“Blending Experiences”

Last week in our PR class, we analyzed different type of campaigns. The one that captured my attention was the Will It Blend? campaign from Blendtec®, because the idea was original and simple.

Blendtec® is a small company based in Utah that manufactures family and commercial blenders. In 2006, the company was selling its high-quality commercial blenders for $400.00. However, but the brand was not attracting the attention of the general public. This lack of recognition showed in the company’s sales.

One day, George Wright, the marketing director, saw Tom Dick, the company’s CEO, blending a variety of items, such as marbles, metals, papers, to test the quality of the blenders. This gave Wright an idea for a new marketing campaign. He decided to videotape Tom Dick’s  experiments and share them with customers. With a budget of only $50.00, a series of videos titled “Will It Blend?” were created. The idea of the campaign was to demonstrate the unique power and durability of Blendtec® blenders. At first, the videos were uploaded to the Blendtec® website. Later, they became available on YouTube. Since then, the videos have been viewed over 100 million times, and blender sales have increased by over 700%.

Seth Godin defines brand as “…the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

I think Blendtec® created both a story and memories. When I saw the videos the first time, I saw a man having a lot of fun. The setting of the video reminded me of the old style of cartoons. The idea that you can have fun while you are cooking is also shown on those videos. As Blendtec® says, “Blendtec incessantly seeks out ways to make customers’ blending experiences better.”

The way that the company developed its campaign and capitalized on the success of “Will It Blend?” is amazing. Through social media — YouTube channel, blog, Facebook page, Pinterest — it has created two-way communication. First, it invites its employees participate in the campaign by sharing the videos with family and friends. Second, customers are invited to participate by sending recipes or ideas of things that can be blended. Third, the company answers all Facebook comments, making customers feel that they have a voice. The company continues to get revenue to further the campaign through speaking engagements and by the co-branding of promotional clips (as they did with Ed-FM).

Today, Blendtec® is a recognized name and face that has created memories.  When someone mentions the name of the company or brand, people think of Tom Dick in his white lab coat blending a bunch of weird items. Blendtec® has successfully spread the word.

Advertisements

The Power to Persuade

Last week, the focus of the Case Study and Issues in PR class was to understand public opinion and persuasion. To go deeper in this understanding, we need to think the following questions.

What has made you change your opinion of a public figure, organization or brand. 

Persuasion involves engaging people’s emotions, and stories can do that. Any company can use storytelling to persuade its stakeholders or customers. I read an interesting article, Storytelling That Moves People, written by Robert McKee and Bronwyn Fryer (Harvard Business Review), about the importance of storytelling and how to communicate ideas using this tool instead of a boring PowerPoint presentation. The authors suggested, “There are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. It’s an intellectual process, and in the business world it usually consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation in which you say, ‘Here is our company’s biggest challenge, and here is what we need to do to prosper.’ The other way to persuade people—and ultimately a much more powerful way—is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy.”

The Body Shop was created as a green alternative to mainstream cosmetics. Founder Anita Roddick built The Body Shop around opposition to animal testing of products, using natural ingredients, and supporting local farmers around the world. She created a story around the brand, which people bought and supported. I was one of them. When L’Oreal bought The Body Shop, I felt betrayed. I did not understand how a company with strong values could be sold to a company that is known for the opposite values. Something did not match. I felt that the story behind The Body Shop was a lie. I have the option to not betray my values, so I’m not a Body Shop customer anymore.

What factors have influenced your decision to do or not do something? 

After the factory disaster in Bangladesh, there has been a lot of discussion about companies are handling globalization – that is, what do they do in countries where corruption is common and law enforcement policies are different from those in North America?. Many companies have said that they do not have ties to the collapsed factories and, therefore feel no responsibility to what happens in countries such as Bangladesh. I believe that all companies are responsible. All businesses have values, and those values need to be transferred to any and all markets.

Gap Inc. is one of many companies that produces its products in Bangladesh but did not sign the Bangladesh Factory Safety Accord. This accord commits the brands to work with local stakeholders to guarantee the safety of workers. Gap said it “…was ready to sign on to the agreement, but first wanted a change in the way disputes are resolved in the courts.” Gap Inc. states the following on its website: “Working with Integrity: Our Code of Business Conduct, available in nine languages, promotes a responsible and ethical work environment for all Gap Inc. employees.” I shop at the Gap; however, I am concerned by the fact that what the company says appears to be different with what it does. I have not decided if I will continue shopping at The Gap. I like Gap clothes, but I need more information before making any decision.

What has made you think differently about an issue? 

In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which is a youth orchestra for young musicians from Middle East, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Spain.

The objective is to promote understanding between the people and “demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East.” Daniel Barenboim said, “Music can connect people and give the possibility to listen each other.”

This experience is showing us that other way is possible and how listening, art and dialogue can make a difference.

The importance of Sharing and Connecting With People

This week’s blog is about a discussion I had with a public relations professional. We met and talked about a PR campaign he worked on a few years ago.

When I read first this assignment, I felt overwhelmed – I didn’t know to whom I should talk. I began researching some Winnipeg PR companies. That’s when I came across a photo on the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) website. In the photo, a former president of the society is presenting someone with an accreditation certificate. Imagine my surprise when I recognized him. He was Terry Aseltine from my yoga class. I love it when life shows me the way to follow.

I contacted Terry, explained my assignment, and he agreed to meet for a coffee at his house. Terry told me he worked in corporate communications for many years – at the City of Winnipeg, Great-West Life Assurance Company, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. At the art gallery, his job was to make art more accessible to the public, encourage the public to become more aware of the art and programs offered by the art gallery, increase gallery membership and visitors, and provide more media coverage of gallery events. In June 2009, Terry joined the University of Manitoba where seeks out non-traditional sources of funding for university programs and projects. He is also a past National President and Fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and is accredited in public relations (APR).

Of all the campaigns and projects he has been involved in, Terry talked about a campaign he developed when he was working for the City of Winnipeg. The campaign, named the “New Deal,” was a project of former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray. Its focus was on tax shifting. Nick Ternette best describes the campaign: “The ‘New Deal’ campaign argued that taxes needed to be focused differently. The idea was to use taxes to change behaviour and get different results. The goal of the ‘New Deal’ was to cut property taxes by half, eliminate the business tax, cut bus fares by half and eliminate the amusement tax. Taxes would be shifted from property/business taxes to user taxes and fees.”

In my PR course, I learned that strategy explains “how” an objective will be achieved. It is the foundation upon which a tactical program is built. The strategy of the “New Deal” campaign was to get people involved and approve the proposed new tax system. As for the nuts-and-bolts of the plan – the tactics – the city made the following plans:

  • Hold six public consultations, or “town hall meetings.” The idea of these meetings was to present to the public the new system and explain how the public would pay the taxes. Because there was not support from the public, people were happy that the mayor held these public consultations.
  • Present media stories to TV and the press
  • Place signs about the campaign on city buses
  •  Work with city hall reporters
  • Advertise the “New Deal” in newspapers

The slogan of the campaign was: “Have a Say in What You Pay.”

The target audiences for this campaign were (a) city council, (b) business leaders, and (c) homeowners. Key messages were crafted specifically for each audience.

The campaign was developed in 2003, when electronic communication was not as usual as it is today. However, the city encouraged people to make their inquiries by email. Once or twice a week, the mayor and the PR department answered the queries by email.

Terry told me that the “New Deal” was a difficult campaign to work on. People get upset whenever tax increases are mentioned. Even when the city tried different ways to convince Winnipeggers of the fairness of this new system, it was a difficult battle. In the end, the new tax system was not approved by city council.

Although the result of the campaign, Terry commented that it was interesting to work on. The attempts to win public approval and the size of the campaign were just some of the challenges. In some ways, though, the campaign was highly successful: the public consultations attracted a lot of people who would normally not become involved in civic politics; the media gave the campaign a lot of attention (e.g., Macleans magazine), because the topic was of national interest; Glen Murray was recognized throughout the country as a very progressive mayor with new ideas. The campaign got the recognition from the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS.)

If you are interested in reading more about the “New Deal,” take a look at these two articles: Mayor seeks new deal: Murray launching drive to grab more money, power for cities, from the Winnipeg Free Press, and Riding off in all directions: An examination of Winnipeg’s New Deal written by Hugh Mackenzie and Todd Scarth from The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – MB.

I enjoyed having a coffee with Terry as we shared our experiences – mine as a PR student and his as a PR professional.

References

Mackenzie, Hugh, and Todd Scarth. Riding off in all directions: An examination of Winnipeg’s New Deal . Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-MB, 01 Feb 2003. Web. 5 Jun 2013.

“Mayor seeks new deal Murray launching drive to grab more money, power for cities.” Winnipeg Free Press [Winnipeg] 16 05 2003, n. pag. Web. 5 Jun. 2013. .