marketing minute

Marketing Minute: Unmarketing

Advertising and marketing is so prevalent and takes so many different forms and faces that sometimes it’s easy to forget that some of the biggest companies do no advertising. The list of brands that haven’t invested in traditional advertising include some of the most well-known brands around, Krispy Kreme, Spanx and Whole Foods are some of the bigger names. But take for example, everyone’s new favorite hot sauce: Sriracha.  With no traditional advertising the fiery sauce has managed to inspire an entire Food Festival dedicated to it. It’s popularity due to word of mouth and social media. So why isn’t every company doing this type of [un]marketing?


The reason is because this act of “doing nothing” takes a lot of work. It’s easier to conceptualize a tangible advertising campaign. This ability to perpetuate and maintain a brand’s popularity without traditional advertising is a new field that is still growing and hasn’t been as obviously defined.

Take Sriracha for example, it’s hard to escape this hot sauce lately. Everyone from Subway to Lays have introduced their version of Sriracha-flavored items. Sure, this is advertising. But it didn’t come directly from Sriracha. The brand has created a movement, a legion of followers. Why? My theory is that although Sriracha is no longer a secret, it’s still not so mainstream. It feels special to know about it, at least it the beginning. Everyone want’s to feel like they’re the first to like the cool thing. Sriracha didn’t have to work too hard to get your attention, they didn’t need advertising.

Even successful advertising runs the risk of oversaturing and tiring their customer. So why invest in advertising that  has your customers on the street doing the leg work. It takes more creativity and more ingenuity.  Your job is to get potential customers to think it was their idea to promote your brand by word of mouth instead of the result of your professional craftiness.




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Marketing Minute: Sadvertising

It’s always interesting to see what tricks advertisers are coyly employing in their campaigns. I’ve recently read a really well written and interesting Fast Company article, where writer Rae Fera points out that while not too long ago “funny” was the way most advertisers chose to direct people to their ads, lately the trend has been going another direction – by making customers cry.

Fera cleverly calls this trend “sadvertising” and describes it as emotional commercials and ads that hope to stir some sort of reaction out of customers to build a bond, relationship or, at the very least, association that will result in increased traffic

What’s really interesting is how simple the idea really is. Any effective strategy aims to create a story, a character or situation that you can relate to or root for. For example, the commercial below shows a man and his dog sharing good moments while at the end they show the dog waiting for the man and ends with the voice-over imploring everyone to think about their friends waiting for them at home before they think about drinking and driving . Cue the tears (no? just me?).

A simple idea that can’t help but stir a reaction that helps you connect with a story and ultimately (possibly subconsciously ) a brand.

Noted by Fera, one of the commercials that started this recent trend of “Sadvertising” was a 2011 Google commercial titled, “Dear Sophie.” In the commercial,  a new dad chronicles his young daughter’s life through gmail. You watch it and you find yourself tearing up (unless you’re a cold-hearted robot). This might not seem remarkable, you see a sappy commercial and it makes you cry. But in reality, it’s commendable and genius advertising.

A commercial that is essentially selling an email service can genuinely make you cry. Brilliant.

What’s interesting about this trend is not that it’s novel; the idea of creating marketing and advertising that relates to your customer to engage them in your brand is nothing new. However, the difference now is that companies aren’t always in charge of their marketing anymore. If I watched the commercial above and it really touched me (which it did), I’ll be more likely to rewind and watch it again or to pull it up on YouTube for other’s to see. I’m exposing more people to it and building an (unconcious) bond or at the very least positive association with a brand which can one day potentially result in me becoming a customer for said brand.

But does it work? Will I go buy a six pack of Budweiser anytime soon? Probably not. But maybe? And that “maybe” is enough to make it worth it for advertisers. Of course the trick for advertisers and marketers alike is how to create content that connects with your customers on a real emotional level without feeling gimmicky and intentional. It’ll be interesting to see how long this trend lasts and how effective it proves in the long run.



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Marketing Minute: Target Collabs

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Search #AltuzarraForTarget on Instagram and over 3,000 posts come up and that’s just the eager shoppers who spelled the French designer’s name correctly. This most recent collab is just the latest joint venture that Target is spearheading. Proenza Schouler, Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen and Neiman Marcus are just a few of the past big buck brands that have paired with the affordable retailer to bring brand named goods to an audience that may shy away from a three and four digit price point.

Although this idea may sound ingenious, Target isn’t reinventing the wheel. The idea of selling (a version of) luxury brand goods at a more affordable price is nothing new. Back in the 80s, it was unheard of and discouraged for any successful designer to license their name for affordable mainstream consumption. Halston, a designer who saw huge success in the 60s and 70s (while working at Bergdorf Goodman, he designed the pillbox hat famously worn by Jackie Kennedy at her late husband’s funeral), was one of the first to pioneer this trend. However, this move resulted in his long term relationship with Bergdorf Goodman being axed. Selling the rights to his name proved a poor move.

It’s hard to believe that something that is so common place now at Target and other retailers was once thought so controversial. No “cred” is lost now when a designer decides to make the move.

That’s because the way fashion is marketed has changed (in my uneducated opinion). Designer collaborations are successful because they make an unattainable lifestyle attainable. Now more than ever we’re privy to every detail of the privileged class’ life. What make-up they wear, the restaurants they eat at, the cars they drive, everything is out in the open. With these collabs, we can feel a little closer to that lifestyle.

Though we may not be able to vacation in Bali or shop at Neiman Marcus, these high-low collabs allow people the luxury of pretending just for a second that we can.

The exclusivity isn’t lost because this has been replaced by receiving likes, feedbacks, shares and retweets via social media. Who needs to actually be able to afford expensive goods when we can all pretend we can via social media?




Marketing Minute is a weekly-ish post on marketing musings, rants, complaints and observations.