Candy is Dandy

May 3, 2010

For years candy companies have undoubtedly made their delicious treats synonymous with fun. Whether they were tempting people with dancing candies across a theater screen or paying a pretty penny for advertising spots, these businesses have tried to incorporate themselves in people’s lives as often as they could. This is the same today as it was years before, only this time these sweets are more prominent in a whole new media platform.

Since we crave entertainment and a certain level of involvement, candy companies have had to figure out a way to reach a myriad of audiences and maintain people’s attention by creating more interactive brand ads. This usually requires the company to adopt new mediums and to present itself in a way that incorporates actions made by the customer. In other words, brands are being strengthened by connecting themselves with ideas and mediums such as gaming, movie tie-ins, viral videos and online sites such as Twitter or Facebook.

One of the more successful and aggressive marketing strategies currently seen is the M&M online campaign. Not only have TV viewers seen clever commercials that make us giggle:

But we also have the opportunity to “become” an M&M ourselves. When visiting the M&M site, which according to an article from iMedia Connection had 283,000 unique visitors in June of 2009 alone, you can choose from a wide selection of physical features and accessories to create an M&M personality that mimics you or any other person. This has made the brand more fun for people, while building a relationship between the consumer and the company.

Mars also reached beyond engaging people with M&M personalities by creating holiday related games. During Easter, the company created a 3D “Easter Egg Hunt” type of game where they hid codes on their site, as well as some others, and encouraged customers to find and decode the pin numbers. The winners walked away with points and prizes.

Other companies have also been successful by utilizing social media tools. A perfect example of this is Cadbury’s Creme Egg Twisted Campaign.  The corporation gained millions of followers by asking customers to make creative videos or photo stories that gave information on the “missing” twisted bar. They made an interactive site that showed the wanted or fugitive posting for a Mr. Twisted Bar on the grounds of “gooing public figures. Celebrity gooings. Conspiring with other bars to create Gooey mayhem and organizing illegal gooing attacks online.”

By involving their customers in a fun activity that focused on their brand, they  achieved not only great marketing but entertained consumers on a whole new level.

Unfortunately, sometimes the sugar rush ends when using these newer media outlets incorrectly. Skittles, for example, did well in the beginning when they redesigned their site to be more colorful and modern, but soon plummeted when their Twitter account was bombarded with negative and uncensored buzz from “pranksters” and others that seeked to market their own products.

I guess that goes to show that there are pros and cons to utilizing new mediums for a candy brand these days. Although this generation needs to be more involved and companies are finding success in the adopt of various platforms, let the previous Skittles campaign be a warning to all that you also need to know how to use them as well as which ones will be most beneficial so things don’t go sour.

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If I Can Dream…

April 18, 2010

A recent presentation became the second time that I have heard of this interactive reality TV show, and it just seems to get more and more interesting and, well, crazy sounding every time someone talks about it. If I Can Dream is a television show that features five young performers, who are living together, that are striving to reach fame and stardom in Hollywood.

Although this doesn’t sound any different from shows like the Real World, it has a little more of a Big Brother feel. According to Kara Kilmer, an aspiring actress that has agreed to be on the show, the purpose of IF I Can Dream is to help them get a job which will ultimately allow them to move out of the house and “on to a bigger career.” But to me, it just seems like another example of our interest in invading someone’s privacy because we are curious about how other people live their lives. Now you may think I am being a little too dramatic about the show but I left out a couple details….

Did you know:

That the If I Can Dream house is wired with 56 AXIS cameras that broadcast what they are doing all day every day?

That you can actually visit their site, http://www.ificandream.com/#/house, to watch live streaming of what they are doing?

If you don’t like the featured camera footage of the moment, then you can feel like a security guard and view all cameras in and outside of the house.

That while you watch them live on the Internet, you can tweet something to them, which they will see on a screen within the house, and they can respond to you by talking to any of the 56 cameras?

That if you are an avid follower and missed anything, you can visit Hulu to watch all the unedited footage?

That you can catch up and talk to the cast by being their Facebook Fan or MySpace friend?

Hi Amanda...whatcha doing in your room?

Or you can Vlog about them and be featured on their site?

Does it feel creepy yet?

We’ve discussed the great leaps and bounds that technology has made when it comes to being interactive, however, maybe we’re taking it a little too far. Sure we’re displaying real people in the lime light instead of celebrities, but we’re doing it in a more invasive way then what has been done ever before. Do we really need to see what these five people, whom we have no relation to and never met, do each hour of every day? Why are their lives so unique and intriguing to us?

Most interesting of all is probably thinking about whether or not this is the future of reality TV shows. Will we, one day, just be watching a bunch of strangers go about their every day life for our entertainment?

The interactivity is astounding, but I am not sure if this is a show that is worth watching…but then again I may be wrong considering that this show has its fans and is getting more and more popular.

But honestly…it creeps me out.

As digital interactivity has changed many aspects of how we do things in our daily lives, I have found one creation that I wish I had come up with first.

The touch screen has changed the way we use computers, phones, are exposed to advertisements and even how we teach our children. It has become considered the epitome of convenience as well as technological advancement.

Take, for instance, the phone as an example. Our cellular phones were great portable means of communicating but now they are much more. They are basically a computer that keeps our schedules, communicates beyond the normal voice to voice by utilizing e-mail or texting, and supplies us with Internet access, games, music or even GPS navigation.

What’s the most popular phone today that have these capabilities? The Apple iPhone that comes complete with…you guessed it, a touch screen.

iphone's touch screen

One of the most exciting TED conferences of 2006 was actually the reveal of Jeff Han’s high-resolution multi-touch sensing touch screen and his statement of “there is no reason in this day in age where we should be conforming to a physical device…we have so much technology now a days that these interfaces should be conforming to us.”

To view the conference, go to: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen.html

Why was this such a good idea? The touch screen is considered convenient because, as Jeff Han states, it conforms to us and allows us to accomplish what we want with the swipe or movement of a finger…and what is simpler then that?

The Future of Dolls

October 9, 2009

Remember the days when you played outside, never got tired and were engaged by toys like my little pony, easy bake ovens or action figures? Today’s toys are much different from the ones we used to be entertained by; some of which are a little questionable or maybe considered unbelievably advanced for youth.

Not too long ago, pregnant Barbie dawned the shelves of stores around the nation and left some parents in a state of rage. This toy, that many considered inappropriate, allowed the child to play with a doll that was visibly pregnant and considerably happy. When the “big day” came, which was determined by the child playing with it, they could open up the stomach and pull out a baby. Needless to say, this was taken off the shelves in many stores. This event was the first trigger for my question, what are dolls coming to?

Now, the newest advanced toy is a tween aged version of Dora the Explorer that includes a type of interactivity and technology. Dora Links, created by the well-known toy company Mattel, offers the person playing with the doll the opportunity to customize it to their hearts content.

With USB connectors, the Dora Links doll can hook up to the computer and your Internet connection. Children will sign up for a specific program or site that was created for this toy, and can alter the image of Dora. Whatever changes are made online will actually modify the physical appearance of their doll. So if they decided they wanted to change her eye color, they would sign on and adjust the doll’s eyes from green to blue, and then the doll’s eye color would change physically along with the online model. The doll is $50 and available in many stores across the U.S.

Although this form of interactivity is neat to see progress and evolve, I am wondering what the direction of toy making is going. Will children, even ones at a really young age, eventually be playing with just technology? Will majority of the toys created in the future be connected online at the very least? What do you think?

Defining What’s Important

September 14, 2009

As we grouped together in an editing suite, five of us began to delve into our mind’s dictionary in order to form a better definition of interactivity. What exactly is interactivity?

It was more challenging than we expected. The Internet and its interactive and social qualities have rapidly changed the way we do things today whether that be contacting someone or searching and sending information. How can you include everything into a simple sentence?

After a little under an hour, we had come to a consensus on a definition for not only interactivity, but for audience as well.

Our definition of Interactivity:

A mutual engagement between senders and receivers that encompasses omni-directional communication and control.

Our group wanted to cover all the bases by including a variety of aspects such as: a person’s choice in what they view or participate in; pluralize sender and receiver because the line between the two get blurred after a while and the transfer of information from and to multiple people.

The Redefining of the word Audience:

An active prosumer involved in the sharing, receiving and producing of information.

To us, audience is an old word that was used to describe a group of people that messages were targeted at. Now, the Internet has gained a conversation style where the “audience,” or as we would like to call them prosumers, not only act as consumers of information, but producers as well. They share what they stumble upon online and distribute their findings to friends and family. This cycle of sharing continues and occasionally receives feedback.

While things continue to be redefined in our technologically advanced generation, it is on the shoulders of people like us to make these terms and their meanings known.  Interactive and social media are relatively new fields of study, and we have the ability to mold this cutting edge information.