Tag Archives: marketing

Business Needs to Understand the Rules to Play the Social Media Game

By Jason Menard,

The wonderful thing about working in communications is that it’s an ever-changing gig. Just when you think you have things figured out, something else pops up – and the whole game changes.

With that in mind, how do you know what rules to follow so that you – and your company – can win? Continue reading

Truth in Advertising a Winning Play

By Jason Menard

At last — truth in advertising! And from a sports franchise no less.

When it comes to businesses, sports are one of the least likely enterprises to engage in honesty — after all, a large part of a club’s revenue is generated, in one way or another, by selling their fan base on hope.

Hope sells jerseys. Hope sells tickets — and once those butts are in the seat, hope delivers them to the concession booth where hope justifies paying outrageous sums of money for watered-down beer, cheaply made clothing bearing the team’s logo, and seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time knick-knacks (which can easily be confused, if you’re in Madison Square Garden, with Knick Knacks.) Continue reading

Hyperbolic Infomercial Teaches a Lesson

By Jason Menard

It’s amazing how one person’s hyperbolic statement can be another person’s accurate reflection of an event. You can call it synergy, you can call it fate – I call it the power of the late-night infomercial. And maybe our eyes, once opened by shock and disbelief, can remain open to potential happiness that we once took for granted.

It happened just the other night, as my wife and I were mindlessly flipping through channels. Suddenly, a hyperactive piercing voice broke through the ever-changing sea of interrupted conversations, broken music beats, and flashing images. It compelled us to stop, hypnotically drawn to the surrealism of the event.

Now, I own a perfectly good vacuum. I also own a couple of perfectly broken vacuums that I keep around in case I have a technological epiphany and am suddenly able to do more with electronic equipment than simply electrocute myself. The point of all this is to say that I really don’t need a new vacuum.

That being said, the woman – in her increasingly manic state – was doing her best to convince me. Or, should I say, she was trying to stoke the dormant flames of my small appliance passion. The man next to her was doing the convincing – lifting up bowling balls; picking up freezers, and sucking up bowls of dust.

And it was in the midst of me thinking about how infrequently I need to vacuum up sporting goods, large appliances, and evidence of neglect so bad that if they existed in my home I would take my kids to Children’s Aid myself, it happened. That moment of clarity that enveloped me and made me one with the universe.

In the midst of an apoplectic, semi-orgasmic state of rapture regarding the ability of this vacuum to suck up water, the woman screamed, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life!”

And I agreed with the statement, if not the target of the sentiment.

I too had never seen anything like that in my life. Never have I seen anyone so maniacally enchanted with an electronic appliance – well, at least one that wasn’t intended to induce apoplectic, fully-orgasmic states of rapture. And while my initial reaction was to mock, upon further reflection perhaps I should admire this woman for ability to appreciate all of life’s gifts.

Needless to say, I did not purchase said miracle bowling-ball sucking vacuum, as I came away less than impressed with the presentation. But maybe that’s my fault – maybe I’m too jaded by life that I take for granted the smaller things in life.

I, apparently, save my reverence for what I consider the bigger things in my life. I experience joy when I see my children greet me when I come home from work; I derive pleasure from the embrace of my wife; I am awestruck by particularly beautiful expressions of artistic talent whether it be dance, song, and prose. Alas, the joyful potential of appreciating functionality of home cleaning appliances has eluded me to this date.

The hum of a washing machine will not induce the release of dopamine; the beep of a microwave oven doesn’t cause tears to well in my eyes; and the sound of my freezer self-regulating its temperature completely fails to bring me any joy whatsoever. Yet vacuum woman – the one who had never seen anything like this – would probably derive hours of pleasure from any one of those stimuli. And perish the thought – if she experienced all three, she’d probably be incapacitated by the sheer waves of joy convulsing through her body.

I mock, but just think how wonderful life would be if we all could experience such exuberance over the smallest things. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here beyond why my vacuum fails to perform at its fullest potential.

Maybe we need to learn how to take more pleasure in some of the smaller things in life. We spend so much time thinking about our stresses, what’s wrong in life, and what bothers us that we let literally thousands of positive experiences slide right on by us. We spend so much time saving up for grand expressions of joy that we overlook the cumulative potential of experiencing several smaller moments of enjoyment.

Sure, reverential awe for a vacuum cleaner may be taking this to the extreme – but there’s really nothing wrong with enjoying all of life’s gifts. Whether it’s the smile on a child’s face, the feel of driving a car home from work, or the sound of a bird singing maybe we should all have a few more of those “I’ve never seen anything like this” moments in our lives.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Marketing God

By Jason Menard

Far from being a sign of the Apocalypse, the United Church of Canada’s decision to engage in an aggressive, and surprisingly edgy, marketing campaign is just the Church using one of its traditional strengths – business acumen.

In an attempt to make the Church more appealing for the coveted 30-45-year-old demographic, the United Church will be unveiling a series of ads designed to challenge the traditional view of religious entities. By blowing off the dust and appearing to make the Church seem less stuffy, they’re hoping that they can penetrate a market ripe for exploitation.

Statistics Canada figures show that while 80 per cent of Canadians believe in some sort of higher power, only 19 per cent actually set foot into a place of worship. For many Canadians the only time they set foot in a Church is for weddings and funerals. The United Church’s aggressive $10.5-million campaign is hoping to change that.

And while traditionalists may lament the fact that their beloved Church has fallen prey to the evils of commerce, the truth of the matter is that the Church – with a few noted slip-ups along the way — has always been a savvy judge of people and has shown a willingness to tailor the message to make it more palatable for the masses. After all, what’s the point of having something to say when you’re shouting it to empty pews?

One could take a look at the way Christianity was founded as the perfect example of supply meeting demand. Developed around a Roman society built upon classes and slaves, many people were left feeling oppressed and worthless. As slaves, they had no rights of their own and they were forced to watch as a relatively small group of people enjoyed the spoils of riches – earning lavish lifestyles in the here and now.

For the average slave – or even someone in the working classes – hope was a concept that wasn’t even worth discussing. And, lo and behold, here comes a religion that professes that no matter how challenged you are in this world, if you live a good life and give yourself to God, you’ll enjoy riches and happiness beyond your wildest dreams in the afterlife.

What a great message! And it seems almost custom-tailored to the largest audience that was most willing to listen to it. Be a good person, don’t rise up in anger against oppression, ascribe to stoic faith, and the rewards will be plentiful once you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Whether it’s been through the Protestant Reformation or the two Vatican councils, the Church itself – or significant members of its hierarchy – has shown the willingness to listen to the will of the people and adjust its philosophies accordingly. For some faithful, the changes have been too much, moving away from their static view of the Word of God, while for others there hasn’t been enough change. They feel the Church is still stuck with outdated morals and beliefs that don’t mesh with today’s believer.

And that’s where the balancing act comes in for the clergy. How do you make a text written 2,000 years ago relevant for today’s environment? As the world has shrunk and the depth of our knowledge continues to grow, can we adequately say that concepts that held true then still resonate now?

Society has changed. Far more people are willing to admit that their Atheist or Agnostic. Other religions and belief systems from around the world have found their way to Canadian soil, giving people more pause for thought – and more options for their faith. It’s a competitive environment out there – and the prize is society’s souls.

However, old messaging doesn’t cut it any more. Like watching a commercial made in the 1970s today, the style and advertising tactics look out of date. To appeal to today’s media-savvy generations, you have to embrace the voice that speaks most clearly to them. And the United Church has recognized that with its new campaign.

Chances are there are some faithful who will be offended by the image of two grooms on a wedding cake followed by the words, “anyone object?” And for some the question of “how much fun can sex be before it is a sin?” is one that shouldn’t even be asked. But the problem is, if you’re going to keep preaching to the same choir, eventually you’re going to run out of ears. You need new blood, new passion, and new ideas to keep your organization stimulated. In business, you need to change with the times. You adhere to your key values and core principles, but you bend where needed to meet today’s needs.

For the most part, people aren’t willing to blindly follow any one religion any more. They want to have the opportunity to question their beliefs, to discuss the challenging topics, and to make their decisions with the support of a higher power – not just in blind adherence to a 2,000-year-old edict mired in metaphor and imagery.

The United Church gets that. And this new advertising campaign shows that the Church is more than just a place for spiritual enlightenment – it’s got a pretty savvy business sense to go with it.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

A Hair-Raising Way to Grow a Legacy

By Jason Menard

José Théodore, congratulations, your potential for public shame has just turned into the potential for a few extra bucks in your wallet! And considering Théodore’s level of pay lately, he may need to start milking that cash cow sooner rather than later.

The Habs netminder’s agent should be on the phone contacting Merck today, if not sooner, to start angling for an ad campaign. With Josés flowing locks, matinee-idol good looks, and general personability, he’d be a natural in the line of Habs Who Schill.

Yes, the Canadiens franchise has spawned a few players who have gone on and benefited from their on-ice exploits to become lucrative off-ice pitchmen. It is a line that started with arguably the greatest Hab of all time – Maurice Richard.

Who of us of a certain age could ever forget the winsome smile of The Rocket as he glided up to the boards, looked into the camera, and said “I leave a touch of grey on the side – my wife likes it.” As a Grecian Formula pitchman, Richard’s visibility grew amongst an entirely new generation of hockey fans.

And it’s that return to relevancy that can take icons to immortal status. Legends are only as legendary as the level of reverence that the current generation holds for the individual. As time passes, subsequent generations are quick to dismiss the exploits of our forebears as evidence of a poorer quality of play, less-athletic competitors, and a lack of technological savvy.

A player like Maurice Richard continues to be relevant in large part due to his on-ice exploits and the oral history passed on from one hockey fan to another. But the impact of the visual representation through these advertisements can’t be diminished. Still not convinced? Two words: Bob Uecker.

Uecker is known more for his Miller Lite acting prowess than anything he did behind the plate. Which brings us to our next Hab to grace the small screen – Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion.

A Hall-of-Famer in his own right, Geoffrion often gets lost in the discussion of great players from his era. Arguably the originator of the slap shot, his accomplishment is frequently overshadowed by Bobby Hull’s proficiency and role in popularizing the shot. But what can’t be forgotten is Geoffrion’s Miller Lite commercials appearing in the late 70s and early ‘80s. His brand of humour and accessibility resonated with an audience that was far too young to consider drinking.

Is it fair to say that Geoffrion’s star shines brighter than even his own father-in-law, Howie Morenz? While Morenz remains an icon to hockey historians and enthusiasts, the average fan is more familiar with Boom Boom than the Stratford Streak (or Mitchell Meteor – we don’t want to engage in any municipal favouritism). Why? The power of advertising, that’s all. For a man who was once known as the Babe Ruth of Hockey to be overshadowed by his formerly beer-shilling son-in-law, accessibility has to be a significant component of the equation. The demographic that grew up watching Bernie and Maurice on the small screen selling product instead of firing pucks at wary goaltenders is now the one that’s defining the direction of hockey. Those between the ages of 25 and 40 are the demographic that the networks cater to – and, in large part, we are the demographic that’s the caretaker of our legends’ statuses.

Obviously, this is not just a hockey issue. Look at the NFL’s John Madden. His fame arguably has exceeded that of the legendary Vince Lombardi, not because of his coaching exploits, but due to the fact that millions of money-earning (and spending) fans grew up and continue to play the video games that bear his name. Media makes superstars – and the savvy athlete knows when to strike while the iron is hot.

Which brings us to Théodore. With a Vézina Trophy behind him, he’s already proven his prowess between the pipes. Although struggling through a tough season now, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t return to his former glory. And, when he does, his legacy can be cemented with a few, tongue-in-cheek, self-referential advertisements, the memories of which will live on long past the time that he hangs up his skates.

Now’s the time Théo – after all, you know what they say, hair today, gone tomorrow.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved