Saving the world can wait when you're trying to save your wallet

Posted on Tue Nov 17 2009


Remember how buying eco-friendly brands and saving the planet made green the biggest marketing trend of the 2000s? Well, brand managers, read this before wrapping your arms around that tree over there. Many consumers seem to have relegated green to the backseat of the Prius. Right now, they're more worried about their jobs. Witness the results of the latest report from the Green Confidence Index. The monthly pulse check conducted by environmental group Earthsense found that although a significant number of consumers support the pro-environmental stance taken by the Obama administration, an increasing proportion of those surveyed believe the president should "focus on the economy first" before trying to save the planet. Not that this should be a huge surprise; it's a little tougher to worry about global warming when the job market is frozen solid. The index saw evidence of consumers' shifting attitudes most clearly when it came to the federal Cash for Clunkers appliance rebate program, set to roll out in the coming months. Respondents said that while it's great that they might get a rebate for buying a more energy-efficient microwave or washer/drier, they're worried that such big-ticket purchases will add to their credit-card balance at a time when many family budgets are already under water. Water meaning debt, folks, not melting ice caps.

—Posted by Robert Klara

ConAgra's mascots get a little recession payback in online game

Posted on Wed Oct 14 2009


For all you recession-addled consumers out there, please do not take your frustrations out on your neighbors, co-workers or family members. ConAgra Foods is giving you another outlet to vent: a steam-blowing game called Recession Payback. The game pits scheming corporate executives and politicians against well-loved ConAgra Foods mascots. Joining the fight against the "self-serving senator," "Wall Street schemer" and "bonus loving banker" are the "Snack Pack" ("We're here on behalf of all the kids that've lost their allowances.") and Ms. Banquet ("To all the turkeys who caused this recession, my frying pan is hot!" she warns). We pitted the lovely Ms. Marie Callender against the evil corporate banker, and we were impressed with her oven-mitt punches. Bam!

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Deep down we're still materialistic and bitchy, says Lord & Taylor

Posted on Thu Oct 1 2009


The recession was supposed to make us all stop focusing on material things and appreciate what's really important, like family, our health and friends. But judging by this ad from retailer Lord & Taylor, some of us still haven't gotten the message. In what may be the bitchiest ad ever, a gorgeous woman is shown sauntering by in a skin-tight red dress as her friend looks on with what looks like contempt. "This dress will make your friends insanely jealous, which you have to admit, is pretty much the goal," reads the copy on the print and online ad. Well, if that's the goal, why bother buying a dress? Just sleep with your friend's husband. Of course, one way to interpret this ad is that the recession may be coming to a close and materialism is back, baby! That family and friends stuff was boring anyway.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Michael Moore up to his usual tricks in 'Capitalism: A Love Story'

Posted on Fri Aug 21 2009

From the looks of the first footage from Michael Moore's new documentary, General Motors got off easy in Roger and Me. That won't be happening with Wall Street in Capitalism: A Love Story, opening Oct. 2. Filmmaker and provocateur Moore tries to make a citizen's arrest at AIG and shows up with oversized bags to get taxpayers' money back from the likes of Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. By the time he's finished, no bailed-out financial institution will likely emerge unscathed. Here's his pitch for the movie: "It's got it all—lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day." The subject matter, as with 2007's Sicko, is weighty and important. And Moore's timing couldn't be better, seeing as the country's still in the grip of the Great Recession. But maybe he should be billing it as a horror flick, as heads will surely roll—on screen at least. UPDATE: Also, The Hollywood Reporter has posted this Q&A with the filmmaker today.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Dannonomics won't be enough to sway this savvy recessionista

Posted on Fri Aug 21 2009


I recognize a good shopportunity when I see one. And that's what Dannon is offering, at least in theory, with its loyalty program coming this fall. Buy $15 worth of yogurt, get $3 in coupons. Spend more, get more discounts. The campaign, backed by a raft of traditional and digital media, has been dubbed Dannonomics. It sure rolls off the tongue easier than DiGiornomics, which was some sort of math that Kraft Foods used last year to sell frozen pizzas. I object less to the rampant invention of new economic slump-related words (I'm on a naycation right now, after all) than to the hoops I'd have to jump through to get my coupons. Saving up and mailing in those grocery receipts for the Danimals I buy between Oct. 31 and Nov. 16? It's just not happening, no matter how funemployed I am.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

In difficult times, run-of-the-mill brands get their time to shine

Posted on Mon Apr 27 2009

Butter copy

One more grim yet quaint signal of our tenuous economic situation has made landfall: Companies are advertising common household brands more heavily over fancier gourmet items. Things like Kool-Aid, Hamburger Helper, Land 'O Lakes butter (which just launched its first TV ad campaign in 10 years) and even Spam have seen more spending of late, as their parent companies try to keep name brands visible and capitalize on the recession-wary shopper. And while it's hardly revolutionary to adopt a simpler, more comforting tone when consumers are worried about going broke, people still appreciate it, if quotes like "I like the messages out there. It's less focused on consumerism and buying the best" are any indication. Hopefully the economy will pick up before we start seeing ads like "Alpo Classic Chunky: You know, this stuff isn't bad." Photo: Robert S. Donovan.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Second-hand shops not minding the economic disaster so much

Posted on Thu Apr 23 2009


OK, I'm calling it: This downturn is officially over! If Parenting magazine's panel of 5,000 moms is any indication, the aisles of my dear Salvation Army will soon be more clogged than the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour. Goodwill will no longer be a quiet haven for those of us vying for a vintage velvet frock, a pair of sparkly turquoise slippers or the occasional tiki mug. The Parenting Group's MomConnection asked its network what money-saving habits they were adopting. "Clipping coupons" (73 percent) got the top slot, but what worries me is that "Shopping at thrift stores" rounded out the top five (37 percent). If there's good news in any of this, it is that more than half of the mothers said they are "going to the grocery store less frequently" (53 percent). The childhood obesity epidemic might finally work itself out.
  Of course, me and the faux Pucci gowns that seek refuge in my closet aren't the only ones who want the recession to end. Moms were more than happy to identify the categories they'll resume spending on as soon as the dollar signs point to yes. Their top five anticipated "rebound categories": groceries (44 percent), college savings (41 percent), lessons for kids (36 percent), dining out (32 percent) and brand-name kids' clothing (31 percent).

—Posted by Becky Ebenkamp

Cheerful products will brighten up your awful, recessionary life

Posted on Wed Apr 1 2009


Who among us isn't looking for a playful diversion—a sliver of joy, even—in this world gone to hell in a handbasket? I know I am, which explains my purchase and repeat viewing of Role Models on DVD. (Don't judge me!) But could I really find comfort in Cheetos the size of Ping-Pong balls? A recent report in USA Today talks about the lengths to which marketers are going these days to make their products fun and uplifting. Apparently, it's working. Brands are finding that consumers will jump at the chance to buy Oreo cookies that work like straws, Cover Girl lipstick shaped like writing pens, and fried "pancake puppies" that are somehow classified as appetizers at Denny's. And, yes, ginormous Cheetos that came about after Frito-Lay hired some cultural anthropologists to study desk-jockey behavior. (So, why'd they dismiss the tennis-ball-sized Cheetos? That would've been genius). I think it may say more about the state of the mass media—go get a recession trend story, and make it happy!—than it does about what kind of light-hearted products appeal to consumers in tough times. Then again, I'm drawn to the cheap and cheery, and it's snack time. Here's what I have to say to my food: amuse me.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

California B&B eyeing an unusual target market: the unemployed

Posted on Thu Mar 26 2009

MacCallum_House_Evening copy

Heard about the Reemployment Act of 2009? It's actually not part of the recently passed economic stimulus plan (though maybe it should be). It's the latest marketing gambit from California's MacCallum House Inn & Restaurant, an historic, cliff-top mansion in Mendocino with a Pacific view. When you're a swish bed and breakfast with rooms that go for up to $500 a night, a 10.5% statewide unemployment rate is not exactly going to help hurl customers at your door. But a few weeks ago, public relations director Jude Lutge decided that maybe it could. Her "Reemployment Act" offer gave the first 15 callers who could prove they've lost their jobs in the last six months a free room, plus admission to a job-networking party that'll be attended by recruiters from top IT firms, including Google. "People really jumped on it," Lutge says of her 30 bookings. The job party is tonight (Thursday), and Lutge hopes it'll bring relief from what she terms "freakoutnomics." In case not, well, fortunately an ocean view stays lovely even when the economy sucks. Photo: John Birchard.

—Posted by Robert Klara

Ok, seriously, it's time to stop making 'stimulus package' ads

Posted on Tue Mar 24 2009

OK, maybe it's really time to declare a moratorium on all these advertising and marketing campaigns that evoke the stimulus package. With this ad from fast-food chain El Pollo Loco, the trend has officially jumped the shark. In the commercial, Pollo Loco CEO Steve Carley announces the formation of The Dinner Party (yuk yuk) and bats away a question about pork by stating, "We don't do pork" (groan). The thing is, the news media has moved on from the stimulus package to AIG bonuses and the Obama administration's planned seizure of non-bank financial companies. The stimulus bill is so February.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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