May 2010

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It’s a new world at the Ford Motor Company, or at least it should be.  The recession changed things.  The oil economy is changing things. BP has changed things. It’s time to let the Ford Explorer go. The move would be more than a symbolic gesture to the world that smaller, efficient cars are our future — it would give the company major cred as an agent of change.  I know the new redesigned 2011 Explorer will target 25 miles per gallon on the highway, but those are not exciting mainstream numbers anymore.  And touch screens aren’t a reason to buy a car.

The Ford Escape is your future in this class.  It has a nice design, momentum, and it’s in synch with your other newer smaller offerings, the Focus and Fiesta.

Make the 2011 Explorer your swan song.  A collectors piece for loyalists.  Then put your engineers on to designing the next forward looking new model… one that captures the imagination of the U.S. buying public.  The next Mustang. The next T-bird. A car that will lure back Toyota buyers. You have been playing offense and winning. Keeping the Explorer alive seems like defense. Peace!

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In a recent blog post, Paul Gumbinner, a friend and advertising recruiter, suggested NY unemployment in our sector is around 15%.  At one point I read there are 275,000 advertising jobs in NY which suggests about 40,000 are on the beach.

Between that, reduced budgets and digital and earned media shops rightfully requiring pie, one can safely say there has been a retrenchment in the ad biz.  As hard as it is to say, it has improved the business. The work product of ad agencies is improving; it’s more creative, meaningful, idea-based and friendlier — with the exception of all those ads about hitting on the Super Bowl.  Even the new work out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese’s new agency Crispin Porter seems more wholesome. Roots! (Perhaps it’s all the bicycles and mountain air in Boulder.) And if you are watching a good TV spot and smiling, there’s a good chance you’re watching something from JWT. Quite a renaissance for them.  

It seems that all the pink slips got rid of many marginal players and a ton of haters.  The latter group can now be found commenting on Adweek and Ad Age posts.  Disruption (sorry Mr. Dru) has given way to heartfelt selling and that’s a good thing.  Money is creeping back into agency pockets and human resources calendars fill up — let’s hope we hire higher up the food chain. Peace.  

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Milk Monitor is an application available from the AppStore. It allows iPhone (and possibly iPad) toting moms to tap and record their babies milk consumption. The data can be stored, reviewed and trended at a later date.  Apparently moms like to do this kind of stuff – typically using bits of paper and napkins when recording on the road.  If you have a baby on your shoulder tapping is better than typing.  If you are carrying a smartphone around anyway and recording this data helps – especially for fussy babies — this is a great application. Go iPhone!  Go app developer!

Application development at the smartphone level is like life on another planet.  There are currently 80 trillion apps (JK) for the iPhone today and about 6,000 for the PC (please don’t retweet, I didn’t count).  Now most iPhone apps don’t get used, but that’s not the point.  Some may. Some may help. Some will even save lives. And that’s cool.

Just as Twitter will open new doors for smart marketers, smartphones and their apps will open new rooms for marketers.  The application developers who think like people first and coders second are the ones who will win.  

The developer of Milk Monitor deserves congratulations two times: one for the app, one for the new bouncing baby she’s feeding. Peace!

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Here’s the thing: In marketing, part of winning is understanding your competitors’ weaknesses. Some marketers spend time shooting arrows. Others focus on building and presenting strengths — a less overt negative focus.  When I worked at a big NY ad shop with mondo-million dollar budgets, if the client wanted to do a formal acquisition program and use our direct arm, the agency begrudgingly agreed and teamed it up. It wasn’t quite Yankees and Mets — more like Mets and Binghamton Bisons (the farm team.)

As we saunter forth into the digital world we’re seeing more marketing silos grow daily. The silos will come down but it will take a while and a good deal of wealth redistribution in the meantime. Just as media was once siloed (print, TV, radio, OOH) and now better integrated, online and offline will come from one house.  Smart business people recognize this and are trying it out.  Ouch, they say, as the arrows hit them. Other smart business people are going negative, protecting their silos and they’re making money, if not friends. The web is often about removing boundaries. The sooner siloed ad, digital, direct and PR shops get on board, the sooner client market ROI and ROS (return on strategy) will hockey stick and change will really occur.   Peace!

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Here’s how retail works.  You build, lease or buy a store, fill it with stuff, promote it and people come and buy its wares.  Or they don’t.

Here’s how TV works.  You build, lease or buy a program, fill it with entertaining or informational stuff, promote it and people come. Or they don’t.

Here’s how the web works. You build, lease or buy a site, fill it with stuff, promote it and people come and buy its wares…if you happen to be selling anything.  Sometimes the web is used to help people decide if they want to buy your stuff, because it’s sold elsewhere.  And other times the web is about entertaining visitors encouraging them to come back so ad revenue allows the site owner to buy stuff.  And sometimes still, a website is created to just simply to impart knowledge, altruism and community. 

That’s the thing about the web — visitors don’t always know if they are on a site to be sold, entertained or informed. Sometimes the builders of websites don’t seem to know either.  And when that happens the sites tend to provide a little bit of each.  And a little bit of each often leads to a lot of none. Fruit cocktail. Tricky stuff.  Focus is your friend.

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Joel Ewanich landed at GM with guns blazing.  GM’s new marketing head left a similar job at Nissan without having been there long enough to find the coffee machine. And his first act at General Motors was to replace Campbell-Ewald and Publicis with Goodby Silversten and Partners as Chevrolet’s agency of record.

Many of the snarks are saying “Why not hold a review?” and “He never even met with the old agencies” but the reality is Mr. Ewanich knows Goodby from their time together on Hyundai, be wanted Goodby, and he is in a hurry.  If he wants Goodby, why pretend to put the business up for review and waste everbody’s time and money?  Whether this decision turns out to change the market share for Chevrolet is still to be played out but I’ll give Mr. Ewanich credit for strong leadership. He didn’t vacillate publically or do the politically correct thing — he made a decision and is getting to work.

Goodby is a great shop. It knows consumers.  Gareth Kay was the planning leader at Modernista when Hummer was humming.  I don’t know Mr. Ewanich from Adam and though the Hyundai advertising may not have been crazy memorable, it absolutely delivered solid marketing ideas and results.  This move makes sense to me. But as fast as it was done, it can be undone. We learned that already.  Peace!

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As cool as New York City is – Brooklyn is cooler. New York still has the international cachet, the hotels, skyline and a commercial buzz, but Brooklyn is where gravity is pulling the next generation.  Young families, grads, the skinny black jean set are spending their time and Benjamins in Crooklyn. It’s where a good deal of our urban culture (euphemism for black) is born. Biggie!  Brooklyn still needs renewal, still has much poverty and crime but it is home  to many generations of Americans.  (Both my parents were born in Brooklyn.)  As a brand planner I always loved to study the borough of Queens, thinking of it as America’s perfect living breathing melting pot, but now I’m stuck one borough south.

Brooklyn is a brand. 

The New Jersey Nets are moving to Brooklyn and Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov is their new owner and the face of the franchise. There is a big Russian community in this borough so the purchase is in exciting harmony.  Basketball is the haps in Brooklyn: Boys and Girls, Lincoln, Dwayne Pearl (Washington), Chris Mullen….   The Nets will be Brooklyn’s first major franchise since the Dodgers left and will not only unite the borough but elevate its stature around the global.  Mr. Prokhorov probably knows this, but he has invested in one of the world’s great up-and-coming brands. Do you think Spike Lee will buy a seat courtside in Brooklyn? Hell no!  He’s a Knick fan.  But his kids will! And that’s the future. Good luck Mr. Prokhorov. Enjoy the ride. Peace!

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Yahoo is buying Associated Media and its federation of 380,000 writers (Posters) who according to ComScore generate 16M monthly uniques.  Yahoo is paying $100 million for the ability to advertise to Associated’s audience and the deal also includes some technology which allows for the monitoring and prediction of reader content proclivities. This is a big move for Carol Bartz, Yahoo CEO, and shows she is putting money into the content strategy.

I look at content portals like Yahoo and AOL a little bit like big retail malls. A good portal, like a good mall, has lots of tenants but there is always what is called an anchor tenant — a big store that draws in lots of people.  In my view, this $100 million play is more about finding an “anchor” tenant (or ten) among Associated Media’s writers who will propel Yahoo’s numbers upward, rather than a crowd sourcing effort to generate mass.  It’s like putting a seine net in the ocean to catch krill but finding some big fish.  Yahoo needs next generation big fish. Big Posters. It’s a very expensive move, but should work for them.  The portal story, IMHO, is about quality not quantity.  But that’s just me.  Peace!

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There was an interesting piece in the Huffington Post yesterday on the future of video. It’s author, Hunter Walk, director of product management at YouTube, believes in the near future video won’t be offline or online, it will just be.  That is, the video (TV shows, movies, consumer generated, music) we watch will be accessed on multiple devices, on demand, in hi-def.  This, says Mr. Walk, will be the result of improved wi-fi bandwidth (Aluminum foil hats will be big.), mad switching infrastructure and next gen streaming algorithms.

Those “anywhere, anything, anytime” ads of the 90s are coming true, it seems.  Anyway, with all of this video available, the competition will be crazy.  Forget searching for all this video for a minute, let’s think about monetizing the video. There should be two options: subscription and advertising.  The advertising approach will not be based on the television model, with pods of ads running throughout the stream. We are too evolved for that. My guess is there will be a single :30 spot at the beginning of a half-hour program and 60 seconds for an hour long program. Movies will support 90 seconds and user generated content and music video will be free.

This is the word of What’s The Idea. Peace!

Huffington Post, wi-fi, video, video advertising, whatstheidea, whats the idea, Hunter Walk, YouTube,

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On prompt, many company executive will tell you their business strategy is “Make more money.”  Some invest to make more money others reduce the cost of goods. There are many ways to invest or cost-cut: alter the product, play with pricing, change distribution, promote in a new way.  All are business decisions. 

Ask that same company executive what their brand strategy is, though, and you may get a quizzical look. Or the quick parry “To provide customers with the best product, at the best price, with uncompromising service.” But that’s not a brand strategy, that’s the brand marketing equivalent of pasteurized cheese.

A brand strategy is created at a product’s molecular level.  It is inherently product-based.  A brand strategy grows from the product then gives back over time. And I’m not just talking “deposits in the brand bank,” I’m talking about informing product innovation, brand extension, expansion, even M&A activity.

A brand strategy is deeply rooted in the consumer — the consumer’s environment (physical and emotional) and needs (known and subconscious). Brand strategy is about growth and growth doesn’t happen without nourishment, environment and caring.

A brand strategy is a living thing. Not a business thing.  

Business strategies are logical. They are easy to articulate.  Brand strategies are psychophysiological.  They are harder to articulate but have a pulse.  And when right — they quicken the pulse.  Peace!

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