Brand Briefs Have Children Too.


    I had a chat with Dave Knox the other day – Dave is a digital brand manager at P&G who was partially responsible for the fascinating “Tide Loads of Hope” training event turned marketing flash mob last month – and he told me something that floored me. He said there are different briefs for different marketing tactics.  A TV brief is different than a promotional brief, for instance. I was initially taken aback. Then realized he was right. I do it all the time.


    There is the brand brief and there are tactical briefs. In my world the brand brief contains the brand strategy (the idea) and 3 support planks. That brief drives the product, service, messaging and ideally is the dashboard for measuring success. The tactical briefs, on the other hand, are documents operating under the brand brief, each with unique, measureable missions.  Tactical briefs must support the brand brief and stay on message but they are allowed to have a lives of their own. So long as the branding brief is understood throughout the marketing company and agencies, and someone available to make sure it’s followed, tactical briefs are good to go.


    Campaigns, you see, come and go, but a powerful branding idea is indelible. Peace!

    Check out Dave’s blog on Tide Loads of Love.




    Community. Yesterday and tomorrow.


    The first web portal or big web project I ever worked on was ZDNet.  It was mid- to late 90s and they were in a dogfight with C|Net for audience. The key care-abouts were what they called the the 3Cs: Content, Commerce and Community.

    Content was what ZDNet owned, having come out of the print publishing area. Commerce was all about hooking up buyers and sellers rather than selling on the site and Community was more about aggregating a class of reader than about creating interaction among those readers.

    This was all before social networking and social media took off. These ZDNet guys and girls were inventing community and social on the fly. Community is still a big wielder of weight on the web. It’s mobile and location based, and, and, and, but it is still ripe fruit.

    Many builders of community look at the offline world for inspiration: book clubs, quilters, home brewers, support groups. People who used to meet in houses or libraries – willing to commune over a topic. But what’s exciting and entrepreneurial today, though, is bringing together communities of like-minds interested in topics not found in the offline world. Quora would be a good place to mine for these. Moreover, it might be a good place to start these communities. Ning attempted to cash in here, but it was cumbersome and had to be orchestrated. Quora already has the settlers. Mick Jagger might say “It’s just a click away.” Peace!

    My Take On Twitter.



    Twitter is right, one of its great advantages at the moment is its ubiquity and lovely harmony with mobile.  My gut tells me though, that if it starts putting spammy ads into the flow, more so than what it’s doing now, twitter will be dinged by consumers.  And I’m a guy with a house paid for by ads. I believe Twitter will create its greatest value by being in the data business. Why?  Because words matter. The words we use in our twitter feeds, more than pictures, videos and song are what deeply define us. People who use the word “should” a lot are bossy. Users of the word “hate” tend toward intolerance. Even those , for instance, who hate Oreos.

    What Twitter knows is words. And if they sell those words, translated into customer insights, they will sell at a premium. I’m not talking about buying keywords here – I’m talking customer profile and customer insight stuff. Think Nielsen.

    As the data world abounds and we figure out privacy issues (invest in those companies) we will land on some important positive applications, e.g., electronic medical records.  Once we crest that wave and look past advertising in the stream, we’ll see that the data Twitter can provide will provide weighty real-time and long-time selling insights worth billions. Peace-ful.



    I have a presentation on Fast Twitch Media and Twitch Point Planning that asks the question are our brains evolving bigger or smaller?  Larger, posited Timothy White back in the 80s when I asked a question about evolution during a John’s Hopkins symposium, but I’m not so sure.

    As software takes over decision making for us, it seems we have to think less. That is, unless we’re deciding which GPS to use — the Garmin or the Android phone app. (They are not perfectly in synch! Oh my.)

    One of the things coders and engineers cannot do very well is humor.  It’s not that they are genetically indisposed to humor, but humor can’t be programmed. There is no algorithm. And therein lies the value of the creative mind.  

    Humor is a wonderful tool in society and well valued in content creation that surrounds marketing.  I still giggle each time the BBDO/ATT “flash mob gone wrong” ad appears, though it is wearing out. Humor gets noticed and it disarms.  It is an elixir that helps a sales message get consumed. Branded utility is the rage these days in mobile apps, but soon that utility will become commoditized and we will need to smile as we tweak our media and our apps.  Might as well begin now; add a spoonful of humor to your digital selling and see what happens. Peace!

    Bud suffers from a geezer mentality.



    I grew up on Budweiser beer. Clean, crisp beer. Clydesdales. American colors. No after-taste. Man, it was a great beer on a hot day. Still is.
    Today, Budweiser and the Anheuser Busch Company are being pursued by InBev, a Belgium company, and number 3 brewer worldwide.   It didn’t have to come to this.  Over the last 15 years Anheuser Busch took its eye off the ball.
    The latest generation of Buschs let the master brand Budweiser diminish in importance, while building up Bud Lite.  The assumption was the old boys would keep drinking Bud and live forever, so they focused their resources on Bud Light but got in a slug fest with Coors Light. Budweiser sales waned. Moreover, they never understood how to create a brand extension in the craft category. And every year AB spent millions and millions in Super Bowl commercials and thought they were innovating, reading all their great advertising press.  Finally realizing their folly, AB attempted to get younger with Bud.TV, but it was too late and way out of touch. Geezer mentality.
    If they can bring this thing back, and I dearly hope they do, AB really needs to understand the next generation beer consumer. It’s a BIG market they don’t want to cede to InBev.

    92 SKUs (What you say? I’m not askin’)


    officejetI was in BJs the other day by the HP ink cartridge area. I counter 92 SKUs for OfficeJet Printers. And OfficeJet is only one brand of HP printers. There’s OfficeJet, LaserJet, DeskJet and more. There were more OfficeJet options than types of gum at a candy store.  While doing fieldwork at BJ’s I observed very few people buying HP ink products. Maybe one or two an hour. And you wonder why HP needs to fix itself?

    It wasn’t that long ago when HP was the number one PC manufacturer and killing it at earnings time. Now the company will be split so it can retrench, focus and hit some numbers. Sad, really.

    There’s not a person in America (not working at HP) who thinks printer ink for the home is fairly priced. So there’s an opportunity. Develop a new way to transfer words onto paper, or some other surface, that is legible and low cost. A cost that makes consumers smile. Right now it might feel to HP like eating the children, but it’s a smart future play. And one that will restore some luster and earnings potential. Como say patent?

    Come on HP. Peace.


    RGA and the Platform.


    bob greenberg

    Yesterday I attended a talk by Bob Greenberg, CEO of RGA and his right hand man Barry Wacksman as part of Advertising Week in NYC. The preso was entitled “The Way Forward,” an up to speed on digital marketing.

    Messrs. Greenberg and Wacksman are both very smart men and have done some serious selling – especially for Nike – but I’m not sure anything they shared was seminal. These gentleman suggested the way forward was via online “platforms.” Campaigns come and go, they offered, which I completely agree with. Bridging ecommerce with an online experience that collapses steps to a sale is a good idea. And I agree using the web in a participatory fashion to further affinity for a brand, increase loyalty and/or promote or entertainment is a terrific use of marketing dollars. But if to believe Mr. Greenberg and Wacksman, one might come away thinking the platform is more important than all else. Nay, I say. Nay.

    Brand strategy is the driver of marketing success. Campaigns, platforms, media are all tactics used to deliver the strategy. Unless a marketer has a tight brand strategy the world wide web and all these commercial platforms will turn into an online Levittowns; a bunch of houses all looking alike, with a few build-outs on the corners.

    What’s the deal with HP?

    I can’t for the life of me figure out Hewlett-Packard. When you think they make a good move, it doesn’t work. When you think they make a bad move, earnings rise. You read about new marketing focus, bad press follows. You read about board tumult and unrest at the top, earnings kick butt.
    This company is an enigma. Never a Carly Fiorina fan, and I actually did call the downturn under part of her watch, I must admit I may not have given her credit she deserved for long-term planning. Today, 70% of HP’s revenue comes from outside the U.S. – the source of a good part of today’s positive earnings report — which I am going to attribute to the Compaq purchase she engineered. 
    HP is doing well in printers, brilliantly in computers (who knew?) and, I suspect, well in services. It’s going to take a Harvard B School case study for me to figure out this company, but at the moment I’m digging their staying power and blocking and tackling.

    Campbell’s Select Harvest Campaign is Superb


    I’ve written before about Douglas Conant, the head of Campell’s Soup Company, who in my view is one of the smartest CEO’s in the business world. Click here. Here is another example of his marketing prowess.
    Campbell’s just broke a new campaign for Select Harvest soups. I’ve seen only one print ad and one TV commercial, yet can tell you it is focused and has a powerful idea. Two actually. It takes on Progresso soups and MSG (monosodium glutamate.)   
    The print shows two large soup cans with MSG above the Progresso can and TLC above Select Harvest. The copy uses words like “farm-grown,” “sea salt,” and “100% natural.” Very factual, hard hitting stuff. The TV is even better.  Simply produced, a young-ish blindfolded women sits at a table using her palette to determine the provenance of Select Harvest ingredients down to which side of the hill the mushroom field is facing. The spot must have cost $85,000.
    When advertising makes you want to buy something or change your purchase behavior it usually starts with a clean, focused strategy.  Mr. Conant and his marketing team bring that type of focus to their marketing party. (Oh, BTW, Campbell’s soup sales are up 13% on the quarter.)