At its peak, Toys “R” Us was considered a “category killer” — a store that had such a wide range of products across a single category, that it became a major competitor to pretty much any other business in the category. But with the rise of big box stores like Target and online stores like Amazon, they began losing business fast. In early 2018, the brand filed for bankruptcy and closed all Toys “R” Us stores in the U.S. and Britain — over 800 of them. But almost two years later they’re back, and hopefully not going anywhere soon.
Here’s how the Toys “R” Us rebound went down.
The brand’s lenders announced that they plan to relaunch Toys “R” Us in the future. Even with the bankruptcy, the Toys “R” Us brand was too valuable and iconic to go to waste.
The brand cancelled the bankruptcy action and relaunched as Tru Kids, the new parent company of Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us. Tru Kids then began planning what would become the first new Toys “R” Us stores since before filing for bankruptcy.
Toys “R” Us announced a partnership with Target—a former rival. With the new partnership, all toys on the Toys “R” Us website are sold through a link that redirects the user to Target.com. Toys “R” Us is still very much a brand, but this partnership made it clear that it is no longer a true retailer.
On November 30, the first new Toys “R” Us store launched in Paramus, NJ. The second store opened in early December in Houston, TX. The new stores have a huge emphasis on in-store experience and are filled with interactivity, including a climbable tree house and a Nerf test shooting range. Along with the focus on in-store experience, Toys “R” Us is taking a major step back from their old store model. The new stores only stock about 1500 toys, but visitors can use a plethora of in-store technology to shop the entire catalogue online — over 1500 items.
At the end of the day, Toys “R” Us was able to rebound from bankruptcy because of the strength of its brand and some very smart marketing moves. Partnering with an incredibly stable retailer like Target should help “future-proof” the brand and provide some much-needed security. And the focus on an interactive in-store experience will help keep Toys “R” Us on the cutting edge in a time where brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to stand out against the convenience of online shopping. Toys “R” Us is a fun brand, and the new stores are just that—full of fun.
Here’s hoping the fun never dies.
Halloween is long past and the smell of falling leaves and apple cider fills the air. It’s officially (almost) the holiday season, and brands are starting to release their holiday campaigns and getting ready for the onslaught of shoppers. From campaigns new and old to adapting to this year’s holiday shopping schedule, here’s some of our favorite work that brands have done so far.
British catalogue retailer Argos just released a spot that Adweek called “an instant classic”. This spot captures the potential of a holiday catalogue with a drum-filled fantasy set to Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. It’s three minutes long, and worth every second of your time.
IKEA’s newest holiday ad isn’t just the first they’ve ran in the UK. It’s also a hilarious rap about how your apartment is “crap”—but don’t worry about finding a new place, all you need to get ready to hosting holiday parties is some new IKEA furniture.
The singing holiday boxes are back for the third year in a row, making this campaign practically a holiday staple. This year, the boxes sing to the tune of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. The boxes personify a wide cast of characters—including that random lady singing to herself on the bus. It’s a fun, heartwarming campaign that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The 2019 holiday shopping season is special—the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a week shorter than normal. That means brands have to be ready to adjust to the circumstances, whether that means preparing for a more rushed shopping season or making their own rules. Target and Walmart chose to do the latter. Both brands are trying to take some pressure off the shortened shopping season by rolling out deals early. You’ll still have to wait for Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) for the biggest bargains, but this strategy should help Target and Walmart from getting too hectic during the holidays.
The holiday season is such an important time for advertising, so we’re not surprised that these brands gave it their all this year. Did we miss any great holiday campaigns? Let us know on social media!
Fall is in full swing, with pumpkin spice lattes, sweaters, and cider galore. Brands are getting in gear for the holiday season, starting with the ~spookiest~ night of the year. From paranormal investigators to friendly ghosts, keep reading for our roundup of the best Halloween campaigns this fall (so far).
Skittles just released its first Halloween ad in 5 years. In this TV spot, the brand shows how to escape the clutches of an evil witch (à la Hansel and Gretel) with the help of Skittles… but mostly by being really, really annoying. The tagline “Annoy the Rainbow” is a perfect ending to this offbeat ad.
Reese’s is teaming up with Neil Patrick Harris for an interactive trick-or-treat house hosted on Facebook Live — appropriately named It’s A LIVE. Starting earlier this month, Facebook fans could vote on scary elements to include in the house. On October 24th, 32 select guests will get to experience the house in real time, while Facebook Live viewers help choose their fate. We love this creative use of live streaming technology.
Geico pulled through with several new Halloween ads this fall, both with their typical dose of Geico humor. The first one is ominous, featuring a man who discovers his new home is a lot creepier than he thought. The second is more lighthearted, with a surprise appearance from Casper the Friendly Ghost. A third one is a bit more witchy, featuring a roommate who’s up to no good… but really, really loves cats.
KFC partnered with Spirit Halloween to create the most finger lickin’ costume of the season. The limited edition Colonel Sanders costume includes everything you need to dress up as the Colonel… except a bucket of chicken. You’ll have to snag the finishing touches at your local KFC, for a costume so good you’ll have everyone asking for the secret recipe.
Bungalo — a real estate startup — hired actual paranormal investigators to inspect their properties for ghosts in a creative Halloween stunt. The promo video shows both a paranormal investigator and a regular Bungalo inspector, to highlight their thorough inspection process. Bungalo said it the best: “buying a home doesn’t have to be scary”.
Halloween is a great opportunity for brands to flex their creative muscles, and these brands all killed it (scary pun not intended). Did we miss any shockers? Let us know on social media — we’d love to hear from you!
This recent advertising trend takes minimalism to the max. Both McDonald’s and Coke ran outdoor campaigns this year that used pared-down branding elements as directions. It’s a clever branding idea — and one that requires brand recognition to do some serious heavy-lifting. Don’t try this one at home — unless you happen to work for Nike.
McDonald’s first started using the Golden Arches as highway directional signage with a Canadian campaign in 2018. This summer, they took it a step further with another iconic element of branding — fries! That’s right, McDonald’s branding is so strong that one of their most popular products can represent them just as well as their actual logo.
The fries work perfectly for this concept — they can invoke hunger, which is great when the goal is to lure weary travelers to the nearest McDonald’s. They also look a lot like lanes of a highway, which makes this a bulletproof visual metaphor. And even boiled down to this super-minimalist state, the fries in their signature red box are instantly recognizable. Who wouldn’t want McDonald’s after seeing these billboards on a long road trip?
Coke, on the other hand, uses bits and pieces of its logo to point customers to recycling bins. This is perfectly on-strategy for the brand — Coke has a mission to have 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, and to have a system in place by 2030 that ensures all cans and bottles they produce are returned. And this campaign isn’t just preaching sustainability — it makes a lot of sense for Coke consumers, who need to recycle their empty cans but might not know where the nearest bin is. The campaign is useful to the consumer, clever and eye catching, and reinforces branding. It’s even more refreshing than cracking open a cold Coke on a hot day. Campaigns like these are only possible in tandem with extremely strong branding — Coke and McDonald’s are household names around the globe. A new brand with less brand recognition would not be able to pull it off — but we’d consider this the new “goal” for up and coming brands! When your branding is minimally shown, but is still recognizable — that’s when you know you’ve made it.
Some love him. Some hate him. Some even fear him. Either way, Gritty gets a reaction — and one far greater than a typical mascot. Since being introduced on September 24, 2018 Gritty has gone viral, been on late night TV, and inspired many arguments about whether the monster is creepy, cute, or somewhere in between. In honor of Gritty’s first trip around the sun, here’s a closer look at how Gritty grew as a brand into the icon he is today.
After decades of being one of the few mascotless teams of the NHL, the Flyers pulled the trigger and began developing the awkward, enigmatic monster soon to be known as Gritty. Gritty sticks out like a sore thumb in the sea of mascots — he’s neon orange and incredibly hairy, with googly eyes and an exaggerated dad bod. Yet it’s his differences that make him one of the most memorable and talked-about mascots of all time.
Gritty’s success doesn’t only come from his offbeat appearance. The Flyers worked to create a brand that is rich in character and personality. The Flyers even collaborated with David Raymond, the original Philly Phanatic performer, to help develop the character. On the importance of a mascot’s personality, Raymond said “You can’t hug an institution. You can’t hug the players, in most cases … but you can hug the mascot. It is the living, breathing brand extension.” Whether or not you agree that Gritty represents the Flyers (and as an extension, the city of Philadelphia), he’s certainly been able to command an amazing amount of attention with his strong and well-developed personality.
Goodnight, internet. pic.twitter.com/gx2Pbxfcds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 25, 2018
Gritty’s personality does some of its heaviest lifting on social media — he’s threatened the Pittsburgh Penguins with violence and imitated Kim Kardashian, to name a few notable moments. It’s no wonder that Gritty has had a number of viral tweets. By adding the mascot’s unique flair to current viral trends and memes, the team behind Gritty’s social media presence has tapped into pop culture on social media in a major way. Gritty’s had his moments IRL, too — in his Flyers debut, he dramatically slipped and fell on the ice. The moment was apparently unscripted, but it still made a large impact on shaping Gritty’s brand image.
Overall, Gritty remains controversial, as not all Philadelphians are sold on the unorthodox mascot. But the Flyers are definitely doing something right — how many other mascots can you name that have been guests on The Tonight Show or roasted on SNL? He was even named Best Philadelphian in 2019 by Philly Mag, showing that to many people, Gritty truly does embody the city of Philadelphia. Gritty has gone above and beyond what’s expected for a mascot and become an entertaining and valuable part of pop culture. Brands looking to stand out from the crowd can take a page out of Gritty’s book by thinking bigger, bolder, and perhaps even uglier. Sorry Gritty — we didn’t mean to insult you on your birthday (even if it’s true).
Happy first birthday, Gritty. Here’s to many more years of going viral and inspiring nightmares all across Philadelphia.
As far as 21st century status symbols go, Instagram likes are a pretty big one. Many people will only post select pictures on Instagram, afraid of having a post that flops—and brands and influencers can depend on likes in a much bigger way. After all, it’s hard to read anything about social media metrics without hearing about the importance of engagement. However, Instagram itself seems to be tired of the emphasis on likes.
Instagram has been testing hiding the like counter in Canada since April, and has since expanded the test to several other countries. Basically, in markets affected by this test, users have to “opt-in” in order to have their like count shown publicly. By default, like counts are hidden to the public, but creators can still see how many people liked their posts—and the public technically can too, if they’re willing to count all the likes manually.
When Instagram first announced this test, people were predictably upset—but Canadian users actually like the update (no pun intended)! Many people now feel that they can post what they want, and more often, because they are not afraid of judgement if a post doesn’t get a lot of likes. The nature of likes can also cause a lot of social anxiety — which is something that Instagram is trying to decrease with this change. It’s clear that Instagram wants its users to focus on quality of content over popularity, and hiding the like counter is an overall win for personal Instagram accounts.
Brands, influencers, and other businesses on Instagram have a unique relationship with likes. Often, likes are a key measurement of a post’s success—especially for influencers who have to prove their worth to brands. Here’s why brands and influencers shouldn’t be worried about hidden likes—and why it might even be good for them:
The like counter is only hidden to the public, meaning that creators can still view their likes and other metrics that are available to Instagram business profiles. This is good news for influencers—they can still show their brand partners how a particular post fared.
Social media mavens love to preach about engagement and how important it is. But while engagement is an important metric, there are other factors that are just as or even more important. Especially for influencers, conversions driven by a post (often determined by a promo code or tracking clicks) are becoming more important to brands than engagement rates. Follower counts shouldn’t be sneezed at either—and those aren’t going anywhere soon.
Brands and influencers’ relationships with their followers on Instagram tend to be shallow compared to other platforms like YouTube. While YouTubers often interact with their fans in more meaningful ways, like making videos to answer fan questions, read funny comments, or asking fans for feedback on their content, Instagram relationships are fairly limited to likes and comments. With no more likes, brands and influencers would have to find new ways to build their communities — which could turn out to be a very good thing.
With the rising popularity of Instagram stories and IGTV, there are so many ways that brands and influencers can interact with their followers without the like count. Hopefully, brands can turn this change into an opportunity to build better relationships with their consumers—whether they like it or not.
Virtual and augmented reality are two emerging technologies that have shown huge potential in recent years. As shaping a memorable brand experience becomes more important than ever, AR and VR are two key players when it comes to making your brand stand out from the crowd. However, as these technologies are still relatively new, it can be hard to get your hands on an AR or VR experience and see what the hype is all about.
Itching to alter your reality? Look no further — here are five places you can try it for yourself, right here in Philadelphia.
Augmented reality (AR) refers to augmenting the world around you with digital elements, usually as viewed through a screen. Fortunately, this is a pretty accessible technology. We’ve all probably used one of the more widespread forms of AR — Snapchat filters! The examples below combine mobile apps with real-world locations to create an unforgettable experience.
Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny is an augmented reality mural by Mural Arts Philadelphia. See it yourself at the intersection of 53rd & Media Street in West Philadelphia. The mural is gorgeous on its own, but with the help of a free app (MuralArtsAR on Apple’s App Store) to experience the mural on a whole other level with dynamic holograms and even a soundtrack.
The Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion’s free AR app, Philly Insects AR, lets you experience AR on two different levels: mural mode and photo mode. Stop by the Insectarium to see their AR mural come to life as the app animates the insects featured on the wall! Or use photo mode to take a picture with a larger-than-life monarch butterfly.
Virtual reality (VR) takes this technology a step further, with an immersive experience that actually convinces your brain that you are in a completely different environment. This requires the user to wear a special VR headset in order to get the full experience.
Mad Rex Restaurant and Virtual Reality Lounge is the first restaurant in Philadelphia to fully incorporate VR into their concept and design. It has a post-apocalyptic, survivor theme — so if you order a steak, be prepared to cook it yourself. Diners can experience VR any time before, during, or after the meal. And they’ll even give you an IV bag to drink from if you want to enjoy a cocktail during your escape from reality.
The Franklin Institute is one of the oldest science museums in the country, but they still stay on the cutting edge of science and technology with VR. There are multiple science-themed VR experiences at the museum — see what it was like to be an Apollo 11 astronaut, tour the solar system, go inside the human body, and more. And you don’t have to go to the museum to experience VR — get their free app and use it anywhere with a VR headset.
Last but certainly not least, you can experience a virtual tour of Philadelphia! Whether you’re planning a visit soon, or you live in Philly but just don’t feel like getting out of bed, this tour will take you to all of Philly’s most iconic locations. Download the free Visit Philly app to experience the City of Brotherly Love in 360-degree splendor. You don’t even need a VR headset to view the tour — just watch it on your laptop or smartphone. But it’s much more immersive and exciting in full virtual reality.
Augmented and virtual reality provide new and exciting ways to shape a customer’s experience — whether it’s informative (Philadelphia Virtual Tour and the Philadelphia Insectarium), entertaining (Mad Rex), or just art for art’s sake (Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny). Several brands have already begun using augmented and virtual reality in their marketing, and as the technology becomes more accessible, we can’t wait to see how brands will continue to use AR and VR to push the limits of the consumer experience.
For a long time, Netflix has refused to run ads on their platform. And while the lack of ads is a huge selling point for many customers, the streaming service is starting to lose steam in other areas. Popular shows like Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and more have transitioned to HBO, Hulu, and the like. Netflix has responded to a weakening library of third-party content by pouring money into their original shows — but is it enough?
With more and more streaming services entering the market, Netflix must work harder than ever to be a strong competitor in the market. At the end of the day, they need growth — even if it means sacrificing their ad-free legacy.
Intrigued by Netflix’s untapped ad space potential? Horrified at the prospect of Stranger Things being broken up by Tide ads? Either way, read on for a more in-depth look on why Netflix might need to start running ads.
Simply put, ad supported services are more affordable. Hulu offers an ad supported subscription at a cheaper price point of $5.99 a month, and Amazon Prime Video is free with Amazon Prime. Even Disney+, has an ad-free option that launches later this year, that will only cost $6.99 a month — in comparison, Netflix subscriptions range from $8.99 to a whopping $15.99 a month. Netflix actually saw a drop in US subscribers this year for the first time since 2011, and price hikes are to blame. Until Netflix steps up their game — or steps down their prices — consumers looking for a cheap date would probably rather “Hulu and chill”.
Netflix has a little bit of a spending problem — the platform is currently $10 billion in debt, and it’s growing. And with more competing services comes more competition for the rights to stream shows — Netflix has to compete with both Amazon and Disney (who owns Hulu and the upcoming Disney+) for the most sought-after shows. Netflix could help offset that debt by running ads, which could potentially bring in billions of dollars of ad revenue.
What would an ad supported Netflix look like? Right now, that’s unknown. Netflix could take a page out of Hulu’s book and offer a budget ad supported tier as well as a premium, ad-free tier. Or they could pull a Spotify and make the ad supported tier free, with certain features only available to the premium, ad-free tier. Maybe they could even have a single ad-supported tier, potentially at a lower price point to the current subscription cost. Regardless, it seems likely that an ad supported Netflix would be much more budget friendly.
Not as many Netflix subscribers are prepared to jump ship as you might think. According to a study by The Diffusion Group, only 27% of Netflix users said they would definitely not switch to a cheaper, ad supported version. If Netflix decides to follow in Hulu’s footsteps with premium and ad supported tiers, they could retain many ad-hating users with a premium tier. And a cheaper, ad supported tier would not only bring in revenue, it would also bring in more customers who may have not been able to justify the $8.99 base subscription.
Netflix may have been stubborn about ads in the past. But as the streaming media landscape changes, business must adapt. It’s Netflix’s turn to decide if they want to stay stuck in the past — or seize an opportunity for growth and hope that their brand is strong enough to warrant ads and premium pricing.
Most luxury car brands advertise heavily, buying prime media placement for billboards, TV spots, magazine spreads, and more. However, Tesla prefers to go off the beaten path—including with their marketing strategy. Read on for the reasoning behind Tesla’s advertising—or lack thereof—and our thoughts on why they might need to rethink it, soon.
Instead, the brand relies on word-of-mouth (aka, free) advertising generated by their cars’ reputation as well as occasional stunts. As far as organic buzz goes, Tesla is undeniably killing the game—they have the strongest organic social media engagement among car brands, despite spending literally $0 on social campaigns. And Elon Musk himself—wacky Tweets included—is practically a walking advertisement for Tesla. Musk’s personal brand is almost inseparable from Tesla, so it definitely helps the brand to have such a prolific CEO.
Musk himself gave his 2 cents on Tesla’s advertising (or lack thereof) on Twitter… where else?
Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements. Instead, we use that money to make the product great. https://t.co/SsrfOq1Xyc
— Buff Mage (@elonmusk) May 19, 2019
It’s a fair argument, and one that other brands have certainly made before. However, as the brand and the marketplace has evolved it might be time for Tesla to reconsider.
Going against Musk’s argument against advertising—there’s no reason why Tesla can’t continue to invest in building quality machines, while also growing its own brand. Similar auto brands tend to make back the money that they invest in advertising campaigns—and then some! But without paid advertising, it’s hard to grow and maintain a brand without substantial organic buzz.
Word-of-mouth alone may have worked for Tesla in the past. But Tesla’s anti-advertising strategy hasn’t been treating them well lately—the brand saw a 31% drop in sales during the first quarter of 2019. That’s the biggest quarterly drop in sales in the history of the brand. And Tesla isn’t the only electric car company to pay attention to any more—other brands are starting to produce electric cars, with the advertising budgets to back them up.
When it comes to advertising, Tesla has so much wasted potential. Among the onslaught of boring, repetitive car ads, Tesla has a chance to stand out with their unique brand voice—and unique benefits. How many other cars let you prank your friends with a “fart button”? In addition to bringing in sales, advertising could be a way for Tesla to further develop their brand voice.
A common theme among brands that don’t advertise is that they seem to view advertising as a weakness—it’s a point of pride to be a brand that “doesn’t need to advertise”. However, these brands should realize what they can gain by introducing advertising campaigns into their marketing mix. Advertising is not only a way to increase short-term revenue, it’s a way to further develop your brand and increase recognition for the long-term.
And get periodic updates from Tag.
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Over the past several years, brand Twitter accounts have gone from traditional to kinda weird to way, way too weird. In an effort to stand out, brands are often in competition to see which can have the wildest Twitter persona. Many times, this goes too far and the Twitter persona ends up being detached from the brand’s core message and purpose. This February, Sunny D’s official Twitter account tweeted a sentiment that felt, well, a little off-brand to say the least:
I can’t do this anymore
— SUNNYD (@sunnydelight) February 4, 2019
Personification of brands is one thing, but at the end of the day we all know that brands aren’t actually people. And some subjects—such as Sunny D’s depression—are a little too heavy for a brand to take on, especially one so far removed from mental illness as a beverage company. In an attempt to be quirky or relatable, Sunny D was totally out of its wheelhouse and came off as being disingenuous.
Brand Twitter accounts often have to keep a delicate balance between humor that works, and going too far. Here are five brand Twitters that successfully toe the line.
Steak-umm is the master of keeping it weird. The brand’s Twitter often refers to its product very literally as “frozen beef sheets”, and successfully convinced a legion of followers to adopt the catchphrase “Steak-umm bless”. The brand often gets very existentialist on Twitter and provides commentary on the food and advertising industries, which might seem a bit much for a frozen cheesesteak brand. However, Steak-umm’s Twitter persona nails the humor and manages to come off as very authentic. The key to the brand’s success is breaking the fourth wall with tweets that acknowledge there is a person behind the Twitter.
I will sell you frozen beef sheets in exchange for money and an unbreakable sacred oath between us that will last a thousand generations
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) March 29, 2019
boss: we need a more *authentic* tagline
me: hmm how about… "buy our frozen beef sheets?"
boss: let's do it
— Steak-umm (@steak_umm) May 7, 2019
MoonPie takes Twitter weirdness in a completely different direction—adopting an innocent, goofy, solar system-obsessed persona that perfectly fits their brand. Following MoonPie on Twitter might not be the most intellectual decision you’ve ever made, but it’s almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face when you see their tweets.
Hi I’ll be happy to take all of your moon-related inquiries in the meantime https://t.co/tTRgvOOnq4
— MoonPie (@MoonPie) January 23, 2018
I will not be tweeting tonight out of respect for Santa and his generous work
— MoonPie (@MoonPie) December 24, 2018
No article about brand Twitter accounts is complete without mentioning Denny’s. The brand’s wisecracking Twitter is well-known for its on-the-nose one-liners about breakfast food. Denny’s Twitter never fails to hop on top of current Twitter memes and trends—and always relates the jokes back to their menu.
the secret to a really fluffy omelette is adding hopes and dreams to each one.
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) April 17, 2019
if you run out of syrup simply turn the bottle off and on again.
— Denny's (@DennysDiner) April 28, 2019
Wendy’s sassy redheaded attitude is brought to life through the brand’s Twitter. While other brands are known for their hilarious original tweets, Wendy’s is known for their roasts. The brand’s Twitter never fails to provide a cutting comeback to anyone who crosses them—competing brands and individuals alike.
— Wendy's (@Wendys) January 4, 2017
When the tweets are as broken as the ice cream machine. https://t.co/esdndK1iFm
— Wendy's (@Wendys) November 24, 2017
Chipotle’s Twitter account is nothing if not smart. The brand’s tweets are rarely goofy or gimmicky—just funny, intelligent commentary on everything we love (or love to hate) about the cult-favorite burrito chain. Chipotle also isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and its known quirks—yes, they know nobody wants to pay extra for guac.
Don't worry, we're not telling FAFSA y'all order guac.
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) March 1, 2019
Good morning to everyone, except people who take our Tabasco bottles.
— Chipotle (@ChipotleTweets) May 26, 2018
These brilliant brand Twitters are guaranteed to brighten up your timeline — and inspire you to think about how far a brand’s voice can truly go. And if you’re looking for fresh commentary on the hottest advertising and marketing news, make sure to follow us too.
And get periodic updates from Tag.
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