Monthly Archives: March 2012

“I Volunteer As Tribute!” How “Hunger Games” Marketing Is Some Next Level Shit.

Those who suffer from nerd fever have historically been male fans of sci-fi and fantasy. We think of serpentine lines of over-stimulated, under-sexed man-children waiting for the midnight showing of “Star Wars”. We imagine “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings,” World of Warcraft and Halo. But what about a young adult fantasy, originally a book, which stars a young girl?

“Twilight” and “Harry Potter”*** come to mind. And like these two, “The Hunger Games” spread obsessive fascination through clever web promotion. Using Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, Lionsgate has been implementing a “phased, yearlong digital effort.” Armed with a tiny budget and small staff, marketers successfully turned fans of “The Hunger Games” into evangelists.

A crafty example:

On Dec. 15, 100 days before the movie’s release, the studio created a new poster and cut it into 100 puzzle pieces. It then gave digital versions of those pieces to 100 Web sites and asked them to post their puzzle piece on Twitter in lockstep.

While many have noted the record breaking opening weekend ($155 million, 3rd biggest of all time), it’s also interesting to note how many men made up the movie’s initial audience: 39 percent. Compared to the newest “Twilight,” whose first weekend audience was only 20 percent male, “Hunger Games” had a much broader marketing campaign.

Well received by critics and fans, the intense buzz generated online seems appropriate and worth the effort.

*** Yes, I meant to call Harry Potter a girl.

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Splintering TV Audience = Lucrative Ad Market

Alienating some, while attracting others. The NYTimes looks to FX and their lineup of male-centric, innovative shows. Rather than cater to the masses with inoffensive, laugh track-worthy garbage, FX is trying to be bold.

We tried to build a business that is based on risk-taking and to have a culture that embraces artists who want to try audacious things.

With “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “Louie” its paying off.

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Tablet Readers pay for music and books, news…not so much.

According to a new study by Nielson, 62% of tablet owners have paid for music, 58% of owners have paid for books, and a little over half have paid for movies. However, when you consider the tablet owners who have paid for news, the percentage plummets to 19.

With so many free news outlets, consumers are reluctant to hand over their cash. Sure, music, books and movies exist online if you click through enough links, but real, legitimate versions of those media are accessible and cheap. News articles are also disposable in a way that songs and films aren’t. Read a New York Times column and never see it again, but that new GaGa track? … You’ll want to keep that. And it stays in your iTunes.

It’s also stunningly easy to bypass news pay walls. Tinker with the URL, or change browsers. And when blogs or social media link to news articles, there usually aren’t limits or barriers to content. The graph also has things to say about consumer behavior abroad.

How Dick’s Sporting Goods Can become less limp: Great Commercial, Lackluster Brand

It’s hard not to get amped up to rapid fire athletic feats set to the theme of Rudy.

This new commercial stirs up our inner beast, but once we realize the ad is for Dick’s Sporting Goods…the climax becomes a harsh letdown.

I’m glad Dick’s spent money on a polished and compelling ad.  It’s one of the better commercials I have seen in a while.

But why does the brand not inspire the way the commercial does?

A problem facing big-box stores is an utter lack of loyalty. Perhaps you swear by a certain pair of Reeboks or can’t live without your Under Armour longsleeve. Dick’s only happens to sell those things, it doesn’t make them. The store’s prices are rarely as low as what you can find online. Is their customer service so outstanding that you would forgo cheaper options?

According to Forbes, the company is looking to focus more on sport equipment and to increase its online sales, which currently amounts to only 6% of total revenue.

For student athletes on a budget, or adult consumers trying to pick up some sneaks or a racket, Dicks could become the go-to online source. If the company tweaks its image a bit, it could harness the allure of physical prowess — the way Nike and Under Armour do.

1) Change that hideous Logo. It looks like it belongs to a 4th grader’s “sports” themed bunk
bed. Give us something primal, something harsh, something that resembles human exertion.
2) Sign a baller athlete to rep the brand. Make me want to go to to your store, check out
your site, and buy your things. We look up to athletes and will spend money to be like
them.
3) Change your name, or stop going by your full name. DSG is less vulnerable to puns.

Right now Dick’s is just a giant box. It sells sports goods, among other things, and resonates about as well as Rooms To Go or CompUSA (= barf). With some work, though Dick’s can avoid being just another store, like The Sports Authority, and instead become something closer to that Untouchable commercial.

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Pandora’s Predicament: Music Discovery and the Future of Internet Radio

Portrayed by a slick and forcible Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, Sean Parker first gained notoriety for his work with Napster. The file sharing program no longer exists at the tech-forefront, but the site disrupted the industry with lasting impact. In fact, piracy remains the dominant mode of consumption. Realizing music’s need for a legal and innovative business model, the enterprising Parker declared last year, “I’ve dedicated the rest of my career to fix what I broke.”

Enter Spotify.  Parker is banking on the popular European streaming service that has just pierced the American market.  Compatible with Facebook’s interface, and with a colossal click and play library, the British based company is poised to blaze through the States.  Industry observers believe Spotify’s expansion will crowd out the music streaming leader, Pandora.  However, the internet radio company should not be counted out.

Pandora’s appeal has always been its focus on music discovery. Personalized radio exposes listeners to new music better than anyone else. It gives Pandora its competitive edge.

The founder of Pandora, Tim Westergren, began with the idea that music could be categorized and organized using a mathematical algorithm.  The Music Genome Project, the heart of Pandora, is an extensive library that genotypes songs, assigning tracks over 400 traits.

Musicians at Pandora listen to every new song and catalogue its features.  The result, as stated in their Form S-1 to the S.E.C, is a “proprietary personalized playlist generating system.”  Pandora makes customizable radio stations based on users’ tastes.

Listeners begin by creating a station based off a song or artists, the station’s “seed.”  From there, songs are played that demonstrate similarities to the seed song or artist.  Users can give a streaming song a thumbs up or thumbs down, offering their radio station insight to their preferences.  Since the company’s inception in 2000, Pandora has collected over eight billion thumbs.

The beauty of the Pandora experience is the exposure to music that is both familiar and fresh.  A mixture of acoustic and electric in Bon Jovi’s “Livin on a Prayer” leads the listener to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” which may lead to a lesser known Def Leppard track and eventually to a brand new artist shaped by British heavy metal.  The exhilaration of discovery, of finding another favorite band, ties the user to Pandora.

Critics of the company argue that music discovery is unnecessary if users have access to an immense collection of songs.  Pandora’s library totals 800,000, dwarfed by Spotify’s 15 million. Westergren addresses this issue by differentiating Pandora’s service.

In an interview with TechCrunch, he said a listener “would find some songs they like on Pandora, and then go buy them on iTunes or listen to them on demand via Rdio or Spotify and use them in tandem.”  Where Spotify is a limitless iTunes library, Pandora informs how preferences and playlists are made.

Another criticism leveled at Pandora is the company’s ad-based business model.  Listener growth is exploding, reaching 80 million users this summer, however the costs of licensing music mounts higher.  Rather than focus on a subscription based model, like Spotify, Pandora offers its users free, limitless streaming with visual and audio ads.  This strategy maximizes user growth while it forgoes revenue from subscribers.

The challenge Pandora faces is converting its popularity into revenue from advertisers.  Although 70% of audio streaming takes place on mobile devices, less than 1% of total ad dollars are spent there.  As a warning to potential investors, the company emphasized it has yet to make a profit.

According to Businessweek, Pandora plans to overcome these obstacles by expanding its ad sales force and by growing its user base through automobile integration.  By 2015 advertising dollars spent on mobile devices is expected to multiply by 12.  In addition, Pandora radio will be found in the 2012 car models of General Motors, Ford, and Toyota, including the Camry. Businessweek reports that by rapidly increasing its user base now, Pandora will be positioned to receive mobile ad dollars in the near future.   Once ad agencies decide to aggressively court mobile audiences, Pandora can offer millions of eyes and ears.

Facing a new competitor in Spotify and lackluster revenue from smart phone ads, many have dismissed Pandora’s potential.  However, with a loyal, growing fan base Pandora hopes to leverage its free and limitless listening to cash in on the future of mobile streaming.  Pandora offers a service that is not simply the music people enjoy, but the unearthing of something new.

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Place-Based Advertising

We now gaze at our phones more than we do at print media, but ad dollars spent on mobile is a measly one percent of total ad spent.  With precise metrics available and the ability to cater content to specific eyes, the mobile ad market is severely underdeveloped.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, LocalResponse and RMG are experimenting with place-based advertising. Mobile users can now receive ads depending on his or her geography.  Using data collected from review websites and foursquare, companies now can engage customers using location as the context.  The venues, shops, and restaurants where people spend their time become useful guides on how to better target consumers.

This new frontier of geographical based ads increases efficiency by targeting interested viewers, upping the ROI for brands.  Creative technology like this helps companies spend ad dollars in places that work. It’s futuristic, innovative, and compelling.

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