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.”

Captain American Pride

Remember when Captain America: The First Avenger came out earlier this year during the summer? What about the Green Lantern that came out around that time too? Well, even if you didn’t go see either movie like I did, you and I were probably very aware of its presence via other marketing outlets besides dramatic trailers aired on TV.

After stumbling across this article on Captain America on the USA Today’s online website, I couldn’t help but think that there was evidence of murketing at hand.

In Rob Walker’s book Buying In, he addresses the phenomenon of lifestyles and cultures of specific groups such as underground skateboarders and musicians becoming huge brand names that are not only associated with the original members that started it but attracting individuals who aren’t regular members to the activity. Instead, they are drawn by the meaning that they associate with the brand’s image.

I see two things going on here. Within the advertising efforts to publicize Captain America (Green Lantern too) there is a creation of a following towards the superhero themed brands for people who honestly weren’t originally loyal fans from the beginning. The other thing is the meaning that is now associated with Captain America and other superheroes of the like are spreading to the public through murketing.

The image in question today is that of the group of comic readers and superhero followers who have demonstrated their passion for the culture while others looked at them as seemingly uncool nerds. Those individuals who have been avid fans of superhero comics before the film industry started creating superhero movies know what it’s like to be looked down upon. However, with the subsequent years that have passed since the first release of a superhero movie with advanced graphics (Spider-man), somehow it’s perfectly fine to like comics and superheroes.

Let’s face it it’s cool to be a nerd.

To stand out against the other superhero films because face it, they are getting tiring, the patriotic theme market campaign mentioned in the article made Captain America even more noticeable than previous films. Companies like Dunkin Donuts had an American themed beverage sporting the Captain America logo on it. Why not sip a beverage while contemplating seeing the movie? But nothing tops the one thing I saw during the summer that REALLY got me. The number of guys wearing T-shirts either with the Captain American symbol or hats with the Green Lantern emblem increased significantly.

All of this for a movie?

I’ve always been a fan of superheroes but not to the extent of how it’s being consumed today. But if it’s a way to show my patriotism, maybe I should go buy a Captain American T-shirt too.

Trust Me, I’m a Doctor

It’s no secret that magazines are chock full of advertisements. However, when I was reading the November issue of Glamour magazine (don’t judge- it’s a guilty pleasure), I noticed that there seemed to be three main ad categories- a tier of advertising so to speak. Within this tier, I noticed varying levels of murky-ness.

The first category I was able to discern consisted of the majority of the ads (and probably the magazine itself). If I could guestimate, I would say that 80% of the magazine was full of your basic, blatant, full page print ads. Murky level: 0%  Here are two  examples:


T
he second ad category I noticed appeared throughout the magazine at a lower frequency than these full page, traditional ads, but were still fairly common. The interesting thing about this category is that they are much more subtle. In the example below, you can tell that the ad mimics the format of a magazine article, using similar fonts, colors, and cleverly titling the section “November notebook.” It seems as if the advertisers are really trying to trick you into thinking that their ads are not ads, but a part of the magazine. In fact, just by briefly flipping through the magazine, I thought they were at first. The giveaways? 1) The fact that Glamour puts the word “advertisement” at the top of each of these “fake-feature ads” and 2) once you actually read it, it’s pretty clear what it is.

Murky level: 50% – Example below (not the word “advertisement” at the very top).

Finally, the third category of ads I noticed was what I’m going to term the “interview- ad.” One example of this is an article called “Meet the Rock-Star Dermatologists: L.A. Edition.” Basically, it’s a series of mini interviews with five “superstar” dermatologists who offer advice on “skin-beautifying tips,” and tell amusing anecdotes about themselves and their celeb clients. However, what I found most interesting about the section was not how drinking a glass of water before bedtime hydrates your skin, but how there were so many product plugs in the “interviews” with the dermatologists. For example, in the interview with “The Skin Cancer Guru” Dr. Lisa Chipps (picture below), it says “Dr. Chipps likes Neutrogena Pure & Free Liquid Sunblock SPF 50 ($13, at drugstores) as an everyday first line of defense. ‘It’s also very important to use products that will reverse damage that has already been done…she adds’ ”

While reading this, I was skeptical. Does Dr. Chipps actually likes this product, or is that just what the magazine decides that she likes? It’s interesting how the writer followed that statement about the sunscreen with a direct quote from Chipps, to create the illusion that the product plug was coming from Chipps directly. The article targets the other dermatologists as well. Another Example? ” ‘Glycolic pads are an addordable way to exfoliate dead skin cells at home’ says Dr. Zaks. He likes Topix Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads 10% ($19 for 60, dermstore.com).” The article also features “5 Things the Derms Love” – a photo section with the doctor’s top products pics.

Murky level: 95%

The interesting thing about this ad is that these dermatologists aren’t spokespeople for the brands mentioned in the article (as far as I can tell) . They aren’t the face of the brand (hahah pun not intended) nor do any of their names bring a particular brand to mind (like Queen Latifah and CoverGirl, for example). Perhaps that is what makes this kind of advertising so effective- it seems more credible and suggests that they support these products because they work, not because they are getting paid to do so (although I would be curious to know if there is any sort of financial compensation involved to the doctors or the magazine for these product plugs).

We live in an age where consumers are faced with the “pretty good problem,” a phenomena described by Walker as one where it is hard to distinguish among the plethora of available products, all of which are similar in terms of utility and style. For example, there are countless skin care products on the market. When it comes to something like sunscreen, the “Neutrogena Pure & Free Liquid Sunblock” is probably the exact same thing in terms of quality and function as one made by Coppertone. Yet, as Walker discusses, it is the brand and the brand image that sets products apart in this new age. By associating brands like Neutrogena with dermatologists,  it doesn’t define the brand meaning, but consumers may be more likely to buy Neutrogena if it is associated with the expertise and backing of a dermatologist. This ad takes advantage of the power of reputable expertise in persuasion- yet you may not realize that it is happening. This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Trust Me, I’m a Doctor.”

Murketing on Newbury Street

In his book, Buying In, Walker talks about the common misconception that “Generation Y” or “The Millenials” is a population that is particularly difficult to sell anything to, as they “see through” marketing. Well, do we?

Take the clothing store, LF, for example. I recently visited the LF on Newbury Street in Boston. The first thing I noticed was the fact that we could barely find the store, even when we were basically looking right at it. Distracted by the DJ blasting music from 344 across the street (a well-known, pricey store filled with popular brands like Free People and Michael Stars) and by the floods of shoppers entering the three story Forever 21 adjacent to it, I barely noticed the small store with the simple LF sign lost in the midst of these huge stores.

Upon entering LF you would literally think you were entering a thrift shop. Clothes are strewn everywhere, upbeat music plays, and the workers pretty much leave you alone to sift through the piles of oversized sweaters, ridiculously high wedges, and leather bags.

Yet, there are a few clues that the “image” projected by the store does not exactly fit the reality at work here.

First? The security guard at the door. Second, one look at a price tag… almost everything, from tissue thin belly shirts to furry vests, are over $150. Third, the store still references its single sale a season (it already passed, by the way).

What’s going on here? Well, we know Walker would argue that Generation Y in fact embraces branding, and uses it as a means of expression. Further, he describes how marketers have now figured this out, and thus are finding new, unconventional, subtle, murky ways to capitalize on this.

Perhaps LF, like many other clothing and fashion stores, has capitalized on the hipster “subculture” that seems to be increasingly visible in our society. LF ditched the flashy, colorful, loud advertising of its neighboring competitors, settling with earth tones and messy clothing piles. LF can sell the edgy, throw-it-together look at the prices of a higher end designer. The LF website includes a link to “their favorite blogs” (which are of equally edgy nature) and claims, its for “girls who dare to be different.” It seems as if LF has successfully navigated the new world of murketing, targeting its consumers in underground ways and carefully walking the line between selling its products and maintaing an unassuming, cool and unique vibe that shies away from the mainstream.

My question to you is are LF’s consumers sell-outs? Or, as Walker would argue, are they just embracing branding in a new, less obvious way?

Blending entertainment and advertising

Effective murketing is about getting the kind of exposure that you cant “tivo” out. With DVRs, cable tv, and internet, entertainment is more on-demand than ever. People fast-forward through commercials, watch television programs on their laptops and turn to alternative sources of entertainment such as youtube. To get people to pay attention to your product, you really have to cut through the noise and capture the zeitgeist. To do this, you have to turn your commercial and your product into something more than an advertisement. You have to turn it into entertainment.

One of the most famous examples of this type of marketing is the Will It Blend campaign by Blendtec. In this popular series of youtube videos, Blendtec founder Tom Dickson puts various items in his sturdy Blendtec blender to see if it will indeed blend. Some of the items include iPods, golf balls, marbles, Nintendo Wii, and even a car, a Ford Fiesta. The Will It Blend series is popular (all of its videos have a least one million hits) and irreverent. It features the type of off beat dead pan humor that sells so well on the internet.

So, of course, the campaign is impressive for getting us to want to watch its commercials. But that is only half the ingenuity of the campaign. What has made it so popular is that we get to watch Dickson blend various brand name items that we know such as the iPhone, the iPad, and the Wii. Free advertising and brand exposure anyone? If anyone had any doubts about just what Tom Dickson is up to, then check out this video where Dickson attempts to “blend” a Ford Fiesta. The video is essentially a three minute Fiesta commercial with the punchline of Dickson blending the various items in the backseat of the Fiesta for “roadtrip smoothie.”

The Blendtec videos have become a phenomenon in many circles. They are a perfect example about how to create grass roots brand exposure that spreads through “word of mouth” faster and more effectively than any traditional means of advertising. Instead of spending millions on commercials during peak TV hours, Blendtec made a series of cheap, clever videos that pay for themselves. I bet the guy who came up with that idea got a big raise.

Here’s the video that started it all:

 

iPhone, iCloud, iAd… iMurketing

The iphone 4s is all the buzz this week as it was released on Friday, touting new technology such as the interactive “Siri” which literally speaks back to you when you ask it a question and the iCloud service which helps sync your phone with your other apple software and devices by storing your information wirelessly. Sweet.

But what about the iAds? A less publicized new addition to the latest version of the iPhone…

I decided to splurge and finally upgrade to the iPhone, and I have to admit its pretty cool. Not one to usually be up to date with technology, I have found the iPhone 4s to be user friendly and super entertaining. Admittedly, I am already an avid user of the games “hanging with friends” and “words with friends,” which I’m sure most people by this point are aware of, if they haven’t already fallen victim to their addictive qualities. Yet, users will now be targeted as potential consumers during all of those hours sweating over which word combinations will land them with the most points.

How? Apple has announced its implementation of the iAd, as Jesse Hollington explains in his article, Apple iAd: iPhone OS 4 ad platform offers devs 60& of revenue. iAd provides advertisers direct access to consumers inside the applications, so that users will be interacting directly with the advertisements as they use the app.

Hollington explains Apple’s goals of “…more interaction than typical web ads and allowing users to view advertising without being taken out of the application that they are currently using, thereby encouraging users to click on ads without having to worry about leaving the current app.”

He continues to explain how this opens the door for advertisers to reach one billion iPhone users, and thus potential consumers, a day. Clearly, this is a huge opportunity for advertisers. But what does it mean for us iPhone users?

Well, here’s what it looks like.

The first two pictures pop up in between the players turns. The player must wait a few seconds before he or she can press continue to navigate away from the advertisement. The second two pictures are the home page of the hanging with friends app. Notice the adds at the bottom of the screen. Also note the “follow us on Twitter” link at the top of the screen and the link to Facebook. Just another example of how intertwined, and murky, all of this advertising is really getting.

Also it seems to me that this sort of advertising is really inescapable, as it transcends all barriers to reach right into your pocket and essentially into your personal, everyday life. The user does have the option to pay for the app without advertising, but it seems highly unlikely that many people would actually do this, including me.

Looks like another example of murketing. In fact, we’d say this is downright iMurketing.

Coming to an inbox near you!

How are Hotmail, Hulu, and Facebook interconnected? I’ll tell you how.

As a relatively new member of Hulu, one of the first things I subscribed to is a short show called “The Morning After”. It’s about six minutes long airing daily from Monday through Friday and is described as “a smart, pop culture “snack” to help get Hulu users quickly up to date on the latest and greatest in entertainment news and celebrity gossip. So, I have the luxury of having a link to the program sent to my e-mail inbox every day!

Not seeing the picture yet? Just wait for it.

The program, with its two witty co-host Ginger and Brian, give viewers the latest news and critiques about the continued series and up and coming new shows. It’s also a daily six minute TV show promotion brought right to your e-mail. Not necessarily the direct advertising that many of us are used to it nevertheless makes viewers aware of the new media they should be indulging.

Recently, on this show, starting with this video from the 11th of October, they have been encouraging fans of the show to visit their page on Facebook for a chance to receive a Fall TV Makeover by using previews from two new HBO TV shows. Who wouldn’t want their very own makeover? Of course, focusing it on two lucky individuals makes it seem rare enough to attract attention and stand out enough to receive this seemingly rare treat.

Not only asking the public for their input on past and present shows that they enjoy in order to give other individuals this golden opportunity; the way they match you with your perfect show is by checking out your Facebook profile. There not an automated service mistaking your interests and referring shows that don’t fit you. By looking at your interests, hobbies, favorite TV shows and books, and more they are able to give you the best recommendation of what new show you should be checking out this Fall.

Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/287655/the-morning-after-tue-oct-11-2011?src=h&kme=Link+Html+Queue#play-queue

From your personal e-mail to internet TV to social networking sites, the borders between internet entities continue to blur the lines between clear advertising and murky marketing by the use of each other.

All in the name of being recognized on a TV show, I suppose.

I hope you enjoyed your few seconds of fame Kristi and Leonel!

Say what?

People love to talk. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m definitely one of those people, whether I’m talking your ear off about classes or complaining about the weather. But my favorite thing to talk about? Shopping. If I get a fabulous deal on sweaters during a fall clearance event (with free shipping!) or buy a pair of boots that I really like, I’m going to tell you.

Even though you might not like when I babble relentlessly about my shopping conquests, I can think of someone who does: advertisers. That’s because when I rant about how much I love a product, brand, or when a store is having a sale, it’s instant, free, word-of-mouth marketing for the company.

While me talking to you about my shopping adventures is natural and not sponsored by a company, marketers are increasingly pursuing tactics that take advantage of marketing in forums that are “not TV ads or  billboards, or even video games, but rather the conversations we have in our everyday lives,” as described by Rob Walker in “Buying In.” Walker describes such word-of-mouth marketing techniques as an attempt to “break the fourth wall that used to separate the theater of commerce, persuasion, and salesmanship from quotidian life”  through “the commercialization of chitichat.” There are even companies out there, like BzzAgent, that recruit “agents.” These everyday people volunteer to talk about a product with friends, co-workers, or neighbors using specific talking points provided by the company.

Even if we aren’t recruited by a company like BzzAgent, we can be “agents” naturally, without even realizing it.

For example, imagine you are in Bucharest, Romania walking towards the popular restaurant filled area of Old Town and you see this:

 

 

 Unless you are the most spacey person in the universe, chances are that is going to stop you in your tracks. What is that exactly you might wonder? Well, as the band along the bottom of the fountain indicates, it is an advertisement for the fourth season of the popular HBO show, True Blood, which debuted in Romania on October 7. While that strip of print advertising is by no means novel, it’s the huge blood-red stained fountain above it that I want to draw your attention to.

In my opinion, that’s one pretty awesome form of murketing.

1) By stopping pedestrians in their tracks, it encourages them to read the band of print advertising under it that would most likely go unnoticed under normal circumstances.

2) If you see a red fountain in the middle of town, you are probably going to tell your friends. Something like that needs a lot of explaining too. So, a typical conversation will probably have the mention of True Blood in it to explain what the heck happened to that fountain. Boom. Instant word-of-mouth advertising.

Does anyone else feel bad for the guy who has to clean that up? I do.

Photo credit: http://collider.com/true-blood-viral-campaign-romania/120338/

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