Stephanie Fierman Is Not Offended By The Loofah! Loofah!

I am sensitive to dumb and/or insensitive imagery and statements in advertising and the media – I thought that the “How I Met Your Mother” Frosty the Snowman spoof was a little over the top, for example – but this is pushing it.scrubbing-bubble-stephanie-fierman.jpg

A new commercial for the all-natural line of cleaning products, Method, has already been pulled – and that’s a pity.

Droga5′s “SHINY SUDS” is a silly send-up of Dow’s Scrubbing Bubbles commercials.  Method created the video to support the Household Products Labeling Act, which would require full disclosure of harmful chemicals in cleaning products. Here’s the ad (if you cannot see the ad below, click HERE):



Right after the video was posted online, women began to react negatively – and harshly.  A blogger accused the company of “humiliating women” and effectively saying that – if you don’t know exactly what’s in the products you use – “you deserve to be sexually harassed” in your own home.  A reader of the same blog post called Method to tell them that she was “curious of [sic] their perpetuation of rape culture.”


Rape culture? Sexual harassment? The “pornification” of a dull House act about cleaning chemicals? What am I missing here?


Apparently a lot, as the company received hundreds of calls and emails from outraged women before declaring itself a “values-based company” and pulling the spot.


Of course, there are other interested parties who struck back, most notably (a) the advertising community (which asks when brands are going to – ahem – “grow a pair” and tell zealot ”idiots” to bug off) and (b) both men and women who say that this “overreaction” is just another example of why many believe that feminism has become a joke.


I’m not going to lean that hard in either direction… but I didn’t see the danger in this video.  What do you think?



Stephanie Fierman Lies For Tappening
Wednesday July 29th 2009, 7:01 pm
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,blogs,branding,environmentalism,Internet,Twitter,web 2.0

Well, my Tappening idols – Mark DiMassimo and Eric Yaverbaum – are back with a new campaign that got a big write-up in The New York Times yesterday.  Boo-yah!

As you may know, Tappening is a grass-roots effort DiMassimo and Yaverbaum started together as a laboratory for a social world marketing experiment focused on the negatives associated with bottled water (which – outside of convenience - turns out to be pretty much everything about bottled water).  I first interviewed them nearly two years ago about the initiative and covered their first ad campaign back in March of this year.  To date, Tappening has sold about $5 million worth of re-usable BPA-free plastic and stainless steel bottles, much of which is plowed back into the effort.

The team’s second campaign turns up the heat.  “Lying in Advertising” includes several treatments featuring such claims as “Bottled water causes blindness in puppies” and “Bottled water is the primary cause of Restless Leg Syndrome.” If you cannot see the posters below, click HERE and check out the bottom of the page.

restless-leg.jpg   polar-bears.jpg   puppies.jpg   add2.jpg

The new campaign has a dedicated website at www.startalie.com from which you can easily ”spread” your lie about bottled water via email, Digg, Twitter and Facebook (a nice touch).  My first contribution was “Ben Bernanke says that bottled water caused the global recession.”

Hey, it could happen…



Stephanie Fierman Is (Still) A Huge Tappening Groupie

It’s been nearly 18 months since I interviewed the marketing and communications brains behind the highly successful tap water effort, Tappening.  Man, time flies when people are out saving the planet!

I also covered Tappening’s first ad campaign right HERE, which took iconic imagery and – without being too heavy-handed – delivered a hard message about the global impact of bottled water.

Mark Dimassimo and Eric Yaverbaum created Tappening as a fun and meaningful consumer movement to sensitize everyone to the financial and societal costs of bottled water and to “make tap water cool again.”  Since then, the effort has gone so public, and reached so many fans, that not only are average people making fan videos on YouTube but the effort was recently the cover story of Brilliant Results magazine.  To see a pdf of the cover and the full story, click HERE.

Keep up with Tappening:  it’s not only a model for how to create a messaging phenom from nothing – drinking tap water is a quick and easy step you can take to help preserve our world and save money.

Brilliant Results-Tappening



Stephanie Fierman Does Try To Favor Companies Who Give
Monday January 19th 2009, 5:27 pm
Filed under: advertising,branding,environmentalism,market research,US economy,word of mouth

Today on my (other) blog Marketing Mojo, I wrote a lengthy post on the necessity of creating real value – vs. sometimes status-driven perceived value – in a down market. 

When most people hear “value” they think price, packaging, size, promotion… the standard inward-looking levers a company has at its disposal.  But if a company’s key constituents care about philanthropy, then a company’s outward-looking position can create value, as well. 

At this point in time, I think the attention being paid to companies’ philanthropic efforts is driven by both “positive” and “negative” factors: (a) positive, because younger generations are more sensitive to the societal impact of the products and services they consume, and (b) negative, in that people are generally so disgusted with the bad behavior and greed exhibited by many companies that there is a heightened demand to “give back.”  Whatever the reason… philanthropy is a very real way to engage with stakeholders.

And if we need numbers, it turns out that customers with a favorable impression of a company’s philanthropic efforts are 3x as likely to become loyal customers, and 91% of consumers say they would consider switching (away) if they found out that a company had exhibited ”negative corporate citizenship” behaviors.

Think Ben & Jerry’s or Target or Pfizer or Nike – the very fabric of these companies is inextricably connected to their social efforts.  Think about your employer, your own company or the companies from which you purchase products and services… are these organizations doing enough to suit you and, if so, do the right people know about it?



Is Stephanie Fierman Too Bushwhacked To Go?
Thursday January 08th 2009, 7:04 am
Filed under: advertising,environmentalism,Internet,market research

Will Ferrell is appearing for the first time on Broadway in a new one-man show, You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush. The run kicks off on January 20 — Bush’s final day in office — and concludes March 15.  Ferrell’s friend and collaborator, Adam McKay, is directing.  McKay played Ferrell’s friend in the legendary FunnyorDie.com video, The Landlord.  Remember the baby?? “You pay me nowwww!”will-ferrell-george-bush.jpg

Ferrell is masterful as Bush.  Here he is on the topic of global warming:  “Apparently the sun’s rays are, uh, intensifying in a way that’s, uh, increasing lava flows and, uh… Liberals and godless taxraisers are tryin’ to make me look bad with facts and scientific data. When you think back 6,000 years ago to when the world was created, when Adam and Eve talked to that snake, it was hot then, too.  Why do you think Adam and Eve were naked? And you didn’t hear Adam and Eve runnin’ around talkin’ about emission standards or hybrid cars… and I think the polar icecaps suck!  Who cares about a place where penguins can have an orgy?”

But I’m curious:  does everyone think Ferrell was funny, and will our political views impact the show’s ticket sales?  Will Dems not go because they don’t want to see anyone even pretending to be George Bush?  Or will Dems want to go for the release?  Will Republicans not go because they’re not excited about someone mocking their President?

I can’t think of an analogous situation in the past.  There’s the song “Springtime For Hitler” in Mel Brooks’ film/musical The Producers, but — aside from any other factors I’m probably not considering — The Producers was released in 1968, decades after the events that spawned the song.  

How do you promote something like this, or do you just let the chips fall where they may?



Stephanie Fierman Will Quietly Stay At The Hotel, But Thanks
Friday January 02nd 2009, 7:13 pm
Filed under: environmentalism,luxury,market research,US economy

“Cheap is cool.” Thus was MediaPost’s conclusion upon naming Wal-Mart retail marketer of the year.  Like ‘em or not, I have to agree with the choice.

And anyone reading this blog regularly will probably guess my choice for worst marketer of the year (a caffeinated drumroll please)… Yes, Starbucks.  A painful example of the fact that (a) brands that don’t change with the times get into trouble and (b) having your founder return in a Michael Dell-like manner does not always work.

But I digress.

The “cheap is cool” mantra will hold through 2009.  It’s not that you can’t have fun, or a treat once in awhile, but in-bred ostentatiousness is so 2007 (and 2006 and 2005….).  Consider how your product or service can reflect the changing times and mood – even if you only make a customer feel better about all the money he’s spending.

stephanie-fierman-montezuma.jpgCase in point:  slum tourism, the phenomenon of people spending a lot of money to visit the poorest slums of the world.  Are they helping matters?  Questionable.  Do they have a more soulful story for their friends (formerly known as Lehman Brothers masters of the universe) when they come home than they did after last year’s trip to St. Bart?  Absolutely.

slum tourism    Wal-Mart    Starbucks



Could Wal-Mart Influence Stephanie Fierman?
Tuesday December 30th 2008, 11:39 am
Filed under: advertising,branding,environmentalism,market research,retail,US economy

It’s no secret that Wal-Mart has benefited from the failing economy; it also did a very nice job recently with a promotion helping families pay for Thanksgiving dinner.

Now that the company has agreed to pay $640 million to settle over 60 wage-related lawsuits, I see an opportunity for Wal-Mart to reconstitute its image.

While 42% of Americans (as of 2006) say they shop at Wal-Mart at least once a month, there is at least 14% of U.S. consumers who consider themselves “conscientious objectors” to the retailer based on its employment, charitable and other policies.  And it’s probably safe to say that at least a portion of that 14% consists of parties that can capture an inordinate amount of media attention such as local governments and retailers, unions, prosecutors and others.

So with its successful new tagline “Save Money. Live Better,” will Wal-Mart seize what I see as a window of opportunity to change some of its policies and win over its detractors?  Pay-outs like $640 million are a drop in the bucket for Wal-Mart:  there’s a lot the company could do (and spend) to ensure that it comes out smelling much sweeter once the economy turns around. 

Consumers need a savior right now:  will Wal-Mart go out of its way to step up to the plate?

Wal-Mart 



Santa: Please Do Not Bring Stephanie Fierman Any Of This Bad Stuff
Monday December 15th 2008, 5:36 pm
Filed under: advertising,environmentalism,market research

Straight from treehugger-land…  a list of stuff NOT to buy this holiday if you give a hoot about your planet.

Some of the items on the list are more sustainability-sensitive than others, and some are just funny.  Like…

image_davin_large.jpgGIFT CARDS:  “No better purchase says, ‘I did all my shopping at the gas station.’”  Nice!  I still like iTunes gift cards, however, so don’t let Planet Green stop you.

PAPERWEIGHTS:  “Companies… pass every piece of non-functional junk off as a paperweight. Whose office is that windy? Are these paperweights for tornado-chasers and sea captains? Rocks are free.”

You do not even want to KNOW what these guys say about mail-order fruit…



Stephanie Fierman Wonders About Going Electric
Tuesday October 14th 2008, 5:40 am
Filed under: advertising,customer service,environmentalism,Internet,retail

Green” is so big and gas is so expensive.  Electric cars have been around for years, but most of the actual news you hear about them involves some celebrity who has one, ergo the 48,000 and 22,300 Google results for “ed begley electric car” and ”ed begley electric bike, respectively.   Outside of Begley and Woody Harrelson, it’s all a little hazy.

How come? 

Jut today I came across two websites:  www.priuspixelometro.com, a Toyota site that lets a user see how much he/she would save over X miles driving a Prius vs. an “average sedan.”  I don’t own an “average sedan,” do you?  Plus, you may drive the same number of miles from New York to New Jersey and between two spots in the Mojave Desert, but you most certainly will not use the same amount of gas.  No one’s looking seriously at electric car options using this tool.  The second (unrelated) website was www.costtodrive.com, which allows you to specify an exact starting point and destination PLUS the actual year, make and model of the car you drive.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

So how hard could it be to create the best of both worlds:  a site that allows you to (1) specify where you’re driving from and to, (2) along with the exact car you currently own… then shows you the all-in costs of using that car vs. the (3) year, make and model of an electric car that perhaps you are considering buying?  All-in costs could easily reflect both the cost of a kilowatt-hour and the cost of a gallon of gas in your home zip code as of some set date.

Wouldn’t that be fun and useful? And this site would be super-easy to build for Google, or Yahoo, or Car and Driver, or TreeHugger

GoDaddy says www.greentodrive.com is available.

Prius     Treehugger    electric car



Stephanie Fierman Drains The Bottled Water Hype
Monday September 15th 2008, 1:58 pm
Filed under: blogs,branding,environmentalism,market research

It seems possible that the bottled water phenomenon is finally losing steam.

Brand Keys recently conducted a survey of more than 25,000 consumers indicating that the most important attribute sought by an individual buying bottled water is “value.”  As a marketing executive and student of consumer behavior for over 20 years, I do not necessarily believe this.  Convenience and – for the higher-end brands such as Voss and Fiji - status have both reigned as key purchase drivers since bottled water took off in the 1990s.  While 25% of the bottled water sold in the United States is re-processed tap water (including the two largest brands, Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola’s Dasani), bottled water has been sold as everything from a healthy choice to a fashion accessory.  So I absolutely do not believe that “value” is historically a top criterion for purchase.stephanie-fierman-dimassimo-fish-ad.jpg

I don’t think that consumers are lying.  I think that the prism of mores through which individuals now view bottled water has fundamental changed, based primarily on the recession and, secondarily, the green movement.  Efforts such as Mark DiMassimo‘s and Eric Yaverbaum‘s Tappening have done a tremendous job of not only pointing out the absurdity of bottled water (“Being charged for water is like being charged for gravity,” says Dimassimo), but also the profound environmental waste and damage associated with its consumption.  The pictures accompanying this post are from Tappening’s first ad campaign.

stephanie-fierman-dimassimo-bill-ad.jpgSo how have manufacturers reacted?  Pepsi and Coke are discounting like crazy and refocusing their efforts on “enhanced water” such as SoBe Life Water and sugary VitaminWater, respectively.  While these companies’ bottled water sales dried up in the first half of 2008, then enhanced water category grew by 18.4%.

Will bottled water sales come back?  Tappening‘s Dimassimo says no, that a cultural shift has taken hold just as price sensitivity is reaching its highest point:  the “perfect storm,” as it were, for those trying to discourage bottled water sales.  “Bottled water is… environmental wastefulness… and it’s caught in the same storm as Starbucks” he says. ”  It felt good to be a little extravagant a few years ago.  Now it doesn’t feel good to waste money.”

Mark Dimassimo    Eric Yaverbaum   Aquafina    Dasani    Tappening    bottled water



Stephanie Fierman Talks About What Westin’s Ads “Feel Like”
Wednesday August 27th 2008, 2:55 am
Filed under: ad agency,advertising,branding,customer service,environmentalism,luxury

Westin’s current ad campaign promotes its hotels as veritable oases of renewal and inspiration.  On everything from TV to print to outdoor, the ads beacon with beautiful imagery and the line “This is how it should feel.”

Since I stayed at a Westin recently – and the bathroom was dirty – the only thing I’m feeling is slightly annoyed and a little skeevy.

westin-breathe-stephanie-fierman.jpgThe latest execution I noticed is a print execution in Fortune.  It’s a full-color ad showing nothing but rows of what looks like lettuce, growing in ripe, red soil, bathed in sunlight.  Tell me again why my hotel stay is supposed to feel like rows of lettuce? 

ChiefMarketer chose “Breathe” as the best 15-second TV promo because (the site was trying to be nice and) it’s the only one that comes anywhere close to presenting a consumer benefit.  A soft-focus swirl transforms into the word “Breathe” on-screen, after which a text line informs the viewer that Westin is the first major hotel chain to go smoke-free.  That is a long, long way from the way harangued travelers actually want to ”feel” which, for many, would be closer to hoping that the batteries in the TV remote work, the wireless Internet access is easy to use and the bedspread has been washed since the last Presidential election.

Part of my overall philosophy is that a brand must do what it is supposed to do, and do it well, before a consumer can give it emotional permission to venture into untested waters.  If ”core” doesn’t come before ”quirky,” the latter will be met with indifference, at best, and frustration or even disgust, at worst.westin-leaves-stephanie-fierman.jpg

Prior to the “This is how it should feel” mantra, Westin focused on the Heavenly Bed - remember that?  It is actually a pretty great bed and – unlike lettuce - this message delivered on one of the core expectations of every hotel guest:  a good night’s sleep.



Stephanie Fierman – Tappening x 2
Tuesday July 22nd 2008, 11:32 am
Filed under: advertising,branding,environmentalism,Internet,stephanie fierman

Tappening has a fresh, new ad campaign highlighting bottled water’s environmental damage in a humorous and insightful way.

tappening-smoke-stephanie-fierman.jpgCheck out the campaign on Ads of the World HERE, and check out the in-depth interview I did with the Men of Tappening HERE on my first blog, Stephanie Fierman – Marketing Mojo.

Launched in November 2007, Tappening is now set to conclude its “Message In A Bottle” campaign by sending 1 million plastic water bottles (originally planned for the front lawn of Coca-Cola’s headquarters) to a recycling center.

tappening-stephanie-fierman-bottles.jpgThis is a most worthy cause, initiated by Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo - two worthy ad men who, first and foremost, consider themselves dads interesting in protecting the earth for their own kids.

If you still need your own Tappening bottle, purchase one quickly before they become collector’s items.  Tappening bags are on the way.



Stephanie Fierman Builds A Green… Uh…
Thursday July 17th 2008, 9:00 pm
Filed under: environmentalism

Ecolect is a super-cool online library of sustainable building materials.  The site, whose primary users are architects and industrial designers, was created last year by two Rhode Island School of Design graduates.  One of the co-founders, Matt Grisby, won the title of Rhode Island Innovation Awards Rising Star Innovator for his role in the creation of Ecolect.ecolect-sustainable-materials-stephanie-fierman.jpg

The site highlights materials with sustainable attributes in multiple categories, such as paint, flooring, roofing and tile, and offers case studies that illustrate real-life examples of sustainable design.

Beautiful idea, lovely site.



Stephanie Fierman Needs Some Green Help
Monday June 30th 2008, 8:55 am
Filed under: advertising,blogs,environmentalism,Google

And speaking of www.consumerist.com, I just read about a New York event put together by The Climate Group out of London that “vetted solutions that actually do result in both CO2 and dollar savings for everyday people.”

The article I spotted mentioned that several brands were eager to be (voluntarily) involved in order to show their clima-worthiness, including Dell, Chase and Target.  There were a bunch of video screens in Times Square, Dell laptops you could use to check out www.together.com (the campaign was called “Together”) and so on.

So the www.consumerist.com connection is… Wouldn’t it be fantastic if one website built its credibility as THE source for determining whether a company is really green or not?  You could go to the site, type in any company’s name and the site would present its “Green Sheet” on the company’s activities, charitable donations to environmental causes (if any), its estimated CO2 impact in, say, the last 25 years and an overall rating on a scale of 1 to 10.  The site would also present a curated selection of articles and news about that company related to its environmental impact.

www.treehugger.com is the closest I can think of – here is what comes up when I typed “General Motors” into the site’s search box – but the site doesn’t pull everything together (as in my Green Sheet idea) nor is it comprehensive.

It’s an interesting thought:  would you pay a subscription fee for a site that was truly sort of the “Consumer Reports of environmentalism?”  The one place you would know you could visit for the right amount of information on any company you could imagine?  I think I would.