Can Jello Rebrand #FML?

Everyone’s favorite jiggly snack brand has decided to take it upon itself to rebrand one of the Internet’s longest-standing abbrevs: FML.

The hashtag, very well-known (if not extremely overused), represents a generation’s expression of self-pity. With an accompanying microblog that blew up around 2008-09 and might be considered a forerunner of sites like Texts from Last Night, FML is pretty well-ingrained in digital culture.

Jello, with agency partner Crispin, Porter, + Bogusky, have hijacked the profanity-inferring phrase as part of their latest social media marketing campaign, hoping to gain traction with their new definition: Fun my life.

Let’s move past the fact (as much as it pains me) that that doesn’t make any grammatical sense and talk about whether this ploy might actually work.

The idea is this: Between now and June 14, everyone who tweets the #FML hashtag is entered into a pool, from which a certain number will win “Fun My Life” prize packs “specially created to get their life back on track.” All of this – from the original hashtagged tweets to Jello’s chosen responses – can be followed at www.jellofml.com.

I’m going to break my own rule and start with the fact that “fun my life” makes absolutely no sense. Fun is not a verb; the word they’ve chosen to replace? Verb.

Next up? The creep factor. Yes, yes, I know they’ve pulled the tweets from public accounts by a simple search of the hashtag. But seeing as how an overwhelming majority of those users who will use the hashtag over the next however many days will have no idea about Jello’s campaign, the fact that their tweets are entered into a sort of contest and broadcast on the JelloFML site is, in my opinion, a smidge creepy.

And can they really hope their rebrand will catch on? My assumption is no.

FML is a part of Internet culture – perhaps not to the height of something like “LOL,” but it’s up there. So how can this campaign really hope to make a splash? I’m not sure.

I’ve mentioned this as it relates to social media superstar Oreo: the most successful brands on social media are those who fulfill the 3 C’s of content, context, and conversation. Oreo, with both it’s Daily Twist campaign and its many timely tweets since, successfully fulfilled the “3 C’s” by offering relevant, timely, simple, humorous, and shareable content without pandering for likes, comments, or shares.

Too often, when it comes to social media strategy, brands are more concerned with timing than content; but to succeed in engaging conversation, the strategy must lie at the relevant intersection of context and content. Merely inserting yourself in a consumer’s feed with a message that is either off-brand or off-topic will not encourage the engagement necessary to form consumer-brand relationships, and might go so far as to turn off the consumer.

In Jello’s case, I don’t think the campaign succeeds in meeting the C’s. It seems more that they’re forcefully inserting themselves into conversation when I’m not sure it’s welcome, let alone relevant.

That being said, I’ve wavered back and forth on whether or not I think this campaign is “good” or “bad” (I started drafting this on Saturday). I got second thoughts when I recalled a post I’d written back in the fall that talked about creating conversation and taking part in “surprise and delight” campaigns.

Here’s what I said in that case:

Coke’s digital agency in Atlanta, CSE, tracks social media diligently; and when they notice someone with a substantial following (500+) commenting on college football, they “surprise and delight” by, for instance, sending that Tweeter an autographed helmet.

In my favorite “surprise and delight” moment, a Vanderbilt student tweeted that he and three friends were traveling to Chicago for the Northwestern game and mentioned that they didn’t have tickets. CSE execs found the message and arranged for them to receive four tickets to the game for free.

Completely unwarranted – we’re not talking a sweepstakes, or really, anything from the brand side – Coke Zero is able to build a fan base that is instantly loyal by targeting socially active 18-34 year olds in their target base of college football, notably SEC, fans. I’m certain that if I received free tickets or autographed memorabilia from Coke Zero, all of my friends would know it and know how.

Now that’s pretty cool.

But is it the same thing for Jello to find their favorite FMLers, surprising them with “Fun My Life” prize packs (presumably including Jello products)? I’m not sure. It’s certainly the same idea, but the execution just seems kind of off to me.

And you just can’t convince me that “Fun My Life” was the right name.

Come on people, grammar.

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Advertising Week: Look At Your Fish!

One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read as of late has been The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens in Scientific American. The whole idea has been top of mind as of late, as I’ve noticed myself fighting – with myself, mind you – over just how to read.

Does it make a difference? Am I going to go blind at age 53 if I don’t split my time between my laptop or my iPad or my Nook Simple Touch or just plain…old…paper?

Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!


Happy Summer! Plus: Technology + Creativity FTW

It’s been a while, so let me update you. Since you last heard from me, I’ve finished up a lot of exciting things and started prepping for the next steps in my life’s journey. I finished up my independent study, which ended up being way more interesting and engaging than I imagined going in. It’s called “Brand Personification in the Digital Age: How has the evolution of social media impacted consumer-brand relationships?” and if you’re interested, you can check it out here. Exactly one week ago, I graduated from the University of Michigan. Which is absolutely insane — I miss Ann Arbor and all my friends already, but I’m excited for my next steps.  A couple days ago, I signed a lease for my first year in Richmond at VCU Brandcenter with a couple of GREAT girls! AND I found out I’ll be living on a BOAT in Sausalito, California for the summer as part of my internship at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners!

I plan to use this blog a great deal throughout the summer to keep everyone up to date on my experience in San Francisco, so keep an eye out. And my latest AWSC post should be all the way live real soon — I’m SO excited about this one. It’s all about digital vs. traditional publishing and how we love on the interwebz. If you haven’t already, take a look at Robin Sloan’s revolutionary tap essay, “Fish” — promise it’s worth your time.

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Moving on, I’ve had this link on my desktop for a while now and finally found the time to share. There’s been a lot of great work circulating as it relates to cause marketing lately; but the most powerful example I’ve seen is Grey Spain’s work for Aid to Children and Adolescents at Risk Foundation (ANAR for short).

The outdoor ad made use of “lenticular printing” in order to create an ad that changed based on the perspective you viewed it from. Adults (well, those over 4’5″) see an image of a sad child with the copy, “Sometimes, child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” Children, on the other hand, see bruises on the child’s face and the copy, “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you.” Brilliantly executed, the secret message allows a child to see the message even when accompanied by his or her abuser.

Grey Spain uses lenticular printing to create dual-images.

Digiday put it best — “It’s a powerful message that’s enabled by technology, rather than overwhelmed by it,” an issue that often comes into play when technology is put into play for technology’s sake only. Sure, it can be cool, but does it add anything? It most certainly does here.

This gets me so excited to work alongside the talented art directors and creative technologists at VCU Brandcenter in the fall. With such amazing technology at our fingertips, I can’t wait to see what we’re able to produce together.


Advertising Week: Keeping It Real (Time)

Find your voice.

Reach your audience.

Increase your relevance.

These are the three commandment’s offered by Twitter’s resident UK Brand Strategist, William Scougal, in his Advertising Week Europe talk, Keeping It Real-Time: How To Talk To People That Talk To You.

Read more after the jump to Advertising Week!


I’m Back! Plus: Netflix Gambles, Wins Big

I know I’ve been a bad blogger lately. On all fronts.

But that’s about to change — with Advertising Week Europe all the way live in London, you’re about to hear a lot from me. And while nothing’s firmed up yet, I might have some exciting news to share soon on the contributions front.

Speaking of exciting news.

Since the last time we talked, I’ve been accepted into the VCU Brandcenter Communication Strategy program AND I’ve accepted a position as a summer strategy intern at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in San Francisco!

Suffice it to say, I’ve been busy. And I’m SO excited to share all of my future learnings and such with you.

Now, let’s get back to business. I meant this for an AWSC post, but with the backlog that is #AWEurope, I figured I’d share here first.

Here we go:

I’m the biggest proponent of digital culture out there. I believe staunchly in non-traditional media. I cringe when that, excuse my language, asshat of a codger Tom Hammerschmidt tells Zoe Barnes, “Twitter, blogs, rich media, they are all fads. They aren’t the foundation this paper was built on.” But if you asked me whether Netflix’s $100 million gamble was itself one big flimsy house of cards, I would’ve said absolutely.

Now I’m 7 hours deep (upon writing, I was 7 hours deep. update: binge complete) into a Kevin
Spacey-fueled binge and kicking myself for doubting the online giant’s strategy.

Sure, this isn’t Netflix’s first foray into original programming (that distinction belongs to Lilyhammer); but it is the first time the company has taken a hands-on approach to production, tapping big names like David Fincher, who directed the series’ first two episodes.

Pre-release, consumers and pundits alike questioned the streaming service’s ability to succeed – and what’s more, to not lose money – by dropping an entire season at once. Blasphemy, said traditional media.

HBO, the reigning king of original programming, fails all the time. How could this “fledgling” hope to win by going all-in on the first try? They simply couldn’t, right?

Well I’ll be damned. This show is good. It’s really, really good. The acting is top-notch, the plot line is full of intrigue and beautifully developed characters, and the production quality is second to none.

And to those who questioned how “dumping” the entire first season of HOC out in the market at one time could possibly be the right move?

Don’t pull a Hammerschmidt.

This is the way of new media. We’ve grown up with DVD seasons, Netflix and Hulu binges, and the reliability of our DVR. Of course this would work. Appointment viewing has gone the way of paper-only reporting: it’s a relic. Sure, it’s still there, but it’s in no position to not take its newfangled “fad” competitors seriously.

Spacey’s Frank Underwood tells Zoe regarding Slugline (the series’ Politico 2.0), “If freedom and exposure are what they’re offering, I would say that is a meeting worth taking.” This same argument is valid for Netflix, who noted, “For viewers, Internet TV is a better experience because of the freedom and flexibility it provides.”

Steven Rosenbaum wrote for Forbes, “This is a series that deserves to be savored – not ‘binged’ on;” but he couldn’t have been more wrong. This is a 13-hour movie that people are dying to see, not to mention, a 13-hour movie that might just change the landscape of traditional television.

With House of Cards experiencing enviable success, and similar treatment coming for cult-favorite Arrested Development in May, Netflix is paving the way for an internet-TV revolution.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explained to investors, “In baseball terms, linear TV only scores with home runs. We score with home runs, too, but also with singles, doubles, and triples.”

Well, Reed, you certainly knocked it out of the park with this one. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.


Advertising Week: Special Teams Deliver in 2013 Brand Bowl

When he who lives under the nearest rock asks you who won the Super Bowl, you might be tempted to scream Beyonce!#$!, but you’ll eventually answer ‘the Ravens’.

When he who lives under a slightly more academic rock asks you who won the Brand Bowl, you’ll be confronted with several possibilities.

Ram, with unarguably the most beautiful spot of the night from The Richards Group, was excellent. Hyundai had a great night. Audi, Taco Bell, Kia, the NFL – not to mention the ever-adorable Budweiser Clydesdales – all deserve our praise.

But who really won the Brand Bowl?

Find out after the jump to Advertising Week! 


Microsoft Hits the Right Buttons, But Will We?

Column Five, an agency out of Newport Beach that focuses on visual content strategy and social PR, put together an amazing ad for Microsoft’s much-maligned Internet Explorer – a brand that undoubtedly needs a facelift.

Tugging at the heartstrings of 90s kids like me, ‘Child of the 90s’ is dripping with nostalgia for everything from Lisa Frank and Tamagotchis to half-bowl haircuts and, well, Internet Explorer.

The copy is strong: you grew up, so did we; and its impact is palpable: picked up by Huff Post and a number of outlets, the ad is well on its way to being viral.

But the question still remains:

Will children of the 90s decide it’s time to give IE another shot?

Or will they sit at their Macbooks – as I am – enjoying what is undeniably a great ad on Firefox or Chrome?