JCPenney's complete store in Facebook: that thing's operational!

By David Kiefaber on Wed Dec 15 2010


JCPenney's decision to build a complete online store within Facebook, where you can not just browse products but buy them too, is as sinister as it is gimmicky. The benefits for the department store are twofold: more sales driven by product visibility in people's news feeds, and more information about its customers. Said information includes their age, taste in products and how often/where they browse, all of which "can be aggregated into analytical data," according to Usable spokesperson Jason Taylor. (Usable built Penny's Facebook storefront.) Other companies—Proctor & Gamble, 1-800-Flowers, etc.—have product catalogs on Facebook, but Penney has outdone them all. At what cost, though? Facebook is the last place I'd want my credit-card information stored (I don't even have my last name on my profile), and this move just further exposes Facebook as a two-way mirror through which marketers and employers spy on the layfolk. None of which matters much to Penney at this point, and I suspect sales will increase simply because they got here before everyone else did. But they're a little too high on their chances of sustaining it once hipper stores climb aboard.

AT&T's coverage would be great … if we lived in a fantasy world!

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 14 2010


AT&T's campaign for its new mobile network suggests its coverage would be great even in make-believe places (and maybe one Anthrax album). I guess they're trying to say that if they've got a place like Lilliput covered, they won't have any trouble providing adequate service in the mundane here and now. But the Los Angeles Times sticks a convincing pin in the "if false, then anything" logic behind these ads. See, this is why more philosophy majors need to work in marketing. AT&T's retreat from reality might have to do with its atrocious Consumer Reports ranking and flailing response in the form of a press release claiming its network was faster than both Verizon's and Sprint's. Which may be true, but that pales in the face of other, more basic issues like dropped calls and bad customer service. We've already seen similar desperation with Blockbuster's "Hey, we're still here!" campaign, but AT&T's crack at it is almost sadder.

KFC could bring some fried festivities to your town this season

By David Kiefaber on Fri Dec 10 2010


Not content with writing sandwich names on college girls' butts or dangling scholarship money in front of high-school tweeters, KFC is heading to the streets to promote its 12-piece Festive Feast meal. They've picked Dec. 21, the gloomiest day of the year, to distribute mini-buckets full of gift cards around whichever city deserves it the most—that will be determined by fans writing in to explain (in 300 words or less) why they deserve a visit from Colonel Santa. You might win your town $20,000 (that seems to be a magic number for KFC) in prizes. There's even a "So Good" Santa who will give out the prizes—he's a Colonel Sanders look-alike who will be dressed as Santa, so he'll wind up sorta looking like this. It's nice that KFC is putting so much effort into this marketing stunt, but they'll need to change up their requirements pretty soon. We can only petition our benevolent overlords for handouts so often before the novelty wears off.

Levi's gets 50 young women to tell their stories in new campaign

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Levi's opened up jeans to women 75 years ago, but now the brand is truly celebrating the ladies. The ubiquitous clothing brand has given journals to 50 inspiring young women for them to document how they're making the world a better place. These journals will play a vital role in Levi's sponsorship of the first-ever TEDWomen conference, which will also feature a documentary film, titled Shape What's to Come, about eight of the most photogenic journal contributors' stories. This is an impressive display of sucking up to a powerful consumer demographic, and an equally brazen, if indirect, display of the "buying stuff as activism" ethic a lot of companies are using. Levi's global vp of women's marketing gushes over how the featured ladies are "changing the world with nothing but raw talent, game-changing ideas and the will to make a difference," while Gen Y consultant Lindsay Pollack says "the media perception of this generation is that they're entitled or coddled or lazy. They're not. We are just intimidated that they don't have any timelines and they are achieving these extraordinary things." Even if that's fake sentiment based on marketing data, it's still nice to hear after so much ink and paper has gone to attacking this generation for coming of age in a horrible job market and tender economy. Hopefully Levi's motives are at least somewhat genuine here, because it looks like some actual good might come of this whole thing.

Tom Brady might need a Hail Mary to get guys to buy Ugg boots

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Tom Brady's quest never to pay for clothes again continues with his agreement to shill for Ugg boots for men. The global campaign will launch next year, and the New England Patriots quarterback is being called on to endorse an entire line of casual footwear, outerwear and accessories. Considering he already speaks for Under Armour (which he partly owns) and plays football every so often, Tom's a busy man. And it's a good thing he's used to a hectic schedule, because making Uggs palatable to men again will not be easy. They may have started out as a men's brand, but their densest market share is clearly ugly boots for women. And since I'm not sure there's a huge percentage of men who want to be Tom Brady (beyond their fantasies about his wife, anyway), I'm curious about who the target audience will be. Football fans? Urban sophisticates? Sitcom dads? The half of New England's population that doesn't want him to die in a fire? Speaking of, I wonder what being the face of Uggs will do for Brady's Q-rating. Hearing him say things like "I have worn and loved the Ugg brand for a long time" might turn some men against him from the get-go.

Seattle none too happy to be in Camel's new ad campaign, either

By David Kiefaber on Tue Dec 7 2010


Looks like Brooklyn's borough leaders aren't the only ones annoyed with R.J. Reynolds' new cityscape packaging for Camel. Seattle isn't happy that it's part of the cigarette brand's hipster scavenger hunt, either. Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire says she was "alarmed and disappointed at R.J. Reynolds' new marketing campaign which exploits the name and image of Seattle to recruit young smokers." He should be more offended by Camel's description of Seattle, which is referred to as the "home of grunge, a coffee revolution and alternatives who'll probably tell you they're happy when it rains," followed by some gibberish about "the spirit of our Gold Rush ancestors." I don't know what out-of-touch cat lady wrote that copy, but Seattle hasn't been suspended in time since 1994. Also, San Francisco's Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is ragging on RJR for its inclusion of the Haight. This is something the company should have expected and planned ahead for—not only did they look clueless before, they look like jerks now for continuing the campaign amid so many understandable complaints. They'd better figure out some kind of damage control before an offended city government does more than blow smoke.

Imitating imitators, American Apparel presents line-drawing ads

By David Kiefaber on Mon Dec 6 2010


How can American Apparel cut costs and still provide entries for its pervert owner's whack stack? One way is to replace live models with line drawings for new ads that look just like pornographic fake AA ads posted around NYC three years ago. Those were better, in some respects, because at least they were daring—the new AA print series could be doing a lot more with this hand-drawn approach. For one thing, the over-sexualized images are boring, and also get in the way of what really sets AA apart as a company—for all his personal faults, Dov Charney's pro-fair wage and anti-outsourcing business practices are extremely rare in the corporate sector, and right now they're too easy for his rapacious CEO counterparts to discredit. If AA is going to survive, both the company and the guy running it need to stop tripping over their own dicks and re-examine how they want people to see them.

Starbucks celebrates season of sharing with big fake snowflakes

By David Kiefaber on Thu Dec 2 2010

Starbucks heralds the beginning of winter with this snowflake kite ad, complete with an indie-pop song by Matt Pond PA. The ad directs viewers to a 12 Days of Sharing site, which is basically an advent calendar of daily special offers. You can also watch a video by the Killers and prompt a 5-cent donation to the (Red) campaign. All of which is quite festive, and sweeps Starbucks' recent price rise under the rug. But no matter. It'll take more than a $2 tall coffee to scare the Starbucks faithful away.

Las Vegas refining its ad strategy for a post-recession consumer

By David Kiefaber on Wed Dec 1 2010


Las Vegas's bold new post-recession branding initiative is ... doing the same crap they've always done. They're trying to lure "recession survivors," defined as people 21-54 with money to burn, back to Sin City with $8 million worth of advertising in 2011. The new campaign will highlight discounted travel packages and the value of the Las Vegas experience to a "more prudent" consumer. Which, again, is pretty much what they were doing before the country went broke. Vegas has always offered travel discounts to that demographic because it's essentially Pleasure Island for adults; the only difference now is that the stakes are higher. Visitors are spending less now—about $590 per trip—but there are still 150,000 rooms to fill. If they're going to make this work, they need to shift their image from one where lucky rollers get rich (or laid) to one where people with extra cash can have fun and blow off a little steam. In other words, it's all about subtlety and moderation. How Vegas will navigate such unfamiliar territory is anyone's guess.

You, too, can be an angel with Victoria's Secret sidewalk wings

By David Kiefaber on Tue Nov 30 2010


Victoria's Secret has bolted nine sets of its famous wings onto bus-stop kiosks around their SoHo storefront in New York, allowing people to pose in front of them and pretend they are angels. Unlike the models, you don't have to be in your underwear to participate, although that probably won't stop the Naked Cowboy if he finds out about this in time. (The wings are coming down at the end of the day today.) You might even see your picture on the company Facebook page if you're lucky. This is a cool piece of consumer outreach for a company whose chief product doesn't make that very easy. After all, soliciting customers to talk about, much less take pictures of, their underwear is a little sketchy no matter how you dress it up. Picking one of their less obvious trademarks to facilitate the interaction was a smart move. Now, I'm wondering if the models have posed in front of them, too—some of those wings are 35 pounds, and Lily Aldridge can't weigh much more than that.



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