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Vision On Paper.

I first heard of Masayoshi Son, head of international conglomerate Softbank, in 2,000 when he purchased Ziff Davis.  Since then he has been quite busy.  His new big care-abouts are  Artificial Intelligence and Robots.

He has always been cutting edge – some hits, some misses – but the man is paying attention. And the man is paying. His investments are legendary.

In today’s New York Times Vijay Sharma, CEO of Paytm, said about Mr. Son “Masa is in a hurry. He sees this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where everything we touch can become a market, where we’re at the opening up of a new industrial revolution.”  

I love this “always in a hurry” worldview. I’ve never met a successful tech or industrial entrepreneur who wasn’t in a hurry. Andy Grove who drove Intel during its formative years admitted to constant paranoia. He was in a hurry.

Can you guess the best way for people who are in a hurry to be efficient? To make decisions. To learn? Brand strategy.

Brand strategy codifies vision. Ask any VC what they’re looking for in an investment and they will tell you vision. Brand strategy is vision on paper.



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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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So is the brand pronounced Mac-a-fee or Mih-Caffee.  (Hoe-gaarden or Who-Garden?) One of a brand’s first challenges is to make sure the name is pronounced correctly.  McAfee is a killer PC protection software product, which, if I’m not mistaken. is #1 or 2 in the marketplace.  It was purchased earlier this year by Intel.   I’m a 3-license custy and couldn’t be happier.

But, as an ad rat (a gym rat for ads) I can’t help but see that McAfee needs a marketing boost.  There is an ad in the newspaper today showing the McAfee logo as a superman emblem on a man’s chest. The pithy headline reads SAFE NEVER SLEEPS. A line they give a TM.   Not sure if it qualifies as copy but in small text beneath the line reads (I’ll save you the caps) “Smarter security. Every device, every network, everywhere.”

Classic “we’re here” advertising.   Is it any wonder digital advertising is cutting into traditional ad budgets?  This is some lazy stuff.  I’m not sure I can even type anymore I’m so disappointed. There is no claim here. And no proof.  Only colors, type and photography.  Why does the McAfee marketing dept. bother to get out of bed in the morning?  Are you kidding me?  What’s the idea?

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In Charlene Li’s new book Open Leadership (which I have not yet read, but will), one of the premises is that leaders who really listen to customers are the most informed and prepared to deal with business issues. Because of social media’s prevalence and importance, this notion suggests that leaders who use the new listening channel (the web) are better leaders.  Good advice, for sure.  Those who know the name Andy Grove may remember that the first thing he did every morning upon hitting the office was to listen in on random customer service calls to his 800 number.   It was old school technology, but it was listening.  That’s why Intel succeeded.

General Motors (GM) brand managers and its ad agency strategists at Goodby Silverstein and Partners have decided to stop using the word Chevy in favor of the full, formal name Chevrolet.  This is a strong brand management move. I yike it, as my daughter used to say. I don’t know the Chevrolet strategy, but can imagine this nomenclature move is intended to imbue the brand with a little more up-market sensibility. As GM nameplates are jettisoned, Chevrolet will be attempting to win over consumers who once bought pricier Oldsmobiles, Hummers, Pontiacs and such. Consumers will still say Chevy, but the people managing the brand will polish it with a finer cloth. They are exercising control. They are leading.

Pop marketing pundits are telling us consumers own the brand.  Even the youthfully exuberant at P&G and others wielding great budget power are saying so. But if we cede control of marketing, strategy and leadership to the masses, we are being lazy. Listen yes…but lead. Peace!

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The new Intel campaign by Venables Bell and Partners sounds a bit unfocused. The idea behind the campaign “Sponsors of Tomorrow” sounds good enough, though a couple of years ago the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) did something similar through Toy-NY which was a bit trite. Intel’s campaign, according to reports, has three different executional ideas which makes it messy:  Portraying Intel R&D people as rock stars, comparing the Intel culture to popular culture ("our clean room isn’t like your clean room"), and showing what the future will be like thanks to Intel (a digital campaign). That’s three ideas, one tagline.  


The new McDonald’s McCafé advertising from DDB, Chicago, on the other hand, is based on a very tight idea. And a powerful idea. When you buy a McCafé beverage, it transforms wherever you are into a café, highlighted by a visual accent popping up on the “e” of the location name. (A commute turns into a commuté, for instance.) Pairing this graphic idea with amazingly lush film of the coffee takes the viewer out of greasy burger heaven and into – in the mind at least — an aromatic French café. Simple. Focused. Evocative. About the product. Peace.   


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