July 2010

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My daughter, freshly graduated from college and about a month into her first full-time job, loves Marshalls.  Marshalls is a department store chain with a very nice selection and great prices.  Apparently, she and her friend would shop there every day if they could.   They have a little jing in their pocketbooks and for the first time have the flexibility to shop on demand. That’s not to say they buy something every time they’re there but they look around (enjoy the air conditioning) and feel the power of consumerism.

A club?

Stores like Marshalls have been advertising and mailing to my daughter for years. Perhaps it has worked, perhaps not, but why not take advantage of recent graduates new found status by create a tailored marketing plan and in-store experience for them; one that might just make lifelong customers of them.  How about taking some of that hundred thousand square feet of retail space and turning it into a college graduate corner. Display clothes, apartment furnishings, some appropriate books, maybe some free coffee and a financial advisor. Put up some PC stations with access to Facebook. Create a Foursquare check in incentive. Cookies? (The kind with raisins.)  Celebrate these young ladies as they enter a scary part of their lives.  Help them cope. Let them commune. Test it out Marshalls!  Peace.

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The NFL is improving the in-stadium game experience by creating WIFI enabled smartphone applications that provide game watchers with information, audio and video heretofore only available to the TV watching audience. Got smartphone?  The second wave of these apps will provide an even greater level of entertainment and analysis than is available through the TV — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The business problem some teams are facing is that seat sales are down 3% since 2007 and TV viewership is up. With replays, color analysis and hi-def, the on-coach experience is excellent and free. The in-stadium experience needs to get better…and it is, thanks to smartphones. 

Consumer Goods Marketers

As consumer marketers put on their thinking caps and realize they need to improve the in-store shopping experience to better compete with online shopping, new worlds of smartphone applications will  turn up. Think aisle check-ins at the local Stop & Shop a la FourSquare, or pre-loaded Consumer Reports write-ups at your local car dealership. How about GPS-enabled restaurant reviews by cuisine or an olive oil rating app at the local specialty food store?  Help, I can’t stop! 

Thanks NFL for being so forward in your thinking. Peace!

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I’d be interested to know of some ad campaigns that use TV for reach and the Web for frequency. Not paid advertising on the web, more like free YouTube video.  GoDaddy has used this approach with its Super Bowl ads.  The good thing about this media tactic, beyond the saved media dollars, is that the frequency is desired frequency, not forced.  Viewers make the choice to watch.  And one doesn’t have to worry about wear-out, since viewers only consume the spot as many times as they care to.  The creative has to be amazing and compelling though, or it will be a complete bust.  That’s the rub.

Anyone have other successful examples? Peace!

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When the Flip video camera, now owned by Cisco, first came out I posted it will change the world.  If you thought the video taping of the Rodney King beating changed the world, image how putting video cameras in every pair of pants and pocketbook might alter history.  Hello Iran? 

Social networking, still in its infancy, is going to change the world in even more powerful ways. Flatten away I say.  Social networking and social media started out as friend finding, simple messaging, and posting of photos and captions — uses which are still going strong. More recently, smart businesses have seen the upside of using it commercially to improve bottom line and topline revenue through a handful of applications: Customer care, promotions and research. We’ve along scratched the surface with Social Media in business…stay tuned. 

What’s Next?

The next wave will be the more thoughtful use of social media. More cause related. Ask Nestle about its palm oil/rain forest problems — the result of social media pressure. Ask Nike about its policy of outsourcing production to Honduran companies who demonstrate unfair labor practices…really torking off college students. If you think a Mel Gibson diatribe can go viral quickly, wait until you see what citizen journalists can do with watchful eyes and some motivation. This new wave of social media activism is going to have mad impact.  Cover-ups won’t cover as easily and corporations and governments will need to watch their steps. It’s next. And it’s welcome. Peace it up!

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Good marketers and brand planners like to view the world beyond the marketing dashboard. That is, out past the windshield, beyond the dials and digital displays.  They’re good at predicting the future – seeing what’s ahead.  In order to do this, marketers and planners have always used research, concept testing and test marketing.  

What’s so cool about the Internet is that it has given marketers and planners an entire world of real time research from which to mine new product ideas.  People who play virtual games online, especially fast growing games, are a great source of new product intelligence.  If we listen and watch carefully we can figure out the messages they’re sending us.  First message: They like the activity. Second message: They prefer to participate in the activity on their terms (on-demand, low cost or free, low personal impact, if one loses.) 

Farmville’s Message.

For instance, what does the amazing success of Zynga’s Farmville game tell marketers about real world product development?  Well we all know watching real vegetables grow is a lot more fun and rewarding than watching a virtual crop, so the marketer who creates a low-cost system to grow real vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers?) indoors (or out) with little time investment, will have success.  A lot of people love the idea of farming, they just don’t have the 21st century tools. What other online behaviors do you see that predict offline marketing success? Peace!

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Poor Sprint.

I feel for Sprint, I really do.  They were the first and only top-tier national fiber optic voice and data network yet they never made it past #3. They started when analog telephone calls and digital data packets were coin of the realm.  Today, when speed is needed more than ever, when iPhone users are complaining about dropped calls while sitting in front of computers with sluggish load times, poor Sprint and its lightning fast fiber still aren’t getting any respect. Fiber is an idea consumers understand. Sadly, the story has never been correctly told.  

FIOS, a Verizon product built on Fiber, is gaining mindshare in NY as a faster means of digital transport. (Fiber into the house makes machines scream.)  Sprint, on the other hand, is airing a TV spot promoting the HTC EVO mobile phone running over its 4G network — the world’s first 4G network – using a strategy about “firsts.”  The TV spots borrows a visual idea from Honda and Google (so much for firsts) showing other technology innovations tipping over in dominoes fashion. A Model T, knocks over a bi-plane which knocks over a steam locomotive, etc. It’s so far removed from fiber, a medium that connotes speed and clarity, you might as well be watching a Fruit Loops commercial.  

Verizon, via Droid, is implying “futures” in its TV work. Sprint focuses its images on the past. Quick, close your eyes. Visualize which company gets credit for speed? No contest.

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I’m part of a demographic group that indexes very low for blogging.  Only 7% of people over the age of 50 blog.  So where my people at?  What are they doing?  A bunch are finding there way onto Facebook.  And they’re using the web for search and commerce. They are “liking” the Jefferson Airplane and “Grateful Dead,” using the ether to remember the good old days. I suspect a handful are being social commentators on politics and morality, but probably limited to commenting rather than real Posting. 

I’m just not feeling any high octane communications from the older guard.  Where’s the mentoring?  It not like Millennials don’t need it?  Hell, they are listening to our music. (Disclosure, I like rap.) And just because the geezers don’t “check in” or “tweet” or “text” doesn’t mean they are out of it.

I want to hear first-hand from those who landed on the beaches of Normandy. I want to read stories about Woodstock. I want to hear from a real Mad Man.  WordPress or some other blogging platform needs a campaign to gray up the web.  Make it easier to set up sites and post. Plumb the depths of the blogging underserved. We need to hear from the 93% of those who are silent. This is a big commercial opportunity! It will make the web more exciting.  And timeless. Peace.

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I say brand plan you say________? Right.  No one really knows what a brand plan looks like.  That’s not to say Proctor and Gamble and L’Oreal don’t have brand plans. Or that Publicis, Ogilvy or Crispin Porter don’t have them. They do. But what they’re called and how they are organized are all quite different. 

Brand Strategy Statement.

My brand plans are simple to understand.  They contain a brand strategy statement which I tell clients is a suit strategy.  It’s not very catchy, not creative or tagline-worthy, but it tends to hit the CMO and CEO right in the solar plexus.  It may be contextual and/or contain metaphor but it’s certainly a quick, decisive statement of the brand value. 

Brand Planks.

Beneath this simple statement are three planks. Brand planks. Borrowed from Bill Clinton’s first election campaign when the mantra was “It’s the economy stupid,” a brand plank is a product development and messaging directive.  My planning process begins with the gathering of formation. Then I boil it down into its most powerful, tasty flavors and those flavors became the planks.  Of course, I make sure the planks are key consumer care-abouts and key company strengths (or potential, attainable strengths). 

But lately I’ve been analyzing the planks to see if they share any formula for success.  Thinking about what makes good brand planks before I fill the stock pot with data and get sidetracked is (sorry Bud Cadell) what consumes me. 

I haven’t gotten there yet but here’s a quick start: 

One plank should educate (it’s what leaders do). One plank should engage (motivate preference).  And one plank should personalize (create a personally meaningful connection between the brand and consumer — bring the consumer closer to the brand). 

This stuff is mapping the branding genome hard. Or not. But when I finish, it’s going to be exciting.  Peace!

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There is an interesting strategic disagreement going on in the men’s body wash category these days.  The commercials and video on TV and YouTube from competitors Axe and Old Spice focus on different targets. Old Spice, acknowledging that 70% of men’s body wash (a more expensive, soap substitute) is purchased by women, is using the much talked about “smell like a man” campaign from Wieden + Kennedy directed toward those women buyers. The campaign is smart because the message in not lost on men.  Conversely, the Axe work shoots straight at men, suggesting “Use Axe body wash and you won’t have to aks (New York for ask) girls out, they’ll flock to you.”  Axe is attempting to change behavior. That is, they’re trying to convince men, young and old, that it’s okay to use cleansing gels rather than the traditional, inexpensive, manly soap.    

Bud Light convinced young men that it’s okay to drink light beer, so growing the body wash category is not a bridge to far.   

It should be interesting to see who wins this strategic battle.  Will the guys without dates who are most motivated to spruce up not respond to the Old Spice work targeting women?  No, I think they will.  They’ll get the message.  But probably not ask strongly as they will receive the “chick magnet” ads from Axe and BBH. Will lady-less men’s mothers buy them body wash?  I hope not, that certainly will be counterproductive.  “Honey, I saw something on TV….” Peace.

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