Yearly Archives: 2011

Managing the Mets…Brand.


The NY Mets are my team.  When a young ‘un in NYC with no money and nothing to do, I’d sit in my studio apartment listening to the Mets and keep the box score on yellow lined paper purloined from work.  I attended the first ever Word Series Game at Shea stadium (Thanks, dad.) and got my first business lesson when Tom Seaver was traded – he looked awful in red, by the way.

Marketers these days are all “We don’t own the brand, consumers own the brand” and I couldn’t disagree more.  It is the mission of marketers to organize and direct the conversation around their products.  Sadly, New York Mets fans want to talk about one thing: team payroll.  Then about Bernie Madoff and Jose Reyes.  And Mets management is letting them. The conversation is dominated by money. When Sandy Alderson took the bait the other day in response to why the Mets had not resigned Jose Reyes huffing “We lost $70 million last year,” he was not managing the Mets message.

Every minute, every hour there is something baseball-like to talk about for the Mets. There are roster and farm team heroes to bring to life. The Mets fans who love the brand – not those people who stand on the Shake Shack line for 55 minutes – need organized reasons to continue to love the Mets and they aren’t getting them. There is no organizing principle for the Mets brand that lays the groundwork for the marketing, hence the conversation defaults to money. Here’s my suggestion for Fred, Saul and Jeff: Embargo any talk about money by marketing, management and players. And talk only about the game.  That would be a start. Peace.  

Fishing With Hooks and No Line.


After reading a Sony Vaio laptop ad this morning I clicked on the QR code.  These little goodies are the rage, and rightly so, but many marketers haven’t quite figured them out yet.  The worst attempts send people to the company homepage or a Facebook page.  The best provide a trail of proof for the ad claim that moves the consumer closer to purchase – taking the ad logic and selling premise and extending it.  Somewhere in the middle are marketers who provide lists of additional information, either in text or clickables.  Sony’s effort fell in the middle. Their QR code mobile landing site offers a video that is still loading, some nice product specs, price variations, special offers, way under the fold a smart showcase of the illuminated key board feature, a claim about flying from NY to Rome on one charge, powered by Microsoft Windows 7, and something about a kitchen sink.

Ad agencies all complain that their business models and profitability have changed.  The fact is, the things they sell have changed and they’ve been slow to adapt.  This QR code exercise points out how many new things agencies get to make – beyond ads – to enhance the client selling experience and make more money. Happy, happy.

Using a fishing metaphor, ad agencies are focused on the hook — lo, they celebrate the hook — but they forget the line, pole, boat, and fish keeper. (The Vaio video is still loading.)

In my posts about Twitch Point Planning I write of the need to use transmedia or cross media twitches to move customers closer to purchase. That is the absolute best purpose of a QR code. Yet many are lazily using the code simply to move consumers closer to information. Disorganized information at that.  Still loading.  Peace!

Fear, Uncertainty and Dismal Doubt.


FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) drove billions of dollars of B2B marketing communications in the 90s and was the brainchild, so I’ve been told, of IBM.   “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was the quiet mantra of IBM sales team and ad agencies.  With proper and subtle brand management, this notion was acculturated into the IT departments across American and beyond.  I’m not aware of any IBM ads ever mentioning FUD.

Digital Equipment may have been the company IBM was trying to scare people from; Apple at that time certainly wasn’t a factor. The strangle hold IBM had on business during that period, thanks to FUD, was broken by Dell when Michael Dell opened up the computer and showed us it was a bunch of simple parts — worth a good deal less than the white shirts at IBM were offering. Plus Dell took advantage of a technological breakthrough – the US Postal Service – to change the game by selling direct to the IT dept. For those old enough to remember, Dell boxes were flying in and out of IT depts. across the country.  It was Christmas every day for techies.  The fear was gone. Fast forward a few years and IBM sells its PC business and does some serious brand retrenchment, tossing “the fear” in favor of a more positive “building good systems” approach. IBM is crazy back.

Strategic planners need to understand fear, but they shouldn’t use it. Leave it to Disney and Comcast and CBS to deliver our required dose of fear. (NBC…Grimm? Really?) Plan strategy using the end-game of hope and deliverance and well-earned reward. Those are things in which it is worth investing. Peace!

Mine the Goodness.


A friend of mine recently told me his family has not used a credit card in 8 years.  Sounds as if 8 years ago his family was spending a little beyond its means. Then something happened. Sanity happened.  The same insanity that drove my friend’s family to the brink has infected gov’ts and corporations alike over the past couple of decades and though I suspect the U.S. government hasn’t completely seen the light, businesses are starting to. Certainly families have.

With unemployment creeping in the right direction and markets beginning to slide step forward, my gut tells me this recovery will be tempered in a positive way and we’ll all exercise more restraint. Business owners and families will be much more mindful of expenses.  Expenses will be monitored more closely and the work supporting them will be harder work — smarter work.  Case in point: Vermont.  Always a state known for thriftiness and hard work, Vermont was devastated by hurricane Irene.  Mile and miles of roads and bridges were washed out in late August and the expectation of repair was $1 billion and a year to complete.  Today Vermont is almost completely back to normal road-wise and the price tag looks to be more like $200 million.

How?  The recession made us stronger, smarter, more willing to work together.  Certainly it did in VT.  Now that goodness needs to spread. A goodness born of tough times. Let’s mine that goodness y’all.  Peace!

Two Lessons From One Conversation.


I love the Metropolitan Diary column, Mondays in The New York Times.  It provides wonderful stories and insights about the NYC experience and beyond.  Today it also shared a brand planning lesson. With all this marko-babble about “the conversion” in marketing today, here is a real slice of life that takes unlikes and  near-likes and starts a real conversation. Are these people selling? In a sense, yes. Peace!

Dear Diary:

About six weeks ago, I was on a very crowded subway coming home from my school, where I am in ninth grade. I was standing next to a woman wearing a head scarf and a tall man wearing a taqiyah (a Muslim skullcap).

He turned toward her, said, “Salaam alaikum,” and asked where she was from. “Iran,” she replied.

The man said he was from Palestine. Just then, another woman turned around and said, “I’m from Egypt.”

“Wow!” the man said. “We’ve got the whole family here.” They started talking about their jobs and what had brought them to the States.

The man said that he worked for an antidiscrimination organization intended to prevent prejudice against Muslims. He handed the two women leaflets about how to prevent discrimination, and I guess he noticed me watching and listening because he offered me one as well.

“Thank you very much,” I said, “but I’m Jewish.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he responded. “You have the same civil rights as we do.”

I took the leaflet just as the train got to my stop. With a “shalom” and a “salaam alaikum,” we bid each other goodbye.

Sam Mellins                                

“Brand” is No Substitute for “Idea.”


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!

A Marketing Lesson.


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.   

Too much creative, not enough creatives.


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.