I Blame Oprah

July 13th, 2011

I blame Oprah. Or at least I want to blame Oprah for an icky, funky (and not in a good way), goofy seemingly-exploding category in the ad world.

Allow me to take you back five years. It’s hard for medical shows not to use words that are, you know, normal words describing parts of the body when these words are forbidden by the standards and practices folks. And so it was in 2006: Grey’s Anatomy needed a word to use during a childbirth scene, and thus the word “vajayjay” premiered on television. [The only thing that was actually born, of course, was the stupid word, vajayjay.]

And then? Nothing, really. Even with Jimmy Kimmel, and 30 Rock, and Tyra Banks all using the word… meh. Everyone seemed to go about their business. Vajayjays stayed wherever vajayjays are supposed to be. Then Oprah I-Utter-Your-Product’s-Or-Book’s-Name-And-You-Are-Set-For-Life Winfrey used the word to describe her own vajayjay, and her friends’ vajayjays, and vajayjays in general (here a vajayjay, there a vayjayjay, everywhere a vajayjay) and that was it.

You could say it was the vajayjay heard around the world (beginning with Oprah‘s 45+ million viewers).

Since then, it just seems to me that we have more and more truly wacky advertising for sex aids, health and beauty aids, self-heating, uh, whatever – you name it. We’ve always had condom ads, then it was the ED ads (Q: When the moment is right, will YOU be ready? A: Maybe, but why are our bathtubs in the backyard?), but now? Whoa.

I was just sort of snorting through all these weird ads and getting on with my life when Fleet Lab’s new viral campaign for Summer’s Eve came along. Alas, I could be silent no more. Witness just a tiny sample of these (and other) ads for yourself:

1. SUMMER’S EVE: THAT’S VAGINAL

This is not my fault.

 

2. TROJAN: THE NEW TRIPHORIA VIBRATING, uh, MASSAGER

I have all sorts of questions about this ad, but I guess the biggest one would be… is it good that a “massager” blows your hair back? Would I want said “massager” to blow my hair back? Are there settings on the thing? Slow \ Medium \ High\ Blow Your Hair Back? The mind reels.

 

3. TROJAN: FIRE AND ICE CONDOMS

This ad is so hilarious, it could be a Saturday Night Live spoof on condom commercials, which I’m sure was part of the planned fun. My question here is similar to the one I raised with the Triphoria: less about the crazy ad, more about product characteristics and benefits.

FIRE and ICE? Who is supposed to be enjoying something described as having been “dipped in IcyHot?” It scares me, frankly.

*Sigh*

Such is the state of advertising today, my friends. So crazy, it’ll blow your hair back.

P.S. Check out this spoof of the Cialis “When the moment is right” ad. Hilarious.

Beyaz Weird As Possible

June 6th, 2011

Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… and… and one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and then there’s a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).

I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is simply too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says.

So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile. Check out the ad (see below or HERE):



The “it’s good to have choices” positioning is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a bottle of ketchup – is offensive. And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?

Then there are the choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks like it’s from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best” – in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?

And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will). All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else? Note there are no “and” equations in this ad. It’s all about the “or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.

or me, though, the most disappointing episode takes place over in the Significant Other section of the store. First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being homosexual is not a choice in this retail establishment. Then comes the best part: a woman standing in front of a man (under glass…), only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.

That’s nasty and cruel. And pits women against one another.

The site TresSugar.com does a great job breaking down the ad, scene by scene, object by object. Take a look if you get the chance.

Even in the fantasy world of flying snacks, sodas that never make you fat and perfect hair, I think this ad is over the top in its disdain for women.

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This is an encore presentation of a blog post originally published on Stephanie Fierman: Marketing Daily.

It was my pleasure to be interviewed by Peppers & Rogers1to1 Magazine for a story on the evolution of branding.  My responses were folded into the article “Hasbro Gives Control of Its Brand to Customers” HERE

Below is an expanded version of my answers.  It’s a topic that’s at the very core of how I think about brands, communications and the marketplace.  I would welcome your thoughts.

I’m doing a story about the evolution of branding: particularly the growing influence of the customer experience in branding strategy.  How is branding strategy different now than it used to be?
The biggest difference is that a “brand” is something that marketers and companies are accustomed to controlling. In the past, a company sent all of the brand messages that general audiences heard.  Brands pulled the strings – they had all the information that was to be had, and so were able to manage consumer expectations and impressions. In that kind of world, an unhappy customer or supplier – or a disgruntled employee or competitor – could only reach as many people as were in his or her own circle of friends and associates.

Today, any individual can reach literally millions of people in real-time.  The message is whatever each person wishes it to be.  Even if that message is inaccurate or unflattering, its reach is almost limitless.  And a message someone posts can grow in influence as others pick it up and begin circulating it to ever larger circles – that’s how something becomes “viral” – which means that marketers have to be as viral as their customers, ever- vigilant and ready to address whatever comes their way from any corner of the world.

A quick example is Motrin. Motrin created an ad in 2008 that used an irreverent tone in an effort to sympathize with moms who have sore backs from carrying their infants.  This offended some moms,  Had this happened in 1988, you probably would not have heard about it unless you were personally close to one of these women.  Today, moms created and posted angry videos of their own online, the Motrin ad was viewed 400,000 times on YouTube and thousands of comments were posted on Twitter alone.  And this happened on a Saturday, by the way: we’re on consumer time now, not brand time.  So same reaction, perhaps, as many might have had 20 years ago, but much bigger megaphone.

This is something that companies and marketing teams are not organized to address – and it exposes all elements of a brand, warts and all, 24/7.  Brands are no longer the shouters: they’ve got to be the listeners. For brands that embrace a conversational relationship with the market, this can be an exciting experience that ultimately creates even more respect and love for a brand.  But for marketers who are accustomed to maintaining a tight rein, there are fundamental challenges ahead.

Branding used to be a way to gain awareness to a mass audience. But tools like social media, more robust customer data, and increased online activity in general seem to be pushing branding toward more personal engagement. What are your thoughts?
I don’t think it’s an either/or: each makes the other better.  Better data helps companies spend their mass advertising budgets more effectively and more precisely, which in turn provides air cover for more personal, individual efforts on the ground.  But there’s no question that it’s always been somewhat difficult to measure the effect of many forms of mass media, and – as other customizable channels become even sharper – there will be even more pressure on companies and their media partners to “prove” value from TV and other big efforts.

Personal engagement has another effect, as well: it raises consumer expectations.  How many times have you heard a frustrated person say “but they know me!” in response to an email addressed in the wrong language, or to the opposite gender? Consumers now know that companies have all this data, and they expect to benefit from it.  How well this data is, in fact, applied may then have an impact on whether the market listens to any messages a brand might send in any channel.

How do trust and credibility play a role in branding strategy these days, and how is it different than before?
Everything’s laid bare now.  There is virtually no nugget of information that isn’t available with a quick Google search.  An employee can create a pseudonym, for example, and tell the world how things “really” work, or that a company is being misleading or untruthful.  There’s no way to hold things back, or sweep something under the rug anymore. 

This puts intense pressure on brands to be more authentic and more worthy of consumers’ trust.  Let’s say a company manufactures merchandise overseas in unacceptable or even illegal conditions: in the past it could continue to do so for years, if not forever.  Now that people walk the globe with high-speed Internet access and cell phones that capture video, those times are over.  And if a company does get “caught” doing something today, these dynamics make the blast exponentially more damaging.

Where do you see the future of branding headed?
I’m hopeful about the future. My own professional community is full of marketers who understand that a brand is no longer corporate IP that needs to be policed and protected: it’s the beating heart of the enterprise. Instead of being talked at, consumers want to talk with a brand, and see the very human passion behind what you sell.  That can be scary, but it’s also pretty darn exciting.

What’s the biggest challenge to getting there?
One of the most difficult challenges is the uneven level of understanding and expectations of those who surround the marketer: the CEO, the CFO, the pressured head of sales and the Board, to name a few.  Executives already know what television advertising or print is, no explanation needed.  There’s comfort in that.  There’s going to be a lot of uncertainty and skepticism about dipping into a world that looks a little crazy, to do something a brand’s never done before.  And the road won’t be smooth: it’s already difficult to explain why something “negative” that’s said online is par for the course and why the brand must continue to engage, not back away.  I am very empathetic to the people on both sides of that table.

Any other thoughts?
For those who already know that good ideas rarely come from sitting behind a desk and who get charged up by listening to product users, prospects and partners, this is a great world.  Assuming a brand is being authentic, there is no real “bad” feedback – there are only lessons that help make you better and better.  There’s going to be plenty of trial and error, but this is all about getting closer to your customer, and that’s a great thing.

 

The year is 1978. Disco, clubs, those long sparkly gold and silver scarves a bunch of us wore around our necks trying to look/be cool. Christie Brinkley was the model of the day and Billy Joel’s 52nd Street was the #1 album of the year – Big Shot was the anthem of the wild New York coked-up beauty queen. My contemporary, Brooke Shields, played a 12-year-old prostitute in Pretty Baby. Star Wars had come out the year before and the idea that Times Square would someday look like Disneyworld would have been preposterous.

I was young, but just old enough to realize boys existed and that there might something remotely interesting going on there. Rod Stewart’s cheesy disco song Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? moved me. I had absolutely no clue why, but it did. Big time. I suspect that you have a few embarrassing yet sacred songs like this one, even though you’d never admit it.

So last night I hear the song coming from my TV and look up from the newspaper to see a huge claymation Chips Ahoy cookie singing “If ya want my body, and ya think I’m sexy, come on sugar let me know/If you really need me just reach out and touch me…” to a blonde female claymation figure sitting on (the bachelor cookie’s) couch looking – uh – hungry. Here’s the ad:



I was – plundered. Horrified. I mean, I’d seen Bob Dylan shilling for Victoria’s Secret and heard the resulting cries of angst but it hadn’t affected me: wrong coming-of-age decade. But now, Nabisco had taken my delicate young girl memories and, and, turned them into a chocolate chip cookie! Have they no shame? Will marketing people stop at nothing??

And the commercial most certainly did not make me want a cookie!


My friends and I sometimes get a good laugh out of trying to picture the client/agency meeting that spawned an idea. Picture it: you are the cookie brand/category manager at Nabisco and someone suggests Da Ya Think I’m Sexy for Chips Ahoy. What. Goes. Through. Your. Mind?


Oh well. I’ll be ok. But if anyone uses Yvonne Elliman’s If I Can’t Have You to sell a candy bar, I’m a goner.


P.S. Oh. My. G-d. At this very moment, Meatleaf is singing a version of Paradise by the Dashboard Light (1977) in a TV ad for the AT&T GoPhone. Except this time, it’s Paradise By the GoPhone Light. I have to go lay down.


Tappening Continues To Draw Attention With Its Message
Readers of this blog enjoyed an exclusive interview with the creators of the tap water movement, Tappening. 
Eric Yaverbaum and Mark Dimassimo continue to pick up steam, selling 39,000 bottles in the first 36 hours of the campaign.  Good thing they’ve restocked, because Tappening was featured for the second time this year on Good Morning America just yesterday. The first GMA segment in January featured the Tappening reusable bottle in a segment on hot trends.

Tappening is a great lesson in the power of hipness.  The power of cool – of latching onto something positive and giving consumers a device – a bracelet, a ribbon, a red iPod, a bottle – that lets the owner show everyone that she’s “with it” without her saying anything at all.   Consider how much more attention your cause or brand could get if you could think of a way to make it cool.  Which only prompts this blogger to ask:  How can we get Americans to believe that saving money is uber-chic??


Even Presidential Candidates Have Trouble On The Web
How could Presidential candidates still not get the power of the #1 tool on the Web – search? With the new shiny objects being YouTube and Facebook and blah blah, those wishing to be the leader of the free world are missing out on the #1 way to reach voters. Don’t make the same mistake with your business, your brand or yourself.  The building blocks of any sound digital marketing plan is search.


A Blog At Just The Right Time (On Wall Street)
This week, I stumbled on Hedonic Adjustment (www.hedonicadjustment.com), a blog about personal finance.  I like it:  it’s smart, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Check it out.


Social Networks Are Gaining, But The News Is Messy
There are several surveys out right now in which a high percentage of CMOs say their companies are going to spend money on social networks in 2008.  A much smaller percentage of those same respondents say they actually understand the subject.  Little wonder.  There are big social networks and small ones.  Ski social networks and Greg Brady social networks.  They are also “slowing down” and “gaining big.”  Simultaneously.  What is phenomenally different is that (a) these sites aggregate masses of people who may share certain interests, and (b) you should wade in only if you’re willing to have customers actually talk back to or at you.  Don’t try this alone.  But beyond these specific insights, the principles of authentic communication, a better mousetrap and compelling creative still apply.


Everything You Wanted To Know About Online Video
This is a wonderful white paper from our friends at the IAB:  the first in a series about the online video space.  14 pages sounds like a lot, but it’s a painless read and will make you sound like you know what you’re talking about.  Quick:  what’s the difference between in-banner, in-stream and in-text online video?  Like I said…


Whom Do You Trust?
Jarvis Cromwell is a great friend to Marketing Mojo  and his own blog, Reputation Garage, is a must read for those interested in the critical topic of building institutional reputation.   Readers get a real bonus by reading a post from guest blogger Paul Dunay on this very topic.   For the first time, Edelman’s annual survey on trust included 25- to 34-year-old “opinion elites” in 12 countries who appear to put more trust in business than do their older colleagues.


The Tipping Point is Fine, Even If We Can’t Prove It
This is a very interesting article about a scientist named Duncan Watts who believes that influentials – the individuals or small groups in society that market puersrsue for their power to spread ideas and trends quickly – is bunk. I’m posting this article because it smells fishy to me. The experiments ring false, and it feels very much like an academic trying to prove the unprovable and almost poking fun (why?) at all of us who believe in the “tipping point” concept. What’s his (or Fast Company’s) angle?  Human behavior – and the spark that ignites or extinguishes a new idea or product – is sometimes unpredictable magic. Marketers know this. Academics, not so much.


“Oh, Yeah?? Well Go Elf Yourself!”
And finally – just in case you were living under a Christmas tree and missed it – no marketing blog would be complete without a shout-out to the Office Max “Go Elf Yourself” viral campaign that allowed users to paste images of their own faces onto the bodies of dancing elves. 26.4 million – NEARLY ONE IN EVERY 10 AMERICANS – visited the company’s holiday site in 4 weeks. Blog mentions were ginormous. So it’s a major bummer that the company’s head of marketing and advertising said that the initiative wasn’t intended to drive sales. “We are third-place players in our industry, so we are trying to differentiate ourselves through humor and humanization.” Geez, that’s embarrassing: an attitude like that just may contribute to the company being satisfied coming in 3rd in a field of 3. And it’s a shame, really, because he’s wrong: if the Mojo was in charge, the value Office Max would derive from that email list of “friendlies” would be bigger and more long-lasting than the campaign itself. 

Retail Cooperatives Move Online
Data cooperatives that track catalog purchase behavior have been around for decades.  Catalog retailers join the cooperative, submit their own anonymous but detailed purchase data and then can use the aggregated data to make targeting decisions.  Now this concept has jumped to the web, which could be very exciting.  An online cooperative called aCerno acts as a clearinghouse for retailers to share data collected from web transactions. “The system would allow an online retailer to contribute information, such as a cookie tied to a customer who bought a lawn mower. Another co-op member could then use that data to show the person an ad for a related product, like gardening supplies, with the supplier getting a cut.”


Online Video-Sharing Site Usage is Huge

43% of female and 53% of male adult Internet users visited an online video-sharing content site in 2007, and the %s in all age ranges soared.  Check this article for interesting and detailed stats.


Top 10 Viral Videos of 2007
Here are Jack Myers’ picks.  The #1 most popular video had 20 million views on YouTube and needs no introduction.  On a personal note, I did not do so well with geography in elementary school myself, so this video makes me feel a lot better.


Taser Home Shopping Parties a “Stunning” Success
The Tupperware party idea has finally jumped the shark.  Proof positive that you can apply a high-pressure ponzi scheme to just about anything!


Match the Medium to what People Actually do with It
This is an article detailing some of Rupert Murdoch’s thinking re. the future of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, he’s a genius.  His simple point of view is that – in a multi-media, multi-channel, multi-screen world – each channel’s content should be based on the interest and needs of its users.  For example:  perhaps the long, long, long stories on the cover of the Wall Street Journal each day would be better off in the weekend edition, when readers could actually find the time to read them.  The WSJ shouldn’t be ESPN, but maybe a simply sports score chart would be useful to traveling businesspeople who might get yesterday’s scores by picking up the newspaper left outside her hotel room. 

This is the process that Time magazine must pursue if it is going to survive.  Forget about the past.  (1) Put index cards up on a bulletin board that say Website / Mobile Web / Mobile Text / Print.  (2) Decide who uses each, when and for what.  (3) Execute mercilessly.  This is the process that the Variety franchise pursued when I was at Reed Elsevier:  Variety online is best for quick visits and breaking news.  Daily Variety is great for finding out what you missed yesterday, with just enough context.  Weekly Variety offers long-form articles and a discussion of trends. 


The Trading Up Phenomenon is Recession-Proof
This is an article in The New York Times (01.20.08) that tries to tie the idea that consumers are reigning in spending at the moment to an overall “decline” of the idea that consumers who are not truly wealthy “trade up” to luxury brands when they have discretionary cash.  This blogger has discussed her interest in this concept before, and recommends Michael Silverstein’s and Neil Fiske’s book on the topic Trading Up: The New American Luxury.  Like Silverstein, who’s quoted in this article, I think the author of this article is way off track.  The whole point is that middle- to upper-middle class people trade down when they are low on funds, and up when they are flush.  “The trading up phenomenon is quite recession-proof,” Mr. Silverstein says.

Check out the WGA’s YouTube video about the writers’ strike.  

A few observations:

 
(1) Re. the actual reason for the strike… I think that media companies are going to have a hard time having it both ways. The video goes out of its way to make a point of this, just in case anyone has forgotten how much dough these same companies have claimed that new media content is worth.

(2) There were several articles this week claiming that the WGA members were beginning to win over the public.  How best to reach, first off, The Daily Show’s existing audience and, secondly, the millions of others who want to see something funny (and will listen to your message as a side bonus?).    Plus you don’t have the eternal recall problem of remembering whether that caveman ad was for Geico or Aflac… You’re the whole game!

The best marketing possible is authentic, endemic and real:  and the bar is only raised for social media efforts.   For me, this may be the most spot-on use of social media/YouTube/UGM. Huzzah!

(3) I have a blinding admiration for creative talent and this was just too good not to post.

Mattel’s Missed Opportunity

September 24th, 2007

The most recent news on the Mattel toy recall story is the company’s apology to China.



Clearly Mattel and the entire toy industry have serious challenges right now, but this post is not about China, or manufacturing or lead paint: it’s about how puzzled I am that Mattel – the world’s biggest and perhaps most repected toy company – would permit others to control the story, particularly when the web makes it so easy to get a message out quickly, clearly, repeatedly and directly. Let’s look at just the last several days.

On Friday, September 21, Thomas Debrowski, Mattel’s head of operations, appeared on camera in China to personally apologize for its massive recall of Chinese-made toys.  Mattel made the decision to do this because most of the items were defective due to a (Mattel) design flaw and not because of a (Chinese) manufacturing problem. Several media outlets interpreted this move as Mattel’s attempt to protect its own fortunes, with ABC saying that the company was trying to patch up its relationship with a country that “makes most of its toys and fattens its profit” and the Washington Post pointing out that the toymaker “receives 65 percent of its toys from China and has made significant financial investments in the Asian country.” These reports prompted Mattel to react with a formal statement defending the apology and attempting to point out that it was very similar, if not the same, to the apologies that the company had offered in several other markets. Ugh.

So I went to mattel.com fully expecting the entire home page to be taken over by the company’s messaging and statements of caring and action about this situation. I assumed I would see perhaps one-click access to a moment-by-moment updated list of recalled toys, a video statement from the Chairman, further explanation of the company’s apology to the Chinese, an invitation to call a 24/7-manned 800# hotline for further information and messages to key stakeholders such as parents and stockholders. Maybe a corporate blog. I can’t overestimate how much I just assumed about what’d I’d find at their site. When I stopped for a moment to think about why, I realized, actually, that I had such positive feelings/memories about the company that I just figured they’d “do the right thing”:  Mattel itself is the entity that creating such high expectation on my part.

Here is a snapshot of Mattel’s home page as of Monday, September 24 at:

stephanie_fierman_mattel-home-page.jpg

The main section of the well is unchanged (“The World’s Premier Toy Brands Today and Tomorrow”). Two smaller call-outs link to a recall list last updated September 4, nearly three weeks ago, and the only statement from the Chairman accessible from the home page is Mr. Eckert’s Wall Street Journal editorial dated September 11, more than two weeks ago. In what I consider to be a particularly painful irony, the third of the three call-outs notes that Mattel has been named one of the 100 best corporate citizens of 2007 by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine.

The first item in a “Mattel in the News” section (IS there any other news?) refers to a new Barbie full-length DVD musical and kick-off event. [NOTE: as an aside, it is possible that Mattel is inadvertently damaging the potential of this new product by having it on the home page at a time when visitors are least likely to want to be receptive to Mattel marketing messages.

There’s no landing page solely devoted to what’s happening and what people care about right now.  Even the information in the site isn’t completely updated.  Forget about the video blogs I’d have all over the web updated multiple times/day, the street teams I might consider fanning out all over the US to talk to real citizens, the use of Youtube to get your position out – in other words, the extensive list of PR options Mattel management deserves and should have in front of them at this moment…  They’re not even using the most valuable piece of real estate in the universe right now, mattel.com, to take charge.

Having made these decisions before, I do not underestimate their difficulty, or the pain this has caused Mattel.  And being an honorable company may just make it worse.  You assume that the public sees and understands much more than they do:  that they will rationally assess an incident in the context of your track record of excellence.
 
If this was ever true, the Internet has forever changed the picture.


It’s not about truth on the Web:  it’s about sensationalism.  The Google algorithm actually rewards popularity – the bigger the fire, the better.   So where companies may have believed that the high road meant staying silent, sticking to their knitting and just fixing the problem… that is no longer an option.

Whoever steps into the void is the party that will be heard, so a premier company like Mattel needs to re-program itself to understand that the “high road” now means delivering authentic 24-hour information online – in good times and bad. 

Manage the story, Mattel: don’t let the story manage you.

“Are we in heaven?”

September 11th, 2007

“Are we in heaven?” asks one of the videos’ guests. 

No, Dorothy, we’re at Neiman Marcus.” Or so the high-end department store chain would have us respond on this, the store’s 100th anniversary.
Neiman Marcus has created a 4-part online video series called “The Mystique” and it’s getting its share of criticism online. For some reason, Neiman decided to run Part 1 on the home page of Youtube.com – and paid for it with some criticism. Comments range from “Neiman Marcus= needless markup” to “This is a seriously pointless video.” Other, more positive comments were logged, as well. Why did Neiman Marcus pay $250,000 to spend one day on the home page of Youtube in the first place? A little undercooked thinking is behind the plan, with the VP of corporate communications quoted as saying “Like with anything, you hear people in meetings say, ‘Did you see the thing on YouTube?'” Except Neiman Marcus isn’t “anything” – it’s not a video of someone killing an iPhone in a blender, or your crazy Aunt Agatha falling off the roof – it’s one of the greatest specialty retailers in the country.  Truly a story of American entrepreneurship, Neiman stands for luxury, fantasy and “retail theatre” in the grandest sort of way. It’s not for everyone – what luxury brand is? – but then again that’s why it doesn’t belong on YouTube.

And speaking of luxury, the videos are beautiful. All four are lovingly shot, produced and inspired in their thinking. I do have a beef with the editing, in that each of the four is a bit of a story hodge-podge, jumping between ideas such as design, store display, the history of the chain, the importance of designer relationships, etc.  Neiman would have been been better off reserving each of the four for one theme, and then naming each segment accordingly, so that each story had its own thread and viewers could tell what they were about to see (i.e., name the first installment “The Story” instead of Part 1, the second installment “What is Luxury” instead of Part 2, etc.). But they were fun to watch all the same. Lastly, I’m curious as to where NM is, in fact, running the series in order to reach its key constituencies, whom I see as shoppers and would-be well-to-do visitors, designers, vendors and partners (outside of employees, whom I hope can find them easily on the NM intranet). This intrepid blogger could not easily find them off the NM homepage, nor by Googling “Neiman Marcus, “Neiman Marcus video” or “Neiman Marcus 100 anniversary video.” I wandered luxury sites and blogs – no dice.

Let’s hope that Neiman is using its own customer list, at minimum, to make sure its most valuable friends and family see and enjoy this work. And how do you get a viewer to watch 4 separate vignettes? Give them something for doing what you ask. Neiman Marcus has long had one of the most successful frequent shopper rewards programs around, InCircle. If I were running the ship, I’d give each viewer at least 100 InCircle points (reward levels don’t even start until one has 5,000 points!) for giving me their email address and for watching each of the four videos. The viewer is inspired and rewarded, and I get them back into the store, feeling the magic.

Using new Internet capabilities – blogging, podcoasting, online videos –not to be part of the media pile-on (“yay, we’re on Youtube!”) but to draw your supporters even closer, make them even more loyal? Magic, indeed.