Shouldn’t a beer or spirits marketer save the bar car?

Assuming that the information in the article is accurate, the New York City bar car may soon go the way of the caboose. And that makes this drinker’s little heart sad, sad, sad.

Thus, one could reasonably deduce that an opportunity for some brave marketing boss to play hero to a lot of commuters exists. Surely there’s an adventurous soul or two somewhere in America brave enough to build a bar car worthy of NYC. And unlike many programs, he or she could measure the exact value of the program since his/her brand(s) would have exclusive rights to sell beverages on said bar car. Hell, with all the train-related imagery that Coors uses, I can’t believe they haven’t already designed a Silver Bullet bar car and approached MTA and the public. It would be a marketing coup.

Think I’m nuts? Apple saw value ($4 million worth) in transit marketing when it partnered with Chicago Transit Authority to renovate a Red Line station. And let’s face it, that company knows a thing or two about selling its products and inspiring brand allegiance. That story, and accompanying photos, can be found here.

Make mine a double, Jim. The wife and kids are out of town for the week.

Dip & Squeeze: I dare someone to turn it into a rap video dance

Because I’m a nerd, I love inventive marketing research even more than stellar ad creative. And the research that led Heinz to its new Dip & Squeeze ketchup package is some of the coolest I’ve read about in a long time.

A Wall Street Journal article described part of the R&D that led to the new package, reporting “To develop the new packet, Heinz staffers sat behind one-way mirrored glass, watching consumers in 20 fake minivan interiors putting ketchup on fries, burgers, and chicken nuggets.”

The article also describes someone on the Heinz team who bought a used minivan to test the packaging with his own family because he feared doing so in his regular car would have been too messy. I’m assuming he drives something that’s named with numbers and letters that’s at least a decade newer than what I drive, but that’s just a hunch.

Since the new package is more expensive than the old ones, some fast food franchisees will likely resist switching. However, the profit margin on fries is quite high, so I’m sure the marketing departments at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and other QSRs are running the figures for how many incremental fry sales it will take to break even as well as the projections of how many fry sales will be added as a direct result of offering Dip & Squeeze. It also seems to me that putting some kind of “3x the amount of regular packs” POP in stores and at drive-throughs would mitigate people asking for more than one or two packages as customers begin learning how to use it.

I’m also sure that Heinz will be selling Dip & Squeeze multi-packs in supermarkets (if they haven’t already) which should further expand the stranglehold the company already has on the consumer ketchup market.

If you can’t wait to try the new package, it is being used at a national chain of chicken sandwich restaurants that will remain unnamed due to its continued anti-diversity stance. I refuse to go there or promote it in any positive context.

Subway’s pitiful pursuit of product placement on Pawn Stars

The recent Subway placements in History Channel’s Pawn Stars have been anything but well-executed. The most valuable product placements are those that appear seamless, as if the product is actually supposed to be part of a show/scene. Subway’s have stuck out like a Humane Society mutt at a fancy dog show.
When placements aren’t made blatantly obvious, viewers are less likely to realize they are being marketed to, which prevents them from critically analyzing a brand message (many scholars study this phenomenon in terms of one’s persuasion knowledge, or PK, being activated). Once persuasion knowledge is activated, potential consumers become much more defensive about being sold to. The ethical concerns surrounding such strategies are legitimate, but very few brands have actually faced that much criticism for using them.
I’m willing to bet that if you were asked to think of really good product placements that you’d have trouble doing so. Not because you haven’t seem them, but because you didn’t realize they were placements. I’m convinced those offer the most marketing value for brands.
I don’t blame the Old Man and Co. for making a buck off Subway, but the way those breakfast sandwiches were written into the show was amateur at best.

The agency internship. Or, how to spend your summer working your ass off for no pay, benefits, or appreciation.

I’m going to Bruce Lee Kick the next agency boss that I hear complaining about not being able to find competent, talented entry-level staff. Is anyone really surprised that the kids at the top of their classes don’t have any interest in working for companies that barely pay above minimum wage, don’t invest in furthering their employees’ education, and don’t think twice about canning the small fish when upper management loses an account?
It’s no wonder that many regard agency staffers as second-rate compared to the client-side folks who enjoy larger salaries, better benefits, and frequently earn graduate credit and/or degrees on their employer’s dime.
This disparity extends all the way down to the lowest of the low: the summer intern. Not only do students have to pay for internship credit hours at the university, if they intern at an ad agency, they most likely do so for no pay. Some agencies are actually nice enough to validate interns’ parking, but even that seems discretionary for some places.
Would it really be so difficult for agencies to come up with a little cash to attract brighter interns who might someday become valuable employees? I’m willing to bet that places like P&G, Google, and Johnson & Johnson (all of which pay their interns and have sophisticated programs in place) have very few problems identifying and hiring the best minds that are capable of improving their business. A list of top companies to intern for can be found here, complete with average hourly intern wages.
David Ogilvy was fond of telling the story of giving his directors a set of nesting dolls, the last of which was replaced with a note that read “If you hire people who are smaller than you are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. If you hire people who are bigger than you are, we shall become a company of giants.” I think that’s still pretty sound advice that could benefit many of the agencies who find themselves suffering brain drain today.

A loyal agency intern works at his second job to raise grocery money.

An unsolicited idea – Swamp People

I love History Channel’s Swamp People. Considering it has garnered top cable ratings this season, it appears that many people share my sentiment. Which is why I find it hard to believe that more brands haven’t found ways to place products in the show.

Specifically, it seems that Ford or Chevy would be an obvious and natural fit for the program. Several of the crews tow their boats in and out of the swamp on every episode which means there is footage of trucks doing the type of work that both these companies claim their trucks do best.

From what I remember, Junior and Willie drive Chevys and Trapper Joe drives an old school Ford F-150. If I was working on Ford’s ad/PR team, you can bet your ass I’d be trying to swap Joe his truck for a new one. I’d then do some type of promotional tour with Joe and his old truck around the country to meet and greet fans and raise money for some swamp-related cause. Likewise, I’d get Junior and/or Willie into a new truck since they’ll likely be around as long as the show is on air. Those two are just too compelling not to bring back season after season.

Where are you ad people? This is low-hanging fruit. And waaaay cooler than Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

Junior and Willie on the hunt. If I advertised trucks, I’d make damn sure these guys drove my brand.

Great Alabama blizzard of 2010

I made a snowperson from the few flakes that stuck to the top of my car this morning. You can see the accumulation on the street that was responsible for the university and many businesses closing today.

The orange hat that I put on my snowperson is an old guitar pick I found in the parking lot. It’s there for scale more than anything.