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    Binary Brand Strategy.

    Brand Strategy

    Aol Needs Talent.

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    Tim Armstrong has a lot to do if he really wants to fix Aol, but he needs to start by hiring a chief talent officer. His executive suite — with all props and deference to those recently hired — has grown and become an enviable suite, but the big investment should be in Posters, original web content creators, not suits.  Creative people, writers, videographers, style queens, humorists, and the politically angry.  Aol must become more relevant to Teens, Tweens, Millenniums, Gen This & That, Boomers…and it has to start this quarter.

    Don’t Wait.

    Start the content strategy today. Hire Ochocinco. Hire Robert Scoble. Hire Kandee Johnson. Fab Five Freddy. Melting Mama. People with content game. Hire punk rockers before they’re famous. People burning with a point of view. People on their way up. A great talent officer will help today, but more importantly, will allow Aol to ride the ascent of future talent before it becomes expensive. As George Steinbrenner did when building the world’s most famous sports franchise, invest every penny in the players. This is not a markobabble post about teamwork, this rant is about players. Talent. Content. The right Posters will give you the inspiration to reinvent what content is.  Don’t rely on an “innovation team” sitting in a San Diego corporate resort.

    With the right web talent, ad sales will come. Ding dong, money at the door.  Lined up around the block.

    Get you first piece of talent this week. Celebrate it and start to build Aol momentum.  Content is not an algorithm, it’s talented people expressing themselves through words, song, poesy and art. Peace it up!

    Proof In Advertising.

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    Advertising isn’t ineffective because it’s a dying medium, it’s ineffective because it’s ineffective. Good branding is about “Claim and Proof.” Advertising, an important, controllable means of branding, needs to follow the same “Claim and Proof” dictum.

    Toyota, a company playing defense peppered with catch-up promotions, ran an ad in The New York Times paper paper today – a perfect example of badvertising.  All claim, no proof. Here’s the copy:

    No matter who you are or what you drive, everyone deserves to be safe. Which is why the Star Safety SystemTM is standard on all our new vehicles – no matter what model or trim level.  It’s a combination of five advanced safety features that help keep you in control and out of harm’s way.  Toyota is the first full-line manufacturer to make the features of the Star Safety SystemTM standard on all vehicles.  Because at Toyota, we realizes nothing is more important to you than your safety.

    I forgot the headline and I only read it 10 seconds ago. The call to action, where one might actually find the proof, is prominently displayed below the copy — Toyota.com/safety. This ad is one expensive call to action and a lot less.  Fail!

    Who is at Fault?

    I’m not sure who is responsible for this $20,000 piece of “we’re here” advertising but everyone is to blame. The creative person who said “People don’t read long copy.” The strategist who approved it, the client who agreed and paid for it. Frankly, The New York Times should be ashamed. Isn’t someone over there watching this stuff?

    This business is easy: Find a great claim and support it with compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Peace!

    R/GA Creating the Law?

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    R/GA is a bold leader in the digital marketing area. As all advertising and marketing shops move toward the middle — toward the strategy — only one digital shop aspires to be the agency of record: R/GA. Most digital shops rue the fact that they don’t get a seat at the big table, R/GA wants the table.  And they make quite a case.  Their entrée is the “platform.”  

    In a video by Nick Law, R/GA’s chief creative officer (thankfully, he’s not goofily titled), he says advertising needs to move “from metaphors that romance a brand to seductive demonstrations of a brand platform.”  Agreed. Were he to have substituted the word “strategy” we’d be in perfect agreement.  The word platform, you see, is a euphemism for website (and other digital stuff residing on the website). Brand strategy is hard to put a price tag on and websites and digital assets are easy estimate. 

    Mr. Law is correct campaigns come and go. He’s right that tactics need to feed the brand strategy. He’s right that utility and community are the source of sales growth and retention. And he’s certainly not being disingenuous in suggesting that something needs to hold and tie all the brand building work together. So I’m going to cut him some slack and not argue the noun platform and favor a more verb-like version of the word. 

    In the video Mr. Law refers to one of R/GA’s most famous successes Nike+.  “Nike+ is a platform fueled by campaigns” he says.  Nike+ was first a product and it’s growing into a branded utility. Is it growing into a platform? You tell me. 

    These guys are the real deal. And as good marketers they are trying to create a new language for the marketing world.  As I said, bold.  

    Business Strategy Vs. Brand Strategy.

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    On prompt, many company executive will tell you their business strategy is “Make more money.”  Some invest to make more money others reduce the cost of goods. There are many ways to invest or cost-cut: alter the product, play with pricing, change distribution, promote in a new way.  All are business decisions. 

    Ask that same company executive what their brand strategy is, though, and you may get a quizzical look. Or the quick parry “To provide customers with the best product, at the best price, with uncompromising service.” But that’s not a brand strategy, that’s the brand marketing equivalent of pasteurized cheese.

    A brand strategy is created at a product’s molecular level.  It is inherently product-based.  A brand strategy grows from the product then gives back over time. And I’m not just talking “deposits in the brand bank,” I’m talking about informing product innovation, brand extension, expansion, even M&A activity.

    A brand strategy is deeply rooted in the consumer — the consumer’s environment (physical and emotional) and needs (known and subconscious). Brand strategy is about growth and growth doesn’t happen without nourishment, environment and caring.

    A brand strategy is a living thing. Not a business thing.  

    Business strategies are logical. They are easy to articulate.  Brand strategies are psychophysiological.  They are harder to articulate but have a pulse.  And when right — they quicken the pulse.  Peace!