Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kevin James and the Bro-nanza

To say that Kevin James is typecast is an understatement.  He's a bit on the chubby side, he generally plays a bumbling moron, and he is sometimes accompanied by an unrealistically hot female counterpart.  As women have gained more equal status in the workplace and society in general, the stereotype of the masculine and providing male has morphed men into Kevin James.  Nowhere has this been more evident than in advertising.

While women have been making strides in the working world it is still generally accepted that the woman of the house still makes the purchasing decisions.  Ads for most household items are still targeted at women, and they even play to the "I'm Leah Remini and my husband is Kevin James" mentality.  Many of today's advertisements not only alienate men from the purchase decision, but they are downright crude about it.  No ad is more offensive to men than the Avery Full Stick Label commercial called "Fantasy Football Draft."

The wife demeans and emasculates her husband and his hobby.  She does this with a smirk as he shrugs and sulks in the corner like a child that has been reprimanded.  Not only is this commercial generally accepted by the public, but it's viewed as humor.

On the flip side of this coin is the other type of advertising geared at men: What I like to call "the Bromercial."  These are the ads that portray all men as rowdy frat boys who like to break free of the shackles of family life (and nagging wives who ruin his Fantasy Draft).  These ads show a guy hanging with the guys.  They portray life as chummy and shallow, with men being only in pursuit of "non-feminine" activities.

I read a story this morning about a new campaign Pepsi Max is running in New Zealand.  If you enter a code from a bottle of Max you can test your "Bromitment" and be entered to win a trip to go skydiving or a vacation to go to Spain during the Running of the Bulls.  Obviously all men want to do manly things like get gored by a bull.  This is, after all, the only decision that a man can make on his own; buy a Pepsi and jump out of a plane.

As these incorrect male stereotypes continue to be perpetuated by advertisers, brands are going to miss out on more and more male-directed spending.  A Yahoo study about dad-driven consumer behavior found that most men feel isolated and left out of the purchase of child-care items.  Men are playing a more equal role in parenting, and some men are even stay-at-home dads.  Marketers need to understand this shift and stop portraying men as dumb frat boys or dumb pushovers.  Women in advertising are portrayed as the diverse and multi-faceted beings that they are.  It's about time men in advertising get a fair shake too.

Monday, December 5, 2011

That Personal Touch

Over the past two weeks I have had two different interactions on twitter that I want to share.  Both involve a company responding to a general comment I made about each company.  Both interactions show the company going above and beyond, and really adding that personal touch.

I pack a yogurt every day for lunch.  I'm not much of a milk drinker so I like to get calcium elsewhere.  On this particular day I was excited to eat a Key Lime flavored yogurt that I purchased at Wegman's (a high-end grocery store in the Northeast).  I am a huge Key Lime Pie fan, so this was going to be a treat.  As I started eating the yogurt I noticed a lack of any real flavoring, Key Lime or otherwise.  I posted a comment on twitter stating "i think this yogurt is missing its flavoring.  thanks @wegmans for denying me my key lime fix."

My intent was more humor than anything else, and I was surprised that a representative from Wegman's responded within minutes.  We traded a few messages back and forth, mostly about the product code and other ways for Wegman's to check and QA their providers.  Less than an hour after my initial tweet I had provided Wegman's with my contact information and a coupon for a free yogurt was on its way to my home.  By writing my initial tweet I never expected a free yogurt.  It's not like the one I had was bad, per se.  I did finish it after all.  Wegman's took the effort to monitor their mentions and they wanted to make it right with the consumer, even if it was only a $0.50 yogurt.

Under The Influence
This past Friday I decided to have a lazy night.  Instead of making plans or trying to have a night on the town I kept it low-key.  Feeling a bit nostalgic, I broke out my original Xbox and started up Project Gotham Racing.  Since it was Friday, I was relaxing with a beer or two.  Again, trying to add some humor to my twitter feed, I sent a quick update to my followers: "Does it count as DUI to play Xbox driving games while drinking beer?"

I didn't think anything of this comment until the next morning when I saw that @xboxsupport was now following me.  I noticed a mention in my timeline from Xbox Support: "maybe PUI? hehe either way have fun and let us know if you ever need some help ^BB."  This was a completely unnecessary comment, and obviously unsolicited.  My original tweet had no hash-tag or @ mention.  Someone at Microsoft is following mentions of Xbox so closely that my tweet was found anyway.  In an effort to make sure I know where to turn for support, BB at Microsoft added a quick joke of his (or her) own and left it at that.  It is a quick personal touch that took a few seconds to do, and here we are two days later still talking about.

Both of these interactions are small-scale.  This is not as scathing as United Breaks Guitars or the Delta military fiasco.  This is not as impressive as Shankman's airport steak delivery.  That does not diminish the personal touch and lasting impression, however.  The main objective of social media is being social, after all.  By empowering twitter response teams to engage and interact with customers, companies can easily have a positive impact in the minds of consumers.  By ignoring the social aspect of this medium, some companies are missing the point entirely and missing out on effortless opportunity.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

As American as Cheap French Fries

Today's Living Social deal is for McDonalds.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Living Social, one of the major players in the very crowded "daily deal" space, is running a one-day deal with McDonalds, the largest fast food company in the world.  Just $13 gets you five Big Macs and five orders of fries, and you only have today to partake!

While you are contemplating a $13 coronary, consider this also: it is just before 9am and 32,000 of these have already been purchased.  This is likely going to be the largest deal for Living Social (or any daily deal site) for quite some time.  Getting such a name as McDonalds to sign on also legitimizes the company and solidifies their business.  While Groupon has been struggling with valuation math errors, compaints from customers and merchants, and a sinking share price after a questionable IPO, Living Social has been quietly humming along in the background making snappy commercials, adding new service lines like food and travel, and securing additional funding from investors.

This particular deal is not like the standard Living Social voucher.  Typically users are emailed a voucher that can also be stored on an iOS or Android app.  The user presents the voucher at the place of business, and the discount is applied.  For McDonalds the buyer is actually mailed a coupon book, which I imagine will be much like those that used to be available at Halloween.  With coupon in hand, the buyer is entitled to one free Big Mac and one free order of fries.

Previous complaints about daily deal sites have centered around the experience at the register.  In some businesses the employees are completely unaware that a deal is circulating.  In some cases the employees had knowledge of the deal but no knowledge of how to actually ring it through.  It's my guess that McDonalds is using coupons in order to minimize this effect and to also account for the scope of trying to train all cashiers on a new process.  Having a physical coupon will also allow for easy tracking of redemption, although the figures may be skewed as the coupons do not have an expiration date.

Living Social and McDonalds are both taking a risk with this venture.  Living Social has tried to present itself as a company that wants to introduce you to adventures and new experiences.  It's safe to say that a Big Mac is neither of those things.  Living Social is also putting itself at risk in terms of fulfillment (if they are the ones sending the coupons).  McDonalds is certainly at risk just like any other merchant that uses a daily deal program.  Any of the complaints that a mom-and-pop pizza store face are possible at McDonalds; with McDonalds, however, the complaints will be magnified by about 13,000 (the number of US locations).

It's taken me about 20 minutes to write to this point, and another 7,000 deals have been purchased.  At this pace McDonalds will sell half a million voucher books today worth about $13 million (based on average value of $26).  As the sales tick up over the course of the day, and as these coupons start to get redeemed, it will become clear if this was a smart move or not.  McDonalds is likely banking on coupon users making additional purchases while in-store.  Living Social, however, is likely banking on this to bring in more large-name companies as their nearest competitor continues to expire as fast as a daily deal.