March 2010

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I met with someone smart yesterday and shared my view that in the future large corporations will have their own social media departments — staffed with writers, videographers, photographers, coders and digital editors.  This senior strategy and innovation officer processed the thought, nodded in partial agreement, then noted that the level of creativity likely to come out of this type of group would be modest.  He was right. 

An internal social media department will do a good job of relating the corporate viewpoint, organizing proof and demonstrations of product value, and it will do so accurately… but in the end it will lack that creative oomph provided by an agency. And here, I mean a digital or a brand agency. 

That’s not to say internal social media departments won’t happen, they will. They already are.  But the talent level required to do it BIG, won’t be found on staff.  Sure, some implementation can be handled inside, but not the big honkin’ creative idea. Not the polished sight and sound. And agencies need to figure out how to charge for that idea? Beyond production and mark-up that is.  Does the answer reside within Google?  Hmmmm. Peace!

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CNN is tanking.  Its ratings are down. Its ad revenue is down. Fox News is eating its dinner. When I think of CNN I think Wolf freakin’ Blitzer.  Ask a middle age woman in the grocery store about CNN and she’ll likely say “Oh, that Anderson Copper.”  Ask your parents?  Larry King.  Ask a kid and the response will be “Isn’t that the Vampire Diaries channel?

CNN is at its best during crisis.  It is where people turn for the best coverage. That is where I went to watch the Tsunami not bear down on Hawaii.  CNN is the place for serious news, yet it has seemingly lost its way.   It must stop playing around with Twitter and touch screens and interactive maps. Most of its reporting takes place in the studio.  CNN needs some youthful exuberance. If Mark Zuckerberg can help found a bazillion dollar company, CNN can find some young interesting news junkies to rove the planet and kick up a story or two.

The Fix.

Here’s what management needs to do. Conduct market research among the next generation of news consumers –twenty- and thirty-somethings. Find out what they want, and don’t tell me a mobile news app.  Search for some rock star passionate journalism school kids hungry to make a better world.  Give them jobs.  Don’t go the eye candy route, that is so 1970s.  Hire Nicholas Kristof as a consultant then shutter the studio for 3 weeks and take CNN on the road.  Set up a remote desk on the back roads of Militiagan or Lubyanka subway station in Moscow. Fire a suit and hire a camera person.  Fire an accountant and hire a sound person.  Find the news to make the news. Take back what you once so proudly owned.   Peace!

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Oglivy is running a contest in search of the world’s best salesperson.  The contest has its own YouTube channel and with lot of kids graduating in few weeks it is likely to generate lots of entries.  The winner gets a 3-month stint at Ogilvy One.

David Ogilvy started his illustrious career by selling vacuums door-to-door.  He once said, and I paraphrase, “Our business is infected by people who have never sold a thing in their lives.”  His point being, until you look a consumer in the eye while trying to convince them to part with their money, you haven’t practiced the craft.  Copywriters, art directors, coders need to leave the building in other words.

Clams

As a kid growing up on Long Island, I would never eat a hard shell clam.  Buried in the mud, looming like viscera on the shell, briny and showing an otherworldly rainbow of colors, clams weren’t happening here. Not until uncle Carl came in from the West coast, that was.  The rapture with which Uncle Carl slathering these babies onto his tongue, the giggles of enjoyment, the satisfaction in his eyes were not normally reserved for food.  His smile, conquest-like, following the downing of his hard shelled bounty were for me life changing. I was a convert within minutes. And I’ve never looked back.

Salesmanship

What does it take to “turn” someone from a hater to a fan? Salesmanship. That’s People, Place and Thing.  The People are believable spokespeople — an expert or someone really trusted.  Place has to do with context. Corona sells better on the beach. And Thing, the Thing is the tangible reason to believe. The Thing isn’t someone “telling you to buy” it’s the unique good the product offers when purchased or used.  In uncle Carl’s case the Thing was his palpable rapture.  Get all three right and you are selling.  Otherwise, you are just broadcasting. Peace!

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My wife does Yoga at Fitness Incentive in Babylon a couple of mornings a week and she just retuned asking if I would smell her.  The instructor, you see, had sprayed some lavender on her at the end of today’s session, saying something about its soothing properties.  This was an unexpected show of caring on the part of the instructor. 

Marketers would do well to learn from the instructor and offer unexpected demonstrations of caring to customers.  Bob Gilbreath, chief marketing strategist at Bridge Worldwide, is building a brand and a movement around Marketing with Meaning.  Is an unexpected show of caring marketing with meaning?  Most certainly.  

Expected

When leaving a store and someone says “thank you for shopping at ____” it’s nice, but not unexpected.  While at a restaurant with spoon to mouth and the proprietor sticks his smiling face in asking “Everything alright?” — this may be unexpected but it is not a real show of caring. While at Mary Carrol’s Pub and the bartender buys back after your third quaff, unexpected?  Not really. Good business, yes, but not necessarily a show of unexpected or caring. 

Caring and thank you are two different things.  The latter requires thought; it’s a skill actually. Twitter can be used as an example of unexpected caring, used correctly.  A coupon dispenser is not caring.  Customer service is not caring, it’s the price of doing business. When Steve Jobs, as was reported in the news yesterday, answers an email to a customer it is unexpected. And it’s caring.   

Let’s get on with it marketers!  When you leave the building each day ask yourself “What did I do to show a customer – not every customer – I care about them in a surprising way. Lavender anyone?

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Where to start?

The ads that will adorn the Apple iPad on April 3rd are going to be pretty interesting.  First, if they are good, they’ll be more like selling applications than ads.  Those who create selling apps rather than Adobe InDesign and static display ads (iPads don’t take Flash yet) will have the early wins.   

Selling Apps

Selling apps that come from ad shops where the creative dept. was the lead (not the media dept.) will also win. That said, brands that team up on the selling app will do even better.  Those who team the objective, strategy, measurement, idea, creative, digital production and follow-up are more likely to have an app than an ad.   But that takes time, resolve and a new process…which is expensive.  Did I mention time?  If you started this week, you’re toast.  The best iPad selling apps won’t be the result of a great piece of “creative” or creative media buy, they will result from cross-silo efforts.

Super Pasters

Just being there on April 3rd will be a win for advertisers. There are currently 200,000 pre-orders for iPads. How may of those people do you think have taken the day off? Exactly.  Followers of What’s the Idea? know about Posters vs. Pasters. Well, in terms of the tech target, the first people seeing iPad ads will be Super Posters. Their blog posts, vlogs, podcasts and Tweets will abound. The iPad’s first audiences will be techies and those in creative businesses – a very viral and powerful target. And the world will be watching. Interestingly, the first big brands buying ads will be: Unilever, Toyota, Chase, Fidelity, and FedEx — not what you’d expect as a high indexing techie target. Korean Air, on the other hand, that’s a good fit. Should be very interesting. Peace!

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Let’s face it, it’s been a crazy tough economy for everyone.  Especially marketers and those in advertising related businesses. Were it not for internet search and social media (ways to keep moving at reduced costs) things would have been even worse.

When money is tight people fall into two distinct categories: optimists and pessimists. The whole pessimism thing is easy to diagnose and figure out.  It is an alterable condition cured by the passage of time.  The optimism thing is harder to understand. And in business it’s less prevalent.  Is it tied to a special neural gene?  One thing that goes hand-in-hand with optimism in my view is the ability to view things not just in the here and now but with a historic perspective. Time passes.  There is a now, a future and a past. Optimists tend to see them all.

New York University

New York University is an example of an institution surrounding itself with optimism. NYU has grand plans to grow the school’s footprint, stature and academic standing over the next 20 years.  They will succeed because of optimism and planning.  Do you think the day after healthcare passes and a huge part of the populace is angry is a good time to talk about this huge investment – probably not.  That’s optimism.

When you meet marketers and corporate leaders you can often tell immediately which camp they fall into. And trust me it’s always best to do business with optimists. Not those of the “head in the clouds” variety but realists who are builders and forward lookers.  Brands, businesses, organizations and departments need good leadership. Optimism and a positive view forward are cornerstones. Steve Jobs?  Optimist.  Peace it up!

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Dominos Pizza has invested in a big turnaround and you can see a snapshot here at this link.  Management, after listening to customers past and present and realizing it had a product and image problem, decided to reformulate its pizza recipe.  Dominos attacked “cardboard crust” and “sauce like catsup” and now has a tasty product story to tell. (You’ve seen the hokey but effective focus group ads, I’m sure.)  Ingredients, however, is an important brand component of Papa John’s Pizza, whose tagline is “Better ingredients. Better pizza,” so Dominos is playing catch up.

Recently, Dominos launched some advertising telling us that 3 of its new pizzas win taste tests over Papa Johns. Because of Papa John’s lead in ingredients — a brand idea it has been pushing for a while — I would normally say Papa John’s doesn’t have much to worry about. Taste tests are tactics not strategies.  But Papa John’s has been playing lip service to the ingredients strategy for a while now, focusing on sports promotions and price promotions.  Plus it has given a lot more brand time to Papa John Schnatter the CEO, which is a distraction.  Ingredients equal taste and Papa John’s has lost its momentum. 

 Dominos is the underdog now and you know how America loves an underdog.  This is an interesting fight to watch and one which may have just turned in Dominos favor.  Peace!

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Barnes and Noble just appointed the head of its web business CEO. Does that tell you something?  Yeah, yeah…it says increased digital emphasis.  But let me ask you a question: Do you shop at Sam’s Club, Costco or one of the other big box warehouse stores? How about Wal-Mart?  If so, does that store have a greater share of your wallet (SOW) than other stores?  I suspect so.

When Stephen Riggio the vice chairman of Barnes and Noble says that for the next 2 years the “net number of stores will not change much” and after that “we’ll have to see” what does that tell you? Certainly a push to digital, but I’m also thinking he’s referring to a retail square footage play.  Some of the cheapest books I ever bought were at Costco.

Future of Retail.

Here’s the future of retail – and we may see it happen first in China.  The Costcos of the world will create low cost mall like mega stores under one roof with branded experiences for companies such as Barnes and Noble throughout. The experiences will be much less elaborate than at home stores.  The floors will be concrete, the mobile search sublime, prices wonderful and it will all, no doubt, occur under a vinyl banner with a bird or two circling overhead. Check-out will be done with scanners and the hardest part of shopping will be getting to your car.  This isn’t the Jetsons, it’s the retail future.  I think Messrs. Riggio and Lynch are already there, in mind.  Peace!

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“Here we are now, entertain us” is a lyric from the Nirvana song Smells Like Teen Spirit.  A classic.  The need to be entertained is a very human trait. Generally, when you go to the movies or turn on the TV you are seeking entertainment — news shows aside. Is Facebook about entertainment?  And if so, what percentage?  Forrester or the Altimeter Group should do a research study to find out what people are actually doing on Facebook. It might help with their monetization model. 

 When people use search engines, what percent of their queries are about entertainment?  People read books for entertainment, but many only read nonfiction. Is that entertainment?  Humans are complex animals and require different levels of entertainment but one area where we overdo it is in advertising. Just look at the ads on the Super Bowl.  Advertising isn’t supposed to make you warm and happy so that when the selling proposition is delivered you are smiling, ads are supposed to make you feel something, then do something.  

 Ad agents, be they traditional or digital, need to dial down the entertainment factor and dial up the selling factor. Entertainment is easy, especially poor entertainment. Selling and persuading are hard. Consumers need reasons to buy.   Peace!

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