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Marketing the Simpsons

In a clever, highly publicized guerilla marketing campaign for The Simpsons Movie, due out this Friday, 12 7-Eleven convenience stores were converted into Kwik-E-Marts. The stores were unveiled on July 1st in the United States and Canada.

An ABC News article quotes Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade Marketing Group, praising the promotion: “Among ‘Simpsons’ fans this conversion is sure to enhance their perceptions of 7-Eleven as a cool place to shop. What is really clever about this is the blending of reality and fiction.”

As traditional marketing methods give way to more creative approaches, the fact/fiction blur is happening more and more. It’s also not without precedent, though past gimmicks seem more about capitalizing on a movie’s success rather than promoting it beforehand. I’m thinking about Wonka chocolate bars (courtesy of the 1971 movie) and the more than two dozen locations of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which we can blame on Forrest Gump.

I avoid Bubba Gump, but I admit I’m tempted to check out a Kwik-E-Mart. What’s odd about this is that I’ve never been a Simpsons’ devotee. I laugh when I watch it, but it’s a take-it-or-leave-it show for me. So why am I considering driving 40 miles to Mountain View just to shop at a Kwik-E-Mart? I hadn’t even heard of Krusty-O’s cereal until a few weeks ago. It’s a marketing gimmick, yet I’m intrigued. And apparently I’m not the only one. According to Wikipedia.com, the redesigned 7-Eleven stores are showing a 30 percent increase in profits. The proof is in the pudding—doh!—I mean the donuts.

But here’s the real question: Will the promotion encourage me to see the movie? Probably not. So if I buy a six-pack of Buzz Cola at the Kwik-E-Mart but I don’t see the film, is the promotion still a success? Post a comment and let me know what you think. —Julie Jares, managing editor

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July 24, 2007 Posted by | Brand Marketing, Julie Jares, Target Audience | Leave a comment

Explain things to your users

Lots of websites use so many acronyms and “inside” language that you need your own special glossary to decipher what’s being said. Sure, you can create a sense of community by developing a common language, but don’t just assume that your users know what you’re talking about.

One of my favorite recent examples is RSS feeds. Many websites refer to RSS feeds as if everybody understands and uses them, but LOTS of people still have no idea what RSS feeds are, how to use them, and how helpful they can be in sorting through Web content.

That’s why I love this video by commoncraft.com—a good, simple explanation of RSS that even my mother could understand. (And a great example of video explaining a concept and delivering value; it’s the perfect medium in this case.) We’ve included a link to it on our site next to our “Get the Tendo RSS Feed” button so that readers can figure out what it is before clicking. ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

July 12, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

The lesson from Google’s latest blog controversy

Google is in hot water this week because an employee voiced a political opinion on a corporate blog.

Obviously, it’s important for companies to have policies about the scope of their blog postings. But it would be a mistake to think that the lesson here is that all corporate blogs should have a Big Brother corporate reviewer who vets every piece of content before posting.

What makes blogging and other Web 2.0 strategies so engaging is that it democratizes communication. It means that you can communicate quickly and engage your customers directly. And it may mean that you get yourself into some sticky situations.

While Google may have wanted to avoid this controversy (although, maybe not…it is being covered widely in the press and they are getting lots of publicity), the fact is that the blog posting did exactly what it was supposed to do: It engaged the audience. People were able to respond to the post and Google clarified its position. That’s a conversation and that’s good.

It may be messier than the old way of communicating with customers, but we might as well get used to it. We’ll be seeing more and more of it. (Full disclosure: My brother works for Google, although I haven’t talked to him about this particular case.) ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

July 5, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, In the News, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment