June 2011

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Social Media and Social Marketing have caused me today to alter the creative brief format I’ve used for over 15 years.  I borrower it from McCann-Erickson in the 90s, added a cherry and started cranking.  The original brief was written, I suspect, by Peter Kim, then the top strategy and biz-dev dog at McCann.  Mr. Kim has since passed, RIP.

The part I changed this morning had to do with the “Living Breathing Target.” Living Breathing connoting more of a behavioral look at the target than demographic — part of the secret sauce.  Today, the brief loses the “t” word and gains the word “customer”.  I debated using “prospect” but chose not to because as someone smart once said about marketing “nothing happens until someone buys something.”

In the social marketing world target is almost militaristic. Site and fire.  But the best marketers don’t view people as targets; they see them as buyers, users, and experiencers. Now, I’m sure you can read an Ogilvy or BBDO position paper from the 60s and get the same shtick, and good shtick it was, but here’s the social media twist.

While most social media agents today tell you the consumer is in charge, they ‘re wrong. They will tell you there needs to be a dialogue, and in in this case they are right. Marketing is no longer solely about broadcast and transact; there is a new bidirectional requirement. Consumers have a POV and they often log on and share it.  But consumers should not be left undirected with their points of view. They need to be herded. And herded around brand planks and brand values.

Customer feedback is not a plank. Price and coupons are not planks. Engagement is not a plank. The job of the marketer and his/her agent today is to find the brand building qualities of a product or service, organize them, package them and socialize them.  Targeting is passé. Peace!

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Someone Tweeted yesterday about Google+, so I followed the link and watched a couple of tutes.  My first impression on the Is-Does was that it’s an advanced like button.  Then I noted something called Google Circles, which was one of the tutorials grouped in the total offering labeled Google+ Project.  So Google Plus has grown into a project, which is kinda cool and offers leeway to do a number of things without completely committing.

I love the idea of Google Circles, with its drag-and-drop community grouping interface.  It seems a nice foil to the Facebook mass post approach.  But I was still in like button land and wasn’t quite sure how the circle platformed.  The app felt transformative and exciting, but then I had to go to work.

Today I’m reading that the Google+ Project might be a social network.  A Facebook killer? We all know how Google Buzz turned out as a social networking platform (over ambitious and over engineered). It was another example of the company’s culture of technological obesity. But this project seems like it might be on to something. The ballast for me is Circles. Luckily, I haven’t aged since high school, though a number of people with whom I treaded the halls have. Having friended them on Facebook, I would not know them to meet them so the need to cull does have its place.

That said, culling can be very high school and it’s not what the web is all about. Facebook Groups is a way to cull, but it doesn’t feel exclusionary. It’s a good feature.  I need to spend more time with Google Circles (the mobile portions are brilliant) before really weighing in.  My feeling is that there is something powerful here, but Google needs to remember why it exists as it moves the +Project forward.  Not to kill Microsoft. Not to kill Fotchbook.  To deliver the world’s information in one click. Exciting Peace!

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The body is amazing thing.  Nobody will argue with that.   One of the keys to health is proper digestion.  It starts with enzymes in the mouth, mastication of solids via the teeth, then channeling food down the throat through various stomach and intestinal tubes and reservoirs, where the extraction of goodness and badness occur, adding life and nourishment to our blood and cells. Digestion.

But digestion also happens in marketing communications. We hear, see, read and, yes, even smell promotional cues all day long.  Sometimes — even when we sleep.  Color, poetry, context, cortex stimulation, likeability all contribute to what we remember and choose to act upon. Megan Kent, a master strategist and student of the brain’s role in brand experience, is expert in the digestion of marketing. Her theory of “brand synchronicity” would likely support these thoughts on marketing digestion:

  • If you need a tab on your homepage labeled “What is brand X?” …you are having some marketing indigestion.
  • If your tagline is comprised of three separate and unrelated words….you have marketing indigestion.
  • If your ad agency writes ads promising change, and then laundry lists the supports to the point of confusion… grab the Tums.
  • If you test the work asking consumers “What’s the main idea of the communication?” to which they offer a look of consternation and a long thoughtful ummm…you are in the land of the indigestible marko-babble.

Digestion of food is easy; the good is separated from the bad. When it comes to marketing and advertising, digestion is not so easy.  Only the well-organized can create selling nourishment. Peace.

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About.com ran an ad in The New York Times (its parent company) today in honor of its 15th anniversary.  The ad also celebrates About’s 36 million monthly U.S. visitors.

Not sure if they are launching a new tagline, but locked up with the logo at the bottom of the ad are the words “Need. Know. Accomplish.” They visited the triumvirate tagline store, apparently.

Apparently, 15 years – which is nothing to sneeze at – is an About differentiator.  I say that because “need know accomplish” is the Bing strategy. And we know that Google owns the “need know accomplish” space.

I want About to win because I love The New York Times. About needs some of that NYT sophistication and savvy to rub off on it. It needs to be more human, less algo, more alive. And, frankly, it’s built an okay site reflecting that. The user experience faces the right direction. Problem is, the brand is weak. The promise blah. The there is there, but the message is without ballast. The New York Times has never really had to brand plan for the paper-paper or the digital version. It has just needed to promote and sell, because brand “the package” has always been so strong.  About.com, on the other hand, needs a home in consumers’ minds. Right now it’s a word. A site. It’s has a pumping heart.  Let’s hope in 5 years it has a soul too. I wish it well. Peace.

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Fast Twitch Media is exactly what it sounds like: media that is reactive, quick and available in bite-size chunks.  The problem with Fast Twitch Media (and the opportunity) is with the twitch. A twitch often results in a transfer from one media moment or type to another. When I’m reading an article on All Things D about Shazam, and click on the link in the middle of the article it takes me to a demo on YouTube, drawing me away from the article itself.  A twitch.  As the publisher of All Things D, I may have lost the reader because the YouTube demo might twitch me elsewhere.

A key goal in marketing and advertising is reducing the space between consumer and a transaction. Temporally, spatially, emotionally. Not soft metric stuff, hard metric stuff.  Take the air out of the space between the consumer and the purchase and you win. 

What’s exciting about today is that there are many ways to do this, thanks to mobile and the web.  What’s scary about today is that there are many ways to do this, thanks to mobile and the web.  Enter Twitch Point Planning — the ability to map and manipulate fast twitch media and behavior to your product’s advantage. Many are already doing it, but not by design. 

Shazam, the app that lets your phone listen to an unknown song and identify it for you, is very cool. And useful.  The ability then for Shazam to sell you that song in a click or two is an example of reducing the space between consumer and transaction. A Twitch Point gone right. 

Go forth and Twitch my people.  Peace. 

PS. Thanks to Chris Kramer and Netx for the Shazam article.

 

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There has been recent debate on marketing blogs about the role of the “creative technologist.”  As if technologists were not creative in their own right.  Edward Broches of Mullen and Scott Prindle of Crispin are active discoursers.  A big marketer and agency challenge today is finding and creating a central point around which the creative department, media department, strategy dept. and technologists can array.   As a brand planner, I vote strategy. Messrs. Brooches and Prindle, it seems, choose a coder comfortable in the sunlight and art galleries.

But upon further thought, I’m going in a different direction.  I am rolling with a creative analytics person. Talk about head down types.  Any new agency worth its fee has analytics people in pods around the shop.  They are overworked, natively digital and not particularly creative – though they may snowboard.  What they aren’t, are invited to the creative briefing meetings. And if they are, tend to be the quite dude in the corner.

These Analgesics (analysts who can find the pain) are seers of patterns. They may not be able to come up with a selling idea, TV spot or first user experience, but they can and should be in the room and allowed to contribute. Perhaps not the central figure, but in the room. Analgesics munch numbers like nobody’s business, plus they are real consumers.  Bring them to the table. Let them talk without being derided.

Analyzing success metrics, seeing patterns and predicting patterns will be the new black in creative development.  Peaceful!

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Tired of hearing my self-deprecating “I’m a simple man” spiel?  Hey, it’s a living.  The latest simplified observation in the land of black and white has to do with mobile applications and Web apps. I’ve been selling selling for enough years to know some of the web’s first apps were online calculators.  “How much will your company save if you use our product?  Click the calculator?” Well, fifteen or so years later the premise still holds. Calcu-lay-sh is one of the two primary apps in mobile.  The other is plain, stupid fun.

The big question is “Which app-set is bigger?”  Calculation apps or fun apps? (Search and geolocation are both caculations.) So what do you think marketers?  50/50?  70/30?  With the answer hanging in the air, I’ll suggest there just might be a gray area to consider – and that’s the fun calculation.  Shazam is one such — an app that listens to music and tells you the name of the song.

Smart digital markets know that combining calc and fun is a way to reduce the barrier between a consumer and a product. But be careful here, there is a difference between fun and consumption. Knowing where the taco truck is not necessarily fun, not after the first time.  Fun up your calculation, make it add value to the brand and you’ll have yourself a winner. Simple. Peace.

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Stop the presses! I saw a Wal-Mart commercial last night that had some personality. It made me, dare I say, laugh out loud.  A mom was putting on some facial cream in front of a mirror with her children splayed at her feet. “What are you doing mommy?”  “Trying to look a little younger, kids” was the warm response.”  They type of truthful, self-effacing response you rarely see on TV.  As kids do, they sponge up the info and do something with it — applying the same lotion to grandpa’s sleeping face in the den.  In big gobs. Doing a really good job.  “Grandpa is going to be so happy when he wakes up!” giggle the children.

Wal-Mart needs a makeover. The class action case against it. The big box coldness.  The smell of bad pizza wafting through the check-out lines.  Not that all these things will drive shoppers away; shoppers need Wal-Mart. But the company just lacks a special connection with its audience…something that advertising can foster.  This ad is a step in the right direction.

If Wal-Mart could be a bit more like Costco, it would do even better. The YouTube videos of Wal-Mart shoppers folding out of their clothes do not help.  Those videos probably have more views than the TV ads.

Wal-Mart is the world’s biggest anything. And growing.  You’d think they could grab hold of a powerful brand idea and build their image. This spot may just be the start – the idea to have an idea. Peace!

PS. Anyone know who did the work?

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Here’s a marketing challenge:  How do we get the smartest of the smart thinking about renewable energy sources? Michelle Obama has us focused on childhood obesity and is doing a good job. The rest of the government is focused on war and debt and the crisis of financial confidence.  For good measure you can throw in a little healthcare. Sellers of consumer and business goods are “all up” in the digital world trying to leverage Facebook, Twitter and mobile geo services.  Kids are still loving sex, fun and music.

So who is looking out for the planet?  Who is focusing on the fact that we’re literally draining and burning the core of the earth — denuding it of fossil
fuels.  Where’s the water coming from in 5 thousand years?

Pop Quiz.  Name one person in the U.S. that cares the most about the planet? Al Gore is probably the answer. Sad.  Much sad. (God bless him, by the way, but he needs some help.)

Here’s what we need: A VC firm with eyes on the planet prize. Might it be Fred Wilson? John Doerr? Paul Oliver?  Who?  Until that hero emerges, and until the pages of the Wall Street Journal, FT and New York Times start writing about him/her with the alacrity that they use to cover digital tech, we’re screwed. As Thomas Friedman says oil is a destabilizer.  Who is going to step up?  Who dat? Peace!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Fast Twitch Media and twitch point planning, and from the quality of the responses it seems I’m on to something.  Faris Yakob of KBS+P is in the fast twitch neighborhood when he refers to our low latency culture, and others who talk about integrating transmedia solutions are similarly on the trail.   It’s a nascent practice but quite exciting. One key to effectively getting people to twitch from one media type to another, with the goal of taking them closer to a transaction, is to create intrigue. Especially in a low-interest category.  If we are talking Gillette razors, you don’t need to twitch me to a treasure map or man-scape video game, but you do need to get me to think, feel and do – within the context of a brand idea. Go Daddy got this years ago, albeit shamelessly and sans selling idea.

As the mobile online experience improves, and it’s not there yet, a twitch to a website is only a pants pocket away. A twitch to a hastag. A QR code to a video. A geo-check –all within arm’s reach.  Print ads are already becoming short form billboards using a call to twitch. Check out the new Kobo e-reader ad in The New York Times paper/paper today.

The RGAs , Crispin Porter’s and 72 and Sunny’s are thinking twitch point planning — they just don’t call it so. And they are trying to decide who is responsible for it. Media people, creative, geekuses?  The answer is yes. Peace!

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