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The five senses play a key role in our consumer lives. Traditionally, many brands’ marketing teams have focused solely on sight when producing their creative work. However, today’s brands attract their audiences through another sense: hearing. Sound in marketing has now become a popular and expected asset.

Sonic branding is the strategic use of sound and music to build brands, used to trigger an emotional response from the consumer, elevate their experience with the brand, and build a relationship.

Why should every company use sonic branding? Not only does it help you stand out from the crowd, but it also makes you memorable. Some examples of brands that have created a short but catchy sound include T-Mobile, Microsoft, and Skype.

One of the biggest mistakes an agency can do is just slap on a good song without much thought. Just because you like a song or it’s popular among the general public doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right fit for you.

Consider Royal Caribbean’s use of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” Sure, it’s a classic song, but was it the best choice for this particular brand? After listening to the lyrics, many people were confused as to why this brand would want their luxury cruise line associated with the lyrics.

However, some advertisements are paired so well with music that the two become timeless associations. It gets to the point where you can’t hear the song without thinking of the brand that popularized it.

For example, how will we ever forget the dancing Mr. Six in the 6 Flags Commercials to the Vengaboys hit, “We Like To Party”?

Just like we won’t ever forget when Target re-wrote the lyrics to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”!

Some commercials are so trendy that the musical artist also spikes in popularity. The alternative rock group Phoenix became an overnight sensation after Cadillac’s SRX Commercial was released in 2010 with their hit song “1901.”

It’s safe to say that these songs will be stuck in our heads for the rest of the week. And with the demand of interactive marketing on the rise, we can’t wait to see which sense is incorporated next.

There’s something to be said about a weekend getaway to America’s wine region, Sonoma County. Breathtaking countryside, endless vineyards, the finest farm-to-table cuisine, all tucked into the rolling hills of Northern California. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and unplug – or to simply indulge in amazing food and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

For 24 editors spanning a variety of lifestyle publications, this blissful vacation daydream became a reality during CBC’s Cooking Cottage experience from April 29-May 4.

The CBC Cooking Cottage is part of our House Program series and was born from the desire to provide editors and bloggers the opportunity to engage with a variety of brands in a tangible, meaningful way. Representatives from publications like Good Housekeeping, Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Women’s Health, and more attended the organized oasis and left with a weekend experience they won’t forget.

Each day featured a new set of socially-engaging activities, each hosted by a different brand. The agenda included events like a wine and cheese at Arrowood Vineyard with President Cheese, an exclusive poolside yoga class with Clif Bar, tours of two Jackson Family Wines vineyards, a Pinot and Potatoes Paint Night with Alexia, and many delicious meals in between.

The Cooking Cottage experience gave participants an enchanting taste of the rich Sonoma culture, as well as an insider’s look at highly-coveted brands like Omaha SteaksSambazonStonewall Kitchen, and Simply Organic.

But don’t just take our word for it. Scroll through the amazing photos posted by our guests on the hashtag #CBCcottage on Instagram.

Until next year, Cooking Cottage!

The topic of ad blocking has hit the main stream after a recent Apple iOS update began supporting it. As users embrace the option of skipping over advertisements and blocking them from their view, marketers are prompted to step up to the challenge.

 

Ad blocking has grown to cost the industry roughly $781 million a year – yikes. Big numbers. Luckily for some advertisers, they have found a way to use it to their advantage. Utilizing the feature on YouTube that allows users to skip an ad after 5 seconds, GEICO created a simple ad that only lasted this long. The campaign behind the ad: “You can’t skip this GEICO ad, because it’s already over.”

 

 

The Facebook advertising world also has a unique feature—auto play for videos. Hotels.com incorporated this into an ad and specifically designed it to run without sound, allowing user experiences to remain uninterrupted (for the most part).

 


As these pesky ad blockers continue to make their mark, marketers need to create ads that, as this Forbes article so aptly put it, “match the context of the site or app in which they appear.” Consumers don’t like to be interrupted, and ad blockers were created as a way out. That being said, there are ways that marketers can adapt to this new landscape in order to keep their ads from being blocked. Here’s our advice:

 

Be simple

The main reason that consumers dislike online advertisements is that they don’t like being interrupted. Pop-up ads block content and follow users through their web surfing experience. Marketers can avoid this by creating content that is simple and relevant to the user experience, limiting the disruptions and the all-too-frequent irrelevance.

Boost ads through social media

While ad blockers are designed to remove ads from the online experience, most social media channels remain peppered with ads. Ads displayed via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter fit effortlessly into the platforms and are made an innocuous – though present – part of the user’s experience.

 

As ad blocking is relatively new, it is also relatively unrefined. To date, the feature is used to block out any and all advertising content. However, as the story goes, there is always room for improvement. And fingers crossed there’s room for us as ad-people, too.

In a gutsy move, Amazon.com recently attempted to tackle the beast of Black Friday with its highly touted “Prime Day”. This step in Amazon’s attempt for online domination convinced consumers to sign up for Amazon Prime, the company’s online-subscription shopping service. Subscribers were granted access to one-day deals on July 15th covering everything from designer clothing to in-demand electronics. So was Amazon Prime Day Christmas in July?

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Well… apparently not. Despite a 93% increase in U.S. sales, only 42% of social media mentions were positive. And we’re not talking about one or two tweets, people. CNN reports that Prime Day generated about 200,000 social mentions. People took to social media to display their frustrations about how all of the good deals sold out within seconds and what remained left a lot to be desired. (I mean, who doesn’t love waking up at 3:00 am for 15% off a VCR rewinder and dishwasher detergent?)

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What started out as a great plan to build Amazon Prime’s subscription base turned into a public relations nightmare and campaign mockery as people compared Prime Day to the futile Lady Edith from Downtown Abbey. The hike in sales was offset by people’s disappointment; it is safe to say that the motivation to get up for Prime Day 2016 will be frighteningly low. While the failure of Prime Day won’t be encouraging Amazon to close the program’s doors any time soon (Prime reportedly has millions of subscribers already), it sounds like they need some PR professionals to clean up their social media mess and build up some better hype for next year. I know of a certain public relations firm in Boston that could do the job…

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Boston Advertising & PR Firm One as Six “Honorable Mentions from 800 Submissions for “America’s Least Wasteful Cities” Campaign for Bottle-Maker Nalgene

Blending social media marketing, interactive design, and press relations has become a hallmark of Boston advertising and PR firm Cercone Brown & Co., helping brands such as GMAC Insurance, adidas, Quiksilver and others build campaigns that drive awareness, sales leads and ROI.

On October 21st, the firm was honored for Best Online Campaign for 2009 for the prestigious Platinum PR Awards for its “America’s Least Wasteful Cities” work for reusable bottle icon Nalgene. Cercone Brown & Co. was among the top eight companies with the Best Online Campaign out of a total pool of 800 submissions.

With thrift and conservation on the minds of many Americans, the campaign put the spotlight on wasteful behavior in our nation’s top cities. “The Nalgene Least Wasteful City Study” ranked 23 waste-focused habits of urban Americans, from recycling, to using public transportation, to shutting off lights. When the results were tallied, San Francisco earned the title of America’s Least Wasteful City, while Atlanta ranked last.

Launched just prior to Earth Day, the program leveraged social media networks including Twitter and Facebook as primary channels.

“From a simple strategy of creating usable, compelling content, the effort quickly caught fire and extended beyond our hopes,” said Caroline Budney, director, social responsibility, Cercone Brown & Co.  “Almost immediately the ‘Net reacted with Twitter the clear epicenter of activity, as our frequent tweets were fueled by the tweets of columnists and bloggers.”

In total, the campaign reached more than 1 million on Twitter alone, and was extended by numerous television and print new stories. The campaign allowed Nalgene to strengthen its online community, adding fans to Facebook and followers to Twitter, making direct conversations with important alpha consumers easier and stronger.

The Platinum PR Awards

Del Monte Foods, GE, Time Warner Cable and American Express are among the organizations competing for honors in the 2009 Platinum PR Awards. Presented by PR News, the leading information resource among communicators, this highly competitive program honors the best PR campaigns and initiatives of the year.

The finalists in this year’s awards program included corporations, nonprofits and agencies large and small. The award winners were announced at an October 21, 2009 awards luncheon at the Grand Hyatt in New York City and in PR News’ Platinum PR Awards special issue in October.

The awards were judged by a blue-chip panel that includes PR executives from corporations, agencies, nonprofits and associations, and leading educators and industry consultants.

“It is remarkable how far the PR discipline has come in the past few years in terms of impacting an organization’s bottom line and reputation,” says Diane Schwartz, vice president and group publisher of PR News. “This year’s finalists in the Platinum PR Awards reinforce how powerful public relations is in moving the needle.”

PR News’ Oct. 26 Platinum PR Issue profiles the top PR campaigns of the year and will serve as a users guide to PR departments of all sizes and missions. Coverage will include profiles of the top innovative campaigns, the smartest communications initiatives and the people behind them.

Looking around these days, and you can’t help think that the deepening recession is in part due to fear. People are cutting back, as are companies, because they fear the worst.  In some respects, it’s a self-fulfilling cycle.

But as I pointed out in the fall in my eBook Simplinomics, the forces at play here will reckon permanent behavioral changes in the American consumer. One is thrift, and its main byproduct, savings.

Last year, the national savings rate hit 1.7%; historically low, but much higher than recent years where collectively we lived well beyond our means. Increased savings is good for the long-term, but exacerbates economic hardships in the short term.  It’s what “the experts” are calling the Paradox of Thrift.

Some say that the savings rate may peak at 6% next year. And I’m here to say, this change will be permanent.  American’s will be a tougher sell moving forward.

So what’s the answer? Innovate products and features that drive against real problems.

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     No matter where you look these days, the numbers are daunting.  Unemployment is nearing double figures. Fourth quarter was dismal, and first may be even worse.  Seems cost cutting is the only way to gain leverage in this worsening economy.

     With this backdrop, I got a call yesterday from a client that wants to put all marketing on hold.  Seems a reasonable response… see a number, make it go away. But my fear is that by abandoning marketing in your greatest time of need is like jumping from a lifeboat into the water.

     Consider that this company has very low awareness, and an even lower understanding of its brand … which, by the way, shows huge loyalty once a consumer is exposed to the brand story.  What’s more, a recent study conducted by this very company shows consumers are continuing to buy this category.
     Under normal circumstances, one would put it together: low awareness in an active category + a brand story that aligns with the professed interest of its target consumer. This should be a lay up, really. And in a time when others are cutting back, the noise level is low.  With a little effort, WE COULD BE HEARD.
     Folks, I understand the reality of dollars and “sense”. But PLEASE consider that unplugging the electricity that keeps the lights on is not a great answer.  You can run on batteries for a bit, but eventually things go dark.
     However, this isn’t a blind plea for fluffy marketing. You MUST demand an ROI strategy for marketing efforts. This doesn’t mean that you can forecast income based on investment. If marketing were a formula of “spend one dollar, make two”, we wouldn’t have this conversation. But you at least need to see how a program will deliver sales, leads, prospects or target engagement.  
     Do this, and you’ll see the numbers, all right.  Ones that you can take to the bank.