Posted tagged ‘advertising’

How to kill an international habit, and other lessons from cigarettes

October 1, 2008

It’s quite an interesting state of affairs when the weight of the government is thrown behind a campaign to destroy an industry.  It’s a rare state of affairs when an institution tries hard to STOP people buying a product without cutting it off at the source (the manufacturer), yet this is what has been happening in many countries around the world.

Cigarette adverts have been banned from TV and media, sponsorship has stopped, taxes have increased hugely, people are told where they can’t smoke and even the packaging has been taken over by the government. It’s interesting to see the big leagues from the marketing world trying to figure out how to stop people buying something, as everything they have ever learnt goes against what they are trying to do.  For example, the newest scheme is to change the packaging (can you imagine this in any other industry?) to add scary images to put off potential buyers.  Yet the problem they have now faced is the huge PR machine they have put into place to effectively market the new packs!  The story was on every news channel this morning, on the Radio, and in the newspapers.  They just need to make the pictures collectable (I’ll swap you my bloated corpse sticker for your diseased lung..) and the scheme will be complete in it’s failure.

Although the government has attacked every sector of the tabacco industry, they continue to fail.  If they are so happy to change the marketing, the packaging, the distribution and even where the customers can use the product, why don’t they take the next step?  If the government is so interested in smoking, why not cut down the number of cigarettes a person can buy at one time, or cut the tabacco or tar content within cigarettes in half.  Why don’t the government put a Russian Rolette cigarette in every pack made of asbestos, to really put off the smokers?

Personally, I’m totally against smoking, but this post isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t do it.  I’m more interested in how no matter what the marketeers try, they can’t do anything BUT market the cigarettes.  Although they have worked hard to wipe the thought of smoking off the minds of teenagers for years, they continue to promote smoking in the media day in, day out, by talking about how bad it is for you, how only the “bad kids” do it, what it costs and where you can’t do it.  When have kids EVER worried about that sort of thing?  it just makes it more desirable.  If they hear about smoking and are told not to do it, you’re going to find them trying it within a week, just to see if it really is that bad.

To stop selling cigarettes, keep up the good work with the scary messages and pictures, but please, stop promoting your latest ideas in the media.  You may think it’s negative PR for smoking, but in some cases, all PR is good PR.  If people are trying to take their mind of smoking whilst they try to quit, the last thing they want to hear all day is talk about smoking.

Right, I’m going to try out smoking, to see if it really is as bad as it sounds..

How important is online social media?

September 30, 2008

I was asked today, by a prospective client, why I think online social media is important.  The situation this was presented in, and the way it played out, reminded me of the IBM advert currently running.

A cyncical boss asks a young manager for reasons why he should sign an energy saving proposal.  Sure, he muses, the tree huggers will be happy, but he needs to see a monetary benefit.  His mind is quickly changed when the young apprentice explains that the energy saving will halve the $18 million energy bill spent last year, and suddenly the tight fisted manager is a tree hugger.  Cute cartoon animals dance around the room, Disney-esque music begins to play, IBM are made to look like they really do care about the environment and, somewhere, advertising executives wearing shiny suits and driving big fuel guzzling cars hi-five each other over a job well done.

So when asked about the benefits of social media, I decided to simplify it beyond any tech savvy language and tell it straight, in the hope that cartoon animals will take flight to prove my point…

“Why do we use influencers within social media?  Because each selected influencer has an audience of several thousand readers each day.  Multiply that by the huge number of influential bloggers and forum members and you have a huge audience.  Now, these guys can either support your brand, or they can hinder it.  If you upset them, they could destroy you.  If you look after them, just imagine the possibilities.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t have the impact I wanted.  Disney failed to deliver, and quite frankly the cartoon birds that decided to pitch up and fly around my head seemed decidely demotivated, and quite frankly, drunk…

Anyway, some people are a little old fashioned and struggle to realise the power of social media, preferring to buy billboards and to post leaflets.  Why work with social media when you can pay big bucks to have an advert on after the “X-Factor”?  He even went as far as saying “if they get negative, we’ll fight fire with fire and stop them!”.  After biting my fist and closing my eyes for a few seconds, I decided to try another approach.

Ok then, whilst you spend millions on conventional advertisments, how many people do you think really read your sales pitch?  Do you think they see an advert and say:

“Wow! That bill board says that the new tracker mortgage is great, and that the bank is really very stable!  It must be true, bill boards can’t lie..”?

The trouble is, people have been desensitised by years of marketing, and no longer trust what the companies say.  However, if a good friend of your tells you that the new Dyson is the best vacuum cleaner ever made, you’d be tempted to buy it.  Social media is no different, except the one person raving about the new quadruple cyclone, ball shaped, hover hoover (there you go dyson, that idea’s on the house), is telling thousands and thousands of people who have gone to their site looking specifically for pre-purchase information on what product to buy.  Social media content is far more influential than advertising as the content is written by trusted community members, and reaches a wider audience.

Any click of recognition or understanding?  Nope, so I went for the facts and figures.

“In the space of 4 months, we increased a large British broadcaster’s web traffic by 401%, with a sales increase of 26%, without using expensive advertising or pay-per-click, for the same cost as one small TV advert”.

Ding!  Lightbulb.  That did it.