JCPenney's complete store in Facebook: that thing's operational!

By David Kiefaber on Wed Dec 15 2010


JCPenney's decision to build a complete online store within Facebook, where you can not just browse products but buy them too, is as sinister as it is gimmicky. The benefits for the department store are twofold: more sales driven by product visibility in people's news feeds, and more information about its customers. Said information includes their age, taste in products and how often/where they browse, all of which "can be aggregated into analytical data," according to Usable spokesperson Jason Taylor. (Usable built Penny's Facebook storefront.) Other companies—Proctor & Gamble, 1-800-Flowers, etc.—have product catalogs on Facebook, but Penney has outdone them all. At what cost, though? Facebook is the last place I'd want my credit-card information stored (I don't even have my last name on my profile), and this move just further exposes Facebook as a two-way mirror through which marketers and employers spy on the layfolk. None of which matters much to Penney at this point, and I suspect sales will increase simply because they got here before everyone else did. But they're a little too high on their chances of sustaining it once hipper stores climb aboard.

AT&T's coverage would be great … if we lived in a fantasy world!

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 14 2010


AT&T's campaign for its new mobile network suggests its coverage would be great even in make-believe places (and maybe one Anthrax album). I guess they're trying to say that if they've got a place like Lilliput covered, they won't have any trouble providing adequate service in the mundane here and now. But the Los Angeles Times sticks a convincing pin in the "if false, then anything" logic behind these ads. See, this is why more philosophy majors need to work in marketing. AT&T's retreat from reality might have to do with its atrocious Consumer Reports ranking and flailing response in the form of a press release claiming its network was faster than both Verizon's and Sprint's. Which may be true, but that pales in the face of other, more basic issues like dropped calls and bad customer service. We've already seen similar desperation with Blockbuster's "Hey, we're still here!" campaign, but AT&T's crack at it is almost sadder.

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks will get you, American marketers!

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Dec 13 2010

Imagine my dad's surprise when he unwraps a copy of Everyone Poops on Christmas morning instead of the Mark Twain autobiography I thought I was buying him from Damn you, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange! It wasn't really the self-professed outlaw Assange who threatened a bunch of American marketers like Netflix, Facebook and Orbitz. It was his Saturday Night Live doppelganger Bill Hader, who appeared in this skit during the weekend show to promise smug, self-satisfied retaliation from his hacker followers for his current stint in a London jail. Forget Mastercard—not even Farmville is safe! (Actually it is, because Assange/Hader thinks it's odious enough on its own.) Check out the skit above, or the whole Paul Rudd-hosted episode on Hulu or, and see why some longtime fans, myself included, keep watching.

KFC could bring some fried festivities to your town this season

By David Kiefaber on Fri Dec 10 2010


Not content with writing sandwich names on college girls' butts or dangling scholarship money in front of high-school tweeters, KFC is heading to the streets to promote its 12-piece Festive Feast meal. They've picked Dec. 21, the gloomiest day of the year, to distribute mini-buckets full of gift cards around whichever city deserves it the most—that will be determined by fans writing in to explain (in 300 words or less) why they deserve a visit from Colonel Santa. You might win your town $20,000 (that seems to be a magic number for KFC) in prizes. There's even a "So Good" Santa who will give out the prizes—he's a Colonel Sanders look-alike who will be dressed as Santa, so he'll wind up sorta looking like this. It's nice that KFC is putting so much effort into this marketing stunt, but they'll need to change up their requirements pretty soon. We can only petition our benevolent overlords for handouts so often before the novelty wears off.

Latest Jimi Hendrix experience now available in a children's book

By Robert Klara on Thu Dec 9 2010


The name Jimi Hendrix makes you think of a lot of things: Woodstock, tie-dye, his iconoclastic rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner"—and, of course, that neat little trick with the lighter fluid at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, when Hendrix burned up a perfectly nice Stratocaster. But one thing the legendary guitarist will probably not remind you of is ... a children's book.
  But why not? Just in time for the holiday shopping season, author Gary Golio has produced Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow, a 32-page kids' book that evokes the life of the young Hendrix back in 1956, when he was poor, living in a Seattle boarding house and trying to recreate a world "colored with sounds" (and on a ukulele, no less).
  Yeah, we know. A psychedelic rocker who died of a drug overdose is probably not on the A-list for some parents hoping to inspire their progeny. But Golio told NPR that the young Hendrix's story "reflects all the values we want to teach our children," such as persistence and having goals. Meanwhile, the book reflects one of marketing's most durable truisms: Celebs really never die; they just keep selling.

These condoms are pricey, but much cheaper than having a child

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Dec 9 2010


That little Sophie is one pricey bundle of joy, especially when you compare her to the $6 box of condoms you could've used to avoid her "blessed" arrival in the first place. Sir Richard's Condom Co., a new Colorado-based marketer of upscale prophylactics in several sizes and stripes, is launching into the category with nary a mention of the oft-touted pleasure and sensuality. Quite the reverse—the ad campaign is focused solely on how much it will cost you (in dollars and cents, not emotional turmoil) to raise a child in today's economy. Buzz kill! But the numbers don't lie: When a year's worth of diapers cost $1,100, a Bugaboo stroller sells for $750, and private school can run $35k, just $13 for a dozen condoms seems like the ultimate bargain.The ads, breaking this month, are outdoor, online and on-pack. The company, a joint venture between equity partners and TDA Advertising & Design, which also handled the ads, is trying to draw attention to its charitable mission. It will donate one condom in a developing country for each one bought in the U.S., in kind of a randy (and public-health-conscious) version of the Toms Shoes program. Sir Richard's Condoms aren't looking for just any penny pinchers out there, though. The product will sell at fashionable haunts like Fred Segal, Viceroy hotels, Paul Smith menswear boutiques and Whole Foods grocery stores. But boy will it save you later.

DeLorean goes back to the future with a slew of licensing deals

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Dec 7 2010


Dust off that Member's Only jacket, and spike up your Flock of Seagulls hairdo—the DeLorean is back in a big way. The marketer of the iconic '80s sports car is taking advantage of its splashy exposure around the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future by signing a flurry of licensing deals that are putting the brand in toy aisles, hipster boutiques and sporting-goods shops. DeLorean Motor Co., based in Humble, Texas, is working with Mattel, Nike, Gateway Global, Microsoft and others to fuel the resurgent interest in all things '80s, specifically the car that epitomized new-money success/excess. There's a DeLorean Nike Dunk limited-edition sneaker (above), launched on Black Friday and already popping up on eBay for upwards of $350; a DeLorean Hot Wheels car; branded clothing at Urban Outfitters; placement on Facebook's Car Town (the gearhead version of Farmville); and a role in Ubisoft's Driver 5 video game. And from Hollywood, there are more than a few movies kicking around in development about John DeLorean's life and times (and arrest for coke dealing), which will revolve around his sleek and speedy creation. The privately owned DMC says core DeLorean enthusiasts have helped keep the brand alive all these years, and no doubt loyalists and nostalgia have stoked the fire. But the automaker is showing that, when you do it right, licensing can be the best marketing.

Levi's gets 50 young women to tell their stories in new campaign

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Levi's opened up jeans to women 75 years ago, but now the brand is truly celebrating the ladies. The ubiquitous clothing brand has given journals to 50 inspiring young women for them to document how they're making the world a better place. These journals will play a vital role in Levi's sponsorship of the first-ever TEDWomen conference, which will also feature a documentary film, titled Shape What's to Come, about eight of the most photogenic journal contributors' stories. This is an impressive display of sucking up to a powerful consumer demographic, and an equally brazen, if indirect, display of the "buying stuff as activism" ethic a lot of companies are using. Levi's global vp of women's marketing gushes over how the featured ladies are "changing the world with nothing but raw talent, game-changing ideas and the will to make a difference," while Gen Y consultant Lindsay Pollack says "the media perception of this generation is that they're entitled or coddled or lazy. They're not. We are just intimidated that they don't have any timelines and they are achieving these extraordinary things." Even if that's fake sentiment based on marketing data, it's still nice to hear after so much ink and paper has gone to attacking this generation for coming of age in a horrible job market and tender economy. Hopefully Levi's motives are at least somewhat genuine here, because it looks like some actual good might come of this whole thing.

Tom Brady might need a Hail Mary to get guys to buy Ugg boots

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Tom Brady's quest never to pay for clothes again continues with his agreement to shill for Ugg boots for men. The global campaign will launch next year, and the New England Patriots quarterback is being called on to endorse an entire line of casual footwear, outerwear and accessories. Considering he already speaks for Under Armour (which he partly owns) and plays football every so often, Tom's a busy man. And it's a good thing he's used to a hectic schedule, because making Uggs palatable to men again will not be easy. They may have started out as a men's brand, but their densest market share is clearly ugly boots for women. And since I'm not sure there's a huge percentage of men who want to be Tom Brady (beyond their fantasies about his wife, anyway), I'm curious about who the target audience will be. Football fans? Urban sophisticates? Sitcom dads? The half of New England's population that doesn't want him to die in a fire? Speaking of, I wonder what being the face of Uggs will do for Brady's Q-rating. Hearing him say things like "I have worn and loved the Ugg brand for a long time" might turn some men against him from the get-go.

Seattle none too happy to be in Camel's new ad campaign, either

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Looks like Brooklyn's borough leaders aren't the only ones annoyed with R.J. Reynolds' new cityscape packaging for Camel. Seattle isn't happy that it's part of the cigarette brand's hipster scavenger hunt, either. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says she was "alarmed and disappointed at R.J. Reynolds' new marketing campaign which exploits the name and image of Seattle to recruit young smokers." He should be more offended by Camel's description of Seattle, which is referred to as the "home of grunge, a coffee revolution and alternatives who'll probably tell you they're happy when it rains," followed by some gibberish about "the spirit of our Gold Rush ancestors." I don't know what out-of-touch cat lady wrote that copy, but Seattle hasn't been suspended in time since 1994. Also, San Francisco's Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is ragging on RJR for its inclusion of the Haight. This is something the company should have expected and planned ahead for—not only did they look clueless before, they look like jerks now for continuing the campaign amid so many understandable complaints. They'd better figure out some kind of damage control before an offended city government does more than blow smoke.



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