January 2013

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Time Inc. is reducing its global workforce by 6%, effectively shrinking its news organization at a time when news is more extensive than ever.  There is more to report, more media to share, more interest and access. If you were to look at all news organizations I bet they’d be contracting. Well maybe not the HuffPost, but the total number if people in the business.  Why?  I suspect it is because of citizen journalism. Citizens find the news, shoot it on camera phones and send it to the highest bidder in seconds. And they blog it.

A similar contraction has been happening in the network TV business. TV viewership for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox is down relative to the population. What are those people doing?  They are not reading magazines (another story).  They are on the internech (pronounced neck). But, what are they doing and watching on the internet? Videos.  

In my marketing and brand consultancy, I promote myself as someone who help “redistribute marketing wealth.”  New technology and new trends (see above) redistribute content, functions and services. The airlines were not in the plane business, they were in the transportation business. As the calendar pages flip by, marketers need to not forget to ask themselves “What business am I in?” “What consumer purpose am I serving?” “What role do I play?”

That’s how to get beyond the dashboard.  That’s where the future at. Peace.

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If I met you for the first time and asked  “Describe yourself to me” what might your answer be?  If I were to ask a consumer a similar question about Langone Medical Center, what might they say?  “They are the NYU hospital.”  Or that’s the hospital with the purple ads.”  How about this question “Describe for me PNC Bank” or “Describe Volkswagen to me.”

Top recall explanations are telling. They are not deal breakers as it relates to purchase behavior – we buy things and brands we don’t know all the time – but those explanations share what is most important to the consumer at that time.   Two things drive first response associations for consumers: product experience and marketing communications.  Readers know that an organized brand plan has powerful impact on the latter.  If all internal and external dollars are used to support a tight strategy, consumers are able to play back that strategy.  “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.”  What reader may not know is that a tight brand strategy also impacts the product, offering ways forward for new features, line extensions, aftercare, etc.

The opposite of a tight, embedded brand strategy is every man for himself. And when that happens you become the company with the purple ads or the company that has banking on the mobile phone. Don’t allow that to happen. Peace!

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Yesterday was Community Manager Appreciation Day.   Here’s a story about Community Manager one dot oh.  In her early 20s, right out of college, she took a job working at a bowling ball manufacturer as an admin all the while looking for a job befitting her marketing degree and minor in English Lit.  She was hired as an intern at a regional 1,000 employee services company with a respect brand name and made social media community manager. All good companies had one.  She was asked to write the job description for HR because, lucky her, she was a pioneer and the company’s first community manager.

On day one Ms. Community Manager was introduced to the marketing staff (she, red-faced) and told to report to the director of marketing (who didn’t have a Facebook account and was awfully busy).  Given a pod, a computer and introduced to the IT person – off she went.  She went to BrandHackers and a few other meetups in NYC and Brooklyn, met a guyfriend, and picked up some tools and jargon along the way. After 5 months she had talked the company into subscribing to HubSpot (who taught her a thing or two), but she felt as if she were on an island. “Where’s the community manager job description?” HR asked.  “One more week please.”

After 6 months, the company had a new look for its Facebook page, two Twitter handles (one for product, one for customer service), a Pinterest account and Instagram photos. They had a dashboard telling them that March was a good month for web hits. The company also bought a video camera for Ms. Manager and finally got its job description. 

On the anniversary of her 8th month, Ms. Manager got a job at a digital ad agency in Brooklyn by telling them she had built a dept. and generated high “time in site” and “registration rates.” This she did, all this without a whiff of a brand strategy. And off she goes.  Like a virus. Peace.

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Copy, a lost art.

I often hear “But don’t take our word for it….” in radio ads which precedes some citation of customers or awards won to make a point. “But don’t take our word for it” may sound like good fluid copy but it ridiculous.  It depositions the credibility of the advertiser and of all advertising.   The reason some use this line is because copy more often than not is pretentious, braggadocious and dishwater dull.

It’s not easy to write copy.  It’s easy to write.  It’s easy to type. It’s hard to create words that create desire and predisposition.  That’s what copy is. It’s not information, it is selling.

I was asked to address a bunch of kids on Bring Your Child to Word Day, explaining what marketing was.  “Have you ever had a lemonade stand?”, I asked.  It got most of them nodding.  “You know your parents want that stand in front of the house so they can see you right?”  More nodding.  “But do a lot of cars go by your home?  Did you make the lemonade from real lemons or a package? What did you charge for a cup? That’s marketing.” Ooohhh.

Connect with your audience, get in their heads, then start writing copy.   It is a lost art. Peace!

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Healthy Marketing.

He wifus stepped on the bunny’s neck 2 weeks ago (don’t ask) and it caused the big critter  a swollen throat and a good deal of eating discomfort.  Off to the exotic pet hospital she went and with some digestive meds and a bit of gruel all is right with the world. Last evening the bunny doctor’s assistance called to ask how “Alphie” is doing.  The assistant knew about the throat, jaw and prognosis and asked smart questions. She would make a report to the doctor, who would call based upon what I told her, if there was a need.  Poos were part of the conversation.

Most regular doctors today only call remind you of your appointment.  I’m sure HIPPA keeps non-docs from knowing about some of our maladies, but it seems to me a well informed follow-up call from someone at the office, would not only set a patient at ease but clear up some poor patient behaviors. It’s good medicine and good marketing. It is good after care.

Over the next 5-10 years there will be some very exciting changes to healthcare.  We will be remove waste from the system, improve patient records and systematize treatment modalities. Only about 3% of healthcare money spent in the U.S. is preventative, the rest is treatment. Unlike any other civilized country.  That needs to change. A well-placed call from the doctors office following a visit is a start.  After care builds loyalty and behavior change. And not just in healthcare. Peace.

 

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Is the channel dead? Which channel you say? The TV channel. The retail channel. The state channel through the Great South Bay due to Hurricane Sandy? (No, not that one. Ish.)  With Netflix amazing turn around and the growth of all access streaming TV services, one has to wonder if the TV channel will still be around in 10 years.  I don’t travel alot but when I do and try to find Justified while in another city, I have to channel surf the TV live like pig on a ruffle.  By the time I get there, if it’s even the right day, it might be partly over. All of which might be exacerbated by the fact that a commercial might be on when I do hit the channel — whichever it is TBS, USA, what evs.  In the age of Google, this is silly.

As for the retail channel. Amazon and Zappos and Marmot (I yike them) dot com are places to get the products I want, at prices I want, while sitting in my chair. So long as I’m programmed to shop in advance, it saves gas, time, stocking and availability issues and provides good consumer ratings systems. The brick and mortar retail channel has lost some luster. And bucks.

And communications channels are starting to blend together too. Videos are available from newspapers and radio shows available on blogs. Media will shake out and be more about content than the circuits and pipes delivering them.

How do we deal with this? How do we get ahead of this?  We create brands. Brand that transcend channels.  To a hammer everything looks like a nail, you say? Hee hee.

A frigid peace to you.

 

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I was in church yesterday (Was there a blue moon?) and a hymn came up I’d never heard.  Having at one point had a reasonable singing voice and wanting to be a part of the congregation, I began singing. There’s a whole science to singing hymns you don’t know.  The process made me think of my job as brand planner.

The first rule is use the hymnal, the music is in there and give you some cues about the song.  If your church uses PPT to project words stay with the book. Second, let others sing first. Being a quarter second behind lets you follow the pacing. Third, listen to the notes. Listening first teaches you if they notes are high or low.  Next, hear the rhythm of the song and learn where the word accents are — the double-ups, the pauses.  Those give you a sense of the pattern of the hymn, and prepare you for the second, third and fourth stanzas.

Sing softly all the while. What you hear in your head, for some odd reason, comes out louder than you think. Attempt to harmonize. The goal is not only to sound like everyone else, but to make the collective sound better. Learn the song and make it better. Don’t end up trying to be a soloist.  

In summation, actively listen, quietly participate, learn the rhythms, tones and patterns. Keep singing. As you get more familiar turn up the volume. Be harmonious. Then, go get a jelly donut.  Peace!  

 

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Brand for life.

When creating a brand plan it is important to see the long term picture.  Often, that can begin with speaking to teens.  Teens see everything so it’s important to make a good impression.  I once recommended to a health care system, whose young prospects would grow to be middle age prospects, a program to help get answers to difficult questions: sex, acne, puberty and other health things that would put the brand in good stead as those kids grew up. It would buy the system grace and fealty, the argument went.  “Advice about sex is not a good idea” I was told.  The system comment was good from a legal standpoint, not so good from a brand standpoint.  The idea, hand-wringer though it may have been, did support one of the system’s brand planks and provide meaningful information. 

Tactics are for building revenue.  Think of them as rent collectors.  Branding on the other hand is long term, similar to the efforts of the architect.  They must work together for maximum result.  Campaigns come and go…a powerful brand strategy is indelible.  Peace.

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Raise your hand if you think computers are going away? Raise your hand if you think the design form of computers will continue to change? Now quick, name 4 computer brands.

If HP wasn’t among those listed, I’d be surprised.

Where the R&D at?

If I were to count every word of every story about Hewlett Packard over the last 5 years, I’m betting the words research and development doesn’t appear in 1% of the search. Why is that? I’m sure they’re doing some R&D, but they can’t be investing in it in a big way. In the PC and computer businesses, I’ve yet to read about any of their design or form breakthroughs. So what are they doing. They’re playing business Monopoly. Moving pieces around, marketing old stuff, managing loss and going to dinners.

There is a huge, huge pot of money in computing. The design form is changing and is certainly not yet done. And HP is busy lounging around with the world’s second leading computer brand.

Next year at CES, HP should quietly in stealth mode launch something big. With all the other big guys not playing in the CES sandbox it would be a highlight moment. But only if they were to launch something out of their R&D garage that mattered. (Como se Make it Matter.) Come on Ms. Whitman. Peace.

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An idea for Dell.

Dell Computer, once a darling of the stock trading world, has for a long time now gotten all the small stories in the business pages. Readers of the paper paper will note Dell is rarely on the first page of the business section and articles tend to be 2 columns by 5 inches.  Now Dell is trying to take itself private in the hope that they can start to make some tight money.

Here’s a big idea.  Create a buy-back program. Most every Dell I see these days is a big old clunker. Square, grey, hardish corners and tired. I’m specifically talking laptops now. People using these Dell laptops are pretty much branded “my company is not killing it” or “my company is not edgy.”  Every time a consumer sees one of these laptops, it besmirches the Dell brand. It creates a withdrawal from the brand bank. By buying back these geezers and paying, say $25 per (or making a donation to a charity of same amount), Michael Dell will be updating the company image.

Do the recall under the guise of recycling, or gifting 3rd world countries but to revive the Dell brand these puppies need to be off the street. Next. 

Peace!

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