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There’s a company here on Long Island named Hain Celestial.  Most know it for its line of teas. Today it is a consumer packaged goods company with wonderful focus. The result of wonderful leadership. The company sells many products in the natural and organic spaces. Space that are outperforming traditional food and drink by a full 10%.  Traditional (read not so good for you) food and beverages are growing 1%, while better for you are growing at 11%.

A spin-off of the craft economy is our attention to eating better.  Eating at home more, so as to better control foods that go into our bodies.  Less sodium. Less saturated fats. Less gov’t-subsidized high fructose corn syrup. Less genetically modified foods. It’s a movement, nee a spring.  A healthy food spring. (But God, I do love bacon.)

Hain Celestial is winning and spending and focusing on what a growing portion of the population wants. Better for you foods. As Irwin Simon, CEO of Hain said recently “Eating healthy is not a fad.”  

From a targeting point of view, those buying these products tend to be a little up market; able to afford the higher price point.  And this doesn’t bode well for lower income communities. Nutrition will and should be a building block of the Affordable Care Act. And of education reform.  And what grandmas pass down through the generations. Poor nutrition fuels the high cost of care in America.  

Keep an eye on Hain Celestial products.  This company will be the healthy P&G in a few years. Bank it. Peace.  


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Sales Accent.

I have long had a pet peeve about the importance of category experience when it comes to hiring.  In advertising and marketing it is very important when hiring candidates to know they have spent time working in the category. My wheelhouse, for instance, is in technology, healthcare, education and beverages. This may not be attractive to a company looking to hire someone with financial background. The logic is that the getting up-to-speed period for a newbie is longer and, perhaps, wasted time.

My view has always been that the categories in which ad and marketing people are expert, are advertising and marketing.  Selling, not manufacturing. I also believe coming to the party with preconceived ideas about a category stifles learning. Candidates may possess biases that are well-founded based upon their last assignment, but not necessarily accurate from the consumer’s point of view.

Where category experience comes in most handy, is in understanding the buying language. If you are trying to sell technology to a school teacher, it’s important to know what they care about. And the language they use when talking about what they care about.  If you use language in ads or marketing that is generic you are leaving cash on the table. You have a sales accent. Good endemic category language is like music to the ears of customers and prospects.  

How do we balance the negative that is “experience bias” with the positive that is finely-tuned “voice and language”?  Very carefully. Peace.


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Many consultative processes that involve business understanding and improvement follow a fairly obvious 3-step path.  It starts with discovery, moves to strategy then ends with programs.  I’d like to suggest an alterative to those fairly common steps: uncovery, prioritize and motivate.

Uncovery is a little different from discovery in that it presumes much of what you need to know is known and obvious, it just needs to be seen anew and parsed. Discovery suggests you are looking for things for the first time.  

Prioritization is about deciding what’s most important to the business, consumers and future value.  You can’t be all things to all people. Anyone can strategize, not everyone can decide which of the children to take in the lifeboat. Poorly run companies try to have it all and be everything to everyone —  and they fall into the fruit cocktail category.  Lots of different fruit, everything tastes like pear.

Motivate replaces programs.  If your goal is to motivate behavior, preference or action (we love action), then motivation is how you should be thinking. Not activation. Or direct response. Or awareness. Motivation is your starting point. Programs are the language used to deliver the behavior.  If you start with the language you’ll often find yourself speaking in tongues.

No go forth and plan. Peace.


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Under the Dome a new TV drama inspired by a Stephen King book launched last week to the biggest summer show debut numbers ever.  It was a brilliant programming move by WCBS but one learned at the feet of cable TV who have known for a couple of years that summer shows can score some big numbers.  I believe the Under the Dome pilot had in excess of 13 million viewers.

Media consumption and TV viewership have changed, no doubt.  Marketing has not.  Sellers of product know that if you find a market or segment with “pent up demand,” the consumers are just itching to spend. This is first mover stuff.

Summer used to be filled with all reruns and so viewership was down. CBS saw this void and filled it.  If we take the need for entertainment in the summer evening as the pent up demand and look beyond a TV solution, what else might we find? Books? Snacking? Wine? Music? Other relaxatives?  There is pend up demand for summer time activities that entertain and relax. Any thoughts?  Peace.

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Ads are money. At least they cost money. But many people don’t always think of them that way CFOs do. CEOs do…sorta. Ad agents and marketing managers think of budgets as the invisible air they breathe, not as the life sustain force. Not as money. What am I getting at? We have to start treating advertising and marketing related expenses as the money it is. Make that money accountable. What is working? And by what measurable quantification?

When a family goes broke, the debt that keeps getting added to the credit card and credit line, stops. Mommy or daddy cuts up the credit cards. When Social Security and Medicare trend toward an unsustainable level, we need to make changes. We are often operating at a marketing deficit.

We can’t take the art out of advertising and marketing. But let’s remember, branding is not design. And a Super Bowl ad than makes us giggle but sells a competitor’s product is a blight. We can start to treat advertising like the business tool it is. (The web too, for that matter.) These are tactics that need to move consumer closer to a sale – if not directly to a sale. On the show Top of the Lake on The Sundance Channel one of the characters beats himself with a belt before his mother’s grave to rid himself of guilt. Maybe we marketers should smack ourselves around a touch to remind us of our real business purpose. Peace.

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Empower is a word that used to be the haps in marketing.  Now it has been replaced by “transparency” and “authenticity” in the markobabble lexicon. Being a contrarian, I look at the word empower and wonder how to use its opposite. Depower? To remove from power or to remove power. When you think about it, removing things that make a consumer’s decision hard is what advertisers try to do.  By simplifying the decision for a consumer, removing all the impeding loci, it becomes easier to buy.

Are you the type of person who has a hard time deciding when looking at a restaurant dinner menu?  Me too. I like duck, and pasta, a steak.  So when I read the menu I’m using the descriptions to aid me. I prioritize the descriptors.

If we look at an ad as a selling device and are speaking to a consumer who must decide using many factors — factors that may not play to our product’s strong suit — we have to depower those factors. So a Coke that may be very refreshing but filled with calories and sugar, needs to depower the latter two qualities so it properly highlights the former. It’s not always about focusing on the positive attributes, the best advertising and marketing strategy sees the rest of the power grid and on all. A little like chess, no?  Peace.


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The best part about being a brand planner is that it puts you on the trail of goodness.  The world can be turbulent (as seen on TV) or it can be graceful, when grace is defined as “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action” (thanks


It may be the aging process that makes me look out the window more during a country drive analyzing what I see, or it may be the planner in me.  I choose to think the latter.

Planners need to be extroverts so people will share important feelings, not just what they think we want to hear. Planners must be introverts at times, so people feel comfortable sharing…believing marketers won’t use the information to do evil. But most important planners need an ear attuned to goodness.

There was a time in my life when making fun of things, people and behavior was humorous.  And humor is something most relish. But planning has tamed this in me. I try to see more deeply into people. I look for the good. It has changed me. My son is graduating college this year. A political science major at Plattsburgh. Sometimes when we talk politics he gears up against what is unjust – what he sees as bad. Perhaps he needs a little planners bone in his exoskeleton.   Peaceful are the planners.    

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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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Hey marketers and marketing agents, take this test.  Answer these questions in the form of fill in the blank quiz:

My brand strategy statement is: __________________________________.  (This is not a ponderous mission statement cover all business possibilities, it’s a single statement with no conjunctions or commas. If you do not have this statement, but do have a tagline, use it.)

The three elements of my business formula than make me different and better are:




These elements, which I call brand planks, must support the strategy statement. So the statement needs to relate to the planks. Similar to colors in a room, the planks and strategy must be familiar and provide tight linkage.      

Please take this test and send me the results. The reality is, when you see what you’ve written (or not written) you will be well on your way to fixing your business and brand woes. If you can’t articulate this stuff, how will your customers be able to? Peace.

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The minute I saw my first piece of Banksy’s graffiti art I knew it was art. Art is very personal.  I have used many Banksy pieces as Twitter backgrounds. (Much obliged, sir. Sir?)

Many talk about the art of marketing, brand planning and advertising. But today l prefer to talk about the in.  Art has a very meaningful place in marketing.  Like the beautiful, style-happy person you pass on the street and can’t keep your eyes off, an artful photo, turn of phrase, or video edit captures the viewer’s imagination. And once the imagination is captured and the senses are a tingle – the door to the heat and mind are open.

What the marketer does with that open door is the critical next step.  Sell too hard and the consumer loses the warmies. Sell without context and the viewer is confused. Opt not to sell at all and you become the disaffected artist in the SOHO gallery who cares not.

citibank climber

What the marketer does with that open door depends on the art itself and  the brand plan. It’s complicated.  When Citibank, in its lovely “cliff climber” TV spot, shares that amazing climbing sequence and the poetic card purchases that enabled the climb — “And what girl wouldn’t want new shoes?,” there is mad connection.  The art is visual. It’s athletic. Unseen. That’s art in marketing. Not of marketing. Peace!

(The Citibank spot is by Publicis, I believe.)

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