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Big World.

While brand planning for an educational technology company I had the pleasure of driving around the great State of NY and seeing a number of its secondary cities and suburbs. It’s an amazing state. The gravitational pull of New York City for Long Islanders and others in the tri-state region jades our point of view, however. And it’s unfortunate. It is not until you get to Florida, NY or Copenhagen, NY that you get the full picture.

As someone who grew up middle-to-upper middle class and also worked in the advertising/marketing business, I confess to be overly focused on brands. I worked at McCann in its glory days when Coke was still there. I worked on AT&T when it had the largest ad budget in the solar system. Brands were subsistence in this world. But outside of NYC and other NFL cities for that matter, the gravitational pull of brands was not that great. People made decisions based on the size of their wallet. It affected what they bought, what they could afford. Post college, while a house painter I was introduced to generic canned good in black and white cans. Eating bait fish at fish fries.

Brand planners don’t research the underclass. But they should. There is a lot of life and learning in this part of the economy.

My first brand planning insight – the reason I became a planner, was this: “Why does a Appalachian father, without a pot to piss in, insist on buying Castrol Motor oil for his truck when so many less expensive brands are available?” Brand planners – get out of the city. The office. Do what Heidi Hackemer did and drive the country. You will be refreshed in your thinking.

Happy Memorial Day…a celebration of Peace.

 

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There are a couple of places great brand ideas come from according to Robin Hafitz, CEO of Open Mind Strategies. The product or service is an obvious one. Predominant features or functions. Differences. Form factor, taste, speed, etc.  Brand ideas may also reside in consumer need. The using consumer or influencing consumer. S/he wants to be liked, pretty, rich, fit, loved. And lastly, brand ideas may emanate from the category…and by category, for non-marketers, that means the business class of product or service, e.g. healthcare, soda, hospitality. An understanding of consumer’s expectations of a category (all competing products) sometimes can create the context for a good brand idea or position. For instance, banks only care about lending.

But a brand idea is best when it is singular. (“Tastes great, less filling” being an exception in the new lite beer category back in the ‘80s.)  And when the idea is singular it should come from one of the three places mentioned above. That said, I dig hard to make sure the idea comes out of the product. Coke’s idea of refreshment is an interesting example. It is product based but also user experienced. Bonus. Coke’s current brand idea “happiness” is only the latter. And for me, one of the reasons Coke consumption has lessened. Though the advertising is often wonderful (Wieden and Kennedy.)

The word commodity is the enemy of good product and branding. So dig hard. Dig deep. And find an important difference. It will be worth it. Peace.

 

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I have mad respect for Seth Godin. He’s a hero. And he’s great for the economy. Anyone who can help marketers focus — and improve product and product delivery is someone worth paying attention to. That’s what Seth does. So you can imagine my dismay this weekend when reading this quote from him in an article about Coca-Cola: “Coke is not in the sugary water business, they are in the storytelling business.”

Coke is in the Coke business. The business of product. Every marketer is in the business of product. It’s ground zero for marketers. Storytellers are in the storytelling business. Creative people are in the story telling business.

It’s not a story hurting Coke sales, it’s high fructose corn syrup. As our brains continue to get bigger (according to evolutionary physical anthropologists) we will continue to learn how to prolong our lives – through better living. Products that get in the way of this will wane. The craft economy is taking hold.

Anyone who suggests stories not products are shaping the marketing future, is spending too much time in tactics land. Mr. Godin gets a mulligan; his product is too strong. Peace.

 

 

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coke

Sales of the Coca-Cola Company dropped 3.6% this quarter. It seems the tide has turned.  The global sugar water growth that offset the diminished appetite for Coke in the U.S. has brought Coke’s growth back to earth. Pepsi saw this sales ding years ago. Coke has been getting into the healthier-for-you businesses for a while now but it looks as if they must really redouble their efforts. Healthier-for-you is the future.    

Big data will help Coke figure out where lost sales are going. Big data, used by CMS (Center for Medicare Services), will also show where unhealthy eating and drinking habits are happening. And by sharing this information with doctors and insurance companies it will pave the way for incentives for consumers to eat better. Much the way insurance costs go up for smokers. Gonna happen.

When you are Coke and your sales are off 3.6%, you need to “refresh” your thinking. (I smell a cold-pressed juice purchase in the near future.)

Pepsi is holding its own by dialing up salty snacks. What’s the opposite of healthier-for-you?

Now is the time. There should be and will be a marketing investment shake up in Atlanta. And “happiness,” the Wieden+Kennedy campaign?  Not likely to make it in its current form — not in this climate.

Peace.

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In Spike Jonze new film “Her” in which a man falls in love with his operating system, there is a wonderful example of the power and influence of branding.

Having seen the trailer, I immediately put the movie into the “goofy, not going to see it” category, yet there was something familiar and alluring about the voice of the operating system.  It wasn’t until the reviews started rolling in that I found out it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Hmmm.

Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times today “It’s crucial that each time you hear Ms. Johansson in Her, you can’t help but flash on her lush physicality, which helps fill in Samantha (OS) and give this ghostlike presence a vibrant, palpable form.” It is this muscle memory associated with Scarlett Johansson’s voice – this Pablovian response — that smart brands attempt to build.  The frosty Coke bottle image on a hot day. The sweet pillowy taste and texture of a Krispie Kreme donut. The olfactory-palooza of a Peter Luger porterhouse.  

When you have a brand plan, complete with promise and support planks, the casting becomes easy. Rich. And powerful. Peace.  

 

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Storytelling in advertising and marketing is the haps. The narrative. The customer journey. These approaches refer to getting consumers onboard without direct selling. Direct selling being “me, me, me” advertising versus storytelling which is you, you, you — always a more thoughtful approach. An approach much harder to get funded by marketing officers.

Agencies like storytelling because it creates buildables. Video is big. A friend of mine with a women’s sneaker company tells me “everyone keeps calling trying to sell me video.” BBDO has a Lowes Vines story on its website, boasting of effective 6 second Vines videos that only cost Lowes $5,000.

I’m down with storytelling. And video. And the digital journey through an assortment of buildables. But I’m more down with strategy. Or moving consumers to the moral of the story –what one feels about a brand as a result of all the work. And it’s not just a click or a product purchase, it’s the why. I bought a Coke because I wanted refreshment. I bought a Krispy Kreme donut because I deserved a treat.

Story telling is good but branding is more like crescendo building. Moving custies closer to full on purposeful love. Geico, could take a note or two here. Peace.

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I was judging at The Beautiful Minds Event last weekend, a wonderful BBH-sponsored celebration of the life of Griffin Farley, and was struck by how rose colored my glasses have become.  Not sure if it’s all the find the pain point pop marketing books the kids read in school or what the media hath wrought, but most of the young were wrapping their strats around problem solving. (Beautiful Minds, BTW, is a competition among tyro brand planners.)

The brief the competitors were chasing was about Citibikes. Imagery of sweat, commuter angst, cramped subway cars and ornery taxi drivers abounded.  Where was the happiness factory? Readers know I love Coke strategy and have been a little contrary when it comes to the happiness strategy. Growing up at McCann and seeing how “refreshment” can be optimized for Coke sales, I’ve not been “feeling” the happiness thing.  But then I watched the lovely “Small World Machine” video designed to bring closer together Pakistani and Indian youth. I cried then said to myself “that’s refreshing.” A different kind of refreshing.     

With all the negativity in the world, all the cop/killing TV shows, movies about aliens eating cities, religious wars and hate mongering, it’s not hard to stick out with some positivity. Let’s not just fix problems with our strategies, let’s surround and celebrate the good.  And let’s teach the youth to do so as well. Check all your briefs at the door people. Peace.

RIP Aunt Irma. The Poppe matriarch.

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I favor the poetry inherent in good brand planning, so in various places on the web you may have seen some of my references to “redistributing marketing wealth.” Redistributing marketing wealth is a great calling if you can do it. It is one goal of great strategy. The only thing that trumps it is “creating new wealth.”  The most exciting work in marketing is not taking a market that currently exists, say a $2.4B market for nutrition drinks, and rejiggering it to get more share – though that is fun.  It’s taking a static market and growing it. Finding new uses, new custies, and new (I can’t think of a third thing)…  

That’s not redistributing marketing wealth, that’s creating new wealth. A smart boss at McCann once asked me, “Where will the money to pay for this product come from?” In other words what will someone not buy to pay for this product? Carbonated soft drink dollars are flowing into waters. So Coke owns both. Now Coke is getting into protein – another reapportionment. But what if Coke took money away from the gyms?  Or created a product that took consumer budget from the gas budget?

Rational consumers only have so much money to spend.  Figuring out how to get them to spend it with you is a planners MO. New money?  Or old money? That is a big planning  question.

Peace be upon you this Friday!     

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Coca-Cola, one of the world’s great marketers, is in a category under attack.  I love the brand but don’t love what it does to consumers who misuse the product. That is, drink it in excess while living a sedentary lifestyle.  Those who make sure the calories that go in are negated by the calories burned are those with healthy body sizes.

Coke ran a print ad today suggesting 4 ways to mitigate its high sugar, high calorie sodas. 1. Offer low calorie beverages. 2. Provide proper nutritional labeling, 3. Help people get moving and excercise, and 4. Don’t advertising to kids.

The traditional Coke bran plan  — Wieden+Kennedy and current brand management aside — has always been about refreshment. (Happiness is the new idea is happiness.)  Refreshment is best served in video and print when it’s hot out.  Active sports people used to be ownable, not so much anymore; thanks to Nike and Under Armour and hundreds of other marketers. Frolicking on beaches and at picnics, were good refreshment images. Bright sunny days.

Coke can use its advertising today in a more positive way if it focuses on refreshment — showing scenarios of active people exerting themselves. That should be a fundamental brand plank. Enough flowers pooping more flowers and musical whimsy choreographing beetles. Coke refreshes. It is best when refreshing people who are fit, who crave refreshment and exert themselves. Or who at least aspire to exert themselves.

Coke is growing outside the US because in developing countries people don’t overeat. They walk and do manual labor. Come on man!  Let’s get back to why people need Coke, not sell it based upon what shareholders need. Peace!

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Empower is a word that used to be the haps in marketing.  Now it has been replaced by “transparency” and “authenticity” in the markobabble lexicon. Being a contrarian, I look at the word empower and wonder how to use its opposite. Depower? To remove from power or to remove power. When you think about it, removing things that make a consumer’s decision hard is what advertisers try to do.  By simplifying the decision for a consumer, removing all the impeding loci, it becomes easier to buy.

Are you the type of person who has a hard time deciding when looking at a restaurant dinner menu?  Me too. I like duck, and pasta, a steak.  So when I read the menu I’m using the descriptions to aid me. I prioritize the descriptors.

If we look at an ad as a selling device and are speaking to a consumer who must decide using many factors — factors that may not play to our product’s strong suit — we have to depower those factors. So a Coke that may be very refreshing but filled with calories and sugar, needs to depower the latter two qualities so it properly highlights the former. It’s not always about focusing on the positive attributes, the best advertising and marketing strategy sees the rest of the power grid and on all. A little like chess, no?  Peace.

 

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