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I was reading today how media companies are obsessed with reaching Millennials through TV advertising. Anyone with a Millennial in the family knows they’re multitaskers.  Millennials are the reason Twitch Point Planning was developed.  (Twitches are media moments when one switches media or device in search of more information. Twitch Point Planning is a communication planning technique where you “understand, map and manipulate” consumers closer to a sale.)

This is Upfront Week — where media companies showcase new shows trying to sell ad time before the season begins. It got me thinking about Twitch Point Planning again. For proper utilization of Twitch Point Planning with TV you have to anticipate what audiences will do while watching a particular show. Let’s say you are watching a classic airing of the movie Bullet, what do you think happens on Google when the car chase scene takes place? Como se dice “Mustang?” Or what happens when Claire Underwood is using her rowing machine? “Gym membership? Yoga pants?”

Real-time Twitch intercepts during airings of TV shows are big sales opportunities.  Google understands this, but hasn’t done anything with it. (Yet.) Media companies and ad agencies need to get on board. But to do so they will actually have to watch the shows and plot the potential twitches. It’s a cross medium play, but it’s the way Millennials work.

It’s a big revenue opportunity for everyone.     




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My friend Terrence and I once drove to John Hopkins University from NY to see a wonderful panel of physical anthropologists speak. Big, full auditorium.  I was never one of those “ooh, ooh, ooh kids” who asked a lot of questions in class, but during Q&A time, from way in the back of the expansive auditorium, I asked paleontologist Tim White of UC Berkley, how he thought man was currently evolving.  The question got a giggle or two from the room. (Doh!)  He went on to say brains cases would get bigger and women’s birth canals also…

I love to think about what’s next. It suits me well as a brand planner. The future takes up a good deal of my time at What’s The Idea?.

The future of marketing, product and delivery are not always top of mind for clients. It’s a shame. Had Intel thought this way it may not have had to lay off 12,000 worked yesterday.  Healthcare providers need to think about the future, but they don’t; it’s all about the next diagnosis.  Google needs to think forward and it does. But they need to think forward not about cars and energy, but also about their current search focused product line. And monopolies.

The brand strategies I develop always have the future in their peripheral vision. The strategy developed for Northwell Partners nee North Shore LIJ Health System, is as relevant today as it was 15 years ago.  

If your mantra is “Campaigns come and go…a powerful brand idea is indelible,” the work must be future proof.



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If you wrote a prescient article in the 90s about the rise and fall of Yahoo! and predicted a future in which the company would go on to be a top 10 trafficked website, a billion dollar advertising juggernaut, hirer of one of Google’s most high-flying executives, and a brand with wonderful ballast – only to be bought by the Yellow Pages, I think you’d have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But that’s what looks to be happening.

A company that started out in search is going to end up in search in a weird turn of events. An organization that was an Original 6 (hockey reference…Go Rangers) tech company, will end up being a publishing company that is a shell of itself.

That said. I wish them well. I hope all alums remember what the early years were like. I sure do.

What goes around comes around. Sometimes.



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Yahoo 2016.

A couple of decades ago when the Internet was young I would go to Yahoo daily and check out the list of new websites publishing that day.  Every new website was listed on Yahoo (I can’t remember where) and as the number grew they were indexed by category. It was a raw way of seeing what was new on the web. Very wild west.

Then Yahoo became more of a portal, with a home page, news and other information utilities, e.g,. weather, stocks, etc.  Where Yahoo and Google diverged was in content.  Google kept to search and developed a wonderful advertising model while Yahoo meandered into news, entertainment, video and the like. Yahoo, in other words, tried to be an online newspaper, radio station, TV network and perhaps the world first amalgam of those things. Como se expensive? Advertising revenue grew and the company liked being in the content business but the business model was muddy. Not extensible. And expensive. What did Google do? Cleaner search and smarter ads.

Any hedge find worth its salt will tell you to focus. They look at trends and business fundies then pare, pare pare.  Starboard Value, pushing for dissolution of the Yahoo board, is no different. Starboard is the “stick” that will probably help Yahoo live on. I would counsel them, however, to bring in a brand strategist who can provide some depth to the decision they make. Yahoo is a powerful brand. It owns much space in the minds of consumers.  Don’t toss out that value, use it.





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Experience is hot marketing word these days. It is rooted me thinks in user experience (UX), which started in the early days of the web when sites were hard to navigate and not intuitive. Ad and digital agencies caught on to experience a few years later as a way to create new buildables (content) and garner planning fees It didn’t hurt that “customer journey” and “communications planning” were smart ideas to begin with.

Product experience, some will have you believe, starts with communications and ends with the after-sale. The experience is everything in between. A lot of product experience buildables – designed to follow the AIDA principle: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action — are online and in-store. But product gesture is different.

Product gesture is not so much about the product journey and surround as it is the “consuming experience.” (See my last blog post.) A product gesture is the olfactory response that occurs when you drive by a Burger King. It’s why “flame broiled” is such a powerful brand asset of BK. For Coke, whose long standing brand idea is refreshment, the moment when your head snaps back after a full swig of a newly opened Coke is induced by the product gesture. Google’s product gesture occurs during search when your problem is solved, you smile and twitch to act.

Every product has a gesture. Man-made gestures like the Stella Artois pour and glass are distant seconds, but they are gestures nonetheless.

Find your product gesture and you will find marketing and branding success.

What is your product gesture?


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B2B Futures.

An Ad Age article headline today reads “B-to-B E-Commerce Sales to Reach $1.1 Trillion in 2020.” That’s a pretty big number. In 2015 B2B e-comm is expected to amount to about $780B so that is a pretty big jump. Who, pray tell, do we think will be a big beneficiaries of that revenue?

I’ve written before that Amazon Wholesale will win a great deal of that business. I’ve warned a comfortable local company industrial distribution company, MSC Direct, that Amazon is coming, but they don’t seem to feel the urgency. Probably because they are growing at market rate. Another local B2B distribution company is sending Google checks for $30M every year to help improve their position in search so as to sell their $1B in annual goods.  Again, not a plan.

To all those who look to the future of opportunities I ask “Who will win this B2B ecommerce business?” Delivery and shipping companies will earn a great deal. Internet device and hardware companies will win. The consuming B2B companies should win, with prices coming down.  Will ad agencies earn? Doesn’t sound like it.

If you were to build a start-up to take a cut of this vast amount of resource, what would it be. Can you UBER-ize B2B commerce? Segment it? Localize it? Let me know.





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When I when I started my blog What’s The Idea? in 2007 I had a tough decision to make. Originally, I wanted to call it What’s The Big Idea?, thinking big ideas were better than regular old ideas. Eight years out, I’m happy with my decision to leave off the “big.”griffin farley beautiful mind logo

The reality is, as much I seek big ideas for my brand strategy clients, sometimes just getting them to agree to an idea is enough. Big, bold, brave ideas are currency of the planning realm these days. According to Suzanne Powers, chief strategy office at McCann-Erickson, it is one reasons Team Catfish won the Griffin Farley Beautiful Minds competition last night at Google. And she wasn’t wrong. But “big” can sometime be a synonym for brazen. (And I get it, most of my brand strategies contain one word that make CEOs and marketing officers uncomfortable.) But brand ideas don’t need to be huge, or poetic, or brilliantly layered — they just need to be clean. More importantly they need to be followed. Enforced. And enculturated.

Coke’s “refreshment” wasn’t a big idea. It was a smooth sailing idea. “We know where you live” for Newsday wasn’t a big idea, it was a comfortable idea.

A brand strategy idea (the claim) doesn’t need to be big to be effective. It must, however, be believable, relevant and easy to understand. Peace!

P.S. Great job last night Sarah Watson, Angela Sun and BBH.



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Poor poor advertising. Woe is Advertising. It really doesn’t get much respect. As a kid growing up in the business (before Cable TV and Mad Men), ad agency peeps listed just above car salesmen in term of trustworthyness and job stature. God knows where they stand today. Advertising needs a PR company to remold its image.

Where do you think Google gets its bank? Its campus? Its engineers and PHDs? And, and, and. From ad dollars. Sure AdWords are McAwful. Not creative and mostly DIY. But its advertising. Advertising is a gazillon dollar business.

Advertising needs a boost. It needs a strategy. It needs an event. An event to end all events? How about something that makes South By look like child’s play? How about we fill NYC or Brooklyn with the top creative people in the world? Not an awards show like Cannes, but a celebration of creativity like never before. “Banksy, would you mind lighting the opening bond fire?” “Pearl Jam, could you play at the closing event?” “Steven Colbert, might you emcee a live stream art face-off from McCarren Park?”

I’m not talking Advertising Week where we parade the Jolly Green Giant and Clara Peller? I’m not talking Lee Clow in a duel of words with Rich Silverstein? I’d love to celebrate and inebriate the city with the biggest creative names, people, brands and sponsors of the day. (That day being tomorrow…not yesterday.)

We need a strategy. I smell money.

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Conde Nast just announced its intention to sell its Fairchild Fashion Media to Penske Media for a $100M so it can focus on its core brands. References to core brands and core business is what you hear from companies under financial pressure or companies with slowed growth. There was a lot of talk about core during the recession. The opposite is growth into new tangential businesses. It is what really profitable companies do. Growth companies are looking for that next big business thing. They are investing in futures. Finding places to write down taxes. Google’s self-driving cars, energy initiatives and hardware escapades are non-core.

Brand planners love the core. It helps them see what a company does really, really well. It helps them articulate and cluster competencies. It allows the planner to plumb the depths of consumer resonance. Understanding the core is important groundwork for beyond the dashboard planners. Those who do planning that is future-based. Before Steve Jobs and team came up with the iPod and iPhone, they had to understand the core. Then translate it into futures.

There are rearview mirror planners, sideview mirror planners, dashboard planners and beyond the dashboard planners. The best are a combination of all 4 — but focus beyond the dash. Peace. 


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Question. Is Uber a software play or a curation play? I believe the latter. The end game is a ride from point A to point B. That’s what consumers want. Is it software enabled? Sure. But you are not getting to the airport or home from your pub crawl sitting on your iPhone.  So is it in the software business? Curation business? Or transportation business. (Many would say transportation but remember, Uber doesn’t own the cars or employ the drivers.)  Travis Kalanick, UberCEO, is right when he says he’s in the logistics business. His business is software-enabled and consumer-driven — but curation-based. Jeremiah Owyang calls this the sharing economy. Me thinks it’s closer to the curation economy.

Amazon started out in the ecommerce book business. Then it moved into the mass retail business. It morphed into a curation business when it allowed other retailers to use its platform. Then there’s Google. Google loves to say it’s a technology company. Most think it’s a search company. If you ask their CFO, s/he might say Google is an advertising company – that’s where the bank deposits come from. Or is it a curation company? Hmmm. Curating access to information through the algo. As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.”


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