April 2015

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First Ad.

A company’s first ad is very telling. Every company should keep its first ad and frame it. Make it available as a tab under “About” on the website. One can predict a lot about a company by reading or watching its first ad. Typically it contains the company Is-Does: what a company is and what it does; something not always well-handled by mature companies, let alone infants. The first ad is likely done in-house. If done by an agency, that’s a good sign. It shows trust and willingness to invest.

First ads often makes one think about logo and tagline. And story. Most first ads happen when a company is small and control is centralized. It will therefore help readers understand vision and the ability of management to focus. It will also convey if the company is going to be “me” (inward) focused or “you” (customer) focused.

A first ad is like a baby. Hard work. Nerve-wracking. Often a little bit ugly. But something to love. It is a beginning.

Dust off your first ad and send it to me. I’ll give you a little blurb on how you have grown your brand since.

Peace in Baltimore.

 

 

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twitterAnalysts are disappointed that Twitter’s quarterly revenue was up 74% and missed “expectations.” Last year this quarter revenue was $250 million. This year is was $436 million. Your right analysts, that sucks. I can smell the stench from here. Moreover, goobers in the financial field are calling for Dick Costello, Twitter CEO, to be fired. This scares me deeply.

Who is running the show here? I understand it was Twitter’s idea to IPO and they cast their lot with the sharks, but 74% growth, delivered with apologies for slow user growth does not make Twitter a dog.

Twitter is not a stock. Twitter is a world changing, future changing app. Let’s take a breath. Twitter is to social media what penicillin was to healthcare. Twitter is the Google of social media. This 140 character application has loosened up Iran (Green movement), brought down corrupt governments (Egypt), shared natural disasters in real time (China quake) and certainly saved lives. But it didn’t hit its projected earnings because some ad platform underperformed? Are you kidding me?

Please leave Twitter alone. Please allow leadership to innovate at a proper rate and modulation. Please keep the financial analysts away from arguably the best app on the planet. By your leave…

Peace.

 

 

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Good brand planners are collectors. They question, amass, sort, collect and divine. Great planners take all that and find the truffle. Like the truffle hunting pigs and dogs of Europe. I was recently on a call with some web app people, looking to fund the next big platform. I couldn’t quite tell what the platform was. Or wanted to be. Other than the next big web property. Money lined up, so they said, but the idea was hidden in 10 ideas. So what’s the Is-Does I wondered.

Well turns out the original idea was and is genius! Never done before. Done qith a capital D. In demand. In users’ hearts. And tied to one of the biggest investments a person is likely to make in a lifetime. Did I mention it hadn’t been done? The current construct, however, was nothing more than a Facebook Group.

This truffle hunter (me) listened and in minutes knew the problem.

What’s the Idea? Answer that, you of the web world, and you may proceed. Take it from someone who missed out on a brilliant web property (Google Zude+Scoble) because it was overbuilt. Suffered from feature creep. Didn’t follow the “idea.”

Peace.

 

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The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) just announced a minority investment in Samba TV. Props to Michael Roth and Chad Stoller. This looks like money well invested.

I’m always looking for the Is-Does when it comes to brands and Samba TV seems to be an analytics company. One tapped into 10 million household TV cable boxes. The Does of the Is-Does may be best described by co-founder and CEO of Samba TV, Ashwin Navin: “We think that more data will allow brands to reach more people they care about and waste less of their media budgets.”

This bulls eyes the famous John Wannamaker quote “I know half my advertising is working, problem is I don’t know which half.” Samba TV may not corral the missing half, but it will start to get close.

Nice to see IPG getting back up on the horse again. It’s good for business. Peace!

 

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slack logo

Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio, pointed to an article today about a company called Slack that just got another round of funding, this time for $160M.  Slack is an office instant messenger, Drop Box sharing, productivity app. I’m sure there is more to it, but it does sound familiar. Anyway, Slack will take this money, bank it, then go out and buy a number of Aeron chairs, a distressed oak conference table, and 6 interactive flat screen video panels. Also lots of servers and next year’s head ware. (Last year was the fedora, this year the knit cap.) What they won’t put on their shopping list is a brand strategy.

They already have nice videos and graphics. A good logo and copy, but the most fundamental strategic document they can own, won’t even be on their radar: a brand strategy. Business plan – check. Mission statement –check. Founder’s vision – check. Cultural manifesto – check. But unless one of the founders has a brand planner as a friend, there will be no check next to brand strategy. Their VCs should know better but they don’t.

This is not meant to pick on Slack. I worked at a start-up (Zude.com) that Robert Scoble and TechCrunch loved. We failed and had a brand plan. This is not me as a furniture salesman saying every company needs new furniture. This is me as a house builder saying every house needs a design and a plan.

Good luck Slack. Get yourself a brand strategy, approve it, and stick to it. (BTW, it’s not a marketing plan.) Peace.

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When I was a kid in the business the worst thing a supervisor could say to you — and it happened to me — was “you need to be more strategic.” Ouch. So I worked on my strategy chops. I read Peter Drucker, marketing manuals and texts, participated in corporate task forces. I sponged up strategy and I did fieldwork.

Today, as a consultant, I offer two outputs: brand briefs and marketing plans. The latter provides obs, strats, targets and tactics and is critical for successful business…at least the obs and strats are. The marketing plan is what builders need before that start assembling things. It’s the bread and butter of my consulting practice. People can execute, given a plan.

But the real magic is in the brand brief. It conditions employees to sell and position. It boils down the marko-babble into an easy-to-understand, differentiated, business winning value proposition. Brand briefs are the elixir of success. Yet some clients and minions nod their heads toward the brand strategy (one claim, 3 proof planks) but don’t really live it. Whenever I see this at an ex-client it hurts. BrandTuitive, brand planning friends in the city, do a whole training session, post strategy, to insure unrequited brand strategy doesn’t happen. I think I may try putting training into my next proposal. Unrequited strategy is too painful. It hurts too deeply. Away unrequited strategy!

Peace.

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Or keep it in the cloud. That’s the big technology question of the 21st century. That’s the big bet. As a brand planner who likes to operate “beyond the dashboard,” I love looking into behavior, purchase patterns and technology advances trying to come up with macro commercial trends.

Nokia decided it was not good at small handheld devices (after killing it for decades) and sold its device business to Microsoft. This, at a time when Apple was creating continents of wealth in handhelds. Microsoft paid $7.2B for the (shitty) Nokia phone business. (Como se speaker problems with Lumias?) And now, Nokia with its big iron phone and internet switch business intact is looking to purchase Alcatel/Lucent. This is Nokia’s raising its hand in favor of cloud vs. devices.

It wasn’t that long ago when computers were big. Phones got smaller. Comms devices of every stripe shrunk into wearables. And now chips, screens, software and apps are getting so good and “thin” that funationality and decisions are moving into the network (cloud) and in our future “tons” of devices will move into the landfill. Literally.

The Apple Watch people are breathing this stuff daily. I’ll bet Apple’s very best engineers are deployed against all this miniaturization. And all that intelligence has to move somewhere. Apple might be smart to start thinking about the switch (software) business too. That’s my bet.

Ain’t this fun? Peace.

 

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Inward Bound

Faris Yakob (you own me a beer, Faris) is a strategy genius. Just a real shmarty pants. For all the big words he uses, and they are plenty, his ideas are quite simple and rich. Faris is a wonderful communicator, as well. He is closely associated with his oft-used phrase “Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.” Here’s a steal, or as he might put it, a recombinant idea, purloined from David Brook’s Op-Ed piece this past weekend in the NYT. (It comes from David’s new book The Road To Character.) In the article he identifies a number of way to improve one’s character. I won’t do it justice so read the piece, but what impressed me most was Mr. Brook’s call for people to see the world not through the gravity of their own lives, wants and needs, but through others.

This notion is wonderfully instructive for brand planners. I was once spanked in anthropology class for suggesting cultural anthropologists should do more than observe, record and be passive. The pimp hand that hit me related that by being more than a passive observer I’d be insinuating myself into the culture, changing it ever so much.

Brand planners need to divorce themselves from the consumer. Go all tofu on the buying journey, the “if then” decisions, the psyche of the purchasers and influencers.

It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. Inward not outward is David Brook’s advice. And mine too, for brand planning. Peace.  

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When the OrderNet of Things meets the Apple Watch look out. The OrderNet of Things is a term referring to Amazon Dash Buttons —  internet-connected buttons that allows people to reorder consumables like Tide and Pampers. The Dash Button is affixed to an area where the product is consumed, so use is a reminder to refill. Como se smart?

apple watch

As developers or the Apple Watch team understand this use and refill behavior and create watch applications, the refill business should really perk up. It’s going to be a basic but killer app for watches. We will still have to figure out ways to aggregate orders so they do not show up at our houses in separate boxes, delivered by separate gas-guzzling vehicles, but that’s a second stage problem. Perhaps one click on the order app hits a shopping cart that waits until 4 PM (and other orders) to be delivered. That’s a PeaPod or Amazon thing. If Apple creates the app and charges a penny a click, it may be a billion dollar revenue stream. Always thinking.

Peace.

 

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