nicholas kristof

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Yesterday’s post was about adherence to the brand strategy. A great brand strategy is the elixir for marketing success but compliance is the key.

In Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed piece in the NYT today he suggests paying Congress based upon Americans’ health. If healthcare gets better, they get paid more. The problem with healthcare, however, is also adherence. You can lead a grandpa to the medicine cabinet but you can make him medicate.

The way we mete out medicine and follow up with patients to insure compliance is an important part of the Affordable Care Act. Phone calls from docs, more office visits – a preventative approach – is how the ACA aims to improve compliance.  In brand strategy adherence, as I mentioned yesterday, a brand steward or brand compliance officer is a step in the right direction, but a companywide behavior change is even more profound. For that, as with congress, perhaps financial incentives are required. At least to prime the pump.  Long term, company growth will ultimately be the financial incentive.

Let’s incentivize compliance. It’s the American way.






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I’ve written a few times about my desire to open an ad agency named Foster, Bias and Sales – staying away from the surname convention. Foster meaning raise or promote. Bias intended to suggest “create bias” toward a product or service. And sales meaning, well, the cha-ching of the cash register.

I was reading about racial bias today in an Op-Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof which referenced some interesting studies of racial bias among children and realized my new agency should not attempt to create bias toward a product or service, but leverage existing biases. Big difference. By leveraging ingrained product context, one can create a richer purchase environment.

An example:

At a car dealership, to create bias towards Toyota a salesperson might cite JD Power data on safely. Or higher resale value after 5 years. These are good logical proofs of product value.

Were we to leverage existing consumer biases on behalf of Toyota, maybe we’d look at the percentage of Americans who only buy America made products. Those people who don’t like to buy imports. What would it take to get them to value the brand? That’s a negative bias. Let’s look at a positive bias. Toyota was once, if not still, known to be the best selling single car brand in America. Leaders and overdogs are sometimes thought to be complacent. How about turning that bias on its head. Position the brand not as the leader, but as the hungriest car company. A company with an underdog mentality. Almost start-up like.

I can’t tell you when, or if, Foster, Bias and Sales will launch. But it’s a great brand name and always evolving. Hee hee. Peace.


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Advertising Flotsam

Nicholas Kristof is a funny dude.  In his Op-Ed piece in The NY Times today he suggested the Second Amendment (Don’t run away, it’s not one of those type of posts), affirms our “right to bear a musket.” His reference to period and  context got me thinking about advertising and spam. (Sad, I know.) Advertising used to be expensive. If you wanted to reach your custies and prospects you had to produce an ad, which cost money. Then you had to buy media, even more money. You also needed expert middle men to create the ad –either an agency or someone at the media company (“hack,” gesundheit) – also expensive.

But today?  Today, everyone can make ads. For pennies. Google AdWords. Constant Contact (email). Sponsored Tweets. Facebook. And other internet-enabled options that have created a veritable Spamapalooza.  Even before DIY advertising was common, ads weren’t that great. But now? Oye.

In this environment is an opportunity. An opportunity to break through the sea of flotsam adverting and spam — with messages that shine. The media is not the message, the message is the message. Find a voice, find your story (brand strategy), understand it and stick to it. Speak to your targets as if you are speaking to your targets – and take off that white shirt with the gravy stain on the stomach. As the kids might say “represent.”  Peace.   

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Here’s the problem with newspapers.  Ready?  Who is your favorite newspaper journalist?  Quick!  Okay, who is your second favorite?  Now, who is your favorite blogger?  Much easier, no? 

There was a time when journalists and news reporters were heroes…a time when they were huge personalities.  They wrote with panache, shared ideas and commentary that struck a chord with America.  Their ability to turn a phrase captivated us and the masses loved them.  Journalists were the rock stars of the day.  After a while, though, newspapers started to think these writers were getting too big for their britches – bigger than the newspaper brands they wrote for — and decided to turn down the dial.  “If Jimmy Breslin becomes bigger than the Daily News, what happens if he leaves?”

Journalism became antiseptic. Lifeless. It lost a great deal of its humanity. When was the last time you cried after reading a piece in the paper (online or paper paper.)

Blogs to the Rescue.

Enter the blog.  No bosses. No editors. No sponsors.  Just peeps talking to peeps. Readers get the straight shot. Today’s most impressive, unadulterated journalists are bloggers. Ironically, when bloggers get big, big media tries to hire them.  Like punk rockers that have a hard time mixing art and success, this can alter the work product of the blogger.  The Conundrum.  Newspapers are losing money because their writers churn out auto text.  Journalism needs more heroic personalities. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! Peace.

PS.  My favorite journalists?  Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Cathy Horyn, Robert Scoble

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CNN is tanking.  Its ratings are down. Its ad revenue is down. Fox News is eating its dinner. When I think of CNN I think Wolf freakin’ Blitzer.  Ask a middle age woman in the grocery store about CNN and she’ll likely say “Oh, that Anderson Copper.”  Ask your parents?  Larry King.  Ask a kid and the response will be “Isn’t that the Vampire Diaries channel?

CNN is at its best during crisis.  It is where people turn for the best coverage. That is where I went to watch the Tsunami not bear down on Hawaii.  CNN is the place for serious news, yet it has seemingly lost its way.   It must stop playing around with Twitter and touch screens and interactive maps. Most of its reporting takes place in the studio.  CNN needs some youthful exuberance. If Mark Zuckerberg can help found a bazillion dollar company, CNN can find some young interesting news junkies to rove the planet and kick up a story or two.

The Fix.

Here’s what management needs to do. Conduct market research among the next generation of news consumers –twenty- and thirty-somethings. Find out what they want, and don’t tell me a mobile news app.  Search for some rock star passionate journalism school kids hungry to make a better world.  Give them jobs.  Don’t go the eye candy route, that is so 1970s.  Hire Nicholas Kristof as a consultant then shutter the studio for 3 weeks and take CNN on the road.  Set up a remote desk on the back roads of Militiagan or Lubyanka subway station in Moscow. Fire a suit and hire a camera person.  Fire an accountant and hire a sound person.  Find the news to make the news. Take back what you once so proudly owned.   Peace!

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News should be free. Opinion should be free. The Web should be free. This is America. (“Feel free” is our marketing mantra at Zude.)   Here’s some good news. At midnight tonight The New York Times is going to make free a good deal of the content it once charged for under its Times Select program.

Once again Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed pieces will be free. As will those of Thomas Friedman and David Brooks.  
The advertising vs. subscription model continues to favor advertising. The Times earned $10 million last year in online subscriptions, yet still realizes the potential of the online advertising model. Search engines help drive 13 million unique visitors to NY and all but 750,000 may be turned away if they want to dig deeper into the site.  
Are you listening Wall Street Journal. I expect you will roll-over within 2 months. And I can’t wait.

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The evolved newspaper.


The New York Times is doing a great job of integrating other media forms into its offering. As a geeze, I still prefer my New York Times in paper form, but must admit I keep my compute close at hand to watch and listen to things such as Nicholas Kristof’s wonderful slideshows with voiceover from Africa, or colorful travelogues with high-quality pictures from Central American hot pepper markets.
Today, I read about a new TV show called “Gossip Girls,” a Josh Schwartz (O.C.) production. The paper promoted a podcast interview of Josh, in which he spoke about how he uses music in his shows. He’s a fan of the Brooklyn’s “The National,” you know.
The Times is doing a great job of bringing the news to life. Through excellent reporting, colorful Time Magazine-type pictures, video clips, slide shows and MP3s. They are getting the news right. Content is still king in the news world and the NY Times franchise will continue to grow as a news organization. With most newspapers shrinking and losing money, this organization is evolving nicely.

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