02.24.20

From McDonald’s candles to Supreme Oreos: This is the future of marketing

BY Jeff Beer 4 MINUTE READ

It’s a romantic dinner at home. You light some candles to . . . you know . . . set the mood. You’ve placed them strategically around the room for optimal sensory bliss—the mantel, the shelf, the window sill, the table.

Now it’s time to light them up. But which one goes first? Sesame seed bun, ketchup, onions, beef, pickles, or cheese?

These are the scents in a six-pack of candles available as part of a new Quarter Pounder Fan Club, each scented for a corresponding ingredient in the canonical McDonald’s burger. Of course, if you need to imagine what these candles smell like when lit all together, all you need to do is wander within two miles of any McD’s.

Announced by the fast feeder and created with agency Wieden+Kennedy New York, the new fan club merch, available at Golden Arches Unlimited, includes the candles, matching Quarter Pounder mittens for couples, a calendar, a Quarter Pounder with Love locket, a fan club T-shirt and pin, and an “I’d rather be eating a Quarter Pounder” bumper sticker. Honk if you also like McDonald’s a little too much!

The answer to the question of why McD’s would do this is not complicated. The company has been selling out of all the products that it’s been selling since it first launched its full-blown e-commerce store in December.

Not only that, but McD’s says it will gift a giant, bronze Quarter Pounder monument to the city that professes its QP love the most enthusiastically by Wednesday, February 26. Truly an honor for generations of residents and tourists to behold. Let’s just hope that it’s more Juicy Lucy than Scary Lucy.

THE WEEK BRANDS JAMMED THE CULTURE

If you think branded burger ingredient candle sets are weird, then the last week or so has likely warped your mind. First, it was KFC teaming with Crocs for a special-edition, chicken bucket sandal (with chicken-leg-shaped Jibbitz that emitted a fried-chicken scent, of course). A day later, just before Valentine’s day, Pepsi unveiled the Crystal Pepsi Engagement Ring. For real. Crystal Pepsi was boiled down to its most basic carbon form, ground into a powder, then added to the process of making a 1.53-carat, lab-grown alternative diamond.

Thankfully it’s a contest giveaway and not sold for real, actual money. The contest runs through 6 March, with the winner announced the week of 16 March, just in time for what one must assume is the totally real National Proposal Day on 20 March.

Forget diamonds. Marketing is forever.

Then on Tuesday, Oreo revealed that it was joining Louis Vuitton, Commes des Garcons, Nike, Champion, and many, many, many others in the illustrious (and arguably overcrowded) club of Supreme collaborators. It costs $8 for three of these cookies, a considerable markup considering a pack of 39 sells for around $3.50. eBay bidding is already up to more than $10,000. Hypebeast, indeed.

Nothing says that the demand for bonkers branded-wear is for real than an Oreo that costs more than my sofa.

Naturally, then, brands are only too happy to run out the door to meet it.

PRODUCTS BREAK THROUGH THE NOISE

Consider the tens of thousands of advertising messages and images that each of us sees every day, and the challenge for brands to break through all that noise is clear. No longer is it enough to produce a well-conceived, perfectly executed commercial or ad and pay to put it in front of our eyes during a popular TV show. That’s for chumps. Sure, there’s the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and a handful of other collectively consumed cultural moments left on the calendar, but these opportunities have become few and far between.

So here we are putting all our hopes on winning earned media roulette—aka free press coverage. That’s the golden ticket, and high-profile—and downright weird—collaborations and brand extensions like these are the most blatant attention grabs, created for the sole purpose of using the novelty as a news hook. It began with stunts and one-off videos about fake products, which evolved into producing real products, which has now evolved into creating retail-quality novelty goods that people will actually pay for.

Hey, it works! Here I am writing about it, right? For further proof, just search for any examples cited in this story to see the reams of digital ink spilled on them. As a result of all that media attention, this past week is merely a sign of more to come.

JOINING THE CULTURE CLUB

Talking to industry sources about it, these seemingly random forays into unexpected merchandise are the next evolution in brands’ never-ending quest to become a part of culture. There is a virtuous cycle, in which when a brand makes something like a T-shirt or burger-scented candles, it’s essentially asking permission to participate in pop culture, and the reaction determines whether that permission is granted or not. If it is, the brand needs to find the next way that it can surprise and delight fans in a new way. Oreo? Popeyes? In the club. KFC? In the VIP room. Dunkin’? Sitting outside on the curb. McDonald’s? At the velvet rope bouncing on the balls of its feet waiting to see if it earns the nod.

With each successful stunt, audience expectations only rise. These high hopes are then foisted onto any brand that decides to try its hand at merchandise. Gone are the days when a cheap novelty T-shirt will do.

Of course, along with this proliferation of logo-laden products will come inevitable novelty fatigue. Soon enough, fast-food-branded high heels will no longer raise any eyebrows, much less inspire any positive tweets or eBay frenzies. To avoid such a tragic fate, the smart brands will start steering away from these broad attention-getters and tailor their product drops to specific audiences and niche fans, like gamers, dog lovers, 19th-century Ukrainian folk-music aficionados, and so on.

I, for one, can’t wait for the day when I can buy a pair of moldy Whopper gaming headphones

09.19.19

Lego rebuilds the world in first brand campaign in 30 years

BY Jeff Beer 2 MINUTE READ

The Lego Movie may go down as the greatest piece of advertising of this century. It’s an hour and 41 minutes of nothing but product shots, using creative storytelling to forge a bond with current and prospective customers. The peak of emotional persuasion. Not only that, but instead of costing the company money like most marketing endeavors, this one actually brought in almost $470 million in worldwide gross (not all of which went into Lego’s pocket, of course). People paid to see it—enough so that they made a sequel that brought in about $190 million.

All to say that, as advertising goes, Lego has a pretty spotless track record lately. What we don’t actually see from the company is a good ole’ fashioned brand campaign, the kind others roll out at least annually to say “This is who we are” without focusing on any particular product. Until now. This week, Lego dropped its first traditional brand campaign in what the company says is about 30 years.

Created by agency BETC Paris, the spot imagines the real world with the kind of imagination and flexibility of physics available with the colorful building blocks. Rémi Marcelli, senior vice-president of the company’s internal creative shop The Lego Agency, says the brief was to inspire children to play and be creative in order to help them develop vital skills that will last them a lifetime. The Lego Agency is a 500-person global team, but Marcelli says they went with BETC because “sometimes it’s good to have a fresh perspective and have someone challenge you to view the world a little differently.”

The other goal of the campaign is to sell the idea and romance of Lego to parts of the world that didn’t grow up with it and don’t already have that nostalgic affinity to pass on to their kids. “We’re viewed as one of the most reputable brands in the world and have strong awareness amongst those people who know us and grew up with us,” Marcelli says. “But as we move into new markets such as China and India and try to bring Lego play to more children around the world, people don’t know the brand, and they aren’t familiar with building and creating with Lego. This campaign is about inspiring that creativity and encouraging people, parents and children, to embrace the power of play.”

BETC founder and creative director Rémi Babinet says the challenge was to find a way to illustrate the creative potential of Lego. “Creativity is highly meaningful to today’s parents who value it as an essential skill their children need in order to thrive in an ever changing world,” says Babinet.

Maybe that’s why the new ad is incredibly precious, doubling down on twee as if the brand were going for what a Lego ad directed by Wes Anderson might look like. To that end, it also feels aimed squarely at adult eyes. It’s a cute little story, but anyone under 12 may be slightly more excited about the new Harry Potter or Overwatch sets than an adorable bunny rabbit chase.

What the bunny does do is remind parents of the their kids’ creative potential, far away from the dreaded screens. Just don’t tell them about the new AR-enabled Hidden Side sets.



Article originally appeared on fastcompany.com


05.10.19

This New Tool Will Help Brands Make Advertising More Inclusive

BY Jeff Beer 2 MINUTE READ

In 2017, Pepsi infamously thought it’d be a great idea to use Kendall Jenner to show the power a can of soda can have against police brutality. Just last month, Ancestry thought it’d be nice to use a sugar-coated depiction of a relationship between a white man and a black woman during slavery to sell its services.

These two examples, two years apart, are joined by countless instances – across social media, in catalogs (H&M!), or in the products themselves (Prada!) – of people of colour, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and others depicted in ways that range from tone deaf to downright offensive.

The first question when one of these goes public is, who was in the room when this got approved?

Beyond the most blatant PR debacles, more questions in general have been asked in recent years of the society brands are reflecting back to us through their advertising. These questions are increasingly part of any cultural conversation around ads, as much as the content or products they’re promoting. Everything has become brand communications, from retail stores to Super Bowl ads to even the political contributions of a company and its CEO.

So it stands to reason that who makes the advertising is becoming a bigger part of that conversation.

Most of the focus around inclusion has been on the creative and marketing leaders within the ad agencies and brands themselves, but a new tool is now launching to also help diversify the talent behind the camera in all areas of commercial production.

Grow Your Circle, created by Forsman & Bodenfors New York, is an open source database that allows US agencies and producers to search for and find underrepresented talent – including those who identify as LGBTQ+, come from diverse backgrounds, or live with a disability – across production disciplines including film, digital, and experiential. Its menus filter talent based on expertise, location, or category specialty, and the database is also searchable based on whether it’s a female- or minority-owned business.

The inspiration behind Grow Your Circle came in 2018, when F&B tried to use an all-female production crew for a project and found it difficult to find talent for every needed position. It soft-launched the initiative at the 3% Movement conference in November 2018, and so far membership has grown significantly, including agencies like 72andSunny and Droga5 as well as independent production companies such as Prettybird, WAX, and Armada.

There have been effective efforts to boost the presence of female directors in commercial production, most notably through Free The Bid, founded by Alma Har’El in 2016. Madison Wharton, global board member for integrated production at Forsman & Bodenfors, says that’s a great start and their goal is to extend those efforts.

“There are other tools out there that’ll help you find directors and things like that, but there wasn’t anything available for all of the different roles and within production,” says Wharton, who has led the effort behind the platform along with Forsman & Bodenfors New York’s director of communications and PR Danny Hernandez.

Wharton says the advertising industry spends $20 billion every year on commercial production, and ad agencies have tremendous buying power. “When we’re making the decisions of who we’re hiring for these productions, we’re shaping the cultural fabric of the production industry with every choice that we make,” she says. “So we’re going to our clients and letting them know that their money makes a huge impact on the industry, and that we’d like to be really thoughtful in that consideration.”



About the author: Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto. 

Originally published on fastcompany.com