THE RETURN OF MICROSOFT

Microsoft is making a huge comeback. The software giant has been going through a rebranding effort of late; updating its logo for the first time in 25 years in an effort to streamline its brand experience, and attempting to challenge Apple even further with the continued expansion of its retail stores. Now Microsoft is unleashing an onslaught of ads to promote the release of its latest operating system, Windows 8.

Sure Microsoft always rolls out a robust marketing campaign to support the launch of each new operating system, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s something quite different this time around. In particular, with this ad promoting the Windows 8 picture password feature, it’s obvious that Microsoft went back to the drawing board with a strong focus on reimagining its most popular products, and delivering fresh product marketing ideas to go along with them.

After some problematic product launches in the past, it appears the Microsoft team now recognizes that marketing is only truly successful when the brand and product experience is equally as innovative. Only time will tell if this wave of product launches and colorful advertising will translate into increased sales for Microsoft, but it’s certainly great to see the software giant taking a bold approach to its marketing communications efforts.

THE NEXT BIG THING IS ALREADY HERE

The common expression, “Don’t kick a man when he’s down” might resonate strongly in the real word, but it certainly doesn’t hold as much weight in the world of marketing. A prime example can be seen with the ongoing “The Next Big Thing” campaign by 72 and Sunny for Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone, which pokes fun at Apple and iPhone users.

Although Apple achieved a record number of sales with the recent release of the iPhone 5, it’s hard to ignore the fact that there isn’t a great deal of difference between the iPhone 5 and it’s predecessor, the iPhone 4s. As a result, Samsung has been quick to capitalize on this setback by taking advantage of the opportunity to promote the Galaxy S III, albeit mocking iPhone users in the process.

One of the most innovative features on the Galaxy S III is S Beam, which allows users to instantly share all kinds of media by simply placing two Galaxy S III smartphones back-to-back. Although Apple certainly boasts higher brand value than Samsung, the ongoing “Next Best Thing” campaign is a brilliant strategy on the part of the Galaxy S III maker to take further bites into Apple’s market share, or at the very least change the current cultural conversation around the smartphone category.

BONUS: While Samsung is poking fun at Apple and iPhone users in North America, the Galaxy S III maker is taking a much more comedic approach in South America with the ongoing “Saved By TV” campaign by Mayo Draftfcb.

MORE THAN A PAIR OF JEANS…

The ongoing “Go Forth” campaign by Wieden + Kennedy for Levi’s has played an instrumental role in enabling the brand to reclaim its iconic status in the US within the last few years. In particular, the latest spot in the series exemplifies how brands ought to communicate with consumers today.

Rather than attempt to tell its own story, here Levi’s makes a conscious decision to tell the story of its customers. While admittedly a bold move, this strategy strikes up a more personal conversation with Levi’s customers. It resonates, it works, and here’s why.

Consumers today are all too familiar with brands hurling mass marketing messages at them, and quite frankly they are tired of it. They see through it like clear glass. Consumers want to know that brands understand them; their beliefs, desires, fears, and aspirations.

In a recent article marking the launch of the Best Global Brands 2012 Report, Jez Frampton, Global CEO at Interbrand, addressed this shift in consumer attitude and highlighted the new challenge for brands today:

“Today’s customers are skeptical, vocal, savvy – and have everyone competing for their attention… In order to succeed, brand owners must become more sensitive to the needs and desires of informed and discerning customers who demand high degrees of engagement – and consistency.”

With this “Go Forth” spot, Levi’s is boldly accepting the challenge. By cleverly integrating itself into its customers’ story, Levi’s is able to communicate in a way that connects, empowers, and inspires. Ultimately, this enable’s Levi’s to stand for more than just pieces of denim sewn together, but as Jez Frampton says, “a living business asset”, woven into the very fabric of its customers’ lives. Or better yet, as the narrator in the ad proclaims, “It’s the thread in your seams that’s tied to your dreams.”

STORYTELLING FOR THE DIGITAL AGE

In today’s digital age, storytelling is still a crucial part of successful marketing and advertising. As part of Jordan’s “Rise Above” campaign, this new spot is one of the few ads at the moment that incorporates a relevant and compelling narrative with brand marketing.

Interestingly, Nike also recently used a similar concept of upcoming talent taking the stage with its “My Time Is Now”campaign:

YO TENGO BING!

Last week while I was in New York, I visited Mr Youth with a few of my classmates in the GMCA program.  We were able to gain some insight into the work Mr Youth is doing from a few people on the agency’s account team, as well as the Strategy Director, GianCarlo Pitocco.

Mr Youth happens to be the Social Media Agency of Record for Bing, so we also got to hear about some of the agency’s work on that particular account. Although Mr Youth is not responsible for Bing’s TV advertising, our visit reminded me that one of my favorite TV ads happens to be the “Los Links” commercial for Bing.

Bing’s unique selling proposition is that as opposed to giving you “a sea of blue links” when you search, it gives you a whole bunch of different features which help you spend more time deciding than searching. The “Los Links” ad is a really funny way of emphasizing this USP.

The video below is the second episode of the “Los Links” TV ad.

AD OF THE DAY: GOOGLE PLAY

Google recently launched a marketing campaign to promote its newly rebranded app store, Google Play, using this simple, yet creative video.

In a rather impressive feat, this ad promotes Google Play by combining the relatively antiquated versions of the app store’s various elements: a standard-issue telephone is used to represent a cell phone; an actual book  to represent an e-book; a projector to represent a TV; and a rubik’s cube to represent an online game.

In addition, this ad follows a growing trend by Google to use handcrafted materials to promote its various products and services.

THE WEB IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT

Advertising is truly powerful when its able to tell a story, and this spot for Google Chrome in India is a perfect example.

The spot was inspired by the real story of G. Rajendran, an artist from Tamil Nadu (Southern India) who used the web to bring the dying art of “Tanjore” paintings back to life, and ultimately became a successful businessman in the process.

The art is supposed to have originated in 1600 A.D and is an important part of the local social and cultural heritage.

COMMERCIAL OF THE YEAR?

It’s only the second week of January, but it’s never too early to start handing out awards. Plus, I think Y&R Amsterdam may have struck gold with this one.

It may not look like much for the first 45 seconds or so, but wait for it and you won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

“IT’S NEVER TOO LATE…”

The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs is currently using this creative and compelling ad to raise awareness of the need for more foster families for youths between the ages of 15 and 17.

The ad, which was developed by Try/Apt, combines the deep metaphors of journey, transformation and connection. The ad’s message is shown through the eyes of a girl drawing herself as she grows older. In her drawings, she shows herself move from a state of happiness as a child to a state of isolation and sadness in her youth. In the background, we also see plants and butterflies transform into trees and birds.

It isn’t until towards the end of the ad that the deep metaphor of connection truly comes into play. Still through her drawings, the ad shows that having caring foster parents will redefine this young girl’s story by putting her on the path to a bright future. As such, the ad ends with the following line: “It’s never too late to help someone on the right track.”

In addition to the deep metaphors at play here, the ad is also operating on a very high context. No words are spoken throughout the ad as it relies heavily on the strong visuals and the rather compelling Canon in D, one of the most famous pieces of music by German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel.

This concept choice for the ad is particularly interesting because Norway, along with a few other Scandinavian countries of Northern Europe, is traditionally seen as a low context culture. It demonstrates that audiences can be receptive to concepts that use message styles that deviate from their known cultural context.