Short Films. Entertaining or Just Plain Marketing?


Short films have become an effective tool that marketers can use because it helps to tell a brand’s story.  Ekaterina Walter, chief marketing officer at Branderati and author of Think Like Zuck and The Power of Visual Storytelling, believes that the reason why visuals, like short films, are so well-received by consumers is that we are “moving into a world that is inundated with information”.  Storytelling through videos provides brands with a great way to engage, motivate and connect with consumers on a different level. “With so much content being shared daily by so many brands, the written word just doesn’t have the same impact anymore — particularly for the reader who has grown up expecting a multi-media experience”.

Smart Insights shared four reasons why marketers should use story telling in animated videos:

  • Simple takeaways. Storytelling makes it easy for the viewer to follow what you’re saying. Your messaging is much more memorable and compels the viewer to share your content.
  • Emotional connection. Animated videos embrace the old adage of ‘show don’t tell.’ You can only write ‘Our product is the best’ so many times before people start questioning what you really mean. With animated videos you can share a clear story of your product’s value proposition.
  • Calls-to-action. Video compels viewers to act in ways the written word can’t. By depicting the action on the screen, you can show exactly how the user will benefit, yielding higher engagement rates. Telling stories are much more likely to motivate, inspire action and excite your audience.
  • Trust and loyalty. By clearly illustrating how your product works, you give potential customers a heightened sense of your company’s values and mission.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a great example of a brand utilizing video to tell its story. Chipotle is a fast food restaurant chain that promises to give customers quality ingredients that come from farmers who take care of their animals and the environment. The company prides itself on being socially responsible and sustainable, which lead to the development of the short film, “The Scarecrow”. The film was released on Chipotle’s YouTube Channel on September 12, 2013.  The video currently has over 13.7 million views.

Chipotle teamed up with Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studies to create the animated short film, which attempts to promote sustainable farming and “depicts a kind of creepy, dystopian world that makes a heart-wrenching statement about the sorry state of industrial food production”. The film was entertaining because it uses storytelling to help people better understand the company’s values and the difference between processed foods and the “real thing”. The story conveyed in this film utilized emotional customer-focused messages and brought attention to serious issues within the food industry. Plus, it more closely resembled a movie instead of an ad. “Chipotle’s animation might be marketing. But it feels more important than marketing. Chipotle might be a fast-food company, but its story isn’t about how you can get a cheap but good Mexican lunch on the fly. Instead, it’s about what it stands for: Good food that’s locally and responsibly sourced. You can see that key bigger message incorporated in the animation: Cultivate a better world.

We all know we should make better food choices, so the film made people really start to think about what they consume on a daily basis. Narratives are intended to begin conversations and with the use of social media, Chipotle was successful. “The critics of the video – who charge that it is unfair and distorts the reality of conventional farming in the U.S. – miss the point.  Chipotle is not trying to be fair – the brand is trying to provoke an emotional response, both from the people who agree and disagree with them.   Chipotle realizes that the stronger the outcry is from people who detest the story they’re telling, the closer those who agree with them will align to the brand”.



Text messages. Annoying or effective for brands?

With the enhancements of modern day technology, consumers have become “more and more comfortable with and reliant on digital communication solutions, including the mobile phone”. The phone has become a primary means of communication among consumers, not only for voice but also for digital services such as e-mail, photos, and text messages or “SMS Messages”. With this change in communication, marketers must take notice and develop marketing plans accordingly.

Mobile Advertising – Kohl’s “Win Great Things” Sweepstakes

As a department store, back-to-school shopping is an important time to be on top of consumers’ minds. In 2013, Kohl’s took a different approach for its back-to-school campaign by giving mobile a more prominent role. The campaign was called the “Win Great Things” sweepstakes, which rewarded shoppers with coupons and online game pieces that could be used to win prizes from brands including Keurig, Apple’s iTunes and JanSport.

Throughout the campaign, Kohl’s sent out SMS blasts promoting the sweepstakes to Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.03.53 PMconsumers that had opt-ed in to its mobile alerts program, Kohl’sAlerts. The text informed consumers if they spent $30 or more at Kohl’s, they would receive a coupon for $5 off a $50 purchase at Staples. The blast also included a link to the microsite for the campaign, where consumers could learn more about the sweepstakes and how they could receive and claim game codes. For every $30 that consumers spend at the store, they would receive one game piece to win prizes. Prizes could be claimed in store, online, and through the microsite that was provided in the SMS blast.

Savvy shoppers are always looking for the best deal and back-to-school shopping is no exception, but will sending a text message about a discount help persuade them to shop at Kohl’s? According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, roughly 90% of shoppers are persuaded to visit stores because of money-saving sales. Parents and students are price sensitive and continuously hunt for a combination of good prices, quality, and style. Kohl’s is meeting consumer needs by not only offering sales, but also by providing additional discounts on the back-to-school essentials and opportunities to win prizes. Additionally, the partnership between Kohl’s and Staples provides consumers with more ways to save. Furthermore, the SMS blasts provide convenient reminders for shoppers about the promotion and an easy way to enter their game codes to see if they won a prize.

Since shoppers had to sign up to receive the SMS marketing messages, the overall consumer experience in using this approach was positive. These shoppers have demonstrated that they are already invested in the company and are open to receiving information. The SMS messages served as a nice reminder on how shoppers can save money during back-to-school shopping and not viewed as spam invading their personal space. “Additionally, since 98% of mobile phones have the ability to receive SMS messages, there are no downloads necessary, no technology learning curves, and no behavior modifications required, all making for an easy, user-friendly opportunity for customers to take action.” Plus, shoppers can easily opt out whenever they no longer wish to receive messages.

What are your thoughts on text messages from brands? Annoying or effective?

Engaging With Social Media

Social media has exploded over the years and has become a popular hub for marketers to try and engage with their audience on a more personal level. “According to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business — but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use.” Twitter has become increasingly popular among marketers because it provides numerous benefits, including a cost-effective way to connect with and deliver content to consumers, sending traffic back to e-commerce websites or blogs, track industry buzz, network and engage, provide customer support and, vitally, position their brand’s message directly in front of advocates and fans.

Several studies have been conducted and found several reasons why brands should actively be on Twitter, including:

  • 50% of users say that they are more likely to buy from a brand after they follow them on Twitter.
  • Having a social media button next to your product can (in some cases) positively affect buying decisions.
  • Twitter has been shown to increase sales by bringing in more traffic to your site.
  • Customers who are engaged in social media are more likely to buy and recommend.
  • Twitter shoppers spent more money than Google shoppers this past holiday season.
  • 60% of people say they are more likely to recommend the company after following them on Twitter.

This infographic from Yell takes a closer look at the business benefits of Twitter:


One prime benefit Twitter can provide a brand is a way to improve customer service. A brand that does an excellent job managing its Twitter accounts for customer service is Starbucks. When looking at Starbuck’s Twitter page, the majority of the tweets are directed at users, by either retweeting their thoughts, answering questions, addressing concerns, or acknowledging mentions. By responding and interacting directly with followers, the company is making sure their voices are being heard. One solution Starbucks has introduced to handle customer service is the “@MyStarbucksIdea” handle. was created in 2008 and serves as an online community where people can share, vote, discuss and put ideas into action on how to enhance the Starbucks experience. Since its beginning, Starbucks has brought to life over 270 ideas and viewed over 150,000 ideas.

With the Twitter account, customers can now tweet their ideas on how to improve their experience instead of logging into the site. “Starbucks not only listens to its customers, but its takes action, implementing customer ideas and giving credit on its blog to the Twitter user that pitched the idea. The customers feel empowered when a platform is created for them to conveniently post their thoughts and ideas. Everyone has an opinion, and by taking the time to listen and respond to them via social media, Starbucks has built up its customers’ confidence in the company.” Furthermore, followers that engage with “@MyStarbucksIdea” feel like they have a small role in the decision making process, which helps to develop a stronger relationship with the company.


Does The Total Market Approach Really Work For Everyone?

As the population becomes more and more diverse, it’s become a huge challenge for marketers to appeal to everyone on a personal level. Many thought that the “total market approach” was a great solution to that issue, but does it really work? The total market approach can be defined as “relying only one marketing program designed to reach all consumers across both general and ethnic markets”. Many CMO’s find this approach to be appealing because it simply implies efficiency. Reaching a wide variety of ethnic markets with one campaign? Sounds pretty great, right? While that may work in some cases, “marketers still need to understand when ethnic-specific is required to drive deep relevance”. This relevance comes into play when dealing with the Hispanic population.

The United States has the second-largest Hispanic population in the world, so it’s critical for marketers to appeal to them successfully. The total market approach may seem like an easy way to connect with everyone, but several studies have shown that Hispanics feel it leads to a “one-size-fits-all” result, which basically means “one-size-reaches-none-effectively”. Simply providing a translated version in Spanish or using stereotypical Hispanic pictures in the campaign will not cut it among this population.

Pacific Business News provides three great recommendations on how to reach Hispanics far more effectively than using a total market approach:

Be multicultural: Develop targeted marketing efforts to specific, clearly defined ethnic groups. All markets are not the same, even within the U.S. markets. Make sure your campaign respects the overall brand positioning from the general market.

Be relevant: Building momentum for your brand with Hispanic consumers requires a true intent to earn an authentic relationship. Speak to their culture within the value proposition of your product and/or service offering. Make sure your message is culturally relevant to them even when you use English.

Be loyal: Once you build momentum with your Hispanic campaigns, it is important to continue that dialogue. Your efforts do not end after they buy your products. Make them feel that you appreciate their business and you care about them. This is one of the most important steps to build loyalty. People do not buy brands. They buy experiences.

One company that has embraced these recommendations is Toyota. According to Bill Fay, Toyota’s group vice president for U.S. sales, “Toyota has been the top brand for Hispanic buyers for 10 consecutive years”. He credits the company’s success to the fact that they have built equity with Hispanics over the years and continuously reinforce not only the durability of the products, but also its involvement in different communities. So far this year, Hispanic buyers have represented 14% of Toyota’s sales and account for nearly 16% of its market share.

Toyota has done several things to try and appeal to the Hispanic population, like create a Spanish version of their website, but they have recently launched a campaign specifically targeting this ethnic group. Their new gratitude campaign, “More Than a Car” or “Más Que Un Auto”, is a program that pays tribute to a vehicles’ role in the everyday lives of Toyota’s Hispanic consumers and serves as an opportunity for the company to thank its loyal customers for welcoming the brand into their families. This campaign provides Toyota owners with the opportunity to personalize their vehicles with physical name badges for free. The company has created a unique website for the campaign where owners can enter their information ( to receive their badge and see others that are participating by using the hashtag #MoreThanACar or #MásQueUnAuto on an up-to-date social media stream. Toyota owners were also encouraged to attend the Supersonico music festival, which is the first-ever Hispanic indie music festival sponsored by Toyota in California, to learn more about the campaign and receive their badges.

This site has become successful because it is focused on Hispanic cultural values and gives them a chance to interact with the brand socially. “Hispanic consumers don’t want to be “sold to” – but rather, courted by brands that authentically empower their cultural relevancy and communicate in ways that naturally resonate with Hispanic cultural values”. Hispanics have a very close connection with their families and many generations will typically live under one roof. It’s necessary for brands to respect their family values and take a family-centered approach to their marketing efforts. Toyota has taken this value into consideration by highlighting “family” throughout the entire campaign.

Family sticks together, and Latinos have consistently chosen Toyota to be part of their family. To celebrate this bond and give back to loyal customers, Toyota launched the “More Than a Car” or “Más Que Un Auto” gratitude campaign. The “More Than A Car” program recognizes that Toyota drivers see their cars as members of their families and nothing says you’re family like your own family nickname. Drivers can personalize their vehicles with physical car name badges. The raised, 3D-printed badges give fans the chance to formalize the love – and place in the family – for their vehicles”.

Furthermore, this campaign appeals to Hispanic’s social side. “Latinos own smartphones, go online from a mobile device and use social networking sites at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than do other groups of Americans, according to a new analysis of three surveys by the Pew Research Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.31.49 PMCenter”. Participants can post pictures of their badges and join the conversion about the campaign by using the designated hashtags and engaging with Toyota through its @ToyotaLatino channel. Hispanics have become known as “super-trendsetters” so it’s important to give them a way to interact online and share their thoughts about the campaign. Additionally, the site had the option to switch from Spanish to English, which is important since “second- and third-generation Hispanics tend to favor English as a starting point”.

Toyota is a great example of successfully engaging with Hispanics, but it’s important for brands to keep ethical considerations in mind when marketing to this group. Hispanics care about how marketers portray their ethnic group and it plays a big role in deciding if they will interact with a brand or not. This population wants to be respected and will avoid brands that cast their culture in a negative light. “When marketers talk about ‘U.S. Latinos,’ they cannot simply fall back on images of first-generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is assimilating and transforming much faster than the speed of stereotypes, acquiring complexity as it blends old and new”. Even subtle stereotypes can undermine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign and create a negative reputation for the brand.

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Just Fun and Games?

Over the years, Internet and other digital media usage has rapidly increased among young consumers and marketers have taken notice. Brands are expanding their marketing to include commercial websites, Internet advertising, online videos, social media, and advergames. Advergames, online games used to advertise products in a fun and engaging way, are commonly featured on company websites and developed into mobile apps. Advergames are growing across global markets, but brands must be prepared to handle the backlash that surrounds advertising to children.

Food and beverage companies are among many that have jumped on the advergame bandwagon and are using them to reach children of all ages. These simple and enticing games for laptops, touch-screen phones and tablets are far cheaper than traditional advertising and have proven to be effective because it encourages a tighter bond between marketers and young consumers.

One brand that utilizes advergames on its corporate web site to specifically target youth Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 11.49.49 PMis Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts®. On the Pop-Tarts website, there are eight different games available for children of all ages to play. These games include mazes, skiing simulations, bike riding over a toaster, memory testing, and two holiday themed games. The games are similar to traditional online games; however each game on this web site is unique by being centralized around the product. For example, the main interactive character is a Pop-Tart and the games include items that relate to the product, such as a toaster.

A few apps that have already become hits are “SuperPretzel Factory”, which encourages players to race against a timer to mix bowls of dough, and “Icee Maker”, which has been downloaded more than eight million times since its release in 2012. Mobile apps have become increasingly popular because children can easily use and understand a touch screen. A recent survey conducted by NPD Group found that 37% of 4-and 5-year old Americans were using smartphones and tablets.

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Smartphones and tablets have started to change consumer’s habits and marketers are rushing to build a presence with games that appeal to children.

Even though these games may be successful, many considered this form of marketing to be unethical because it is manipulating children’s behavior without them even realizing it. At Bath University, Dr. Haiming Hang and Dr. Agnes Nairn have conduct several studies on advergames and found that while most children are able to identify more traditional forms of advertising, billboards or television commercials, many were not able to identify advergames as a form of advertising also. Additional research has also suggested that children’s understanding of advergames is undeveloped, which has generated a lot of concern because children are being influenced to make poor dietary choices. Luciana Berger MP, Labour’s shadow Public Health Minister, said she was “alarmed” by the increasing use of advergames. “Parents are anxious about these unfamiliar techniques in new online media and more must be done to ensure they have the information they need to protect their children from being bombarded by these compelling free games that we know most children don’t even recognize as adverts,” she added.


What are your thoughts on advergames? Just for fun? Or marketing in disguise?