November 2011

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I was just reading an article about Grimaldi’s pizza in Brooklyn (“This is my piz-ah-reeah,” Danny Aiello) and one of the key difference-makers for the stores is their coal-fired ovens.  Sure the ingredients are good, but there is something to be said for 700 degrees of coal-fired, brick oven pizza. An idea.

Papa John’s Pizza, a national chain, also has a brand idea: “Better ingredients.” And a delivery mechanism for the claim: Papa John himself.  Better ingredients is a great place to start — if your ingredients are better. I suspect if the ingredients were better, we’d probably know why. But we don’t. This where brand planning falls down: all claim no proof.  I saw a Papa John’s ad watching NFL football this weekend that showed ingredients that looked like they were shot through cellophane. The commercial was likely shot using a video or low-def video camera.  

Marketers and agencies who use the word “brand” all the time and who don’t fill their conversations with real “claim” and “proof” words are not only a nuisance, they’re a blight.  To wit, Papa John in meetings should never be talking about the brand, but about better ingredients. At the end of the day as he heads to his car he should be saying to himself “What did I do today to make our ingredients better?”  This isn’t meant to be a slam on Mr. John, he actually has a brand idea. (Many marketers just have campaigns.)  He just needs to live it. Peace!

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Not one to throw darts at people I don’t know, I have been known to ding their actions. That’s the fun of blogging.  One marketing person who is a bit of a lightning rod, especially to those in the advertising business is Joel Ewanich, chief marketing officer of General Motors.  Forbes called him “Marketer of the Year” in 2009 and he has done some great marketing putting Hyundai on the map. I’ve written about Hyundai’s smart marketing for years.

But lately, Mr. Ewanich who is nothing of not decisive, has been spending his time shaking up the ad agency roster and tossing grenades. Google “Goodby Silvertein+Ewanich.” While Mr. Ewanich was spending much media time energizing and de-energizing agencies his defining product launch, the Chevy Volt, was going long on glamour and short on engineering. It was reported today that the Volt’s lithium ion battery pack has been found to spark and fire in simulated crashes. 

Marketers, lest we forget, are responsible for product as well as promotion and it seems that the Volt was not adequately tested prior to launch. In all the news about loaner cars and driver safety being job one, I haven’t seen Mr. Ewanich’s name anywhere. Dart time.  Combustion engines go on fire after crashes. Hell, they are filled with gas.  Lithium ion batteries overheat — can you say Dell?  Mr. Ewanich did not design the battery pack or it’s housing, but he is responsible for product readiness.  

A lesson to all marketers: Get the product right first. I understand multi-tasking and readiness, but marketing starts with the product. And ends with the product. Now there’s a marketing trend – product quality. Peace.   

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According to an article in The New York Times “The government says that today 23 percent of fish stocks are not at self-sustaining levels at current fishing pressure.”  That means we are fishing those species into negative territory and they will eventually become extinct.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find this same affliction occurring in the advertising business.  

For the sake of this discussion let’s just say there are a limited number of people effective at making terrific, original creative – the type of work that people talk about and that actually motives purchase. The fish.  Let’s say there are 5,000 of these fish.   They may reside at large shops, small shops, digital or be freelancers.  The problem is there are millions and millions of assignments out there. Every day. From a simple Google Adwords text ad to a Super Bowl commercial.  Who is doing that work?  Not the 5,000 fish everybody is trying to land.  Too much work for them. All the other swimmers in the water are doing the work.  Before everything became fair game for advertising messages and everything became media, there were almost enough creative minds to go around.  Today there is not. Creative is being done by anyone with fingers (and I apologize to the digit-challenged population.)   

Add to this the fact that the real fish – the 5,000 – are in such demand that they have no chance to mentor or teach. Not until they are toasted; at which point they are, well, toasted.

So what’s the answer? The web, what else?  And vision. We need to have the fish set aside some time to share what they know with all the other swimmers.  Dave Trott blogs daily and is worth a read. No toast he.  David Droga. David Angelo. Tor Myhren. Please step up. Please take some time to replenish the sea. Use the web. Help the young and those willing to learn. Or the business will slide further into a pond filled with farm raised creators and tasteless pellets.  Peace.

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Freehand is defined thusly:

adjective

1. drawn or executed by hand without guiding instruments, measurements, or other aids: a freehand map.

adverb

2. in a freehand manner: to draw freehand.

When CMOs, senior marketers and their agencies say “consumers own brands,” it makes for good copy but bad management. Consumers buy products, weighing in with their pocketbooks as to taste, preference and price requirements, but they do not own the brands.  Ad, direct and digital agencies have known this for years.  It is what creates the conflict between client and agency.  Clients want the work they want and agencies want the work they want.  Clients own the brands.

Freehand messaging is what happens when you turn your brand over to consumers to manage.  The conversation, then, can take any course it wants. Good, bad, indifferent. If I am working my ass off managing a craft cookie brand, around attributes of “naturally moist,” “healthier ingredients” and “complex flavors” — on a shoestring budget — I want to make sure people are talking about those things…the things that sell my cookies. Not cookie ephemera. When the consumer discussion is not guided by brand managers and agencies, the discussion is freehand. And marketers are not doing their job. Every dollar spent by a marketer needs to result in a deposit in the brand bank. Withdrawals are the Antichrist. Stop the freehand by managing it! Peace.

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“It will change the way people work, share and communicate” is a sentence we’ve heard hundreds of times. And a sentence we’ve read in ads, thousands of times.  This sentence was used in an article today to describe how businesses will use Goggle+ Circles.  According to the same article Google+ is a social network, like Facebook. It kind of looks like a clean version of Facebook but acts more like Twitter, organized to feed information of those one follows.  Then again, it displays pictures and videos in the feed as does Facebook. The buttons and apps in the side margins of Google+ are cool, offering the ability to gerrymander friends and acquaintances into groups and also to do video chats through an exciting feature called hangouts (which I have yet to try), so that feels new — but kind of hidden.

The product managers at Google say Circle and/or Hangouts will change the way people work, share and communicate, and they could be right – but not based on the current mish-mash of free hand messaging in the market today.  Google+ released to techies in Beta because techies thrive on confusion.  They eat it for breakfast. But for the rest of the web Google+ still doesn’t have an Is-Does and so is compared to Twitter and Facebook.  The killer application (video circles) is underutilized and under understood.  I do believe video hangouts or cirlces (or whatever they are) will be a game changer – especially in training and education and problem solving.  But right now the whole Google+ thing is a morass of huh.  Were I Google, Google Labs or BBH, I’d be working on a Super Bowl ad (I know, it’s against their better judgment) that distills the Google+ value and showcases the ease of multiparty video chat to the world.  Google+ was a horrible name. A lazy name for what may be a huge product in 3 years. If properly brand managed. It is still a product in need of an Is-Does.  Peace!

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Right now, T-Mobile’s advertising is the best in the category.  The way it integrates print, TV and web is beautiful, the art direction is constant, and spokesperson Carly Foulkes has been managed brilliantly.  Never tarted up, always positive, always girl next door, Ms, Foulkes and agency Publicis Seattle are building a place in our brains for this price shopper 4G mobile brand.

As ubiquitous as this advertising is, it’s not Geico annoying.  Not AT&T message meandering or Verizon techno mappish. It’s a clean, retail brand imprint and it’s beginning to work.

Creative advertising dudes (less so dudettes) will snark at this comment saying the work is as creative as chipped nail polish, but from a brand management point of view, in a muddled market, this work is moving phones.  And T-Mobile doesn’t even have an iPhone.    

Imagine if T-Mobile changed its spokesperson every couple of ads.  Or tried to compete with Verizon by employed a lot of red in its color palette. Or rather than hammer home price it showed all the cool phone innovations (okay, they do a bit of that on TV).

If the AT&T purchase goes through next year, don’t be surprised to see BBDO morph the campaign Ms. Foulkes way.  They won’t cut over using the Magenta color the way they did using Cingular orange, but they know enough to keep the price work clean. Or we might just see Publicis hold the retail business and cede network and inno to BBDO.

T-Mobile has organized its brand and kept to the plan. That’s why its numbers are creeping up! Peace.

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Check out this video of the Cut and Paste digital design competition in NYC in October. It is the best single promotional video I’ve seen for getting high school and college kids to get into commercial web design.  The beats, the fashion, the story all serve up the craft of digital design brilliantly.  If you don’t like rap and you don’t like the city and you don’t like brew, you can still get into this vibe.  It’s real and it’s tomorrow. I’m not sure that this Cut and Paste competition was tasked as a recruitment tool and frankly before the recession there were a lot more these type of digital throw down parties but, hey, R/GA, Razorfish and Rockfish, forget the recruiting tents, beer cozie circuit at campuses and get behind Cut and Paste because this is the haps.

 Look into these kids eyes.  This isn’t staged “Put your hands in the air!” crap.

If you read the comments on Agency Spy, Adweek or Ad Age, you’ll know many agency people are jealous, angry, envious and delusional.  Even before online comment pages, the business was infected by malcontents. (And with many out of work, the business they love to hate is filled with even more vitriol.)  But Cut and Paste gives me hope. The next gen of beanie-wearing, skinny jeaned design acolytes are pretty excited and pumped.

We need more of this.  Give people something they love and the won’t work a day in their lives.  Coding at 2 A.M.by the light of a Red Bull machine may not be glamorous, but this vid points toward the prize. And as my chillens used to say “I yike it.”  Peace. 

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Like, like….like

I went to a PSFK Conference a number of years ago and posted “Sort of” is the new “um.”  Well, I’m here to update you — “like” is the new “um.”  For 5 years it has been a nervous word kids and Millennials use to fill in their sentences.  But now the word is taking on more meaning, or lack thereof, thanks to Facebook’s use of “like” as a ranking system. 

When a teen or tween tells a friend the gut-wrenching “I like Mary” it’s very different than the like-gating or liking that’s going on when marketers are cheesing consumers into pressing the like button.  Don’t native Inuits have nine different words for snow?

One used to rank online affinity by counting web traffic.  If a site had lots of traffic, it was a well-appreciated site. Web Trends followed that traffic to see what people really landed on and it informed marketers. But then SEO jockeys started cheesing the system and traffic became less relevant. Enter the “like” button. But now even liking isn’t always liking. Google likes liking and calls it +ing (plusing).  

A number of Facebook and Google Plus cottage industries are emerging and helping marketers game the system.  It’s a huge business.  But only about 10% of them really know what they are doing. And that 10% get what corporate CEOs and CFOs get — tie likes to new and recurring sales and you have a touchdown. Otherwise, those likes are flatter than a non-redeemed coupon.  And how would Mary feel about that?  Peace!

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I read last week that a fan may actually be more valuable than a customer. Initially, I nodded my head thoughtfully but now I’m back now.

One of the first predictors of marketing success is the degree to which people need your product.  A second predictor is that people want your product.  Sadly, consumers are being sold things today they don’t need or want. Marketers often spend money creating demand where none exists. Is it any wonder John Wannamaker’s famous line “Only half of my advertising is working” still resounds? Educating consumers as to what they need is not the job of advertising. Frankly, it’s what know-all mothers-in-law do and it is annoying. Providing a product to meet an existing need, on the other hand, is a great place to start.

Everyone has a shower.  All shower tiles and grout need cleaning. Good place to start a business. Invisible germs in the shower that people don’t know exist, is an educational effort. And if those germs aren’t harmful, why do they need to be killed? Not a good business.

Marketers need to spend more time on customer need and product innovation and less time tweaking market share through message innovation. It makes the marketing agents look bad.  And it wouldn’t hurt for a good ad agency or two to turn down a product assignment every once in a while because the product is meaningless. That’s the way to create an agency A list. Peace! 

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