Marketing

    Learning Through Failure.

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    The first step in brand strategy is getting the product Is-Does right.  They ability to articulate what a product Is and what the product Does sounds easy, but it’s not.  I developed this simple concept while working at a tech startup where the product was a software as a service (SaaS) called Zude. Because the management team couldn’t get the Is-Does right, we failed.  

    The term of art “elevator speech” is the result of an improper Is-Does.  If it takes an elevator ride to explain your product, you are little toasty.  iPhone was a phone, albeit a very functional phone.  If it was called a Newton (hee hee) it may not have survived.

    Zude’s Is-Does was “the fastest easiest way to build (and manage) a website. The Is was “website builder” the Does was “fastest easiest.”  But the management team could not completely agree. The technologist, who understood code and features but not consumers, kept building until Zude was part video platform, part social network, part advertising company…you get the picture.

    Get the Is-Does right and there may be an Is to build a brand around.

    Peace.

     

    HP. Beep-beep.

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    Hewlett-Packard’s purchase of EDS is beginning to make sense to me. The NY Times announced today that HP’s ProCurve corporate networking hardware unit is beginning to eat up some of Cisco System’s marketshare, albeit still with a long way to go (7% HP, 77% Cisco.)   It seems the EDS group may just act as a great sales conduit between its services customers and HP’s ProCurve networking gear. Services people, in order to be good, must really understand business and process and when they do it puts them in great position to recommend product. Accenture has made boat loads of money selling its own software recommended by its services people, why can’t HP can do the same?

    Before Mark Hurd took over, HP was resting on laurels and ink cartridges. Its PC business was doing okay, but the company was quite sluggish. Carly Fiorina did not really understand the computer and peripherals business. HP just reported flat quarterly net income, but a revenue increase of 19%. In today’s economy? What does that tell you? It says “beep beep, company moving forward.”


    Deathstalker Advertising

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    One of the brand planks of the North Shore-LIJ Health System was “leading edge treatments and technology.” Unfortunately, this is a plank most every hospital in the country uses when developing advertising.  It was only when paired with North Shore’s two other planks, that the true brand story emerged.

    One of North Shore’s competitors in New York is NewYork-Presbyterian. Today, NY-Pres broke a “leading edge treatments and technology” ad that beats most hands down.  If you don’t ask your doctor about NY-Pres after reading this ad, you are not paying attention. The campaign idea, by the way, is “Amazing things are happening here.”

    The Deathstalker Scorpion’s venon contains chlorotoxin, which some crazy health geek found attaches itself to “specific brain cancer cells.” The docs and researcher at NY-Pres are trying to find ways to make chlorotoxin deliver radioactive atoms to cancer cells in the brain.  Wow! That’s some serious.

    I’m not sure if Munn Rabot is still doing this advertising work, but it sure feels like them. It’s excellent storytelling and excellent work.

    Okay, you are sick and have to pick a hospital. Any come to mind?

    How To Build a Bad Ad.

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    As a kid who grew up in the ad business, I’ve seen a lot of ad craft. Today, as a brand planner it’s hard for me to look at advertising without a jaundiced eye. When I see ink and words and picture, but not strategy, I cringe. Worse when I see an ad with 7 strategies.

    Who is approving this stuff?

    The best advice I learned in the ad business was “focus.” There is a research convention in advertising called “Day After Recall Testing,” in which a magazine is sent to a consumer paid to read it. A day later they are called and questioned about the ad content.  Most common recall is tied to the pictures; rarely the words. If the words relate to the pictures all the better. It’s a great litmus for effective advertising.

    Trinet is a smart benefits and HR outsourcing company. Sorry to pick on them again. But I read and expensive ad they published today, delivering what they feel it their brand claim: Incredible.  That’s an ad claim, not a brand claim, by the way.  The ad suffers from the “fruit cocktail effect” in that it is pushing 6 corporate good-ats: Expertise (oy), Access, Benefits, Guidance, Technology and Freedom.  All under the “Incredible” umbrella. James Joyce would be proud.

    If this ad campaign is not done in-house I’d be surprised. If done by an agency, I’d be ashamed.

    Smart marketing starts with a smart, actionable, endemic brand strategy.

    Peace|

     

    The Greatest Brand Story Ever Told.

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    A brand strategy brief, at its very best, is a story. A story with beginning, middle and end. Like good entertainment it contains a problem, solution(s), tension and resolution. Most importantly, it needs to appeal to the reader/viewer (aka the consumer) in order to take hold.

    I write brand briefs for a living.  In each and every one, the story has to flow.  If the flow is interrupted by some structural anomaly, the brief will confuse.  The money part of the brief is the finish — the claim and proof array. (Once claim, three proof planks.)  It is the organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  If the claim does not fit the rest of the story like a glove, something is wrong with the story.

    The brand brief story is written for the brand marketing lead. Once the claim and proof array are approved, and immutable, the brief is just a tool for brand managers and agents. Then the storytelling or as Co:Collective calls it Story Doing, is in the hands of the marketing team and creative people. And I am on the my next assignment.

    In branding the brand brief is the greatest story ever told.

    Peace!

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    Storytelling. Two flavors.

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    I took a part time job a couple of years ago doing something I’ve never done before. Sales. Belly-to-belly sales, to be more specific. Quite a departure getting paid to look the consuming public in the eye and pitch.  

    “Story” had always been an important part of my marketing life but in this new position, after product knowledge, it became a very close second in terms of my sales effectiveness.

    There are two basic kind of stories a salesperson can tell: product-based stories focusing of features, functions and outcomes and entertaining stories tangential to the product. Everyone needs the first to move the merch, but for me the entertaining, humanizing stories were the difference maker. They kept me on my toes and helped engage consumers.

    The last two days I was working side-by-side at a trade show with our territory’s best sales person. He is brilliant with customers, performing straight from the sale manual and beyond. At his best he’s jovial, informative, a locomotive of product fact. His stories are all about product. I, on the other hand, used personal stories to pepper my sales. Some self-deprecating, some shared interest, some environmental – the whole gamut.

    Turns out, mixing in some entertainment with sales haymakers was a winning combination. Not everyone is an entertainer. I’m no Sebastian Maniscalco.   As Jimmy Breslin taught us, the best way to tell the news is to get out of the building. In sales, the best way to sell product is to get out of the building…and the product is the building.      

    Peace.                     

     

     

    Twitchpoint Planning Redux

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    A number of years ago, I came up with a comms planning notion called Twitchpoint Planning, the basis of which was that people use multiple devices when researching and gathering information; information that will ultimately result in a sale. Some called this customer journey exercise. I honed it toward more of a digital exercise. A twitch, I reasoned, was a move from one device to another. (The Internet of Things is going to have an impact here, fo’ shizzle.)

    The other day I was looking at What’s The Idea? blog metrics on Google Analytics and lo and behold did I see a Beta test for what Google calls “Cross Device” measures.  Sub-topics include: Device Overlap, Device Paths, Channels and Acquisition Device. Talk about proof of concept!  When I began thinking about Twitchpoint Planning I shared the preso with Joshua Spanier, senior marketing director Google Media. He registered a few degrees above lukewarm.

    Cause and effect? Who knew. Psychic unity? Probably. Either way, bravo Google. You will make millions. And the planners will make thousand. For the marketers…the sky’s the limit.

     Peace|

     

    Decency and Annoyance.

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    I wanted to flame a senior care organization my mom spent time in and was looking for a Yelp or Google kind of comments page in the senior care space. I found something called Senior Advisor, who baited me with a couple of comments then, in order to get to the 4th review, requested my name and tel. number. Almost before I finished typing the form, the phone rang. I kid you not. It was someone from Senior Advisor. I asked if they were that fast and she said, yes. “Some of our seniors need help right away.” Nice response.

    This in not artificial intelligence (AI), but it’s pretty darn impressive. And intrusive. And scary.

    I can’t get my email to send instantaneously and this lady was dogging me about my mom is nanoseconds.  Privacy isn’t just about spam and selling lists, it’s about decency. I loathe robo calls from unsolicited vendors.  I don’t much like door-knockers. Email spam I can live with, so long as there is a way to unsub.

    Smart brands and smart marketers understand annoyance. No brand wants to be annoying. So why is there so much of it?

    Senior Advisor bordered on annoyance. But for now I will give them a unsettled pass. Now, if they could have told me how to ding my mom’s senior care place…

    Peace|  

     

    Wu hoo…activism.

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    My last post addressed how low cost manufacturing in countries like China and India are going to make inexpensive cars available to millions of new drivers, the result of which will be a new environmental crisis. Another crisis occurring in China today is pollution. One man — Wu Lihong — is in jail in China because he decided to bring attention to the fouling of Lake Tai, a huge body of water which supports millions of people. One man in a county of 1.3B, through his activism, has captured the attention of the world. Did he know, as he rode his bicycle around the lake collecting water samples and photographing midnight effluent run-ff from chemical plants that he would become the spokesperson for China’s pollution problems? Doubtful. He just saw a wrong and wanted to make a difference. For more information on Wu Luhong, please click through to the link below or search for his story on October 14, 2007 at www.nytimes.com
     
     
     
    Activism will be critical to solving all environmental problems and, so each of us needs to make a stand. Whether is means refusing small bags at the store when you can easily carry your purchase by hand, or not taking 30 napkins from the deli, or writing marketers who continue to send pounds and pounds of paper catalogs to us in the mail each year. Or how about not using air-conditioning in our cars when opening the window will do.  
     
    We need to be a little more protective of the environment. We need to become a little more indignant with those who are the problem. We all need to be a lot more like Wu Lihong. 

    Half Duplex Ego.

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    In my career as a planner, I have trotted out two different Steve’s when interviewing people in discovery.  The first is the “I’m a quick study” Steve.  This Steve wants interviewees to know he’s savvy in the business, the market and the category. I wouldn’t call him cocksure, but an air of self-assuredness is the goal.  The second Steve is the “Help me, help me, Steve.” He plays grasshopper to the interviewee’s Mr. Miyagi. Not in an obsequious way but as someone in need of intense category nourishment.

    There are times and places for both, E.g., when interviewing a subject matter expert (SME), they want to know you can understand them. But for the most part I tend to use the “help me” Steve. More so as my planning experience grows. We humans are a helping and nurturing clan. And people tend to be more open when they are helping.  It’s always best to have your interviewee be the smart one.

    Our mission is to extract learning, attitudes and values. Open the faucet and let insights pour forth. Half duplex ego is the goal.

    Peace|