Marketing Strategy

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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!

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In a TED video I watched yesterday on the state of education, Sir Ken Robinson mentioned something pretty profound. He said most people are often “good at something they don’t really like doing.”  His point being, that mom-ism, “If you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  His broader point was students today are broadcast to, not engaged, and that’s why education is in such a sorry state.

Broadcast Selling.

I was mowing the lawn last night and thinking about this as it relates to advertising and marketing.  With media exploding into more and more, always-on devices (ding-a-ling, Good Will on the phone), and those devices containing advertising, the bombardment of selling is growing exponentially.  Moreover, that selling is being done by more craft-less people, creating the advertising equivalent of fast food — poorly constructed and not good for you. (Ads by SEO kids, videos by moms.) 

How to sell.

As a young ‘un in the ad business I drafted an article for Adweek that suggested people read ads to be: educated, entertained or to see something they’ve never seen before.  I think this still applies. We are so inundated with selling messages today we shut down.  Ingest too many antibiotics and you become immune.  Hear the word “quality” too many times and you become similarly immune. 

Our Job

Our job as marketers is not to say the same things with new messaging devices, it’s to educate, entertain and present the artful unseen. (In the 70’s my dad Fred Poppe used to call this “engagement.”)  Engagement starts with getting someone to let down their message defenses. My ramble.  My peace!  Happy 4th.

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In the advertising and marketing business, digital is its own channel.  Rare is the vendor that provides a truly integrated single source worldview of a brand. A really smart person once said to an important client “campaigns are overrated” which stuck me with a ferocity that shook my world, but he was right.  A campaign, when well-defined and well-equipped is a powerful selling mechanism.  It’s what people talk about. But translating campaigns across silos is not easy.  Heck, anyone who has ever worked at an ad agency knows campaigns don’t always transfer across media.  A great design-driven print campaign may not work well in radio or a murderously effective TV campaign may not work as out of home.  It’s tah-woooh.  And those silos are under one roof.    

Competing Market Forces

A bunch of hearty souls are trying to bring online and offline selling under one roof.  Yet a greater number of very skilled entrepreneurs are out there selling against the one roof approach — creating even greater and greater specialization.  A friend at CatalystSF told me that there are over 200 social media agencies in the New York area alone.  So what do you do about these two competing forces — the shops who want more pie and are trying to integrate and the shops selling best of breed, stand alone digital marketing specialties?  Well the planner in me usually starts problem solving by “following the money.”  In the case of integrated vs. stand alone I say “follow the strategy.”  

If you find a potential partner with a sense of business strategy that transcends tactical discussions, listen. Business strategy first. Marketing strategy second. Message strategy third and tactical fourth.  I don’t care if its RGA or TBWA. Peace it up! 

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Slide 4 in Mary Meekers’s Morgan Stanley presentation entitled “Internet Trends 2010” shows the pace of mobile internet adoption.  It compares iPhone/iTouch to that of  AOL’s desktop, Netscape desktop and NTT docomo iMode; laying out growth by users, by quarter from launch.

iPhone’s Internet access tipped 86 million users in its 11th quarter – less than 3 years.  Let’s just say the others never came close to coming close. (Check out the chart on slide 4.) Smartphone growth is hockey sticking. Motorola is starting to get it. HP bought Palm and should buy some corporate share.  Blackberry is too big and too rich to fail, even though they’re getting a little paunchy around the middle. And we haven’t even started to talk about the software guys Google (after its trivestiture), Microsoft (drawing a blank) and carrier switch provider Alcatel-Lucent.

Ladies and germs, smartphones are the future of computing, commerce and community. They will dock next to monitors and keyboards, but they are the device.  Think about the iPhone4’s new videoconference app. Wait for fingerprint apps, and galvanic skin response apps, sobriety apps….   Cool times, these.  Marketers, put on your thinking apps (I mean caps), innovation awaits! Peace!

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Every product purchased in a store using price scanners creates a record. More often than not that record is tied to a credit or debit card.  Consumer products befouled in manufacturing, like liquid children’s medicines from McNeil Consumer Healthcare, or collapsing baby strollers, bad tomatoes, sticky brake pedals, etc., also create purchase records.  Why not use these records to alert purchasers to recalls. I’m no analytics nerd but this seems like a no-brainer.  

The way recalls are handled today is messy.  And, dare I say, not particularly transparent (sorry for the markobabble).  The ability exists for marketers to do one-on-one contact with purchasers of faulty or dangerous products.  No longer is there a need to scare everybody. No longer the need to make us check our cabinets and refrigerators for lot numbers. No more hiding recall information on website FAQs pages. No more expensive newspaper ads filled with obfuscation. 

Let’s use data collection for good, not just for cross-selling, up-selling and McPestering.  Good data.  Good boy.  Roll over.  Peace!

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Advertising ain’t what is used to was (a little Southernism I made up). Creation of big selling ideas by highly paid creatives and marketing people, broadcast to millions via TV, radio and print was the ad business.  Today, thanks to technology, the ad business is undergoing a diffusion like never before. Digital agencies, though not yet offered a seat at the big table, are new and important players.  Google is the most profitable advertising agency in the world and Facebook is hot on their trail.  And when I say “mobile advertising” does any one company come to mind?  That one is going to be huge…but it’s still to play out.

Buy or Build?

Big traditional ad agencies clearly see the need to offer digital, social and mobile but are asking themselves “Do we buy or build?” Right now they’re doing both: hiring someone smart in each discipline and using them to select cottage industry players who are truly immersed.  Better than last year, which was all “Go out and get me a subservient chicken.”  Or “Find me those nerds who built the US Weekly Facebook poll.”

I’ve long thought that mid-size agencies were poised to win in this diffuse advertising world, but now I’m not so sure. True, they can more quickly parlay a powerful branding idea into a market-moving integrated campaign but the model may not be extensible.

Bud Cadell is right when he says the old ad agency model is broken. It will take open minds, forward thinking, experience, software, an understanding of brand building, and lots of money to fix the process. I’m of the mind that the successful model is more likely to come out of MDC Partners than WPP.  It will be fun to watch though. Peace!

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Back in the 1700-1800s (in the U.S.) if you needed stuff you either made it or went to the general store.  The Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalogue was the next marketing innovation (1888), showing pictures of products and published prices, allowing customers to purchase by mail. Among the 322 pages in the catalogue published in 1894 must have been products didn’t sell and had to be replaced. The birth of ROI? 

Television

The next massive marketing innovation was television. Television commercials which began in earnest in the 1940s became the most popular, effective form of advertising. But can you imaging trying to track sales to media and production back then in the very beginning? “Where’s the ROI? How do you measure this stuff?” Mad men. 

The Web

Fast forward to the Inter-nech. Banner ads and ad serving allowed us to count clicks. 2% click thru rates. Whoo hoo. Click to buy. Whoo hoo. But not everything could be bought over the web. (Discussion of that for another day.) CTRs diminished and web display ads became, so said the salespeople, a branding mechanism.

Social Media

Enter social media.  And consultants. When consultants out-number practitioners you know the market is in flux. The Altimeter Group, some very smart people let me just say, created a social media presenttion ‘splaining how to measure social media via a marketing analytics framework. Here are some of the measurables: share of voice, audience engagement, conversation reach, active advocates, active influence, advocacy impact, customer problem resolution rate, resolution time, satisfaction score, plus a couple of metrics tied to gathering input for product innovation. What’s not mentioned here, something Messrs. Sear and Roebuck might have added, is sales.  I love consultants ( am one) and the Altimeter Group is growing like a dookie, but until they and all of us tie these type of metrics back to da monies, we’re just making paper.

A smart client at AT&T once said to me, “we collect all this data now we have to do something smart with it.”  That’s business. That’s return on strategy. Peace!

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I’ve written before about Google’s “culture of technological obesity” saying I think the company is taking on too much outside of its core mission.  Phones, productivity apps, the list goes on and on. The reality is — the dirty little secret no employee will readily admit — is Google is an advertising company.  (Google Doubleclick.)  Eric Schmidt and his peeps know this but it doesn’t play well at cocktail parties. The technology badge is what they wear most proudly.

Of the $6.78B in revenue announced this quarter, the lion’s share was ad generated.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Google.  I’m not a hater. They need to succeed.  Google really is changing the world for the better. But they will Divest or Trivest at some point.  The company is a 3-ring business circus.  And because one of the rings — most profitable ring – is advertising, and because Google hasn’t been putting all of its efforts into providing innovation in advertising, it will lose market share. Ad revenue will still grow, but Google will lose market share. My bet is Facebook and Twitter will take share. Facebook is already doing it and Twitter has just begun.

 Advertising is about search, yes, but also about referral and context and point of sale (POS).  Twitter may have a leg up by combining all four.  To all the developers at Chirp…advertising still is da monies!  Peace!

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