Monthly Archives: September 2009

Usability is the New Black.


I speak to account and brand planners all the time who are in search of the next big trend. Anyone can plan based upon what has already happened but to plan for what will happen takes huevos (unisex reference).

So here’s my trend for the next few years: Usability.

Some things will never be usable: financial prospectuses, tax documents, legal briefs, pharmaceutical disclaimers, website registration guidelines, HTML and information technology (IT) setup. We don’t expect them to be usable and we’re okay paying people to do it for us. Though with money tight, more and more of us are trying to do things ourselves and usability is becoming not only a differentiator but a business. 

Online services are getting so intuitive you rarely need to click on “help.” New products are getting easier to use because the “out-of-box” experience is improving and the products themselves have been simplified. Can you say “Flip” video recorder?   And lastly, smart entrepreneurs are looking for ways — especially on the web — to make difficult, time-consuming processes clickable. Is the 3 minute divorce that unrealistic?

More and more branding ideas and taglines containing the words “fastest and easiest” are finding their way into consumer messaging each day. And I love it. Peace.

The Haque


Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab, and writer of Edge Economy for the Harvard Business Review is an amazing new economy thinker and a bag of chips (a whole lot more). He’s very contrary (check out this current post pooh-poohing innovation), he is very right, and he is quite a communicator. I read his “Twitter’s Ten Rules For Radical Innovators” and thought them worth sharing:

1. Ideals beat strategies.
2. Open beats closed.
3. Connection beats transaction.
4. Simplicity beats complexity.
5. Neighborhoods beat networks.
6. Circuits beat channels.
7. Laziness beats business.
8. Public beats private.
9. Messy beats clean.
10. Good beats evil.
(For the full post, click here.)

I have never met Mr. Haque but hope to. And though I don’t agree with Rule number 1 as a general statement, in this case I do because in this case he suggests the idea to build Twitter was more important than the idea to build a Twitter business model. Agreed.

Mr. Haque is poster. But he is more than a poster, he is an uber poster. An inspirer. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Haque is already a force of nature and commerce. My prediction? This dude will be historic! Peace!

The Future of Healthcare.


nslij logo

A number of years ago I wrote the brand plan for the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Though I had to fight to sell it through – the strategy had the cold, cold word “systematized” in it – most approvers agreed it captured their essence.  Of the three brand planks, the two that carried real water were resource and information sharing and community integration.

Today it was reported that North Shore-LIJ has decided to lead the way in creating and implementing digital patient records. The system has creates financial incentives for docs to record and save all patient procedures and outcomes on computers. Digital patient records were inevitable, but someone big had to do it first. The two key benefits of this approach are less mistakes and improved best practices. Thank you Jesus.

I write about this because it shows that a good brand plan should have legs. The systematized approach to improving healthcare was written the summer of 2000 and it’s not only still accurate today, it’s more powerful today. More powerful because the system has spent millions of dollars and millions reminding doctors, patients, employees, administrators and others that this organization is “Setting New Standards in Healthcare.” Brand plans must see and prepare the way for the future. North Shore is still living its brand plan. Peace!

TV and The Internek



Sorry, I just like saying interneK (hard k). While the head of marketing at now defunct I woke up one morning to see a crazy influx of new users from India. Remember the UPS commercial where the employees of a new online company huddled around the monitor when the service is launched to watch as orders come flooding in. Slowly at first, then as a scary deluge. Anyway, during the Zude deluge our CTO was exchanging snot mail on blog comments with a competitor (whose funder was in India) and I wondered if our servers were under attack; if the competitor had created a bot to signup fake users. (Paranoia is a bitch.) Turns out they were all real users.

I hadn’t done any promotion outside the states so was at a loss. Well, after some digging I found out that an MTV India had done a review in a tech segment pulled from coverage by U.S. tech bloggers Robert Scoble, ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, etc.  Zude was on TV.

TV still wields an amazing amount of power. There’s a validation of your story when it’s on TV that sometimes doesn’t happen on the Web. TV is part of the virus that results from good communications planning even if you are not buying GRPs.  No channel is unimportant.

I’m not sure about Twitter’s (cha-ching) numbers in India, but if they want to grow users there, which is an excellent idea, they may want to get in touch with MTV India. Peace!

The Hoodie.



The hoodie is a fascinating piece of clothing. Functional anthropologists would have a field day interpreting what’s up. One obvious association with the hoodie is the urban look. I took my son — who fancies himself a bit ghetto — on a college visit last fall and as we got out of the car his pants were adroop and the hoodie up. One minute after viewing the khaki and tee-shirt bedecked landscape it flew off.

For me, hoodies are a way of hiding…of building intrigue. The “stand” of the hood and the area it covers is quite important. Just enough shadow, just enough peripheral vision. I’d love to plan on a piece of hoodie business because it’s so rich in cultural surround. Nike clearly sees the upside and is trying to crossover the hoodie into a sportswear sell, is taking a nice shot at it with this TV spot.

The film is beautifully done and the “ink” thing is a stylized way to embed imagery and build product desire.  The product name, however, is quite silly. “Where the Nike Hoodie AW77s at?” “Excuse me, where are the Hoodie AW77s?” A bigger factor in the success (or lack thereof) of this product may that it is on TV. In this category, by the time it’s on TV it’s probably over. Peace!

JWT Shines at Jay Chiat Awards



I went to the AAAA’s Jay Chiat Awards and workshop yesterday and was thoroughly inspired. The theme for the event “Inspire, Provoke, Celebrate,” though I loathe 3 verb lines, was apt and delivered. Many smart people and an impressive array of agencies were in attendance, but the shop whose planning prowess really impressed was JWT.

Their work for “Teach India” out of Mumbai and the “Schick Quattro” from NY was market-changing. Great strategy and great work gets consumers to feel something, then do something. If the works gets loads of new people to do something it expands the market, which is the holy grail.

The Teach India work inspired a nation in which 1 in 3 of the world’s illiterate children reside to spend 2 hours a week teaching children to read. The insights used to break the logjam of illiteracy were brilliant, as were the ads. As for Schick, creating a language through which women were willing to communicate about shaving their nether regions, was the challenge. The branding idea penned by JWT’s Jason DeTurris “transform your topiary” was not only fun and inspirational to the creatives, it sold some serious razors – an 11.5% increase. Shuffling market share is nice, growing markets is really nice. Peace!

RGA and the Platform.


bob greenberg

Yesterday I attended a talk by Bob Greenberg, CEO of RGA and his right hand man Barry Wacksman as part of Advertising Week in NYC. The preso was entitled “The Way Forward,” an up to speed on digital marketing.

Messrs. Greenberg and Wacksman are both very smart men and have done some serious selling – especially for Nike – but I’m not sure anything they shared was seminal. These gentleman suggested the way forward was via online “platforms.” Campaigns come and go, they offered, which I completely agree with. Bridging ecommerce with an online experience that collapses steps to a sale is a good idea. And I agree using the web in a participatory fashion to further affinity for a brand, increase loyalty and/or promote or entertainment is a terrific use of marketing dollars. But if to believe Mr. Greenberg and Wacksman, one might come away thinking the platform is more important than all else. Nay, I say. Nay.

Brand strategy is the driver of marketing success. Campaigns, platforms, media are all tactics used to deliver the strategy. Unless a marketer has a tight brand strategy the world wide web and all these commercial platforms will turn into an online Levittowns; a bunch of houses all looking alike, with a few build-outs on the corners.

GM’s New TV Spot. Same Old.


In a previous post I mentioned how the “phone guy,” the new chairman of General Motors, was not a good spokesperson for McCann-Erickson’s TV spot announcing the GM guarantee.

In the spot, Chairman Whitacre strolls through a GM building explaining the guarantee in a very predictable execution. Much more powerful in my opinion would have been to use a line worker (not 15 of them, mind you) to explain how GM got into the mess and what it was doing to crawl out. The spot would act as a mea culpa to the country…and if well written, would contain drama, pathos, slice-of-life and presumable a heartfelt plea for a second chance. America loves an underdog and would be more likely to help a company filled with line workers than Bloomfield Hills suits. Think of it as GM’s Joe The Plumber in a shiny new car.

I don’t need to see chrome filled R&D labs, newly shaped fenders on smaller cars and upbeat music to tell me things are getting better. In tough times, it’s okay to be human. Out of tough times come great stories. Great turnarounds. Great ness. GM needed to humanize what it hath wrought, it needn’t try to sell us with business as usual. Peace!

Branding and Doing Dishes


dishwashing gloves

There’s this great ad running in the The New York Times showing a pair of blue rubber dishwashing gloves. Scads of copy surround the gloves and an antiseptic logo – the kind that only pharmaceutical companies can make – letting us know this is a DTC drug ad. But for a pharma ad, it’s quite good. It tells a compelling little story. Arthritis pain can interrupt the simplest of daily activities and the drug Humira can help.

So are dishwashing gloves a branding idea?

When Dawn detergent came upon the brilliant and real idea to show the degreasing quality of its product with ducks being washed with Dawn after an oil spill (nice idea John Murphy), was that a branding idea? In both cases the answer is “no.” These are demonstrations. Supports. Tactics. Memorable though they are, and as campaignable as they are, they’re not branding ideas.

For the gloves ad, the branding idea is something like “Humira frees the joints to return to life’s little pleasures.” For Dawn, the branding idea was presumably “Dawn disperses grease better than anything on the planet.” Gloves and greasy ducks may be campaigable elements or icons but they are not strategies – they are not the idea.

Campaigns come and go, a powerful branding idea is indelible. Peace!

Campbell’s Tomato


cambells tomato soup

There are few things you will find in the grocery store less expensive than Campbell’s Tomato Soup. The can must cost more than the product after you factor in the promotion budget.  An ad for this wonderful American product appeared in my newspaper yesterday and it made me applaud.

A picture of a scallop shell floating above a clear blue sea contained a smidgen of salt crystals. The headline read: “We searched the world for the very best sea salt, and found one so naturally flavorful…” The headline finished at the bottom of the page printed atop a rich bowl of beautiful Campbell’s soup “…it helps us use less salt.”

This is ad craft at its best. Leveraging the known: Campbell’s soup is a great value. Overcoming an obstacle: Inexpensive soups are thought to contain lots of salt.  And elevating perception of taste and richness: Sea salt.

I’m sure the salt is from some unattractive location like Algeria rather than say Fleur de Sel from Brittany France, but that’s economics so the salt provenance is left out. Campbell’s and its ad agency, either BBDO or Y&R, have done a masterful job of selling a product that some might consider low-interest. Nice work. Peace!