fred poppe

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Salesforce, a spectacular online business, ran an ad today in the NYT paper paper using a tried and true ad tactic “the testimonial.”  Amazon Web Service was the customer. Both are great companies, but the ad was so weak. It’s what my dad Fred Poppe might have called the “doggy’s dinner.”

Central to the idea is something called the (initial caps) Customer Success Platform. Oy. Luckily, the Customer Service Platform is powered by (initial cap) Einstein artificial intelligence. A skootch better.  It “qualifies leads, predicts when customers are ready to buy, and helps them close more deals.”  This is actually stuff a real copywriter could work with — but as written it’s all claim, no proof.   

To make matters worse the ad ends with “What if you had a way to help your business take flight?” followed by the Salesforcrce logo (When did they lose the .com in the logo?) and tagline “Blaze new trails.”  Flight? Trails? Talk about mixing your metaphors.

It’s as if someone used an ad-by-numbers kit.

For a company as successful and powerful as Salesforce, you’d think they could put together a cogent, well-craft print ad.  Maybe they should download a Hubspot template. JKJK.  




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Christine Draeger, VP global marketing at Safeguard World Intenational is a pal and she asked to me to post on how a brand plan can help in recruiting.  

Here goes.  If you are involved in recruiting good people to your company (and who isn’t?), then you know what it’s like to interview someone without a clean presentation of their career arc, career goals, strengths and weaknesses and personality. (As my ad guy father Fred Poppe used to say about the latter, “If you don’t have one, don’t apply.”) When you finish conducting such an interview, the candidate has likely answered all your questions yet the presentation was jumbled — and you don’t have a sense of the person. It would be hard for you to talk about the candidate, save for an accomplishment, previous jobs, age, etc.

This is why a proper brand plan is important for a company. Because people interview brands every day… and they are looking for a clean picture. So when people are introduced to your brand, they understand what it does, how, and why.  A simple organizing principle, codified, shared within the company and lived by employees helps this.  Some call it culture – it’s not culture. Though culture can be derived from the brand plan. A brand plan is an organizing principle, based in product strength and customer need that showcases and leverages both.  Brands without a plan are ingredients and packaging surrounded by dissociated advertising. A plan brings it all together.

Next time you go into an interview and you are meeting with a higher up, ask them to discuss the key elements of the company brand plan. If they look at you funny be weary. Peace.

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Here’s one way to see if your company has a brand plan.  Summon department leaders and one random dept. employee into the conference room on a Monday morning. Ask each of them to create a PPT presentation describing the company mission in twelve pages — no more, no less. Make sure they explain what the company Is and what the company Does. (Here referred to as the Is-Does.)  Ask them to report back by 1 P.M., where sandwiches will be served and the work reviewed as a group.

As with any research, offer up that there are no right or wrong answers and grades will not be issued. 

Companies with strong brand cultures will share presentations containing similar organizational structure and language.  The other 92% will be a mash-up. What will they mash up?  Learnings from category-leading brands. Things they recall reading in the trade press and news.  A little bit of personal aspiration, maybe some lyrics from the company PR boiler plate and, likely, some CEO language. A doggy’s dinner as Fred Poppe might have said.

In companies with tight brand plans, every employee knows what business they’re in. They can articulate what products are sold, what customers care about and the business-winning goals. These are business fundies. This is strategy.  It’s worth sharing with employees.  

Try this brand plan test out and see what can be learned about from a few simple PPT sides. Peace.

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In a TED video I watched yesterday on the state of education, Sir Ken Robinson mentioned something pretty profound. He said most people are often “good at something they don’t really like doing.”  His point being, that mom-ism, “If you do something you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  His broader point was students today are broadcast to, not engaged, and that’s why education is in such a sorry state.

Broadcast Selling.

I was mowing the lawn last night and thinking about this as it relates to advertising and marketing.  With media exploding into more and more, always-on devices (ding-a-ling, Good Will on the phone), and those devices containing advertising, the bombardment of selling is growing exponentially.  Moreover, that selling is being done by more craft-less people, creating the advertising equivalent of fast food — poorly constructed and not good for you. (Ads by SEO kids, videos by moms.) 

How to sell.

As a young ‘un in the ad business I drafted an article for Adweek that suggested people read ads to be: educated, entertained or to see something they’ve never seen before.  I think this still applies. We are so inundated with selling messages today we shut down.  Ingest too many antibiotics and you become immune.  Hear the word “quality” too many times and you become similarly immune. 

Our Job

Our job as marketers is not to say the same things with new messaging devices, it’s to educate, entertain and present the artful unseen. (In the 70’s my dad Fred Poppe used to call this “engagement.”)  Engagement starts with getting someone to let down their message defenses. My ramble.  My peace!  Happy 4th.

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Left to Our Devices.

I love to hike. I love nature. I love to see things I’ve never seen before and learn things that stimulate and make me want. I love watching people and kids and all things pretty. To do so — I have to keep my eyes open, look up, stay out of ruts and be interested in my surroundings.

What scares me about our culture today is how many of us, especially kids, hide in our devices. On a subway platform during rush hour, prime people watching time, there are probably 400 pounds of electronic devices in use. Every other ear has a bud in it. If lips are moving, unless the station is deeply tunneled, they are talking into phones. Others are reading books on Kindles or watching film on smart phones. Very few people are talking to one another. Most heads are down.

As marketers, the down head is the enemy. We need to engage people in ways they make them look up. In ways that make them think and comment. Marketers and advertisers need to engage (an advertising word my father Fred Poppe rode to prominence back in the 80s) rather than spam. OOH (out of home) ad creators get this. Walk around SOHO in NY and see if you can keep your eyes off the billboards. Or the people, for that matter. Market to be noticed. Peace!

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My dad, Fred Poppe, who was a terrific writer and ad pundit, had a thing for one word headlines. They drove him crazy. Typically, these ads place a word like RELIABILITY in block letters centered atop the page. Lazy efforts like this are what give ad people a bad name.

My pet peeve is multiple word headlines with the words separated by periods. Like the headline of this blog post. Canon is running a printer campaign using one of these constructs: Produce. Persuade. Perform. On Paper.

This is not an idea; it’s not even 4 ideas. Whatever it is you can drive an earthmover through it. If there is an idea hidden in this campaign, it’s probably the last part of the word string “On paper.”  You just might be able to build a selling story around that, given the right strategy, but for the life of me I can’t tell what that strategy would be from what I read. 

The campaign runs on 4 consecutive half-page horizontal pages and tosses out words like: speed, quality, budget, quality, productivity, accuracy, quality, consistency, speed, accuracy and consistency. And just in case your brain wasn’t spinning fast enough, they repeat “Produce. Persuade. Perform. On Paper.” in each ad.

Here’s what consumers will say about this campaign in day-after recall copytesting: “I remember pictures on a table and lots of black space.” Props to the art director.   

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