New Digs, New Inspiration

We’re happy to announce that we’ve completed our move to the Cason Building on Marion Street. So far, the location is great — there’s plenty of room and a good atmosphere. Now, all that’s left is to unpack the last of the boxes! For more information, check out our press release.

It never ceases to amaze me how new space can infuse the creative process. Please comment if you have some good examples to share! In addition to the natural reorganization of your physical surroundings, a relocation forces you to change your approach to the world. You drive to work differently. You have the chance to “start over” with a clean desk (though this has admittedly already come and passed for me). You have to work as a team to define who you are and find a functional style. You see your artwork like it’s brand new, and you explore the building and discover little treasures like a new Coke machine (it’s the simple pleasures, people). What really sent me over the edge were two red office chairs from Ikea — a fiery, textured take on the best modern, 60’s style design. Awesome.

Branding: Cool Business Cards Prove Creativity is the Order of the Day, Every Day

As internet surfing usually seems to yield, some exciting sites and fellow blogs came ashore. Today’s catch? What Alexander Kjerulf’s blog “Chief Happiness Officer” calls the “coolest business card ever.” A lego! Cool, indeed. What, too elementary for your sophisticated business? Not to worry, check out these babies. Granted, most of these business cards undoubtedly belong in the hands of graphic designers—oozing creativity is in the job description. But check out the dentist card with teeth marks, a testament to creative branding in a traditional field, often the ones which require the most originality to separate from the herd!

We take full advantage of this opportunity to once again stress the importance of branding your business, in everything from print materials, signage, right down to the logo itself. Creativity is a must and not always out of reach, even in times like these. A simple flair, something innovative and untraditional, shows you have the talent to think on your feet and view any situation with a fresh take. Isn’t that what we need, in our current “condition” and in any other business climate?

Following “News Grazers” With Internet Marketing

The latest edition of Public Relations Tactics unearthed some valuable survey results, ones that affect our marketing and maybe yours, too. Columnist Margo Mateas rehashed results from a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey of American news consumption. Aside from dwindling (and thereby disappointing) readership among young people, the survey revealed a novel method for news intake: half of America now “graze” the news periodically throughout the day, rather than devour the daily paper in the morning or evening. As the survey also concluded (to traditional media’s dismay), more than a third of the 15 percent of Americans who own smart phones (i.e. Blackberries) consume their news on these devices.

We hate to brag, but in times like these, clients of the PR school of thought can rest easy knowing no matter where media goes, quality company coverage and story placement are always a guarantee. News coverage’s unique knack for third party credibility translates across any medium. The same cannot be said for advertising, which isn’t always a seamless transition to Internet versions of print papers. For instance, those Blackberry enthusiasts tend to receive their news from e-blasts that allow them to breeze through unnecessary stories and ads. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel too, though—online advertising is a viable option for those following their consumers from print to Internet, especially for users reading the news at their home or work computer. And best of all, regardless of the medium, information (and accompanying advertising) will always be a part of our lives, and in an age where cell phones are like extra organs and Internet usage is secondary only to breathing, it’s closer to us now more than ever. To keep this growing body of changing media going, we, like the news, are adapting our online media plans in response.

The Antithesis of Advil’s Every Pain Reliever: Tylenol’s New Public Relations Strategy

“Headache from a hard day at work. Backache from carrying the baby. I’m all Advil—because Advil works on all my pains.” That’s the kind of marketing you’d expect from an average pain reliever, right? Not since Tylenol launched their new consumer-conscious ad campaign that borders on public service announcements rather than actual commercials. Instead of encouraging you to pop a pill (their pill) for all your aches and pains, Tylenol suggests drinking a glass of water to prevent headache-causing dehydration or meditating before work to prevent tension headaches.

If Advil is the “Every Pain Reliever,” Tylenol is now the “Nothing Pain Reliever”—drink a glass of water instead. By making the use of their product almost obsolete if users follow their tips instead, Tylenol sends a befuddling message. Are they going into the advice business? Or are they simply building trust in their brand by offering themselves as a resource (and a last resort) for consumers?

From a PR standpoint, the second strategy is not half bad. Small businesses use that tactic every day by providing the media with expert commentary on pressing issues and industry news without “selling” themselves. Public relations strategy comes into question when it’s on such a large scale, though. Viewers are less likely to trust the motives of an advertiser paying millions of dollars to give them advice about pain relief.

Regardless of their reasoning, though, Tylenol has taken a bold step in the right direction for their brand. Advertising Age asked recently retired VP-advertising at Johnson & Johnson Andrea Alstrup about the advertising industry and Tylenol’s take on it. Alstrup said: “The world has changed so drastically…but yet we still want to go back to some of those core values and some of the core important things that advertising can bring.” If that means the unorthodox use of public relations strategy, then Tylenol is taking on that challenge.

Q, H and Grey's Anatomy

I’ve been incommunicado for awhile. And I must admit, I’ve been spending much too much time trying to learn Audrey Hepburn’s moves from the latest Gap commercial. (A unique dance is my only hope in a scary world of skinny jeans!). But here’s a snapshot from my marketing world:

Car Crash Commercials:
AllState and Volkswagen have both taken to portraying car crashes in graphic detail. Volkswagen’s latest commercil even features a conversation discussing the annoyance level of the commercials (until the car gets sideswiped, that is). Yes, crashes happen. But not in my living room, thankyouverymuch.

Grey’s Anatomy: New York & Co. has some great direct mail pieces featuring McDreamy, and they don’t even sell men’s clothes! As if we care.

Sunset Tattoos: Finally, Columbia has a tattoo shop that’s dedicated to art! And its MySpace page is too cool for words. Check out the grand opening on Friday the 13th.

Spinach: Will it ever recover from its PR nightmare, or will it be replaced forever by arugula? Most people were still avoiding the salads at the Summit Club this week. But we may never know the culprit: fear or shrimp ‘n grits?

JCPenney: The department store will make its official entré into the Columbiana crowd with a grand opening tomorrow. And it’s great that the whole country is celebrating with sales. But I wish I got something special for coming to this one.

Canalside: I love the billboards, and the Time ads are a smart investment! Now if only I had several hundred thousand dollars to spare –

Hydrogen:
Can this buoyant chemical raise Columbia’s economy in the next 15 years? Engenuity, USC and the Innovista investors say yes! Now we just need to convince everyone else to follow suit: a true case where marketing can create an alternate reality!

Syrup: The fictional cola wars in this Maxx Barry novel are described with jewels like: “Marketing (or mktg, which is what you write when you’re taking lecture notes at two hundred words per minute) is the biggest industry in the world, and it’s invisible. It’s the planet’s largest religion, but the billion who worship it don’t know it. It’s vast, insidious and completely corrupt.”

Motorola Q: Sleek and cool, it’s the next generation of the Blackberry. And with Verizon’s EV-DO network, you can blaze through webpages at (comparatively) lightning speeds. Now, if I could just shake this Solitaire addiction and use it for work-.

Now, whatcha know good?

Laughing it up in the ER

As I was endangering drivers on I-26 last week looking at billboards, one actually made me laugh out laud. And I’d seen it before. For months.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a good billboard.

I love Lexington Medical Center’s simple Urgent Care series, which features familiar quotes that often precede daily bumps and bruises. My favorite is “Oh, it’s not THAT heavy,” which you can catch on I-26 or Sunset Blvd. near the hospital. Its makes me think of poor Uncle Bobby icing his back after a gamely attempting to lift one of my overloaded suitcases.

Lexington Medical Center is no stranger to Addy Awards and other accolades from the advertising community. But what makes this campaign brilliant is its use of humor.

C’mon, people, we’re talking about an EMERGENCY ROOM. Think of the marketing challenges of creating positive associations with an urgent care center! The last time I was at an emergency room, I was in the throes of an allergic reaction. Time before that: food poisoning. With its garish lights, needles, antiseptic and atmosphere of sickness, this is not a place where I like to spend my time. And still, they’ve won me over.

The natural tendency in marketing an urgent care center would be to rely on fear. After all, following an ambulance to the hospital is a parent’s worst nightmare. I can see the commercials now: slow-motion shots of ambulance lights, followed by an exchange of worried looks between parents, and ending with a dramatic shot of a child’s mangled bike in the road. Tagline: “When it counts, doesn’t your family deserve the best urgent care? Lexington Medical Center.”

Horrible, isn’t it? To pull people around like that? Oh, I’m sure parents would notice. They’d go running after their children with bike helmets — maybe encourage them to come inside and play a nice board game. The call to action is the same, but everyone feels bad in the process. And quite frankly, I think there’s enough fear in the world today without marketers adding to melee.

Instead, Lexington Medical Center opted for humor. Another great billboard in the campaign says something along the lines of “Hey, watch this!” It captures the spirit and triumphs of childhood, while reassuring parents that their kids will bounce back after learning the lessons of gravity. These quick messages complement the billboard medium and allow drivers to fill in their own memories. For me, “Hey, watch this!” elicits images of elaborate trampoline flips. These gymnastic feats are great memories — literally some of the highest points of the my sixth grade year — and I’ll always be glad that my parents swallowed their fear and let me embrace them.

After all, odds are that someone we love will end up in the emergency room with a broken arm or a need for stitches. And most of them hobble out, a little wiser, to continue vibrant lives. Emergency rooms don’t need to be the den of drama we see on TV — they can help us through the physical setbacks that come with being human … and even make us smile, apparently!