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Live Mas Indeed.

In marketing there are “does” and “talkers.” You can’t become a talker without first doing but after you get your talker stripes it becomes easy to go on the speakers’ circuit. One of my favorite brand and marketing “doers” is Taco Bell’s CMO Chris Brandt.

biscuit taco

First off, he gets branding. He understands when you have a powerful brand idea, in his case “Live Mas”, you need to articulate and share it. Everywhere.  By enculturating it inside a company, it then seeps out every pore. Next you need to innovate. Innovation provides learning.  And marketing is nothing if not constant learning. With all deference to the people selling agile this and agile that, you also need to know when to pull the plug – as Mr. Brandt has with the waffle breakfast taco. This time last year it was touted as the company’s largest new product launch. Today it has morphed into a Biscuit Taco. (Maybe use a little American maze in the recipe?) The point is, Mr. Brandt’s engine is always running. Good thing because he’s in the retail fast food business.  Next to selling door to door, retail offers the most immediate response to effective marketing. One year of waffles and Mr. Brand knew he had to make a move.

Lastly, Mr. Brand is using a hot ad agency, Deutsch-LA. These Westies are doing some great work. Traditional and digital. They may not get branding strictures with the vigor of Mr. Brandt, but they don’t have to. As long as they have him to drive the taco bus. Peace!


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I’ve posted a number of times about the role of learning in marketing. If we help consumers learn the value of brands we’re more apt to gain favor and loyalty. The discovery of new product information and utility is a learning moment which is much better than by being taught by rote recitation of benefits.

We all know the most common leaning environments – schools – aren’t always that effective. Kids are bored. They can’t concentrate. They’re not engaged. So it helps to introduce a little entertainment. Today’s marketing, certainly today’s advertising, tends to be very entertainment focused. Too much so.

The best work helps consumers learn but holds their interest through entertainment. These Deutsch Volkswagen spots on diesel engine myths are a wonderful example of learning and entertainment. Watch all three.


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Getting Credit.

A couple of years ago I wrote a strategic white pager for Accenture Interactive, having previously met with a planner at Deutsch New York about a bank assignment.  I came to the conclusion that not much intellectual or marketing capital is being spent by banks promoting savings.  Savings, for banks doesn’t put biscuits in the oven. Lending is where banks make da monies. So as contrarian as it was, I suggested taking advantage of low, low consumer trust of banks and a climate in which 7 of every 10 dollars in political ads were banging banks, to recommend telling consumers that finances are best when saved. Not when borrowed.

No one was doing this. No bank was encouraging consumers to save their money. The idea was to become the “savings bank” in a sea of lending banks. Build a story, claim and proof, build a new banking brand position.  And where would people go when they wanted to borrow some cash?  Because we know there will always borrowers be. To the one bank that really cares about its customer finances, the savings bank.  In strategic planning, sometimes by doing one thing you get credit for another. Tink about it (as my Norwegian aunt would have said.)


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David Brooks had a nice Op-Ed piece today in The New York Times on the topic of big data. In one of his metaphors he states that as the data haystack gets bigger the needle becomes more deeply buried. So context is critical to analysis of data he argues. Poor contextual views of data cause failed analysis.

Another opinion leader I follow is Robert Scoble – a tech blogger. Robert is the most “on” person I know. When he sleeps he’s evaluating.  Robert’s big thing this year is context. He reviews and evaluates all sorts of tech tools that create context out of actions, locations, email and Siri voice commands (I threw that last one in there, but I’m sure he’d agree.)

Brand planners use context every minute. As they watch and listen for powerful, motivating behaviors, they seek patterns. Hay of a certain length, as it were. Planners’ brains gravitate away from the formulaic and toward the unique. And interestingly, some of the insights they glean aren’t about selling stuff. They are about people that buy the stuff – or don’t buy the stuff. The insights may provide context around child safety or home health or happy meals (lower case) unrelated to the product at hand. And so long as the insights are not too far afield of the product being sold, they are fair context and stimuli for the creative team and the creative output. In the end, it’s all about sale though.

Did the Deutsch’s Darth Vader spot sell more Volkswagen’s? Do kids ride in cars? Do families have and/or want kids? If you have the answer let me know.  Peace!

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Music in Advertsing.

It is that time of year when people start talking about the “bests.” In advertising, most agree the two best spots are Deutsch’s Darth Vader spot for Volkswagen and Wieden and Kennedy’s Chrysler ad with Eminen “Imported From Detroit.”  Both are car ads but in my opinion what sets these spectacular efforts apart is the use of music.

Music was once a much bigger part of advertising than it is today. Often, it’s a throw-away now.  Big ad agencies used to have large music departments with recording studios, op boards and lots of seats for musicians to sit in while awaiting auditions.  Today music departments are on someone’s computer. When the spot is 65% complete someone might ask “What kind of music bed do we need?”

Muscle memory is something I always have my clients aspire to in branding and advertising.  Associate your work with clear ideas, images, turns-of-a-phrase or something to hum.  When I hear Eminem these days I’m ready to buy Detroit. To buy Chrysler. I’m thinking Kid Rock and “In it to win it like Yserman.” Imported From Detroit was is a brilliant brand strategy – but the spot was even better.  Poetry and music are still the best ways to deliver a sale. Peace.  And RIP Police Officer Peter Figoski.

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Same old GM.



There’s a new General Motors TV spot created by Deutsch breaking tomorrow that is, amazingly, the same old-same old.  More freaking upbeat music, more “moving forward” imagery, no remorse, no apology, no mention of chapter 11, though the spot does spin the word “chapter.”  It’s pretty much like watching any GM corporate spot over the last 20 years. (In fact, I’d love to pair some old voice overs with this film just for grins.)


The new GM according to copy will be “leaner, greener, faster, smarter.” Blah cubed.


The most powerful image in the entire spot is a huge sculpture of a metal fist suspended in air paired with the voice over “and fix it we will.”  Very USSR. It happens, though, to be the only emotional point in the spot that resonates.  


Here’s what I want in a chapter 11 spot. Leadership. I want acknowledgement that the company was out of touch and I want to hear what it is doing to stay in touch. I want a demonstration that the new company has good judgment, not blather about reinventing itself. Whenever I screw up I’ve found the best way forward is to admit it. To myself… then to those I’ve let down. I don’t do a song and dance about it and a God damn plié. PEACE!


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It was reported in today’s WSJ that Dr. Pepper is launching a $35 million ad campaign telling consumers to drink Dr. Pepper more slowly. Only then, according to a market research company that uncovered this little gem, will one really experience the 23 flavors that blend together to create the distinctive taste. Did someone say cherry?
Deutsch, the Dr. Pepper agency, admits the idea is a little far-fetched and, so, has surrounded the “drink slowly” idea with two fake doctor spokespeople: Dr. J. (Julius Irving) and Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer of the sitcom Frasier.) 
Soda experts quoted in the article agree the advertising needs to emphasize taste attributes and I agree. Here’s the problem (and I reserved the right to correct myself after I see the ads,) the core taste attribute is the 23 flavors. The advertising is about drinking slowly in order to taste those flavors. If the 23 flavors get lost, the core value is lost and the idea ends up being the drinking process. And with fake doctors as spokespeople, I fear the real idea will be buried even further.
The brief is probably something like “savor the 23 flavors” but with emphasis on the savor and not the flavor, Dr. Pepper and Deutsch will have misfired.

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