April 2018

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In one of Hilary Clinton’s campaign speeches on the topic of “playing the women card’ she uses a meme-able statement “Deal Me In.”  She liked it so much she used it repeatedly in her Democratic National Convention speech. In context, it was a wonderful, powerful sentiment. It became a campaign theme and meme.  

A member of the Hillary brand police should have had the foresight, however, to quash that little ditty. If you are looking at Hillary negatives, you’ll note that deals are not the best part of her legacy.  And deals in which she and Bill were dealt in on were the grist for books, opinion pieces and TV investigation shows. Being inside, was also not a personal strength.

Giving traction to the meme was a mistake. It had more ballast than “I’m with her” but offered byproduct negatives that needn’t have been raised.  Words matter. When creating memes for politics, choose carefully.

Peace.

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Social Media is a great tactic for marketers. But how great is yet to be determined. There’s a famous quote from John Wannamaker who once said, and I paraphrase, “I know half of my advertising is working, problem is, I’m not sure which half.”  If retailer extraordinaire Wannamaker says only half his advertising is working, what might a modern retailer say about social media? Twenty percent? Thirty percent?

The reason social is such a force in marketing today is it’s cheap. Advertising is expensive. PR is expensive. Anyone with and internet connect and fingers can blog, Tweet, post a picture and spit out marketing rhymes on the web.

I knew social and online advertising were in trouble 10 years ago when agency people started saying “Online is also good for branding, not just clicks and transactions.”

When I’m writing a marketing plan for a small company, I go heavy-in with social and search. Done well, done with good consumer intelligence and smart creative, social can build traffic. But traffic blips are not always sustainable. Build on your blips with some traditional advertising, promotion, PR and CRM you have a better chance to build a brand.

Peace.

 

 

 

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The hottest advertising topic of the day is digital ad privacy. Mark Zuckerberg brought his suit to Washington last week to answer questions about privacy before Congress and now those interested understand they can turn privacy settings on. Where and how to do it may be a bit of a slog, but at least they know.

Privacy and data analytics are important. Ish. Errant misuse of that data for illegal means is a matter for the law.  That is important. But that’s not advertising.

For ad girls and guys, what’s more important to the business is the state of digital creative. It’s horrendous.  The worst form of offline ad craft I refer to as “We’re Here” advertising; basically, it tells consumers what you sell and where to buy. The worst form of digital advertising is “Click Here” advertising; it does the same thing but with less effort.  The digital ad footprint is expanding in terms of pixels and load but the real estate is still small. Therefore, the creative is ghostly poor. It’s hard to even characterize as creative. Congress should call Bob Greenberg to the mic and ask about that.

Poor digital creative is doing more to hurt the ad business than cookies, opt-outs and database junkies ever will.

Make privacy settings easier to access. Put bad guys behind bars. And fix the damn digital creative.

Peace.

 

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When I ask new clients “What is your product strategy?” I get a funny look. Typically, they respond with something like “Make the best possible product, meet the specific needs of the customer, and provide it with a level of service the exceeds their expectation.” Or some such goulash.

Even service companies will use similar words.

Once that gibberish is out of the way, I dig down deep on product (or service) — past the derma to the muscle, the circulatory system and bone. I’m looking for tangibility. What makes your beer taste different? And don’t say the natural ingredients. We always get there, but it takes time. There is always a leverageable differentiator…or four.   

Once the client and I agree on a product strategy, it’s time to ask about the experience strategy. And finally the messaging strategy. Some teeth-pulling may be required to get actual answers, but it’s necessary. When all three strategies are on the table we look to see if there is alignment.

Once misalignment is acknowledged, work can begin. Organization can begin. Brand strategy can begin.

Peace.

 

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Kylie Jenner’s makeup sold $420 million in 18 months with minimal advertising beyond her Instagram posts. Her lip kits and eyeshadow palettes, at one point, retailed for $27 and $42 respectively. At a street fair on Long Island teen girls were falling over themselves to buy the stuff. The police showed up after a while, arrested some entrepreneurial boys hawking the cosmetics, all of which turned out to all be fake. The teens didn’t seem to care.

Kylie got some game. Kylie has a brand. Just ask my SnapChat stock, which lost mega value when she dinged the platform after it updated the interface.

If you are not Kylie Jenner and there is not pent up demand for anything and everything you touch, you need a brand strategy. In fact, in 15 years when Kylie isn’t hot (commercially), she may rue the fact she didn’t establish an organizing principle for her brand. Kids!

Creating brands out of people is hard. Creating brands for companies and products is easy. Claim and proof is the fasted, most enduring way.
If you are interested in some success stories and examples, write Steve@whatstheidea.com

Peace.

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Gratitude.

“According to several studies, showing or simply feeling gratitude has mental health benefits, including promoting a happy frame of mind.”  

The New York Times, Of Interest column, 4/12/2018.

As I think about all the brand strategies I’ve written, I’m hard pressed to come up with a claim and proof array that ties to gratitude. For most brands, gratitude is a tactic used when business is exceptionally good or, conversely, when a market mistake occurs.  Brands, traditionally, don’t do gratitude well.

Some brands, offer to donate a portion of sales to a cause to show consumer concern.  It’s a tactic. Patagonia is cause-based brand, bless their hearts, but not necessarily a gratitude-based brand. When Amazon created Prime, allowing consumers free shipping for one low price, that’s gratitude, but a tactic. When Costco takes back product with nary a question, it’s gratitude. Again, I believe it’s a marketing tactic not a brand plank. That said, I promise to dig a little deeper.  I the meantime, brand owners and brand planners, as my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about gratitude in your brand strategies.”

Peace.

 

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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.

Peace.

 

 

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If you watch sound bites on the news you know president Trump repeats himself for emphasis. Repeats himself for emphasis. To me it a function of being inarticulate and/or not knowing the facts, but it could be also a nervous thing. A nervous thing.

Repetition is a time-tested advertising strategy. The more you say something, the more people are likely to remember it. It’s boring but effective. In advertising.

Repetition is effective in branding, as well. But it should never be boring. It’s okay in a brand jingle, but you don’t want to burn people out on your branding message. There’s only so much repetition a person can take. When your brand strategy is composed of a claim and three proof planks, you never need to be repetitive. Reimagining how to convey your claim with unique compelling proofs is the fun of branding. It’s also the job of the ad agency and your creative people. Keeping it fresh.

Logos and jingles are best kept long term. Otherwise keep the message and story fresh. No one wants a stale product, no one wants a stale message.

Peace.

 

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The Masters golf tournament began about 84 years ago. Before Tiger. Before titanium drivers. Before World War II. It has become the most famous golf tournament extant. The brand management of The Masters has been impeccable, with the exception of the diversity issues surrounding membership in the Augusta National Golf Club.  I’m told candy bars have to be packaged in green wrapper in case one accidently blows into the view of TV cameras. All wires are buried underground. Jim Nance. As much as the technology changes, as much as people change, The Masters remains the same: a venerable sports institution.

Consumer products Pilsner Urguell, Coca-Cola, and Tide Detergent have stood the test of time as brands – all through great brand management. It is yet to be seen, however, if tech companies will learn how to last. Bell Labs, perhaps the first (American) tech company, is still around but seems, to me at least, on its last legs. Bell Labs began as AT&T, then went to Lucent, which was bought by Alcatel and is now owned by Nokia. Not great brand management.

If Facebook wants to me more than Netscape and MySpace, it needs to put in play a long-term brand strategy.  People can’t live without Facebook. Now.  Brand strategy is important for service companies and tech companies. Facebook needs to step up.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Epigrams.

I make paper for a living.  People pay big paper (money) for my paper, brand strategies.  Brand strategy is what my mentor Peter Kim would call a “selling idea,” an idea that predisposes consumers to a product or service, e.g., “the world’s information in one click” (Google), “refreshment” (Coca-Cola), “for doers not browsers” (ZDNet). 

To get to the idea one has to process a lot of information, typically presented on paper in the form of a brief. Briefs are my output to clients. But they are buying an idea. That’s the honeypot.    

I attribute my ability to craft good briefs to the proper creation and use of epigrams.

ˈepəˌɡram/

noun

plural noun: epigrams

  1. a pithy saying or remark expressing an idea in a clever and amusing way.
synonyms: witticism, quip, jest, pun, bon mot; More

saying, maxim, adage, aphorism, apophthegm;

informalone-liner, wisecrack, (old) chestnut

“a collection of humorous epigrams from old gravestones”

o   a short poem, especially a satirical one, having a witty or ingenious ending.

My briefs are filled with them. Hidden in a narrative, serial story. Clients find meaning and inspiration in my epigrams. They are word plays about them, about their products. They are memorable. It’s how I sell the idea. It’s how I come up with the idea.

The secret sauce. Epigrams.

Peace. 

 

 

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