Pumpkinstein and a $7 Billion Halloween Industry

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by

Remember when Halloween was mostly for pre-pubescent kids who made their own costumes and walked the streets of their own neighborhoods -- sometimes WITHOUT an adult chaperone? I do, but by admitting that, I'm exposing the huge generational gap between my Gen-X contemporaries and kids these days.

Now, if an unaccompanied minor knocked on your door after dark and demanded candy, the police might be called and the child could end up in foster care. And that's not all that's changed in the last couple of decades. 

Halloween has grown beyond the simple days of trick-or-treating and into a $7 billion business, according to the National Retail Federation, as retailers go to greater lengths each year to try to surpass the previous season.

Just over $2 billion was spent last year on candy alone, according to industry figures. And long ago it stopped being just a candy-driven holiday for children. Among the biggest money earners are adult costumes, with costs typically ranging from $30 to well over $100. Last year, in fact, consumers spent $310 million on costumes for their pets.

Enter Tony Dighera into this spooky consumer bubble. As an organic farmer with a 40-acre plot located north or Los Angeles, he was determined to bring a new creature to life that could grab a share of the big Halloween candy bowl. Though he was fairly new to farming, Mr. Dighera saw profit to be made in strangely shaped pumpkins.

So he created a “pumpkinstein.”

Grown in a plastic mold, the pumpkins bear the distinctive face of the Frankenstein monster, and Mr. Dighera has harvested roughly 5,500 of them this year. With a wry smile, a button nose, a slightly furrowed brow and ears sticking out just slightly, the pumpkins are easy to mistake for something carved from wax.

Their distinctive if unnatural shape is so far a huge success. Mr. Dighera sold out his crop to suppliers months ago, offering the pumpkins wholesale for $75 each. Retailers expect each to fetch $100 or more in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

Read more about it here.  

(and don't forget to sign up for GUTS, the annual pumpkin carving contest open to all Charlotte marketing agencies)



A traditional/digital advertising mashup: the benefits of adding Pandora to our tactical mix

Monday, October 6, 2014 by

Our retail marketing agency has added Pandora advertising into our media mix this year as part of some ongoing work with Rack Room Shoes, and this streaming service's capacity for behavioral targeting is really paying off.

In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past ten years, Pandora is the largest online radio source, representing 68% of all online radio listening and 8% of all radio listening.

Straddling the divide between digital and traditional media, Pandora provides a number of advertiser benefits. Their ads are only served upon user interaction -- so you can actually reach people who are paying attention. You can reach people at home, in the car, at work, or on the go. Eliminating the clutter conundrum, they boast ad exclusivity with only one advertiser being served at a time. Plus advertisers get their choice of targeting options including geography, demographics, or music format.

With 70% of their listening done via mobile, Pandora is poised for a bright future. By drawing in new listeners with new ways to access music, they have a great combined radio and digital story to tell. And as Pandora mainstreams itself into the lives of radio listeners, it is on the verge of mainstreaming itself into the hearts of digital and traditional media buyers alike.

So far, it's been a great tool to get our target audience to show up for grand openings across the country.

Above is a fun visual showing what people in NYC are listening to. Maybe next they'll do one for the queen city.

Today's Inspiration: Botanical Alphabet

Thursday, October 2, 2014 by

Not everyone here at birdsong gregory is as in love with nature as I am, but I think everyone can appreciate this botanical alphabet I ran across. Your eyes will thank me.

Hormel Creates Bacon-Fueled Motorcycle

Thursday, October 2, 2014 by

Yes, that is a motorcycle that runs on organic biodiesel fuel made from 100% Hormel Black Label bacon grease, and yes, the exhaust smells like bacon.

This unique bacon bike is actually part of a genius Hormel Black Label Bacon marketing campaign concepted by BBDO Minneapolis promoting Hormel's 2nd Annual International Bacon Film Festival that took place August 29th as part of San Diego Bacon Week.

The “Driven by Bacon” project is a scenic cross country journey from Minnesota to California documented on a Tumblr and by a film crew producing a documentary. The “Driven by Bacon” documentary featuring the road trip experience will debut at the International Bacon Film Festival in San Diego.

You can check out the awesome bacon bike on display at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

The Ice Bucket Challenge - Social Media Genius or Slacktivisim?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 by

Unless you've been locked down in solitary confinement at a Supermax prison for the last month, it's been hard to miss witnessing at least one person standing in front of a camera and dumping a bucket of ice water on their head. From high profile folks like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to big Charlotte ad agencies to kids in the neighborhood, everyone seems to have jumped under this icy bandwagon.

At first glance, it's easy to dismiss this online campaign as "slacktivism," a buzzword that denotes online engagement for a cause that requires very little time, effort or real-world involvement.

Also known as "clicktivism" or "hashtag activism," viral campagins like this raise the question whether those who have dumped water over their heads have donated money or even know what ALS is. Tweeting or posting to Facebook is the easy part, but once that back patting is complete, how many people take action in a meaningful, tangible way?

The negative portrayal of slacktivism was captured in a UNICEF campaign last year in Sweden, and there does exist, in fact, research that seems to support the premise that the more public a person's activism is online, the less likely they are to act in a meaningful way.

"By publicly supporting these causes, you say, I'm a good person, diminishing the need to provide follow-up support for the cause," said Kirk Kristofferson from the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business. (Check out Kristofferson's April 2014 paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research).

And Slate commentator Will Oremus seemed to summarize the problem with slacktivist behavior when he quipped that "a lot of the participants are probably spending more money on bagged ice than on ALS research."

I get that, but at the same time, even if someone doesn't donate money, slacktivism, at the very least, raises awareness around a cause. 

At the end of the day, however, the efficacy of a viral fundraising campaign can be measured in cold hard cash. And to date, the ALS Association has raised more than $13 million in the last month, up nearly $2 million over the same time last year. The group also has gotten the equivalent of 260,000 new donors in that period. That's all attributable to the ice cold water pouring atop people's heads. 

The ice bucket-challenged then challenge someone else to do it. They can go all ice watery or contribute $100 to the ALS Association to fight the horrible disease. Of course, many are doing both and donating even more money and time.

At our Charlotte ad agency, we're constantly reminding clients that one of the most useful attributes of social media for their brand is how creates a conversation as opposed to the one-way monologue of traditional marketing communications.

And here we are, talking about it. Meanwhile, the ice bucket challenge has become an internationally trending activity with celebrities and sports stars from around the world participating. From Oprah Winfrey to Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Ethel Kennedy, Peyton Manning, LeBron James and the Philadelphia Eagles, among many, many others.

Packaging Success Clear As Day

Monday, August 18, 2014 by

Often, a brand gets attention due to its name, branding, or recent advertising campaign. It's not often that the packaging drives all the buzz. Here, at our shopper marketing agency, we understand the value of a package. We know that its more than just a vehicle for the product, but that it's also an opportunity to gain attention and sometimes encourage a purchase. The package, like anything else, can make or break a product. Food manufacturers must make sure that not only will the product hold up to the environment (think temperature or sunlight), but that it also must look absolutely delicious (note Talenti image above)...

Ok stop thinking about butter pecan. You see what we mean?

The product has to hold up to the circumstances that go along with it's path to purchase: factory - truck - store - stockboy. No one buys the bag of broken tortilla chips. And if you claim you have "chunks of real fruit," you better show it, even if you have to alter the die in your yogurt.

Manufacturers must weigh the decision carefully, some foods just aren't sexy, no matter how they are packaged. The appeal of clear packaging comes with its fair share of hurdles for a manufacturer, but studies show that more often than not, they're worth it - as long as it doesn't backfire. And doesn't that make sense? Don't you want to be able to see what you're going to eat? Larabar marketing manager Julie Wing-Larson says it best: "you eat with your eyes."

Here at our our Charlotte marketing agency, we can attest to that.

Stayin' Alive

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by

One of the best things about our location here at birdsong gregory (besides the pool 50 feet from our front door), is the proximity to the McColl Center. Artist-in-resident, Aurora Robson, had her exhibit called Stayin' Alive close last Friday. We snuck out of the office on an impromptu field trip last week to catch a glimpse before it was taken down. And it was amazing. I was once told that the ideal length of a successful blog post is 1,600 words. I don't know if that's accurate, but for your consideration, I'll try to keep this short.

Aurora Robson is a "subtle yet determined environmental activist". She is a multi-media artist known predominantly for her transformative work intercepting the waste stream. What does that mean? She makes amazing, beautiful, story-telling pieces out of garbage and debris. Not only is she making beautiful and inspirational art, but she has found a way to translate her passion into impact. Aurora has developed a course she calls "Sculpture and Intercepting the Waste Stream". Originally introduced at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia in the Spring of 2013. During this course she directs design students to collect trash and create sculptures that are later auctioned off. Proceeds benefit plastic pollution prevention and the flow of plastic to our oceans. If implemented widely enough, it could significantly help to restrict the flow of plastic debris to our oceans.

I'm not sure if I'm more inspired by the pieces themselves, or the awareness and impact she is creating through them. Either way, I'm definitely inspired to visit the next exhibit and recommend you do the same. Check out a few more of the iphone images that don't do the work of Aurora Robson justice.




Shoot. Crop. Filter.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by

Anyone can look great on Instagram. It's as simple as shoot, crop, filter. People are using it everyday to look tanner and skinner. (shameless plug) You can check us out at our Instagram (@birdsonggregory) to see some wonderfully shot, cropped, filtered images of food, puppies, agency outings and cool design. I may be an Instagram pro, but I'm a rookie when it comes to all of the other available free design apps out there. If you would like to improve your photo post quality, check out these 21 free creative apps. Spoiler alert, Instagram is not on the list.

We have a some favorites here at birdsong gregory, but our agency has a few font aficionados, TED talk lovers, and color freaks - so we may be biased. Check it out, download a few, and let us know what you think! It's free.

If you're not scared off by paying for your apps, check out some of the best photo apps being bought. In the meantime we'll keep finding interesting things to shoot, crop, and filter.


The United States Postal Service Gets a New Visual Retail Presence

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by

Its no secret that everyone hates the United States Postal Service. Just the other day everyone here at our Charlotte marketing agency was commiserating over their horrific experiences at USPS retail locations. Some locations are better than others, but I’ve yet to have a pleasant experience at any of them. However, it seems they might be trying to change that… or at least the visual retail presence of their 30,000+ locations, which is a start.

New York based design shop Grand Army recently posted the work they did for USPS helping them to enhance the in-store experience. While I’m reading all sorts of nit-picking criticism of the new system across the internet, what I see is a system that is successfully simplifying information making it easier to decipher the nonsensically-titled shipping services offered.

What did disappoint me though, was seeing the shipping box Grand Army designed and then seeing the stripped down version that ended up being produced. If USPS shipping boxes actually looked as stunningly patriotic as the versions Grand Army designed, it might make standing in line at USPS just a little more tolerable.

Check out some interesting insight into the rebrand from Brand New and Gizmodo.


A Gathering In Black Rock City

Monday, August 11, 2014 by

Burning Man is an annual week long event that takes place in Nevada's 400 square mile expanse known as the Black Rock Desert. The event begins on the last Monday of this month and ends on the first Monday of September, Labor Day. The Burning Man namesake comes from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy on the final day of the festival. The event is one in which participants dedicate themselves to the spirit of community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. Leaving one week later without a trace of their existence. This wouldn't seem too impossible until you begin to understand what the art installations actually entail (scroll down for a few examples).

A few of the more intrepid members of our Charlotte marketing agency are planning on attending this year, and in case you're feeling the urge, on August 6, tickets go on sale for first come-first serve buyers. Keep in mind, Burning Man is based on a society that thrives on community contributions, so you must bring something that adds value. There are no rules on what this value must be, as long as it invigorates the society. It can be one of the expansive art installations, a conversation for the heart, or extra goggles for the desperate.

Before you head out along with the others (over 68,000 last year), be sure to reference the packing checklist and don't forget plenty of water. Oh yeah, and a fresh new name, because you'll most likely leave a fresh new person. That needs a shower.


In Case You Wanted One Of Those Cool Stickers From Apple's Latest Commercial...

Monday, July 28, 2014 by

Apple’s latest ad features a stop-motion style video of MacBook Airs adorned with unique stickers. In shot after shot, the stickers cleverly interact with the Apple logo on the MacBook’s lid -- showcasing not only how cool it can look with a decal applied but also the the passion people have for all things Apple (our Charlotte marketing agency included).

Apple features some of the playful stickers from the spot on their “Stickers” page, but Mike Wehner of The Unofficial Apple Blog has gone trough the trouble of tracking down 74 of the stickers featured in the spot for you to purchase. Since some of the stickers aren’t actually available for purchase anywhere, he's even found similar alternatives for you. Check them out here.

Logo Interpretation

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 by

You don't have to be a regular on NPR to be familiar with the Sharing Economy and how it's playing a role in our everyday lives. People are constantly talking about new companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. So it wasn't a surprise when people REALLY started talking about Airbnb's new identity created by London branding agency, DesignStudio.

The new logo, called Belo, is said to represent three things: a person with their arms above their head, a location marker, an upside down heart. People, places and love - as well as the letter A.

As a branding agency, here at birdsong gregory, we're very aware of what can happen when branding is done without proper homework and research. There seems to be mixed emotions about the newly presented logo. We like it. What do you think?

Say hello to the Mandroid – Old Spice's newest pitchman

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 by

With a comically crude humanoid reminiscent of something the Jawas on Tatooine might have assembled, the Old Spice "Mandroid" will be popping up in a variety of channels this summer to promote what might be the first fragrance worn by both your 80-year old grandfather AND your 12-year old son. In the first commercial, The Mandroid, a half man, half robot character, topples over and nearly crushes a woman lying on the beach. In another video The Mandroid meets a woman on the dance floor but his face inconveniently falls off. Completely.

But it doesn't matter because The Mandroid uses Old Spice products. He smells so good that a woman is willing to overlook minor details like the fact she's talking to a hybrid creature whose face just fell off in front of her.

Old Spice has a history of producing zany, over the top commercials that often go viral, as with the renowned The Man Your Man Could Smell Like ad. Even by those standards though, the latest ads, created by Wieden + Kennedy Portland, may veer a bit too far into the bizarre for some peoples' tastes.

The beach commercial will run on TV, while the nightclub spot will be shared online only. Several other Old Spice commercials are slated to come out over the next two months.

And if you find this crudely assembled humanoid, with his bad toupee and cheesy pick up lines, to be over the top in terms of grossness (the general consensus at out marketing agency Charlotte), then you're reaction is intended.

According to a five-year study published in the Journal of Marketing ResearchArizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, if you really want to get people to act, disgust is much more powerful than fear. Perhaps that's why consumers have seen a recent slew of commercials with high gross-out factors.

Another online retailer gets real with brick and mortar

Friday, July 11, 2014 by

Birchbox, the previously online retailer that sends monthly beauty and grooming sample boxes to more than 800,000 subscribers, is opening its first store today in Manhattan.

In case you're not familiar with the service, Birchbox is a monthly membership service. It costs $10 a month and you receive 5 deluxe size beauty samples in the mail. You can cancel the service at any time, although, the Birchbox fans at our Charlotte marketing agency eagerly anticipate their monthly beauty assortment.

Unlike a startup like the jewelry site BaubleBar, Birchbox doesn’t sell products under its own name, but the company had such a strong response to the popup store it creeated during New York Fashion Week last September, that they decided to open a brick-and-mortar location to give a new dimension to its “discovery retail” model.

According to Katia Beauchamp, Birchbox’s co-founder and co-CEO, “Silos force you to shop a brand.” So in order to merchandise the way customers shop, the new store will be arranged by category rather than brand (eyes, blush, hair, etc.) — which is distinctly different from the plangogram of a department store or a speciality retailer like Sephora.

The company, which counts Accel Partners and First Round Capital among its investors, has said its samples are 10 times more effective than the rest of the beauty industry in driving customers to ultimately purchase full-size versions of products. That’s critical, given that men and women are likely to stay with the same brands once they’re hooked. With this brick-and-mortar location, Birchbox will get to see how its full-size products perform right out the gate (and probably acquire more subscribers in-store).

Taking advantage of the new physical presence, Birchbox will also hold classes on topics such as makeup contouring, which will be free for subscribers, as well as hair, nail and makeup services for a fee. In the back of the store, customers can even build their own Birchbox, for $15. 

Remember when a store was a place where you just bought things?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 by

Obviously, you can still find plenty of good old-fashioned retailers where the sum of the experience is almighty commerce. From the dusty disarray of a big box merchant's "stack 'em high, let 'em fly" environment to the glass and chrome aerie of today's mall, most stores function as a cleaner, safer version of the warehouse (with some cool POS graphics thrown in to reenforce the distinction)

When a retailer figures out how to use their physical space to create a brand experience, however, the old buyer/seller relationship becomes a lot more interesting.

In my mind, Apple stores deserve much of the credit for really extending the continuum. Their stores were designed as a space where customers could interact with the brand on individual, more emotional terms, and while critics once questioned the ROI of dedicating an entire wall of prime Madison Avenue retail space to a free service like the Genius Bar, the intensely intimate and experiential nature of an Apple Store has since inspired its share of acolytes.

Online men’s clothing retailer Bonobos (where, full disclosure, more than one dude at our Charlotte marketing agency likes to get his style on) has built an enormously loyal following, and now offers something called Guideshops across North American and in the UK. In these "stores" -- if you will -- customers can't actually "buy" anything, but are welcome to try on the merchandise, choose different colors and patterns, and immerse themselves in all things Bonobos -- with the help of a stylist (they call them Guides) and a whiskey from the fully stocked bar. Brand enthusiasts can then march home and order online. 

What's the ROI on this kind of newfangled commerce? Bonobos is privately held, so it's hard to gauge.

But Mattel’s American Girl Place, which offers in-store restaurants (where little girls and their even smaller dolls can order a three course meal, or -- get this -- an in-store hair salon where your precious Bride of Chucky doll can get some 'lights and a blowout) generates more than $1,500 of revenues per square foot, one of the highest in the industry (behind leader Apple, and in the company of stores like Tiffany and Coach).

Compare that to a paltry $240 for Toys “R” Us.

Clearly shopping no longer has to be just about the transaction.

Until it's time to check out, that is.

A Global Packaging Design Agency Plants a Flag in Charlotte

Monday, July 7, 2014 by

At birdsong gregory, we've known for years that Charlotte is a great location from which to find and support North American CPG clients. With a bunch of retailer and manufacturer brands already headquartered here in the Queen City, Charlotte also offers (or, at least, used to) an easy air connection to most major U.S. cities. 

So we weren't surprised when Team Créatif Group, a marketing and design firm based in Paris, announced plans to set up its U.S. headquarters in Charlotte, with an eye on adding 40 workers over the next three years. According to a Charlotte Chamber release, the company will lease 3,000 square feet somewhere downtown.

In case you haven't heard of Team Créatif, they're an international design agency with offices in France, Brazil and Indonesia. Their global clients include the Mars family of brands (Pedigree, Royal Canin and Whiskas) and Danone (Volvic, Actimel, Activia and Nutricia, etc).

As a native Charlotte marketing agency, it's gratifying to see how our creative community and our metropolitan area now have international cachet. And on a personal level, Brady Bone, a very talented freelancer we've worked with for a long time, will serve as this French agency's North American creative director.

Way to go, Monsieur Bone!

Creativity isn’t about the end product, but the process of making it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 by

That was our Charlotte marketing agency's big takeaway from this fantastic new short film created by Liberatum, directed by Pablo Ganguli and Tomas Auksas, and presented by illy.

Featuring 21 artists and cultural figures from art, fashion, film, design, technology and music, the film is an insider's perspective on inspiration from the minds of leading creative personalities including:

Through the authentic interpretation and responses from these individuals, the overall project communicates what inspires creative thinking and behaviors for nurturing inspiration, while provoking thoughts on how culture, society, and technology continue to affect creativity.

Although the film interviews some of the most talented individuals in their fields, architect and designer Karim Rashid argues that everyone is naturally creative:

"Children, for example, who have no past, no baggage, no pre associations, are all creative. The first thing a human being wants to do is create. The minute they have an opportunity to put something in their hand to make lines or draw or paint or break something or make a model – it’s in all of us. It really means that you could argue that the meaning of life is to create. We are all here to contribute and we are all creative."

We hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

A Water-Front Sunset on Your Screen

Friday, June 27, 2014 by

Artist and developer Joseph Gray created a mesmerizing interpretation of a water-front sunset using Google Search API to find images of sunsets and then applies the discovered color palettes to his composition. The shimmering effect recalls a hazy, late summer afternoon overlooking a sunset on the ocean. Infinite Sunset subtlety shifts palettes every-so-often keeping things interesting. Gray’s intention is for Infinite Sunset to run continuously, projected at a large scale, for long periods of time. Check it out here, but don’t blame me if you find yourself yearning for a chilled glass of wine and a fluffy lounge chair to kickback and relax.

The Magic of Advertising

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 by

The Cannes Lions Festival this year took place from June 15-21. If you're not familiar with Cannes, it's an amazing seven day global opportunity for creatives and clients alike: full of networking, interviews, workshops - and of course - awards. This year, our Charlotte marketing agency was excited to see that the Marmite ads, shot by David Sykes for Adam & Eve DDB, won a gold! Yes, I had to look up what Marmite is, but David is an exceptional photographer and it's exciting to see him run with the big dogs.

If you have a few minutes, it's well worth your time to cruise through the winners. You should definately find The Magic Of Flying campaign for British Airways, and be reminded just how magic advertising can be.

Shaking the Dust Off the Cooper Hewitt

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 by

charlotte ad agency

After three years of being closed, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum will reopen its doors December 12th as a completely renovated museum with 60 percent more gallery space and a new identity designed by Pentagram partner Eddie Opara and team. From a typographical perspective, the sturdy, utilitarian wordmark (based on a customized version of Galaxie Polaris Condensed) has even been turned into a custom typeface, appropriately named ... wait for it ... Cooper Hewitt.

The Museum is even encouraging the public to use the new typeface (developed by Chester Jenkins of Village) in their own designs, making it available as a free download on cooperhewitt.org.

The renovation and rebrand consisting of a new name, graphic identity, typeface and website serve as an effort to draw more visitors to the museum. Cooper Hewitt, housed in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion in New York City, is a historic landmark but but seems like an awkward place to go view contemporary design. The Museum’s director, Caroline Baumann is hoping to change that. She says, “We’re really taking the dust off the place and making it an exciting destination for people.”

So next time you're in NYC, make sure you check it out.