April 2013

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I dig Scott Monty, yet I don’t really know him. Well I know him in a half-duplex sort of way.  I’ve seen him on YouTube.  He came out of the ad business, he’d contributed to Ford’s turnaround – a brand I’ve railed about and at different points lauded, and he has really done stuff — not just talked about stuff.  He got Ford CEO Alan Mulally not only to recognize the power of social, but to fund and personally participate in it.  

Mr. Monty’s first blog post, near as I can tell, was in Sept of 2006. He’s very prolific – running his fingers, if you will.  Mr. Monty posts a lot and shares a lot. His blog also contains what might be a new feature — I’m not sure – called “This Week in Social Media,” which is something a number of media socialist do.  Readers of WhatsTheIdea? know I refer to this as “Pasting.” Pasting other peoples’ links.  Pasters who do so while providing analysis are moving the ball ahead. Much love. Pasters who simply aggregate OPC (other peoples’ content) are moving laterally.  Most Pasters enjoy routing topics with numbers in them, e.g., “7 critical rules”, or “5 habits of…”

Mr. Monty is no Paster, he’s a Poster. He loves original content and has built businesses and his personal brand providing original ideas and content.  We loves us some Posters.  Stay original Mr. Monty. Peace

 

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I love Twitter and have long said it is a very important media. Global, real-time news with attachments. In a presentation first given to the Long Island Social Media Club, I shared a slide entitled “rock the hashtag.” (Sorry, it was a while ago.)  I encouraged people to be inventive with the hashtag and suggested that in the future marketers would find unique and exciting ways to be promotional with it.   

publicis logo

Publicis, an advertising and holding company has just announced a R&D labs with Twitter to help consumers use Twitter thusly.  Right now, they’re focused on marrying Twitter with TV programming which is just a sign of the times; the times being there is a lot of poor television around…and more channels on which to watch them. (Psst, TV Program Creators — the idea is to not bore your audience into using second screens.) Anyway, the labs will no doubt come up with some interesting ideas and twists, which will give birth to new ideas, twists and forms of technology.  Publicis may have just hit a home run here.

Twitter is about much more than just the hashtag – but the hash is a transformative tool. Hopefully, mid-level marketing managers won’t be at the controls and brand managers will keep an eye on what is going on. Poorly executed programs will have the potential to do more harm than good…rocking that hashtag.  Peace. #merleFest

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Rackspace has a great name.  It is endemic to the cloud-based hosting category, it’s easy to repeat and understand for the lay person.  It’s descriptive and mellifluous.  Rackspace hired Robert Scoble to help put them on the map and make the brand more relevant a few years ago and it has paid great dividends. Now the company is one of the top players, along with Amazon, Microsoft and Google.  But this rentable web platform space is about a couple of things: trust, cost and functionality. Trust that the platform and systems stay up. Cost because you are buying bandwidth and processing power by the pound. And functionality because technology is always about functionality.

The current Rackspace name does not do the brand justice. It smacks of raw, bare bones, generic computing power. His is where I might suggest – and you can bet the corporate officers are thinking the same way – that the company be renamed. Renamed to deliver more of a technically forward punch. But names are money. And I think the Rackspace name can be evolved.  If the brand plan begins to define space and as outer space, with endless possibilities they will be on to something.  The final frontier, indeed. As companies grow, so can their brands.

Love the name, but in 2013 and beyond, it needs a bit of a facial.  Peace.

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You knew I would.  Weigh in on the new Dove campaign that is.  I love the idea of this campaign, which is to redefine what is beauty. The latest tactic in this evolving effort revolves around asking women to describe their faces to an artist, sight-unseen.  A friend is similarly asked to describe the same person to the artist and a comparison of the drawings is made. The research shows women being much harder on themselves and their features than are their friends.

The first iteration of the campaign, begun in 2005, showed a number of smiling and confident women in white underoos. The women stretched 6 or 8 across showed a variety of body types, few of which you would find on the cover of Women’s Health or Cosmo.  The women’s skin, however, was amazing. (An endemic brand quality.)  This new campaign is an evolution of the so-called “real beauty” campaign and it’s important, but I’m not sure it is killing as a soap selling idea. It’s likeable. Heady. Emotional. And a great message.  Without the linkage to creating cleaner skin, though, used long term it may prove to be an opportunity lost.  

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dove is selling well and this campaign kick starts some retail movement.  People may fall in love with the message and appreciate the brand by proxy. But should those same women find a soap that has qualities more agreeable to their skin and cleaning ability, this social statement about beauty will remain appreciated and important — but not necessarily a motivator for purchase.  I suggest sticking with the “real beauty” idea Ogilvy, but find an endemic product quality to illuminate. Peace.   

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I’m going off piste, not writing about branding today, because my son graduates one month from today and I’d like to give him a father’s report card.

I’m sure you have friends who go on about the successes of their children: honor society, leading scorer, singing at the county recitals, internship at a big accounting firm in the city, etc.  Then there are “listener” and “nodder” parents. Those who listen and nod because their children aren’t on the dean’s list, they text with misspellings, need to be prodded to do chores, tend to be more rebellious.  The listener and nodders are the ones at parties who say things like “our job as parents is to get the ready for the real world, give them a good sense of what is right and wrong.”

With my son being one month away from graduating, here is his fatherly report card. And, as a listener/nodder I say this with great and deep pride.

It took him a good while to take advantage of his college education. Let’s call it holistic education rather than an intense, 4 year academic one. With one month to go, he can reason. He can organize thoughts into supported positions. His world view could be greater (had be studied and read more) but he can array his supports around fact, not just opinion. He’s always known how to be convincing and logical but is now moving closer to capturing that skill on paper. He understands bias and though not always easy, he recognizes how it contributes to unfairness.

This is a young man that will not endanger others. Or let others endanger others. He understands what is lawful and what is not.  He is beginning to “get” consequences, even though his father has tried to shield him from them for years.

Always independent, he is learning to understand the importance of community and consensus.  He is beginning to really see what love is about. And how powerful and compelling an emotion it can be.   And I believe he is seeing that humor has its place but also its translations.  

Has he read Keirkegaardt?  Maybe not. Will he land on his feet? Always has. Will he get along with all kinds of people as a post grad? I’m betting so.  

With one month out, in the last mile of his college education, I believe my boy is ready.  He may own a pair of sticky soled party sneakers, but he knows when to put them away and when to wear adult hiking boots. The boots he will use on the trail toward his exciting, fruitful future.

Love you Biggie. Peace! 

PS. Thanks to all the Plattsburgh professors who joined in this journey.

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In marketing there are 3 schools of thought.

There are those who believe the easier you make products to use – the more intuitive they are – the more pervasive they will be.  Out-of-box experience, plug-and-play are terms used by this school. My strategy for Zude operated here: “The fastest, easiest way to build and manage a website.”

Then there is the school that knows people will need to be trained in order to get proper functionality out of products. Long instruction guides, tutorials, and actual training personal are part of this equation. When the level of complication is too great, training comes into play. Know how to tune a carburetor? Have you figured out Excel on your own? Do your teachers know how to manipulate the interactive white board?  Training is a growing category in the commerce world.

Lastly, there is the group that thrives on complexity and for which outsourcing is the model. Medicine is one. Taxes another. Law and reading a financial prospectus also come to mind. When it comes to things like taxes, complication is a cottage industry. Complication is a self-fulfilling industry.

Microsoft plays across all three of these areas.  It creates products a lay person can use.  It also builds into those products with levels of complexity that require mad training. But the over-engineered portion of those products, the 85 features no one uses in Microsoft Word, feed the needs of techies who love training and being trained.  Lastly, Microsoft has an ecosystem that is so complicated it requires outsourcing (Can you say IT department? Can you say systems integrators? Can you say cloud?)   I wonder if this across-the-board approach, which clearly has been lucrative, is what makes Microsoft such a huge, yet often vilified brand.

Anyway, the approach your company takes is a very important, upfront decision and impacts the brand experience. Pick one. Peace!

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Stuart Elliott did a great and interesting article in The New York Times today on Nike. He points out the difficulty they’re having staying more relevant in the footwear category. The oft-quoted Allan Adamson of Landor, a NY brand consultancy, suggested “The bigger the brand, the harder it is to stay trendy and current. It’s hard to be cutting edge when you are established.”  And Davide Grasso, VP for global brand management at Nike added “As we continue to grow in size, it’s important we stay connected. If you take away the toys and the noise, it’s all about having a relationship.”

What both of the gentlemen are not talking about is the brand itself.  Mr. Adamson wants Nike to stay trendy. A tight brand plan would have the company create what is trendy. And Mr. Grasso talks about the consumer relationship. Every pizza parlor, dentist and global marketer cares about the relationship.  This is a tactic.

Red Bull’s sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner parachuting from space is lauded for its 33.5 million YouTube views.  Not many talk about the brand strategy of exhilaration – the demonstration of exhilaration – that will live long after click counts.

Nike is a not a string of marketing tactics and ads delivered by Wieden +Kennedy; it’s a brand continuing to carve out a place in consumers’ minds. And closets.  Every brand needs a brand plan (one claim, three support planks). Without a plan we deliver and are interviewed about tactics. Yawn. Peace.  

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Brands are more than names.  But don’t tell that to Bethpage Federal Credit Union.  Federal credit unions have an advantage over banks.  They are not-for- profit. As not-for-profits, people who bank there are members  — the rewards of membership being better service and better rates.  Were more people to know this, they would sign up in droves, but not-for-profits don’t do a great deal of advertising – to keep costs down for members.

Bethpage has done some good things over the years but creating a brand strategy is not one of them. I look at the body of work and the only things that stick out are spokespeople Beth and Page. They smile a lot, are helpful and sort of goofy, but play absolutely no part in the brand strategy other than their names.  Is the TV work showing Beth and Page a campaign? You tell me.

Here’s the point.  Just as I suggest to people with social media programs they need a motivation for their social persona, spokespeople need a strategic reason for being. They need to be motivated toward a brand goal. Beth and Page are very nice people I’m sure – but right now if consumers were asked to talk about them all they would say are their names. This is the oldest mistake in the book. And frankly it’s childish. It’s like advertising done by an app. Sorry for my snark, but come on…Peace.

 

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Ads are money. At least they cost money. But many people don’t always think of them that way CFOs do. CEOs do…sorta. Ad agents and marketing managers think of budgets as the invisible air they breathe, not as the life sustain force. Not as money. What am I getting at? We have to start treating advertising and marketing related expenses as the money it is. Make that money accountable. What is working? And by what measurable quantification?

When a family goes broke, the debt that keeps getting added to the credit card and credit line, stops. Mommy or daddy cuts up the credit cards. When Social Security and Medicare trend toward an unsustainable level, we need to make changes. We are often operating at a marketing deficit.

We can’t take the art out of advertising and marketing. But let’s remember, branding is not design. And a Super Bowl ad than makes us giggle but sells a competitor’s product is a blight. We can start to treat advertising like the business tool it is. (The web too, for that matter.) These are tactics that need to move consumer closer to a sale – if not directly to a sale. On the show Top of the Lake on The Sundance Channel one of the characters beats himself with a belt before his mother’s grave to rid himself of guilt. Maybe we marketers should smack ourselves around a touch to remind us of our real business purpose. Peace.

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Think of all the places you go and have to wait.  The places to which you bring a book.  Or if you aren’t prepared, places where you have to entertain yourself with your mobile or thumbing through magazine. Perhaps people watching. These are fertile marketing opportunities.

What does every airline have in common? Waiting areas near the gate.  Doctor’s offices? Motor vehicle? They all have chairs and TVs. Waiting and TVs are happy bedfellows. Good marketers should look to trump the TV and the romance novel as pass times in places where consumers are bored and waiting. And they should do so with relevant, brand endemic experiences. If you are waiting to get your car fixed at Toyota, forced to watch Good Moring America, what might Toyota do to better entertain you?  Perhaps provide a car service seminar or a change-your-own-oil video? How about at the doctor’s office, a free consultation on nutrition or a free yoga demonstration by a local gym.

We are a Fast Twitch society and it is getting worse. Running a Zen clinic in the US wouldn’t be a growth industry. Everybody always needs to be doing something.  Experiential marketing ideas, with on-brand product demonstrations, is a wonderful technique. If we look at consumer downtime as it relates to our products and think about ways to move them closer to a sale, (see also see Twitch Point Planning), we are competing on a level most marketers are not. What would Charlie Sheehan say? 

Peace.

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