Response: Vanilla Ice, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and Reaching Kids Through Their Parents

As the lone branding and humor blog in my class full of PR blogs, I couldn’t believe the bone my professor Kathryn Thier threw me this week in our options for this week’s response post. This one was even labelled “branding and humor.” No wiggling or maneuvering this week. This one’s right up my alley.

Although it took me a read through Brian Koerber’s Mashable post about Vanilla Ice’s new campaign with Kraft promoting the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mac and cheese to understand the love story between the rapper and the noodles, my initial reaction to the new commercial was utter confusion.

What does an outdated rapper have to do with snacks, kids who want snacks, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Don’t worry, I didn’t get it right on the first try either. The answer? The parents.

Maybe I’m already a 21-year-old geezer, making “back in my day” references, but when I was that kid’s age, Vanilla Ice was already “old school.” Now, I haven’t seen any of these new TMNT movies, but I think I would know if Ice was relevant again. (Although apparently he is.)

Kraft went smart here, though, while going funny. They don’t need to make the kids laugh. The kids want the TMNT mac and cheese because they like the show now. Unfortunately for them, mom and dad do the grocery shopping. BUT, fortunately for them, not only was Vanilla Ice still on the mic when they were younger, but TMNT was the latest craze. Kraft went for the wallet on this one, and by wallet, I actually mean the holder of the wallet.

I’ve heard a few places that the first rule of marketing is that sex sells. I’d like to motion that the second rule of marketing be that nostalgia sells. I may be a few years to young to have a kid who wants mac and cheese (or let alone have a kid), but nothing gets me jonesing for that cheesy goodness, an already nostalgic experience, like noodles in the shape of childhood TV show characters. I’m just waiting for Kraft to release some Rocket Power shapes, and I’ll be good to go.

What do you think? Can nostalgia be the way to our hearts and wallets?


Infographics – Like Hashtags But With More Color

As this blog originates from a class assignment, my blog deviates this week to cover our required topic of infographics.

Why are infographics so addicting? Is it the simple nature? The varying, often comical topics? They’re bite-sized bits of information packed into an easily digestible package. And they’re delicious. Check out some cool ones here.

My infographic centered around the results of the philanthropy event that I recently headed through my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. This year, we introduced two new aspects to our event: canning, where we are literally out in the community holding empty coffee tins and asking for donations, and a letter writing campaign. As these elements were new, it was hard to get full participation in them. However, I noticed that the return rates for both of these elements were incredibly high. Every two-hour canning shift of two or three brothers brought back over $100, translating to about $50 per brother per shift, and our current average donation from the letter writing campaign is over $100. We set our fundraising goal at $10,000, and although we are still receiving donations, we haven’t quite made it yet. I wanted to make an infographic to illustrate how widespread participation in these two new elements would get us well beyond our goal.

When I first designed my infographic, there were so many parts to it. I had so much data. I had so many messages I wanted to get across. Parts of it were about our chapter specifically. Parts of it were about our national philanthropy project. Parts of it reflected national nonprofit statistics. The more I added to it, the more I moved things around, hoping it would all make sense together. Although I still have more information that I’d like to convey at some point, I ended up going with this.


I decided that an effective infographic should follow the same rules as an effective hashtag. Personally, I have two criteria for a successful hashtag: brevity and clarity. When you only have 140 characters, you don’t have much space, so the hashtag better be short, but it also must get your point across and its purpose must be clear.

For this infographic, I went to answer the basic question that swirled my brothers’ minds when I introduced these two elements. Why? Because they work! That’s why! Although I believe this infographic works best when coupled with much more background and information about how our philanthropy project works, it can stand alone without any context and still convey the message.

By sticking to my two rules of thumb for hashtags, I took my knowledge of something with which I’m very experienced and applied it to something I’d love to become more experienced in. How did I do? Can my rules stand alone? Or should there be more to look out for when making an infographic?

Response: New Survey Shows Humor as Common Denominator for Facebook Use

A couple weeks ago, Aaron Smith wrote an article revealing six new facts about Facebook use that were found through a new Pew Research Center study. Among these findings is a breakdown of the major reasons people use Facebook, separated by gender.


I’m not too concerned with the gender separation here. The most important part is that more than 35% of Facebook users log on to see funny or entertaining content. I have previously talked about how people only want to share things that will shed positive light on their own personal brand. This is a direct response of that fact. Because we want our Facebook profiles to have quality content on them, we know that by logging in to Facebook, we’ll find the best of what our friends find as well.

Another important statistic that arose is that 44% of users like their friends’ content daily, while only 10% create content daily. Why is this significant? We log on to consume much more than to produce. Our Facebook activity is highly dependant on the content created or shared by our friends. We are more than four times more likely to engage in our friends’ content than create our own. Tying back into the previous statistic, we’re signing in because we know our friends post things, and more than a third of us do it because we hope they post something funny.

It’s not always easy for someone who is not too savvy with the internet to find the content that interests them. Facebook has allowed us to let that content come to us. Whether you want funny cat videos or serious articles, logging in to Facebook and browsing the feed can bring us what we want.

Old Navy Adds Humor Without Changing Their Model

Old Navy just hit a home run. They stepped up their humor game for their newest campaign, but stayed true to themselves. Old Navy brought in former MADtv cast member Debra Wilson, yet kept their message clear and stayed relatable.

Most Old Navy commercials have very clear messages: SUMMER SHORTS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY! or SWEATERS FOR MOM! or $12 CREW NECKS! The model will smile, often spin around while wearing the item, and brightly colored numbers and letters will repeat the current deal on screen. It’s always easy to know what’s going on at Old Navy, but it’s not really easy to pay attention to the commercials. They look the same every time.

Old Navy commercials have been humorous before, whether it was the mannequin voiceovers or the classic name mix up, but the humor isn’t memorable. They’ve also had celebrity appearances before. This time, however, Debra Wilson comes in to play an airport security worker who’s excited about a passenger’s jeans.

We can immediatelyrelate to the commercial, as anyone who has ever been through an airport security line has dealt with the annoyances of that system and the sassy security agents you might encounter.  Quickly, Wilson’s antics and faces get you laughing. The passenger is then able to act as a foil to Wilson and talk about Old Navy’s promotion, while Wilson can carry the humor herself (with the help of her sassy sidekick, Larry).

The chaos breaks out when the passenger announces that you can get $5 off this weekend just for trying them on. Cue the cartoon music, the flying suitcases, and a tiny yelping dog. The logo flashes on screen and just like that, the spot is over and we all go back to our day.

Why is this memorable? Why does this commercial work? Old Navy took a very smart approach to this. Many companies will try to “go funny” and try to rebrand themselves as funny in the process. Instead of going for something completely new, Old Navy stuck to their guns and incorporated humor into their tried and true model. Old Navy has always been proud of its everyday style and easy attitude. By staying relatable, they were able to make a big step for themselves without sacrificing anything.

Nike Tries New Approach, Goes Funny for the New FuelBand SE

When you think of Nike, what do you think of? I don’t mean the price tags or the foreign labor or anything like that. Just think of your reaction when you see the Swoosh. It’s all about the wow factor and the cool factor. They usually highlight celebrity athletes working out or performing physically intense activities.

After all, Nike is dedicated to athletic performance. The funniest I’ve ever seen Nike go was a promotional video they made around the first edition of the FuelBand, and they were targeting the college audience anyway. (I may or may not be the chef in this video.)

As somebody who uses a Nike FuelBand and didn’t buy it because of a funny commercial, it was very interesting to see the new FuelBand SE commercials. The commercial features a voiceover with just a close up of the new FuelBand, and the voice sarcastically lists off who the product is not meant for, including people who don’t like cool stuff on their wrists, people who don’t like feeling awesome, and people who don’t like wrists. The list goes on and on before saying that otherwise, it’s for you.

This take is brilliant. I get questions all the time about why I have a FuelBand. I’m not somebody you would envision at a gym or keeping track of how much physical activity I’ve done. However, I love my FuelBand because it keeps me more active. It’s a constant reminder of when I haven’t done enough physical activity in a day. I’m not someone who is incredibly concerned with my daily workout. I don’t even have a daily workout. I am part of this new target audience, though.

Nike is going for people who aren’t obsessed with their workouts but want to stay more active. They’re aiming for those who want to look after their body, but aren’t necessarily out drinking protein shakes or ordering off the “skinny” menus at restaurants. We like commercials that poke fun at workoutaholics. We may want to workout, but we don’t want to take it too seriously.

I’m really proud of Nike for making this move. It doesn’t alienate anyone whose body type doesn’t match those in their normal commercials. By avoiding the human visual element, it brings those of us in who aren’t part of their normal fitness audience. Well done, Nike, well done.

New Strategies Arise to Communicate with Super Bowl Audience

Buying an expensive Super Bowl ad isn’t the only way to get people talking about you on the biggest Sunday in February. While the game itself turned out to be a blowout, the audience still stuck around. Whether we wanted to see more commercials, or just didn’t have anything else to do, we kept watching. I, for one, multitasked and turned to Twitter and other online platforms to find out the latest buzz. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites.

JCPenney’s #TweetingWithMittens

To my generation, JCPenney is a forgotten brand, but when the JCPenney Twitter account started tweeting out what looked like drunken tweets, the Twittersphere exploded. As people’s attention moved away from the game, the buzz became about JCPenney’s odd tweets.

Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 2, 2014

Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014

They soon followed it with this.

Oops…Sorry for the typos. We were #TweetingWithMittens. Wasn’t it supposed to be colder? Enjoy the game! #GoTeamUSA

— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014

Although many thought that this wasn’t a planned effort or just didn’t like it in general, I loved it. This cost them next to nothing and got EVERYONE talking about it. Maybe the humor wasn’t on point, but while it may not make everyone laugh, it got us all paying attention.

JCPenney has long been a supporter of the US Olympic team, and this was a great way to get people talking about them again. I may just go get myself some USA mittens!

Newcastle’s Mega Huge Football Game Ad

I don’t want to beat a dead horse with Newcastle’s Super Bowl campaign, so I’ll talk about their game day strategy. Newcastle didn’t buy a Super Bowl ad, so instead, they piggybacked on everyone else’s commercials.

.@jaguar see the mega huge version of your british villain ad the way we would’ve made it: #IfWeMadeIt #GoodToBeBad

— Newcastle Brown Ale (@Newcastle) February 3, 2014

Riding off the success of the earlier parts of this campaign, they kept people talking about them. Using some clever, quick-working storyboard artists and a Twitter account, Newcastle played the real time marketing game well.


By choosing the ad spot immediately after the Super Bowl instead of one during it, Esurance saved $1.5 million and decided to give it to the people!

This may not be the funniest commercial of the Super Bowl, but they had EVERYONE talking about them. I’m not usually one for social media competitions that have users create content that doesn’t have create anything else, but for free money, I’ll give it a try.

It’s very interesting to see companies move away from the main spots to communicate their messages and I can’t wait to see where this goes.