Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year!


Be safe. Be good. Share and prosper in 2010.



I came across a great 2010 predictions article this morning, though I had to find it by reading John Durham’s wall on Facebook (John is a principle of Catalyst:SF a haps dig. co.), which pointed me to a IAB SmarBriefs piece, that directed me to, of all places, Adweek. Can you say circuitous? Here’s the piece.

Anyway, it made me think about doing a couple of predictions of my own.  (RIP William Safire…I loved your yearly predictions with the multiple choice answers.)

 Here are my predicktions:

  •  The Dachis Group will be purchased by a big consulting company. Capgemini perhaps.
  • Razorfish will snap out of its post-Microsoft “Where are my stock options?” malaise and see mad growth fueled by traditional brand business.
  • Iran will continue to revolt and the Iranian gov’t will buy Twitter.
  • Pete Doherty will clean up, become a father and get hit by a bus of tourists.
  • Gareth Kay’s name will make it to Goodby’s stationery.
  • BBH will lose the Cadillac pitch because of a dream someone at GM had.
  • The economy will show signs of real life by the time the leaves pop.
  • Brand strategy will make a comeback following tactics-palooza.  
  • A teenage with a vowel in her name will emerge as the next Mark Zuckerberg.

 Peace it up!

AT&T Vs. Verizon



In my mind Verizon is putting a beat down on AT&T when it comes to the wireless wars. By now everyone knows 3G is the network that runs iPhones and smartphones.  Most also know that iPhone coverage over the AT&T network is pretty poor, with dropped called aplenty.  If you know someone with an iPhone, you’ve heard the complaints.


Then there’s the advertising.  Every day I open my paper paper to find three successive full page, all type, orange ads with B- headlines such as “Don’t dumb down your smart phone” or “Is AT&T Better? Appsolutely” or “When you compare, there’s no comparison.” Today’s investment in The New York Times alone probably cost north of $200,000.  These ads which have been running every day for weeks create no muscle memory for AT&T. Together they tout what I’m sure research indicates is AT&T’s 4 key customer advantages: “faster, simultaneous talk and web, most apps, and most popular.”  They package these 4 things under the line “a better 3G experience.” Too much.

Verizon on the other hand and its “phone wars” tested ad agency McCann-Erickson are pushing one primary idea: 3G coverage.  The brilliant TV ad where the kid’s dense Verizon map blocks out the football game creates a memorable game-changing branding idea.  Coverage.  It’s smart on so many levels. Coverage = no dropped calls = good sound quality = fast.  AT&T and BBDO need an idea (as in one) or it may soon be a TKO. Peace!

Paid vs. Free Media.


There are big discussions these days about whether or not media properties will continue to offer their products for free over the internet.  Will newspapers begin charging for daily news? Will magazines require subscriptions for articles and analysis? Will TV programming sites like Hulu submit to a fee structure?  There’s no question in my mind they will, so enjoy the free ride while it lasts.

 Citizen journalism will continue to grow and be free. It will be localized, time sensitive and a very vibrant source of news.  #carcrashamityville will turn up a story beating the local newspaper filings by hours. Blogger journalism and analysis will continue to be free but subsidized by book sales and speaking engagements. (When music piracy became a thing and musicians could make a living selling CDs, they acknowledged da monies was in concerts and merchandise sales.) Back in the day, valuable analyses and insight was sold in the form of paid newsletters, but that’s another business that has been drained.

Professional journalism and media production (audio and video) will have to be paid. Why?  Because it will come with a branded, marketing infrastructure that requires upkeep. And though ad revenue will help, it can’t cover all the expenses. Peace!

Beyond the Dashboard.



The dashboard metaphor came to me recently when looking for the antithesis of what I have long been calling “rearview mirror” marketing strategy. Those who look through the rearview and side view mirrors to guide marketing decisions are likely to make only incremental advances.  This school of marketers asks questions such as “Where have our sales come in the past? Where have our competitors’ sales come from in the past? Who is gaining marketshare and what is their strategy?”  I’m a fan of history but I don’t advise clients to be stifled by it.

The Marketing Dashboard

The dashboard is something you hear about repeatedly in corporate management circles.  Data a la carte.  A single computer interface with dollar sales, unit sales, segment sales, regional sorts, YOY, month over month, sale by channel, A to S ratio, cost per click, etc. The dashboard can be mesmerizing, but what lies ahead of the dashboard?  The answer is the future. The horizon. And, more importantly, what’s beyond the horizon.  Can you say iPod?


I’m not going to go all Henry Ford on you but the future is where the big money is. Doing what everyone else does, even in messaging, is where the incrementalists play. Don’t be an incrementalist.  Look forward. People are people and their needs are predictable. Don’t over think. Understand simplicity, usability, and human nature…and you should be able see beyond the dashboard.  

Happy Holidays and a big fat PEACE!

Water Your Body.


crystal light

“Water your body” is a smart new campaign for Crystal Light, owned by Kraft. The work comes from McGarryBowen, Chicago.  Consumer research indicates that women who consume powder-flavored water drink 20% more of it than women who drink plain water.  Since we all know that water and hydration is a good thing (leveraging a well-known fact) the claim is pregnant with positive information and imagery. Water is good for your skin. Water is good for your muscles. Water is good for organs below the belly button. Water is good for hair and nails, etc. 

Sure, some people will see the ads and go to the tap or grab a plastic bottle of Poland Springs but the reality is the flavored stuff tastes better and is an inducement to drink more. The leap then becomes “Is Crystal Light water?” Kraft and McGarryBowen say yes.

 The biggest part of this market is not sports enthusiasts who crave water, it is the more sedentary women (and men) who know water is healthy — even if it contains 5 calories. Water your body is the creative idea…and a good one. “Flavor your water with Crystal Light and you’ll drink more” is the branding idea. Peace!

Bracketing Retail Purchases


I was shopping with the wifus this weekend and she bought our son two pairs of basketball sneakers for Christmas (He’s not a reader, so don’t worry about the surprise).  She bought him a size 10.5 and an 11. In commercial photography this process is called bracketing; meaning getting two different exposures just to make sure you get the right one.  In retail this bracketing is, apparently, pretty common too.  After the actual gifting, the size (color?) that doesn’t fit is returned.

Doesn’t this reduce selection for the other shoppers, I wondered out loud.  She said everybody does it.  Were I in the retail business I’d frown upon this big time. It encourages returns, reduces the stock availability, and makes lines longer; especially during the holiday. To me this practice seems like a real revenue suck.

Wifus, who may be one of the world’s best, most thoughtful shoppers, disagrees.  “When I come back to return, I’m likely to buy something else.”  Upon prompt she said she probably bought something incremental half the time.  I’m not sold.  Were I a retailer, I’d still stop bracketing immediamente! And I bet it would bottom line positive. You thought? Peace!

Brand Enculturation.


I had to look up the word enculturation a couple of months back while writing a pitch email. In fact, at the time I wasn’t sure it was a word.  Enculturation is mission-critical to my business and the goal of every brand plan I write.  A good brand plan helps employees drink the Kool Aid — educating them as to the unique and meaningful points of difference. By enculturating a company with the brand’s promise and supports marketing in its many forms is simplified and made more effective.  Only when a company adopts a brand plan can it truly be extended to consumers. The enculturation of a brand plan organizes employee and consumer minds, removing clutter.

Most advertisers and marketers hate “clutter.” I love it.  The more clutter there is in a category the more likely it can be broken.  A brand strategy may sometimes sound familiar, maybe even undifferentiated, but if it’s the right one, it will be actionable and defensible and its messages, demonstrations, and deeds profound.

Newsday knows where people (on Long Island) live. The Daily News doesn’t. North Shore-LIJ Health System provides a systematized approach to improving healthcare. St. Francis Hospital doesn’t.  Isopure Plus uncovers the taste of pure protein. Milky Ensure doesn’t.

When a brand creates a culture around its points of advantage it becomes a brand. When it doesn’t it remains a product.  Peace!

The Future. G.E. G.M. Healthcare.


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.