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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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Think of all the places you go and have to wait.  The places to which you bring a book.  Or if you aren’t prepared, places where you have to entertain yourself with your mobile or thumbing through magazine. Perhaps people watching. These are fertile marketing opportunities.

What does every airline have in common? Waiting areas near the gate.  Doctor’s offices? Motor vehicle? They all have chairs and TVs. Waiting and TVs are happy bedfellows. Good marketers should look to trump the TV and the romance novel as pass times in places where consumers are bored and waiting. And they should do so with relevant, brand endemic experiences. If you are waiting to get your car fixed at Toyota, forced to watch Good Moring America, what might Toyota do to better entertain you?  Perhaps provide a car service seminar or a change-your-own-oil video? How about at the doctor’s office, a free consultation on nutrition or a free yoga demonstration by a local gym.

We are a Fast Twitch society and it is getting worse. Running a Zen clinic in the US wouldn’t be a growth industry. Everybody always needs to be doing something.  Experiential marketing ideas, with on-brand product demonstrations, is a wonderful technique. If we look at consumer downtime as it relates to our products and think about ways to move them closer to a sale, (see also see Twitch Point Planning), we are competing on a level most marketers are not. What would Charlie Sheehan say? 


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Greed in marketing is nothing new.  Being different. Acting different. Selling differently…all support creating a competitive advantage and making more money. But greed is not a good thing.  It has ruined the economy (mortgage-backed securities), kept the U.S. beholden to terrorist oil states, and no doubt played a role in many hatreds around the world.  Sometimes greed needs to reach a breaking point before it succumbs.

Yesterday’s announcement between Ford and Toyota, to work on a hybrid engine for pick-up trucks may be a good sign for the planet and for marketing. The U.S. gov’t smartly threw down the gauntlet in terms of miles per gallon goals for vehicles recently and this new rear wheel drive engine is a massive step toward meeting those goals. (Anyone home GM?) Normally, greed would have kept a deal like this from happening, but Ford and Toyota are showing good judgment and forward thinking and they woman-ed up.  Oh, and the only reason it is happening is because Alan R. Mulally and  Akio Toyoda (company CEOs) ran into each other in the airport and probably actually liked one another.

As we marketers put our plans together, fill in our charts and goals and KPIs, how about we ask ourselves a simple tough question “If I wasn’t going to be greedy, what new company strategy might I employ?” As my Norwegian aunt might have said “Tink about it.”  Peace!  

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There is a marketing axiom that the majority of consumer product marketing takes place before a buyer arrives at the place of sale. Sure packaging and POS advertising are important but in marketers’ minds most of the heavy lifting has been completed. 

A web start-up assignment I am working on has me thinking about the role of smart phones in the decision making process today. As part of my strategy, I’m asking the web team to make sure the website is consulted before, during and after the shopping experience.  The phone is in hand during all three stages, after all. Why not use it and optimize it.

Toyota is in the news today along with a smart mobile company SpyderLynk discussing ToyoTags, a picture snap-able logo that directs smart phones to online content – the goal of which is to move the consumer closer to a transaction.  An example cited in a NYT suggested that when the Prius was having brake issues not long ago, a ToyoTag snapped in a newspaper ad directed readers to a National Highway Traffic Safety Association report for “truths” about the issue. If you’ve been reading my recent posts on Twitch Point Planning you’ll recognize this as an example of a twitch that moves a customer closer to a sale. A positive twitch.

Finding reasons not to buy and removing them is an agenda of Twitch Point Planning.  Tools like the ToyoTag and SnapTags designed by SpyderLynk are wonderful ammo in this arsenal.  This stuff is not just new for the sake of new, this is purposeful.  Good work. Exciting work. Peace.

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Do you know what is driving all the “free” on the Web?  Marketing. Not just advertising but marketing.  Why is Facebook so valuable?  Why does Google have more money than Allah? Where’s that money coming from?  Yep, Toyota and P&G and Verizon.

And as we glance beyond the dashboard at the future and see, as the iPad commercial puts it, newspapers with videos and magazines that sing, we see a world in which the Web and mobile devices are the primary instruments of marketers. The devices know what we like and where we are.  They know when we are sleeping. They know when we’re awake. Dare say, they know when we’ve been bad or good.

As the social web evolves and the big ad and marketing shops learn how to “map and manipulate”, it will become more apparent that people with influence are the drivers of marketing.  Kim Kardashian, for instance, earns $30,000 for a tweet.  To a tech start-up a Robert Scoble endorsement can mean the difference between being funded and being fun dead. So where am I going with this?  To Klout.

Klout is the new online oxy. It’s a drug…and more and more Posters will be talking about it. The Klout score will identify those people who advertisers want to target. And revere.  High Klout scores and predictions thereof will be the things around which ad agencies develop departments. Klout is on to something and they know it.  Get it right dudes and dudettes. And get it right soon before a competitors snaps it up. Peace!

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Advertising isn’t ineffective because it’s a dying medium, it’s ineffective because it’s ineffective. Good branding is about “Claim and Proof.” Advertising, an important, controllable means of branding, needs to follow the same “Claim and Proof” dictum.

Toyota, a company playing defense peppered with catch-up promotions, ran an ad in The New York Times paper paper today – a perfect example of badvertising.  All claim, no proof. Here’s the copy:

No matter who you are or what you drive, everyone deserves to be safe. Which is why the Star Safety SystemTM is standard on all our new vehicles – no matter what model or trim level.  It’s a combination of five advanced safety features that help keep you in control and out of harm’s way.  Toyota is the first full-line manufacturer to make the features of the Star Safety SystemTM standard on all vehicles.  Because at Toyota, we realizes nothing is more important to you than your safety.

I forgot the headline and I only read it 10 seconds ago. The call to action, where one might actually find the proof, is prominently displayed below the copy — This ad is one expensive call to action and a lot less.  Fail!

Who is at Fault?

I’m not sure who is responsible for this $20,000 piece of “we’re here” advertising but everyone is to blame. The creative person who said “People don’t read long copy.” The strategist who approved it, the client who agreed and paid for it. Frankly, The New York Times should be ashamed. Isn’t someone over there watching this stuff?

This business is easy: Find a great claim and support it with compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Compelling proof. Peace!

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It’s a new world at the Ford Motor Company, or at least it should be.  The recession changed things.  The oil economy is changing things. BP has changed things. It’s time to let the Ford Explorer go. The move would be more than a symbolic gesture to the world that smaller, efficient cars are our future — it would give the company major cred as an agent of change.  I know the new redesigned 2011 Explorer will target 25 miles per gallon on the highway, but those are not exciting mainstream numbers anymore.  And touch screens aren’t a reason to buy a car.

The Ford Escape is your future in this class.  It has a nice design, momentum, and it’s in synch with your other newer smaller offerings, the Focus and Fiesta.

Make the 2011 Explorer your swan song.  A collectors piece for loyalists.  Then put your engineers on to designing the next forward looking new model… one that captures the imagination of the U.S. buying public.  The next Mustang. The next T-bird. A car that will lure back Toyota buyers. You have been playing offense and winning. Keeping the Explorer alive seems like defense. Peace!

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Where to start?

The ads that will adorn the Apple iPad on April 3rd are going to be pretty interesting.  First, if they are good, they’ll be more like selling applications than ads.  Those who create selling apps rather than Adobe InDesign and static display ads (iPads don’t take Flash yet) will have the early wins.   

Selling Apps

Selling apps that come from ad shops where the creative dept. was the lead (not the media dept.) will also win. That said, brands that team up on the selling app will do even better.  Those who team the objective, strategy, measurement, idea, creative, digital production and follow-up are more likely to have an app than an ad.   But that takes time, resolve and a new process…which is expensive.  Did I mention time?  If you started this week, you’re toast.  The best iPad selling apps won’t be the result of a great piece of “creative” or creative media buy, they will result from cross-silo efforts.

Super Pasters

Just being there on April 3rd will be a win for advertisers. There are currently 200,000 pre-orders for iPads. How may of those people do you think have taken the day off? Exactly.  Followers of What’s the Idea? know about Posters vs. Pasters. Well, in terms of the tech target, the first people seeing iPad ads will be Super Posters. Their blog posts, vlogs, podcasts and Tweets will abound. The iPad’s first audiences will be techies and those in creative businesses – a very viral and powerful target. And the world will be watching. Interestingly, the first big brands buying ads will be: Unilever, Toyota, Chase, Fidelity, and FedEx — not what you’d expect as a high indexing techie target. Korean Air, on the other hand, that’s a good fit. Should be very interesting. Peace!

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Toyota got caught up in the American car debacle at the same time as it was doing some amazing things with the Prius. I was down in TX last year and promotion for the Toyota Tundra was everywhere. The gas-guzzling truck, positioned for the good ol’ boys, sucked lots of money out of the Toyota coffers and contributed to a worldwide loss of $4.4B (sounds very GM-like). Since its inception, the Prius, now in its third generation, has sold only 1.2 million vehicles. That number could have been multiplied by 10 had Toyota not gone all pick-up truck on us.


That said, the latest Prius has one thing that sets it apart form the new Honda Insight, a competing hybrid priced to move: solar cells on the roof.  This cool differentiating technology will help power an advanced new ventilation system that is pure marketing genius. Marketing and branding are all about “claim” and “proof.” And whether the solar thingies works or not – and I’m sure they will – it is yet more proof that Prius is a technological leader in fuel efficient cars.  Toyota needs to follow the example of Ichiro and keep its eye on the ball. Peace!


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There’s talk in the automotive world of Toyota Motor Company spinning off the Prius brand. The Prius brand would stand alone in the U.S. market only and sell at Toyota dealerships, similar to the youth brand Scion. All cars in the line would be hybrids, with mini and maxi models in development. 


Not smart. The Scion brand made sense because of the different sensibility of the youth market – those unlikely to drive a Toyota. But owners of the current Prius are not so disinclined toward Toyota. They bought the Prius because it was a Toyota. Prius is addinggreat value to the Toyota brand and every day demonstrates Toyota’s branding promise “Moving Forward.”  


GM, Ford and Chrysler are beginning to smarten up and catch up (read Chevy Volt) and as underdogs they will begin to gain momentum and cut into Toyota’s leadership. Toyota is strong now and will remain so by staying focused. A line extension in this market will divert management, potentially move the brand backward, and hurt their eminence.  



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