November 2012

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Life and Taxes.

I do not agree with some people (David Brooks for instance) who believe closing tax loopholes and raising tax rates will squelch growth.  The economic theory makes sense but it doesn’t take into consideration human nature. Capitalists — and we’re all capitalists to a degree — like the positive side of the ledger sheet. It sets us a tingle. If the harsh reality sets in that loop holes are reduced and higher taxes legislated, capitalists will go through the 5 stages of grieving, then start to focus on da monies. There may be some hiring stasis, sell-offs and contraction, but the prize will always be new earnings.  And revival will follow. Our taste for growth is just too strong.

Everyone should ask how we are spending the country’s money. Everyone should ask where we send our money overseas. Secessionists have the right to want to secede. That’s freedom.  But don’t confuse freedom and capitalism.  I am no economist, but in this land whether the currency is wampum, beaver pelts, greenbacks or stock shares, the trading rules may change, but growth is the vitality that moves us forward. There is nothing more natural than growth.  Peace!  

 

 

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Flip the marketing.


Not sure if you have heard of the new educational term “flipping the classroom,” but it’s really talking hold in middle and high schools. To flip the classroom means to do the homework prior to the class – then use the class to bring the lesson to life, to model or prove what was learned in the homework.  Many flipped classrooms use video in their homework.

Citrix is using this technique for its webinars.  See the email above. It’s a little daring, but I think it’s right.   Recently, a business exec talked about how his company provides reading before meetings to make them more valuable.  There’s something to this. Let’s try to use it in our jobs.  Peace!

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I was reading today about Robert Rauschenberg’s mixed media piece of art, entitled “Canyon”, and its donation to the MoMA.  One of the arguments by MoMA to the donor family for putting it there vs. The Met was that ther Rauschenberg “combines” were on display there along with combines by other important artists of the period. The logic being MoMA would provide a more contextual setting.

Context is a keyword for brand planners. We use it when budgets are low. We use it when it’s pregnant with emotional meaning. We mold it sometime, just for the poetry.  As a fairly newly minted brand planner, I look at the craft in context. When I think about the pursuit, I muse over its history, its future, the tools and best practitioners.  I’ve been a brand planner at agencies and as a director of marketing. In both situations the job is to create stimulants for selling. Sustained selling. That takes organization, tough decisions and a tight plan. It also takes oversight. At agencies the stim. is the brief,and oversight of the creative product.  (The latter often doesn’t go well.)  Client side, the stim. is the brief, the selling in and oversight of executive management, direct reports and agents (nicer word than vendors). Can you say herding cats in a marble hallway?    

My hope as a brand planner is to alter the context of the discipline in marketing.  Just as Margaret Mead insisted that all of her direct reports at the American Museum of Natural Art had psychotherapy – she argued knowing more about yourself has to be healthy – I believe marketing is healthiest when driven by a brand plan. And evolving the marketing craft in that direction, where brand plans are not an afterthought or side-thought, but the fundamental building block is my mission.  In the historic context that is brand planning, my aim is to make it the major organ in the marketing body. Peace!

PS.  If you don’t comment, I can’t learn.

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I was reading B-school management stuff this morning and came across some smart thinking from a few years ago.  Treacy and Wiersema suggested success was earned through “operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy.”  Who could argue?  Crawford and Mathews started by expanding or segmenting the 4Ps to include “product, price, access, service and experience,” but their unique thesis, explained in their book The Myth of Excellence, is that they want companies to pick one of those areas in which to excel, one to be strong in and simply maintain parity in the others.  This, they posit, will create focus, consumer meaning and differentiation. Who could not listen to this argument?

These two school of business thought differ from mine, though, in that they are organized around corporate structure not brand structure. Huh?  Well, with the b-school approach, you could walk into the building and visit these departments using the office directory. In my brand planner view of the world, the company is organized not by department but by brand plank – or value proposition. Every company has a marketing dept., a finance dept., and product management, but few companies are organized to deliver value based upon the things that consumers care about – what moves them to preference and purchase.

Companies chatter about differentiation all the time yet organize themselves the same as every other company.  Companies that want to be different, that want to create greater value for their customers, are companies that focus their energies on the planks. In the healthcare system space, the plank covering “information and resource sharing” is not the IT dept. or the quality control dept. For a commercial maintenance company, the “preemptive” plank that prevents mishaps before they occur, is not the customer care dept.

Now before you get crazy. or think me crazy, I’m not advocating reinventing corporate structure – well maybe just a little.  I’m suggesting creating value at companies by better mirroring what customers care about. Companies with employees that understand customer needs, rather than operational excellence, etc., will be the market leaders of the future. How’s that for social business design, Peter Kim and Jeff Dachis? Peace.

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Don’t do it.

I once worked with an in-house marketing group, the manager of which thought his/her craft was separate from that of the parent company.  As much as I suggested the manager and team needed to get “out of the building” and participate in the buying/selling/product experience, the manager, trained as a designer, thought spacing and type and color were his/her primary concerns. A remote control manager.

A good deal of modern warfare is also remote control. Drone pilots thousands of miles away are conducting military assaults without having to looking into the eyes of their target. It protects pilots but is a desensitized form of warfare and sometimes errant.

Rock musicians who don’t tour do not get to see if their art causes the audience to jump (on beat), smile, sing or become transfixed.

Remote control marketers and their agents are not paying attention. They allow their own passion to drive the process making it more important than the passions of buyers. That is not to say a marketer has to please everyone; some audiences are just not prospects. But by keeping marketing off of remote control you have a chance to get even non-targets swept up. Strawberry Frog talks about creating movements. Creating selling and brand movements happens to marketers who are always on, always paying attention, and rarely in remote control mode.

A good brand plan allows marketing guidance, yet the senses must always be on.  Peace.

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Paul Ottellini is stepping down as Intel’s CEO in May. Implicit in the announcement was the notion that his leadership did not evolve or lead Intel into the mobile device age. It seems Intel is no longer inside the hand candy owned by nearly every man, woman and child in America and the ROW (rest of world). This announcement and an article on the transformation of education thanks to MOOCS (massive open online courses) got me thinking about the fate of ad agencies and whether they are evolving with the times.  

Let’s face it, it’s sad but true, outside of the third world humanity’s purpose on planet earth is “buy stuff.”   That’s why we go to school, work and pay taxes.  Advertising used to be about pushing product and product preference on would-be consumers, but today consumers are wound up and ready to buy, so marketers aren’t as much interested in creating demand as they are in predisposing consumers toward their products.  The web is the big pre-disposer. Broadcast and print are still great tools, yet these days they’re mere sign posts. The real selling takes place after the ad. Agencies that sell creative by the pound are not seeing this — the total picture. It’s great to have top reputation for creativity, though it is better to have a full understanding of modern marketing: brand planning, lifecycle, loyalty, aftercare, twitch points, insouciance, and timing. Honestly, not many shops have this view. 

Great creative is a price of entry for ad agencies but the web has changed marketing. Moving the desks around, being media-agnostic and practicing all sorts of other marko-babble are not going to fix the profitability and value of the ad agency business. It needs a new box.

Mr. Ottellini didn’t change the box. IPG’s Michael Roth isn’t going to do it. Tom Bedacarre would like to. Carl Johnson-ish. We need a savant. Peace!  

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Brand Names

Naming is perhaps the most interesting part of branding; especially so, for products that are new, unique and first-mover in a category. Naming that communicates a product’s Is-Does is optimal.  It explains what a product Is and what it Does.  The first light beer, Miller Lite, is a beer and does provide a lighter product profile.

Brand names with marks, called logos, are able to convey more than just a brand because a picture and/or type treatment offer additional information.

When a product or service is more complicated, as is often the case in technology or healthcare, the brand name and logo may not be able to convey a full Is-Does. So a tagline offers a fuller opportunity to complete the Is-Does.  There are even some cases when all three don’t fully explain — so one completes the story with boiler plate. Boiler plate is found on PR releases and on web sites under the About tab.

Finally, the best brand names of all offer more than what a brand is and what it does, they offer a little bit of poetry.  A smidgen of humanity and tone.  A smile. 

Brands are empty vessels into which we pour meaning. Start off with a name that conveys good information and meaning and the pour becomes a little easier. Peace!

 

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There’s an interesting article in The New York Times today on the growth and viability of programmatic ad exchanges – algorithm based, bidding based systems that finely tune ads to consumer behavior.  A buyer of hiking boots might be found on a bowling site, for instance, rather than a bird watching site at a more effective price and click-through, so implies the analysis.

It’s science folks. 

Anyway, if online media is getting more predictive, tied to behaviors and data trails, then it stands to reason creative will follow. Here’s a prediction: advertising production is going to flip in the coming years.   The big TV shops from holding companies will have fewer creatives than will be found at didge shops.  Makers of shorty, bursty digital ads have long been seen as less glamorous than those who create high production videos and network :30s and that may not change.  But banners and towers and leaderboard and whatever is next will become more creative and effective – it’s evolution baby. And the need for more units, especially those tailored to the algorithm’s finding, will generate exponential leaps in the need for creative resources at digital shops.  Creative will never be algo based, though it will be tried. So the jobs won’t be replaced by the machine — not here. 

The tipping point for when creatives at digital shops outnumber those at the BBDOs, Ogilvys and Greys is coming.  I bet it will happen by 2016. Peace. 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/business/media/automated-bidding-systems-test-old-ways-of-selling-ads.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1353068830-60ilVThvwJh1tC+hjCjt9A&_r=0

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The Coca-Cola Corporation marketing story is simple but has many layers. The latest layer is the Coca-Cola Journey — a website built to engage, entertain and build loyalty among the family of Coca-Cola brand drinkers and enthusiasts. It’s a corporate website so you can find Minute Maid orange juice, Sprite and other family members represented. Coke learned through its Facebook experience that if it could dally with drinkers and they dallied back – the result would be nice lifts in traffic and presumably consumption. So Coke now fancies itself in the content business. Ding dong, Bud TV anyone?  A business goal, one might surmise, would be to draw users back from Facebook to the new Coke Journey site. Normally, I would applaud this activity, but not if it is going to change the business. Not if it promotes non-endemic brand experiences and cross-product ones at that.

You might say Coke is using only 5 or 6 full-time employees as content creators/curators – so how does that change the business?  I say these 5 or 6 may have large reach. And a few altered cells in the DNA can be a problem.

Were I running this show, I’d continue to host sites for each unique brand. I’d add the full-time content creators to each site, but make the content specific to each brand promise. Have them support the “motivation” behind each promise. If AOL and Yahoo! can’t get content creation to run on all cylinders, why would Coke be able to? This is another story of Facebook envy. Mr. Tripodi, I think you went a little bit off-piste with this journey. Peace.   

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