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I ask a lot of questions. It’s the trait of a brand planner. Questions are always about learning but when all is said and done they resolve into one of two types of strategy: optimistic or pessimistic. Back in the day working in the tech sector there was an acronym FUD which stood for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. It drove strategy for IBM and lots of other tech companies selling hard- and software. Pessimism.

For me, positive is the grail in marketing. It may seem Pollyanna-ish but is a quicker way to the heart and mind. That said, it’s not an easy path. A strategy for a home security system might seem most effective when the grim reaper is lurking in the bushes. Conversely, a smiling sleeping face on the pillow doesn’t stand out and it’s poor tradecraft. Positive is hard (unless you’re Corona or a travel marketer.)

For pessimism we have cops shows, thriller novels and news radio. Pessimism is all over the place. “Fail at school and get a bad job.” “Smoke cigarettes, hack up a lung.” “Work in construction, sue the city.”

I’m no Maslow but I think it’s safe to say brand planners who spend time in positive land are more apt to garner favor and loyalty with consumers then are their negative-focused counterpart. So wash your hands and go be positive. Peace (not war).


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Engage Maslow.

Is it easy to engage the angry? Of course it is. Toss a match. Is it easy to engage Zen-ed out lovers of life? Sure, toss a petal or feather.

Talking sports with a sports guy, Pearl Jam with a Ten Club member, Common Core with a teacher – these are topics about which people can easily engage; even people who don’t know one another. When it comes to selling, however, engagement is not so easy.  That’s why the word “engagement” is such a popular topic in marketing.  Fred C. Poppe, often wrote about engagement in the 70s and 80 and it did him well, but today engagement is almost a cult-like pursuit. 

People are not always consumers.  Sometimes, they are just people. When you treat people as consumers you treat them differently. And they can smell you a mile away. Pop marketing suggests we need to give people things of value with our marketing and communication to earn their interest. True this. But everyone’s definition of value may change by time of day, stage of life, and as Robert Scoble will talk about in his upcoming book situational context.

The best marketing is based on a full-duplex model. A two way model. One way marketing is over. The days of things sticking to the wall are over. Today we are talking to people. People who are twitching away from our messages with increasing speed.  Planners who search for people value – think Maslow – are the best searchers. Peace.

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Google built a business, quite well I might add, on perfecting search and search usability. They funded the business with advertising.  The brand play was not to be the world’s greatest advertising platform (something Yahoo and AOL didn’t understand), it was all about search. 

Back in the day (last week, hee hee) Google search was all about the Web.  Finding things digital.  This week, it’s about seeing and searching for digital things in the physical world.  So mobile apps and navigation are the rage. Google hasn’t led the way here, Apple has, but Google wasn’t first in search either.

What’s next?

What’s next is search for physical things in the physical world. Call it worldwide inventory. What is worldwide inventory and how will it work?  Not sure, but this cantaloupe sized brain of mine says it may have to do with barcodes.  Now you can’t put a bar code on an $11,000 hip replacement in Mexico (You can’t?) but you can put one on a $12.00 case of Honest Tea with torn labels. The ability for mankind to find real things, in proximity, with their smart phones is what Google will be doing over the next decade. And that hip replacement or $6,000 valve bypass in China will be something worth searching  for. Stay with search Google — it will soon be atop Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

Worldwide Inventory may sound like a Pearl Jam song but it’s an Eric Schmidt song.  Peace!

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No dopes G.E.  Jeffrey R. Immelt announced to shareholders Tuesday his strategy to focus on two business sectors: healthcare and energy. By divesting of NBC Entertainment and paring back G.E. Capital, he’s amassing a war chest of $26B for 2010 (I love saying twenty ten) so that G.E. can put some serious Benjamins against Energy 2.0. 

Had Mr. Immelt done this 20 months ago, G.E. would have been in a much better place today but shareholders would have balked and he may have been ousted.  Even if you can see the future, it’s still the future.  The American car industry needed to make a bold move – focusing on more energy efficient gasless cars – 4 years ago but didn’t have the nerve. You just know there were nerds and young engineer types (without vesting) walking the halls of corporate car companies pleading for carbon neutral, low energy cars back then. But the car guys didn’t want to be first to push the plug.  So now we have to wait for the Chevy Volt and when it does arrive, it won’t be available in great numbers. (Mistake.)

The future isn’t going anywhere.  It can be predicted.  Humans and human behavior, short of a mutation or two, are pretty easy to understand. Maslow was right.  What’s holding up healthcare reform right now is capitalism, a touch of greed, and the inability to see the future. It will get done, but there will be bandages along the way.

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