Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Coinciding with NBA’s opening night, Nike is set to launch its new TV spot tonight during the TNT broadcast.

Titled “Rise,” some are calling it LeBron James’ answer to critics, but let’s call it what it is.

It’s Nike at its best.

It’s a fantastic piece of creative to pull back in customers who were so mad at LeBron (my son, included) that they saw him as a turncoat. Some burned his jerseys. Others tossed out his memorabilia with the garbage. He didn’t get a lot of support for his move to Miami.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, when LeBron James left the Cavs for the Heat, he didn’t just impact “LeBron James – The Brand,” he impacted every other brand that “LeBron James – The Man” represented.

That included Nike on a multi-million dollar scale.

Is this LeBron answering critics? No. It’s really, really, really, really expensive damage control and customer retention…and it’s really well done.

It’s also an example to brands everywhere that redemption is (almost always) possible – no matter how much your pitchman or woman messes up.

Taft Matney is a partner with TM Public Relations, a strategic communications and governmental affairs firm in Greenville, SC. Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/taftmatney) and "like" TMPR on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TMPRGA).
This op-ed may be reprinted/reposted in whole or in part upon written notification to taft@taftmatney.com.


Monday, October 18, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, an editor was pulling some background on a story she was working on. She asked:
  1. whether there are any different guidelines governing political campaign ads on YouTube/online video vs. broadcast TV, and
  2. why politicians may see online video as a better option for campaign media.
A big part of my job is to work with media to help them get the information they need to do their jobs better. It’s not about getting our names in print. Hopefully, my answers to her questions provided a little extra insight. With the 2010 election just weeks away, maybe those answers can help you, too.
As one of the first pieces of Web 2.0, video distribution sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, Veoh, and Blip.tv completely changed the rules for political campaigning. Building on a preexisting freedom that provides political campaign ads with a lot more leeway and essentially exempts them from truth-in-advertising laws, video distribution via the web created an entirely new channel that is still evolving.
First, the guidelines are that there are no guidelines in creating direct to web videos. Now there are ethical constraints that limit how far a campaign can/will go, but those are left up to the consultants and ultimately the candidate or authorizing third party. Outside of creating libel and slander situations, the web remains the Wild West. A great example of this is the 2006 congressional campaign of Republican Paul R. Nelson against Congressman Ron Kind. Nelson's ads were so over the top (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKln7salIrg), I don't know of any broadcast outlets that aired them. They found a home on the web that garnered Nelson a nationwide audience, though. It's worth noting that Nelson lost, but nevertheless, the web is a broadcast outlet for material that wouldn't be distributed via traditional media.

Answering the second piece, it's not that politicians see online video as a better option, it's mostly that their consultants (and politicians peripherally) recognize that there are simply things that can be done sometimes via the web that can't be done via broadcast media. Part of that can be taken from the previous example, but often web video distribution is a medium of convenience and cost.

If you're running a local campaign with a small budget or a budget that has little room for broadcast advertisement, you have the ability to work locally to produce a campaign advertisement that can be posted to multiple sites and outlets or e-mailed to friends, family, supporters, and potential supporters. It isn't bound by 30 or 60 seconds of a television spot, either. If tied in and distributed with certain e-mail programs, you can tag each e-mail with a personal identifier and know who is watching the video and how it's being distributed. In other words, to a certain extent, you can track the frequency and reach with which your campaign video is being viewed and by whom. You're also doing this for a fraction of the cost of a major broadcast media buy.

Another situation where campaign web videos are more efficient is from a frequency standpoint. Let's say you're an incumbent and you want to have periodic video updates available for your constituents or you have a hot-button issue going on and need to explain your stance without it being edited or editorialized by local media. Web distribution is the way to go. Consulting firms and new media firms can bring in the right equipment for you to record your message and get it posted online without the expense of a TV production team or a media buy every time you want to say, "Here's what's going on at City Hall."

The third benefit for web video distribution is those "gotcha" moments. Let's say you're running for US Senate and your opponent talks about his military service in Vietnam -- except he never served in Vietnam. With everyone carrying a camera or a smart phone, gaffes and flubs like that are almost inescapable and are prime for web distribution.

The fourth web distribution benefit is a trickle-down from the previous three. You never know when you're going to strike gold with something you say or something that happens on the campaign trail. As mainstream media members become more entrenched in social media applications, it's more likely than ever before that they'll see what you're posting. They're always looking for new material or that next story, so if you post something that strikes them, who knows? You may have a whole new audience for your pieces as they go mainstream.
Taft Matney is a partner with TM Public Relations, a strategic communications and governmental affairs firm in Greenville, SC. Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/taftmatney) and "like" TMPR on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TMPRGA).
This op-ed may be reprinted/reposted in whole or in part upon written notification to taft@taftmatney.com.


Monday, October 04, 2010


If you grew up in or around any Southern city of size, the department store that first comes to mind is probably Belk. After all it’s been around since 1888.

As a kid, you shopped there with your parents or grandparents. When you grew up and you and your friends started to get married, you either registered at Belk or bought wedding gifts for someone at Belk. Even if you registered somewhere else, you still registered at Belk because, as my dad said, “That’s the only place the older ladies shop.”

And, as I learned on many occasions later in life, dad was right.

Belk has been more than a store to Southern shoppers. It’s been a retail neighbor that you felt comfortable with. As a loyal customer, you knew this was a brand you could trust.

In spite of the changes the chain has endured over the past several years (declining market conditions, increased competition and shopping alternatives, more crowded store pathways filled with items directed to impulse buys, less professional service personnel, inclusion of lower quality brands), we still trusted Belk because we saw that script logo with the oversized “B” on the front of the building and were at ease.
Now, after 43 years of building immeasurable brand equity among its customers, the third generation Belks who now operate the nation’s largest privately-held department store decided that this is the time to upset the applecart.

A new logo. A new tagline. A new color palate. $70 million to do it.

Refreshing your brand from time to time is understandable. It’s even necessary to keep yourself fresh.

Want to change the tagline? Sure. Everybody needs a new slogan every now and then. People change. Attitudes change. You want to do everything you can to keep yourself relatable with your current and potential customer base.

Need to change your color scheme? Yeah. It happens, but there’s usually a direct connection to the past palate and is done to denote a different member of the same product family (think

“Sprite” and the color reversal for “Diet Sprite” and “Sprite Zero.”).

Flat out changing the logo? Why? The current Belk logo has been around for 43 years. Despite the way the retail business has changed, 43 years is a long time to build up brand equity. Though on a much smaller scale, this is like when Coca-Cola changed its formula and gave soft drink buyers New Coke. Aside from the horrible new formula that drink makers said we’d love, the company ditched the Coca-Cola script logo in favor of Coke in big letters running up the side of the can.

Coke drinkers were up in arms over the changes, and I honestly don’t think Belk’s new logo will go over well with its customers, either. The difference is that with the massive $70 million investment by the Belks in this effort, there’s probably no undo.

It’s yet to be seen how Belk loyalists will react. How will they view Belk now? Will they still see Belk still a trusted friend and neighbor? Will they break those loyalties and be more inclined to shop around at competitors. I don’t know, but if my wife’s response to the new logo is any indication of how the company’s “modern customers” (as the news release called them) react, the reaction won't be good.

How much will Belk ultimately lose by fixing a logo and brand identity that wasn’t broken?

UPDATE (OCTOBER 12, 2010): After a significant investment by American retailer GAP and its announcement of a new logo only days after the Belk unveiling, due to a barrage of negative comments via social networking (specifically, comments on the company's Twitter and Facebook pages and pop-up sites urging people to create their own GAP logos), the company reversed its plans and will keep the old logo for the time being. As Britain's THE GUARDIAN reported, "Marka Hansen, president of the Gap brand in North America, conceded that the 'outpouring of comments' showed the company 'did not go about this in the right way.'" (THE GUARDIAN Story can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/12/gap-logo-redesign)

Taft Matney is a partner with TM Public Relations, a strategic communications and governmental affairs firm in Greenville, SC. Follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/taftmatney) and "like" TMPR on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TMPRGA).

This op-ed may be reprinted/reposted in whole or in part upon written notification to taft@taftmatney.com.



712 Knollwood Drive     Greenville, SC 29607-5219

Phone: 864/505-8866     Fax: 864/297-3871




Per the US Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)

Copyright © 1999-2014 TMPR. All rights reserved.