April 2007

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Moto

Motorola, a company that has had its ups and downs over the past 15 years, made the cover of the Wall Street Journal today for its rather sudden fall from earnings grace. This was attributed to Moto’s not having a big hardware winner after the amazing run of the Razr cell phone line.  The article cites how the company didn’t properly anticipate and prepare for next generation cell service. For a company that used to build and market cell infrastructure switches, this is a bit surprising. In the consumer marketing business, you always have to look forward, it seems Moto didn’t.
 
In a couple of days, my company’s first big product launch, Zude, will go off and I’m expecting it to be huge. The Internet being what it is, we may have millions of users in a matter of days, weeks or months. But what’s next? That’s the truly exciting question. 
 
I’m already looking ahead. May 1st 2007 (our beta launch date) is so 2006.
 

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List ads.

Driving in my car the other day I heard a radio ad for the New Jersey Dept. of Tourism. It was a prime example of a bad “list ad.” What’s a list ad?  It’s a long recitation of features and benefits, separated by commas, that tries very hard not to leave anything out. Even so, I bet those brave product managers who approve list ads often feel they have left something out. Ooh, that hollow feeling.
 
Here are just a few of the things strung together in the NJ Tourism ad: “ You can hike the Adirondack trail, visit a revolutionary battlefield, raft down the Delaware, visit antique stores along river towns,….” No doubt there were the obligatory beach and skiing mentions.
 
As someone who has actually hiked the Kittattinny Ridge in NJ – an amazingly beautiful hike – I can say with certainty that it deserves its own ad. That goes for the antique stores. And the rafting. But no, we got a list. Decision makers want to include the most features per media dollar they can. When you say everything, you say nothing. It doesn’t work in TV and it certainly doesn’t work in radio.

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I am the marketing director for Zude, a new Web property poised to launch May 1, 2007. Personal success and pride aside, we really do hope Zude goes big for some altruistic reasons. It may sound corny, but our mission is to give everyone in the world their own website.  We believe that when everyone has a voice and a forum, the world will be a better, more informed and tolerant place. Stop laughing. Think about it.  

People have already demonstrated a desire to express themselves on the web; that’s what’s driving the social computing phenomenon. The problem is, there are still too many restrictions and limitations on the Web — not the least of which is that most people can’t build their own site.  Without going all commercial on you, Zude solves much of that.
 
So what’s this Webertarian thing? Well, when you build a new product and a new brand, you need to understand your target.  That understanding is required to create the big idea and insure messaging fit. And the bigger the target the better.  Our target is “Webertarians.” Webertarians are those who cherish their freedom. Webertarians believe that, within reason, less rules and less governance is better. Webertarians believe that big corporations shouldn’t own proprietary tools that limit access and action. It’s the big Webertarian party (little “p”) my friends, you may want to stay tuned.
 

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My day job is director of marketing for an Internet start-up called Zude. Zude, we like to crow, is the fastest, easiest way to build and manage a personal website. There is lots more you can do with Zude, but you don’t have the time so that’s the boil down.
 
As people begin to sign up for the Zude Beta launch (May 1) and I review the database of email addresses and comments, I realize that it’s going to be very hard to deal with each of these users (there are thousands) on a one-to-one basis. Now, I have never gone one-to-one with Martha Rogers or Don Peppers, but I would say to them that I can treat my users like individuals. I can mail them more appropriate mail, I can serve up more contextual ads, but I will not be able to have a meaningful conversation with each and every one of them.
 
What I will be able to do is sample their feelings, their likes and dislikes, and design a brand plan that best delivers on that information. With a promise that’s clean and can be articulated without an Excel chart.  If the promise is right and we stick to it, we will have built a brand and a whole lot of “ones” will know what we stand for.

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Joe Nacchio

A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of working indirectly for Joe Nacchio, Qwest Communication’s ex-CEO, who was indicted yesterday for insider trading. I certainly don’t know about his recent escapades, and I can’t begin to understand how someone with seemingly had so much could do something so self-destructive, but I will say that he was one hell of a marketer.
 
While the head of AT&T Business Communications Services in the 90’s, Mr Nacchio used to ask his ad agency McCann-Erickson to develop pretend ad campaigns by chief rival MCI which he used at sales meetings to incite his sales and marketing teams.  When AT&T was in jeopardy of losing a huge portion of its 800 service business, after the government decided 800 numbers could be moved by customers from one long distance carrier to another, he emptied the buildings and sent every able bodied employee out onto the street to meet with customers face-to-face. It not only worked, it really worked.
 
The man was daring and decisive. He didn’t teach, but you couldn’t help but learn. He certainly had a brilliant marketing compass and it took him to the very top of AT&T’s corporate suite; at a time when AT&T was one of the world’s top multinational corporations. Somehow that compass lost its bearing when he left NJ.
 

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Dell’s marketshare is slipping…still. Dell has allowed its computers to be commoditized by its emphasis on price. Okay, those print ads are covered in features too — but for many approvers of computer brands, most of those features are like additives on a can.
 
Dell’s brand imprint is made daily by junk mail (oops, direct response,) catalogs, and full page ads showing 3 boxes, 6 prices and 125 feature bullets. 
 
What’s the idea? What does Dell stand for?  
 
I’m not suggesting they do ads with smiling kids holding laptops aloft in a field of green grass, but come on.  Boxes and features? Who is Dell’s agency? Oh that’s right, they do it in-house. Hee hee.
 
It’s getting stale, and you are not a kid anymore.  Mr. Dell, you need to open a window (lower case “w.”)
 
 

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Kmart

Grey Advertising was just replaced by Draft FCB as agency of record for Kmart. According to Grey’s Jim Heekin, a smart ad guy, Grey just “reinvented the brand, gave it new relevance and created humanity that connected with consumers.” To me, that sounds as if he’s talking about Grey, not Kmart customers.
 
About the change, Kmart CMO Maureen McGuire said “We think the campaign (Grey’s which is about to launch) works well.” The change “is about all the capabilities Draft FCB brings.” To me, that sounds like she’s talking about Draft FCB, not Kmart customers.
 
Nobody is talking about the consumer! Nobody is talking about the idea.
 
Everyone is talking about process. And the subtext is almost always about ego.  Name one consumer who knows the name of an ad agency or CMO.  Consumers know the branding idea. It either works or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, agencies are changed. It’s that simple.
 
It is the idea that consumers keep in their minds. It’s the idea that creates relevance, humanity and connection, to use Mr. Heekin’s words.
 
Campaigns and agencies come and go but powerful branding ideas are indelible.

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Words and Copy

What does it take to be a salesperson? A car? A clean shirt? The ability to say “ask” rather than “aks,” or “you” rather than “youze?” That’s a start, I guess.

What does it take to be a great salesperson? Empathy? The ability to listen? Purpose and confidence? Believability? Yes to all.

What does it take to be a copywriter? A pen? Microsoft Word? A dictionary? A place that will run your ad? A reader?  I reckon so.

What does it take to be a great copywriter? A heart? An ear? A nose (to smell the stale)? Experience with consumers? Experience selling? A steady hand? Huevos?
Yes, 7 times yes.

Words are powerful tools. We must choose each and every one wisely if we are to write great copy.

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Well, Google just stepped over the line. Their recent YouTube purchase only made sense to me because it furthered Google’s franchise as the world’s best search engine. Though video hosting is not a core competence of Google, searching for those videos certainly can be. Now Google has made a deal to buy DoubleClick, the Web’s leading ad server business.
 
Some might say an ad server uses search algorithms to find the most appropriate place to host an ad, but I’m going there. This purchase is about growing bigger and growing faster…in almost Googolplex dimension. It will prove too much food on the plate for one company to eat with elegance. Is anyone getting a Monty Python image?

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We remember beauty.
 
We remember new.
 
We remember rich.
 
We remember melody.
 
We remember funny.
 
We remember nature.
 
We remember poetry.
 
We remember pain.
 
We remember educators.
 
We remember warmth.
 
We remember charity.
 
We remember happy.
 
We remember love.
 
These are the things we remember.
 
These are the things consumers remember.

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