Walkin’ on water

These days you can’t just sell a product by starting a marketing campaign. To sell a product, you have to create a phenomenon and sell a lifestyle. The trick is creating the phenomenon and selling the lifestyle without anyone realizing that you’re also trying to sell a product. Enter Hi-Tec’s Liquid Mountaineering ad campaign.

Back in 2009, a video popped up on Youtube introducing the world to the newest extreme sport sweeping the world, Liquid Mountaineering. In other words, walking on water. The video was shot like a documentary and ostensibly filmed in Portugal featuring a number of foreign athletes who helped “invent” the sport. The video interviews these athletes and they talk about how the sport got started and then show a number of attempts to liquid mountaineer. In the video, the athletes are all discretely wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts branded with Hi-Tec. A few of the athletes make mention the fact that the sport became possible due to their discovery of a pair of 100 % water repellant shoes. The video gained over 4 million hits. Suddenly everyone was talking about Liquid Mountaineering. If this all sounds a bit fishy to you, it should. A lot of people fell for the video. It was shot documentary style and seemed plausible enough. A Facebook page and a blog were made in homage to the new sport and the “athletes” were obscure and foreign enough that any person on the internet would not be surprised if the only mention they found of them was through the Liquid Mountaineering sites. When a few people noticed the Hi-Tec branding and questioned them about the video, they at first denied any involvement. It wasn’t until some time later when they acknowledged that yes it was an ad campaign and yes the videos were not real.

When asked about the campaign Simon Bonham, the head of marketing at Hi-Tec, explained that the goal of the videos was to “capture the fun, spirited side of our brand.” Bonham and Hi-Tec wanted to sell the Hi-Tec “lifestyle,” as the most extreme of all the extreme sports clothing brands. To do that, they invented an outrageous sport and sent into the blogosphere where they got all the free publicity they needed. When a video goes viral there’s no telling how large the audience and the exposure will get, certainly more than any commercial on a hit TV show. And you can bet anyone that saw that video wont be forgetting who orchestrated the gag.

Check out the video:

Lime green undies

Vacationed in Nantucket this summer? Perhaps you came across a tall blonde girl clad in lime green undies with a pink stripe at the top. Perhaps you also encountered a large group of high school or college aged people receiving this undies, putting them on, and taking a picture. Seems like a strange thing to do on a summer vacay but hey, you never know these days.

What are these undies all about? That is exactly what the clothing line, Jack Wills, wants you to ask. And nope, Jack Wills is not a lingerie or undergarment store. Rather, it is a British store known for its preppy, boarding-school image. Urban Dictionary explains Jack Wills as,

The Quintessential British Preppy Brand
A clothes brand, the british alternative to Abercrombie and Fitch but much more exclusive to those who can afford it. JW has a rock solid, traditional British heritage, inspired by vintage sportswear, beachwear and classic British public school style. It is the epitome of British preppy cool. Customers who are mainly sloanes and preps are unarguably beautiful and sexy. They are the popular guys and girls in class. They are confident and they ooze effortless style. They adore a hedonistic party. And they are ever so, ever so laid back. It is the complete opposite to anything remotely chavvy such as adidias or lonsdale.

What is a sloane? Or Lonsdale? Really, it is irrelevant, because Jack Wills has turned to a new market. Who other than the young, bold, Generation X, right here in America? Let’s take a look…

Seriously, this video might as well scream murketing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a JW Seasonnaire. They definitely got me on board. An internship to live at the Jack Wills house, in beautiful, sunny Nantucket for the summer? (There’s a Jack Wills house?!) Opportunities to party in LA and the UK at a sponsored party? Handing out neon underwear on the beach all day? (Admittedly, this part could get a little weird.)

But, you get my point. Jack Wills is targeting their new potential consumers at all angles, including plopping themselves smack down in the middle of arguably one of the preppiest places in the U.S. and claiming it as their murketing territory. Wealthy, preppy summer vacationers are exactly the people Jack Wills hopes to gain as loyal brand wearers.

Even further, Jack Wills is encouraging these potential consumers to work for, and with, Jack Wills to promote not only awareness but also a certain image of what it means to wear the brand. By inviting these adventure-minded, party-ready young adults to “work” (walk down the beach all day) for the brand, Jack Wills is not only marketing to those the workers will interact with, but is also using this internship as a platform to attract and entice people to be an integral part of their brand image, and thus create an intimate bond and loyalty to the brand. By allowing consumers to be a part of the process of marketing, Jack Wills is capitalizing on Generation X’s desire to be active consumers, directly involved with the brands they choose to be part of their identity. Those who work for the brand will most likely feel very connected to their lime green undies.

If you ask me, its genius.

(And what, by the way, has Jack Wills been up to in this colder weather? Ah, it has smoothly transitioned from summery Nantucket to sophisticated Newbury Street, sponsoring an “exclusive” party to celebrate the opening of the new store. Check it out.)

Once upon a time….

I’m going to tell you a story. Actually, I’m going to paraphrase a story that none other than our favorite Rob Walker tells in his book, Buying In. He does a wonderful, detailed job telling you this story, but quite frankly I don’t have that time and you would probably get bored, so I will give you the highlights.

Once upon a time, there was a beer company called Pabst Brewing Company. They made a nice, cheap beer called Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). PBR wasn’t doing too well in terms of sales. The company wasn’t doing very well either. However, for some reason, despite the fact that they were not marketing the beer at all, they saw sales starting to pick up. And grow. And grow some more. When they investigated the growing popularity of the beer, they found that it was becoming a favorite among individuals in “alternative” people- especially in Portland. You know what kind of people I’m talking about. The hipster, grunge, Indie, underground type people. This included subculture groups like bike messengers. These people liked PBR because, quite frankly, there was no marketing around it. They saw it as a sort of underdog and adopted it into their culture. They were able to do this because there was a lack of brand meaning associated with PBR, which let the drinkers create their own meaning around PBR- a phenomena called projectability. This was also a bottom up approach to marketing.

The interesting thing about PBR is that even once its foundering sales picked up- it still abstained from basically any marketing. Aside from the occasional low-key sponsorship of a bike messenger tournament, it shunned advertising, including a possible endorsement deal with Kid Rock. However, I refuse to believe that PBR uses no marketing. Instead, I think it is very murky. Here is an example I found of one way the brand seems to be marketing itself- without seeming like it is coming directly from the company.

 

As you can tell by the picture, this campaign is spearheaded by Union Binding Company (a snowboard binding retailer) which offered this pretty cool looking pair of PBR bindings in a contest. In order to enter the contest, one simply had to share the image on their Facebook page. There are a few things about this that interest me.

1) PBR is very smart to team up and “co-brand” with Union Binding Company. It makes the source of this promotion more murky and makes consumers feel less like Pabst is hitting them with an ad directly.

2) Note that the product they are branding is snowboard bindings. Remember how I told you the brand was embraced by alternative subculture types? Snowboarders seem to fit that category to me.

3) People actually want to win these (as you can tell by the number of people who commented on the photo or entered the contest). This reinforces the idea that people see PBR as more of a cultural symbol and less of a brand.

4) This is yet another example of a company who uses Facebook advertising to their advantage. By making sharing the photo a term of the contest, they are getting free, word of mouth advertising.

 

Will Pabst live happily ever after using this type of murketing strategy? I don’t know. What do you think?

Murketing and the Movies

Murketing is one of those catch-all phrases that we can apply to a number of marketing tactics these days. However, one of the most common murketing techniques is viral marketing. Viral marketing is the sort of marketing that we see most often in entertainment these days. Its the subversive advertising that does not always even say what its advertising but is catchy and provocative. Because of that, it gets you to find out what they’re trying to sell you. Its the integration of the real world with the fake world of their movie. And no is one better at that type of marketing than Lost’s J.J. Abrams.

 

J.J. Abrams is the producer of Lost, Cloverfield and Super 8. His marketing schemes for all of them are nothing short of genius. Abrams released a Cloverfield trailer along with one of the most popular movies of the summer, Transformers. The trailer never said the name of the movie and instead featured only a date. If viewers went to the movie site (which was only the date in the trailer 1-18-08.com) they were treated to only a series of photos and random audio clips that were just as mysterious as the trailer released. What did all this do? Help generate huge buzz as to what the movie was about. By the time the movie released, viral tie-ins were everywhere including websites for a drink company called Slusho! and a Japanese drilling company called Tagruato, all to further the mystery of the plot. The film ended up grossing over $170 million dollars.

Another example of viral film murketing is the marketing scheme for 28 weeks later. If there’s one thing we know, its that everyone loves zombies. To market the film that depicted Britain as a giant zombie apocalypse, the marketing team in charge projected a massive biohazard sign onto the White Cliffs of Dover, ramping up speculation as to what it was for. Then across the cities of London and Birmingham, the marketing team spray painted biohazard signs in random locations with the web address ragevirus.com (the name of the disease in the film). All of these are just short intriguing buzzwords  to get people to start asking questions about the ad and then the movie. By the time you go to the web address, they’ve already got you hooked. And that is murketing in the movies.

Get ’em early!

We all know what advertisers want: Cradle to grave brand loyalty. According to Susan Linn, cofounder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, “Marketing to children in this country is pervasive, it’s virtually unchecked, and it’s escalating,” In today’s world, everything a child uses is branded from diapers to clothes to toys. No longer do babies have mobiles of stars and globes and other shapes. Now, they have mobiles with Elmo and Mickey Mouse, instilling a brand loyalty before they can even begin to think.

The question now for advertisers is how do you convert a child’s brand loyalty to Sesame Street into brand loyalty to Lexus or Toyota when they are older? Ford is attempting to do just that with their latest ad campaign, a partnership with Lego, the popular toy maker. As part of their new partnership, Ford commissioned Lego to make a Ford Explorer entirely out of Legos. The Lego Ford will then go on tour to the Legoland Theme Park in Orlando, Florida where it will undoubtedly be ogled by countless Lego enthusiasts and, of course, all the children at the park. Before it arrives at Legoland Florida, however, the car will be loaded onto a trailer with transparent sides so that motorists from Chicago (where it was built) to Florida can witness it in all its Lego-Ford glory.

The partnership has gained a lot of press for both Legoland and Ford, undoubtedly due to its unusual nature. It follows the typical structure of viral murketing. In order to gain attention in this media saturated world, you have form unusual partnerships that capture the imagination, even if you can do so for only fifteen minutes. The Lego Explorer is unusual enough that they are now getting free press and advertising from news outlets that report the story and interview Ford and Lego executives. By simply building a car, they find free independent advertising that can’t be Tivoed out. Check out the car:

Murky Muscle Milk (Ew)

I have had a large box of Muscle Milk sitting in my kitchen (in a house full of eleven girls it remains largely untouched, though it has been an interesting conversation starter at times) almost all year. Where did I get it? One of my friends works for Muscle Milk. I’ve seen her around campus a few times, clad in all black, riding in the passenger seat of the Muscle Milk car.

If you haven’t seen it driving around yet, take a peek.

She has showed up at our university’s athletic field to give the athletes free samples. I even saw her and her Muscle Milk posse at a house on Spring Fling, our spring concert, giving out free samples. Muscle Milk and beer on a hot day, what could be better? (Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.)

Recently, I came across this “music video” for Muscle Milk.

So, already we have some very evident murketing in the Muscle Milk campaign. First of all, the Muscle Milk car is a moving advertisement. And I would guess that it is no mistake that the car of choice is a jeep. Muscle Milk is a “sporting drink” and thus it seems in order to target this “sporty” population that would drink a “sporty” drink, Muscle Milk advertisers chose a jeep, a car that already has an established “sporty” identity and association.

This leads to my next observation. In his book, Buying In, Walker describes the case of the Timberland boot. Sidney Swartz, the original creator of the Timberland boot, developed a boot for the average, honest, hardworking, blue-color individual. However, the boot was soon embraced by an urban, Hip Hop and R&B population. Walker refers to this as bottom-up marketing, when a group embraces a brand and defines the meaning of the brand themselves, regardless of the efforts of the producers of the brand to cultivate a different meaning. This is an important phenomenon in the new murky world of marketing, and marketers are faced with the challenge of adapting to and maintaining this newly determined meaning of their brand.

What does this have to do with Muscle Milk? Well, thats for us to find out.

Take a look at the Muscle Milk website. Turns out Muscle Milk is a larger company called CytoSport. CytoSport describes itself as a “premier manufacturer of sports-oriented nutritional products that address the needs of athletes and active lifestyle individuals at every level.” The website provides links to sponsored professional athletes as well as colleges that it is associated with, under the tab “Team Cyto”. Cyto Sport even has a special line, “Muscle Milk Collegiate” to directly serve the needs of this young demographic. The last link under this tab identifies CytoSport’s partners, training facilities and sports teams, including the Yahoo! Cycling Team. (Yahoo! has a cycling team? I can’t keep up with all this murketing…) Muscle Milk also sponsors a auto racing team, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport.

I could go on and on, but clearly, Muscle Milk is rapidly adapting to and capitalizing on the murkiness of today’s marketing environment.

However, I wonder how murky marketing is affecting them. Let’s return to their music video. It hardly screams healthy, professional athletes training for competition, as their website boasts. Rather, it seems more in line with the Muscle Milk truck showing up at Spring Fling at Tufts. What’s going on here?

Perhaps the population that is embracing Muscle Milk is not the professional or competitive athletes CytoSport seems to focus on. Maybe Muscle Milk Collegiate fits more effectively into the population of “guido” spring-breakers hoping to tone (and tan) their muscles to increase their chances of picking up a hot chick. The music video seems to suggest that this may be the case, as it blatantly pokes fun of this population of people.

Perhaps, however, Muscle Milk marketers know that bottom-up murketing is at work here, and know that this population could in fact help them, even if it is not what they originally intended. This play hard, party hard, pump-iron hard population may be just what they need.

I bet the majority of Muscle Milk marketers cracked a smile at the line:

“But wait, before we get reckless, gotta look in the mirror and go over our checklist. My arms… are ridiculous, check. My legs… are ridiculous, check. My abs are all tight like their ready for business.”