artist to walk around the headquarters in a tutu and dreaming up a holiday called Grouponicus whose celebrants are barred from owning dogs.”

So how do we wrap this all up, put a bow on it, and conclude this mess?  In my opinion, Mason OK’ed the advertisement because it fit his personality.  What he didn’t realize was his personality may not completely mirror the personality of the brand.  If he needed an advertising agency to do commercials on the Mason persona, CP&B would have been a great choice.  To attribute the negative viewer reaction to “too much trust” in the agency is absolutely ridiculous.  Viewers are notorious for forgiving companies who immediately take responsibility for their actions.  All Groupon had to do was say, “We used poor judgement in selecting a commercial for Groupon, we sincerely apologize,” blah, blah, blah. 

Is this going to stop me from using Groupon? No way! I have a $15 massage voucher I’ve been meaning to cash in!  However, I did lose a respect for them as a marketing/advertising entity.