March 2013

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Period.  Sound odd from a man who makes a living selling OP (other people’s) stuff? 

Sadly, once something new gets good and helpful and cool, entrepreneurs try to monetize it.  Case in point: When a kid in the ad business in the 70s or 80s I wondered why there weren’t large ads on the risers of the steps leading out of Penn Station. Today there are. Who thinks like that?  We want to cover everything in ads.  In social media there has been a massive redistribution of wealth in marketing because of this push to monetize. It’s inuring us to the tool that is social.  

Advertising is impacting social media the way pesticides are killing off the honey bee population.

For marketers, social media has but one function. One.  To predispose consumers toward your brand. How does it do that?  By driving them closer to a sale.  How does it do that? In many cases, by driving them to content on your web site. Not Mr. Zuckerberg’s web site.

Good psychotherapist knows that observations, insights and decisions patients make on their own are the ones that turn lives around.  Not the lessons taught. Allow a consumer to come to the conclusion that your product is better — of their own volition — and you have a custie for life.

So, social media is to engage, assist, and even subconsciously gain favor among your audience. This is done without selling. And, if done with a tight brand strategy you’ll out-perform all comers.

Joseph Jaffe writes about “Flipping the funnel.” I say use the funnel – and don’t put ads on it.  Peace!

 

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This morning I was reading how Fair Oaks Dairy in Indiana is using cow manure to fuel not only its milking operations but also its fleet of truck by turning waste into natural gas.  Talk about sustainability! In my mind the natural cycle of life is one in which we don’t just consume but replenish.  Recycling is a brilliant idea. Unless we’re talking about advertising and marketing.

dairy cow

I did a little mock interview with a tyro marketer last night and much of what I got out of our discussion was plumbing: the process, the tools, the operations. “I am responsible for this, I am responsible for that…”  It is expected at the entry level, but it also plagues many ad and marketing operations today because it trickles up to senior management.  The tactics lead the march. Companies feel the need outperform the market in “search,” “awareness,” “click-through,” “loyalty,” etc.   But we are counting bodies, but not winning the war.

In essence, these companies are recycling marketing tactics. The ads I read in the 90s are back. The TV spots from last year are the same this year, just with different actors. In this business the familiar is not the best way to predispose someone toward a sale. With a tight brand plan the goal is always first. Not the recycled tactic.  “We need to Facebook more.  Let’s get a team together and brainstorm.”  Peace.

 

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engineers hat

Date-driven is the other new thing.  Find a business category and put the words “data-driven” in front and you have an new and fertile business. Data-driven Social Marketing Solutions for the Dachis Group.  Data-driven instruction for Teq, Inc. and educational development company. Data-driven decision making. Data-drive fill in the blank.

When has any field of endeavor not been data driven?   Data has successfully driven businesses for time immemorial. Como se Sears catalog?

Today, however the web has enabled us to be awash in data. And it is a good thing. Enter the Haggis.  I mean, enter the dashboard. The dashboard has a way of keeping us sane. Then there is the dashboard engineer: the person responsible for looking at all the dials and doing something smart with it. The dashboard engineer will be the new social media manager. A data nerd who reports data, reports patterns and trends, but may not see the bigger marketing picture.

Mark my words, on the job boards of the future we will see data engineer and dashboard engineer titles aplenty. Then the fill in the blank will come before the title.  Peace. 

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Big data in marketing now is not only a thing, it’s a big thing.  Smart companies are parlaying all the information we leave around the web, in stores and on our credit cards to learn about our proclivities. Our likes. Tastes. And timings. This “parlay” is then given to corporate data nerds, supervised by a marketing officer who oversees budgets, big deals and the national TV campaign — but who may not spend a lot of time looking into the eyes of customers and prospects. The result of this big data?  Newish forms of broadcast. Email newsletters to existing customers. A national promotion for a chance to spend a day with an ex- Disney girl. Online ad exchanges.

Brand planners are good at what they do because they look consumers in the eye. They deal in feelings; feelings that are best shared or observed one on one. The problem with marketing today is that technology has given us tools to do one on one things via broadcast. Dear “loyal customer” Vs. Dear “Steve.”  Sales calls are automated. Robo calling with personal names and account numbers.  Mail run off on a printing press. It’s not personal when it’s mass produced and modular.

Readers know I talk about the roots movement in our culture. Well roots will come back to marketing soon.  Even forward thinker Faris Yakob is reading The Benevolent Dictators, a book about the titans of the ad industry.

The best ideas in marketing come from personal, individual insights and discussions. Then we turn them into big data and broadcast them. Let’s slow down the broadcast. Peace.

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Hey marketers and marketing agents, take this test.  Answer these questions in the form of fill in the blank quiz:

My brand strategy statement is: __________________________________.  (This is not a ponderous mission statement cover all business possibilities, it’s a single statement with no conjunctions or commas. If you do not have this statement, but do have a tagline, use it.)

The three elements of my business formula than make me different and better are:

__________________

__________________

__________________

These elements, which I call brand planks, must support the strategy statement. So the statement needs to relate to the planks. Similar to colors in a room, the planks and strategy must be familiar and provide tight linkage.      

Please take this test and send me the results. The reality is, when you see what you’ve written (or not written) you will be well on your way to fixing your business and brand woes. If you can’t articulate this stuff, how will your customers be able to? Peace.

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lululemon pantsThe first time I heard of Lululemon I was on a weekend marketing retreat with a number of women at the invitation of Nfinity, a wonderful women’s athletic footwear company.  I was a last minute replacement for a woman who had to beg out.  Most of the ladies were aware of Lululemon and sang its praises. They loved the category (yoga), styles (great looking, great fitting) but what they spoke most about was quality. I’ve never done downward dog in my life, but to hear them talk I was ready to buy. 

Come Christmas, off I went to buy the wifus some Lululemon yoga pants. Trying to explain hip size using your own hips to a young, comely salesperson is uncomfortable. But successful I was and I opted for a yoga mat too, hedging my bet. Hee hee.

As I read about Lulu’s quality problems today, which include previous grievances about material pitting, seam unraveling and color bleeding, I see how far the company have come. Backwards. Even with sales and revenue up  thirty plus YOY, someone has taken their eye off the ball. (Not sure if their equity partners or public stock offering put undue pressure on the company, but quality has faltered, even as the brand had grown.)

Quality is a tough brand plank to build around.  It’s most important in categories where it’s not common. Otherwise, quality is the price of entry.  But in yoga, where stress and strain and exertion are part of the experience it’s not a bad play. Lululemon needs a quality facelift. And fast! Peace.

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noise cancelling headphonesWhen I was a stupid kid, I had a nice office on the 14th floor overlooking Park Avenue South in NYC.  Today, I know $200,000 a year executives who work in cubes on Lex and 47th. Ten feet from their admins.  I know kids tell you they can listen to music and do their math homework, but sometimes work just needs to be quiet. Quiet outbound and quiet inbound.  That’s why God, Allah, Krishna or whomever invented noise cancelling headphones. A new way of doing business. A new solution.

We must continue to adapt, as we have with the cube vs. real estate cost scenario, though one thing is for certain: noise will never leave us. It’s a constant.  Many marketing bloggers, digital execs and analytic software salespeople love to talk about noise.  Me too.  Brand planning is a noise canceller. It provides the harmony a consumer hears that is memorable.  Like a good hook in a song, the selling ideas in a brand plan are ordered, complete, fulfilling and replicable.

Hey marketers, hey c-levels, ask yourselves “What idea do you have that cuts through the noise?” Unless you have a good brand idea and brand plan, you are the noise.  Hee hee. Peace.

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Brand planners are architects and builders.

I once hired an architect to build a garage onto my house — with a room above. He was masterful. The front elevation looked amazing. But the builder looked at the drawings and said “It can’t be done.” Not based upon what was behind the elevation. All façade no structural depth.

Brand planners make the façade – something that looks beautiful, feels right and sells, but they also create a structure that creates the depth. The there that needs to be there. Brand design, as my friends at Starfish Brand Design like to say, is not only the strategy but the execution of the strategy.

It’s nice to determine you are “a customer service company,” but then you have to out-deliver the competition and leap and exceed consumer expectation. Claim and proof in branding is the grail. (Organized claim and proof. ) The architect is about the claim, the builder the proof. Together they build a brand. Apart they shake the money snow globe. Peace.

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Generic brands are killing the marketing business.  Advertisers and marketers are letting it, thanks to poor communications and poorer strategy.  I read today that 86% of all prescription drugs are generic. Como se wake up call???  If the drugs we use to help keep us healthy and alive are allowed to be generic, why aren’t we buying generic coffee, generic spaghetti sauce, generic tires?  Oh, that’s right, we are.

Price premiums are what keeps the non-generics and the cheap white label brands at bay. What differentiates the real brands?  Special formulations, special taste, great product experience and special marketing.

Back in the day, a dude by the name of Jacoby took a billion dollar payout from Ted Bates (ad agency) and advertisers took notice. (Wait for the episode on Mad Men.)  It eviscerated agency compensation and the only way to keep the business fairly strong was to hire less expensive people.  There are still rock stars in the business, but way fewer.  And the advertising business is being led around by high paid clients who get brand building but don’t get the powerful muscle memory that is comms. That’s left to agency people who are all mirror, no smoke. And it is genericizing the agency business.  

Just like premium brands, there are premium agencies.  Those are the ones being paid higher prices. Commanding higher prices. That last mile of margin is what marketers should be looking for; one’s with a  higher margin, not a lower margin. Peace!

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Our own event.

The advertising and marketing business needs an annual event; a place for creative people, artists, musicians, designers and strategy people to convene and experience the love and inspiration that is our business. The NYT today referred to the just competed Annual 4As Conference as populated by “a bunch of old white guys.” As an old white guy myself, I wouldn’t want to go to a place so described.

SXSW Interactive is a pretty cool place for advertisers and marketers but they should really be at the Music part of South By – that’s where the energy and inspiration is.  Cannes is a pretty cool festival, but it’s out of most people’s price range. Elitism anyone?

Once a year there should be a show for all marketers and all of their agents. Perhaps sponsored by headhunters and  talent companies. A place for all to let their hair down. Over an I’m-not-smarter-than-you, noncompetitive couple of days where we celebrate, share, think, evolve and have some fun. Where we recharge the batteries and make new friends.   

For a group of people who invented this even marketing stuff, we are pretty dismal at celebrating it ourselves. Peace!                                                                                                          

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