Archive for the ‘promotions’ Category

There’s No Place Like Home Plate

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Minor_League_Baseball267Baseball has long been known as the national pastime and for good reason.  Nothing quite beats sitting in the stands on a long summer night, watching talented athletes compete on manicured fields while enjoying the requisite hot dogs, peanuts and a “cold one”.  And nowhere is the fun and frivolity more endearing (and enduring) than in minor league baseball.

This past weekend I crossed another ‘to do’ off my bucket list, embarking on a three-day/night, three-travel-state minor league baseball excursion.  This took me and a friend to Chicago for the Kane County Cougars and Schaumburg Boomers and then to Fort Wayne for the Tin Caps.  All three venues offered a veritable potpourri of marketing and promotional fun and value – just what that level of the sport is known for.  After all, where else can you see a pro sporting event today for as low as $5-$10 for admission and even less for spirits and dogs in most cases. And, speaking of “seeing”, there are typically no bad seats in any such house.

It’s family fun at its finest and getting more and more creative all the time, it seems. Where else can you enjoy people dressed up as sandwiches competing to add toppings to themselves (Tincaps), “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Night (Boomers) or monkeys riding dogs herding goats (our own United Shore Professional Baseball league teams – a client ) in Utica, Michigan?

Best of all, minor league baseball is about community. A place where, besides watching baseball and the festivities at large, you can also picnic, play and celebrate neighbors.  “Hometown Heroes” is a staple at most ball parks, including spotlighting and saluting area veterans and their families. Many clubs also have reading and scholarship clubs; variations include players serving as reading members to area youth as well as team acknowledgments of young scholar accomplishments at local schools.

Finally, many cite the purity of the minor league venue in that its players – typically earning anywhere from approximately $10,000-$12,000 a year – are playing as much for a love of the game as a paycheck.  To be sure, we as a society tend to gravitate toward  things that are (or appear) genuine, pure and down-to-earth.  Attending these games – many off the beaten path – felt like returning to my youth and a time spent on dusty, rocky infields and uneven outfields. It felt like nostalgia. It felt like home.


The “Next” Ice Bucket Challenge? Good Luck.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 best PR coup in recent days is the stealing of the headlines from the Democratic Convention by the national ALS Association. They marked the two year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge craze, that significantly raised funds for their mission, by breaking the news that money raised during that time period led to an important new scientific discovery.

Two years is an appropriate amount of time to reflect on the phenomenon that had people all of the world taking videos of themselves dumping water on their heads and challenging others to do the same. Nobody watched it all more closely than the nonprofit community. “This changes everything,” one nonprofit CEO told me at the time. But now, with the benefit of perspective, the Ice Bucket Challenge is more of an anomaly. It’s one that should be celebrated but it’s time to admit that it likely won’t be replicated.

Fundraisers nationwide are still looking for the “next” Ice Bucket Challenge. They haven’t found it. About a year and a half ago, one of our nonprofit clients, a terrific organization funded by exceptionally generous individuals, wanted to try. I explained to them that it’s like music promoters trying to find “The Next Beatles” or basketball scouts looking for “The Next Michael Jordan.” Everyone wants it, but it’s not likely to happen. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a product of a moment in time and everything clicked far better than if a group of PR people sat around a conference table trying to plot it out. What it made it authentic, different and, perhaps most significantly, unprecedented, made it successful.

Our client heard all of that and asked that their staged version happen anyway. We tried it, starting with videos featuring a group of kids because, who doesn’t like sharing cute stuff that kids do online? It bombed. Hard. Just like The Bay City Rollers and Harold Miner.

“The Next Ice Bucket Challenge,” as predicted, just couldn’t gain momentum. As expected, as hard as everyone tried, it felt like a knockoff. In this case, it’s virtually impossible to see how something like what happened in 2014 could ever happen again.

But there are some takeaways from the Ice Bucket Challenge that should stay top of mind. It showed the power of online video. It showed how friends can take cues from friends via social media to donate small amounts of money that can add up to make a difference. It showed that serious subjects can be handled in a fun way and still be respectful. If you’re going to imitate anything, think about that.

Nike Just Does It in London

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Last time, we talked about the brilliance of Dr. Dre in the product placement of his Beats headphones at this year’s Olympics. Yet, the company that many are pointing to as the gold standard in guerilla or “ambush” marketing at the 2012 summer games is one known for its uncanny ability to stand out in the wide world of sports: Nike.

Throughout its history, the Oregon-based sports product giant has been anything but shy about pushing the envelope. From groundbreaking commercials to high-profile sports sponsorships that place its famous “swoosh” logo on pro sport uniforms the world over, Nike is also known for pushing the boundaries – and London has been no exception

While Adidas and other official sponsors plunked down a cool $155 million each for four years of bragging rights, Nike put its dollars into what some are calling misleading yet bold TV commercials, which portray nameless athletes “competing” amidst a clearly London-esque backdrop.

Most notable, though has been how Nike has been able to actually integrate its brand and products into the games themselves – most notably  with its distinctive, neon-yellow Volt shoes. To be sure, the eye-catching dog envelopers have been hard to miss. According to Nike, an astounding 400 athletes have been wearing Volts – the majority of those in track and field but also in boxing and fencing. Even more amazing: As of Friday, 41 athletes had medaled wearing Volt shoes, including 43 percent of track and field medalists.

And what better athletes to give your shoes to. When all are of world-class status, chances are pretty good that they will ‘perform’ well. Remember the classic “must be the shoes” declaration of Spike Lee in the classic Nike Air Jordan spots of yesteryear? We knew better – or did we?

When Is A Banner Not Just A Banner?

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

The answer to that riddle: When it carries a symbolic message of hope, renewal and opportunity. That is exactly what occurred this past week in Detroit as a 10-story “banner” was unfurled from the top of the 20-story 1001 Woodward Building in Campus Martius, across from Compuware. The new message from high atop the downtown skyline? Outsource to Detroit.

We’ve discussed the campaign previously, post Mackinac Conference, when the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce adopted the mantra and movement to promote via their “To Do” list for the year. It’s importance, however, bears repeating, both for its genesis as well as its evolution.

Outsource to Detroit represents the incredible fact, first uncovered by IT leader and Tanner Friedman client GalaxE.Solutions, that, for perhaps the first time ever, high-level, well-paying IT work can be conducted in a city such as Detroit at price points competitive with offshore. Moreover, there is a new, emerging trend: issues related to inferior quality from offshore-based firms mean an opportunity to repatriate even more jobs back to the U.S.

And, with this burgeoning IT cluster developing here (with GalaxE, Quicken, Compuware, VisionIT and others), Washington is paying attention and looking for ways to help bolster and promote it.  In fact, two high ranking Obama administration officials, John Fernandez and Michael Strautmanis, have traveled here in the past two months to see things for themselves.

A banner? A mantra? No, Outsource to Detroit is much, much, more: a tangible symbol of Detroit’s continued rebirth and the promise of better things to come.

Outsource To Detroit Resonates, Reverberates

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Just hours ago the biggest gathering of Michigan’s business leaders finished up at Mackinac with a ‘to do‘ list for the coming year. Among the top five: Promote the “Outsource to Detroit” mantra to the world.

What is ‘Outsource to Detroit’? It’s a movement borne of a vision aimed at a mission of downtown Detroit as a national/international IT hub and viable alternative to taking such work offshore. And, total transparency here, it is also a campaign on behalf of Tanner Friedman client GalaxE.Solutions which is benefitting another firm client, Goodwill Industries, as both organizations look to put Metro Detroiters back to work.

In April 2010, New Jersey-based GalaxE, led by Chairman and CEO Tim Bryan, made a commitment to Campus Martius and a downtown office that would hire 500 IT professionals over the next 5 years to conduct the next generation of high-level, healthcare-focused work here rather than “over there.” Their message has resonated with clients; to date, over 120 individuals have been brought on board with immediate openings for another 200.

After February’s Super Bowl and the “Imported from Detroit” Eminem ad, Bryan indicated to me that GalaxE’s clients had been referring to their Detroit push internally as “Outsource to Detroit.” From there, what was initially going to be a phrase on a few giveways became much more. After enlisting “Made in Detroit” creator Robert Stanzler to create a logo and produce t-shirts sporting them, GalaxE donated the shirts to Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, making them available to anyone free for a donation of $10 or more with 100% of the proceeds going to Goodwill.

Worn by Bryan at the Mackinac Conference’s opening session and beyond, the shirt’s message became one of the hits and ‘buzz phrases’ of the event and, in turn, inspired others (including the Chamber) to pledge to join in its communication. Brilliant guerilla PR? How about a vitally important message, put forth with sincerity and passion by the right individual to the right audience at the right time.

Clear Channel Hopes “Fresh” Doesn’t Spoil Audience Core

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Anyone looking forward to a return to the Adult Contemporary format WNIC-FM has aired for nearly 35 years outside the holiday season will be sorely disappointed in the New Year.  This week, Clear Channel reported not a format change but a format ‘update.’ In other words, the former “Detroit’s Nicest Rock” is not looking to eschew its  core audience but, rather, infuse a more contemporary mix of artists designed to appeal to evolving listener tastes.

According to Operations Manager Todd Thomas, this will mean the addition of musical acts heretofore unheard at 100.3 FM, including Kid Rock, along with more from the likes of Usher, Train, Taylor Swift and others.

It’s a bold move. On the one hand, WNIC has a time-worn and tested image in this city.  It’s where women 25-54 (and older) go to get their fix of Elton John, Celine Dion and others. The fact is, WNIC’s music has been tired for far too long (part of what led to rocker WLLZ’s downfall in the late 90s). As such, too much Gloria Gaynor and Pointer Sisters has driven a once dedicated audience to more musically up-to-date competitors such as Magic and WDVD, both of which routinely best ‘NIC in the ratings. At the same time, the station’s core demo continues to skew older than intended and desirable.

There’s no doubting this is a gamble. At times now, “Fresh 100.3” will be competing with sister station Channel 9-5-5, in particular through the battling morning shows of Jay Towers and Mojo, respectively. Musically, WNIC could end up sounding almost identical to WMGC and ‘DVD.  And, no offense to Towers but ‘NIC’s recent history of brooming top, well-known air talent (Chris Edmonds, Kevin O’Neill, Lori Bennett and others) will not help the “updated” station stand apart in that regard.

At the same time, perhaps this will be just the shot in the arm this station has needed since 1998 when Jim Harper left the fold. Better music should help but one would hope the ‘powers that be’ also focus on promotion and personality.  Towers’ talent and popularity are a good foundation. It should make for an interesting listen.

From Perceived Adversity Can Come Opportunity

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

imagesIt’s not every day that I start my morning in a bar but 8:00 a.m. on this particular morning, I was at Gus O’Connor’s in Novi at the invitation of the City of Novi to speak to a group of area business owners. The topic of the meeting: the Novi Road Link Construction Project.

I, more specifically, was asked to talk about communications considerations to a group concerned with the ramifications of the soon to commence year and ½ roadway project on their respective businesses. In a way, the presentation was an adversity management session of sorts as we talked about being prepared and proactive (as well as promotional).

Rather than looking at the situation as a challenge, I suggested to the group that they look instead at the opportunities to engage and communicate with both existing and potential customers—first and foremost, that they remain open for business (Pardon Our Dust!). From there, it will be important to provide on-going updates on detours and changing traffic patterns (with help from the City of Novi) as well as continuing information on why their establishment (from sales to special promotions) remains worth the trip.

We also discussed bringing out a creative side to marketing. Why not if you are a restaurant, for example, inaugurate construction-themed menu items such as the “Barrels and Barricades” Burger or “Jackhammer” Jambalaya. Hair salons might consider offering discounted “Construction Crew Cuts” and/or “Cement Dust Highlights.” Media often finds such initiatives newsworthy.

And, when faced with possible adversity, I suggested, it is always good to circle the wagons en masse; to join forces and pool resources. This could include looking for cross-promotional opportunities such as “buy a pizza and get a free car wash” or a customer loyalty incentive card shared by retailer neighbors in a particular strip center.

Where there’s a will, I always say, there’s a (road) way.

For Movie Marketers, It’s Easy Being, Making Green

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

imagesWith comicdom’s heavyweights – Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-men, Hulk – already immortalized on the silver screen, is there an end in sight to Hollywood’s efforts to transfer newsprint heroes into celluloid superstars? A ready made audience, proven track record of success and a veritable league of costumed do-gooders makes that scenario unlikely.

Sure, there have been a few misfires: Ben Affleck as Daredevil and George Clooney (costumed in a nippled breastplate) as Batman spring immediately to mind. Yet, the failures have been rare and the successes (based on sequels and hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts) the rule rather than exception. Powering the demand and turnstile spinning are incredibly passionate fans and effective means by which to attract them.

And, lest one thinks comic book movies are only for mouth-breathing geeks, consider than the first “Superman” movie in the late 70s, coupled with far and wide accolades from the literary world a few years later for the graphic novel “Watchmen,” formed the foundation for what would become an ever widening acceptance of the comic medium as a pop cultural icon. It would be further strengthened as late 80s moviegoers were treated to a “coming attractions” of Tim Burton’s “Batman”; the visually-stunning, ground-breaking preview set the standard for creating early movie ‘buzz’ before the Internet and YouTube.

In more recent years to the present, such film ‘sneak peaks’ are most often premiered to adoring fans at large comic book conventions, or, Comicons – usually with director, writer and stars in tow. It is targeted marketing genius, really; appear and interact at a forum held specifically for your core audience then let them carry the PR banner to the masses on a grass roots level. And, as Comicons have grown in size and respectability, they are covered not just by industry (“Wizard”) or niche (G4 TV network) media but by mainstream as well (here’s the Associated Press’s take, picked up by, and others, on the debut of footage from the upcoming “Green Lantern” movie).

Still don’t believe me? Ever heard of the Green Hornet? He last appeared on screen in 1966 for one season on newly ‘Technicolor’ ABC-TV amidst the hype of the campy “Batman” series.  With his trusty sidekick Kato (at that time Bruce Lee), he’s set for a return in January 2011, starring Seth Rogan. Chances are pretty good the Hornet’s mask won’t be the only ‘green’ associated with this one.

CBS’s Smooth Jazz Makes Way for Amp Radio

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Though today’s official debut of Detroit’s latest radio station, “Amp Radio,” came as little surprise to most, there are a couple of notables surrounding the format change of 98.7 FM.

First, the decision to take “Smooth Jazz” off the terrestrial radio airwaves. Many thought one of CBS’s other Detroit properties would have been switched before WVMV and its 15-year success story. Smooth Jazz has also been a pioneer and innovator in online promotion. One would assume this will continue.

Second, the decision to not entirely eliminate the smooth jazz format. HD radio and online streaming will keep at least the station’s music intact for long-time fans—a good thing. The AOL Radio option, in fact, is making all CBS radio stations accessible virtually everywhere—from vehicles to handhelds. Unfortunately drive-timers Alexander Zonjic and Sandy Kovach will no longer be heard on the station, it appears. 

Finally, CBS’s multi-platform approach to teasing the format switch, including setting up a Web site ( and Facebook and Twitter pages. On-air promos drove listeners to their computers and cell phones and vice versa, building “buzz” and anticipation in the interim, including calls to watch for the “Takeover” vehicle around town for giveways and online photo opportunities.

Changing formats in a changing media landscape. CBS did this well. One hopes that the media giant also realizes that in order to go head to head with powerhouse Hit station Channel 95-5, they can’t forego the personality factor and should bring on-air talent on accordingly.

The JEEP: An American Triumph: The Little Movie That Could, Should

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

The year is 1940 and, faced with the impending prospect of entering World War II, the U.S. Army faces the urgent need to build a new mechanized vehicle designed to transport troops and light payloads and match the Germans’ new mechanized warfare of blitzkrieg.  That summer, with his firm American Bantam Car Company bankrupt, and allotted just 49 days to design and build such a vehicle, Roy S. Evans does the impossible: He beats 134 other companies by outbidding them and then produces the very first Jeep—later recognized among the three major reasons the Allies would ultimately win the war.

Sound like a great story? Consider that Evans delivered his invention with just 30 minutes to spare. Consider also that political measures conspired to doom his prototype to connected competitors. You bet it’s a great story and one that deserves to be told.  If screen writers Cathy & Paul Bruno and producer-co-writer Manuel Freedman have their way, in fact, “THE JEEP: An American Triumph” will one day be a major motion picture. They have been working for many years to accomplish just that. (See more here).

Some would say there has perhaps never been a more opportune time. As Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne officially took the helm of Chrysler this year, he put forth much inspired dialogue: “Athough we have many challenges yet to overcome,” he said, “There is no doubt that we will get the job done. Chrysler will be back—strong and competitive…”

What better time for Chrysler to underscore its rich heritage of innovation and commitment to building outstanding vehicles for the world stage. Like the military in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, Chrysler is under the gun to turn things around. Like Roy Evans, who would do the impossible, it is poised to persevere. With movie incentives at an all-time high in Michigan, what better place to film such an epic?

Full disclosure here: We are working with the filmmakers to grab the ear of, ideally, the powers that be at Chrysler, if not additional investors. Yet, even at a time when the automaker is reeling financially, one must consider the many powerful, positive ramifications—on both grass roots and grass tops levels—that such a feature film would have in terms of marketing, promotional and public relations value.  Think about it: a “feel good” film to help scores of Chrysler faithful—enthusiasts, past and current customers, employees, business partners and more—once again feel good and proud about the auto giant. How does one place a value on that?