Archive for January, 2014

Marketing During a Crisis: Toyota Takes Advantage of Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber and Safe Driving

Toyota uses 19-year-old Justin Bieber’s drunk driving arrest to promote its Safe Teen driving program.

Damn. The marketers at Toyota (or their media buying proxies) who are running their Teen Safe Driving project called TeenDrive365 are definitely not asleep at the wheel. They know how to market during a crisis.

Only hours after news of Justin Bieber’s drunk driving arrest in Miami splashed across the homepage of, Toyota went all-in and secured all of the prime banner advertising real estate on the page.

Beside news that the Biebs had been doing some early morning Fast and Furious driving in a Lamborghini in Miami while drunk and high, there appeared multiple bright red and black banner ads promoting Toyota’s PR project to keep new/young drives alive behind the wheel.

Is this irony? Should Justin’s mother enroll him in the program? After all, Mr. Bieber is just 19 and his mother probably needs to intervene before Justin follows James Dean and Paul Walker in the annals of “young stars killed while driving fast.”

The ads link to a destination page that explains the program and will probably make most parents glad their kids aren’t driving yellow Italian supercars in their teens.

Still, ignoring Bieber’s idiotic decision to drive drunk, a much more astute decision was the decision to jump on the media frenzy around the arrest promote what seems like a worthwhile educational program.  There’s no doubt click-through rates are going to be way higher for this ad buy than usual.

Kudos to Toyota’s marketing/advertising team. (They know how to market during a crisis, especially one that isn’t theirs).

Why Marketers Should Attribute Statistical Claims

If you’re wondering whether marketers should attribute their statistical claims, you probably take random “four out of five doctors” statements at face value……..or you author them.

Is the Moon Really Made of Cheese?

Either way, the reason is credibility with your target audience. If you want to claim the moon is made of cheese, back it up with someone from NASA and someone else from the Wisconsin Cheese Board. If you can get support from both sources, you will be on your way to convincing a lot of people of the fact. A corroborating quotation from British Physicist Steven Hawking would also help.

Marketing claims-especially statistics-without attribution, corroboration or validation aren’t worth much. (I, of course, don’t have any evidence to make this claim, but trust me. OK).

True, you can do fantastically well in the short term by making stuff up. Reebox and Skechers have sold hundreds of millions of dollars selling tone-your-butt shoes, with erroneous claims later determined by the FTC to have been false and misleading. I prefer integrating a bit more honesty in the marketing work I do. (If I didn’t bear this moral hair shirt, I would have long ago sought a massively compensated communications gig with a tobacco company).

So I find a claim by a crowd-funded company called Morpher a little hard to swallow. It’s probably innocuous to most, but to this cyclist, it stood out.

<Editorial note for credibility’s sake: I ride a fair bit – bike commuting, early-morning training rides, and weekend sojourns to dessert shops. Part of my attire is a ubiquitous bike helmet. I have no problem wearing one because I crashed in 2002 and hit my head on a sidewalk. But for a blue Bell hardshell and I would have likely fractured my skull.>

Morpher and Marketing Claims

Morpher thinks it has a solution to putting more helmets on urban riders’ heads; sell a foldable helmet. I don’t buy the solution; non-foldable helmets seem to do a fine job in protecting heads, to the extent that a helmet will protect you if you hit the ground, or a bus hits you.

To support its “The Helmet for People Who Won’t Wear Current Bike Helmets” proposition, Morpher makes three statistical claims about wearing or not wearing helmets. None are attributed in any way. The one I found completely unbelievable is the assertion that “83% of bike scheme riders don’t wear a helmet due to lack of portability.”

Unattributed Marketing Claims from Morpher

Prove It

I just don’t believe it. Maybe this is true, but there is nothing to back up this statement. Show me the source. A bike helmet weighs less than a pound. I’ve worked in a lot of buildings where people commuted by bike, and nobody seem to be bothered by having to lock their helmet to their bike or carry their bike helmet to their desk.

I’m highly skeptical of the claim, and thus, skeptical of this company. Maybe I’m just in a tiny minority but I want the origin of this statement. As a prospective customer (well, not really, but you get the idea), the company needs to convince me. Instead, they seem to be stretching credulity beyond the breaking point.

Is it really that hard to understand why marketers should attribute statistical claims?

#MediaRelationsFail for Dating App Tinder

Dating App Tinder Strikes Out with Auto Download

Tinder is some of dating app. It bills itself as “real life, but better.” I guess if you’re in the dating market, you’re looking for something better than your status quo, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that life with Tinder is better than real life.

What isn’t better is the seriously dumb decision to make its press kit an auto-download.

The Tinder website is very simple; influenced no doubt from the original Dropbox website. The site design is on the far side of Spartan without many behavioral or navigation options beyond downloading the app or watching something called #itStartsHere. (I assume that’s the Tinder equivalent of those eHarmony testimonial videos of people who married sometimes after completing their eHarmony questionnaire).

On the bottom of the page are a couple of links – Press, Content, Jobs, Privacy and Terms. I clicked on Press, and it launched an auto download of some zip file. A bit stunned, I stopped the 16.5MB download. Can you say spammy?

Tinder Media Relations Fail

Ignoring the Permission in Permission Marketing

OK, I assume that the marketing girl at Tinder has never heard of the term Permission Marketing. Because permission is what you need to get before zinging someone with a digital press kit. It’s a press kit, after all; of almost zero importance to 98% of site visitors.

Media people, those most likely to click on this link, are already inundated by information and files. Figuratively pouring a bucket of Tinder corporate collateral on their heads won’t engender the warm and fuzzies and get you closer to an effusive product review. #MediaRelationsFail.

So why insist on delivering it without the recipient’s approval? Absolutely no idea.  Note to other startups; don’t stretch the goodwill of people by making assumptions on what they want. It is way easier to just post all of the media-related content on one page called “Media Center” or “Press.”

Poking Fun at Suicide and Killing Dogs: The Two Worst Ads of 2013

Advertising in 2013 had some strong campaigns and ads. And then there was the bottom of the barrel.

The worst ad of 2013 for me is……a tie.

It was so close, it was impossible to materially distinguish between really awful and truly tasteless. Both of these ads were ones for the ages in both categories. They plumbed the “what the hell were they thinking?” depths.

The Worst Ad of 2013 (Part One) – Hyundai

Hundai greenlighted a television spot in the UK that made light of suicide. A man decides to sit in his car in a closed garage. He connects the exhaust to a hose and pipes the carbon monoxide-laced fumes into the car. But death doesn’t come; only frustration, because his car is a low-emission Hyundai. Yes, that’s right, suicidal people should choose another vehicle; perhaps a non-hybrid Toyota, Ford, or BMW.

AdAge has a good summary of the ad, and its fallout. You can also watch the ad there.

There’s really nothing else to say, is there? Except one; did the following people lose their jobs?

  1. Creative lead for the agency
  2. Marketing lead for Hyundai

The Worst Ad of 2013 (Part Two) – Pearl Izumi

Pearl Izumi’s enlightened marketing department approved a print ad about killing your dog. The highly compensated marketing gurus thought it would be fun and entertaining to demonstrate the enjoyment you’d have running in their shoes to the point that your dog would fall over exhausted and expire during a bit-too-long trail run.

The print ad showed a retriever lying dead on the trail as his presumed owner kneels over him, wearing nice shiny Pearl Izumis, trying to do what looks like CPR.

(Note to other shoe brands: there are myriad other ways to suggest that your customers will run farther because they will enjoy running so much in your products. Running across a big city to meet your girlfriend for a date. Geez, that took 10 seconds to come up with).

Pearl Izumi Dead Dog Ad

Nothing says “I Love Running” like a narrative of running your dog so long it dies.

 You Get What You Pay For

I’m pretty sure Hyundai spent at least $100,000 on bringing “homage to a guy trying to kill himself” to a TV near you, and that Pearl Izumi probably dropped $10,00-$15,000 showing how you could successfully kill No-Longer-Man’s-Favorite-Friend.

What an amazing waste of time, money, resources, and goodwill. I own 3-4 pieces of Pearl Izumi clothing; I won’t be adding to the list in the future.