Faris Yakob

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Mark Pritchard, Proctor & Gamble’s CMO has asked Publicis, WPP and Omnicom to create a hybrid consumer agency to service a portion of his North American business. The collaboration, he hopes, will yield better creative and better economics. (Insert silent giggle here.) When the boss asks for something and is willing to pay for something, you do it. Mr. Pritchard is the boss and the biggest ad spender in the neighborhood.

As proof of concept, he points to the wonderful anti-advertising Tide Detergent campaign aired during the last Super Bowl. But there’s a massive problem with the logic. Ad people are very ethnocentric. Very egocentric. Did I mention competitive? Especially creative people.  Leonardo da Vinci let some talented interns mix the paints and sketch on some canvases, but he wasn’t collaborating.

Every time someone trots out this hybrid agency idea or the idea to have a totally dedicated brand shop, it’s failed.  As Faris says, “ideas are recombinant.” Egos aren’t.

This dedicated agency model may save money, it may make a couple of goods ads, but it won’t attract the best people and certainly won’t foster the best creative. Ring around the agency.




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Yesterday I wrote about using memes to drive website traffic and brand interest. Today I’ll build on that with a little search tip.

When I first started What’s The Idea? and blogging about branding, I realized it would be smart to tag my blogs with key content points but also with “Whats the idea” and “whatstheidea,” the actual URL  In a meeting with Faris Yakob, a marketing pal, I mentioned my approach, explaining this activity allowed me to tell people to  Google “whatstheidea+ a brand or marketing topic” and it will likely lead them right to my website.  Faris said I was “indexing” content to my website using Google’s search engine.  Leave it to Faris to find the right words. Love Faris.

By always posting with my brand name — it helps that I have over 2.100 blog posts — it has created breadcrumbs to my site all across the web…wherever Google goes.

Every brand must use this slippery slope to their site. And every brand must post.



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Inward Bound

Faris Yakob (you own me a beer, Faris) is a strategy genius. Just a real shmarty pants. For all the big words he uses, and they are plenty, his ideas are quite simple and rich. Faris is a wonderful communicator, as well. He is closely associated with his oft-used phrase “Talent Imitates, Genius Steals.” Here’s a steal, or as he might put it, a recombinant idea, purloined from David Brook’s Op-Ed piece this past weekend in the NYT. (It comes from David’s new book The Road To Character.) In the article he identifies a number of way to improve one’s character. I won’t do it justice so read the piece, but what impressed me most was Mr. Brook’s call for people to see the world not through the gravity of their own lives, wants and needs, but through others.

This notion is wonderfully instructive for brand planners. I was once spanked in anthropology class for suggesting cultural anthropologists should do more than observe, record and be passive. The pimp hand that hit me related that by being more than a passive observer I’d be insinuating myself into the culture, changing it ever so much.

Brand planners need to divorce themselves from the consumer. Go all tofu on the buying journey, the “if then” decisions, the psyche of the purchasers and influencers.

It’s not easy. But it’s necessary. Inward not outward is David Brook’s advice. And mine too, for brand planning. Peace.  

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I read a quote this morning attributed to the denizens of Silicon Valley “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” As someone who spent many of his early years studying anthropology and also who makes a living today studying and perfecting strategy and its talons, I take issue.

Nothing easts strategy for breakfast. And I’m a big culture guy. Whenever employees talk about company culture 9 out of 10 times they are inarticulate. “We’re an entrepreneurial culture.” “We foster a culture of innovative.” Meh. Sure, employees will tell illustrative stories, usually resulting in a cool product or service or founder feat, but that’s not culture. Beer Fridays, a month off to do your own project, charity Monday – not culture.

ruth benedict

Great American anthropologist Ruth Benedict taught us no single trait of personality, art, language or culture exists in isolation. They all work together. In American business, in start-up business, these behavioral elements are typically borrowed, repurposed, stolen (thanks Faris Yakob), or combined into what Silicon Valley companies call culture. Double meh. A huge oversimplification.

A strategy to “accomplish something” is what’s for breakfast. Also lunch and dinner. For me strategy begets culture. Together strategy and culture are powerful allies. The most powerful of allies. Apart, not so much.



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Big data in marketing now is not only a thing, it’s a big thing.  Smart companies are parlaying all the information we leave around the web, in stores and on our credit cards to learn about our proclivities. Our likes. Tastes. And timings. This “parlay” is then given to corporate data nerds, supervised by a marketing officer who oversees budgets, big deals and the national TV campaign — but who may not spend a lot of time looking into the eyes of customers and prospects. The result of this big data?  Newish forms of broadcast. Email newsletters to existing customers. A national promotion for a chance to spend a day with an ex- Disney girl. Online ad exchanges.

Brand planners are good at what they do because they look consumers in the eye. They deal in feelings; feelings that are best shared or observed one on one. The problem with marketing today is that technology has given us tools to do one on one things via broadcast. Dear “loyal customer” Vs. Dear “Steve.”  Sales calls are automated. Robo calling with personal names and account numbers.  Mail run off on a printing press. It’s not personal when it’s mass produced and modular.

Readers know I talk about the roots movement in our culture. Well roots will come back to marketing soon.  Even forward thinker Faris Yakob is reading The Benevolent Dictators, a book about the titans of the ad industry.

The best ideas in marketing come from personal, individual insights and discussions. Then we turn them into big data and broadcast them. Let’s slow down the broadcast. Peace.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Fast Twitch Media and twitch point planning, and from the quality of the responses it seems I’m on to something.  Faris Yakob of KBS+P is in the fast twitch neighborhood when he refers to our low latency culture, and others who talk about integrating transmedia solutions are similarly on the trail.   It’s a nascent practice but quite exciting. One key to effectively getting people to twitch from one media type to another, with the goal of taking them closer to a transaction, is to create intrigue. Especially in a low-interest category.  If we are talking Gillette razors, you don’t need to twitch me to a treasure map or man-scape video game, but you do need to get me to think, feel and do – within the context of a brand idea. Go Daddy got this years ago, albeit shamelessly and sans selling idea.

As the mobile online experience improves, and it’s not there yet, a twitch to a website is only a pants pocket away. A twitch to a hastag. A QR code to a video. A geo-check –all within arm’s reach.  Print ads are already becoming short form billboards using a call to twitch. Check out the new Kobo e-reader ad in The New York Times paper/paper today.

The RGAs , Crispin Porter’s and 72 and Sunny’s are thinking twitch point planning — they just don’t call it so. And they are trying to decide who is responsible for it. Media people, creative, geekuses?  The answer is yes. Peace!

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My favorite modern marketer and lexicographer, Faris Yakob, uses the word “recombinant” a lot in his work and it’s a word I love.  His thesis is that everything is old and that what is new is just repackaging and/or a recombination of existing borrowed things.  

The new network television schedule launching tonight reminds me of Mr. Yakob’s theory.  More cop shows, medical shows, a sitcom or two depicting likeable middle ‘mericans.  But nothing really innovative.  The last innovation, if you don’t count cable using the word “dick” was probably reality TV, now accounting for 2 out of every 10 shows. Program-wise everything is so stale. Oh, we can text message and affect outcomes, but that’s a little 4th grade don’t you think?

We need some recombination here.  Mix a little Steven Colbert with 60 Minutes or NFL Pregame with America’s Most Wanted.  How about recombining House with Jersey Shore. Better yet, why doesn’t network TV go beyond recombination and just innovate completely.  The answer I trust lies somewhere at the nexus of consumer generated video, geolocation, gaming with a dash of celebrity.   The next big thing is out there and programmers with the vision to break the mold will reap the rewards. Come on networks, hire Mr. Yakob for a month.  Peace!

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