retail advertising

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Office Depot, according to Stuart Elliott the ad writer for The New York Times, will be conducting an anti-bullying, back to school campaign this summer, using a boy band called One Design (or some such, JKJK). The grab-all idea is: “Live. Love. More” — as in “Live kind. Love everyone. Move together against bullying.” I’m not into 3 word taglines or ideas and the ones that require 8 more words to explain are even more perplaxing but I do love causes. Unfortunately, using causes as a way to break through with your advertising is a fairly common mistake.  They are easy to talk about, easy to surround with quotes, advocates and a powerful narrative. Often though, they are off the brand plan and only slightly tethered to sales — if at all. Plus they are kind of transparent.

That said, bullying is bad so let’s hope this campaign works. The creative idea is a montage too far. It’s almost ad-silly. The idea would be best boiled down to “Live Kind.”  I don’t think Lance would mind (not Lance Stephenson).  You see, if you “live kind,” then you probably try to love all and shun bullying. Live kind is memorable. Familiar, yet unique. It’s also a baby step, not the whole enchilada.  

This campaign is more for parents then kids, I get it. And like aroma therapy, it may provide a nice glow for the brand.  Were I the brand manager, however, I’d do this through the PR group and use my ad dollars to de-position Wal-Mart, Office Max and Amazon.  With a kick-ass, 360 retail effort – trotting out some mobile and twitch point planning tricks. Peace.  

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Brand planners love the future. Almost as much as they love the past.  Google is introducing some type of campaign or game or something today at South By whereby it’s mashing up some old school ads form the 60s with new school media.  I’m sure it is going to be lovely and may even sell a little Coke, Alka-Seltzer and few Volvos — participating brands.  Hopefully, the effort will sell some Google thingies.

Planners — and I’m one of them — love the future.  Do things that have never been done. Build new categories. Break new use-case ground.  Design ideas that are future-proof.  Plan “beyond the dashboard” as I like to call it.

But what’s wrong with today?  Today is not sexy for most. Today is boring.  Or is it?  Retailers and those focused on retail marketing are all about today.  And they are so amped it’s scary. Zimmerman Advertising is a retail advertising specialist and they’re not too famous, but they could be.  They are all about the now and have had long-term success. Cash registers are their mana.

The past is gone.  The future never arrives (Remember being a kid in bed on Christmas Eve?  That was some existential shizz, no?)  “Now” is what’s up.  Sell more now.  Today.  Plan for today. Peace!

 

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Ben Benson’s Steak House is a classic New York steakhouse.  Meat, potatoes, spinach and big drinks.  In the 80s I used to do some fun advertising for Ben, when the “steakhouse wars” were the rage. Lots of creative print advertising in the city with Poppe Tyson, my dad’s agency, and creative director Fergus O’Daly in the bull’s eye.

One of my best marketing ideas at the time, which I pitched to Ben, was to offer captains of industry who frequented the establishment on rainy days a free Ben Benson golf umbrella, if they left theirs at the office. Follow the color scheme, make the logo big but delicate and provide best customers with a meaningful spiff.  Oh, and the advertising walking around midtown wouldn’t hurt. I could get the umbrellas for about $19 a piece, printed. 

“You know how many steaks I have to sell to pay for one of those umbrellas?” asked Ben.   “My sirloins (remember, if was the 80s) retail for $24 and cost me $18.   I’d have to sell 3 steaks to pay for one umbrella.”  This, from a guy running a multi-million dollar steakhouse with a $100,000 ad budget. Still, in Ben’s mind steaks jumping across plates was context.  Understand the context of your customer before you sell them and you have a higher chance of success. Peace.

(Psst Ben.  Your sirloins are $50 today and an umbrella is still about $19 – just sayin’.)

 

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I love making predictions.  When I started disagreeing with Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy, a few years ago about marketing and brand management, implicit in that disagreement was that Best Buy would have earnings troubles. You see, Mr. Judge jumped on the pop marketing band wagon proclaiming “companies don’t own brands, consumers do.”  My response was this view was lazy and opened the door for disorganized brand management. Even a number of P&G digitists were agreeing with this fallacious notion.

Best Buy’s net income is down 30% this quarter, all due to price cutting.  If your name is Best Buy and you ask customers what they want they’ll say “coupons and low prices.” If you don’t create another value for your customers they default to price.  And when customers default to price you’re not marketing, you’re simply selling.

Mr. Judge and his army of Twelpforcers and sales assistants needed a plan. They were in the right neighborhood (providing assistance), but bounding about without a motivation.  Had they a plan, had someone at the top managed the brand rather than turned it over to the masses, Best Buy would be killing it now as we slide step out of recession. 

The good news for Mr. Judge is it’s not too late to fix this thing. He has more data, more inputs and more mindshare than he knows what to do with.  If he organizes his house with some serious brand management chops, next year Best Buy won’t be covering up price tags to fend off the smartphone price scanner apps, they’ll be smiling with gold teeth. Peace.

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Right now, T-Mobile’s advertising is the best in the category.  The way it integrates print, TV and web is beautiful, the art direction is constant, and spokesperson Carly Foulkes has been managed brilliantly.  Never tarted up, always positive, always girl next door, Ms, Foulkes and agency Publicis Seattle are building a place in our brains for this price shopper 4G mobile brand.

As ubiquitous as this advertising is, it’s not Geico annoying.  Not AT&T message meandering or Verizon techno mappish. It’s a clean, retail brand imprint and it’s beginning to work.

Creative advertising dudes (less so dudettes) will snark at this comment saying the work is as creative as chipped nail polish, but from a brand management point of view, in a muddled market, this work is moving phones.  And T-Mobile doesn’t even have an iPhone.    

Imagine if T-Mobile changed its spokesperson every couple of ads.  Or tried to compete with Verizon by employed a lot of red in its color palette. Or rather than hammer home price it showed all the cool phone innovations (okay, they do a bit of that on TV).

If the AT&T purchase goes through next year, don’t be surprised to see BBDO morph the campaign Ms. Foulkes way.  They won’t cut over using the Magenta color the way they did using Cingular orange, but they know enough to keep the price work clean. Or we might just see Publicis hold the retail business and cede network and inno to BBDO.

T-Mobile has organized its brand and kept to the plan. That’s why its numbers are creeping up! Peace.

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