eric keshin

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The Great Harvest Bread Company is in year 2 of a really smart sampling promotion called the “National Bread Challenge.” Bring an unopened loaf of processed supermarket bread to one of Great Harvest’s 200 stores nationally and they’ll replace it with one of their loaves, which began taking shape at 2:30 A.M. that morning – kneaded by hand from freshly milled grains. Sound like a heavy loaf? Sound dry? Sound crunchy? Not even close. This bread redefines bread. It’s wonderful.

Great Harvest is betting consumer taste buds will help them grow market share. They are trying to recondition the market to pay more for better bread. Healthier bread. Every marketer needs a mark or a villain and this time the villain is processed white bread. Bread with no nutritional value, despite what Wonder Bread will tell you.

(Disclaimer: Great Harvest president Eric Keshin is a friend.)

Trial, getting people to try your product for the first time, is a time-tested marketing tactic. In this case, it’s an expensive one.  Giving away free loaves from November 10-12, 2017 is a high stakes effort. Were the bread average in taste and quality, it would be a silly move. It’s not. Find yourself a processed loaf and trade it in. Let those taste senses fire off some new synapses. Fresh is the new fresh.




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Good Bias.

Eric Keshin, a friend for whom I worked at McCann Erickson, liked to use the word bias when describing good advertising strategy. Creating bias toward your product resulted in sales increases the logic went. In my younger years I always wanted to start and ad agency and name it “Foster, Bias and Sales.” Foster attention. Create bias. Generate sales.

I received an email this morning about an upcoming board of education election in town. A current board member endorsed a candidate, with the candidate’s introductory email attached. The note included paragraph after paragraph about years of service, kids in the district, the challenges we face, yada yada… all the good brochure ware you’d expect. Idiot that I am and in an attempt at humor, I debated hitting “rely all” and asking “Elizabeth _____ , what type of name is that?” Of course I’d have been run out of town, but it is very Steven Colbert. And certainly raises questions about bad bias a la something you might have heard in the 60s. 

Bias is a powerful. When it takes 276 kidnapped girls in Nigeria to get the women of the senate to cross the aisle and unite, that’s bias. But bias “toward” not bias “against” can be a positive marketing strategy.

Brand planners who favor strategies attempting to build preference are on the right track. Those who work harder to create bias toward a brand — where consumers become defensive about their choice – are the true winners. Tink about it, as my Norwegian aunt might have said.


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Keshin…To Go.

Eric Keshin was groomed to take over McCann-Erickson.  A rising star at the company for years, he was one of John Dooner’s chosen ones. Eric ran the AT&T Business business while in his twenties and the agency powers knew enough to step out of his way. He was a quite a force of nature.

Eric built his career being decisive — never wavering when asked a question. He loved McCann…bled “Truth Well Told” blue.  And the haters who never worked there or worked in the creative dept. and could find a way to criticize a child’s finger painting, well, they will have their say. Go ahead, snark away– but McCann rocked the ad world for a number of years and Eric Keshole (as I affectionately used to call him on the softball field) was the orchestra’s key instrument.

“He’s big, he’s blue…”

I was an account manager under Eric on AT&T and Lucent. He hired me. He fired me. Both deserved. But I left McCann a much better ad guy and marketer — one who knew how to analyze business problems, when to conduct research, how to read consumers and truly listen to the market.  I also learned how to question authority and clients. And I learned to love my brands… at McCann.

If this seems almost obituary-like, it’s not. Eric will land somewhere. Just as Jim Heekin did. And when he lands it will be with a thud. A thud of money. Eric has changed markets with his decisions. Eric is no problem solver – anyone can do that. He’s an opportunity creator. I know it killed him to leave McCann. As his power waned, so waned IPG’s stock. He’s no Frenchman and though WPP would be smart to grab him, smart money is on Miles Nadal and MDC Partners.  And the gloves will be off. Peace! Or not.

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Foster, Bias and Sales is the name of the ad agency I always wanted to start. The name, unlike many, contains a branding idea. Okay three ideas. If you know me, you know that breaks one of my rules about focus — brand strategies can’t have commas or conjunctions — but rules are made to be broken so Foster, Bias and Sales it is. 


Foster is about developing "good will" towards a client’s product or service. People need to root for the product. Foster is about creating a positive, conducive sales environment. Bias is a word I often heard used by Eric Keshin, a past and learned boss. Eric’s a big macher at McCann Erickson. Creating bias or preference toward your product is "selling."  Sometimes you might have to create bias against a competitor, but only as a last resort. And Sales? Well that’s why we market. Sales are the ultimate metric. Cha-ching! 


One caveat: You may have to do a lot of fostering and biasing before sales come. A friend’s your son was on a soccer team with a talented Irish-American coach who told the little dudes “This year we’re learning the fundamentals. We will not win any or many games, but we will learn how to dribble and pass. We will learn about spacing and defense. If you all pay attention and stay with me, we will win the championship in two years.” Guess what? Sales. Peace!


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