urban outfitters
, ,

Urban Outfitters: Pushing the limits of disruption

One of Cult Marketing’s philosophies is to strategically disrupt markets. This is critical in getting attention with your target audience and is step one of any successful marketing effort – you must breakthrough the clutter. How do you decide where the boundaries are? When has a disruption strategy gone too far?

Most recently Urban Outfitters got into hot water with a vintage sweatshirt design featuring the Kent State logo and what appears to be spattered blood. Kent State officials publicly decried the tactic. “We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit,” Kent State wrote in a statement on its website on Monday. “This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”

Urban Outfitters have struck before with items including a “Ghettopoly” board game; a T-shirt that resembled the clothing that Nazis forced Jews to wear; and a hat that labeled vomiting as “Irish Yoga.”

Other retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch have been famous for disruptive tactics. A&F featured naked teenagers in their catalogs, a t-shirt that agitated the Asian community (“Wong Brothers Laundry Service — Two Wongs Can Make it White”), and had guest articles written by porn stars offering advice on oral sex and other sexual techniques. As expected, many conservatives and members of the religious right were outraged.

So where do you draw the line on disruption tactics?

The Cult view on disruption is based on one primary factor – a keen understanding of a company’s target audience and their attitudes, desires and motivations. One of the reasons that the A&F tactics worked so well is that it appealed to the teenager and college target audiences, not the religious right. In fact, the disapproval of the religious right gave the tactics validity with its target audience. And, while it was considered edgy and inappropriate, it was just about sex which is a hot topic among all consumers, especially the younger consumers experiencing those emotions for the first time.

In terms of the Kent State sweatshirt, our question would be to their millions of consumers that loyally shop the store: Were you outraged by the Kent State sweatshirt design? Will it stop you from shopping there in the future? Our guess is that while the sweatshirt itself may not sell very well, the publicity will create enough curiosity to actually increase traffic. After all, don’t most Americans love a good scandal?

, ,

There’s Nothing Like the Smell of Gunpowder in the Afternoon…

It’s the time of the year to reflect and give thanks for all the good things that happened during the year. We decided not to do that. Rather, we thought it would be way more fun to commemorate history and hold our first annual Cult Turkey Shoot.

Someone got the bright idea to dress up like pilgrims to get in the spirit of shooting turkeys. Some people wear camouflage when hunting turkeys, but we have a soft spot for the garb preferred by our forefathers.

We also wanted a way to shoot turkeys to make it challenging and visually interesting, as we were going to capture this important day on film. So, our in-house engineer and artisan Kyle built a giant sling shot to launch turkeys into the air after capture. This would both look cool and give us the opportunity to demonstrate our shooting skills – or lack thereof.

No turkey shoot would be complete without guns, so we had our friends at AimHi Shooting Range bring their favorite shot guns and 3 inch magnum shells. During the warm-up, CEO Doug McIntyre was overheard saying, “There is nothing like the smell of gunpowder in the afternoon…it smells like victory.”

As the day progressed, the Cult team fearlessly challenged the vicious Orient, Ohio wild turkeys. The turkey call was played beautifully to lure the beasts into range, much like the sirens luring ships onto the rocks. We mastered the various turkey calls: gobbles, clucks, putts, purrs, yelps, cutts, cackles and kee-kees.

While the calls may not have produced a plethora of turkeys, we made due with a species native to the area. We stalked the available turkeys and blasted them as they attempted to run away.

A high powered sniper rifle was brought in to deal with the turkeys playing hard to get and instantly regretted trying to be coy. As you can see from the images, the turkeys were no match for the fierce Cult Pilgrims. The Cult team took it to the turkeys and carried the day.

,

The Ultimate Product Demonstration

To demonstrate the teeth whitening effectiveness of the new Prime Time Smile product in conjunction with its national release, Cult Marketing created the ultimate product demonstration challenge – to whiten the tusk of a pre-historic mastodon.

Cult Marketing organized a Prime Time Smile whitening team to visit a Museum of Natural History to apply both the Pre-Treatment and Whitening Gel formulations to the 11,000+ year old mastodon tusk over a period of five days.

As the time lapse photographs clearly demonstrate, the Dual-Action Teeth Whitening System works wonders on even “ancient” and hard-to-remove stains.

In the future, we plan to send the Prime Time Smile whitening team to scour the country in search of other interesting artifacts, displays, or iconic monuments that could benefit from a good whitening.

Washington's Teeth

The world needs to see how well Prime Time Smile actually works. Up next – George Washington’s False Teeth. If you have a great idea of what needs to be whitened, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re also working on a print ad that will feature the mastodon story, and will add the story and photographs to the Prime Time Smile website and Facebook page to round out the social media coverage.

Prime Time Smile is available exclusively at Walmart stores and Walmart.com. Check it out: walmart.com

 

,

Dublin Irish Festival Scores Record Attendance with Cult ads

Cult Marketing Gets Jiggy!

How did Cult Marketing help the Dublin Irish Festival shatter their all time best attendance record last year?  By doing what we do best, creating fanaticism. So, as the marketing agency for DIF, we continued our successful campaign and added even more fun cult tactics to the list.

Fans came out in droves this year. We saw folks ‘getting jiggy’ at the Killian’s Celtic Rock Stage, ‘wigging out’ with traditional Irish dancers at the Cardinal Health Ceili Dance Tent and lining up for the gathering of the Red Heads.

Check out some of the highlights from this year’s campaign that got folks talking and spreading the word for DIF.

 

Trade show marketing strategies
,

Trade Show Success Strategies for Brand Marketing

Trade show marketing strategiesA trade show is like a modern day bazaar – a veritable open market of hawkers and vendors urging you to buy. In this chaotic environment, how do you succeed? How can you promote and market your brand without getting lost in the crowd? How do you land the hot leads, get the order, or at least have a real conversation about your service or product?

At Cult Marketing, we believe in the Sun Tzu philosophy that “the war is won before the first battle begins.” In the case of a trade show, it is certainly the truth; your brand marketing strategy going in must be airtight. You must carefully define your target audience, determine how you engage with them, how you make them aware and interested in your offerings, and how to motivate them to seek you in this environment. This is all possible only through careful ethnographic research, strategic planning, bold creativity and maybe a bit of show business.

Careful Ethnographic Research: What do you know about your target audience? In Sun Tzu terms this is known as “intelligence.” First of all, who is attending this trade show – potential customers/clients, competitors? What are they interested in? What are the characteristics of the attendees? The first thing you need to do is make sure the trade show is right for you as a presenter by assessing all these variables and comparing them to your objectives, product/service offerings and sales strategies.


Strategic Planning:
If you’ve decided there is a good match between what you do and what attendees are looking for, then what is your plan to move attendees down the AIDA continuum (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action)? How will you get their attention, what will tweak their interest, can you actually get them to move to action? In this case, the call to action will be defined here as conversation, a lead, a proposal, or in a perfect world, an order. You also want to be sure that your current brand marketing strategy is prepared to handle these conversions (have a trade show related landing page created on your website, for instance).

One thing you need to do is start the awareness process weeks or months before the show begins. Your target customers should be seeking you out by the time they get to the show because you have intrigued them well in advance. So, remember to invest in a solid pre-show campaign. Don’t skimp here and spend all your money on a crazy booth stunt.

Bold Creativity: There is nothing quite as dramatic as the instant feedback you get at a tradeshow. If people flock by your booth on their way to your big competitor, you can only sit there and pretend to look busy. In the meantime, it is too late. If your creative efforts are not the result of a well thought out extension of your strategy, they will fail. They will also fail if your message is presented in a boring, uninteresting or expected way. Remember the first rule of creativity: you must get their attention. If you don’t get their attention, everything else you did is completely wasted.

Show Business: This one is tricky as many companies feel a bit embarrassed about going over the top. But, it’s OK to push the envelope as long as it is well done. I remember a Kohler booth that had the “Bond Girls” coming up out of a pool of water. Yes, it was expensive as hell, but it was fabulous and the booth was overrun with prospects. The rule here is if you can’t afford to do it right, then don’t make the attempt.

Last but Not Least: You need to close the deal after the show. You need the order, the PO or even better, a large check mailed to your doorstep. This is where having a pre-show strategy incorporated into your brand marketing efforts pays off. Have a custom sales follow-up for each and every prospect. You should know more about them after the show than you did before, so capitalize on that information.

Trade show marketing can be fun if you are prepared for the battle. Find a good strategic and creative partner and carefully chart out every step of the process. Leave no detail to chance. Now, please enjoy the show!

Private Label Optimization – Or, Life as a Red-Headed Step Child

Did you know that private labels products now account for up to 45% of all retail sales in key European countries, and 21.5% in the U.S. (Nielsen, 2009)? If you looked at these statistics ten-twenty years ago, it would be a different story. But recently, private label products have become increasingly popular with consumers. Yet, you don’t see these products spending millions of dollars on television and print advertising. Still, in most cases, private label products deliver significantly higher margins to the retailer than the traditional consumer produced goods (CPG) brands.

So, it is surprising that private label strategies are not pursued with the same level of vigor or investment as their branded brethren. Is it because they are completely sold that the only way to spend their marketing budgets is on traditional advertising?

Cult has been working with a large national retailer to optimize their private label product strategy and package design. We employ the same rigorous branding development practices used by the big CPG brands. We conduct deep dives into the lives of the consumers to see how the brand fits into their lives. We employ unique market research techniques to determine what about a private label product speaks to a consumer and pushes them to make the purchase.

Cult Marketing develops concept testing programs to evaluate various design and messaging options, and we have consumers evaluate the competitive products, both CPG and private label. After all, when it’s all said and done, the consumer needs to choose the private label product even when it is displayed right next to the familiar brand icon.

The result is a highly competitive product that can win at the shelf, without a massive marketing campaign. We call this kind of win “the moment of truth” – and if done properly – it can pull the rug out from beneath a billion dollar brand.

,

Ethnography: Insights from the Road

The Cult Marketing ethnography team has been on the road for months delving into America’s consumer subcultures in search of information and insights. We get many questions about how the ethnography research process works. So, here’s a glimpse at a week in the life of a Cult ethnographer.

Day 1, Charlotte, NC: The two Cult field teams are greeted by snow in Charlotte. Usually not a problem for the teams, but Charlotte is completely unprepared for snow. Except for the main highways, the streets are not cleared and quickly turn to ice. Team #2 goes on an interview in the boonies, follows the GPS to a dead-end road that looks like something out of Deliverance. They get stuck on an ice patch near a secluded, run-down shack with a “Trespassers Will be Shot” sign on the front fence. They eventually made it to the interview and had fun with a big, burly, engaging guy with the name of Ashley.

Day 2, Charlotte: Team #1 drives 50 miles through the snow to visit a really cool outdoor store in the middle of nowhere. If you like the smell of guns, you’d love this place. Got some great insights from the store owner on the decision-making process for outdoor and work apparel and footwear. That night, we begin the data download process. We have new hi-tech cameras with 120 gig hard drives. No more video tapes. We are able to download the interview video files online so our analysts can start processing information right away. Isn’t technology cool?

Day 3, Houston, TX: The Cult team #1 finds itself in a terrible neighborhood. The team is questioning whether or not they should go into the house for safety reasons. The neighborhood appears to be a drug dealer’s paradise. [Cult prefers to send teams of two into the field for safety reasons – usually a male and a female.] After some discussion the team knocks on the door and is welcomed by the research subject, a well-educated, articulate, fanatical brand person who ended up to be a great interview. Team #2 is conducting a shop-along in a mom-and-pop store in the Houston burbs when they find out that their rental car was sideswiped by a dually truck driven by a man with one arm and a prosthetic hook. His honesty is appreciated. Later that night the teams compare notes at Beavers Ice Haus, an upbeat gastropub.

Day 4, Houston, TX: Superbowl Sunday! The teams got in two interviews each. One of the team #2 members is allergic to dogs, so naturally every house she goes into has one, including a 3-legged dog that had its leg surgically removed due to cancer. The interviewee tearfully accepted the incentive check and said it would go to chemo treatments for her beloved golden retriever. Both teams finished early enough to watch the Superbowl game from a pub downtown.

Day 5, Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis in February is interesting. People here love the winter activities like ice fishing, snowmobiling, and skating. The high temperature was 7 degrees. There were scenes right out of Fargo, but in general the people of Minneapolis are as happy as clams. One young interviewee was excited too be going out later at night to shoot coyotes with his buddies. We learned that you must wear white winter gear and have a clear night with a prominent moon.

Day 6, Minneapolis: After a fascinating interview with a large, energetic woman with a classic Minnesota accent, we were invited to join her ice fishing. We had to run to the airport, but it would have been fun to check out. People have ice fishing houses with heaters, beer coolers, TVs, and plush chairs. It’s like a living room on ice. Maybe next time…

Day 7, Las Vegas, NV: The teams split up. One team went home to Columbus to start working on the key strategic insights; the other to the desert to attend a big trade show. One of the challenges of ethnography is packing for 10-day trips that include frigid temperatures and desert sun. Maybe our next project will be for a luggage company?

Avatar: Word of Mouth or Mass Marketing?

Avatar passed the $1 billion in global ticket sales mark only three weeks into release. Pretty damn impressive by any standard. What is the big secret here, the $150 million marketing budget or the amazing word-of-mouth generated by the movie experience?

If you look at movie marketing, many major financial successes are the result of major marketing pushes. But the formula does not always hold. Paranormal Activity was the latest success story in the no-budget, word-of-mouth social media camp to blow the doors off. Made originally for $15,000 – including $500 payments for the two leads – the movie has now grossed an estimated $141,000,000 worldwide as of January 1, 2010. Other box office smashes in the low budget category are The Blair Witch Project, made for $60,000 with $249,000,000 in receipts worldwide, and Napoleon Dynamite with $46,000,000 in receipts on a $400,000 production budget.

Avatar, by comparison cost a reported $400,000,000 to make and market. Of the $1.018 billion in ticket sales, two-thirds were from foreign sales.
Avatar is an anomaly. According to movie distributor Mark Cuban, the average film loses $8 dollars on every opening-weekend ticket sold – Avatar only lost $2 for every dollar in revenue. But here is a statistic to blow your marketing mind: Avatar opened with an average take of $22,313 per theater, and Paranormal Activity – with its tiny budget – averaged $25,813 per theater the two weekends before Halloween.

The financial success of a film is almost always about the quality of the movie, good reviews, buzz, viral, W-O-M, PR, and a whole slew of non-traditional (read non-paid) media. In other words, a holistic marketing approach, the stuff many traditional ad agencies hate.

So back to the original question. Was it mass marketing or W-O-M? Let’s hear what you think.

Other trivia:
Highest ever: Titanic ($1.8 billion, of which 67% was international)
Highest for an ‘R’ rated film: Passion of Christ ($612,000,000, 40% international)

Stay Thirsty My Friends

The beer category is a lot of fun. You can try all kinds of goofy stuff to get attention. While I’m not sure there is an actual strategy for most beer ads, who but an old-school ad planner actually cares. The ads are often funny and entertaining which is half the battle.
Now let’s admit, there is also a lot of stupid beer ads, most recently the Coors ads with coach quotes being taken out of context. Lame, don’t you agree? I won’t be drinking that battery acid any time soon.

So, it is with pleasure we recognize the fresh new approach from Dos Equis. It features the exploits of “The world’s most interesting man.” Most of the copy is really nice, and some is close to being brilliant such as, “He lives vicariously through himself” and “He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.” I also like the closing appeal to the some-time beer drinker “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

Will it work? Unscientifically, this Hemingway-esque character really appeals to men. Women, on the other hand don’t seem to get it. Probably OK given that men must be the target audience.

If you agree that one of the goals of advertising is to make the target audience feel good about a brand, then Dos Equis got it right. I was on a beer run with a guy that sells pizza ovens (not an ad guy) and he said. “Let’s get Dos Equis and support interesting advertising.” Wow. That’s a powerful endorsement for good work.
Ad peeps, no matter the category, there is always a way to do some good work. Stay thirsty my friends.

The Spending Habits of Americans

There is much speculation concerning the spending habits of the American consumer post-recession. The question is, will this recession cause a permanent change is consumer behavior, or is this spending conservatism a temporary hiccup in the long standing American tradition of extravagance? Of course, we at Cult Marketing have the definitive opinion.

Americans love to spend money. Pure and simple. Any current consumer spending restraint – while glazed over with threats that “this is the new me” and other well-meaning sentiments – is temporary. How do we know? Let’s explore a few questions.

Do you like to fly first class? Do you own a Blackberry or an iPhone? Will you continue to go to a stylist to get your hair colored? Do you enjoy going out for dinner with friends? Would you like to go to an exotic location for a vacation? Do you drink Starbuck’s on a regular basis? Do you have HBO?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you like to spend money. If you like to spend money, you will eventually spend money, because people do what they want to do. Need has nothing to do with most American decision-making. It’s all about want. We agree on that?

Here is another tidbit. Pollsters have asked Americans if their spending habits will change permanently. Many have said “yes.” According to a NY Times/CBS News poll, 47% of the population said they would permanently spend less. Of course, the other half said they would return to their pre-recession spending habits. Flip a coin. It’s stupid to ask the question in the first place because no one knows the answer. It’s all speculation.

Here’s what we at Cult Marketing think. You’re going to spend money eventually, so you might at well start now and stimulate the economy. It will make our jobs as marketing people a lot easier. Then we can make more money and spend it. Then our clients will spend more money. Then we can make more money. Then we can spend more money. You get the picture? Do something good for yourself today, spend money. It puts a whole new spin on the concept of “pay it forward.”