Emoji in Movie Marketing: One in a “Minion!”

minion blogStarwars

Instant messaging (IM) platforms are, undeniably, the most essential and frequently used communication platforms among the contemporary society. Despite mistaken for mobile forms of entertainment by many, IM apps today have become much more than being just “alternative” ways of communication whose utilization is limited to a niche group of teens or young adults. In fact, IM apps have become popular among not only the fun-seeking Generation Z (born in the year 2000 and above), but also among Millennials and even Generation X members who strive to keep in touch with their Millennial children.

Yet, consumers are not the only parties relying on eye-pleasing communication. Being visual-dependent by its very nature, the movie industry is increasingly leveraging mobile platforms, especially mobile IM apps, to reach Millennials. Especially animation studios such as DreamWorks SKG, Pixar, Universal Pictures, and Disney are increasingly getting their characters designed in emoji formats. The companies seem to have three main goals in following such a strategy as explicated below.

First of all, animation studios seek to create awareness for movie sequels and to increase initial awareness to their side characters in these sequels: When the audience has some degree of former acquaintance with the characters through the former movie in the sequel, movie companies have ease in bringing emphasis to side characters and even form a high enough level of likability for their side characters to make new movies based solely on the peripheral characters in question. Universal Pictures’s strategy regarding Despicable Me 2 perfectly exemplifies this situation: The company launched Minion 2 themed free stickers on Facebook Messenger after Despicable Me 1 to generate initial awareness for the upcoming sequel.[1] Moreover, probably also through the contributions of such strategies, Minions (initially side characters in the movie) became more “in sight” and likeable than the actual character of the movie- Gru the man. Thereby, Universal has become able to release a Minions movie (to be released on July 10, 2015) based on Minions (without Gru) only.

Secondly, through such a strategy, animation studios aim to reach their consumers where they actually are by establishing relevance. As today’s Generation Z and Millennials use IM rather than SMS, movie companies seem to have come to realize that place to find their target customers are IM apps. For instance, noticing that most of its fans use Twitter app, the Star Wars brand (now owned by Disney) has developed 3CPO and Stormtroopers (one of the symbolic characters in the movie) emoticons useable on Twitter.[2] Today, if users post to the hashtags #3CPO or #Stormtrooper on Twitter, animated Star Wars emoticons appear on their newsfeeds.[3]  The reason why the brand did not target Facebook, contrary to Minions, is probably that Star Wars fan base must have been identified to be more of a Twitter user than a Facebook poster. The point makes sense because Star Wars fan base is, to my humble opinion at least, more of a serious, old-fashioned, and news-reader/blog-poster type than a commenter and laugher on Facebook. On the other hand, Minions are just too informal and fun to be on a microblog/instant news generator such as Twitter. Thereby, the brands’ media choices seem to be correctly aligned with their audiences.

Thirdly, and finally, regardless of the social/IM platform they put their animated characters, animation studios ultimately aim to engage their targets through developing branded emoji. When consumers use a giggling Minion figure instead of themselves, not only do they form emotional experiences with the movie Minions and its brand, but they also reflect themselves through the brand. Thus, the value proposition of a simple emoji is not that “simple:” It offers both emotional and spiritual (i.e., self-reflecting) benefits, both of which are the hardest to offer in the service industry. The emoji thus becomes a brand asset that is no different from branded toys or other forms of merchandise. Moreover, the emoji strategy that is wrongly labelled as “simple” by many, does undeniably increase targets’ exposure to the brand/product. Whenever the emoji segment on the mobile device opens, the branded emoji pops up, reminding itself. As this point is the ultimate goal of many online digital strategies, a “simple” emoji seems to do the job that many digital strategists fail to accomplish.

All in all, the use of branded emoji by an increasing number of animation studios and movie brands illustrate that the “simple” emoji strategies are proving successful and now becoming a trend in movie marketing. Apparently, strategists need to keep in mind that simplicity does not mean ineffectiveness. It has never been the structure but the details and touch points that make the difference. It is high-time strategists stopped overcomplicating the way to reach their audience and started to enjoy the beauty of relevant simplicity.

[1] The information regarding minion stickers is with reference to a brief reading of the following source: http://socialmediaph.net/2013/07/03/how-to-add-chat-stickers-on-facebook/.

[2] Please notice that the information provided has been derived from the following resource:  https://blog.twitter.com/2015/introducing-starwarsemojis.

[3] The information in question is with reference to http://entertainthis.usatoday.com/2015/04/16/star-wars-emoticons/.

Advertisement

STORY GONE BAD: RE-BRANDING A COUNTRY

turkey logo

Reference for the the new logo’s picture: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/new_logo_and_ identity_for_turkey_exporting_by_saffron.php

Undeniably, logo and slogan design is a crucial part of branding. Despite bringing consumer goods and services to mind, it generally applies to a variety of offers including celebrities, personas, belief systems, and even cities when considered thoroughly. This brief analysis attempts to discuss the case of the country Turkey’s latest socio-economic logo and slogan development.

Two days ago, the Turkish government officially adopted  an “updated” socio-economic logo in an attempt to render the country’s tourism, economy, and cultural symbol more “relevant.”[1] However, a marketing-focused glimpse proves that the new word-art in question proves to be far from “representative” when approached from the three aspects explicated below:

  1. Uniqueness: Looking at the logo in question above, one can not help realizing the “new” logo’s resemblance to the consumer goods giant Unilever’s famous logo. Both contain tiny symbols within the letters representing the brands (i.e., countries are also brands). Indeed, the new logo seems to be not more than a Word-Art designed on Microsoft Words and filled with intricate geometric patterns. Thereby, authorities seem to have fallen short of developing a one-of-kind symbol whose appearance would bring Turkey to mind and prove to be creatively outspoken although they have spent more than three fiscal years to develop a new logo as part of their “re-branding” efforts.
  2. Representativeness and Depth: Another disappointment the “logo” brings along seems to be its lack of relevance to the cultural values of the country. The most striking example illustrating this point are the colors of the logo: The country’s national colors are red and white; definitely not blue. Indeed, Unilever’s logo seems to reflect more about Turkey than the country’s new socio-economic logo by being the same navy blue as the country’s cultural amulet (i.e., a talisman worn to avoid the evil eye). Similarly, there is no crescent (the national symbol on the country’s flag), cat (national animal), or weaving (distinct local industry), nuts (national yield) or oil-wrestling (national sports)-related symbol on the new format. Considering this fact, one can not help wondering the reason underlying the choice of color and the patterns engraved in the new logo. Thereby, it would not be completely wrong to suggest that the new logo lacks in meaning and depth. Contrarily, logos should serve to    distinguish brands and entities by bringing forth the most representative and unique aspects. Sadly, three years of research and development should have born something more meaningful and identifiable.
  3. Intelligibility and Clarity: Despite bearing some symbols relating to ancient Anatolian civilizations and myths (e.g., the mythological Anatolian wolf, the Sun, and the Hittite mill), most of the symbols in the new logo is not easy to comprehend by “anyone.” Even Turkish citizens themselves need a load of explanation to make sense of the logo in question. In the case of Unilever’s brand logo, for instance, each symbol in the letter U signifies a unique aspect, raw material, product category, or brand symbol of Unilever’s family of brands (i.e., umbrella brands). Yet, most of the “symbols” in the Turkey’s new logo seem to make no sense other than resembling geometric shapes and arbitrary patterns. Fails to be intelligible even to the locals, the new logo seems to have the potential to confuse and be blurry to international organizations and foreign governments.

All in all, one can suggests that Turkey’s new socio-economic logo design seems to grant no additional brand consistency or identity to the country. Being part of the country’s re-branding efforts, the logo still needs to be improved in a creative and culturally-relevant way to justify the years-long academic and applied studies underlying. This recommendation should be taken into serious consideration especially if the authorities sincerely aim at  improved “relevance” and “representativeness” as they claim.

[1] Please acknowledge that the information in question is with reference to http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-launches-its-own-brand logo.aspx?pageID=238&nID=72282&NewsCatID=345.

UNLOCKING THE AWE: EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

carrrrrr

As inherent in the very nature of being human, people talk. People make promises that they can not keep, make commitments that they can not keep loyal to, and most important of all, people portray themselves as capable of doing things which they are insufficiently courageous. Inferably, being human is deceptive by nature. Yet, what remains at the end from that deceptiveness is the disappointment on the faces of the people witnessing the words, promises, and commitments.  Experiential marketing intends to avoid strategies from developing such hollow scenarios.

Proving the philosophy that “not words but actions speak”, experiential marketing intends to make potential customers experience the brand/product in a memorable way rather than expose them to externally imposed push messages. As their distinguishing point from other marketing strategies, experiential strategies intend to pull the customer towards the offering by planting seeds of curiosity, interest, doubt, and excitement in consumers’ hearts and minds when they are expecting nothing (i.e., at vulnerable, oblivious, absent-minded, or simply “regular” moments). Indeed, the unexpectedness is what breaks mundanity, forces the customer to take action even if s/he has no time, and renders the experiential moment extraordinarily memorable. Such reliance on “fait-accompli” causes the consumer to end up seeking information about and interaction with the brand voluntarily. At this point, the strategy may resemble online buzz or any mindset underlying user-generated content. Yet, the fact that the strategy requires consumers’ all five senses’ (taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight) simultaneous inclusion makes experiential marketing unique.[1]

Sometimes referred to as part of guerilla marketing and sometimes as a subset of CRM efforts, experiential strategies ultimately aim at creating awareness, engaging consumers in the brand, enabling unforgettable brand-consumer interactions, creating branded memories, and earning the loyalty of customers by winning hearts and minds.[2] The strategy’s relevance to CRM seems to be apparent; yet, one may easily wonder how such a relationship-oriented strategy could possibly be a tool of guerilla campaigns. Well, the answer is quite simple: Through boosting branded relationships, experiential tactics leave competitors’ efforts literally “ab agendo.” No matter how hard the competitor tries, s/he can not end up creating the initial effect the experiential brand created in the first place, a fact which summarizes the difficulty in coming up with memorable strategies: Experiential endows the applier with a first-to-market advantage; whereas, it leaves absolutely no room for copycats, making every single experiential experience truly unique.

The top two brands that are known for experiential efforts are Coke and Adidas.[3] Coke’s putting vending machines that distribute “happiness” (e.g., free Coke, pizzas, sandwiches, CDs, or whatever the consumer happens to wish) in key cities, campuses, and bus stops illustrates the brand’s relevant efforts. Indeed, experiential tactics such as the brand’s distributing free coke and toys to relieve stressed drivers in rush hour on crowded bridges such as Fatih Bridge and Bogazici Bridge in Istanbul (Turkey) shows how Coke becomes an emotional brand not only through its slogan or value proposition but also through experiential campaigns.

Another brand to notice the additional customer-perceived value experiential tactics grant seems to be Adidas. The brand’s interactive pop-up stores[4] (e.g., stores that give a free pair of Adidas’s newest shoes on condition consumers win specific contests within the store) and unexpected fitting room experiences that feature random visits by David Beckham exemplify the way Adidas improves customer relationships, enhances loyalty in stores, and makes emotional connections with purchasers.

Yet, when it comes to my opinion regarding the strategy, an offering does not need to be perfectly branded, contrary to the cases of Coke and Adidas. An acknowledged brand identity and the perceptual consistency it brings along would undeniably facilitate consumers’ relating to the brand. In other words, consumers would easily decide whether to react and know better how to react to the brand because they would be exposed to something relatively familiar if a consistent brand identity existed. Yet, smaller or niche brands such as those of movie or car companies could leverage such strategies much more effectively if only they tried.

For instance, just last Thursday, I saw a car filled with multiple TV screens outside a park (i.e. illustrated in the picture at the beginning of the post). At first, I thought it part of a campaign to generate buzz for Mercedes’s 2015 gull-winged models 2015 (Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT 2015) because the cars’ doors were exactly the same as those of the model in question. Neurotically seeking for a logo on the tires and hood, I was disappointed to remain empty-handed. Then, remembering the upcoming (now at the theatres) Fast and Furious movie, I desperately wondered whether the car was part of the movie’s promotional efforts. The car’s unusual design, vivid colors, the loud voice coming from the Michael Jackson movie featured on its TV screens all gave the impression that the car was there to create awareness and buzz as part of some campaign trying to scream out its presence.

Approaching to the man standing beside it, I was amazed to learn that he had just re-designed his car and brought it downtown to make money. Apparently, he was collecting money from the crowd and using the car as a means to gather people around himself. As he complained to me about not being able to collect much money, I advised him that he should print personal business cards to give out to the crowd, promoting his mechanic/designing skills. At the end of the day, he was obviously talented and could make more money as a “designer-mechanic” if he redesigned even a single car owned by one of the “potential customers” in the crowd. I, however, was upset to find out that neither Mercedes Benz nor Universal Pictures had been as strategically creative as the talented man I had just met.

Considering the brief analysis above, one can suggest that experiential is the way to capture consumers through playing on the most sensitive and “human” aspect of their existence: emotions. Although labelled as opportunistic by some, such strategies are far less intrusive and privacy-invading than mainstream CRM activities that record every single consumption habit and preference for the sake of creating additional customer value by offering relevant products and marketing talk. Nevertheless, experiential seems to be THE way for a brand to keep to the ultimate promise: “I don’t do idle talk; I perform.”

[1]Please notice that the information regarding the importance of senses in experiential marketing is with reference to http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[2]The functions of experiential marketing have been derived from a brief reading of the following source: http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[3]The examples of Coke and Adidas have been learnt from http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.

[4]This example is with reference to http://www.creativeguerrillamarketing.com/guerrilla-marketing/experiential-101-experiential-marketing/.