You are currently browsing articles tagged whatstheidea.

NYU Langone.

There’s no question the best advertising in NY for a health system or hospital is that of NYU Langone Medical Center. Creators Munn Rabot have been doing quality, no, expert healthcare ad craft for years and years.  The NYU TV ads are the kind that you have to stop and watch. Visually they’re cinematic. Musically they’re awakening. Copy-wise, quite strong.   All of this work, and the work Munn Rabot did for previous client NY Presbyterian, have led the category for years.

One thing they might do better, however, is tighten their brand idea. The line/strategy is “Made in New York.”  This presumes patient care and patients are different in NY. It poses the question “How does healthcare made in NY distinguish itself?”  I get the idea, but offer up the narrative is hard to deliver. They do get points for unique though (in healthcare, that is).  

Most consumers won’t cling to the need for a powerful brand idea served up daily, as I do; they just like the ads. And that should be enough. NYU Langone is back on big map. Well done.



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Way at the top of unpaid Google search results on brand strategy is HubSpot’s post “7 Essentials for a Strong Company Brand.”   Point one is about brand purpose and brand promise. Not bad places to start I guess, but a little too soft for me.

Brand strategy is not about a promise. It’s about a claim. A prideful statement of consumer value that “is.” Not a might be, or a try-to-be.  But a fact. A fact found at the nexus consumer care-abouts and brand good-ats.

If you have your brand claim right then everything you do in sales and marketing should be about proving it. Promise and purpose help may get you to your claim, but claim is the quintessential essential.  7 is too many essentials anyway. Water, air and food are essentials.







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I have this concept for a quick serve restaurant where the menu is built around a specific price point. It would offer lots of food variety but everything is priced the same.  Let’s call the place $8.99s. $8.99s is not Ben Benson’s or Le Bernadin insofar as brand names go, but it is descriptive. (Think I borrowed the idea from Steve and Barry’s.)  I ran this notion by an investor/restaurateur friend and didn’t go for it. What ever. He also didn’t want to serve breakfast burritos at his NYC chain to open up a new day part. 

Fast forward to Blue Apron, a some-assembly-required meal delivery service and the static price idea has found a proof of concept. Blue Apron probably did it to improve simplicity. Their overhead, don’t forget, includes delivery.  But for $8.99s, the idea was to own a new class of value restaurants.

The idea to offer all meals for $8.99 is a strategy. Sure, the mission statement can include words like healthy and tasty. Smiley servers. Satisfaction guarantees. But driving to a price point, rather than say a cuisine, gives form to the “product, experience and message.” It’s a brand play in addition to a category play. A category busting idea.

It will happen. Peace.   




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People who create content for the web are its fuel. And there’s no doubt that content marketing is a powerful online business tool. But it is links that tend to be the ballast of today’s content marketing, not the words.  

One of my first memes on the web was “Posters vs. Pasters.” For those spelling challenged it’s not Pastors, those are for Sunday morning, it’s pasters like users of the glue pot. A paster is someone who spends time reading other people’s content and pasting it into links for sharing. A paster might spray a bucolic photo of an Atlantic Puffin or “Seven Rules for Higher Click Rate.” S/he is a curator, not a creator.

Sadly, the commercial web has become a miasma of paster links. And it is working. Think of the web as a federation of radio stations sharing less and less original music. Finding true posters, subject matter experts or subject matter passionates (noun), has become more difficult. But posters still drives the excitement and vitality of the web; they are just harder to find.

Digital pasting began 25 years ago when we started emailing jokes around the web. Lately, it has become a cottage industry for marketers. Fight the power of pasting. Fight the power.



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I’ve met some really great brand planners over the years. I don’t like to name drop — but on this side of the ocean they constitute a Who’s Who. (Yes, I’m a bit of a star-fucker when it comes to brand planners.)  These exploratories were part of my self-taught doctorate in brand study. Interestingly, they are not all good teachers. They were great listeners though, so intuiting was how I learned the craft. Intuiting and doing.

I’ve also met a good number of average brand planners. Nice people all. They talked the talk.  Sometimes communicating in what I call marko-babble or brand-babble. They deliver strategy on a brief (platter?). They create sparks. And use some research. Not a lot of there there.

The difference between the A listers and the B listers, in my opinion, is that the former are more engineers than planners. Do you want someone who engineers your car or plans it? Do you want someone who engineers your kidney operation or plans it?

What’s The Idea? has always been about brand engineering. About creating a product, experience and messaging template that is replicable, sustainable, evolvable — but always drives codified brand value and sales.

I presented 15 plus objectives once to a client who ran marketing for a $4B health system. He told me that was way too many. “How can we accomplish all that? We set ourselves up for failure.”  He was a planner. Not an engineer.



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Andy Rubin announced his new start up today, by way of a full page ad in the NYT paper paper. Essential is its (rather boring) name. My first experience with Mr. Rubin was online, on stage during the introduction of Google’s phone the Nexus One. Clearly a smart guy, and credited with helping develop the Android OS, Mr. Rubin had a global coming out party that day.

Today is his second coming out party and though the returns won’t be in for a few years, this one looks to be more successful.

According to the website, Essential is a hardware and software company, with 7o+ employees. Quite a few for a startup. So there’s money there. Big money.

The mission of Essential is grand. Make technology easier. Completely open. More pervasive (into the home) and, one might intuit, more affordable down the road. On the site one can pre-order a phone. See the specs. Read about a new 360 camera. Bathe in promises of integration of home and intuitive systems. And feast on the company’s “festo a mano.”

It’s not my favorite launch approach. I like to have real stuff. Build your brand around stuff. Not talk. I’m sure genius will come from this company.  I wish them well — we all do. But coming out of the gate with “an ad and a promise” is not the best start.




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I don’t like picking on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s advertising.  It’s not like they have better things to do than treat cancer.  But strategy it’s my job.

I was reading online and a big pop up ad from Memorial overtook the screens. “The future of cancer care” was the type on the screen. It dissolved to a second screen which read “Now available on Long Island,” closing with logo and tagline “More Science. Less fear.” More science, by the way, is a genius brand strategy.  But here’s the rub. And it’s a rub for the MSKCC brand managers and agency Pereira O’Dell.  Prove it.  Don’t waste your breath, pixels and budget on a claim.  If you are trying to give patients and families hope, give them proof. Where the science at? Where the more science at?

We are smart consumers. We can take it. Start talking science.

This digital ad is from the “We’re here” school. This is our name, we are on Long Island, buy from us.

Shallow. More homework. Less fear.




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Foster Bias & Sales is an imaginary ad agency name I came up with that offers a trifecta of marketing success. These steps to a sale apply to marketing, advertising, even memo writing.

It starts by fostering a positive and receptive environment in which to communicate with customers. Product context, entertainment and/or education are all tools used to foster interest. Gather attention and predispose consumers to listen….that’s Mr. Foster.

Create bias toward your product or against a key competitor is step two. This is where marketers become competitors. Care-abouts and good-ats are what the brand planner mines and the communicator deals in here. Creating bias is not nuanced. It’s hardball.   

Sales obviously refers to action. Real purchase, decision to purchase, or predisposition to purchase. In the sales trade this is called “asking for the order.” Even if implicit. Being too pushy is not attractive, however.  You have to know how and when to ask. If you cross the line you may damage to your ability to foster a proper selling environment. Know when to walk away. Customers appreciate commitment sans the pushy hand. They may come back.        




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Two titans of retail are facing off and it’s going to be wild.  Walmart and Amazon. Amazon and Walmart. There will be only winners: the businesses and the custies.  Amazon continues to kill it in online retail. So much so, in fact, that they’re looking into some brick and mortar places to make product access near-instantaneous.  Walmart is beginning to get that 800 lb. monkey off its back (low price, low-esteem, box store with bad vegetables), by ramping up its online offering. It quintupled online SKUs in one year thanks to purchases like Jet.com and others.

The real war zone, when it comes to customer marketing, will be brand-side.  Amazon has an amazing brand that is maturing. An overdog I like to call it. Walmart in a heart brand that many people view as high-traffic but low-value. Don’t get me wrong, the retail product has value, but the brand is a little lacking in the amygdala, as brand expert Megan Kent might say.

Both brands have the money and leadership to innovate. Both have the dough to execute. Now it will be up to the brand leaders to create some excitement. Walmart faces more of an uphill challenge. One any brand strategist would love to tackle. But we all know what happened to the overdogs.




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I write a good deal about pent-up demand. It is a marketer’s best friend.  When Miller Lite was launched no one had ever successfully marketed a low calorie beer. Ergo there was no demand. The market had to be educated as to the value of light beer.  Once done, demand was there.  No pent-up demand.

Marketing and brand planners should always look for pent-up demand in the market. When it’s obvious, E.g., cheaper taxi rides (Uber), better tasting hamburger (Shake Shack), life is easy. When a product value is not obvious, finding pend-up demand is a chore.  For Excel Commercial Maintenance, a building cleaning service whose customers care most about low price, a brand strategy “The navy seals of commercial maintenance” met pent-up demand for fast, fastidious and proactive workers. Something purchasers rarely talked about.

Not every product or service offers a marketing with a deep undying demand for a feature or function. But if you don’t dig deep you are not doing your planning job.



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