May 2013

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I think the network programming people have to innovate their way out of it. Often we look to shows that are working in the U.K. for inspiration. But alltoo often programmers go back to the comedy, drama, reality, soap and variety show bin. Lately sci-fi and fantasy have caught on.

Mad Men, a period piece with a vertical angle was a smart new idea – but we all know someone is going to do a remake of the Honeymooners sometime soon.  The variety show is back, but losing steam.  How do we pump new blood into network TV?

There are only so many J.J. Abrams and Chuck Lorres and Dick Wolfs.  We need some Mark Zuckerbergs.  The network TV show has too long been a middle-aged and geezer-driven from a creative standpoint.  The creative excitement I’m looking for – we’re all looking for – needs to come from tastemakers.  Where is the new music coming from? Where will we find new fashion? New art? Lena Dunham is what I’m talking about.  Let’s find a Lena in Austin or Reno. Let’s spread a little development money that way and see what percolates.  The up-fronts are happening and Tony Shaloub’s next comedy is not the answer.  Peace@.

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Brand planners like to write and talk about “context.”  For Robert Scoble, a mentor of mine, context online and in technology is a driver of the next big thing. Well I’m here to tell you context sometimes can be a deterrent.  Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers is a really small VC company. They made gazillions investing early on in technology – them daringly decided to focus on things that will help save and make more sustainable our planet and went into green tech/clean tech

Along came a number of big technology plays Kleiner missed out on and all of a sudden they become more famous for the money they didn’t make and a couple of big green technology investment busts. (We are in the infancy people, relax.) Also, one problem was context.  Sustainable energy isn’t just solar panels and electric cars, it’s about ways to build planet-sustaining renewable energy. It ain’t just code. Contextually, Kleiner Perkins needed sector people looking into geothermal and algae and stuff we’ve never thought bout – stuff we can’t say.  Yet they were hoping the sector would be more like tech – hence the words clean tech and green tech.  Me thinks they should have been looking closer to the green and clean side of the house. That’s where the big payouts will be.

When a small grade school in Copenhagen, NY can heat and cool itself using geothermal technology, that’s a green clue. Could we have done the same for the Freedom Tower?  Who’s asking?  Kleiner Perkins should be. Peace

 

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Coca-Cola, one of the world’s great marketers, is in a category under attack.  I love the brand but don’t love what it does to consumers who misuse the product. That is, drink it in excess while living a sedentary lifestyle.  Those who make sure the calories that go in are negated by the calories burned are those with healthy body sizes.

Coke ran a print ad today suggesting 4 ways to mitigate its high sugar, high calorie sodas. 1. Offer low calorie beverages. 2. Provide proper nutritional labeling, 3. Help people get moving and excercise, and 4. Don’t advertising to kids.

The traditional Coke bran plan  — Wieden+Kennedy and current brand management aside — has always been about refreshment. (Happiness is the new idea is happiness.)  Refreshment is best served in video and print when it’s hot out.  Active sports people used to be ownable, not so much anymore; thanks to Nike and Under Armour and hundreds of other marketers. Frolicking on beaches and at picnics, were good refreshment images. Bright sunny days.

Coke can use its advertising today in a more positive way if it focuses on refreshment — showing scenarios of active people exerting themselves. That should be a fundamental brand plank. Enough flowers pooping more flowers and musical whimsy choreographing beetles. Coke refreshes. It is best when refreshing people who are fit, who crave refreshment and exert themselves. Or who at least aspire to exert themselves.

Coke is growing outside the US because in developing countries people don’t overeat. They walk and do manual labor. Come on man!  Let’s get back to why people need Coke, not sell it based upon what shareholders need. Peace!

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Next to a home the largest purchase a person makes in their lifetime is their college education. College tuitions with room and board cost between $10,000 and $40,000.  Multiply that by 4 and add in loans, which may double or triple the amount over the life of the loan and you see where I’m coming from.  Colleges have never been questioned as a pursuit after high school. But there is a generation of students graduating with loans that may not have been obvious to them freshman year, who are looking askance at the higher dot edu price tag. Enter MOOCs. And other online alternatives – which in some cases are free.  In some cases they are taught by Princeton and MIT professors. 

This is what once might call a market discontinuity.  A market changer.

Is anyone in higher ed smelling this coffee?  Put your pipes and iPads down people. This online alternative to college is going to create a shizz storm.  University endowments will begin to diminish. Professor pay will stagnate. Dorms will be sold. Teacher’s aids will grow more powerful and though college and universities won’t go away, there will be a lot less of them. It is the future.  Half the kids in college are reading their smart phones in class anyway. And Googling the assignment in class.

Higher education leaders need to get ready for this one.  They are already behind. See the future. Be the future. Peace!

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govt healthcare

Got a black eye last night playing hoops.  It was awesome.  I haven’t played basketball for a while, thanks to some back stinging and a little Achilles action. Think I’ve added a few pounds and certainly softened up in the musculoskeletal dept.  But I’m back.

As a brand planner I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health, healthcare and the role of diet. At this point in time I believe that most Americans want to be healthier but they just don’t want to work at it. We are way too comfortable eating the wrong foods, in the wrong quantities and correcting those behaviors with pills, vitamins and unhealthy diets. (I wonder what would happen – and I’m not advocating it – if all Americans stopped taking their pills for a week.)

Fast food is convenient.  Conveniently filled with fat, sugar and salt. Carrots and raw green beans are convenient. However they don’t taste as good as French fires. Or do they? Learned behavior.

The most important person in our government is Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services. I also believe we can baby-step our way out of the health crisis (where 19% of the GDP goes to healthcare) if we educate children as to proper nutrition and eating habits.  Might we replace a K12 course, say chemistry, with a full year of nutrition?  

We can’t medicate our way out of poor health and we can’t treat our way out of poor health – we can educate ourselves toward proper wellness.  There will be tons of lobbyists against this approach but that’s okay.  This is America.  Peace!  

 

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I enjoy coming up with ideas that, as an old mentor once suggested, create market discontinuities.  That’s 60s or 70s speak.  Today let’s just call it ideas the redistribute marketing wealth.  It was reported today that $69 billion was spent in the US last year on mobile phones. The lack of a security app to keep them from being stolen keeps this number high. An app that does so, will cut the market size number significantly. I mean, GDP of Rumania significantly. 

When consumers save money the market gets smaller – marketers don’t like that too much. Consumers do. And marketers who find ways to save the consumer money build loyalty. And I’m not just suggesting price savings and coupons…heavens no.

I’ve had  lot off ideas before their time and here’s a fun one. A Kindle Exchange.  I have a 100 books on my Kindle and they just sit there. My neighbor has a 100 books on her Kindle and they just sit there.  Using Sneaker Net, if I were to (ta dah) walk next store and exchange Kindles with her, I would have likely 50 new books for the price of some sneaker tread. If I were to search people of likemind and borrow their Kindles?  I might find some new writers and friends.

Why doesn’t Kindle come up with this idea?  You know why.  Why doesn’t the book publishers association? You know why.  Amazon, should introduce something like this and even if it  actually sells a few less Kindles it will bring more custies to Amazon love. Peace! 

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Yahoo has once again gone public with its strategy; this time Marissa Mayer announced it at a presentation to advertising buyers in NYC.  (I once accused Yahoo of having a lazy eye and must admit my view hasn’t changed too much, but I still believe Ms. Mayer is the right person for the job.  In a previous blog post I noted she may be on to something with a the germ of a brand idea, but yesterday may have dissuaded me.)

Yahoo needs to step up its original content game. And yesterday she acknowledged “premium content” as one leg of the stool.  The other two legs being: innovation and performance. I’ve heard innovation before – What technology company doesn’t use that one? –but performance is new. But you can also drive a truck through it.  At least she didn’t hang a brand plank on advertising. Last time out she talked about mobile, but I guess that falls under innovation. 

Every house has a foundation.  Every company needs a business strategy and a brand strategy. What I’ve found out in my years as a planner and consultant is that creating the brand strategy first is the best way to build a business strategy — because it’s built on customers and endemic business value.  There I’ve said it. Come get me Harvard Business Schoolies.

Yahoo is making money. Diddling around with mobile.  Promoting Ms. Mayers in lovely ways. But it still does not have a brand strategy. Ask Gareth Kay. Search this site for all posts on Yahoo if you would like to see the history of missteps.  Yahoo is pulling its nose up (aviation metaphor)…it just needs more time and a tight brand plan. Peace.

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