18
Dec

Why the Nike Colin Kaepernick Ad Inspired our Card

If you are one of the hundreds of people receiving the Arkside end-of-the-year card, you may be wondering why -or even what- it is. I thought it best to take a moment to share the brainstorms and actions that went into our card. We take our end-of-the-year card very seriously. The discussions and designs include our entire team. How did we end up summarizing the whole of marketing in 2018 with inspiration from the now-famous Nike Colin Kaepernick ad?

First, it is important to recognize the controversy surrounding the ad, its talent, and our message. I will clear up a few things here:

  1. The Colin Kaepernick ad is arguably the most talked-about spot of the year. It prompted millions of difficult but important conversations – both in the marketing industry and the general public.
  2. Retail continues to experience seismic shifts and evolution impacting stores like Toys ‘R Us and brands like Nike.
  3. The message from Kaepernick and/or Nike are not our focus. Our card encapsulates the topics of the year. Our card does not cast votes, take sides, or play favorites.

The Controversy of Colin Kaepernick’s Actions

The image above is not the start of the controversy but it is the peak of discussion when it comes to marketing. The work comes from accomplished ad agency Wieden + Kennedy as part of Nike’s 30th anniversary celebration of their “Just Do It” tagline. (And congratulations to the W+K team on being named Adweek’s 2018 U.S. Agency of the Year.) The idea is fueled by Kaepernick’s kneeling protest during the national anthem before NFL games. It cost him a considerable amount of money and, ultimately, his job as an NFL quarterback. He receives love and hate daily for his choices. He is accused of dishonoring the United States military and citizens, while simultaneously receiving praise for using his amplified voice for the cause of justice. His choice is nothing if not polarizing.

When Mr. Kaepernick first tweeted the image of the new Nike ad campaign, it instantly went viral. The news media grabbed on with both hands. Much like his protest, the controversy and conversation were multi-layered. Does Nike want to dishonor America too? Does Kaepernick’s hate now have corporate support? Why would Nike do something so incredibly politically incorrect?

Know Your Audience

Again, I’m not here to discuss the controversy in a vacuum. My aim as a marketer is to look at the scenario from a variety of angles and analyze the successes or failures of the marketing effort.

Nike knows its audience. The Colin Kaepernick ad campaign exists to connect with that audience in a moving, personal way. I have spoken to companies for years about the need to be “human”. Audiences want to work with real people who are relatable. Corporate thoughts and prayers, routine answers to unique problems, and hiding behind policies doesn’t sit well with today’s consumer.

Where other brands may be about status, Nike is about empowerment. Nike encourages customers to be the best runner or ball player or neighborhood walker in the history of whatever-the-customer-is-doing. They want you to think big. That requires big ideas and big risks. Kaepernick took a big risk.

Risks can bring rewards. Let’s go back to my second bullet point above. Every tier of retail is struggling to adapt, evolve, survive, and thrive. Nike is no exception. They’ve had good quarters and bad quarters. But they continue to survive -and in some cases thrive- by knowing their audience. It is this knowledge that informs their marketing decisions. They know their target market is not a conservative Caucasian baby boomer.  Their ardent fans tend to be young men of color. Their growth opportunities are in markets around the world while the US market stagnates. Alignment with a young man of color who speaks to a global audience about social justice is natural.

Colin and Connections

Nike was faced with a decision. Do they risk intensely negative PR from half the country -including the President of the United States and his son– to speak with a clear voice to their audience?

Yes.

Nike was almost immediately hammered with boycotts, media attacks, and a drop in their stock price. But the protest and the stock drop were temporary. Soon, it was estimated that their sales were up 31%. The stock climbed to a 52-week high within days. (It is now back to where it was at the end of June 2018.) And CEO Mark Parker said the campaign generated “record engagement with the brand”. They took a risk and reaped the rewards.

Inspiring the Arkside 2018 Card

So after all of that controversy, how did Nike inspire our end-of-the-year card? Quite simply: it didn’t. At least not at first. As our team gathered and listed some major events of the year -the #MeToo movement, Russian interference, cannabis, bankruptcies, celebrities, etc.- a theme slowly became clear: massive change.

Legendary businesses like Remington, Sears, and Toys ‘R Us collapsed. Weight Watchers (now WW), Dunkin’ Donuts (now Dunkin’), and even Kanye West (temporarily Ye) shortened their names. So did Arkside Marketing (now Arkside).

We couldn’t ignore the Nike controversy, but we didn’t see how it fit. Ultimately, one member of the team realized that the brands under discussion did what they believed in and the results were a sacrifice of everything. They certainly didn’t intend bankruptcy, but their lack of evolution brought about the final change: end.

The design of our cover was difficult. As you may imagine, there are not many photos of Geoffrey the Giraffe in the same position as Colin Kaepernick in the Nike ad. Furthermore, at that angle in black and white, it was hard to distinguish Geoffrey from a horse or just a creepy, big-eyed stuffed animal. That forced some variations from the original Kaepernick ad but the quote, black background, and overall layout remained.

About Marketing, Always

Our 2018 card is like those that came before it: about the year we experienced alongside you and the world of marketing. It is not about taking sides. It is not about support or attack. It is a reminder of what has happened. It is about the message. Interpretation is personal.

I hope you had an amazing, educational, and successful 2018. I hope 2019 brings you new opportunities along with good health. Thank you for taking time to read this. If nothing else, I’m proud that we took a risk to make a card unlike any other you may see.

Looking forward,

Nathan Greenberg, CEO

1
Feb

Shorter Name and a Better Logo

from Nathan Greenberg

Over the years, I have worked with many C-suite executives, directors, and other business leaders to shape, grow, and improve their branding. Often I tell them that they need to listen to outside opinions to better understand who they are and how their company is perceived. Why? Because business owners or managers -especially entrepreneurs- cannot view themselves objectively. Over the last couple of years, I have been listening to my fair share of outside opinions.

I became a shining example of “physician heal thyself”.

A Stubborn Executive

Old logoArkside Marketing officially began on February 4, 2010. Our eight year anniversary will be celebrated in three days. Earlier in 2017 I came to realize that we were suffering from brandmark confusion.

To the left, you see our original logo (in a vertical layout). People saw our logo our logo as an “M”. People saw purple and brown. In fact, I vaguely recall the original designer of the logo asking me if it was an “M”, but I pushed right passed that! “No, it’s an ‘A’ and an ‘M’. I’m so creative!” Instead of learning from a few years of this reaction, I took it as a challenge to explain that it was actually an “A” and an “M” and the company colors were blue and yellow/gold.  After 6 years, I asked our new Lead Designer to “clean up” our image with proper blue and yellow colors.

Before you ask: I have no explanation for why I did not try to solve the A/M confusion at the same time.

We also had a challenge with our name. It was clearly defined when we had a great employee named Mark. This was his cold calling introduction: “Hi. This is Mark, from Arkside Marketing.” Oy vey.

We suffered from Arkitis.

In 2017, something snapped. I heard yet one more person call our logo “the M”. That was it. The proverbial straw. It was time to change the logo. Only took me seven years to learn. But it also presented an opportunity to do something to our name that I had been thinking about for two years. It was time to shorten our company name.

The Process of Change

This was an opportunity to practice what I preached. There would be no “design (or death) by committee”, but I valued the array of insights available in my own team. From production to accounting, I knew each had an opinion that could help the process while simultaneously reinforcing our culture of inclusion. This may be my company, but I appreciate the support and wisdom of others to make us all more successful.

We began with a good assortment of VERY different directions. It allowed us to refine what we liked and eliminate the definite no’s. Quickly I realized that if we were going to shorten the name, it would be ideal to do the same to the logo. The style was unique, just badly executed by me. This also helps avoid any mass confusion about the company changing. We would still be the same great company, but with a modified logo and simpler name.

New Arkside logoWith that direction, we changed the logo to be a true “A” and maintain the colors. “Arkside Marketing” became “Arkside”. We aren’t dropping any part of our marketing services. To the contrary – we will have some expansion announcements this year! We just eliminated the obvious. There were now logo layouts not previously possible with two long words. You will be seeing those across various media as the new brand is rolled out.

The result is the shorter name and logo we unveil today.

What’s Changing at Arkside?

Just a shorter name and logo. At least when it comes to our brandmark. We are still the same awesome marketing resource you and many other companies have come to rely upon for the last eight years.

But there are other important changes coming this year. We look forward to bringing a new website online before Q2 with a more modern design and new capabilities such as a complete store of promotional products, custom apparel options, and even the ability to order print items such as business cards and banners.

We are also bringing new technology and processes to our in-house operations that will streamline customer service, order processing, and production.

We are also recognized as a top Digital Marketing Company on DesignRush.

Thank You

To all of you who have given your opinions, insights, and ideas, I thank you. Certainly to those friends and family who have supported my ventures and trusted me with your business, you have made the last eight years possible. You mean more to me than I can ever fully express. But I will always try.

Thankfulness has been part of this company and I take this moment to refresh that practice.

So “thank you”, and welcome to Arkside again.

15
Mar

How to Measure Advertising Results

It should be said first and upfront: you can measure advertising results from every media. Traditional, digital, subliminal, online, offline, experiential, indoor, outdoor, audio, video…all of them.

With that out of the way, I want to briefly explain why I am personally authoring this blog post. Arkside Marketing was born partially out of frustration. Through my experiences in all three sides of the marketing industry, it became apparent that many people in this business are limited. Some by choice, some by employment (restrictive companies or bosses), and some by ignorance. I do not mean any of those as an insult. Just facts. Calculating the Return on Investment (ROI) of your advertising is critical. Marketers have inaccurate or partial views of how to craft a message, what media(s) may work best, or how to properly quantify results. That last item is what we will address here. Being able to track or source results is so vital to effective marketing that it is a core element of Rule #1 at Arkside, and we only have 2 Rules. Additionally, it is foolish and arrogant to believe that marketers of the past simply threw their money against a wall in radio or television and did not accurately measure the revenue generated. Let’s look at some of these shortcomings and how they can be addressed.

Can You Source Sales from Marketing?

Yes.

The answer is that simple without any qualifiers. I will boldly go further by stating that any professional marketer who claims you can’t measure advertising results either doesn’t know how or is lying. The former can be fixed. The latter is an operational danger to your company. Important information can be gleaned throughout the marketing and sales process and this has always been the case. Today’s technology has exponentially increased those capabilities. They are more accurate and educational.

To fully measure the ROI of your marketing investment you need to implement tools which empower you and remove hurdles that restrict you.

How to Measure Advertising Results

This list is by no means complete, but these are some of the most accurate and engaging methods by which you can calculate your marketing ROI and obtain data to optimize future campaigns.

Old School ROI Methods

Unique Phone Numbers – Arguably one of the most effective and well-known ROI measurement tools in the business. Simply give each media outlet its own phone number. If you get a call on a particular number you know what ad generated it. You can do the same with each creative in an A/B test as well. Make sure you calculate call volume against the cost of each individual ad. You also want to track the sales quantity and profit margin of each call to determine the value of leads from the individual media. WARNING: Do not do this across online directory listings or social media. Ad campaigns are okay, but your phone number must be consistent on all of your online profiles.

Coupons – “Bring in this ad to receive…”. Not much easier than this. It can teach you a lot about your audience if you gather the right data. Where did they come from? What else did they buy? How long were they in the store? Male or female? Etc. But beware of misinterpreting your data. A coupon can have high or low redemption rates for a variety of reasons: offer value, time sensitivity, geographic distance, competitive offers, bad timing (alcohol coupons after election day are good, steak dinners the first Friday of Lent are not so good).

Limited Time Offers – A cousin to the coupon, but with an added hook. Give customers an incentive to help you suddenly sellout. “Come in before this Saturday  to save 50%!”. Limited time offers are usually asking people to adjust their schedules so make sure you are providing sufficient enough incentive (a.k.a. savings) to do so. Keep in mind that these can be done in-store or online. Don’t feel limited on how or where to send people.

Codes/Words – If Jane wants her free tote bag, she needs to say “Happy Strawberry Day” at checkout. Keep an audio (if legal to record in your state/country) or written log and count how many bags were given out. Staff training on this is critical. They need to understand the value of the campaign and should not be handing out bags without the code. Again, this can be applied online as well: Enter the code at checkout or upon arrival to reveal a unique coupon.

Referral Bonus – This particular tracking method encourages both new sales and existing customer loyalty. It incentivizes your customers to refer their friends and family. If your product or service price can absorb a small dent, a referral bonus empowers your customers to become “brandvocates” and your most effective sales force. Remember – word of mouth is your best form of advertising. Referral bonuses are great because the referrer is usually very diligent about making sure the referral gives them proper credit. This greatly enhances your trackability.

Ask For a Specific Person – This one requires delicate deployment. If you have more than one person, the best way to use this is to advertise a product or service that only one of your staff is able to represent. For example, if Sally is the only person in the company who knows about the new Widget3000, launch an ad campaign that says “ask for Sally, our Widget3000 expert!”. Not doing so may still bring Widget3000 customers but you know those that ask for Sally saw or heard a particular campaign or media. It also achieves the goal of inspiring the customer because they are working with an expert that can answer their questions. Finally, it can expedite the sales process which enables greater quantities sold per day, higher total commissions (which makes Sally happy), and is more likely to result in a positive review from the customer.

Loss Leader Pricing – The most well known examples may be car dealers. You’ve all seen low priced vehicles with the famous “one at this price” disclaimer. The concept is straightforward: drastically discount one unit with the goal of attracting attention and opportunities to switch the customer to a regular-priced unit or higher-priced item. This is very effective for tracking purposes as you can monitor how many calls, emails, in-store requests, or social posts you receive for the offer. It works well across traditional and digital media.

New School ROI Methods

For most “new school” or digital tracking methods, you will have multiple added data points to make future decision making more informed. You can receive demographic, geographic, experience, and perhaps even psychographic data in addition to raw response and engagement rates. Make sure you have detailed tracking tools installed on your site such as Google Analytics. You can’t know too much and knowing too little costs you money.

Unique URL and/or Landing Page – These two tactics are related and can even be the same thing. A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is just a website address. Could be as easy as “www.ArksideMarketing.com” or something longer such as “www.arksidemarketing.com/why-fox-should-not-have-apologized-for-x-men-billboard/”. For online campaigns, sending traffic to a unique location is very effective at funneling traffic, tracking response rates, controling what information is seen, and beginning to source your new lead.

UTM Codes -As strange as it sounds, UTM stands for “Urchin Tracking Module” because it was invented by a company called Urchin Web Analytics. They were bought by Google in 2005. They created a way to attach information to a URL. If you saw that you were receiving traffic from “mail.yahoo.com” to your website, you would know people were clicking a link in from their Yahoo! email account. But with UTM codes, you could see traffic from “mail.yahoo.com?utm_source=campaignA&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=widget3000discount”. Each part of that code tells you an additional piece of information as well as enabling you to launch multiple campaigns simultaneously, do A/B testing, and separate identical campaigns that may have launched at different times. UTM codes can be extremely lengthy but they have no impact on the user’s experience. It only provides you data.

Form Submission – Another multifaceted tracking tool. You can already count how many forms are submitted via your website. But have you gone deeper on their value? Form submissions not only give you raw response rates, they can also tell you the value of the path to the form. Some website visitors may go from your home page, through a couple product pages, over to your portfolio or testimonials, abandon a shopping cart or two, and then finally request more information via a form. Others may go from a custom landing page straight to a form submission. Both paths generated a lead, but if you analyze the flow path more deeply, you may discover that people going straight to a landing page are submitting forms at a lower rate than those who “wander” around your site. Those who wander may feel more comfort or trust with your brand and are therefore more likely to contact you. Perhaps the landing page isn’t providing enough information and your page menu doesn’t allow them to go elsewhere on the site. The point is getting a form submission isn’t nearly enough data for future decision-making. It is a starting point for your analysis.

Click Through Rate – We’ve referenced the value of knowing what and how certain things prompt a response. Tracking a click through rate (CTR) helps you understand the final effect of a user experience. Monitor what pages, forms, ads, and media are generating higher engagement. But make sure you are tracking ALL clicks: ad click, call-to-action item click, form submission, menu clicks, internal links, etc. You need to understand what your customers are looking for on your website, social media, videos and, most importantly, why they are looking for it. Tracking each available CTR can help you understand that.

ROI Methods Effective in Old and New School Media

Contests – There are so many different ways to run contests that I can’t list them all here. Basic guidelines are as follows:

  1. Make sure your entire contest is legal: methods of entry, prize(s) given, winner selection, winner notification, legal disclaimers, etc.
  2. Offer a prize that will entice your audience to enter. Just because you want to promote it doesn’t mean your audience will care enough to enter a contest for it. Think about it from their perspective.
  3. Promote it through all relevant media channels and encourage staff to do the same.
  4. Use the winner (and presentation event, if you have one) as another promotional marketing tool
  5. For results measurement, track all relevant engagements including number of entries, website traffic, in-store entries, calls, sales opportunities, sales (quantity, margin, and secondary purchases), and media impressions.

Spot Time Alignment – This method allows you to sync your digital and non-digital media. If you have a TV or radio spot airing at 10:02am, track your website traffic, social engagement, calls, and in-store visits immediately after the spot. People tend to be curious about something after hearing about it. This data can be a critical element when doing your ROI calculation and making decisions about future marketing investment. Two media may generate similar sales volume, but knowing which produces a more research oriented customer can help you refine your sales process and capture the higher hanging fruit.

Product/Service Profit Margin – I have already referenced it multiple times in other tracking methods, but it deserves its own explanation. It is vital to understand how a particular marketing lead impacts your profitability. Selling 100 more Widget3000s is great, but if your radio leads are more likely to also buy accessories or your Facebook leads are more likely to be hagglers, that data should factor into your future decision making. Fox Business viewers may be more profitable than HGTV viewers. You won’t know this unless you match each customer to their lead process. It can mean the difference between thousands or millions of dollars in revenue.

Collecting Customer Data

We have covered a huge variety of ways to track every media in existence. There is no advertising you can’t track with the right approach and execution. All of that tracking relies on collecting customer data. Digital media are great at providing basic demographic and geographic data, but you have the ability to go deeper. Consider the difference between these three questions:

  1. How have you heard about us?
  2. What brought you in today?
  3. Why did you decide to purchase today?

Each question gives you a unique and valuable piece of data. All three help you better understand who your customer is, how your brand is recognized and perceived, and where your sales strengths (and potential weaknesses) are. Here are a variety of ways you can gather customer data at multiple points throughout your marketing and sales cycles:

  • Online surveys
  • In-store surveys (not very reliable, but can be part of the process)
  • At point of purchase (“Can I get your zip code, please?”)
  • Loyalty program enrollment
  • Focus group
  • Beacon tracking
  • New customer/client enrollment form
  • Website traffic tracking (Google Analytics)

Make sure you are honest with your customers and potential customers about what you’re collecting and what you’ll do with it. Privacy policies are required by law in most places so make sure you are compliant.

You Can, You Should, and You Must

Moving forward, don’t ever let someone tell you that something can’t be tracked. In the 2,500+ words above, I have show you how to do so across every possible media. I have also shown you how to collect additional data to enhance the total value of your marketing and improve your sales. And I will leave you with one final point:

YOU MUST DO ALL OF THIS.

The successful companies of the future will be disruptive. They will know more about their customers than ever before because their customers know more about them than ever before. Knowledge is power. Understanding their emotions and decision-making process is what can separate success from failure. Your competitors can be smart or you can. But someone will go out of business and it will be the company that knows the least.

Don’t believe me? Think about how much Amazon knows.

2
Feb

2 Rules of Marketing

As we celebrate our seven year anniversary in February 2017, we want everyone to understand a basic fact: You only need the 2 Rules of Marketing. The marketing industry can become extremely and unnecessarily complicated. Whether sifting through data, managing opinions, or exploring media options, the number of ways to get overwhelmed is staggering. I have seen this phenomenon as I’ve worked on all three sides of the industry – media, client, and agency. It is one of the primary reasons I created Arkside: to be a one-stop shop for an organization’s marketing needs. Achieving that goal required simplification of the typical approach to marketing. My years and depth of experience led me to two rules that can be applied to all situations resulting in simple decision making.

Marketing Rule #1: Marketing should be always treated as an investment.

Think about stock investments. As I remind guests at my lectures, no one throws darts at a Wall Street ticker symbol and decides to put their money there. Even 401(k) plans are managed by professionals, and the investors who invest in them rely on the knowledge of the fund managers. The bottom line is that a positive return is expected on the investment.

Why would you treat your marketing any differently?

A proper campaign should be a combination of great creative and data-based strategy, all intended to align with an organization’s goals. From business card layout to multi-network TV ads, you should expect a return on your investment. That Return on Investment (ROI) can be measured in a variety of ways but should always be aligned with your goals.

Types of Return on Investment

Don’t limit yourself to sales. Your investment can be used to achieve one or more goals.

  • Brand awareness
  • Media share of voice
  • Direct sales
  • Job applicants
  • Website traffic
  • App downloads
  • Event attendance
  • Newsletter subscriptions
  • Offer/coupon redemption
  • Social media following and/or engagement

The first step in a marketing campaign should be to establish its goals and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Only then can you measure success. That success is your Return on Investment. If, and by how much, you achieved your goal is your success…or failure.

Failure is An Education

Many years ago I adopted my attitude toward life: “I only have two kinds of days – good days and educational days.” Learning is the key to success. The only way I can have a bad day is if I didn’t learn something. Failure is an education. It will teach you how to not repeat the mistake. It can show you how to try something in a new way.

After you have done your research, identified your target audience(s), selected the proper media, and crafted a great message, what happens when you don’t meet your goals? That should teach you something. As our client Chris Surdak says, “reports should be an input”. The failure you experienced will certainly be disappointing but it should be used to do better the next time. I have heard marketers blame the media and, frankly, I feel that is lazy. Statements like, “I tried radio and it doesn’t work” or “we dumped a bunch of money into Google and got nothing out of it”. While I don’t doubt their results were bad, I am always skeptical that the tried-and-true media formats are to blame.

Identify the error(s) in your approach and don’t repeat them.

Marketing Rule #2: Never make it hard for someone to give you their money.

This is no less important than the first of the 2 rules. Let me address something up front: Your sales and marketing efforts are not separate. They are intrinsically linked for very good reasons. Take the following scenario as an example:

You have invested many, many hours on setting your goals, doing your market research, identifying your target market, building a beautiful campaign, and launching to the public. Leads start pouring in. Your sales team wasn’t given any of the ads to review, were not prepped on the offer, and are putting all of your carefully crafted leads into a broken sales funnel.

This is not the time for the marketing department to say, “we did our job!” Sales and marketing should be working together. Sales should be providing on-the-ground, real-time feedback to marketing about what questions customers are asking, how providing key information earlier in the process can avoid unnecessary delays, and other elements that improve the customer experience. Conversely, marketing should be training sales on where ads will appear (radio stations, Facebook, direct mail, etc.), how the offers are being presented, and what they can expect customers to know and/or ask about.

Great Customer Service is Great Marketing

There are so many potential customers out there willing to become customers. So many, in fact, you would never be able to serve them all. But for those who have given you a chance to earn their business, you better not blow it. They are ready to give you their money. Are you making it easy for them to do so? Long buying processes, repeat negotiations, complicated pricing or discounts, improperly trained staff, key information buried on your website, no credit card payment options, and many more are all things that make it hard for someone to give you their money.

So how do you make it easy?

  1. Exceed their expectations…in everything.
  2. Simplify the payment process. Can you take payments online? Can invoices be automated?
  3. Be convenient.

2 Rules for Everything

These two rules form the foundation for every decision we make, both internally and the advice we offer our valuable clients. Marketing is one of the few areas of business that impacts and is impacted by every department and person in an organization.

We changed our company slogan in 2016 from “The way things should be.” to “Educate. Succeed. Repeat.”. Our 2 Rules are now a cornerstone of delivering on our mission to teach marketers, help them succeed, and repeat that cycle. Whether you are a client of Arkside Marketing or not, we want you to make the most informed marketing decisions possible. Your advertising should result in success. Once both of those are done, we hope you repeat the process.

You will be seeing “2 Rules” in all of our marketing materials and we will be using the hashtag #2Rules throughout social media. We encourage you to use it on your social media as well for any questions or discussions you want to have about marketing. We look forward to meeting and helping you in the years to come.

12
Jul

Why Fox Should Not Have Apologized for X-Men Billboard

Twentieth Century Fox apologized last month for an “X-Men: Apocalypse billboard because it shows Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Mystique, being choked by Apocalypse (a male character). The outrage over the X-Men billboard began when actress Rose McGowan posted her disappointment on social media after seeing the billboard in Los Angeles. After the public flogging, Fox issued this statement:

In our enthusiasm to show the villainy of the character Apocalypse we didn’t immediately recognize the upsetting connotation of this image in print form. Once we realized how insensitive it was, we quickly took steps to remove those materials. We apologize for our actions and would never condone violence against women.

The offended people and 20th Century Fox are both missing the point. When analyzed from a marketing perspective, both groups are making a mistake.

Is the X-Men Billboard Offensive?

Of course. Everything is offensive to someone. The legendary “Got Milk?” ad about the assassination of Alexander Hamilton may have offended people. Budweiser’s Clydesdale ads offend people against the use of animals in advertising. Does that mean they were bad or mean-spirited? No. Marketing is a combination of art and science. It should be understood that “you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” (John Lydgate, adapted by President Abraham Lincoln). The important issue is whether or not the offense or the size of the offended party merits attention in your marketing.

In this case, the size of the offended group and their voice were extremely small until Rose McGowan used social media. After that, the size of the offended group remained small but they had a larger megaphone to broadcast their grievance. They became a very vocal minority. It can be said with some certainly that most people understood that the latest installment in the X-Men movie franchise had violence in it. Why was this violence so offensive?

Offensive in Advertising But Not on Screen

It is worth noting that the image depicted on the billboard is taken from the movie itself. It is an actual scene in which Apocalypse battles Mystique. But only the advertising was vilified. Why is the on-screen “violence against women” not decried yet the advertising depicting the violence is maligned? According to Ms. McGowan and followers of her cause, they didn’t feel it was right to have the image “forced” upon them (especially their children).

Some facts need to be added for the sake of marketing analysis and public perception:

  1. Both of these characters are fictional.
  2. Mystique (the female character) is the hero.
  3. Mystique (the female character) is the leader of the protagonists.
  4. Stan Lee, like many comic storytellers, created their characters for the empowerment of the oppressed such as women, homosexuals, and racial minorities.

It seems counterproductive to criticize a billboard for violence against women when that movie has a strong, female lead character who defeats all the men that stand against her.

Furthermore, the same level of outrage was lacking from Ms. McGowan and her fans when Mystique was killing military personnel in previous films or when she was beating up men at all. A double-standard in objecting to violence seems inappropriate.

X-Men Billboard Apology Mistake

Fox’s mistake came not in the billboard, but in their apology for the X-Men billboard and removing it from the campaign. As marketers, we fully appreciate the pressure on major corporations to walk many fine lines to please customers. In this case, we would not have advised Fox to apologize or remove the billboards. It is our opinion that they should have stood behind their campaign, the strong female lead character, and the film’s PG-13 rating which deems it appropriate for most of the world’s population to watch.

For parents, the billboard is an opportunity to have a positive discussion with their kids. They can explain Mystique, her strength, her redemption, he leadership, and her triumph over evil. Tell them Apocalypse is an evil character who thinks it is okay to use power over people instead of helping them.

The X-Men, like the Fantastic Four, and many other comic book characters are about good defeating evil, equality among all, and justice reigning supreme.

Fox could have told that story instead of apologizing for it.

10
Jun

Five Years of Arkside Marketing

Five years. Started during the depth of the Recession and thriving today. As we celebrate our five year anniversary in 2015, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the joys, challenges, and educational experiences that have happened with me and my team. Most importantly, a look back at why our clients mean so much to us.

First I will state the obvious: This post is long overdue. Specifically, our five year anniversary was February 4th. Anniversaries are important for many reasons. If we were a client of ourselves, we would have had a party planned in advance, press release drafted and ready for distribution, new collateral material printed, fun promotional products made, et cetera. But we spend every minute of every day worrying about everyone else’s marketing. Remember that phrase about the cobbler’s children having no shoes?

When I started this company, I knew it would be difficult. I was leaving a good job with a good company and risking it all on a dream with the encouragement of friends, family, and colleagues. The last five years have been an emotional roller coaster. Difficult? Yes. But also rewarding. Arkside Marketing is not my first business, but it is my largest thus far. The challenges, successes, and lessons learned have been incredible.

The last year has been especially turbulent. Despite my years of experience in media, ad agencies, and the marketing industry as a whole, I experienced more unforeseen challenges than ever. The worst was a solar company that misled us and a few of our competitors. They lied about nearly every element of their RFP including their goals, marketing strategy, personnel, and budget. My team and I invested considerable time and money into our proposal. Although we were glad to win, we soon realized what a bear trap we had stepped into.

The Most Important Parts of an Ad Agency

The best part of the last five years has been the people. I have been fortunate to surround myself with talented consultants, designers, and programmers. The aforementioned solar proposal unified our great team of professionals. We showcased a creativity, media knowledge, and strategy development capability unrivaled by our competitors. These strengths have continued with knowledge, fun, and excitement through today. The Arkside staff has doubled in our fifth year and there are bright prospects on the horizon to continue growing before the start of 2016.

We are blessed to work with some of the best vendors and media partners in the world. Each cares about our clients, our relationships, and the quality of their product. They have provided incredible customer service over the years and bring a fresh perspective to each project in which they participate. From the reps at our radio and TV stations to our partners at Google and various print shops, we value each of their contributions to the success of our clients.

Most importantly, we have had five years of wonderful connections to our clients. When I first started the company, I intended to work with nothing more than the heavily regulated industries in which I focused most of my career: law, automotive, healthcare, education, and financial. Fortunately, other opportunities arose within our first five clients. We were able to work with manufacturers, distributors, non-profits, retail stores, and other unregulated industries.

Having an even larger variety of industries than anticipated enabled us to bring more creativity and new ideas to all of our clients. It is perhaps one of our greatest strengths: the ability to take a concept that is tried-and-true in one vertical to a completely different vertical and modify it to step ahead of the competition.

Arkside Marketing in downtown RiversideOur growth has been more than a portfolio. In 2014 we moved into a new office in downtown Riverside which has given us a conveniently central location to the huge Inland Empire metro area and faster access to all of Southern California. Staff was consolidated in this one location, bringing about greater efficiency, team work, and creativity.

All of our staff shares a commitment to our community. Throughout the last few years, we have participated with or donated to many charities including the California Police Chiefs Association, “We Remember: A Night for Veterans”, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

What’s Next?

Revisiting that topic of our own advertising, that is the area in which we are most in need of improvement. What can we do better?

We are working on solving this hypocrisy. Soon we will be adding more videos to our YouTube channel. (Subscribe now so you can be one of the early cool kids.) You can also expect to see our new 5 year anniversary logo around the internet and on some of our collateral.

In light of the many lessons learned over the last five years, we will be launching a new initiative for non-profits. These small armies of passionate volunteers are usually the most in need of marketing help and least able to afford it. Stay tuned for our upcoming initiative in which we will help two charities reach their goals!

To all of my friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, and clients, I give you my most sincere thanks. None of this success would be possible without your support. I look forward to continuing the growth of Arkside Marketing and bringing new opportunities to others every day.

–Nathan

21
Nov

Bill Cosby Is Making PR Mistakes

I decided to write this because the new storm surrounding legendary comedian and family icon Bill Cosby has stunned me. I watched The Cosby Show, Cosby, loved the book “Fatherhood”, and saw his standup comedy specials. When I started ProActiveDads in 2008, he was a role model for what we fought for when it came to dads in the media. Now, the accusations are coming in waves with woman after woman dating back 45 years. As all of this unfolds and I see Cosby’s reaction (or lack thereof), I continue to think that Bill Cosby is making PR mistakes.

Before this post continues, I want to make it clear that I am not second-guessing the PR people employed by Bill Cosby. From what I have seen and heard over the years, they are some of the most successful people in the business and have been for decades. But they are not the only people involved. A-list celebrities are surrounded by a variety of advisors including public relations specialists, lawyers, agents, studios, costars, friends, family, and many others. All of them have opinions. Most of them offer advice. Some are paid for their advice. That advice doesn’t always agree with another party or the celebrity. Ultimately, the celebrity needs to choose their own action.

Silence Anything But Golden

This is where I believe Bill Cosby is faltering. He is facing an expensive, damaging, and career-ending barrage of accusations. Could the lawyers really be the best helpers when they advise total silence? Every interview has been a “no comment”. Even when the AP tried to play “gotcha” with their recent interview release, he still said nothing.

I find myself more and more in the camp of spectators who believe that this many accusers can’t all be making this up. It is already public knowledge that Bill Cosby has cheated on his wife Camille. Also shocking is the fact that I haven’t seen or heard any reports of his Cosby Show cast members coming to his defense. Most of them were female. Where are they? Thus far, only Raven-Symone has said she was never a victim. But where are Lisa Bonet, Tempestt Bledsoe, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Sabrina Le Beauf…all of whom knew and worked with Bill Cosby when they were young? Where is his TV wife, Phylicia Rashad? To have so many accusers and so few supporters is surprising for a man so well respected. And each of them is now suffering financially because The Cosby Show reruns have been pulled from TV Land.

The women making accusations are not just unknowns who may be seeking a pay day. They are an assortment of women from all walks of life with a similar story: Cosby allegedly drugged (or tried to drug) them, then took advantage of them physically and/or sexually. Some have tried to sue him, others have come out now for the first time and say they aren’t seeking a dime.

Take PR Advice

Agents and PR experts are usually the ones advising clients to “get in front of the controversy”. Make strong denials, be bold, circle the wagons with friends and family, etc. Lawyers usually advise absolute silence because anything said can be used against their client in a trial. These accusations have been around for more than four decades and will not be going away any time soon. They seem to be the “nail in the coffin”, as Carla Ferrigno said, to his career.

Were Bill Cosby my client, I would certainly be advising more than “no comment”.

  • Speak to the media
    • Put your face out there to show a human side against so many accusations of inhuman acts
    • Don’t let the accusers control the story
    • Give the media new material
  • Work WITH the lawyers – but don’t allow them to be the only voice
  • Get your friends and family to defend you. Strongly. In public.
  • Highlight your history of charitable giving
  • Stop asking people to do things online, like recording laugh tracks and asking social media to “meme” you.

If he is guilty, he needs to admit it. Get counseling, stay with your wife, go to rehab, do jail time if necessary, and work to help victims. Take a page from Lance Armstrong – lying makes it worse. If he is innocent, he should proclaim it all day, every day. The truth shall set you free.

What Happens to Bill Cosby?

So many accusers.
So few defenders.
So much silence.

I don’t see any way for this to end well. Cosby’s career is destroyed. His wife and children (who many know about his true behavior) are forced to endure this. His former co-stars are forced to endure this.

He needs to speak. Now.

What do you think? Can his career be saved? Is he right to stay silent? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

This post reflects the opinions of Nathan Greenberg and may not represent the official position or opinions of Arkside Marketing, Inc., its employees, clients, vendors, or partners.