Prankvertising: Why companies are pranking and why we are laughing

The latest trend in the advertising world is prankvertising.  Prankertising is the use of pranks and elaborate stunts in order to promote a brand’s product or service.  You might have seen the notorious “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” in which a normal coffee shop in NYC gets transformed into a telekinetic hub of activity when a young girl suddenly unleashes her power on an unsuspecting man.  Obviously, the whole thing is a set up and a promotion for the re-release of the movie “Carrie.”  But the people in the coffee shop have no idea that they are watching actors and stuntmen, and their honest reactions of distress prove how “real” it looks to them.

Prankvertising can also be seen around the world with companies in Chili and Germany getting in on the action.  An LG Ultra Reality TV replaces a window in a highrise in Chili, while interviews are conducted on unsuspecting people.  When a meteor sudden crashes into view, applicants are convinced they are watching the end of the world, when in reality they are just watching a video.  Reactions vary from amazement to full on outrage, but the prank proves just how powerful LG Ultra Reality TV’s really are.

And that is the gamble this prankvertising; is it really worth it?  From a marketing standpoint there are some obvious payoffs.  These prank videos are going viral like no ones business.  “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise” has over 47 million views on Youtube, and it has only been online for one month.  “LG Ultra Reality” has over 14 million views on YouTube, and it has been online for two months.

Beyond the viral market, the benefits of prankvertising are still unknown.  Does giving a consumer an adrenaline rush of fear leave a lasting imprint?  Or does it drive business in the opposite direction?

Get on Board with the Power Of Apps


Have you noticed? Branding and brands have changed along with the social media landscape. Some would even venture to say that if your brand is not an app … you’re nowhere. So, do you want to be invisible to your consumer, or do you want to be on the front lines of this technology? Consumers are demanding that your brand communicates with them on their level, in a way that makes them feel you value them. So what are your plans for building your brand through apps? If you’re not sure, read the condensed version of a recent article I read from  brandingstrategyinsider, and you may decide that apps might be another way you can strengthen and solidify your customer relationships and branding strategy:

Branding and Your Brand
A brand and branding are not the same. Branding is the strategy marketers use to build a brand.  Branding sets expectations about the value proposition that is a brand.

Branding’s New “Social” Approach
With the rise of social technologies, brands have lost priority with consumers. What people want are social relationships not brand relationships – people-to-people interactions not brands-to-consumers engagement. This is where apps come into play.

Where’s My App?
An app is a software tool that does something useful. Apps have been around as long as computing, but with the advent of touch-screen smartphones, icon-triggered apps have exploded on the scene as enhanced, innovative ways for conveniently and quickly performing a myriad of tasks. For brand marketers, an app is a tool that doubles as a communications vehicle.

It’s About Connecting
For consumers, the best thing about new technologies is not the ability to connect with brands, but the ability to connect with other people, thus leaving less time and interest than ever, if any at all, for branding.

In a mature marketplace of advertising clutter and savvy consumers, marketers must do more than just say something interesting; they must deliver a message that does something useful. To put it bluntly, be an app or be gone.

Branded App Examples
Brand marketers have begun using apps to position a brand’s value proposition to consumers. For example, Montblanc and Cartier have apps to communicate new product updates along with other news and graphics, thus offering a more timely, multifunctional handheld digital catalog that might one day provide customized notifications to fit individual preferences or to mirror past buying patterns.

Managing Apps
Managing branding as an app means that marketers must deliver value twice, both with the brand and with the branding. Traditionally, branding is the promise of brand value, not a source of value. But with consumers demanding something useful from branding in exchange for their time and attention, branding itself must be valuable above and beyond its brand message. Branding must have its own value, separate from the brand it is promoting.

Is a Brand’s Value Determined by Currency?
Marketers worry a lot these days about all that they give away for free, but such worries presume that the only currency that matters is money. What marketers make available at no financial cost to consumers is actually bought and sold in a different currency. If a brand can’t persuade consumers to spend social currency sharing it or talking about it, or if a brand can’t get consumers to spend time with it as, say, an app, then money is less likely to change hands.

The superbrands of the future may not necessarily be the ones that perform the best or offer the best solution to a problem. They just might be the ones who use apps to market themselves rather than brands that don’t.

Does your website need a fresh look? How to know if a website needs to be redesigned.

There are many factors that go into redesigning a website. Many experts suggest you should focus the majority of your budget and efforts on content and not on design. I could not disagree more! While the content of a website is of the utmost importance, the design is equally important. If the design is not clean and engaging to catch users’ eyes, they will quickly move on to the next site. Don’t get me wrong; if your content is not relevant to the visitor’s request, you will lose the opportunity to convert them to a customer. With that said, there has to be a balance between quality design and excellent content.

Good design attracts people and helps them focus on what the design team feels is important, but good content retains and converts them to customers. There are people who only care about content, but there are also many who care about the combination. Take a car, for example. Some people look at a car to get from point A to B, but most people care about the looks of a car, the features, and how it functions. A website is similar in that if it’s designed poorly, doesn’t function properly, and has bad navigation, a visitor is not going to be as interested in engaging with your content. This is why they are equally important.

A website is an additional component of your brand and should be handled with the same minimum standards as any other aspect of your brand. The voice of the content should complement the layout and design of the site so they are portraying the same message. If they don’t, you’re only going to create brand confusion. Below are a few questions to ask yourself that will help you decide if you should start thinking about a redesign.

  1. Is your website code outdated or obsolete?
    As technologies change so do the languages they’re written in. It’s very important to make sure your site stays current with the latest standards or your search placement will be effected. If your site is built completely out of Tables, that’s a good sign you need to consider a redesign and rebuild of your site.
  2. Can you manage your website?
    Today there is no reason why a site should not be built on a CMS (Content Management System). A CMS gives the site owner the ability to make updates to your site without the knowledge of HTML. This is extremely important these days if you want to stay relevant in the search engines. You have to continue to keep your site fresh and a CMS will help you do this easily.
  3. Has your company had a change in focus?
    Websites are often built when a company first launches. If this is the case, you need to evaluate the site and make sure the products and services are current. You also need to revisit the goals and make sure they are in line with the ongoing vision of the company. I have seen many companies offering a product or service on their websites that they no longer support. This is why having your site built on a CMS is very important.
  4. Has the company brand changed?
    If your company has updated or rebranded but neglected to update the website, then it’s time to redesign. There’s nothing worse than reading marketing materials and then visiting a website and it looks like a different brand. This will make people question your credibility.

These are just a few of many questions that can be asked if a site needs to be redesigned.  If you find yourself answering any of these questions, then you should put an action plan together.

Here are a few tips to consider when thinking about redesigning a website.

  • Have specific goals in mind
    You need to define the goals before you redesign the site. You should also create a list of wants and needs for your new site. This is very important as some items may be out of reach depending on your budget, but they may be phased in at a later date.
  • Inventory your current assets
    It’s important to make sure you inventory all of your current assets and make a list of what needs to be incorporated into the new site.
  • What features do you need
    Do your research and look at competitors’ sites to find any features you feel are important for the new site. Your old site may have just listed products, but now you’re ready to sell online. You will need an eCommerce function for your site.
  • Content strategy
    A content strategy is important to develop during a redesign. You should be thinking about adding value to the site over time. You will have better positioning on the search engines the more active you are with adding content to your site.
  • Make sure you have a budget
    Create a budget for this redesign. A budget will help manage the expectations of everyone involved.
  • Long-term marketing strategy and budget
    Now that you have decided to redesign your site, make sure you think about the long-term marketing strategy. You have to have a plan in place to help drive traffic to the site. It’s more than just publishing your site to the World Wide Web. You should also consider a budget for this ongoing effort. Things like Pay-Per-Click advertising and ongoing execution of content strategies will cost money but can be measured and adjusted as needed. Often times, this is forgotten and there’s not money left in the budget. Don’t let this happen to you.

So do you feel your site needs to be redesigned? If so, I would love to hear why.

photo credit: Kemeny_x via photopin cc

7 Tips to Develop the Best Mobile Website for Your Company

Waterstone's in-store ad for their mobile website
Photo by ianfogg42

Now that having a mobile presence for your company website is almost a necessity, how are you developing your mobile strategy? If you haven’t started your mobile planning,  it’s time to give some thought to executing the strategy. Should your mobile site be a miniature version of your main site?  How should you present content?  How can you deliver the best user experience?

Here are some tips I thought were worth sharing from the Content Marketing Institute:

1. Keep it simple
Your mobile website home page should only display the most relevant information. Do not try to cram all the information you provide on your website into your mobile site. Instead, include a link to the desktop version from the mobile site. Include information like phone numbers, addresses and maps which would be useful to people on the move.

2. Don’t make ‘em wait
To retain your mobile visitors’ attention, your mobile website has to load in less than 5 seconds. It’s been found that 58 percent of mobile phone users expect websites to load as quickly, or faster, on their mobile devices as they load on their desktop computers.

3. Avoid “heavy” graphics
Avoid using large, Flash-based video files on your mobile site, as most smartphone browsers do not support Flash. Instead, use simple images to improve the look and feel of your mobile website — but make sure all images used on the desktop are set to resize automatically to fit a mobile device’s smaller screen sizes.

4. “Touch” is the new “click”
When designing your mobile site, use drop down menus, check boxes, and pre-populated fields whenever possible, so that your mobile visitors can navigate and input information easily rather than having to fill in long forms.

5. Every device is important
Your mobile website should work flawlessly on devices with various screen sizes and on various mobile platforms and operating systems, including iPhones, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and even feature phones that use Opera browsers.

6. Redirect your mobile visitors automatically
Do not forget to redirect your mobile visitors automatically to your mobile website. Your webmaster can do this by creating a subdomain of your main website which will serve as your mobile website.

7. Track your mobile visitors
For all you know, your mobile website traffic might have surpassed your desktop website’s traffic. If you have an analytics system in place, such as Google Analytics, create a separate profile for your mobile website. This will help you track your mobile traffic and desktop traffic independently.

Recent studies back up many of the points above, especially when it comes to loading times. According to a study by Compuware,  60 percent of mobile users said they expect a mobile site to load in 3 seconds or less! When it doesn’t, 57 percent won’t return. It’s pretty clear, you can’t afford not to pay attention to these statistics.

Lessons for Business Leaders on Delighting Your Customers and Creating Brand Advocates



I am a recipient of under-delivery, and I hope to turn my disappointment into some sharable lessons about customer service. I love the concept of excellence and over-the-top delivery articulated in the Ritz Carlton brand. When I choose to stay at a Ritz hotel, I have a particular set of expectations.

Last December, I stayed the night at The Ritz in White Plains, New York, celebrating my niece’s 14th birthday. While preparing to check out of our luxurious room, I broke my toe on a protruding bathroom ledge. I preferred to deal with the issue on my own, and the hotel management team was so excited to have a non-litigious guest — they radiated gratitude and relief as they watched me sign a release. In this celebratory moment, I was asked if I prefer wine, soup or fruit. Making my choice, I was told that whenever I stay at a Ritz, for the rest of my life, I would have fruit in my room.

So, as I travelled to my next family reunion in New York, my hotel of choice was the Ritz Carlton in White Plains. My husband and I checked in after a stressful travel day. Although we were hungry and tired, I convinced my husband that we should wait to eat, as there would be a wonderful fruit basket waiting for us when we arrived. We were greeted with this message: “Welcome back. Thank you for choosing the Ritz Carlton.” Imagine our disappointment when we couldn’t find the fruit – was it perhaps hidden in the mini bar? No fruit to be found yet my toe continues to ache in cold weather.

Given my experience, here is the advice I have to offer when it comes to customer service:

Brand promise: Ensure that the brand promise is echoed through every activity. Make sure that the entire staff understands the nuances of what your company stands for and makes decisions based on this promise.

Action rather than words: Rather than state that you are going to do something special – just do it and then you will have the opportunity to talk about it. Surprise your customer in a good way.

Keep meticulous records: The more you know about your customer the more you are able to delight and super-serve. Beyond keeping records, develop a system to tap into the information that you are collecting without having anything fall through the cracks.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, I am sure that you all have many more lessons to share. I have written about the importance of customer service before, and you’ll find more tips in my blog, “3 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Create Brand Super Fans.”


Agile Marketing: The new approach for brand marketing

Marketers are being asked to do more with less. They have tighter budgets and greater ROI expectations. Almost every facet of the marketing function has a sophisticated software component generating more and more data.

In this ever-changing environment, how are marketers going to deal with this?

Think Agile Marketing
Agile marketing is both a set of principles and a process. It takes inspiration from Agile software development methodology. The goals of Agile Marketing are to increase the speed, predictability, transparency, effectiveness and adaptability to change of the marketing function.

Here’s a little background in case you’ve never heard of it:

In 2001, a group of software developers came together at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah to create the Agile Manifesto. Frustrated with the slow time to market and documentation driven, heavyweight software development processes, they agreed on four core values:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Marketers working in technology companies using Agile began to see the results of this process in the software products being developed. Taking a page from their developer brethren, a group of marketers recently met at an event called SprintZero to develop the Agile Marketing Manifesto.

I recently spoke with John Cass, a passionate evangelist for Agile Marketing who was one  of the organizers of SprintZero.  He shared these points about Agile Marketing with me:

  • Sprints - Do 2-4 week sprints and leave a week in between for review and planning. Otherwise it will fee like you are on a treadmill.
  • Scrums - – Do scrum meetings daily. Meetings last 10-20 minutes and center on  what you are working on, what you’ve accomplished and what barriers exist to accomplish your tasks.
  • Agile is not about speed, it’s about focus. You do things faster because you are more focused.
  • Start slowly. Don’t turn every single project into Agile. Confine your efforts to a project and grow from there.
  • Start small. Do 2-4 week Sprints, think about what you have learned, and then regroup. Build and add elements as needed.
  • Agile Marketing is a work in progress. Take what you want from the variety of methods and toss the rest.   Integrate more as needed.

Agile is a different way of operating and will require a shift in the way you think.  The main takeaway  here is Agile Marketing can help mHealth companies become more effective by incorporating Agile principles into their marketing DNA. Isn’t that worth contemplating?

“My demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.” This statement could be one of the biggest problems to your marketing plan.

Infographic from All Twitter

See the full size infographic

We can’t deny the fact that kids these days are getting mobile electronic devices at a younger age than ever before. As an example, my 4-year-old nephew had a Kindle Fire at the age of 3. In fact, all of my nieces and nephews, who range in age from 4 to 8, own some type of mobile device. Because this is a growing trend in the world today, marketers need to use social media and other digital marketing techniques to stay in front of their upcoming consumers.

Common Sense Media did a study on How Teens View Their Digital Lives that I found to be very interesting.

The survey polled 13-17 year-olds from around the U.S. to find out how social media plays a role in their lives. They discovered that 90 percent of them use some form of social media today, and the majority of teens use digital communications as a part of their daily lives. The results of this survey are not surprising, but I hear companies often say their target audience doesn’t use social media. That comment can’t be further from the truth.

There are many reports like the one from Common Sense Media showing social media and mobile device usage … and how they are being used. There are over 5.6 billion mobile phones being used in the world today. That is 79 percent of the world population! Approximately 55 percent of mobile owners access the web and predictions have been made that by 2014 using mobile to access the Internet will top desktop computer usage.

Mashable posted an infographic created by Online MBA which breaks down the demographics using the biggest social networks today. More than 66 percent of all adults are connected to one or more social media platforms. Interestingly, people 45 and older make up 46 percent of Facebook users.

Infographic from Mashable

See full size Infographic

You may need to evaluate your marketing plan if you think your demographics don’t use social media or mobile devices.

Other related Infographics

4 Simple Social Habits for Busy Businesses

Social Media Landscape
Photo by

How has your client engagement changed in the last five years? I don’t know about you, but even as the owner of a communications and marketing firm, my world has changed tremendously … right along with the social media landscape.  I don’t think my firm even offered social media training for clients five years ago but it’s a huge part of my business now. And I don’t see it slowing down.

What companies often have trouble with is coming to terms with “how” they will engage in social media … not “if” they will do it. Part of the concern is how much time employees should dedicate to the company’s social media platforms. I admit I am biased in my belief that most companies could use a little help and training in this area … at least to get started.

 But if you don’t have the ability to hire outside help, here’s some good advice from Samantha Stone on how you or your employees can manage the social media beast at your company:

Schedule it! (Two 15-minute increments per day)
The nature of social is fluid, and so we fool ourselves into thinking to be effective we must be engaged all the time. Physically block two 15-minute sessions on your calendar to do nothing but monitor priority social channels at least three days a week. Pick times that work for your schedule, even if it varies from one day to another. Just make a routine and stick to it.

Collide social and “non-social” work
You can and should re-use content. In fact, the busiest marketing professionals I know do exactly that. Each week I take a look at my to-do list. I carefully evaluate what needs to get done, and I toss to the bottom of the list items that are only to be used once. I physically write down what can be connected. Lesson learned: Forget the notion of “separate” disciplines of marketing. There is no social vs. traditional, there is only marketing. Plan to maximize integration.

Lower your expectations
When we expect instantaneous results, we disappoint ourselves and take focus off the outreach. Instead, set realistic goals and celebrate success. If I only looked at blog comments as a measure of my effort, I’d be sorely disappointed. My blog in general doesn’t get a lot of comments. However, I do get a fair amount of engagement on my blog posts via Facebook, Twitter, and often through email and in-person engagements. Not everything we do is going to go “viral,” and that’s OK. Small victories really do count.

Have fun with social
There is a reason these communication channels are called social networks. People engage through networking because they enjoy spending time connecting with other individuals who share common interests. If you think of it only as “another to-do on my daily list,” you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to expand your world in new and exciting ways. Let yourself enjoy it by celebrating company wins, giving sneak peaks into your unique corporate culture, rallying around client causes, and showing your sense of humor.

One word of caution about the last tip: humor is good, but make sure you use it with your audience and your corporate “voice” in mind.

Pucks and Tweets: An Example of Speaking Your Audience’s Language

LA Kings Faceoff
Photo by Dinur

As both a hockey fan and PR practitioner, I have been fascinated by what the Los Angeles Kings have been doing this spring. Not only have they won on the ice, but they are also creating buzz off of it through social media. How have they done this? By knowing their target audience and speaking its language.

The Kings, through their Twitter feed, wanted to go beyond an information feed of box scores and event notifications that the medium is traditionally used for by sports teams. They wanted to be more engaging and interactive with their audience. To do this, the Kings decided to develop their own voice that reflected their target audience, being snarky and sarcastic similar to that of a fan.

“At the end of the day, we aren’t saying anything groundbreaking — we’re just saying things you wouldn’t normally hear from an ‘official’ team account. And that’s really the difference; we’re using Twitter exactly as it was intended — to interact with our fanbase. Social media is a two-way conversation and Twitter, specifically, is designed for great one-liners that can be shared and re-tweeted. All we’re doing is injecting a little personality into @LAKings.”
–Dewayne Hankins, director of digital media for the Los Angeles Kings

Since the beginning of the playoffs the Kings twitter feed has grown by more than 30,000 followers to over 100,000.

The Kings approach of knowing the audience you want to reach and speaking its language is a lesson for all. Brands need to take this approach into account not just for social media, but for all messaging. It doesn’t need to be snarky and sarcastic like the Kings, but it does need to be reflective of the audience that you are trying to reach. Speaking your audience’s language means stronger connections with your audience and greater brand value.

As Hankings said about the Kings Twitter feed, “It’s an extension of the brand.”

They are now in the Stanley Cup Finals, and I can’t wait to see what the Kings tweet next.

Bringing Creativity Back to PR

Being a public relations practitioner is so much more than sending out press releases and pitching stories. Yes, for some, getting client coverage in the Wall Street Journal is the Holy Grail of PR, but for industry professionals, should the goal be a bit … different?

I’m talking about creativity (or, at times, lack thereof) in the field.

price viagra

Practitioners have the responsibility to push the envelope when it comes to creativity in PR and clients have the responsibility to let public relations professionals do great work.

Sometimes, all it takes is some inspiration to remind us all that public relations, as a part of the marketing mix, is multi-dimensional. (Thanks to IKEA, a Port-O-Potty and an Italian agency’s creative thinking for inspiring this post.)