April 2014

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Bravery is big these days. A lot of agencies and marketers have tied their brand promises to the word, including David and Goliath and Mondelez – a couple of forerunners. And why not? Who doesn’t want to be brave? It’s as American as apple pie. I, too, rely on the word in my practice. A boast I proudly share with clients (after signing them) is that there will likely be one word in the brand strategy they may find objectionable. They’ll love the sentiment. Feel the strategy. Know in their bones I get them. They’ll proudly nod at the defensible claim. Yet often, they will sheepishly ask “Do we have to use that one word?”

A $5B health care system asked “Do we have to use the word systematized?”

The world’s largest tech portal asked “Do we have to call consumers browsers?”

The country’s 10th largest daily newspaper asked “Do we have to say ‘We know where you live?’”

The list goes on.

The point is, brand strategy needs to be brave.  If it’s not, is it really strategic? If your brand strategy is not bold, it will be a long, expensive build toward effectiveness. And may weaken your brand planks. (Three planks support your claim.) This brave approach takes brand strategy out of insight land and into claim land. Out of observation mode, into prideful attack mode.

Oh, and the answer to my clients one-word objection? “No, you don’t have to use the word. The creative people will create the words. But you must use the strategy.” And everybody, myself included, bobble-heads in relief. Peace.

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Apple sales growth has slowed while Facebook has risen. He has risen!. And according to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has only just scratched the surface. Facebook has finally found out how to make money and I’m sad to report it is nail one in the coffin. Maybe. When the money starts to pour in, and that money is from advertising please take note, it becomes intoxicating. Even a hoody wearing start-up savant can lose his way. According to today’s NYT earning report, most all of the innovation coming out of Facebook today is tied to advertising. New mobile ad formats, new in-stream video ads, image ads in Instagram and some new targeting platform gobbledygook. The good news is Mr. Zuckerberg is not going ad crazy on Instagram, What’s App and Oculus at this time – deciding to understand and allow those ideas to grow first.

But this advertising revenue intoxicant is turning Facebook’s head and focusing too much intellectual capital on the wrong type of innovation. This leaves product and application innovation to the start-ups, who Facebook will buy for scads of money — thereby turning up the heat on the advertising engine. Nail 2.

Apple is not an advertising company. It’s a product company. It will have ebbs and flows which are natural. Good leadership will ease that pain. So long as they stay out of the ad business. Peace.

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I read today about a hepatitis C drug that costs $1,000 per pill. It’s called Sovaldi. Don’t get me started on the paucity of pharma names – it seems they are all used up. Marketing consists of 4Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion — so I have a question for the marketing director of Sovaldi. Is this a niche product for the very rich? The rich who, by the way, don’t index high for Hep C?

There are three parties involved in this little health care rubric: the drug company, the patient and the insurance company. The drug company (Gilead) is giddy with its 1st quarter earnings. Record earnings. The patients are happy, I suppose, with a drug that presumably is better than what currently exists. And the insurance companies? They must be clearly wondering how this drug got through the FDA.

The pharma marketing director who set the price of Sovaldi must have used a formula to cover R&D, physician detailing, marketing etc., but s/he knew that insurance companies would foot the bill. Very few people can pay $1,000 for a pill.

So who is to blame for approving this non-viable, specialty product? Not to seem cold but someone along the chain must have known this drug price would be a little out of hand. They must also have known insurance companies would pay for it. In what marketing scenario does one price a product so high that nobody but a very few can afford it?  Entire families are going without healthcare in the ACA Age because of the price of one of these pills. Something is broken. And someone from the insurance industry needs to step up and fix it. Peace.

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Twitch Point Planning is a communications planning process whereby a company understands, maps and manipulates consumers closer to a sale. How does one do that? On a device, with creative prompts, and smart motivating landing content.

A prospective client has a multi-million dollar business selling maintenance parts and equipment; everything from paper towels and generators to lock washers. Like Thomas’s Register, sales gained traction when they moved to a catalog business; providing easy access to skillions of parts, SKU numbers, pictures, sizes and discounts.

Along came the Web. Now the company has moved the catalog online, automating a good deal of the process. Online there are two default customer care tools: search and pop-up chat apps. A great many of visitors to a site, however, already know what they are after. They have a shopping list. But what of the remaining visitors who have a need but aren’t sure what they want? Customers for whom typing a lengthy description in a chat box is not optimal? They are more apt to go to a box store or a distributor for a talk with a SME (subject matter expert). Visitors who fall into this category are likely to twitch away. Buh-bye.

Here we need an app to keep them on the site. Not an app that asks why they are leaving, what we did wrong or, God forbid, provides a customer sat survey. Something that moves them closer to a sale. In their new book Multiscreen Marketing: 7 Things You Need to Know to Reach Your Consumers, Natasha Hritzuk and Kelly Jones, suggest start with the consumer not the technology. I’m certain with five well bracketed questions and a decision tree, a customer can be brought to the brink of a buying solution, even when they are not sure of a part name. And that is how we rewire the web for commerce. Understand, map and manipulate on your own site. Thoughts?

 

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Twitch Point Planning is a communications planning process whereby a company understands, maps and manipulates consumers closer to a sale. How does one do that?  On a devices, with creative prompts, and smart motivating landing content.

A prospective client has a multi-million dollar business selling maintenance parts and equipment; everything from paper towels and generators to lock washers. Like Thomas’s Register, sales gained traction when they moved to a catalog business; providing easy access to skillions of parts, SKU numbers, pictures, sizes and discounts.

Along came the Web. Now the company has moved the catalog online, automating a good deal of the process. Online there are two default customer care tools: search and pop-up chat apps. A great many of visitors to a site, however, already know what they are after. They have a shopping list. But what of the remaining visitors who have a need but aren’t sure what they want?  Customers for whom typing a lengthy description in a chat box is not optimal?  They are more apt to go to a box store or a distributor for a talk with a SME (subject matter expert). Visitors who fall into this category are likely to twitch away. Buh-bye.

Here we need an app to keep them on the site. Not an app that asks why they are leaving, what we did wrong or, God forbid, provides a customer sat survey. Something that moves them closer to a sale. In their new book Multiscreen Marketing: 7 Things You Need to Know to Reach Your Consumers, Natasha Hritzuk and Kelly Jones, suggest start with the consumer not the technology.  I’m certain with five well bracketed questions and a decision tree, a customer can be brought to the brink of a buying solution, even when they are not sure of a part name. And that is how we rewire the web for commerce. Understand, map and manipulate on your own site. Thoughts?

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I was in the hospital this weekend visiting my mom who had broken her thumb. In the next bed was a Salvadoran woman with diabetes and asthma. She spoke a little English but when the dietician came in to explain healthy eating, an interpreter was needed.  From the bits and pieces I could put together, the woman was a single, 40ish house cleaner, somewhat overweight but not obese. (I know, I’m nosey.) Not sure of her education level, but clearly she needed some help with diet. Diabetes and steroids (for asthma) don’t go well together.

As I was thinking about this patient it dawned on me how my El Sears idea, for a Spanish language national chain store, would fit into this woman’s life.  I’ve posted this idea a number of times before.  In one part of El Sears might be a healthcare department where non-English speaking people and children can get healthcare information, e.g., diet, etc.  I don’t see them dispensing healthcare, though with the proliferation of the doc-in-the-box concept, they certainly could.  El Sears might offer banking services, insurance products, tax filing and other important specialty items – all with a Latin and Spanish bent. The possibilities are endless, if you think about it.

The demographics are such that this underserved/bodega-served part of the U.S. will be quite massive (30% by 2050, according to Pew Research). It is not if, it is when this will happen. Sears has the ability to do this better than most – better than a start-up.  They should start converting stores now. And ride that demographic wave.

Peace.

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Claim and proof is a common discussion here at What’s the Idea?  Too much marketing is about claim and not enough about proof.  Get the claim right and prove it in an organized brand-centric manner and you will be a successful brand manager.

If you are a student of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you know that the claim is “better healthcare for Americans.”  With first year enrollment complete the proof counting has begun. Pro ACA people are looking for positive proof, anti-ACA peeps are looking for proof that care is worse. As we near mid-term elections the dems are going to be looking far and wide to tame all of the anti-sentiment about the roll out and the act itself.

Here are some of the pro proofs shared today:

          8 million Americans have signed up for insurance.

          128 million Americas with pre-existing health conditions are no longer in danger of losing their coverage

          105 million Americans do not have to worry about losing their lifetime cap on benefits

          8 million older Americans have saved $10B because of lower prescription drugs

One could argue that these figures are not explicit examples of healthcare improvement, e.g., lower flu numbers, reduced incidents of diabetes and improved cardiac outcomes, but it certainly implies such.

In the claim and proof marketing world, the ACA has only just begun its proof phase.  The group with the best, most compelling proof will win. Should be interesting.

Peace.

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I’ve been doing business development for over 30 years; trying to help grow organic business from existing clients and add new business by identifying, earning favor and wining new clients. It’s an art, like hitting a baseball. It’s hard to be successful a majority of time.

My mom is a wonderful women but she likes to give advice. Some might say if her gums are moving, the advice is coming.  Advice suggests that someone is doing something wrong.  One school of thought in business development is advice-focused.  Point out things that are fixable, get credit for seeing them, and ask for the solution order. Bad idea. Nobody wants to talk about their flaws, especially with strangers, not unless they are close to fatal. So the better biz/dev approach is to have prospects ask you for advice. And how does that happen?  

First the prospect needs to be aware of you. There needs to be some top-of-mind awareness. Second they need to consider you as a good source of advice. “What have you done for me that makes me believe you can help?”  Third, they need to trust your advice will be sound. And lastly, you need to be easy to reach and available.  Sound like the marketing “steps to a sale” model?  Sure does.

Business development done well is a long term brand build, not a short term direct response transaction.  Most of my clients have come from development over time.  I have shown interest in them and their business over time, offered up insights not advice over time, and become familiar enough so that when the time was right, they called me.

So two nuggets: Do not be an advice-giver and take a long term approach to biz/dev. It is a craft not a transaction. Peace.

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There are two reasons for the proliferation of single shingle consultants. One, a market is changing drastically and the people who truly understand the change are outnumbered by the number of companies needing answers. It’s a supply and demand thing. My first appreciation of this was in the 90s, prior to mainstream usage of the web, when the lack of open computing protocols created disparate systems bogging down business.  I walked about a trade show called InterOp and every 3rd badge said consultant. Pent up demand, disruption and chaos breed consultants.  This was an environment not unlike today’s digital marketing world.

The other reason for a proliferation of consultants is an excessing of employees.  Consultancies can be face-saving, while one looks for a full-time job.

Technology has impacted both sides of consultant growth. (It always does.) On the one hand, it had caused business disruption… in good exciting ways. It continues to open business, commercial and marketing doors. Many companies want to jump on the bandwagon and participate and need experts for hire. On the bad side, it had replaced lots of jobs.  Many people have been replaced by software and the cloud. If the algo can do your job, it will. Program media buying, for instance, has replaced people buying and selling media for a living.

One way to find out if your consultant is from the disruption school or the excessed school is to look at their client list. And their rate. Also, try to understand what value they bring to an engagement. What do they do for a living — in a few concrete words?  Depending on the stage of business: grow, hold or harvest, that value may differ. But always seek consultants who understand market discontinuities, change and disruption. Peace.

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Extracting Gold.

A friend has a great business idea. It is intended to help businesses sell more, to more, more often at higher prices (thanks Sergio Zyman for the “more” nugget). The fact-finding rigor is wide and deep but also thorough and quite brilliant.  A small component of the business idea — “how” fact-finding occurs — is also really smart. It is agile, contemporary and befitting of today’s social business. More importantly, it may be a potential business unto itself. A huge potential business. All it needs is to be productized, branded and packaged.  We’ll see how it all plays out.

A mentor of mine named Dick Kerr, the world’s first million dollar a year copywriter, once said “The idea to have an idea is sometimes more important than the idea itself.” Yes, he was a tippler. Anyway, his entrepreneurial point was to “do something” and good things will happen. In today’s craft economy one might say “make something” and good things will happen.

Brand planners are sometimes accused of overthink, head-in-the-clouds pattern recognition, and inoperable observations.  But without all of that up front work, the big extraction can’t take place. Call it what you will – I often refer to it as the boil down – the big chucks of gold are there. They are gleaming and waiting to be found. You just have to start doing and making.  Peace.

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