Posts in Marketing

The 7.1 Best Ads of 2018

January 7th, 2019 Posted by Marketing, Strategy, Trends No Comment yet

As a culture we love to critique and review. The premise on the advertising industry does just that. It shows us images of how we can envision ourselves. Ads are relatable and clever, sometimes controversial (those are often the best and worse ads “when this miss the mark….Pepsi.”)


I’ve broken down my personal ranking as follows:

  • Brand Impact: How the ad builds on the brand. Being adventurous requires risk which tends to create a higher impact of brand perception, where as conventional is…… well, conventional.
  • Creativity: Clever, witty and all around amazing concepts rule in this category.
  • Content: Alongside creativity, having something to say helps ads stand out. This is a tricky category to win.
  • Popularity: All these ads are great, with millions of viewing hours. This category incorporates the popularity of the product or service as well as the controversial notions that arise from the ad.


I’ve seen hundreds of ads through 2018, if not thousands. Few really stood out. Here’s my list of 7.1, yes, 7.1 ads that were thought provoking, if not the leaders in their industries. I’ll start with 1 and count up, because why the heck not?


Honestly, who doesn’t watch this show. With over 1.75M views of the trailer to date, it’s clear GOT is the GOAT. I, like many other viewers eagerly wait for the conclusion of this series. The history behind the show and how it even got started was enough to get anyone hooked.


The video (although slightly longer than I would have liked) illustrates a very complex plot and uses a minimalist overlay of text. Sure, as far as ads go, not breaking any molds. Why would it need to? The show does that all on its own. Overall, it aided in establishing the fandemonium of GOT viewers, but little else. Get ready for winter, it arrives in Spring of 2019.


Yes, a Superbowl ad. I mean, they paid for the spot, so it has to be good, right? In most cases, meh. But I personally love Keanu Reeves. He is an all around amazing guy, actor and philanthropist. Squarespace has some pretty fierce competition. Most notably with Wix. So my not bring an icon to the table?


In the spot, Adventures in Success by Will Powers plays while the screen pans into a man surfing a motorcycle. Part of me felt homage to the Matrix in this scene.


In the middle of a desert you see Keanu Freaking Reeves! So much yes! Pretty sure, Squarespace won this round Wix. Only to follow it up with another ad. The second shows Reeves’ explaining Reeves’ his own small business story, again in a desert. Overall, a witty brand spot, something that people will want to watch over and over again.


Superbowl ad #2. I’ve seen stranger things (pun intended) that a Super Bowl commercial of Tide, starring David Harbour. It’s quick, to the point and downright quirky.


I’ve heard everyone talking about this ad after its release. In some parts it is illogical but still, a total work of genius. The series of ads showcase various clichéd ads for generic products featuring Harbour who claims that all these are nothing but Tide ads since they feature “clean clothes”.


“If it’s clean, it’s a #TideAd”. Although a tad bit disjointed, this one deserved all the hype it got in 2018.


DDB Dusseldorf’s “Highlight the Remarkable,” won at the Cannes Lions. That was the starting point on a road to worldwide acclaim. After this year’s festival, the campaign—highlighting the women who might be otherwise overlooked in a historic photo—was shared passionately across social media.


Print media isn’t dead. Although these ads took a life of their own on the social media platform. A great piece highlighting the effectiveness of women in history in a clever and witty way. Simple and to the point, like a great ad should be. Well deserved DDB. Albeit, I am curious to see the outcome for the brand identity post campaign.


Sometimes we get to work on our dream clients and sometimes you have a deadline and need something to feel the void. I’ve worked in various industries over the years and when crisis hits, hot dang, it is a stressful time.


Kudos to KFC for stepping up in a big way. When disaster struck KFC, and it ran out of chicken. Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken, was just Kentucky Fried. How would you respond? You know customers are bound to be frustrated and irate. How do you even begin to offer a sincere apology?


KFC’s marketing team chose wit. And at the same time managed to convey its message, on-brand. Content wise, outstanding. The fall out? Minimal. Although it does bring up a good question. How personally offended do customers get when things go wrong? I feel companies should be willing to tackle issues head on like KFC. Great work on such a short deadline.


I really, really wanted this to be the top ad of 2018. It almost made it, but the number 1 (technically 7.1) barely beat it out.


You all know Colin Kaepernick’s story. During Nike’s 30th anniversary of its iconic “Just Do It” tagline. Kapernick’s activism and inclusion into Nike’s recent ad went viral. #NikeBoycott was trending on Twitter by Tuesday morning, and Nike shares were falling as Wall Street reacted to the news.


Kaepernick flew into the spotlight when, to protest racial injustice, he decided to kneel rather than stand for the national anthem before a 2016 National Football League preseason game. The NFL denies his allegation. The NFL was denied a summary judgment against Colin Kaepernick and there has been no update since the start of December.


Despite Kaepernick’s appearance in it, the new Nike commercial isn’t overtly political. It makes no reference to “taking a knee.” Instead, it sticks to the inspirational tone that Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign is famous for. The beauty of this campaign is the hysteria about one character from it. It is controversial without actually being controversial.


Nike is the personification of the athleticism. This ad hits on all cylinder and really causes a whirlwind of reaction. No news is bad news, however, bad news can be good news. I love that Nike took a stand and didn’t waver in their execution. Albeit, the brand did suffer a bit, but that is progress. This ad is one to remember.


This is probably one of the most fun and engaging ads of 2018. Tinder India has totally hit gold with their #StartSomethingEpic campaign.


In this advert, we have a young girl who is on a quest to meet new guys. I can’t help but feel a time warp to the 1950’s and a bit of a gender role reversal. The quirky background score and addictive dance moves are original and inventive. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar in the North American landscape in 2019. Heck, I’d love to map out this advert myself.


I love the analog swipe left/right motif in the video when she rejects and accepts guys. Tinder, well deserved props.


So why 7.1? Unlike the other ads, this ad is sensational and cinematically, it hits all the marks. It does what ads are supposed to do. It sheds the awkwardness related to online dating without acknowledging the issue head on. Or at least it gives the good ol college try. It is tough to create a message of change amidst a society built on conventional traditions. This ad takes controversy and flips the script. More than 35% of marriages start from an online date (based on my immediate friend circle). Heck, I found the love of my life on a dating app (not Tinder). But this ad will surely bring in users.

Banking and attracting customers to digital

November 28th, 2018 Posted by Case Studies, Marketing, Strategy, Trends No Comment yet

The challenge for banks in their current state is to face the implications of a digital change. As technology increases at exponential rates, banks will be at a disadvantage trying to react “in the moment” to new competitors and features. This will disrupt the customer relationship and inevitably decrease banks wallet share.

Banks need to look beyond the immediate changes and view the ‘bigger picture’. Image result for bmo branch

They will need to understand what digital engagement means to the banks and its customers at all generational levels. Banks will need to understand how digital engages their customers and build a comprehensive digital strategy that will deliver their message and build brand loyalty and trust.

For the purpose of our case, we will look primarily at the Baby Boomer demographic (ages 52 – 72), as they represent the largest challenge due to skepticism of the digital revolution. The Baby Boomers have lived through the sixties and seventies and are now financially stable, possibly retired adults. Their wealth has accumulated through
the decades and due to recent soaring real estate values, they will likely have sold their homes and downgraded to less strenuous living spaces.

This generation will have the added benefit of being much more loyal than the subsequent generation. Nostalgia is a selling factor to their demographic. However, Succeeding in the digital world is not about ‘out with the old and in with the new’; it is instead about truly understanding the needs of your customers, the shifts in your market place, the differentiation strategy of your business, and the best means for achieving success. We will outline the essential information for the case and begin to examine distinct channels to reach the consumer base.

  • Objective: Promote BMO online & mobile banking services to drive digital awareness, adoption and engagement amongst existing customers not yet digitally engaged.
  • Key Considerations: primary demographic skews older (avg. older than 52) and the leading barrier to digital adoption is security concerns.
  • Timing: In market target of January – March (3 month timeline)
  • Budget: $350, 000
  • Success Benchmark: 100,000 New Digital Adoption/Conversions Increased Brand Recognition


Download a full copy of the case study  HERE

The 7 Unconscious Things We Do When We Buy Brands

September 26th, 2018 Posted by Case Studies, Marketing, Strategy, Trends No Comment yet

The way we decide to buy brands is mind-blowing. Litarary, it’s like an explosion of nuerons doing the Macarena in your head.

Recognizing the irrationality of our decisions (there’s 7) can help us make more informed, sensible choices and save money (which is an added bonus).

Let’s look at the 7 most common errors we tend to make:

1. We create value where there is none and pay more than we should.

Brands add value not in the product but rather within our minds. That’s because our enjoyment is shaped by our expectations and these are molded by our memories. The problem is, most of these brand memories are stored in our vastly more powerful unconscious mind.

When we think about buying something we automatically dredge up all of our past impressions and summarize the brand’s worth in the form of gut feelings—good, bad, or indifferent. There is little logic to how we come to love our favorite brands.

Not only do brands transform our beliefs and experiences, we feel even better about a product just because it costs more. That’s because experience has taught us that things that are expensive are usually higher quality. This “rule of thumb” makes us pay as much as 85 percent more for a brand-name drug than for the generic, even though the FDA requires generic drugs to have the exact same quality and performance. I bet you were expecting a VW, Audi and Porsche comparison. They are all just the same SUV’s underneath the badges.

2. We make decisions by emotional association more so than rational analysis.

Perhaps the most important finding in neuroscience has been the discovery that emotions are central to cognition and decisions. Advertising works by a process of Unconscious Behaviorism. We are being conditioned by the media on a deep unconscious level and it is this implicit associative emotional conditioning that drives our brand preferences.

This was demonstrated in a study that exposed participants to made-up brands paired with a set of pictures and words, some negative and some positive. After seeing hundreds of images paired with several fictitious brands, the subjects were unable to recall which brands were associated with which pictures and words, but they still expressed a preference for the positively conditioned brands. The authors of the study labeled it the “I like it, but I don’t know why” effect. In a follow-up experiment the participants were presented with product information that contradicted their earlier impressions, offering them reasons to reject the products they had been conditioned to like, but they still chose the brands associated with the positive imagery. Factual information to the contrary did not undo the prior conditioning, suggesting that their product selections were driven more by unconscious conditioning rather than rational analysis.

This means you can be conditioned through advertising to choose logically inferior options. We can even become conditioned to find great pleasure in things that harm us. For instance, why do we love the smell of a brand new car so much? The scent symbolizes the pride of ownership that elevates our ego with a feeling of specialness and importance. But this fresh, new odor is actually a potpourri of poison and toxic gases. Even when the new scent fades over time, we voluntarily extend our daily exposure to additional chemical cocktails by purchasing fake new-car scents that contain aldehydes, esters, and ketones. Yup, that beautiful new car smell. It’s killing you.

3. When we have strong positive emotions about a brand we seek supporting evidence and ignore contradictory facts.

We are not rational; we are rationalizers. We make our decisions based on emotions and look for supporting evidence as justification. When our emotional desires begin to shift toward a prospective brand, we subsequently seek to align our reasons to be consistent with that intention. Our rational mind is always looking for evidence to support our dominant beliefs…the stronger the emotion, the stronger the belief, and the greater the tendency to seek out supporting evidence. This confirmatory bias is why we often overlook the flaws of the ones we love, even if that loved one is a brand. We focus our attention on the positive qualities of the brand while ignoring the deficiencies. This predilection is also what prevents Republicans and Democrats from finding common ground in the same set of facts, and why it is impossible to win an argument with someone on an emotionally charged issue like abortion or the existence of God. No amount of reasoning can overcome strong feelings because the emotionally charged mind will always find its reasons to believe.

4. We draw conclusions based upon how the information is presented—not the actual information itself.

An ad for cream cheese that states 95% fat free is more likely to convince us than one that says it contains 5% fat. The facts are identical but it is the positive spin not the concrete evidence that drives the appeal.

Rather than simply stating the facts most advertisers typically embed their message into creative contextual devices that evoke feelings and bypass rational resistance. This is why advertisers use stories, poems, slogans, songs, jokes, pictures, symbols, characters, roles, and metaphors. They are particularly ripe marketing tools, because they lead the imagination and evoke the feelings that strike at our heart not our head.

One popular technique is the use of a spokesperson. We can transfer favorable feelings about the person to the brand even if the character’s role is fictitious. But Air Jordan’s will make you jump higher, so go buy Air Jordan’s.

5. The more we are exposed to a brand the more we like it.

The number one drive in human behavior and biology is homeostasis, or the seeking of the same stable, balanced, predictable state. All humans (and therefore all consumers) find a great deal of comfort and pleasure in what is known and familiar.

Psychologist Robert Zajonc of Stanford University demonstrated that familiarity breeds affection, a process he labeled the “mere exposure effect.” Zajonc showed participants a randomly chosen series of shapes in rapid succession, making it impossible for the group to consciously discern how often each shape was shown. What he found was that when asked which shapes they found most pleasing, subjects would reliably choose those that they had been exposed to most often, even though they had no conscious awareness of how often they had seen the shapes or which they’d seen more often.

So it’s no wonder we are exposed to thousands of ads each day. For example, Coke’s focus has always been establishing an instantly recognizable and appreciated brand. Through the classic, consistent logo, the iconic contour of the bottle’s design, the mellifluous alliteration of the brand name, its investment in world-class, heart-warming advertising, and a pervasive retail presence, it became not only the first truly global brand but also the most recognized trademark in the world. In 2011 the Coca-Cola brand was worth an estimated $74 billion—more than Budweiser, Pepsi, Starbucks, and Red Bull combined—a position maintained by spending $2.9 billion in advertising in 2010, more than Microsoft and Apple’s advertising budgets put together.

6. We make decisions based upon the memories of our experiences—not the actual experiences.

According to Harvard-trained brain experts Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske, we remember better and encode more strongly when we are in a highly emotional state. Marketers are not the architects of advertising. They are the architects of remembrance. How we feel about a brand largely depends upon our memory of the experience provided by the brand, not what actually happened. These are not based on the reality of these experiences but almost entirely on the peak moments and the concluding impression—whether positive or negative—the brand has produced. This tendency is what the behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman calls the “peak-end rule.”

A textbook example of this was a project dubbed “Red Bull Stratos” with the lofty mission of transcending human limits. On October 14, 2012 Felix Baumgartner ascended to the edge of space as the world watched live on the edge of their seats. The supersonic skydiver made the death-defying, record setting plunge escaping a “death spin” to avert tragedy and touch down safely unharmed. It is no surprise that Red Bull continues to dominate the energy drink market, a category they single-handedly created.

7. We are convinced by advertising based on consistency and coherence, not the quality and quantity of information.

The best ad campaigns involve a simple clear emotionally evocative idea repeated over and over again. Less is in fact more, which helps explain the ubiquitous presence of the 30-second commercial. The conscious mind will leap to conclusions, forming a coherent narrative based upon partial information. This strong tendency to draw conclusions from incomplete information is a cognitive rule that Kahneman calls “What you see is all there is.” Kahneman argues that consistency and coherence, not quantity or quality of information, are the keys to forming opinions.

As Kahneman describes it, “Neither the quantity nor the quality of the evidence counts for much in subjective confidence. The confidence depends on the quality of the story they can tell.” So it’s not surprising that one of the hottest new forms of advertising is “Branded Content”. Increasingly advertisers are choosing to spend their investments often in the form of entertaining stories that blur the line between conventional advertising and entertainment. We might enjoy these new forms of advertising better, but we also may become more influenced by them without ever knowing why.

So in conclusion, can we change these things? Probably not. Should we change these things? Well………probably not. It would ruin the advertising industry as a whole and then how would we know what is cool?

I mean, I guess we would still have Vice, GQ and Teenbeat magazines. Right?

The Future in 2020 Vision

May 26th, 2018 Posted by Case Studies, Marketing, Strategy, Trends No Comment yet

It’s a known fact, mobile has been on the rise faster than a Patriots fan defending Brady (of which, I am one). Mobile users make up over half of all web traffic, searching for anything from Elon Musk or Tom Brady likely makes up half of the mobile web traffic. Social media isn’t yet exactly clear on how it will affect marketers, we only know that being “insta” famous, is now deemed a desirable profession for millennials. There are plenty of opportunities and predictions, but anyone who tells you they know Drake’s new dance move or being the Uber of (insert industry here) is going to alter the marketing landscape for 2020.

Personalization of product lines have been around for longer than your Honda Civic. Point in case, Dell Computers. They are/were the king of personalization technologies. Then came Google. They gave away data for free, until it no longer was free and we were all hooked. The amount of big data now available to companies is staggering. Think about it for a second, it is actually staggering.

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are only now starting to realize the potential of personalization. I mean it’s no 6th round, 199th draft pick shock and awe legacy story for the ages. But the full encompassment of personalization is really just in its infancy stages. How will this evolve by 2020? I mean, the Patriots will surely win at least 1 more Super Bowl, hover boards could actually happen and self-driving cars are currently all the rage and rightfully so. But what are the implications for banking, law, and intellectual property? Will patents be the new currency? Well, after cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

I began wondering about how the internet has helped reform marketing over the last 10 years. I kept thinking of how “like” has been made famous, due to social media’s drive for acceptance. Of course, Facebook and other media platforms use of like has caused a generational shift in endorsement. Still, 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone helps validate the importance of someone’s digital approval. But what is coming down the pipelines?

When I was a child and we talked about the future, I often felt we were all going to have robo-butlers, flying cars and jet packs. Possibly hospitable living on Mars, okay, that one is closer than we think. But still, I never understood the value of money, the importance of marketing or how this thing called a computer would dictate how virtually all communication and interaction would be handled.

We’ve evolved in the last 10 years in terms of the cultural zeitgeist, in terms of media absorption and the technology we digest. But I think the bigger lesson is that things really haven’t changed. As an industry, our quest for market share relevance and attention makes us distracted by outputs and reaching the target audience first, but lacks a platform for service and support. As creators, we have to experiment. We have to test the limits of new technology. We also have to digest and reflect on culture faster than the average Joe. But this focus, if it’s the only focus, could limit us.

The brands and businesses that are really making change today, foster a big idea and work relentlessly to manifest that idea in every way that’s relevant to their customers, over time. Nike is no stranger to the ad awards podium. But its success is based on a long-term brand vision. IBM’s Watson (AI) has already been signed on as a lawyer with Ross Intelligence, made movie trailers, dabbled in fashion and beaten legendary game-show contestants, but its creators note that the cognitive computing platform is “just the first step on a very, very long road.”

I think it’s too easy to think the future is always a few years off, and not realize that before you know it we’ll be living in it. Without noticing your marketing efforts fell behind. Just like that. Marketers are often seen as struggling to review the effectiveness of their campaigns. In fairness, this isn’t all their fault. It’s hard to prove a spike in sales is the result of a new ad campaign, a change of the messaging on the website, or whether it was just because of a big push by the sales team.

But digital technologies provide massive opportunities for more accurately measuring key metrics and seeing how marketing is affecting sales. Calculating the ROI is only possible when you have accurate data on what is driving traffic and conversion rates. Marketers are looking to rely less on acquisition stats and more on ROI (like any consultant would tell you). The ultimate objective of any campaign is to be able to measure ROI. If you can’t, you should be asking yourself, where did we go wrong? No technological breakthrough will come along in the next four years which will let you wave a magic wand and have your ROI calculated for you. Automation is essential for progress in the future, but it doesn’t tell a story, only the information.

The real lesson to learn is that marketing has always been and will always be about engagement. Genuine and articulated engagement. Technology has the opportunity of connecting billions of people together, but it is only an automated process that is directed by opinions and cultural norms. The days of automation are quickly coming to an end. Marketing has to be the quarterback in much of this change and adoption. Engagement will be won on the street level.

The pop up marketing movement is an excellent example of this transitional state. Pop up campaigns disrupt conventions, excite and intrigue, all while engaging with customers on a street level. Tim Horton’s, Google, and several celebrity chefs have capitalized on this unconventional limited time tactic. It may just be a fad in the marketing paradigm, or it could be the start of something new and exciting.

I guess time will tell. Here’s the to the future. Cheers.