Friday, January 29, 2010

Quad's Quest: Company at a Crossroads

Big shakeup this week in commercial printing: While the iPad was introducing yet another threat to the industry, Quad/Graphics was making a bold move for its future.

Quad is buying a Canadian firm called World Color Press to create the second largest printer in North America.

The deal is interesting not just because of our work with a number of commercial printers, but more so because of the communications challenges involved.

CEO Joel Quadracci rightly called the takeover “a transformational event.” Poised to go public at a time of great upheaval in the industry, Quad is at quite a crossroads. At stake are relationships with customers, employees and now a whole new audience—shareholders.

It’s a big moment of truth for the company. And, as our work with a number of clients during such critical events has shown, Quad will need to provide clear, consistent, strategic communications.

What Quad leaders say and do over the next few months will affect:

n Customer loyalty

n Employee retention

n Brand equity

n Strategic success

In other words, it will have a huge impact on the future success of the company and the industry.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who Cares If Domino’s Pizza Is Any Good?

I wouldn’t normally put “Domino’s Pizza” and “bold” in the same sentence.

But now there’s this ad campaign hyping the pizza chain’s supposedly bold new taste.

Haven’t tried the overhauled pie yet, so I can’t comment on that. But the ads? Most certainly bold and unorthodox.

Instead of focusing on the company’s reformulated pizza, the spots surprise by dwelling on blunt customer criticisms of the previous product—“cardboard” crust, “ketchup” sauce, etc.

By breaking the unwritten “don’t admit you stink” rule, the campaign is getting a lot of attention. It may or may not surprise you that creator of this saucy campaign is Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, an agency famous/infamous for jarring and at times annoying advertising.

So, certainly, the spots have some stopping power. And they’ve got some integrated online goodness, too. Pizza Turnaround does a nice job reinforcing the company’s earnestness toward improving their product by posting tweats about the new pizza—and not filtering out the critics. It’s all very effective and memorable.

But wait a second here. Quick: What do you think of when you think Domino’s?

If you’re like me, you think “quick delivery.” That, after all, has long been the strength of the brand. And Domino’s seemed to be doing pretty well with that reputation, regardless of what people thought about the taste.

So why mess with a good brand? That shift in focus, not the admission of past failures, may be the real risk of an otherwise impressive campaign.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Txt to ‘Haiti’ to 90999: In Tragedy, a Fundraising Triumph

By now, you’ve probably heard that you can quickly, easily donate $10 to Haiti earthquake relief efforts by texting “Haiti” to 90999.

Just days after the disaster, the program already is an unprecedented success, with millions of people donating a total of more than $8 million (and rising) to the Red Cross.

Without the text-to-donate opportunity—and the phenomenal publicity it’s received via social media, blogs and traditional media—would the relief effort be so flush with funding, so immediately? Not likely. Text donors account for at least one-fifth of the Red Cross’ earthquake relief fundraising so far.

It’s a breakthrough—a timely, convenient, impactful way to participate and help people in such dire need. And, as MediaPost points out, the $10 texting effort has reached a younger generation of donors who might not otherwise take the time or feel like they have the money to contribute.

For so many nonprofit organizations, at a time when money is tight and the need to find new people to support and sustain their missions is greater than ever, the rise in mobile marketing represents an excellent opportunity to engage with younger audiences.

For example, mPower, a Milwaukee-based under-21 drug and alcohol crisis hotline, is reaching its target audience with a combination of text messaging, social media and traditional channels. A campaign encouraging teens to text mPower and sign up for mobile alerts—for a chance to win a Nintendo Wii—has been a great success.

It’s good to see charitable organizations putting these new technologies to effective use, and the Haiti “text to give” success bodes well for future initiatives.

Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, please consider taking a moment to give to the relief effort. If texting isn’t your thing, here are some other ways to donate.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Getting Smart about Smartphones and Mobile Marketing

Let me start with a WARNING: This post may go a little heavier than usual on tech gadget talk. But I figure we’d all be wise to familiarize ourselves with the latest lingo. Here’s why.

As 2010 gets rolling, mobile advertising—the digital kind, not the billboards-on-trucks kind—is shaping up to be one of the few growth areas for marketing spending.

What’s driving the growth? The burgeoning 3G smartphone market, as evidenced by the battle heating up between Apple and Google. You’ve got your iPhones and your Droids and your Google Nexus Ones. And then there are the “tablets” everyone was hyping at CES 2010.

These new devices—faster loading, with higher-resolution screens and advanced capabilities—are quickly transforming and expanding the applications of mobile advertising. People who need their Internet now can have constant access to the web in its full glory like never before.

And more importantly for this blog, marketers have more opportunities to reach adopters of smartphone technology in ever more targeted ways. Location-based advertising that syncs with new phones’ GPS capabilities holds particularly strong potential.

However, the need is still there to accommodate the limited capabilities of earlier generations of web phones (such as the older Blackberry products that proliferate in many corporate environments). Witness the growth of Mobile Facebook, a typical mobile site that strips nearly all graphic content in the name of faster loads for mobile phones. It also remains critical to cater to some extent to these phones’ limitations in email campaigns.

But with the far-more-capable iPhones and Android-based devices making strong inroads in the market, we may soon reach a point where designing down to lowest-common-denominator mobile phones is no longer necessary.

In any case, marketing and advertising aimed at mobile devices is a dynamic realm definitely worth keeping an eye on in 2010.