Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What “I Can’t Breathe” Means for Marketers

The phrase, “I can’t breathe” is usually a cry for help in American culture. In most circumstances, after that phrase is used, medical attention is sought for the person that is struggling to breathe. Unfortunately, Eric Gardner cannot say the same thing.
 In July 2014, Gardner, a 43 year old, 350 pound African-American man was approached by undercover officers. Which began what Gardner felt as harassment. The police knew him to sale individual untaxed cigarettes. When one of the officers approached Gardner, he pleaded that he did nothing wrong.  Following Gardner’s request to be left alone, the officer attempted to subdue the “suspect” and Gardner swiped his hands away. This gesture led to additional officers taking physical action and eventually putting Gardner in a chokehold. Chokeholds have been prohibited by New York City Police since 1993.
 While all of this was captured on video, you can hear Eric Gardner repeating his last words “I can’t breathe” before his body was left on the pavement, motionless and unresponsive.  This tragedy has garnered nationwide attention.
The video of the officer choking Eric Gardner, which led to his death, went viral, and many “famous” people have chimed in to bring awareness to this terrible issue. For example some professional athletes have worn “I can’t breathe” t-shirts such as LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kevin Garnett of the Brooklyn Nets, and other NBA stars. The most recent outcry is  by Samuel L. Jackson, a famous actor. He encourages everyone that participated in the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Ice Bucket challenge to participate in his challenge as well. He asks people to sing the 'We Ain't Gonna Stop til People are Free' song." This challenge not only brings awareness to the Eric Gardner tragedy, but sheds light on some police officers abuse of their power without receiving  any reprimand. Of course, people die every day but not usually by the hand of a person sworn to protect the public and keep the peace.   
After reading this blog you might ask yourself; what does this have to do with marketing? This matter is relevant to marketers because the “I can’t breathe” phenomenon is not a multi-cultural issue, but rather a Millennials matter. Individuals that are around my age, 23 years old, whether they are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian are coming together and again speaking out for what could be considered right or wrong in America.  As a marketer, what can you do to help the voice of millennials be heard? What can you do to bring awareness to this issue and other issues like it?  What will you do to take a stand?

Written by Michael Frank Steele, Marketing Intern, Advantage Communications, Inc.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The New Music Industry: Technology is the Culprit

Today’s music industry is quite different than it was ten or twenty years ago. There was a time when artists were recognized by album sales; there was a time when fans were eager to purchase new and upcoming CDs from their favorite artist or band, and if you were lucky you may even find a free pass for a concert. Now, CD sales have drastically declined because the demand for CDs is at an all-time low. While record sales of major industry artists remain somewhat steady, the numbers are not even close to what they have been in the past. We can blame this on one thing, technology.

 In today’s market, the largest music retailer in the world is now digital. Such nuances as the Internet and iTunes have created new windows to the music industry. With today’s consumer being less patient, but having a need for stellar customer service, being able to download a CD at the touch of a button is simply more convenient. Why go to the store or “camp out” for the new CD, when you can purchase it from your app store at the touch of a button? Lorri Francis, General Manager of Double Door, a concert hall and nightclub stated, “The music industry has changed completely. Labels don’t exist and everything is on the web. If you want something you can just download it.”

This drastic change of how people consume their music not only affects the people of the music industry and consumers, but also the individuals responsible for getting the messages to the consumers (e.g., new artist, new releases, and artist appearances). Whether you’re a marketer in the music industry or not, the message is the same. Marketers must evolve, not with their customers but ahead of them. We must ask ourselves a hard question: Are my products or services still relevant? If it’s not, CHANGE! If your customer is going to your competitor, CHANGE!

Think about this…if the music industry has changed so drastically over the past two decades, what will happen tomorrow? What will you do to stay ahead of your competitors?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

“Chasing Millennials”

As a millennial, I’d like to share one word with you to help your brand(s) to succeed.  “Trendsetter”.  Trendsetter is the new word, the new vibe, and the new way to get to this audience.  You must change the way you want us to see, hear, and buy your products, as well as read and remember your messages.

“Trendsetter”, because we are constantly changing and multitasking we have little time to spend to listen to things that are not of interest, which actually sounds to us as “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”  We are tech savvy which means we can search and find what we want, when we want it and where we want it. 

“Trendsetter”, because we are using the hottest product before the rest of the world has even thought about it or has interest in it.   We set the tone for everyone else and by the time everyone starts using the products we use, we have already moved on to the next best thing. If you are marketing to us, you must beat us to the punch. You must stay ahead of the game and provide us with the products we need and want before we know we need or want it. Once we get a hold of the product, we use it and spread the word and then the rest of the world follows. 

Let’s look at social media. The very first thing that became big that millennials were on was Myspace. Most people were using it to be noticed in the music industry, but millennials turned it into the hottest social media site.  When the rest of the world jumped on Myspace, we moved on to Facebook. When Facebook became popular, our parents started using it, and we moved on to Instagram.
We are very different from Boomers, and X’ers.  We dislike waiting and love that we are different.  We enjoy the differences in our “group” --- We can connect with others in a matter of seconds, find out what is going on all over the world with friends we've met in grade school, high school, camp and college through a variety of social media mediums.   We can even “see” them with the new technology that has been introduced!

We love brands, new things on the market that relate to who we are and what we are doing.  We know what’s happening in sports, music, TV shows, videos, movies, apps, a variety of foods and a list of other hot things----we are constantly connected. Talk to us---- ask us to try your product.  But be careful.  You won’t find us looking for an ad or coupon in the newspaper or listening to a radio commercial and if you move too slowly even in social media arenas, we maybe on to the next.  If you want your brand to be larger than life, be sure to say ahead of the millennial, as we will help take your product to new heights.

What’s the next big thing for millennials? Please believe when we find it, we will let the rest of the world know.

Written by Michael Frank Steele, Marketing Intern, Advantage Communications, Inc.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Auto Industry Transformation: Dimensions of Change

Change is inevitable. In the auto industry, change is a continuous effort to foster improvements that align with consumer needs. We, as marketers, must first ask ourselves “who’s buying cars these days and why?” According to New Media and Marketing, baby boomers are still the driving force behind new car sales.

After determining the demographics of your market, the next logical question is “what do my consumers want?” As we all know, the recession fundamentally changed the way people viewed car-buying. Many consumers were holding onto their cars longer and opting to perform car repairs themselves. Ad Age reported a 6% rise in sales in 2009 for AutoZone, a commercial auto parts retailer, at a time when most companies were struggling to stay in business. Though the economy has and continues to improve, the “frugality” of the consumer holds strong. Many consumers are still driving their cars longer, but are also opting to purchase used cars when it’s time to trade up. Those who are looking for cars have particular needs. According to, “two thirds of car buyers expect their next model to provide much or somewhat better fuel economy.” Auto buyers are focusing not only on the initial purchase, but the long-term expenses.

Now, the next question is “who will be buying cars tomorrow?” This is where marketers and product developers fall off. Meeting today’s consumer needs will secure sales for today. One must meet the future needs of consumers to ensure enduring sustainability. With an 11% increase in auto sales this year, how do you capture your share of market? We say the source of volume will come from millennials, particularly minority millennials. There are 86 million millennials with $1.3 trillion in spending power. Why are we not aggressively pursuing a share of that spending? We must market for tomorrow to ensure long-term profits.

In short: give them what they want. Know which consumers are driving your innovation and focus product development around these consumers. Millennials are focused on product innovation in every aspect: fuel efficiency, electronic syncing capabilities, and modern vehicle designs will be the driving forces behind a car’s success or failure in the future automotive consumer market. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Healthier" Marketing | How Social Trends Changed the Beverage Industry

Locally sourced. Paleo-friendly. Clean eating. Marketers know how to make a niche health trend go viral. Branding your product as “delicious”, “tasty”, and “fast” is no longer enough for many consumers. Marketers are moving towards “healthier” options that fit into your current detox/all-natural/pesticide-free/low-carb lifestyle. This change in consumer preferences has lead to a fight for better nutrition labels, but what does that mean for cult favorites? Consumers not only want convenient products, they also want them to be nutritional, energy-boosting, and as natural as possible. This has caused the beverage industry to go through a culture shock.
According to, 79% of their readers see the usage rates of Stevia increasing in 2014 versus 2013, and 60% say the consumer interest in healthy ingredients drives growth more than price-point, GMO-free labeling, and expanded distribution. Companies are having to explain how their products are made and why, which has led to a multitude of new product developments. An increase in bottled water brands is a prime example. Dasani is attempting to make drinking water fun with Dasani Drops, and is using some old-fashioned freebie marketing, while its sister brand, GlacĂ©au, is giving the UK something to sip on with Smartwater. The Coca- Cola Company is expanding in the direction of the consumer market’s preference changes. They have recently released plans to launch Coca-Cola Life, a naturally sweetened version of Coca-Cola Classic.
An intense focus on product benefits in marketing is needed to speak to these customers’ needs. This aligns with the health overhaul that has been swaying the nation. More consumers can quote the calorie-count of an apple, a large fry from McDonalds, and the sodium count on a Lean Cuisine before they can tell you the 18th president of the United States. Consumers are obsessed with what they’re putting in their body, and that includes what they’re drinking.
Our President and CEO, Michael Steele, noticed these changes in consumer behavior years ago, and chose to make health his cornerstone when he opened his own agency, Advantage Communications, Inc.  Michael chose to sell a healthier lifestyle by partnering with companies and agencies whose goals align with his own. With campaigns like “Know Now” (a campaign encouraging the public to know their HIV status), and “Stamp Out Smoking”, Advantage Communications, Inc. has honed their skills on communicating the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.