February 2007

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Dashboard my ass.

The pop marketing term of the last couple of years has been “dashboard.” As a brand planner who advocates “windshield” planning rather than the more common “rear view mirror planning” approach, I get the dashboard metaphor.

The marketing dashboard contains dials and gauges that monitor the performance of marketing programs. These metrics are valuable for sure but if one doesn’t look out the windshield, beyond the dials, and see what’s coming, they are driving with their head down.

Great marketers don’t wait around for consumer behaviors to be measured, great marketers decide what consumers will like…before they like it. They see in front of the dashboard. The future is a beautiful thing.

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One of the biggest cultural phenomena in America today is what I call ADD-ification. We all have attention deficit disorder. We can’t sit still and we’re always in a hurry. When was the last time you drove your car without some form of entertainment — using the time to think? Thought so. 
 
Newspaper stories have gotten shorter, the chapters in our novels can be measured in paragraphs not pages, our meals come in microwavable packages, we even beep at people who sit at traffic lights for more than 5 seconds. Why? Because we’re in a hurry. 
 
How many advertising or branding briefs today are predicated on the insight that we are all pressed for time? I certainly have written a few. 
 
Stress is at an all-time high I would imagine, but with the right meds, we can get by. But hurry, the pharmacy closes at ten!  
 
(I’ll be off for a few days, see you Tuesday.)

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Crispin Porter

Crispin Porter is a good ad agency. That said, I’ve often wondered whether they can represent large consumer brands in a way that actually grows and sustains business. I’m not alone. They have taken some heat in the press and had high profile account losses.
 
This past weekend, though, they ran a Volkswagen Jetta ad in the New York Times and it was “terrific.”  Sitting beneath the traditional silhouetted car photo – the traditional layout from years past – was the headline “Junk in the Trunk.” I couldn’t pass it by. Expecting to read about extra trunk space, I was surprised to find out all about Jetta’s extra features. 
 
I know Crispin is a great media company and that they conceive startling creative, but maybe they should just sit the creative teams down and ask everyone to hone their print advertising skills. Our business is not only about being inventive, it’s about learning how to “sell.” This may be a good place for them to recharge their batteries.  

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iTunes

The reason CD sales are down is because of iTunes and file sharing, but not for the reason you think. It’s logical to assume CD sales are down because of $.99 downloads and free file sharing, right? Wrong.  CD sales are tanking because there is less loyalty to bands, stemming from consumers ability to buy or download single songs. Instead of listening to a whole album and learning to like the less commercial stuff, (listening to all of a band’s art, in other words) downloaders cherry pick the best songs, wear them out and get bored.  Bored with the song, the band, and dare I say, even the live performance.  This is problem the industry faces. 
 
We have ADD in America. We need instant gratification and we want it NOW. It’s up to the artists to make us like their art. All of it. There are many ways to build loyalty, but selling songs one at a time, at a discount, is not one of them.
 

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Editing Cancer

Microsoft Word’s editing function is a cancer in marketing. If everybody’s a writer, then nobody is the writer.
 
Raise you hand if you are using Microsoft Word’s editing function. Now, lower your hand if you are in a creative business, and here I include marketing. If your hand is still up, you are using a tool that creates more problems than it solves.
 
Writing is not a collaborative sport, not unless you are James Patterson. That is especially so for writing that is supposed to romance, motivate and sell. This type of writing needs to come from one person. The editing function on Word makes sense for lawyers and engineers but piecing kernels of information together, often compromised kernels, is bad for business. Writing that sells has an organic organization, requiring a beginning, middle and end.
 
Copy and paste writing — agreed upon by committee — is not writing. It’s typing. 

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Viral or virus?

To view consumer generated content (CGC) as anything more than consumers itching a creative scratch is silly. That’s not to say consumers can’t do a good job of entertaining and/or even selling a product or two. But if they are not making deposits in the “brand bank” they may actually be diluting brand values.  
 
When this CGC contests are run and “aired” on paid media, good brand managers will select only the efforts that best deliver the brand promise, but they should not overlook all the people generating “off brief” creative and sharing it on their own. If this happens, a brand manager isn’t managing the brand, s/he is monitoring it. And that’s when viral turns to virus.  

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Heelys

My favorite new product in a while is Heelys (www.heelys.com)– the sneaker with the wheel in the heel.  It’s a spectacular product with a great name. Imagine being in the early development meeting with the lawyers, though, trying to explain the upside of a sneaker with a banana peel on the heel? This is was bold play.
 
As is the case with Burger King, whose broiled burgers you experience anytime you’re within an 1/8 of a mile of the store, Heelys are a walking, talking billboard of self-promotion. Have you ever seen a kid go gliding by on Heelys without a smile on his or her face?  Plus the way the kids ambulate is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.  It’s absolutely mesmerizing.
 
But one of the best parts of the product launch is the name.  Heelys.  It’s descriptive, fun, memorable and meaningful.  The name really delivers.  

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J.C. Penny’s idea.

I’ve never been a fan of Penny’s though I certainly know the store and have shopped there.
 
The Saatchis are launching a new campaign around the idea “Every Day Matters,” a welcome change from the old effort “It’s all inside.” “It’s all inside” was not an idea, it was a tagline. The only way if could have been an idea was as a consolidation or a one stop shop strategy, and that’s no way to build a brand. Where’s the aspiration? Where’s the consumer? If there was a double meaning in the line, a la it’s all inside the human spirit, I thing DDB fell short. The musical device build to present the line was a keeper, I will say, but that’s it.
 
“Every day matters” is own-able and deliverable. Most important, it is an architecture for an ongoing, meaningful, consumer-focused story. Let’s hope the Saatchi’s can deliver. 
 

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So, I’m reading the New York Times over the weekend and I hit upon a sentence that causes me to vigorously shake my head to clear out the cob webs. I read it again and again and still couldn’t wend my way though it’s mash-up of double and triple negatives. Here it is:
 
“…he opposes (first negative) a ban (second negative) only if it failed (third) to include an exception (fourth) to protect the life of the mother.”
 
When they write this stuff, are they smiling?
 
This type of obtusion (Is that a word? It should be.) is what keeps people from reading. Have you ever, I mean ever, read a user license agreement on a Web site?  Or read a prospectus?  How about an annual report financial section?  Is obfuscation a cottage industry? (Tax preparation, is no doubt a billion dollar business.)
 
I’m not for dumbing down the written word, or journalists writing to a 6th grade reading level, but come on people. Can’t we all just try to communicate a little better?  

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Simpler times.

Imagine a time in the 1700s when America’s green tea came from a single company with two ships sailing back and forth to China. Following a 7-month sail, the green tea arrived in lower Manahattan, was offloaded and brought by horse drawn wagon over bumpy cobblestones to a warehouse near Wall Street at which time the shipping barrels were broken open and the tea transferred to smaller dry casks for shipment to points north, south and west.
 
After stops at two more transportation points, a barge ride, and a jaunt in a rain-soaked buckboard wagon, the green tea arrives at the local mercantile. Taken out of its wooden  cask, smelling oh so rich by the way, it is then put into 3 glass jars with metal claps and cloth seals.
 
You, the store proprietor, must charge $.75 for a half pound of the green tea in order to make a little money, which is quite a high price when considering sugar is $.08 and flour is $.04 a pound. Here in Bumpus Mills, MO green tea is a relatively unknown luxury, and perhaps the most expensive product in the store on a cost per pound basis. Which promotional route do you go? Point-of-sale? Or word-of-mouth?   

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