July 2011

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McDonald’s is taking a lot of heat for pushing high calorie, high-fat products to children and promoting them with toys in their Happy Meals.  (Full disclosure, the wifus buys happy meals for the value and portion size.)  Michelle Obama is doing good work in this neighborhood, setting the tone and fighting childhood obesity. We all need to jump on that bandwagon.

Here’s my take. If we can put a TV into a phone, we can probably find a tasty, healthy alternative to french fries, soda, cheese burgers and salt.  McDonald’s answer is to reduce the number of fries in the Happy Meal and add some apple slices.  Have you ever had apple slices in a bag? 

So here you go Mickey Ds – get a few chemists in the room, along with some nutritionists, commodity traders and a chef or three and fix this thing.  If anyone can, you can. BTW, I’d love someone to invent a quarter pounder with cheese that doesn’t send my cholesterol all aflutter.  I love that burger but refuse to eat it.   

It’s a big planet.  We grow lots of things on this planet.  In the next millennium we’ll engineer food things that grow that are unlike anything we’ve ever seen or eaten before. Healthy things.  Fast food companies that invent and package good tasting healthy food products will be the new clean tech. (Another area in need of leadership.)  Peace!

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There’s a great business and brand planning question I often use during discovery: “Who will win the sale you lose?”  If talking to Coke, the lost sale might be to Pepsi (not likely), a store-brand cola, a couponed cola or maybe a tea or flavored water.  If speaking with Microsoft about Office 2010, the lost sale might be to Google Docs.  Conversely, it’s also nice to know who will lose the sale your brand is going to win.  Nice questions — all with actionable strategies. 

With the growth of the Web and social media and the preponderant ad-supported model where many services are free (see Google Docs), there’s no sale to lose just a lost ad impression.  Readers know I’ve been working on a marketing planning tool called Twitch Point Planning. A twitch point is a point in a media experience, where the visitor disconnects. So, if I’m reading a magazine article there is an Emily Dickenson poem cited, I might twitch over to Wikipedia for a quick side-bar. Or I might Google her and the verse. In this example I’ll likely return to the article, but in many cases I’m gone.

Why is Twitch Point Planning important?  It’s important because as a publisher or marketer you want to minimize the loss of your audience. Or, you want to twitch them deeper into your site or sales process.  Facebook is such a force because people don’t twitch away very much.  And many marketers are even understanding the value of completing the sale on Facebook.  

Marketers need to understand, map and manipulate Twitch Points in ways that provide branded value (not spam) at the most appropriate times.  If they do so, they will be able to reduce the space between the consumer and a transaction.  Peace.

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I was just reading in The New York Times about Red Lobster’s new ad campaign.  The campaign idea “Sea food differently,” is a little off-piste and perhaps a bit too creative.  The ads introduces a new logo with some locked-up words “Fresh Fish, Live Lobster” which is nice.  But the good news is, the traditional Red Lobster advertising that everyone can play back in their sleep — the big lemon squirt over a lobster tail and some superimposed pricing — will be replaced by ads with real people (people test well) talking about Alaska’s cold waters or oak used for grilling.

This is a no brainer improvement for the work out of Grey, NY.  Advertising is all about claim and proof. The lemon squirt work was “we’re here” retail advertising at its best, which isn’t saying too much. The new work has a strategy.  If advertising is about claim and proof, branding is about claim and delimited, organized proof.  My take on the new brand plan for Red Lobster is that the proof planks are roughly: fresh fish, grilling, and lobster.

Stuart Elliot’s article spends a lot of time talking about the people in the ads, but the reason the ads will work is not because of the fisherman with the beard from Ahh-rass-kahhhh (Alaska), but the storied proof and pictures that demonstrate the strategy.  People deliver the strategy, they aren’t the strategy.    

Campaigns come and go but a powerful brand strategy is indelible. Sounds like Red Lobster has a tight brand strategy.  I smell some sales! Good job Darden and Grey. Peace!

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In a Forbes interview with David Eastman, CEO, JWT North America, he speaks of his shop’s unique place in history. Of course, some of it was the same old/same old, which made sense for the audience, but what really stuck out was JWT’s commitment to integrating digital into its offering.  Mr. Eastman may be the first digital officer to CEO a major holding company ad shop.

For a big global shop like JWT, digital is really the R&D department. R&D never really existed at agencies before.  Sure, there were innovations think tanks and media kitchens but those were mostly window dressing.  Eastman believes R&D is an investment not an expense and because JWT hangs with major consumer brands and has a strong brand planning culture, everyone gets the value of a powerful brand idea and everyone gets a seat at the table. This R&D department isn’t off campus in a lab somewhere. Even creatives are open to the manifest destiny love (ish).

So what does this mean?  The outputs are better.  The ads are informed by digital insights, the didge is coddled by emotional consumer brand ideas, and the media intersects at just the right moment. The work doesn’t feel like work to many consumers, it feels welcome and softly influential. “Soft influence.” Hmm, I like that.

Sometime the approach is a little sloppy, sometimes it’s quite elegant, but it’s almost always goaled (as they say) on being brand-strategic.  In this tactics-palooza marketing world, a holding company shop with a transmedia team working with the wind at its back offers a superior product.  But you knew that. Peace!

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I love the internet and most everything about it. It’s a transformative technology changing the planet at light speed.  One thing I wish it would do more of (IBM) though, is reduce waste and distribute things earmarked for landfill to those in need.  The web is great at minimizing the space between buyers and sellers but imagine if its powers were used for such non-profit activities like feeding the hungry or providing used furniture to kids moving into apartments.

The people who developed Stub Hub and some smart urban planners from the city of NY should combine efforts to create a way to distribute day old food that would normally be fed to the gulls in Queens, Staten Island or hovering over barges. It may sound like a no brainer, but I suspect it’s a logistical nightmare. (Can you say sign a waiver?) It is worth doing.  Just ask City Harvest.

The amount of good food that is thrown away in NYC every day, probably weighs in excess of 100,000 pounds.  That weight has to be picked up by sanitation and carted away using trucks and gas. The same with old furniture.  When families lose an elder parent, houses have to be purged and lots of stuff is tossed in haste. Valuable stuff.

Here’s a solution for a small planet, let’s try to redistribute good things to people in need, not the landfill. The web can be the logistical tool to bring parties together. Mayor Bloomberg, this is your new 311.  Start small and scale. (Google would be an excellent partner.) Peace!

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Microsoft is a pretty amazing company. Its roots are in operating systems with its second version (Windows) transforming personal computing. Blah blah, I know. But the real invention was taking very complicated technology instructions and creating a user interface that enabled regular people to navigate it, using the open and closed window as a metaphor.

(Their new mobile operating system should be called Tiles, but that’s a story for another day.)

In the 90s, Microsoft only hired the smartest people on earth.  It gave Mensa style logic quizzes to all prospects, figuring if  you populated your company with Harvards, how could you lose. And it worked for a while.

But as the company evolved the Harvards — and please, I love Harvard, no offense meant — began to develop more and more products, the products became hugely over-built and complicated. Microsoft’s second most famous product “Word” has 88 features, or there about, with most people using only 12.  And that was okay because what you didn’t know didn’t hurt you.  But as the company moved into communications servers, SharePoint and other software ditties in the productivity world, usability became quite a chore. And a major impediment. If  it didn’t come with corporate training it wasn’t intuitive enough to pass the mass appeal test.

Microsoft’s new cloud product called Office 365 is quite robust and has the ability to change the business world.  It’s the best of all MSFT products for the enterprise. The kind of stuff small businesses only dream about. But it’s overly complicated. It needs a beginner slope. A beginner product for small business that, like crack, will create addiction.  If they crack the code on a usable version of Office 365, a big if, Microsoft may just double its revenue. Peace!

 

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Not the noun, the verb.  A marketing hack (vb.) is a marketing shortcut designed to create immediate return.  Like a technology hack, it plays off of something that already exists – tweaks it, tests it, then turns it loose to see what happens. Prior to the web there weren’t many marketing hacks (vb.). Maybe buy an 800 number close to a competitor, draft the media plan of the #1 brand, create package design similar to that of the category leader, direct coupons at competitive buyers.  Pre-Web, there were more marketing hacks of the noun variety – people who stole other’s message to create sales.  (Hey, pass me Campaign Magazine, I need some inspiration for an ad.)

But with the web changing everything in the world of marketing — collapsing the sales cycles into a few clicks — we have a growing preponderance of marketing hacks (vb.) which are disrupting the business, as Jean-Marie Dru might say. In a bad way. The science of creating attention and clicks is displacing the science of creating product preference, and brand loyalty

Marketing hacks (vb.) at their worst are like human cells growing out of control… and you know what that is.  Market research scientists are being replaced by marketing technology scientists and it is creating some serious near-term chaos.  In my travels I’m finding the smartest marketers are those seasoned professionals who know how to find a motivating idea, manipulate it (like Beckham) and put it in consumers way with subtly to create a sale. If it’s a hack so be it, but it can’t be  a tactical gimmick.

If your marketing agent is 26 years old, a 3 year social media veteran and pulling the strings of significant marketing budget, you might just be placing too much emphasis on the verb.  And, if you should look around the room, if there is no noun in sight, chances are you might be that noun. 🙂 Peace.

PS.  There are many new media marketing hacks that building sales and loyalty. And they are more than exciting.  

 

 

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I attended a webinar yesterday on Hispanic marketing sponsored up by Michael DellaPenna and the Participatory Marketing Network. Most of the presentation was on social media but a good deal was about marketing in general.  If you write me I’ll forward the slides or the link as they become available.  By the year 2050, the Hispanic population of the U.S. will outnumber the Caucasian pop.  I’m planning on being around when that happens-ish…and can’t wait.  What do you think marketing agencies will look like then?

The Hispanic demo currently indexes higher for use of smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and tech savvy-ness.  It’s not a demo to be taken lightly.  We need to be paying more attention, and now.  But as the presentation stated with a wink and a smile, undertaking a Spanish language program is a lot more than having Hector in accounting do a little translation or some Tweeting.  A thoughtful, strategic, light hand needs to be used in planning and executing these programs.  Hispanic efforts should not be extensions of mass media plans.  There is language, there is culture, and there are a number of unique market segments. The smart brands get this and they are cashing in. 

Everyone needs to pay attention. And everyone needs to start playing.  There’s lots to be learned. The clock is ticking. Peace! steve@whatstheidea.com

 

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So there’s this question bubbling over in social networking and social media that’s on the minds of engineers, entrepreneurs, demographers and account/brand/communications planners: What’s a friend and what’s a community?

The internet and the social web have flattened the world to the degree that language has allowed. (Language, a major usability problem.)  Let’s say you like the punk rock band X but your best friends don’t — you might have to go outside for X soul mates. To Des Moines, Jakarta, or just across the tracks.  These X-ophiles may be your people. Share your love. Be potential  friends.  But now they are just part of an un-gerrymandered community.

Google+ is working on this, allowing circles of people with common interests to become connected. But Pandora and Spotify are trying to do this with music, Artspace.com is trying to do it with art, Ology.com with millennials, and the list goes on and on.  For every topic there is an entrepreneurial with an idea and an answer.  And a VC behind them to feed the frenzy.  And I love it. I loved exchanging punk rock stories with a 20 something in Qatar. It wasn’t creepy, it was awesome.  The kid wasn’t a friend. The kid was part of a community of interest. Danah Boyd, the future CEO of Microsoft, is right about the web; it is an amazing tool, with the ability to harness and free all our positive and negative human energies. But the goods far outweigh the bads.

The debate and commercial applications surrounding what is a friend and what is a community will continue.  And evolve. Marketers and publishers who figure out the different and the byplay will build powerful, powerful things. You friend in the ether, Steve.  Peace!

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