August 2010

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Albert Lasker, a seminal advertising figure and CEO of Lord and Thomas (a predecessor agency to FCB) and a copywriter by the name of John E. Kennedy had a discussion in 1905 about a Kennedy theory suggesting advertising is no more than “salesmanship in print.”  Smart dudes Kennedy and Lasker.

If the goal of salesmanship is sales and the goal of advertising is sales, then shouldn’t this notion still be applicable? Sure. But more often than not, advertising today is a loose federation of benefits and features packed together in designer wrapping paper, with a promotional bow.

The sign of a good salesperson is you believe them, trust them and are convinced by their expertise. You may remember the salesperson but you are more apt to remember the product. Similarly, the litmus of a good ad is its ability to be remembered for the product selling idea, not the ad execution.  And to be remembered the day after it was seen.

Messrs. Lasker and Kennedy were right back in the day and they are even more right today. They knew the best ads are not about “me, me, me,” but about the consumer. Sales people know this, ad craftsmen often forget. When done correctly, advertising in print, broadcast or digital is salesmanship not packaging. Peace!

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Reverb Communications, a PR firm based in California that was writing fake product reviews on behalf of clients and publishing them on iTunes, became the first company “snitkered” by the Federal Trade Commission.  Tracie Snitker is an executive at Reverb and was the one person sanctioned for the practice, though no fine was levied. Hence the new verb.

It’s not every day you get to come up with a new word, but there it is.  Though my work here is never done, I will Peace Out and move on with my Friday. And whatever you do, you social media agents of change, don’t get caught snitkering. It can get kind of sticky.

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Here’s the problem with newspapers.  Ready?  Who is your favorite newspaper journalist?  Quick!  Okay, who is your second favorite?  Now, who is your favorite blogger?  Much easier, no? 

There was a time when journalists and news reporters were heroes…a time when they were huge personalities.  They wrote with panache, shared ideas and commentary that struck a chord with America.  Their ability to turn a phrase captivated us and the masses loved them.  Journalists were the rock stars of the day.  After a while, though, newspapers started to think these writers were getting too big for their britches – bigger than the newspaper brands they wrote for — and decided to turn down the dial.  “If Jimmy Breslin becomes bigger than the Daily News, what happens if he leaves?”

Journalism became antiseptic. Lifeless. It lost a great deal of its humanity. When was the last time you cried after reading a piece in the paper (online or paper paper.)

Blogs to the Rescue.

Enter the blog.  No bosses. No editors. No sponsors.  Just peeps talking to peeps. Readers get the straight shot. Today’s most impressive, unadulterated journalists are bloggers. Ironically, when bloggers get big, big media tries to hire them.  Like punk rockers that have a hard time mixing art and success, this can alter the work product of the blogger.  The Conundrum.  Newspapers are losing money because their writers churn out auto text.  Journalism needs more heroic personalities. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Peace.

PS.  My favorite journalists?  Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Cathy Horyn, Robert Scoble

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The concept of worldwide inventory, where the web is searched for products and services across different stores and different countries is coming. So is the concept of worldwide pricing.  Need a knee replacement for under US$11,000.  There’s a doc for that.  Anyway, Norstrom’s is taking a step in this direction by allowing shoppers to access inventory from all of its 115 stores.  “That little blue cocktail dress you wanted to buy for the party Tuesday is out of stock?  It’s available in your size in our Atlanta store and can be sent to your office just in time.  Don’t forget to bring a steamer to the office.”

One would think that this service already existed, especially with all the talk about store supply chain management software, but it’s not that common. Nordstrom has found that same store sales are way up since implementing this web-based inventory program. Turns — the rate at which inventory moves — are down, higher spending shoppers are using the stores and because the inventory is moving there’s less need for “sale” pricing which keeps margins up.  Nordstrom had to hire a few more people in their shipping dept. but that cost was offset by the incremental sales. Granted, this is s microcosm of worldwide inventory and worldwide pricing, but we have to start somewhere. Peace!

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The next big thing will be a video webisodes channel for mobile devices. More and more today, you see people on trains and benches staring down at their mobile phones.  If they are not typing or moving the cursor they’re watching movies.

 Not everyone has time for movies.  You might have 20 minutes of alone time on the way to a museum, club or ballgame. You’re LOLed out and don’t want to bother someone with another inane cell phone conversation starting out with “Hey. What are you doing?”  The answer?  Log on and find some video programming. It will start out as a single curated channel called Mo-Tube or something, containing short length “mobi-sodes” of 16-22 minutes in duration. After a while there will be more channels and programming segments, but it will start with a single new branded channel. Not necessarily serial in nature, these mobi-sodes will be designed to load and stream efficiently and, I’m guessing will be available via subscription.   Aol, you feel me?

New Type of Programming.

This will be a new type of programming – not radio, not TV, not movies.  Just little chunks of original and mashed-up programming that stimulate the viewer, fill some time and get the brain moving. Mobi-sodes. Coming to a device near you…in three years or less.

 PS. I know someone will say the channel exists already, but if a tree falls in a the woods and no one is around….

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The Baby Boomer demographic is amazingly powerful in terms of its spending potential, yet it is an underserved demographic when it comes to lifestyle innovation. Boomers and their elders watch a lot of TV, drink, go out to eat and travel. A percentage of them work out and pay attention to some lifestyle choices so they don’t have to medicate as much – yet the average medicine cabinet for Boomers contains a significant selection of pills. Bad.

When I graduated from college my psych professor told me to go into “leisure time counseling.”  Not plastics.  Prescient was she.  There is terrific upside in thinking about marketing to Boomers — creating new product and service innovations for that demographic.  No one is doing it.

So let’s start thinking about it. And please, help me out — I want your ideas. Here are some thought starters:

A low-impact outward bound camp, much like summer camps of yore.

A social network where Boomers mentor the young, one on one.

A national boomer Volunteer Corp.  

A research and development lab, filled with retired engineers intended to modify products that serve the aging.

Group homes for those who don’t need assistance but want company.

Jeeze, this isn’t easy.

If we continue making advances mapping the Genome, the average life expectancy of adults is going to shoot into the nineties.  Now is the time for us to invent the next Wrinkled Facebook.

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Facebook needs to make a decision soon; it has to decide what social utilities it will not pursue.  It has chat. It has a Twitter app and now it has Facebook Places, a Gowalla, Foursquare-like feature.  As cool new mobile apps with ballast emerge over the next few years, Facebook will develop or mirror them too. 

I’m on record as saying Facebook may become the world’s first trillion dollar company, but it won’t if users get tired of it.  Partners can’t live together 24-hours a day. You can’t read the same author over and over. Or watch only Pirate of the Caribbean movies.  We need different forms of stimulus. Diversity.  Facebook must do what they do well and allow the Web and other entrepreneurs to lead in other utility areas. It’s what makes the Web fun.  The hunt, the exploration, the surprise and the new. If Facebook becomes the premier app for everything on the Web, then the Web will become boring and they certainly don’t want that.  I think Google is beginning to learn this truism.

Facebook needs to understand its mission. If Google’s mission is “the world’s information in one click,” then Facebook’s is “the world’s people in one click.” It should build out that way.  Continuing on its current path, Facebook will become the world’s utility and humans will become saturated.  After all it’s called Facebook, not Utilitybook. Peace!

Over a decade ago, I wrote a creative brief for Newsday, a large metropolitan newspaper covering Long Island and Queens New York, using the insight “We know where you live.”   Newsday liked the notion but didn’t completely get the insight. They reframed it and turned the words into their tagline of many years “Newsday. It’s where you live.” 

“We Know Where You Live” was meant to provide residents of Long Island  — a diverse, but captive audience – with a reason to buy the paper in addition to The New York Times…and in place of The New York Post and The NY Daily News. Many of LI’s hundred thousand plus train commuters buy these other 3 papers every day for world news and sports and “We Know Where You Live” was intended to make them feel a bit out of touch with their local community news and home lives. (Sneaky, but true.)  It was also a means to create greater loyalty among current readers.   

This brand idea, if properly acculturated throughout Newsday, would have made every employee hypersensitive to providing an editorial experience that only a LI-based paper could deliver.  

Fast forward to 2010 and the underperforming Newsday.com.  “We Know Where You Live”, though long gone, is still a powerful rallying cry for building online readership and participation.  The owners, architects and builders of the website, should be brainstorming how to deliver that experience. Instead, I submit, they are probably in brainstorming meetings chasing the latest social media twist, the next community promotion and the October program intended to build time on site. These are tactics, not strategy.  “How” is tactical. “Why” is strategic.  Newsday and Newsday.com need to revisit their brand strategy.  And let those 34 new reporters they’re hiring in on it. Peace!

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It was reported by Stuart Elliott in today’s New York Times that Lee Jeans is using Mike Rowe as its spokesperson.  Mike Rowe, the guy from the Ford commercials, is the star of America’s Dirtiest Jobs (or whatever it’s called).  His fame comes not from the show, which probably does a 2.2 rating on Cable, but from walking around Ford showrooms and using his sing-songy manly voice. 

 The fact that Mr. Rowe is the news of the Lee Jean advertising story shows how shallow the strategic idea really is. Moreover, Lee has 3 agencies carving up the work: Arnold Worldwide, GroupM (for media), and Barkley of Kansas City for PR and didge. The total budget is about $10M and you know a chuck of that goes to Mr. Rowe. 

So let’s recap. National challenger brand. No identifiable, differentiated brand strategy (comfort a man would love?). A spokesperson famous for selling cars. A limited “jump ball” budget shared by 3 partners.  And a product with little to talk about. About right?

The Fix.

Arnold is actually a good shop with breadth.  Lee should go all Joel Ewanick on itself and give them the entire business.  Then turn Amber Finlay loose, Arnold’s new head of digital strategy. I bet she could multiply the dollars.  Lee needs a little brand spanking and, if allowed, Arnold is the kind of shop that can do it. Was there a buy-out clause in Mr. Rowe’s contract?  Peace!

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Some evolutionary changes – Physical:

  • Our fingers are getting smaller and more supple.
  • Our thoraxes are growing smaller in length and girth as the things we digest become more processed and prepared.
  • Our brains are getting bigger, causing brain cases to outsize the female pelvis, raising the rate of Caesarian sections.
  • Our eyesight is getting worse as we smother ourselves in commercial light and don’t need eyesight to “naturally select” food sources.
  • Our teeth are losing enamel due to a diet requiring less vigorous mastication. (Girls with gum don’t count.)
  • Antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are growing, thanks to our overuse of pills.

 

Some evolutionary changes – Marketing:

  • We don’t read print ads because we have been conditioned to know they are blather 8 out of 10 times.
  • We’ve become inured to the lexicon of selling – especially the twenty most paid for words.
  • The clutter of choices available to consumers is so great often the best “package” wins.
  • The medium and the message have become more important than the product.
  • The convenience of hunting and gathering has become so great, our collective asses are too big for our jeans.

 

And lastly, because of the marketing evolutions stated above, we have ceded control of brand management to social voices in Peoria and Bumpus Mills – which is like letting one cell in the body make the decisions for all. Peace it up!

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