October 2007

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When Donald Trump is on the radio pushing free CDs on becoming a millionaire, what are your first thoughts? The ads, which run on New York Sports radio, say to me The Donald thinks sports fans are idiots. It also tells me he must be in a little of a down cycle, money wise, because these ads and the business idea are pathetic. “What sets millionaires apart from the average person?” he intones, “You just have to want it more.” Jesus, who is going to fall for this crap?

Other get-rich-quick schemers hawking real estate courses or ponzi schemes are at least smart enough to make up names to sell this unconscionable crap to those at the bottom of the IQ food chain, but Donald Trump?   If he has a PR person, a handler, or a manager, that person should be fired.

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Wu hoo…activism.

My last post addressed how low cost manufacturing in countries like China and India are going to make inexpensive cars available to millions of new drivers, the result of which will be a new environmental crisis. Another crisis occurring in China today is pollution. One man — Wu Lihong — is in jail in China because he decided to bring attention to the fouling of Lake Tai, a huge body of water which supports millions of people. One man in a county of 1.3B, through his activism, has captured the attention of the world. Did he know, as he rode his bicycle around the lake collecting water samples and photographing midnight effluent run-ff from chemical plants that he would become the spokesperson for China’s pollution problems? Doubtful. He just saw a wrong and wanted to make a difference. For more information on Wu Luhong, please click through to the link below or search for his story on October 14, 2007 at www.nytimes.com
Activism will be critical to solving all environmental problems and, so each of us needs to make a stand. Whether is means refusing small bags at the store when you can easily carry your purchase by hand, or not taking 30 napkins from the deli, or writing marketers who continue to send pounds and pounds of paper catalogs to us in the mail each year. Or how about not using air-conditioning in our cars when opening the window will do.  
We need to be a little more protective of the environment. We need to become a little more indignant with those who are the problem. We all need to be a lot more like Wu Lihong. 

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Two climates.


I while ago I wrote about how 1 of every 3 cars in Puerto Rico is a new or lightly used Susuki (research while driving around.) Also, about how a production boom in Chinese automobiles is underway and that many of those low-cost cars are selling in Africa, where safety and emission standards are low. Well, today I read of Maruti Suzuki producing a car in India that retails for US$5,000. Anyone want to bet what the dominant car brand will be in a few years?  But scarier than that is the “People’s Car,” coming out next year in India which will retail for US$2,500. The producer? Tata Motors. Can’t you almost smell the fumes?


If you think the globe is warming at an alarming rate now, wait 10 years when there are a half billion more cars on the road.  The closet anthropologist in me says “Buy Tee-shirt stocks.”


Hopefully, we will be hearing much about global warming from the U.S. presidential candidates in the coming year and that’s a good thing. To me this suggests two of the most critical topics of our times: planetary climate and U.S. economic climate.  With a half billion more cars on the planet, the trees in Vermont will start dying. If everything is manufactured overseas and at a fraction of the cost, the US economy will start dying. We need to be able to manufacture at a lower cost here in the states. Anyone have any answers? I do, but you may think me a foo (thanks Mr. T.)

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One of my finer moments in advertising occurred in a new business pitch when I told the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System that their current tagline, developed by the previous ad agency, was spectacular. I later learned that was the reason we won the business. The tagline was “Setting New Standards in Healthcare.” 
As the lead planner on the business, I told NS-LIJ that every time they spent a dollar promoting themselves, the message should contain an example of Setting a New Standards In Healthcare.  “If I come to you with and ad,” I told them, “that does not demonstrate an improved standard of healthcare, send me home.”
It’s been a while since I have worked with North Shore, but living in their market area I do see some ads, and it really hurts to see that they have fallen into the “We’re here” trap. The latest ad I read told consumers that one of the hospitals has a neurosciences institute. The copy goes on to say they have state-of-the-art facilities, smart doctors, blah, blah, blah. We’re Here! Buried deep in the ad, though, were some actual new standards in neuro care for the community, but you had to hunt for them. The headline said  something doofy, like it’s a no-brainer, or some such.
Somehow the easiest ever branding idea was misplaced by a smiling person with a black bag of ads, who didn’t follow the brief. 

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I don’t mean to pick on Google – in fact, I couldn’t live without them – but as a marketing geek I often look at where they’ve come from, what they do well, and try to see where they’re going. It’s getting harder.

Google started in search and kicked butt. They moved into video — a huge move — but it, too, was a search effort: searching for video. Google’s newer applications targeting Microsoft users are free web-based word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. As a lay person, all I see here is a move toward Microsoft-busting, or doing evil to the evil, from the “do no evil” company. I’m not quite sure where this one fits in.
Google’s next move was to get into the advertising business buying DoubleClick, so they can put their hands on the controls of “monetization” grail. And today, a story was leaked to the New York Times that Google plans to offer open source mobile software within the year that will compete with Microsoft Mobile and help Google own cell phone apps, including advertising.
Once Google lost its master of search mantle, I lost my understanding of who they are. Now they are just a big, brilliant company on a mission to make money in as many different ways as possible.    
When creating the brand plan for Zude (our company’s social computing platform) our chiefs were driven by one thing: giving the “people” web pages and making it easy for them to publish. Our technology is meant to free users from hard-to-use web publishing tools. Zude is about freedom for all Web users. Sound noble? It is. It’s a mission. And as a single mission, it keeps us focused. People root for us.  Google had a product mission — search — and a rooting section, but once they moved off that mission some fans have started trickling out of the stadium. 

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Neutered Agencies

Gavin O’Malley, in his MediaPost column today, talks about Open Source in the marketing and advertising world. Those who know the provenance of Open Source trace it to the technology world where Open Source software is software available to all, with no intellectual property restrictions. Linux was an Open Source phenomenon years ago and it hurt Microsoft’s business. In the advertising world, it simply refers to a marketer and its agencies sharing intell. 
Because agencies are competitive animals, they are always looking for advantage. A general ad agency doesn’t want to lose budget to the direct agency. The direct agency doesn’t want to lose budget to a digital agency. None of these want to lose money to a promotional agency….
Well, what if the marketer and agencies were able to aggregate their best learning, best research, best practices, and share it with one another? In other words, if all agency partners had access to the same code? Would this Open Source marketing world be more effective? Would the ideas be stronger? The process more streamlined?
It’s up to the client to share what’s most important with its agencies. The marketer needs a tight product, a tight brief, and lots of consumer insights. Also, it needs proper budgeting and budget allocation to meet the objectives of the business.
Making all agencies play nice neuters them. Agencies that work well together, will. Otherwise, let them do their own thing. Who needs neutered agencies?

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Arenas and Adidas

Gilbert Arenas a nasty-good basketball player for the Washington Wizards has been blogging for Adidas. But in a recent post he let loose that the second Gilbert Arenas Signature Shoe is a major dud. In fact, he stated it looks like a ballerina slipper and he wouldn’t wear it. 

What a mistake! Or not?
Sure it would have made great sense to have Mr. Arenas on board before the shoe went into production. Duh. By a strange twist of fate though, this approach may actually work for Adidas, but only if they recognize their folly and redesign the shoe to Mr. Arenas’s specification. It could become another New Coke debacle that turns into a positive. The player vs. corporation. If Adidas puts the power in the hands of the player, to really design a cool shoe, how much is that worth? Like a basketball game that has its ebbs and flows, Adidas need to go with this.
Stay tuned.

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There’s a wonderful black and white EOS Airlines ad in the Wall Street Journal today. Their tagline is “Uncrowded. Uncompromising.”   The ad is simple and direct. It doesn’t try to do too much, so you won’t wade through piled-on features and benefits.

The headline “Uncrowded in a crowded world” sits beneath a big logo and a crowd shot of what appears to be a tennis match.  Dead smack in the middle of the stands, however, is an area roped off by velvet, measuring about 20 x30 feet, in which sit two spectators. They sit beside a little table with an iced bucket of champagne and a server in white uniform.
The line from the copy which is the branding idea is “Travel between New York and London on the world’s only fleet of 757s outfitted for just 48 Guests, you’ll never want to fly the crowded way again.” 
Thanks for not showing the reclining seats Eos. Nice job once again.

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Radio Free Music

You gotta love the digital marketing world. As record companies experiment with pricing and piracy, Radiohead has decided to test market a very unusual concept.   You know how people use the honor system when buying rural tomatoes? Take a basket and leave some money in the cash basket?  Well, Radiohead is allowing its fans (and prospective fans) to decide what they will pay for the new album entitled “In Rainbows.” Fans can also just buy or download for free single songs if they like.
If you want to pay $10, that’s fine. $2, fine too. Want it for free, just download it. Talk about letting the market decide pricing! Talk about market research!
Where they are really smart is in selling an “expansive” package of material which will include 2 vinyl LPs, a CD with extra songs, photographs and other media of interest. This version, available over the website, will retail for about US$80. This is the equivalent of playing spectacular free concert, then selling CDs and tee-shirts in the lobby. I love it. This “expansive” package supports the market maxim (which I just made up) “that which costs is of value.” When the actual CD of these 10 songs is released next year, I’m betting there will be some serious sales. Just enough to fund Radio Head’s next big idea.

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