Mid-life Crisis

February 28, 2012

by Roger Pynn


I’ve bought a lot of new cars in my time, but I’ve never seen a brand work so hard at post-purchase marketing as MINI.  For sure this isn’t my first, Cooper.  I go way back to the late 60s with Britain’s favorite economy car, which just happened to be one of the winningest race cars in history, and in its rebirth by BMW in 2001 one of the hottest brands worldwide.

So it didn’t take a lot on MINI’s part to get me to return to my roots when my Lexus SUV (a phenomenal vehicle that served me nearly 290,000 miles) was ready for a new garage.  I’m sure I’m wearing a fixed grin these days driving my little MINI Clubman (a racing machine disguised as station wagon), although I’m sure some of my friends think I’ve lost a couple of lug nuts upstairs.

Despite the fact that I’m already in love with the little thing – as most MINI owners are, according to all the auto rating books – what arrived in the mail this week not only reinforced how pleased I am with the decision to buy it … it reminded me that the sale is not over until you’ve got either a brand ambassador or a repeat customer, or both.


MINI has created a voice for its vehicles far larger than the little boxes that are just 4’ 8” tall and less than two inches wider.  They work tirelessly to make you part of a word-of-mouth army of recruiters with a quirky message and marketing communications tools not only designed to make you a loyalist, but to loosen your wallet for literally millions of after-sale add-ons that make their cash registers ring and your MINI a four-wheeled reflection of your personal brand.

Of all the things that arrived in Saturday’s package (including the envelope that turned into a tiny logoed backpack, a set of cards to give your closest friends telling them all the MINI gifts you’d like at holiday time [cha ching] and a mini fuzzy die to stick on top of your MINI’s mini antenna), the book 101 Fundamentals of Good Motoring tops the list.

Fundamental #11:  Be a Good-for-Something:  Motorers (what MINI calls drivers) are more than just good drivers.  They’re good citizens, too.  That’s why we created Motoring Hearts, a program that makes it easy to find and participate in volunteer opportunities that are unique to your interests.  Handy with power tools?  Help build a home.  Good with kids?  Be a mentor.  Like the roof on a MINI convertible, a motorer’s heart is always open.  To learn more, visit MINIMOTORINGHEARTS.COM.”

That’s brilliant.  Just imagine all those products gathered around doing good.  What a billboard!

More than an hour after opening the package, I was still reading, laughing and saying to myself “I love my MINI” … which has to be making some marketer at MINI USA very happy.

SERIOUS Cash for QR codes

February 27, 2012

by Kerry Martin

This goes way beyond offering some dollar-off coupon for scanning a QR code in a flier for fro-yo … individuals with social media savvy could win a $40,000 cash prize offered by the federal government.

Called the CLIQR Quest (Cash for Locating and Identifying Quick Response codes), the contest was issued last week by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to understand social media’s role in mobilizing and communicating with the masses to solve time-critical problems.  There is a deadline of two weeks to find a number of codes dispersed across the country, but this isn’t like a scavenger hunt that publishes clues to lead you to each one.  You must depend on strangers (other twitter users, bloggers, etc.) to share the locations of other QR codes in their local areas.

But will this strategy of incentivizing people by a cash prize really encourage others to share information willingly?  To me, it seems like this perceived notion of ‘teamwork’ is akin to creating alliances on “Survivor.”

If the purpose of this Quest is to prepare for crisis situations that need to provide rapid mobilization for humanitarian efforts (like tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters), what about basing the contest on those same principles of giving in times of need?  If I were to create this contest, I would offer that the prize money would go to the Red Cross or another charity that is currently helping people now—thus supporting the research’s mission of uniting people in a common goal through social media.  And to incentivize people to jump into action even faster, the prize money going to charity would start to diminish a little each day.

While this is a great way to assess social media’s power for getting information out to the public, I hope the contest’s motivation doesn’t hinder meaningful research.

Words Matter

February 24, 2012

by Kim Taylor

How much thought do you give to the words you select?

There is no commodity more valuable to a communicator than the words they choose to craft their message. Public relations practitioners are often accused of being “spin doctors,” but perhaps that “spin” is simply more thoughtful and deliberate selection of the same words to create a more powerful message.

To illustrate this point, picture the woman in this video as a seasoned PR pro.

Now, how much do you think words matter?

Dewey Defeats Truman

February 23, 2012

by Dan Ward


Those who have proclaimed victory of the Internet over newspapers and other “mainstream media” sources might want to take a look at a survey commissioned by Craig Newmark’s craigconnects.

As reported by the Poynter Institute, the survey finds that when it comes to accurately reporting on politics and elections, newspapers, cable news and network news are seen as most credible.  (Twenty-two percent said newspapers are “very credible,” followed by cable news and network news at 21 percent apiece.)  While 22 percent is nothing to write headlines about, it’s much better than the numbers for online sources.  (Internet news sites came in at 13 percent, followed by blogs and social media at 6 percent.)

In what might also be seen as a surprise, 34 percent of respondents felt that social media sites have had a negative effect on the quality of news reporting, twice as many as those who feel social media has had a positive effect.

And for those who love to crow about Internet sources that are the first to break news, you are in the vast minority if you view that as most important when choosing news sources.  When asked which characteristics are most important when choosing news sources while an election is happening, only 6 percent answered “first to report story,” while 49 percent chose “trustworthy,” and 23 percent chose “in-depth analysis.”

While it would be nice to see this study go beyond the election cycle and look at perceptions of sources for all news, this has to be seen as a good sign for those of us who still see a role for newspapers and other mainstream media … sources that have traditionally valued credibility and quality over the rush to publish.

The question is whether newspapers will get the hint, or whether they will continue to lose the qualities people see as most important in the mad rush to compete for online clicks.


February 23, 2012

by Dan Ward

It’s routinely said that there is a left-leaning bias in the news media.  While there appears to be decades of anecdotal evidence supporting this, an ongoing study of news coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign could suggest otherwise.

According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the tone of news coverage so far this year is overwhelmingly negative when it comes to President Obama, while coverage of Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum appears to be more balanced.

The Campaign 2012 study tracks the tone and volume of news coverage about the candidates, combining “human coding with the power of algorithmic analysis” of more than 11,000 new websites around the United States.

According to Pew’s analysis, coverage of President Obama has been trended about 10 percent positive and 30 to 40 percent negative over the last eight months.  Positive coverage of Mitt Romney during that time has averaged between 20 and 30 percent, with negative coverage spiking to 40 percent only in the last 30 days.  Positive coverage for Mr. Santorum has actually exceeded negative coverage over the last two months, according to Pew.

So, does this one study refute the “liberal media” label, or does it only fuel more debate?

Target me, please

February 14, 2012

by Roger Pynn

Others have written here about poor efforts to produce targeted communication, but the one I got yesterday was really sad.  I actually felt bad for the poor person who sent me a letter that started, “Dear Plan Sponsor,” asking for a chance to take over our company’s 401K investment plan.

If you are receiving this letter, I’ve researched information about your company’s 401K plan that you NEED to be made aware of,” it said, going on to warn “I have identified YOUR 401K plan as a HIGH FEE PLAN.

Knowing that our longtime plan advisors Carpenter Claydon pride themselves on moderate fees and that they have done an outstanding job that has seen our plan outpace most market indicators, I imagine those could easily become fighting words.

But then I thought about the envelope I had just opened.  I doubt anyone would feel threatened by a non-personalized letter sent in a 5×7 manila envelope that was hand-lettered … poorly lettered at that.

Tip to small businesses:  it costs so little to do it right.  And it pays big dividends.



InstaPR, anyone?

February 6, 2012

 By Brittany Englert

A few pictures strategically captured, a thoughtful lens filter selected, and a few seconds later, an Instagram is created.  With the touch of a finger, a simple app can turn anyone with an iPhone into a skilled artist with an eye for photography.  So, what does this mean for the PR industry?  Sounds like a chance to connect with audiences on a whole new level of real-time engagement, to me.

This Masahable article talks about how Ford used Instagram to let its fans promote and market the Ford Fiesta and its key features through a photo contest held with the Instagram app.  Ford controlled their message by creating hashtags specific to the features it wanted to focus on and told users to take pictures of things like #entry, #music and #hidden while also tagging #Fiestagram in their post.  Users were encouraged to, and did, take liberal interpretation of the hashtags, all while simultaneously promoting the Ford Fiesta.  Weekly prizes motivated users to participate, including a grand prize of the Ford Fiesta itself.

Such a simple concept behind the promotion (guerilla marketing), but innovative in its approach through using Instagram, the mobile app is creating a new way for companies to market their product.  By engaging their target demographic and allowing them to get creative with their pictures, Ford essentially created a way to filter itself to the top of the Instagram feed and placed themselves in view of top Instagram users.

As I read this article, I discovered that there’s more to Instagram than meets the eye.  It turns out, there’s an entire movement built around the app called Instagramers.  They are organized communities of Instagram users around the world, broken down into groups by country and city/state, who organize “instameets” in their area.  An instameet?  Yes, you read that right.  It’s like the tweetup of the Instagram world and encourages communities of “Igers” to meet at a location, create a theme and hashtag, if possible, partner with local businesses or companies to offer a prize incentive, and of course, upload their images to Instagram. The developers of Instagramers also create @photooftheday contests and offer advice on topics such as “How to Become a Most Popular” and “How to Find Love in Instagram.”

Clearly, Instagram is a cultural movement that will not fade away anytime soon, and still represents this sort of underground community of people interested in capturing the beauty of their surroundings and turning even the most mundane of photos into eye-catching, creative wonders.  As PR professionals, I think it’s worth taking a moment to evaluate the potential benefit of incorporating Instagram and targeting its users to create a PR campaign that utilizes the creativity of your audience and letting them engage with each other to get your message across.

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