H&R Block Offers Free Money To Help Build Their Equity

Nothing helps build (brand) equity quite like free money, which is why H&R Block is offering free cash to customers to help build their brand.

At least that’s the hope of the tax preparation company as they introduce an experimental marketing program that literally puts cash in the hands of consumers. It’s smart, engaging and, well, costly.

New kiosks from the brand dispense up to $100 to participants willing to take a 2-minute quiz, part of which includes the opportunity to fantasize about the best way to spend a billion dollars. Sounds easy enough.

The kiosks build off H&R Block’s “Get Your Billion Back America�? ad campaign that draws attention to the more than one billion dollars Americans left on the table after doing their own taxes in 2013. Ketchum, M1 Interactive, Decibel Management and CGS Premiere created the kiosks, which include multiple touch screens, cameras, computers and ATM components.

Needless to say the free-money-dispensing-kiosks, which are currently set up in Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and (for some reason) Kansas City, have had no trouble finding willing participants. The machines have been used by more than 600 individuals and have garnered earned media from the thousands of others who have seen the machines in action.

While it’s a fun, on-strategy execution, and one that participants undoubtedly enjoy, it lacks the originality to differentiate itself from other similar kiosks/machine installations such as Coca Cola’s Happiness Machine. Still there’s no doubt it’s getting the message across to the good people of Kansas, New York, California and Georgia, so who’s to say it can’t still be a slam-dunk for the brand?

No word yet on whether or not H&R Block intends to spread the machines to other cities across the U.S., but for now company is probably happy limiting the number of places it installs free money dispensers to the few geographically separated locations already selected.


Pizza Hut Bites A Slice of Dominos

Pizza Hut is determined to take a tasty bite out of Domino’s Pizza’s market share.

A subsidiary of the sweet Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM), Pizza Hut is known for delivering more pizza, pasta and wings than any other restaurant in the world. Well now, the famous company is on a mission to increase it’s online presence by 20%.

Instead of relying on bread and butter TV ads to reach customers, the chain will soon be delivering some mouth watering social content. The company is looking to create a more intimate and responsive relationship with its customers that isn’t as possible with TV ads’ comparatively glacial feedback pace. Betting against prolonged product engagement via television, these online outlets are more conducive to “more frequent, shorter bursts” whereby consumer response is instantaneous. This dramatic shift isn’t totally out of left field, given that more than 40% of Pizza Hut sales are now made through online means.

The decision also comes fresh off the heels of a relatively successful string of PR stunts, all of which managed to grab headlines and attention. One such stunt, just in time for Valentines Day, saw the pizza parlor open an account on the dating website OK Cupid. Essentially, the pizza people binge on to get over a tough breakup could actually cause it! But before you get on one knee and ask that special slice to be your one and only, know that you’re not alone. According to Pizza Hut’s PR team, online hopefuls from Twitter spill their cheesy guts out with proposals every day.

The company really hopes to take a solid bite out of it’s long time rival, Dominos.


Coca-Cola & Riedel Release Luxurious Glass

Partnering with Coca-Cola, renowned Austrian glassmaker Riedel has designed a luxurious drinking glass meant for the more refined tastes of a true Coca-Cola connoisseur. Apparently modeled after the shape of the original Coke glass, the glassware giant promises to accentuate and enhance all of the classic soda’s familiar flavors.

Conjuring up a veritable olfactory and gustatory dream sequence, Riedel’s CEO Georg Riedel envisions the drinking experience as being akin to a fine wine or sophisticated ale: “This glass starts with the introduction of the aromas, beautiful lemon, citrus, lime character, malt characteristics, the mouth feel, the effervescence”

Of course there are skeptics who scoff, from a scientific basis, at the idea of a glass in any way contributing to flavor. Are Riedel’s purported methods and theories of taste genuine or is it all just trickery used to create a luxurious experience?

In any case, Coca-Cola has no real financial incentive to make this kind of a brand move from populous to luxury. They’ve pretty much had a vice grip on competitors like Pepsi and the widespread appeal of their soft drink does not hurt profits. Given this dominance, it’s clear Coke can afford to have some fun and Riedel is obviously reveling in the exposure.

A single glass runs at $20 with a double pack costing $30. But, can this ridiculously fancy glass make Coke taste better?


Toyota & Google Unveil Totally Virtual Showroom

Clambering to keep up with the technology laden Generation Y, Toyota, partnered with Google, has unveiled an entirely virtual showroom.

Ironically advertised as a more social way to buy cars, the showroom can be accessed from a Google+ hangout, which then allows up to five people to pick features: “ like wheels and sunroof, or colors for the exterior and the interior of the car.” If the user likes what he or she sees, they can even take the fake car on a fake test drive against a fake backdrop of their choosing. Acknowledging that millennials: “think about cars in a dramatically different way”, this radically new sales interface shows Toyota might be flexible in adjusting the time honored and profit maximizing face to face standard.

Announced at South By Southwest, the venue certainly suggests that the automakers are aware of an imminent threat posed by younger consumers, who buy virtually everything from the Internet. Well, almost everything.

Very few people from any generation enjoy going through the hassle of buying a car from the lot, as haggling, stressful paperwork and waiting around are inevitable. But if these timeless headaches mildly annoyed older generations, there are strong signs that Generation Y is prepared to dig a kind of nuclear option and forego the automotive experience altogether. The percentage of seventeen year olds with licenses is half of what it was in 1983, and there’s no sign of that gap closing.

Sometimes referred to by industry insiders as Generation N (N meaning ‘neutral about buying cars’), this Toyota virtual showroom is a genuine attempt to entice a young millennial demographic that just hasn’t been buying what they’ve been selling.


MoMa’s Twitter Helps People Talk About Art

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) and digital shop Possible have created a Twitter account called ART140 (@artoneforty) that helps people talk about art.

MoMa’s Twitter page is a cocktail party online with 1.6 million aficionados, geeks, newbs and common folks tweeting[WA1] . The goal is to create a new channel conducive to free flowing conversation while generating interest in their pieces. The page was which was launched at SXSW this month and created a huge buzz.

The clever Twitter page has people choosing a specific piece of art and then explaining what it means to them, in 140 characters or less via the hashtag #art140. ART140 will be a social experiment aimed at finding out what art means to the masses. The museum is working with Possible to reveal how the meaning of art may differ by age, gender, geography or other life experiences.

MoMa’s digital media marketing manager, Victor Samra, has assured users that their comments will not be censored in any way, so anyone can post.

MoMa is hoping to use the feedback from this experiment to gain some insight on what they should display in their upcoming exhibits. The museum hopes to “break down the wall” that often separates the masses from fine art appreciation.

But oh if those walls in NYC could talk…