What Type of Year are You Planning to Have in 2015?

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The turkey leftovers are long gone. Christmas shopping is coming down to the wire and all those ancient holiday ornaments have been hauled down from the attic. This is a glorious time of year, especially for youngsters.

It’s also a critical time for planning if you own or manage a business. Because markets change, personnel come and go, company services and products evolve and new media come from out of nowhere (who saw SnapChat coming?), a fresh marketing plan should be developed every year. Here are some tips you might consider when wrapping up 2014 and planning your marketing for the new year.

Learning from History

planning2015_02Spanish philosopher, novelist and poet George Santayana made the famous observation that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is one of those quotes a business manager or owner should place in a prominent position on his or her desk. The only way a company can grow from quarter to quarter, year to year is to learn from the past – both the successes and the failures. This is the reason for the first step in developing a company’s annual marketing plan: analyzing what worked and what didn’t in the previous year.

This analysis starts down that long, dark and no doubt scary hallway where the company’s accounting is done. Getting the real facts about the company’s sales and, more importantly, profits for the previous year is the most direct method of building a marketing plan for the year to come. There are several factors to consider:

• What were the company’s gross sales in 2014 and how does this number relate to previous years?

• What were the marketing expenses – advertising, public relations, social media, sales travel, and other expenses – involved in generating these sales?

• Were there any sales spikes in the year, and if so, what caused them?

• What were the advertising campaigns or media expenditures which resulted in the best return on investment?

• In general, what worked and what didn’t work in 2014 from a marketing perspective, and can a determination be made as to “why”?

Getting Input from Everyone

planning2015_03No matter how smart you are as the CEO, someone in your organization likely knows more about some aspect of your business than you do. There is also a good possibility that your outside consultants such as advertising agencies, public relations specialists and others will have valuable insights in areas where you might have less expertise.

It’s much smarter to use the specialized knowledge of these people in the preparation of an annual marketing plan. Ask them to join your planning sessions and advise your team on the best options.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, “You can’t do a marketing plan without getting many people involved. No matter what your size, get feedback from all parts of your company: finance,  manufacturing, personnel, supply and so on – in addition to marketing itself.”

Once this input is gathered, and it could take a few weeks for this to occur, it’s important to synthesize it into a manageable document. In most cases, a marketing plan should require no more than five or six pages.

Arriving at a Final Plan

Once it is in draft form, the marketing plan should be circulated to the entire team charged with making it happen. This widely spread input and especially the quantifiable objectives (sales projections, advertising expenditures and other marketing expenses) set by the management team is critical to the success of the organization in 2015.

There will likely be several changes in the plan between the original draft and the final document. While this can drive a CEO nuts, it is critical to the success of the plan. Monthly and quarterly sales, and profitability schedules should also be included in the plan, and quarterly meetings should be held to compare plan-versus-results.

Once the leadership and personnel of the company have committed to this plan – both the marketing budgets and the sales projections – if there is a dramatic deviation between plan and result, something is wrong and must be fixed as soon as possible. A good marketing plan, created with company-wide input and outside consultants such as advertising agencies and technology providers, should serve as a blueprint for the year’s marketing activities.

The Benefits of Having a Marketing Plan

Let’s face it. Everybody’s busy. Perhaps the last thing you want to think about, especially this time of year, is a marketing plan for 2015. However, if you want to be successful in the coming year, you need to step away from the eggnog (at least for a while), hunker down and get a plan.

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According to the Small Business Encyclopedia, there are several good reasons for doing this.

It’s a rallying point: Your marketing plan gives your troops something to rally behind. If you want your employees to feel committed to your company, it’s important to share with them your vision of where the company is headed in the years to come.

It’s a chart to success: We all know plans are imperfect. How can you possibly know what’s going to happen 12 months or five years from now? However, if you don’t plan, you’re doomed, and an inaccurate plan is far better than no plan at all.

It’s a company operational instruction guide: Your marketing plan is a step-by-step guide for your company’s success. In order to put together a genuine marketing plan, you have to assess your company from top to bottom and make sure all the pieces are working together in the best way.

It’s captured thinking: You don’t allow your financial people to keep their numbers in their heads. It should be no different with marketing. Your written document lays out your game plan. If people leave, if new people arrive, if memories falter, if events bring pressure to alter the givens, the information in the written marketing plan stays intact to remind you of what you’ve agreed on.

Doing the hard work of planning your marketing for the coming year will pay big dividends. It’s not easy, but nothing of value is. Contact us if you’d like to talk about your 2015 marketing plan.

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All Grown Up

All Grown Up is a sideways glance at product trends aimed at young(ish) adults.

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While watching a history program the other evening with my two young children, a commercial break came on with a spot for a brand of adult vitamins.

Adult chewable vitamins.

Adult chewable Gummy vitamins.

Kids, being who they are, immediately asked why I don’t take chewable Gummy vitamins. Well, Bud and Sissy, I said in my best Father Knows Best tone, “I’m an adult. Your mother and I take plain, ol’ regular vitamins. Those vitamins are candy-based gummies, you know, for kids.” The retort: But those people are adults, why are they taking gummy vitamins?

I. Don’t. Know.

This exchange led me to ponder, “Why is there a segment of adults who want to relive their youth through child-like products.” And, “What else is out there that could devolve into one of these somewhat disturbing adult/child hybrid products?”

Quite a few, actually. I can imagine the elevator pitches for their spots now:

Adult Sippy Cups
Why use a ceramic mug or that thermally insulated stainless steel cup for your morning coffee? With Sippy Brand Super Drinky Cups you’ll never have to worry about getting pesky kale juice stains on your Tommy Bahama shirt or spilling 10 oz. of a fine Sumatra blend onto your iPad. Sippy Brand Super Drinky Cups can be used hot or cold. The no tip-over design is perfect for use with alcohol-based drinks. Comes with three decorative sticker packs.

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Adult Woobies
Are the kids or husband placing too many demands on you? Is the boss pressuring you at work with inconceivable deadlines or joyless tasks? Relax. Just sit back and hug your Wooby Brand Really-Big-Boy Woobie. Made of the finest Alpaca wool in a variety of sophisticated colors, your Really-Big-Boy Woobie will take the edge off your existential crisis in no time at all. For home or office. Perfect for use at client meetings. Thumb-sucking or crying while using your Really-Big-Boy or Really-Big-Girl Woobie is purely optional.

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My First Home Playset
You played house as a kid; now play house as an adult! With your My First Home Playset starter pack, you get one, 100’ x 125’ zero-lot-line property; a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1,750 sq. ft. move-in ready home unit; a low-maintenance landscaping kit (just add water!); colorful ceramic tiles for your bathrooms and kitchen, and our exclusive granite countertop pack. Playsets come in various styles, materials and colors. Move walls! Add a roof! Mix and match! See catalog for furniture sets. Includes My First Home Mortgage. Pets and children not included.

Please visit our website to learn more about our entire line of My First Brand Adult Playsets, including My First Managerial Job, My First Affair, My First Divorce and My First Bankruptcy.

Exhibited below: a rare 1957 edition My First Home Playset – mint, in mint box.bombb house f2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Diapers
I know, I know, adult diapers already exist, but those are for the incontinent, the sick or the elderly. I’m talking adult diapers for those who long for the freedom to just “let it all go” without care or worry. What could be more American than that?

I think the pitch for that product would go something like this:

Are your snack breaks more important than your bathroom breaks? Do you have a long commute to work? Will you be stuck with a window seat on your next transcontinental flight? Maybe you’re just looking for new ways to time-shave or multitask. With new Doodiful Brand Adult Diapers you’ll have the confidence to know that if you have to go, you can go ahead and go. Any time. Any place. No one need ever know. (I’m wearing one now.)

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I’m just throwing those ideas out there, people.

Feel free to run with them, but make sure you’re wearing your Garanimals for Adults Premium Jogging Ensemble while you’re running. Operators are standing by.

 

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Prejean Creative Goes on a Binge

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One of the biggest changes in the way we watch television involves watching an entire season after it has originally aired. This phenomenon, known as “binge-watching,” has a firm hold on us here at Prejean Creative.

Marketers are closely watching this change in viewing habits, due to the lack of commercials during the program. This has huge ramifications for the way TV programming is typically paid for by the networks and how marketers reach these audiences.

If someone can stream an entire season of a hit show without the interruptions, how likely are they to watch the show the first time it airs with ads? Of course, HBO/Cinemax/Showtime don’t rely on commercials for their business plan, but the competition from NetFlix for original programming will also threaten their niche. It remains to be seen how the long-term implications shake out, but in the meantime, we’re having a bit of fun with this indulgent behavior.

What Makes a Bingeable Show?

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Well-known TV critic, Verne Gay of Newsday recently noted, “Most TV is suitable for grazing only, if that.” So, what could possibly motivate someone to go beyond grazing and adopt a six-course meal approach of binge-watching?

He came up with six qualifications that make for the most bingeable of shows.

1. Shows should ideally have an ongoing narrative. When one episode ends, you should be left with a burning desire to know what happens in the next episode.

2. You should care about the characters.

3. You should always have an abiding assumption that this long journey you’ll be embarking on will actually have an end, and that each episode will be a step toward finality.

4. It has to be fun. You are going on a long trip (and) this trip had better be fun.

5. It’s informative with some redeeming quality such as good actors, or production values, or writing.

6. No commercials. Binging isn’t about stopping and starting, or getting hit over the head with ad after ad after ad. That’s one reason why binging is suddenly hot – an escape from an endless stream of hard sell.

Why Are Our Eyes So Bloodshot? TV Binges.
Using the latest scientific consumer polling techniques (OK, we sent an email around), the Prejean Creative team was queried on which shows they binge-watch and why. The results reveal more than their company bios.

Lisa Prejean

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Lisa shared some thoughts on her top three binges.

The Walking Dead
During the last few weeks, I caught up on this show from the beginning so I could be up-to-speed for the start of season 5. I had resisted watching this show up until now, because I thought, “Zombies? Really?” However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s much more than that. Although some episodes have a few weak plot moments, and the blood and guts are overdone in my opinion, it’s definitely worth following.
House of Cards
Just perfection. Watch it.
Downton Abbey
A counterbalance to all that gore and wickedness from the other two, and I love a good period drama. The Crawley family and their house staff provide lots of drama and scandal, but are so much more “civilized” about it. History and fabulous costumes, too.

Kim Bonin Chandler

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As the numbers lady around the shop, Kim’s expertise is in making the columns add up. It is therefore interesting that her favorite shows to binge-watch are much more right-brained. Her favorite shows to binge on?

Once Upon a Time and Downton Abbey

Kim notes, “I enjoy the romance of Once Upon a Time and I love the era of Downton Abbey.

Kevin Prejean

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Intrigue, fantasy and comedy are some of the traits that describe Kevin. It is therefore logical that his three favorite shows to binge on are:

Breaking Bad / Game of Thrones / Flight of the Conchords

When asked about his preference for watching one episode after another, Kevin said he preferred binge-watching because the quality of certain television production and writing is outstanding. “I can explore at my leisure, on my own schedule.”

“I can also keep up with complex story lines more easily and there is less time between episodes. (I can knock out 2-4 episodes in an evening.) The less time between episodes, means less time dwelling on each episode’s ending cliff hanger.”

Brent Pelloquin

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Brent’s laid-back personality belies an action figure penchant. His favorite shows to binge-watch include:

Game of Thrones / The Walking Dead / House of Cards

“I binge-watch them for all the same reasons Kevin outlined. Another reason is my schedule. It is so crazy with the kids that I can’t watch anything live or usually miss too many episodes to keep up. Sitting down and watching 2 or 3 episodes to catch up is all I can do. Without Netflix or on-demand type applications I wouldn’t be able to invest in a show.”

Art Young

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After a rough week at the office, I enjoy murder and mayhem…and LOTS of it. It is for these simple criteria that my better half and I have recently binged on these blood-soaked, video delicacies.

True Detective
A friend who’s a cop told me he “knew” these two guys from his professional life and their characters are dead-solid perfect.
Homeland
International intrigue, substance abuse and governmental conspiracies. What’s not to like?
The Blacklist
Two words: James Spader. Well actually, that’s his name, not two words. But you get my drift.

Gary LoBue, Jr.

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I’m binge-watching these programs because I’m all about time management. Or maybe it’s just the lack of time in general. With two young children at home, my time is devoted to them first and foremost.

Time is like currency. It’s very precious and there’s never enough of it.

I once heard that if a shark stops swimming they die. Well, if I don’t read, I die. Depending upon the subject matter of the book and my general interest level, the binge-watching could be thrown to the floor and I stick with the printed matter. Once the nightly reads are done then it’s, boom, fire up some Netflix®, On Demand or HBO GO®.

Here are three of my favorites:

Sherlock
Because it’s Benedict “Effing” Cumberbatch playing Sherlock “Effing” Holmes; not to mention the brilliant Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. Intriguing, smart, pithy, maintains a high production value and it’s just so damn British.
Person of Interest
Gee, let me see, it’s only executive-produced by a couple of guys who go by the names of J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan (brother of Chris). Jonathan penned a few minor movies. I think the titles were The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Memento and the forthcoming Matthew McConaughey flick, Interstellar. And it stars big Jim Caviezel in the lead role. It’s the only “big three network” TV series I’ll watch.
Firefly
Possibly the best network science fiction series ever produced that you’ve never heard of. Exec-produced and directed by Joss Whedon, Firefly has this amazing humanistic approach and vibe. It’s not about the science fiction as much as it’s about human nature and human interaction. The storyline just happens to take place in the future. Based in part on the American Civil War, Firefly is part of the space-western niche genre.

Andre Dugal

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As the newest member of the Prejean Creative team, Andre’s binge-watching choices show his personality is eclectic enough to fit right in. Here are three of his favorites.

Shameless
Turning the“family drama” formula on its head, Shameless does a great job of blending comedy with genuine struggle. Between plotting to steal disability checks from a dead aunt, selling drugs to local kids out of an ice cream truck, or getting a black market kidney transplant in a warehouse, the show manages to create characters that are dynamic and relatable with issues that you believe and care about. Shameless will bring you from extreme humor to extreme emotional turmoil all within the same scene.
Community
This is a half-hour comedy from creator Dan Harmon set in Greendale Community College about a small group of students who meet up to study Spanish, but end up doing everything under the sun but that. Putting a twist on The Breakfast Club formula, each member of the group has some defining dysfunctional tendency that ultimately brings them together as a group. Community is a very smart comedy that delivers jokes at a lightning pace, piling them one on top of another and running some jokes over a span of multiple episodes.
Game of Thrones
Does anyone really need a description for Game of Thrones at this point? Dynamic fantasy setting, a ton of characters, and unpredictable deaths of all the ones you like.

Now you know why there is a lot of yawning at Prejean Creative! With all of these choices, if you’re not a binge-watcher now, you might decide to become one. So, where’s the popcorn?

 

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‘Tis the Season for Christmas Creep

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Although school now starts in August in most places, summer is usually officially ushered out the door on Labor Day weekend, the first Monday of September. It’s on this date when the Christmas season begins. Really?

Aren’t we supposed to have a few other holidays before we start decking the halls with boughs of holly? At the risk of being accused of Scrooging (a made-up verb which means to be indifferent to Christmas), many of us feel the blessed holiday season has gotten out of hand. At the very least, it’s jumped the gun by a couple of months.

Of course, those of us in the marketing and advertising trade are partially to blame for this state of affairs, as retail clients stretch the Christmas selling season in order to meet sales goals set way back in the spring.

Why is This Rush to Christmas Shopping Occurring?
In the words of the confidential source of journalists Woodward and Bernsteinthe best way to understand this rush to Christmas is to “follow the money.” The sales from the holiday season can account for greater than 50 percent of a retail store’s annual volume. This puts enormous pressure on these companies to encourage customers to begin thinking of buying long before Turkey Day.

xmas_creep_02Even e-commerce has gotten the early-season memo. “Christmas is the time of year that retailers look forward to and plan for all year long,” said Jordan Weinstein, managing director, EMEA at ChannelAdvisor. “As we suspected, our survey shows that retailers are planning to begin their promotions even earlier this year, with 62 percent having started their efforts by September. This highlights how critical it is for online retailers to prepare for Christmas early, allowing time to test and fine-tune their campaigns. At such a competitive time of year, it is those who prepare well in advance that have the advantage.

The Problems With Christmas Creep
Many otherwise jovial people, folks who love to jingle bells and trim trees, have developed Extended Christmas Season Malaise. If enough people catch it, a backlash could occur. And as we all know, a backlash is definitely not good for business.

According to ABC News, when retailer K-Mart started its holiday push in September last year, the company Facebook page was aglow with angry remarks.”Shame on you Kmart for advertising Christmas this early!! I WILL NOT be shopping at Kmart,” one angry shopper vented. “Why don’t you just start this on January 1st each year! This is ridiculous,” wrote another.

xmas_creep_03As a result, this year K-Mart began airing a “Not a Christmas Commercial” TV spot, which is a veiled reference to getting a jump on seasonal shopping, but treats it humorously and with a soft touch: “We know it’s too early to be talking about Christmas. Let’s just say you have an event, at the end of the year, where everyone gets a gift.”

From a broader perspective, Christmas Creep ruins the true meaning of the holiday. It tarnishes the traditions and emphasizes consumerism. It turns into a business transaction and nobody wants to treated like a “target market,” especially at Christmas time.

Before lacing up those running shoes and setting the alarm for 4 a.m. for another pre-pre-pre-Christmas-24-hour-blowout-sale, enjoy the turning leaves, the beautiful fall weather, the kids trick-or-treating, and the feast of Thanksgiving before jumping on the Santa Express. The Christmas season will be here soon enough and we’ll enjoy it more if it’s not promoted year-round.

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Raising buckets of charitable donations.

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A month ago, most people had only a vague recognition of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. It’s commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, although the famous New York Yankee first baseman who contracted this disease died in 1941.

What a difference a few buckets of ice-cold water over the head makes! And by “a few” we mean thousands and thousands and thousands of buckets.

If you are unaware of the “ice-bucket challenge,” congratulations — you are officially off the grid. And how is life in the cave? For the rest of mankind, this challenge has become the most prevalent, persistent, peculiar, publicity platform in perpetuity.

How Did This Happen?
This social media juggernaut started innocently enough. Former Boston College baseball player, Pete Frates, created the challenge with his family in an effort to spread awareness of ALS, a disease that he has lived with since 2012. The challenge consists of people dropping buckets of icy water over themselves, recording it, sharing the experience on social media, and then nominating others to do the same. Challenge participants are also encouraged to make a donation to ALS research.

als_icewater_02That’s how it started. However, understanding the momentum it has picked up in a very short time has non-profit organizations’ leaders, marketing mavens, social media experts and even Joe Six Pack (whose beer is now warm because he dumped the ice-chest over his head) wondering how this happened. The number of participants who have taken the challenge is almost impossible to calculate, but the financial benefit to the ALS Association in terms of cold, hard cash is staggering.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “the non-profit has raised $15.6 million in donations between July 29 and August 18, compared with $1.8 million during the same period last year. Meanwhile, ALS Therapy Development Institute, a non-profit biotechnical organization said it has raised $550,000 since August 3, compared to about $110,000 during the same period last year.” Even the smaller, more local ALS groups such as the New York City-based Project ALS has raised $116,000 over the past two weeks compared to just $1,000 they raised all of last year.

als_icewater_03Awareness of the disease among the billions of social media users is also sky-high. According to the New York Times, “People have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29.”

When this much money is raised and this much publicity generated by something as silly as dumping cold water over one’s head and then posting this event on Facebook, it begs an obvious question.

Why Did This Work?
As you’re reading this post, there’s a good possibility that somewhere a meeting is going on in some non-profit organization boardroom where the director and staff are trying to replicate the perfect storm success of this viral campaign. There are as many theories about the secret sauce of this ice-bucket challenge as there are social media consultants sipping skinny lattes in Starbucks.

If you’re involved with a non-profit organization, what can you learn from the ice-bucket challenge? There are a few general lessons to be learned. The challenge seems to have worked because it really touched people, it was fun in a watching-someone-slip-on-a-banana-peel kind of way, it was easy to participate and the almost universal penetration of social media offered a convenient medium which everyone loves to feed.

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Other take-aways from the ice-bucket challenge include:

(1)   The call to action (dump a bucket of ice, cold water on your head) was simple and direct and it clearly worked.

(2)   Social media phenomena such as this rely on the power of exponential reiteration. In other words, when someone met the challenge, they challenged others, who challenged others. The bigger the social network, the more powerful the meme.

(3)   Instead of being a doofus who is getting water dumped on his head, this challenge allowed the participant to be a kind of “hero” who is telling their story to the rest of us and sacrificing his image for a greater good.

(4)   Experiential marketing works because it involves participation, and action speaks louder than words. This challenge succeeded because participants became a part of the Pete Frates story of suffering from ALS.

(5)   Technology, such as the use of hashtags like #IceBucketChallenge and #StrikeOutALS, allows this content to be efficiently curated and easily shared on social media.

(6)   The ice-bucket challenge was simple, outrageous and therefore easily remembered, so it is more likely to be contagious.

Narcissism Masked as Altruism
When a social phenomenon becomes as all-pervasive as the ice-bucket challenge has, the naysayers are always ready to rain on the wet heads of challengers. Such is the case with Arielle Pardes writing in online magazine Vice.

“There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice-Bucket Challenge, but the most annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism. By the time the summer heat cools off and ice-water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.”

Don’t sugar-coat it Arielle. How do you really feel?

als_icewater_05“This is the crux of millennial ‘hashtag activism,’ where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook. Like the Ice-Bucket Challenge, good causes end up being a collective of social media navel gazing. We reflected on our favorite social-movements-gone-viral and found out what happened to them after they fell off our Twitter feeds. Because, yes, social problems continue even after you stop hash-tagging them.”

Of course, there is much truth in this analysis. All of the famous people, high-tech swashbucklers, professional athletes, actors and even the poor schlemiels like you and me have egos and we like having people see our Facebook page and giving us big, juicy, heart-felt LIKEs for the many clever, funny (and, yes) altruistic things we say and do. It’s only human.

However, if the trade-off for this narcissism is huge sums of money raised and off-the-charts awareness for a fatal disease, bring me a bucket of ice-water and a video camera.

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