PR Trend: Humanizing Brands

Companies are moving away from the boring celebrity spokeperson and opting for a more realistic, humanized product supporter – real families.

I have been noticing this trend for a while and I LOVE it.

Nearly a century ago, McDonald’s sparked this trend when they enlisted five mothers to learn the true ins and outs of the company and to blog about it. These McDonald’s Moms brought a new perspective to marketing and PR. Other mothers trusted these women they could relate to.

Other companies have similar advertising and public relations campaigns, and several businesses have opted to use a grassroots plan by asking bloggers (especially mommy bloggers) to write reviews about their products  on the web.

Last year, The Georgia Aquarium created a trial program where they offered a “buy one adult ticket, get three kids tickets free between 12-5 M-F” deal. The catch is that they only let one mommy blogger in the Atlanta area advertise the deal. The Aquarium saw sales during that time slot more than double.

People are more likely to trust their neighbor Joe than Britney Spears about what type of lawn mower to buy. Humanizing a brand means handing over some of its power to the consumer – which can be a bit scary. Sometimes a blogger writes a bad review of a product they tested. Sometimes a fed up Blackberry user will rant about their phone on Twitter. Ultimately, however, I believe that good products will get good responses and therefore have great sales.

Other companies who have used this humanizing trend:

Toyota Sienna Family

Kleenex Virtual Mom

Microsoft’s I’m a PC campaign (great mix of celebrity and real-person testimonials)

Microsoft’s Windows 7 Was My Idea campaign (are we seeing a trend?)

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After “I do”

After having just celebrated my three year anniversary with my boyfriend and with the Georgia Bridal Show billboards all over, I have been thinking a lot about marriage lately.

I’ve already have the man, the venue and the ring picked out, but there is a whole lot more that comes after you say “I do.”

(Side note: I am not engaged or really planning a wedding, I just love all things girlie and weddings are very high on that list!)

I work at a restaurant and a few days ago one of the other servers walked into the server alley and yelled, “OMG look at the guy at table 34! He’s my future ex-husband!”

Now, as a romantic traditionalist, I found this expression outrageous. And unfortunately, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. The media (yes, we are always blaming the media) is changing the way marriage is portrayed and I think it is damaging to the whole institution.

I would argue that the word “divorce” is used more often in every day language than the word “marriage.” No one likes divorce and I don’t think that anyone actually stands at the alter assuming the union will end in divorce, but I think it is so acceptable nowadays that people don’t take the commitment of marriage as seriously as they did 50 years ago.

Marriage is also becoming more of a duct tape solution to relationships – which is certainly not helping. A girl I know, Anna* married John* a few weeks before she had his baby because she didn’t want an illegitimate child. Anna and John had just gone through a rough breakup when Anna peed on a stick and was faced with a positive sign. They thought that a baby, an apartment of their own and a marriage certificate would fix their relationship. Unfortunately, only six months later Anna and John are finalizing their divorce. At age 22, Anna is a single mother and a divorcee.

When Chris and I get married, I know it’ll be forever. It takes me four months to decide on a haircut – there’s no way I would say yes to a proposal if I didn’t put in the legwork to know that it was right for me. It’s taken me just under three years to be positive that Chris is the one. He’s not perfect, but neither am I.

As a Child and Family Development minor, I have taken several classes about relationships. I have learned that the reasons most marriages fail are because of expectations. A wife expects her husband to always be on time, give her extravagant gifts once a month and always remember the anniversary of their first kiss. A husband expects his wife to maintain a career, raise the kids and clean the house every day. We can’t fulfill these tv-generated expectations so eventually our partners will begin to resent us.

I, however, will go into marriage with the expectations that Chris will try his best to make sure I am happy every day and I will do the same. I can’t wait to start our life together – and to plan the wedding!

Be sure that before you say “I do” you know how to finish the sentence.

Chris and I

*Names have been changed.

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Getting Famous!

I really don’t have a big head, I promise you that. I am as humble as can be, but, that being said, I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the publicity that has come with winning the 2010 Bateman Competition. After all, I worked more than 40 hours a week on the iCount campaign!

Just in case you are interested, here are a few of the links to stories about me and the four most amazing PR students the world has ever seen (okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but they are truly amazing!!).

Also – my blog has gotten some love! This is a great article about the importance of blogging for students (and it mentions mine! yay!).

If anyone wants an autograph, just find me on Twitter and we’ll discuss it 😉 haha!

My Batemates & Fellow Celebrities

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iPhone Coming to Verizon?

I, like many loyal Verizon customers, have been eagerly awaiting an iPhone compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network. Well, maybe I’ve been a little more eager than the average consumer. Some have even described me as “obsessed.” What can you do? After all, the iPhone was a revolution to the world of the cellular phones.

There have been reports and rumors about the spread of the iPhone empire to Verizon for almost a year now. I have avidly kept up with the news praying for a beacon of hope that I will no longer be left alone in the world with no iPhone. However, the more I read the more I see that my prayers may be fruitless – at least for a few more years.

Why Apple Doesn’t Want to Sell to Verizon

There are a number of reasons I’ve discovered that Apple would not want to sell it’s iPhone to Verizon.

  1. Verizon has been slamming the iPhone in advertising with the Droid Does campaign.
  2. Apple wants to control the repair of iPhones, like it does now, while Verizon insists on being allowed to fix customers’ phones in-house.
  3. If the iPhone is available on competing networks, the price of the product will be driven down in competition. (I don’t believe this would ultimately be negative though because selling twice as many phones at 2/3s of the price is still a big profit!).
  4. Apple will lose control if they sell to Verizon. As the number one selling smart phone on AT&T, they have a lot of control when it comes to advertising and sales operations.
  5. It would be a lot more work to create a phone compatible with Verizon’s CDMA network and then create a whole new phone next year when Verizon switches to 4G.

Why Verizon Doesn’t Want the iPhone

Verizon, unfortunately, also has several reasons not to mess with the iPhone.

  1. Performance-wise, Verizon already has the best smart phones on the market with the HTC series and the Droid system.
  2. Verizon wants to maintain the same level of customer service they’ve always had but Apple is making that difficult with a phone that does not have a battery removable or replaceable by consumers or even Verizon employees.
  3. The competition with AT&T that the iPhone would produce would drive the price of cellphone internet access down.
  4. Verizon may fear that the overusage of the internet (as iPhone users are famous for) may clog the network like what’s happening right now on AT&T.

So all-in-all, I am disheartened about the whole thing. Maybe I will make the switch over to an HTC phone. They’re supposed to be better anyway. A friend of mine just got back from the annual Google Conference in San Fransisco where they GAVE AWAY the brand-new, not yet released to the public HTC Evo AND the Droid. And I must say, the Evo is amazing. It’s just like a computer but it fits in the palm of your hand.

Anyone have any suggestions either way?

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My Mentors

I call Dr. Jones more often than I call my best friend. Dr. Sallot wrote me a letter of recommendation that made me cry and Dr. Sweetser helped me find my love of research that I had buried deep down inside.

It is because of my mentors that I am the student, the practitioner and the person I am today. Dr. Sallot encouraged me to join PRSSA – which is now the most important part of my college experience. Dr. Sweetser helped me to get my undergraduate research published and taught me to fight my fear of public speaking. Dr. Jones has been my cheerleader through everything I’ve tried to do and she’s a shoulder to cry on when things don’t go as planned.

These amazing women have made me realize how important mentoring is to an ambitious young student. As an only child, I never filled the role of “big sister” until I began college. I became the motherly influence on my dorm mates and took “my freshies” under my wing as I moved up through the ranks of PRSSA.

This year, I stepped up to lead the Mentoring Committee within our PRSSA chapter and it was the most rewarding thing I’ve done. I am so proud of my two mentees – Kat and Eric. They both just finished their freshman year and have had great accomplishments already. Kat has learned to be well-informed when speaking with professionals and asks intelligent questions. Eric has a summer internship at the largest sports PR firm in Atlanta and is on a first name basis with the President of PRSA | GA.

I also held a mentoring event this year, “What I Wish I Knew Before Grady,” where we had small, round-table discussions in which younger students could ask questions and garner advice from those who have survived the Grady entrance essay, Dr. Sweetser’s class and a couple of internships.

Having a mentor and then becoming one is the best way to pass it forward in life.

I ask you practitioners out there, well into your careers, to never forget that you were once that nervous 20-year-old sitting on the other side of a big, mahogany desk answering questions about your experience and skills. Smile when you recognize the anxious wringing of the hands beneath the desk and offer advice where you see fit.

Students, don’t be afraid to ask questions, form friendships and, the ever-famous word in the world of pr, network!! And just because you are still in school doesn’t mean you can’t help those following behind you. Reach out a hand. I encourage you to find a “freshie” and teach them the little tips and tricks you had to learn the hard way.

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In Memory of Betsy Plank

There is a reason every PR student knows the name Betsy Plank. She was a revolutionary in the world of public relations. You remember the game where you can choose any three people dead or alive to invite to tea? I would choose Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonardo DaVinci and Betsy Plank.

Ms. Plank was the mother of the Public Relations Society of America – the organization I love more than I can even express. She saw that unity, mentorship and the sharing of ideas would allow for the profession of public relations to grow into what it is today.

Betsy Plank was not just a woman in PR, she was THE woman of PR. She was the first woman everything it seems. She paved the way for so many others – including myself.

As an icon of public relations, Betsy Plank will never truly die. She will live on in textbooks, stories, scholarships and practices. She will live on in the hearts of practitioners everywhere.

Here are some great articles in her memory:

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Windows Live Writer

Just downloaded windows live writer. It’s supposed to help make blogging easier to control. Let’s see how it works out!!

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