Nostalgiabusters: Why the Ghostbusters Teaser Adds Nothing of Value To Its Marketing Campaign

It’s not often that you get your heart broken on Valentine’s Day. When it does happen, it’s something that you tend to never forget.

So why would Sony and Columbia Pictures risk disappointing their fanbase by releasing a teaser for a highly nostalgic film property on Valentine’s Day?

Now, I won’t delve into the strengths and weaknesses of this nostalgic property and how the studio might have ruined the Ghostbusters brand with this remake. I’ll save that in-depth case study once we get closer to the film’s opening weekend in July.

Today, we’re going to focus on the merits of this teaser for the official trailer.

(Yes, apparently brief teasers announcing the release date of the official movie trailer is now a regular thing.)

So what makes this teaser so bad?

First of all, note the lack of any nostalgic elements from the original Ghostbusters movie. No Ecto-One siren blaring off-screen, no ghosts, no imagery that actually connects it to the Ghostbusters universe. Considering that

Considering that this is the first live-action glimpse of the movie that they’ve shown the public, this is the biggest wasted opportunity from the producers and studio so far. They could have dispelled a lot of online resentment with one or two lines of dialogue, or by giving us a tease of the voices of the new Ghostbusting team. 

Ghostbusters Teaser - Tag Line

Instead, we’re left with what looks like B-roll Transformers military footage editing together and rubber stamped with the Ghostbusters logo at the end.

You could have replaced the teasers tagline of ‘Who You Gonna Call?’ with ‘Dingo’s’ Ate Our Babies?’ and it would not have changed the tone or narrative of the trailer one iota. There would still be soldiers and police driving about, raising guns at some off-screen menace that could be anything from aliens to supervillains to groundhogs.

This could honestly be a sequel to Groundhog Day where Bill Murray leads an army of groundhogs to destroy the Earth.

There was absolutely nothing that teased this was a remake of the Ghostbusters universe – and that continues to scare any fan of the original film. Not showing real footage of your films main actors has always been a sign of a terrible movie.

So why release this teaser on Valentine’s Day?

Probably so fans of the original will know what it’s like to really have their heart broken when they see their childhood continues to get stomped on by a bad marketing campaign. We deserved a look at our new Ghostbusters but now we have to wait until March 3rd.  

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Until then, check out this trailer for the Lego Dimensions Ghostbusters game based on the original movie.












Feeling ‘Pixel’ated?, I have.

From the tweets and private messages that have been sent my way throughout the week, I’ve been wracked by 8-bit nostalgia and trying to make one of life’s important choices: Do I really want to purchase an Atari Flashback 5 or ColecoVision Flashback? Or, do I just try and find another power adapter for my old Atari 2600 and try to resurrect that portion of my 8-bit youth for a little bit of retro fun?


Of course, naturally, this is also the week that Pixels comes to theatres and I’ve been dazzled by constant reminders of my 8-bit childhood heroes.  Based on a PIXELS: a short film by Patrick Jean, this is a film trying to capitalize on that same Gen-X feeling of nostalgia I remember when I escaped the watchful eye of my parents and snuck away to the arcade hiding in the back hallway at the mall we would buy groceries at.

Picture and caption from Dorkly. Original caption by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post.

Picture and caption from Dorkly. Original caption by Stephanie Merry, Washington Post.

That’s the power of using these iconic properties in such a visual experience.  As a short trailer, it captivates you with the fun memories of your youth, selling that nostalgia to buy your tickets early and take your kids out for some retro feels.

Then the longer trailers hit the internet and you start to be overwhelmed by the posters and traditional media commercials and ads.  You’re okay until Adam Sandler opens his mouth and his dialogue hits your ears.  Suddenly you realize why Q*bert seems to constantly pee himself in fear during every single scene he appears in the film.

The critics had even harsher words.

But that does not mean the movie will go Kaboom! at the box office.  There is enough of an audience out there that didn’t grow up with these characters to fill theatre seats.  It will make around $28-million in its opening weekend and will probably cover its production costs when the foreign markets pick it up and the comedy gets lost in translation; leaving only the visuals behind.

So, as a nostalgic property, where does this movie go wrong?

The obvious answer is that they ignore and break what I see as one of the essential rules for using a nostalgic property:

 You must have love and respect for the nostalgic source material you are using.

It is like writing for children – You have to have no malice in your heart when you do it because even the slightest traces of it will show through in the final product.  By changing the nostalgic source material to become the butt end of an Adam Sandler joke, or so your movie can access the Chinese market, it takes away from the final product and subconsciously your inner nostalgic child knows something is horribly wrong.

Now, am I just being judgemental on this?

Well yes and no.  While I’ll admit to having a slight bias against Adam Sandler, mostly for making nothing but terrible movies and calling in his schtick performances post-Punch-Drunk Love, I blame the studio and Chris Columbus for putting him in that position of power to impact the film to the degree that he does.

So let’s counter this with an example from the other side of the digital coin.  Let’s look at a film that uses these same 8-bit nostalgic properties successfully: Walt Disney’s 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph.

They embraced the nature of Q*Bert, as a person (okay, 8-bit orange creature).  It wasn’t just his character that shone through.  This example of using the heart and soul of the nostalgic character shines through in that film in the Bad-Anon meeting scene where Ralph goes to talk about being a bad guy.  Each character in that scene is a nostalgic reminder for the multi-generational audience watching the film, bringing them further into the film and seeing Ralph as part of that same nostalgic universe.  Their personalities are used to create that atmosphere of belonging.  And it’s funny, enjoyable and works.

In Pixels, they come off as constructs more than characters.  While you will feel for Q*Bert and the dancing Smurf they seem to kill for no reason, you will quickly realize that he’s only there for comic relief, bowel releasing and to fix glaring plot holes in the script.  So you end up feeling sorry that he’s a part of the film.  Just like you do when you spot a favourite 80’s icon forced to do Viagra commercials, open a local electronics store or sell insurance.

That, in my opinion, is the largest flaw in this movie and why it doesn’t work as a good example of proper nostalgia marketing.  While it looks good on ads, posters and merchandise.  In the film they seem to want to focus more on Adam Sandler’s angry character, and ego, and not enough in humanizing the villainous 8-bit creations.

At the centre, there’s no heart, only broken pixels.

Instead, drag out your old Atari, blow the dust off that old cartridge and enjoy some classic 8-bit games with heart.  Or, you can try out this flash-based Q*Bert game instead.

If you’ve seen the movie, chime in below and tell me how it made you feel; or what you would have changed to make it better.   Or, give me your advice on whether I should get the Atari Flashback 5 or dredge out my old 2600?

Until next time, Stay Retro.

Will Social Media Redefine Nostalgia for Future Generations?

I find myself lost in my childhood, caught up in the preparation for an upcoming Trendstalks presentation on Nostalgia Marketing.  This flood of past memories and brands has left me with an interesting question: What will nostalgia mean to this generation of social media ingrained children? Will their concept of nostalgia be different for mine?

Since Friendster (the precursor to Facebook) came into existence back in 2002, quickly followed by Facebook and Twitter, there are a significant portion of first year college students who have spent the majority of their lives active on social media.

The concept of being able to backtrack your digital footprint and view their entire social media history opens up a new avenue of nostalgia marketing: micro-nostalgia.  Facebook and Twitter have already tapped into this new form of micro-nostalgia by launching birthday campaigns where users could watch and share a short video showing their Facebook memories; or their their tweet.  Making your personal nostalgia associated with their brand, a vice-versa to how normal brand nostalgia operates.

Family Circus created by Bill Keane.

An example of a ‘Billy Path’ made famous in ‘The Family Circus’ by Bill Keane.

Imagine having the ability to relive high school memories by backtracking your online behaviour, like a Billy path in The Family Circus, visiting past conversations with friends, laughing (or groaning) at the inside jokes you shared when you were younger.  You could view your life when things were simple.  At the press of a button you could instantly watch an Instagram or Vine video that you and your friends recorded while having the greatest snowball fight of your lives; or see who is the current mayor of the tree fort you built in the woods near your old house and turned into a Foursquare location.  Will the novelty of traditional nostalgia fade with our growing ability to access historical content at a moments notice, will micro-nostalgia of our own online pasts become the future standard of marketing?  Would you share your happiest childhood moment with the world in support of a favourite brand?


Google’s Answer to Game of Thrones

The leaves have fallen from the trees and winter is on the way and here I sit at my computer with chills running down my spine.  Not from the cold but from the possibilities that one of Google’s latest announcements could have on the field of marketing and public relations.

Endgame: The Calling is a series of sci-fi novels being written by author James Frey and a project that he has challenged Google’s off-shoot company, Niantic Labs to help turn into a marketing juggernaut.  Their goal is to turn this story about 12 teenagers that compete from around the globe in a high-stakes competition; into the starting point for something amazing.  John Hanke, the head of Niantic Labs, goes on to explain:

Frey’s vision was to do this as a book and game and a movie all together, and to use social media as a way to extend the universe and make it a place where people could really live within the game universe.  He had this whole thing conceived of as a never-before-done experience across all these media.

4-PortalKey-225x400Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 6.22.49 PMTo understand how they could accomplish this we have to look back a few years to Niantic Labs last project, Ingress.  Ingress was created as a real world battle between factions to control portals in cities across the globe.  People chose their faction, met their new community and worked together to go out into the real world to participate in a giant global game unlike any other before it.

So imagine this global game structure used for other marketing campaigns.  Suddenly, CNN could have a real-life political map where voters showed their political pride in real-time during election campaigns; or if this were indeed Game of Thrones, each viewer could participate and claim global territory in the name of the Starks, the Lannisters or even in the name of Hodor himself.

Now we up the ante and take that to the next level.  This is where Endgame comes in, incorporating a physical product (the series of novels or their Lost-inspired website) into the mix.  Suddenly, your participation in the real world event takes on a whole new meaning.  You could influence the future of the stories themselves.  A few flash mobs of support and through community participation an army rises up to support someone the author never intended to be popular and change the lore of the brands universe and story.

Popularity wins and now Hodor takes his place on the Iron Throne in a live performance streamed across the game in real-time; only to have another faction assemble en-masse to try to ruin the event with a  spur of the moment community planned and funded Red Wedding event.  Reality and fiction finally blend together with paid and organic promotional marketing.

And behind the scenes the marketing team watches it all in real time.  They can visually see the communities within their brand, how those communities have formed over time and where they’ll be in the near future.  They can tailor the brands message, create new products that cater to the popular communities and their victories while adjusting future campaigns and plans in real-time.

This is what Endgame and Google hope to accomplish; with movies, novellas and the trilogy of books all working together to give its players competitions for cash prizes of real gold.  A game that could connect billions of potential players with their high-tech devices, allowing them to shape the global game.

So can you see the possibilities that it can be used for in the field of marketing?  I can.  Who needs to wait for Khaleesi’s dragons when you have the strength of Hodor’s community that can band together and take the Iron Throne before she crosses the ocean.  Let your voice be heard and comment below on how you’d use this technology!




Snapchat Scares Up Some Paid Advertisers

Did you get your Ouija board out after watching Snapchat’s Inaugural ad?  Or did you miss it and have no clue what i’m talking about?  If it’s the latter then have no fear, the second part of my Halloween series of posts covers this spooky tale from the Snapkeeper.

This week the many millennials on Snapchat could be heard screaming, their terror heralding the dawn of a new domain of online advertising, as Snapchat opened its gates and allowed its first paid advertisement to its American users.  The 20-second trailer for the horror film Ouija appeared in everyones “Recent Updates” section, daring everyone to hold their finger to watch the entire ad without having to restart the timer over again.  With a lifespan of 24 hours, before it disappeared from the system as eerily as it arrived, the ad, according to Universal Studios, received millions of views but reserve final judgement on its success until all the analytics are in.


While this is the first paid advertisement in the app, it isn’t the first time advertisers have promoted their products to Snapchats millennial audience.  Taco Bell, an early adopter to Snapchat, has gained a strong following on Snapchat with more than 200,000 friends.  Considering their Snapchat followers as “crazy engaged,” Nicholas Tran, Taco Bell’s official storyteller, considers Snapchat “one of the most engaging places for us to play“and each Snap it sends receives an estimated 80% engagement rate (with 90% viewing the entire Snap).

The important question is, if Snapchat continues to open the doors to paid ads, can brands continue to achieve these levels of engagement?  Or will the flood of ads start to ruin the goodwill earned by brands like Taco Bell and Doritos who have spent the time to earn the trust of its millennial audience?

So Snapchatters, were you scared by Snapchat’s first advertisement this week? Or just annoyed that ads have made it into your favourite social media app?  Raise your pitchforks, light your jack-o’-lanterns and storm the castle of my comments section below.

Trick or Treat? Pinterest Knocks on YouTube’s Door Searching for a New Audience

Have you ever used Pinterest to find your ideal Halloween costume?  If not, Pinterest is hoping that this year you’ll change your mind.

With over 176 million Halloween-related pins they have packed up their pins and embarked on a massive Halloween campaign to show the users of YouTube the treasure trove that lurks at Pinterest.   Partnering with Funny or Die, Cracked, eHow to YouTube’s Michelle Phan, Pinterest’s Head of Brand, David Rubin, believes that YouTube is a healthy platform to recruit a bigger audience.

What we’re finding is not only that the content [media companies] create is helpful to us, but Pinterest has grown into being a place where we’re driving lots of traffic and interest back to them.

What makes this interesting is that Pinterest isn’t relying on an outside agency for this campaign.  With minimal spending on paid ads they’re relying on a grassroots-style campaign and the word of mouth garnered by their online partners to spread the word for this campaign.  Now, I love Halloween – it truly is my favourite day of the year.  That is why this campaign piques my interest.  It might be a chance to head back online and add some spookiness to my barren boards.  Plus it has a series of new features that I’d love to check out.

So with Pinterest now standing as the second largest driver of traffic on the internet, will this campaign earn them tricks or will they find the audience to push past Facebook and become #1?  At the very least, you’ll be able to find a great costume to win this years inner-office costume party.  So follow me on Pinterest and share some of your spookiest Halloween pins.


Did Reddit Investors Just Make History by Placing Its Community First?

Reddit made the news this week with the announcement that Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto were part of the group that invested $50 million into the coffers of Reddit.  But did the medias love of celebrity news blind them, and the public, to the important facts behind this story?  Is Reddit about to make history and only the Reddit community will know it?

Snoop Dogg’s investment is not much of a surprise to anyone in the Reddit community since he is an active member and moderator on the site.  The real surprises are the other important names that never made it into the official headlines with investors like Everbrite‘s CEO’s Kevin and Julia Hartz, and Minted CEO Miriam Naficy.  This influx of cash is going to have a great impact on Reddit, laying out the groundwork for some serious upgrades to the Reddit brand:

  • Hiring third-party companies to expand our mobile offerings (like their new AMA app)
  • To improve their self-serve ad product
  • Helping build up the redditgifts marketplace
  • Pay for their growing technical infrastructure
  • To create a cryptocurrency to give 10% of the investors shares beck to the Reddit community.

These improvements could have a great impact on other social media apps and sites, with AMA Reddit events possibly being part of Eventbrite or other affiliated marketing opportunities.  However, the biggest item on that list was ignored by the mainstream media; that Snoop and the other investors promised to give 10% of their shares back to the Reddit community in the form of a cryptocurrency.  In the sites comments section, Reddit CEO Yishan Wong went into greater detail about how this would work.

We are thinking about creating a cryptocurrency and making it exchangeable (backed) by those shares of reddit, and then distributing the currency to the community. The investors have explicitly agreed to this in their investment terms. Nothing like this has ever been done before.”

The concept of creating a cryptocurrency to reward it’s own community is a great idea that should be heralded by the media, instead of ignored.  Companies often ignore their communities and the fact that Reddit, and it’s investors, see the value of setting aside millions to reward its consumer base instead of its shareholders.  So do you think made history today by deciding to try and put the community first?  Or is the media right? Is it all about Snoop Dogg and /r/trees?

Yinshan Wong - photo from

“An investment like this doesn’t mean we’re rich or successful. Money can become worthless very quickly, value is something that is built over time through hard work.

Swords to Plowshares: Changing Positions on the New Digital Battlefield

“Hence the skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible, and does not miss the moment for defeating the enemy.”

– Sun Tzu “The Art of War”

When it comes to positioning on the digital battlefield, are social media and online communities just another type of terrain that marketers need to adapt to?  Or has the digital marketplace removed the need for Sun Tzu’s tactics altogether?

To get a good understanding of brand positioning, we take our wayback machine to 1969 when the pioneer of marketing theory, Jack Trout, first introduced his theory of brand positioning.

Brand Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind.”  This system is based on the concept that “communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.

This was the Mad Men era where print, radio and television media reigned and every home had one phone and television; if you were lucky.   Marketers looked for ways to make their brands step out from the crowd and win against their competitors and they did this by understanding their consumers and perfecting their brands “mix” (logo, price of the product, packaging, promotions and advertising).

In the last fifteen years the online world has changed all that.  The old marketing tools of brand positioning are waning and no longer can businesses thrive by finding the right time and place to strike out to grab the casual consumer.  Experts show that attention spans have dropped dramatically and even a one-second delay on a website can cause a 11% fewer page views.

Every day we are bombarded by videos, banners, emojis and sounds.  Today, the average North American consumer is exposed to over 3000 brand messages a day, with pop-up and banner ads lurking in every corner of our screen.  With that level of brand saturation, we’ve grown defiant of brands forcing themselves upon us.  While we understand the need for sites to pay their bills and tolerate the occasional ad that interrupts our online adventures, that is a sentiment not being shared by younger consumers.  As i’ve talked about in previous blogs, the internet is continually speeding up and consumers are resolute that their needs are far more important than an advertisers wants; and that these three rules should always be followed:

  1. Everyone wants to be heard.
  2. Everyone wants to be understood.
  3. Everyone wants his or her life to count.

Those three needs both define us as human beings and emphasize the changing demand modern brands now face.  John Bonini, marketing director at IMPACT Branding & Design, explains the needs of the Millennials.

The need for engaging and resourceful content has never been greater thanks to the buying behavior of Millennials and their thirst for information.  They’re adverse to sales pitches. Rather than being sold to, they prefer doing the research on their own in order to make decisions. They value conversation.


Millennials are the largest demographic in the United States and Canada.

This is the new direction of brand positioning on the digital frontier: knowing who you are and engaging in constant two-way communication to see what customer needs can be met on a day-by-day basis.   After all, brands are no longer scouring the woods hunting down their chosen prey.  Instead, they are laying out a trail of the sweetest candy so no matter where you stumble onto the internet trail, your searches will find that trail and bring the consumer back to them.  Which makes knowing how your customers needs and how they perceive your brands position more important than it has ever been in the past.  Like an actor finding a character, a modern brand must find the verb or short sentence that best represents their company’s unique values.  Zappos values being “the online service leader” while Volkswagens verb of value is “Innovate“.  Once you know this, then you know where your customers are.  Zappos can market to those looking for exceptional service, while Volkswagen can aim to attract the innovators of the online community.

So how has this changed the definition of brand positioning?  According to Ardath Albee‘s blog on the Power of Position in B2B Content Strategy, digital brand positioning can now defined as:

“The art of sharing your company’s unique value in ways that resonate with your buyers, compelling them to engage, trust, and—ultimately—buy from you.

Engagement and trust, two words that lead me into the final area that has an impact on a brands digital positioning: the power of word of mouth.  Word of mouth has become an important influence in the online marketplace.  One angry voice can now overpower 1000 banner ads.  The latest statistics emphasize the degree of power that a strong word of mouth has on how your brand is publicly viewed.  By creating and engaging your community they are the cheapest way to grow the strength, and market share, of your company and your brand.  The statistics show that the immense power the voice of the consumer has online today.

So while I follow Sun Tzu’s teachings in my everyday life (a copy of The Art of War sits next to The Elements of Style on my work shelf), the facts show that the digital terrain warrants a different approach to the conventional warfare model market positioning was founded on.  It is no longer viable to fight a war into the mind of the consumer through traditional brand positioning methods and expensive media campaigns.  Instead, it is cheaper and more influential to open a dialogue with your consumers to get into their heart instead.  Your brand position, no matter how small a company you are, will be stronger for it.

“Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears. Let the weakling say, I am strong!”

– Joel 3:10 “The Holy Bible – New International Version”

Let me know what side of the equation you stand on.  Swords or plowshares?  Battle for the mind, or heart?


Putting People First: Hit or MIXX?


There is one thing that is ingrained into you if you have ever driven in Toronto: expect gridlock on the Don Valley Parking Lot. It can be midnight on a Sunday and you’ll still hit stopped traffic somewhere on your trip. So how do we cope and move on from the negative experience you are hit with every time you drive? You prepare for the worst and hope for the best. After all, deep inside, you know it’s the only way to maintain a positive outlook on your day without losing personal momentum. So, as the bus left Kingston at 6 a.m., I knew that I was likely to end up missing a portion of the IAB Canada Fall MIXX Conference’s first speaker, and fellow creative, Charlene Li.

I arrived feeling like I was had slept in and was late for an important meeting, so without hesitation I grabbed my student scarlet letter from the registration desk and raced up to the second floor balcony. Taking the first seat I could find, I realized that the upper balcony of the Carlu was a buzz of excitement where many of the students already taken to the digital realm to engage the world, and their peers.  This was the first time I’ve been at a conference and torn between taking in the information in front of me and using my phone to check out the #MIXX2014 event feed to see what questions unfolded around me in real-time as everyone discussed the secrets to digital strategy success. After an all-to-brief round of post-presentation Q&A where we were able to electronically engage Charlene Li with questions on Twitter, it was time to move on.

Stoked, this was followed by interesting presentations on Profit-Driven Marketing by Marie Josée Lamothe and an excellent look at the Global Perspective on Content & Technology by Marta Martinez and AOL where they showed how quick a company can engage in two-way communications with their customer base. The weakest of the morning presentations would have to be the discussion on the End of Digital Media. When Annette Warring said that “content is NOT king, big data is NOT the savior, and the consumer is NOT in control.” It came off as an attention-grabbing headline whose purpose was to justify booking a presentation rather than use as a starting point for a serious discussion on the issue. If digital media was dead, then why were we trending online? Or celebrating the fact that online digital ad revenue had just surpassed 3.5 billion dollars a year in Canada?

Advertising Growth Trend 2004-13

During our lunch off-site, we discussed the lack of online engagement with the presenters post-Li; especially toward those of us in the balcony. There had been zero post-presentation Twitter discussions and we were starting to feel left out of the event. This abandonment was even more apparant in the lobby where we could only watch as marketing professionals mingled and chatted on the other side of the roped off “delegates-only” section; a section we students were forbidden to enter unless you really needed to use the facilities and dared run through the minefield of industry representatives. After all, we didn’t want to upset our schools reputation by crashing the scene, chatting with the wrong industry professional and have have our school not be invited back.  There was no attempt by anyone in the industry to cross that rope to our side to engage us, or open the barriers to invite us in.  Somewhere in that throng was a room of technology aimed at marketers to look at and no one gave permission, or directions, to the students to see the vendors or displays within that room. Which is a shame since some of them might have paid to be there in hopes of plying their wares on anyone eager to listen.

As I settled down to sit through the downward spiral of afternoon presentations, whose presenters lacked both crowd engagement and Twitter accounts, I was left with an old adage from my Public Relations education floating around in my head, “Get your inside onside before you go outside.” So when your key message is about the importance of engaging your customers, how can you achieve that goal if you’re unwilling to engage your future potential employees first?

I came engaged and prepared to see the best the world of marketing could offer, I just didn’t know I had to watch it from the other side of the ropes.

Whatever side of the ropes you were on, what would you change to help make the next IAB event more engaging for both sides?