Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review [DOWNLOAD]

Making sense of today’s evolving digital marketing techniques

If you live and work in the world of marketing and communications, you are no doubt aware that the way brands are sharing information and engaging with customers changes daily. In fact, making sense of all of these new changes and trends can easily become a full-time job.

To help you stay on top of the latest and greatest trends, we’ve audited the marketing, branding and communications industries to see what’s working and what isn’t. We have defined what we see as seven trends likely to stick and play a leading role in 2013 marketing strategies across the globe.

To spark some ideas in your 2013 planning, download our Marketing and Communications Digital Trend Review to learn how LEGO, Target, Subaru, ExactTarget, Banana Republic and others are leveraging today’s hot marketing techniques to engage customers today.

Find it here.

Quality vs. Quantity

Why I’m a fan of Grey Poupon even though I didn’t cut the mustard

For the past several years, I’ve followed dozens of brands on Facebook. The experience has felt like the stereotypical frat party back in college — you go because everyone else is going, you drink rum-infused Kool-Aid because it’s what’s offered, you’re crammed into loud, crowded quarters and act like you’re having a great time. Like many companies’ Facebook goals and metrics, the success of the event is based on the number of partygoers you woo through the doors.

Collecting fans on Facebook is intoxicating. Hosting contests, promotions and giveways may increase the number of “likes”, but does it really create authentic, meaningful engagement with your customers?  Have we forgotten about quality?

Grey Poupon: cultivating quality connections

Grey Poupon is taking a drastically different approach to Facebook where quality connections rank supreme. Using selective criteria, they’ve established the “Society for Good Taste.” Once you apply to be a fan/member, an application scours your Facebook stats and posts for specific parameters (i.e., interests in classic literature, gourmet cuisine, luxury vehicles, geographic location and grammatically correct posts).

While I didn’t make the cut — which was incredibly surprising since I’ve never purchased their product (ha) — there are some key takeways for other brands:

Don’t forget who you are. By creating an exclusive club, Grey Poupon remained true to their sophisticated, elitist brand identity. In fact, the look and feel of their Facebook page is consistent with their legendary Rolls-Royce commercial from the 80s.

Instill competition. The competitive nature of the site is also generating buzz in both traditional and social media networks. Quite frankly, I was slightly disappointed when I received the rejection notice. Of course, I’ve told all my friends about the app and am anxious to see who makes the cut.

Identify ways to sustain interaction. After being denied membership, I was provided with four recommendations on how to improve future applications: watch PBS’ MasterPiece Theatre, listen to Mozart on Pandora, read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and visit an online Grey Poupon recipe book. In my opinion, these recommendations were very tastefully curated, since only one directly related back to their product and was useful information not product hype.

The politics of advertising

Is your brand in the bully pulpit?

When he was first running for president in 1860, Abraham Lincoln used (among many others) the hope-inspiring campaign slogan “Vote yourself a farm”. Four years later, when he was seeking re-election, Honest Abe communicated to his fellow Americans that change is a bad thing and implored “Don’t swap horses in the middle of the stream.”

Four score and sixty-four years later, another Illinois attorney was seeking to unseat the sitting president with a promise of “hope” and “change.” In the fall of 2012, as President Obama seeks re-election, he’s employing a shorter, punchier version of “don’t swap horses” with his very own stay-the-course theme: Forward.

From LBJ’s Daisy (which aired just once but went viral long before the phrase “going viral” even existed) to’s Yes, we can video (with 24+ million views, an Emmy and a Webby to its credit), political campaigning has certainly seen its share of change over the years.

But good advertising (political or otherwise) is fundamentally cut from the same bunting.

Tell a compelling story.

No matter what side of the political aisle you sit, it’s hard to argue the fact that Ronald Reagan was a great storyteller. And his Morning in America commercial (written and voiced by advertising legend Hal Riney) is considered one of the best of all time. Why? It provided a simple, powerful message that made a connection with its audience.

What’s your brand’s compelling story? More important, how does your product/service play a role in your customers’ stories?

Right tactics. Right time.

The 2012 Republican National Convention set an all-time record with more than 4 million tweets and a peak of 14,743 tweets per minute right after Clint Eastwood’s famous “empty chair” speech. Not to be outdone, president Obama’s campaign nimbly and quickly tweeted a photo of the president with the line “This seat’s taken”.

Your media choices and actions should complement your brand (obviously), but you can still use “new” media in an authentic manner. Just because your product isn’t “exciting” doesn’t mean your advertising approach can’t be (in fact, quite the opposite is true). To quote Leo Burnett, “Too many ads that try not to go over the reader’s head end up beneath his notice.”  

Use your pulpit wisely.

The phrase “bully pulpit” was coined by Teddy Roosevelt, which meant the presidency was a superb platform from which to advocate an agenda. With marketing spend being scrutinized and consumers savvier than ever, it’s important to choose and use (and monitor) the proper marketing pulpit(s).

Sometimes, when it comes to advertising and marketing, change is good. But so is staying the proper course. Make sure you (and those around you) know the difference.

[Images via Britannica and YouTube.]

Kickin’ it old-school, in a digital world

Why it still makes sense to monitor your brand manually

In a digital world, we all have access to product reviews for those who have gone before. And sometimes we find the good, the bad and the ugly, both through “official” means and other ways.

The YouTube videos below review the Nike Fuel Band. The user took the time to record detailed videos of both his initial reaction to the product and his thoughts after using it. He asked questions like, “Is this product cool or just a gimmick? What is it like to open the packaging of this product?” and gave his opinion. Pros and cons. From a real person. A real customer.

Unboxing review:

Follow up, final review:

So, as marketers, what can we learn from this?  People are teesting your products. Contributing to your brand voice. And they aren’t afraid to tell the world what they think. They will tell anyone and everyone how your product stacks up to the competition, what they think of your packaging, even if you have a typo in your user manual.

Overwhelming for those of us who are in charge on owning a brand’s voice, huh?  There are lots of tools and services that you can utilize to automatically evaluate and monitor who is talking about your brand in social media and in the digital space. But sometimes, it is really beneficial to go old-school.  And just use our brains… and listen.

Google your brand. Search for your products and brands. Don’t just use an automatic tool/service, but use your mind, as well. What are you seeing? What are you hearing? You might be surprised.

Going retro

When nostalgia can help a brand reach a new audience

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that I don’t get too serious with this. Keep it light, keep it fun, right?

Today’s theme is, “Everything Old is New Again.” Fashion trends go out and come back in. Hip colors come and go. Sushi is hot, then it’s Southern comfort food, and now I guess Peruvian cuisine is the “it” ethnic food.

Retro TV makes a comeback

Even television shows that were popular 20-plus years ago come back! Can you guess what’s got me more excited than a kid on Christmas Eve? That’s right, the reboot of “Dallas” on TNT. Can you even believe it? Who didn’t sit at home every Friday night for 13 years, completely and totally taken in by the Ewings and their trials and tribulations? It defined my childhood and adolescence. And now it’s back, with original cast members including Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray. J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen? All back? My heart skips a beat. Poor Victoria Principal is left out because Pam Barnes-Ewing got run over by a car. That’s tough to come back from. She’s totally missing out.

There is also a new cast of characters who are the next generation of Ewings. The scheming, manipulation and monkey business are in full effect. I am not completely blind to the fact that the writing isn’t the greatest, and the acting, particularly of the new characters, is not Julliard-level work. But was anyone expecting that? I just want it to be frothy, campy, implausible, preposterous fun. Nothing more. And it is. I will not be missing it.

A brand with history? Make it work for you.

Even though I try to keep my posts light, I do try to be a little insightful. So here goes… retro trends in marketing are pretty cool, too. I love the old-school Pepsi packaging that is in the grocery store aisle. There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia. It’s fun, and it gives hipsters something to be hip to.

I love when a tired, worn-out brand makes a come back. Look at Lacoste, the preppy alligator-emblazoned clothing brand. Who didn’t pop their collar in the 80s, but then the brand just kind of went away? Now you can’t walk down the street without being attacked by alligators.

Brands have a life cycle, and it’s our job to make sure they don’t get stale. A consistent brand position and platform is very important, but sometimes you’ve got to shake things up visually, verbally and aesthetically to remind consumers that you’re still around.

Remember that when you’re planning your next campaign. Think about the life cycle of your brand. Think about where you want to go and what you want the future to look like. Foresight and planning can mean longevity for your brand.

Speaking of longevity, I would very much like the number of Linda Gray’s plastic surgeon. She’s clearly had some work done, but it’s top notch, and a little Botox never hurt anybody.

These (Digital) Natives are restless!

Recent study confirms differences in generations’ media consumption

We have always known that different age groups use and consume media differently, but there have been very few studies that actually explored this area.  One of the best studies recently published was the Time Inc./Innerscope Research Biometric study, “A Biometric Day in the Life.”  The study shows how the proliferation of digital devices and platforms would affect the media consumption habits of consumers who grew up with mobile technology as part of their digital lives (Digital Natives) versus those who first learned about mobile technology as adults (Digital Immigrants).

It was astounding to learn that Digital Natives switch their attention between media platforms (TVs, smartphones, tablets, magazines) 27 times an hour, or about every other minute.  Frankly that wears me out, but it does explain why today’s children and young adults can’t sit still and pay attention for any length of time.  54% of these Natives say that they would rather text people than talk to them, compared with 28% of Digital Immigrants.  This behavior is causing issues in everything from relationships to employment for these Natives. Many are almost incapable of face-to-face interpersonal communication.

The main implication of these findings is that Digital Immigrants are intuitively linear; they want to see a beginning, middle and end to stories.  Natives want the same thing, but they will accept it in any order.  They are constantly subconsciously switching between platforms and can pick up bits and pieces of a story from different mediums in any order.

Certainly this creates challenges for marketers. In order to reach and engage these Natives, content creators and marketers need to think differently. They need to grab them from the beginning with snack-size offerings and give them multiple access points to every story.

Oh, and they’d better do it quickly.

How a marketing photo shoot works

Behind-the-scenes look at the process

Some companies use only custom, original creative—including photography—in their marketing. Others, like those who might be just getting started, may rely on the wide availability of stock artwork. Both can be used successfully.

If you’re making the move from stock to original photography, the experience of that first photo shoot can be surprising. A lot of planning happens before a photographer is even contacted. Here’s an idea of the process we go through.

Planning the photo shoot

1. Agency and client discuss the project. Many questions need to be answered at this stage, such as: How does this fit into the overall marketing plan? What is the objective of the shoot? How should it serve the brand? What is the project timeline?

2. Consider how the photos will be used. Think as far ahead as you can: Are these photos to be used for one project or special campaign only? Or do they need to fit into a larger brand library with the potential to be used many times in the coming weeks or months? Planning the size and resolution of the final images helps at this stage, too, because the requirements for a trade show booth, print ad or website are all different.

3. Define the shot list. This is often done in tandem with number four. Now’s the time to nail down the details of what you’re shooting. The quantity and scope of the shots you need will determine how many days it will take, and as a result, how much it will cost. The photographer will provide an estimate for their time after they know what the details of the shoot will be.

4. Choose a photographer. Each photographer has his or her own style and technical specialty, even though many are good at flexing and adapting to meet their client’s needs and vision. You want to select the photographer who can best achieve the brand’s or campaign’s style. Other considerations are budget (each photographer sets his/her own pricing), location (do you need to travel to the shoot? If so, should you take a photographer with you or find one in the local market?), and the working relationship with the photographer.

5. Determine and arrange for outside resources. Do you need to hire a model? Will the shoot be done on location—if yes, it’s good to give the photographer a chance to scout it before the shoot—or at the photographer’s studio? What products need to be brought in for the shoot? Are any other props needed?

6. Schedule the shoot. Grab a pen, sync your phone, mark it on your calendar!

7. Cover your legal bases. Each model—and this includes employees—needs to sign a talent release allowing you to use their image in your materials. The photographer will often handle this, but be sure to talk about it.

Ready, set, shoot!

8. Get the team together. Many people are often on hand at the photo shoot. From the agency, we’ll have the account’s creative and/or art director there to lead the shoot and direct the photographer according to the objective and creative vision. Depending on the project needs, an account director and/or account executive will be there or stop by. And there will usually be a representative from the client’s team there, such as a project leader (perhaps the marketing manager) and/or a product expert.

9. Review the shoot plan. The day starts with a review of the shot list (see #3), so that everyone can work as efficiently as possible. For example, planning here might account for ways to shoot multiple products from the same angle, which minimizes changes to the camera and lighting setup that take precious time to make.

After that, the shooting begins!

After the shoot

10. Receive and review images. We’ll receive the images from the photographer within a few days of the completed photo shoot. Our creative team will pore through the images to select the best ones to use in the campaign.

11. Process images. Selected images then go to the creative team for placement in the layout or directly to our Photoshop guru to process and perfect.

It doesn’t always fit with the budget or the timeline, but when you can make it work, shooting original photography for the brand and campaign can offer many advantages over stock photography. Not only does it give you complete creative control over the resulting image, but you never have to worry that you’re going to open a magazine or click a link and see the same image you used for your software ad in an ad for popcorn.

Stranger things have happened.

Further reading:
The Creatives vs. the Suits
Branding with Hammer and Rupert
A day in the life of an AE

March Madness

Mad Men returns with fresh promotions

I’m sure there are more than a few self-respecting doctors out there who enjoy watching Grey’s Anatomy. And there must be reams of paper reps who count The Office among their favorite shows. So, as an ad guy, I’m not afraid to admit that I’m counting the days until the Season 5 premiere of Mad Men (Sunday, March 25, 9/8c on AMC).

This four-years-running Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series (The West Wing and Hill Street Blues are the only other shows to pull off the four-peat) has not only won critical acclaim, it’s building a loyal following and a powerful brand along the way.

But Mad Men doesn’t just look different, it goes about things differently from a marketing and promotional perspective. Why? Because it has to.

According to Ad Age, “The average viewership for Mad Men would get it canceled if it aired on any broadcast network in prime time. While ad dollars placed against Mad Men may be small, AMC’s use of the program can help it win more revenue from other sources.”

The show’s popularity has enabled AMC to increase its household penetration, which, as a result, has allowed them to increase their per-household charge.

Plus, they’ve found fresh ways to promote the show.


With just under 1.9 million fans on Facebook. Mad Men pales in comparison to other popular shows (Modern Family, for example, has about 6 million FB fans).

But Mad Men keeps its social calendar full with games, apps, and frequently-updated content, including Mad Men Yourself , Cocktail Culture, and the Mad Men Premiere Party Planner, where you can plan your very own viewing party (No, I’m not hosting a party, but I may or may not be wearing a Don Draper mask).

Hashtag this

It may not have caught fire like planking or Tebowing, but #Draping is another photographic phenomena that has added a modern spin to the Mad Men brand.

Dress the part

If you really want to look the part, Banana Republic has even created a Mad Men line of clothing. Fair warning, though, that your boss won’t like it if you light up a Lucky and pour yourself at stiff drink during your morning staff meeting.

Product placement

Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, insists there have been only three paid product placements in the first four seasons, but rumor has it that brands like Heineken have paid handsomely to get their product weaved into the storyline.

So, if you’re planning on watching the premiere this Sunday, remember that it’s not just the great writing and acting keeping the doors open at Sterling Cooper Draper Price. It’s innovative, brand-focused marketing ideas.

Hmmmm…what a novel concept.

Image sources: Two #Draping images from and Banana Republic ad on the official AMC Mad Men blog.

What have you pinned lately?

Pinterest: The latest site climbing the social ladder

Earlier this year, I received an email from a friend inviting me to join Pinterest. At first I thought, “Great, one more social media site to keep track of”—but this was the same friend who invited me to join Facebook several years ago, and I decided to check it out. What I discovered was a treasure trove of information, ideas and possibilities.

What is Pinterest?

In his blog post “What is Pinterest? And should your brand climb aboard?”, Matt Wilson phrased it best when he said to think of Pinterest as the “reverse Twitter.”  He’s exactly right. Most people are visual learners and want to see pictures and videos, which is what makes Pinterest different from other social media websites through which content is shared mostly via text and links. Similar to Twitter, however, the best way to gain traction is to follow other users and interact. On Pinterest, users “pin” images and videos to organized “boards,” which are shared with their followers. (Check out a rather complicated infographic here illustrating how the pretty simple idea works.)

Should you be pinning?

Organizations reviewing their social-media plans should consider how, if at all, Pinterest could help them engage with their target audiences. For example, a furniture manufacturer could upload images of its products for designers to consider in future projects. An architect could post photos from their portfolio and ideas to share with potential clients or partners. As long as visuals are available, the options available through Pinterest become endless.

Pinterest currently includes a recommendation in its “Pin Etiquette” that users avoid blatant self-promotion—but more and more brands are jumping in.

Some of the early, and successful, business adopters to this new medium include Time Magazine, Nordstrom and Williams-Sonoma. They’ve each used Pinterest in similar, yet different, ways to introduce users to their brand. Time Magazine uses it to highlight writer profiles, covers and images, while Nordstrom shares the latest in fashion.

Pinterest creates an opportunity for brands to connect directly with end users and share the visuals they likely already possess. Although Pinterest currently draws mostly young and middle-aged women, don’t let it fool you. It is currently one of the fastest growing websites out there, and chances are by this time next year, several hundred brands will be sharing their products, services and causes via Pinterest.

Further reading:

Mashable: How Pinterest is changing website design forever
APM Marketplace: Pinterest is a rising star, driving tons of traffic
Fast Company: Chobani Yogurt tickles the tastes of Pinterest addicts, and so can your brand
LLsocial: Pinterest is quietly generating revenue by modifying user submitted pins
BlogWorld: Why I don’t mind Pinterest hijacking my links

2011 International Davey Awards

Miller Brooks honored with six gold, nineteen silver awards

We have some great news to share with you today! Miller Brooks has been honored again this year with several International Davey Awards, which recognize creative excellence from smaller agencies. We are pleased in winning so many of these prestigious awards again this year on behalf of our clients. We continue to strive for excellence in all we do and particularly in the work we provide to our customers.

Winning awards is not simply about satisfying the creative ego. It is much more than that—it’s about recognition of the team. From all facets of both agency-team contribution and even the customer team, it is the validation of a truly integrated effort that succeeded at all touch points of the strategic creative development.

We share our warmest congratulations with all of our clients who have been recognized this year. We look forward to an even greater 2012 with you.


  • Delta Faucet: Full Line Catalog
  • Stanley Security Solutions: “Trustsmith” Radio Spot
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Van & Truck Fleet Wraps
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Locksmith Store Signage
  • Typar: Beyond the Surface Brochure
  • Kimball Office: Choices Brochure


  • BASF: Logo
  • ClarkDietrich: Logo
  • ClarkDietrich: Brand Ad
  • Delta Faucet: Rich Media Ad
  • Delta Faucet: Mini Catalog
  • Delta Faucet: Trade Ad Campaign
  • Delta Faucet: .xt Video
  • Firestone: Hit the Road Ad
  • Health Systems International: Catalog Campaign
  • Mossberg & Company: Brochure Campaign
  • Mossberg & Company: Website
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Billboard Campaign
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Locksmith Microsite
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Direct Mail Campaign
  • Stanley Security Solutions: Locksmith Smart Apps
  • Kimball Office: Cool Event Campaign
  • Kimball Office: Lounge Promo Piece
  • Kimball Office: IT Print Campaign
  • HD Supply: Ad Campaign

Related Posts:
2010 International Davey Awards


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