Yearly Archives: 2009

Joseph Jaffe Kool Aid.


joseph jaffe

Joseph Jaffe, founder of Crayon, spoke last night at the Brandhackers Meetup in New York City. He was quite good.  His third book, coming out February 9th with a title having to do with inverting the funnel, is based on the premise that loyalty is the new acquisition which sounds not only smart but profound.  Mr. Jaffe’s current book Join The Conversation is wonderfully named and one he referenced a number of times. What was ironic about the talk, though, was that it was just that — a one-way talk.  There were a couple of shows of hands at the beginning to engage but at no point during the event did we actually engage in conversation.  Where’s the Kool Aid at?

That aside, Mr. Jaffe was very good at demonstrating how the times have indeed changed. He showed a slide of campaigning Barack Obama in Berlin — a fly speck in front of 300,000 or so admirers.  When a close up of the Berlin crowd was shown, Mr. Jaffe pointed out that every person had a camera in hand. Every one. A few had video cameras and one individual was webcasting using a laptop.  Talk about sharing the love? Conversation starters to be sure.

Mr. Jaffe made many good points but the one that resonated the most for me was his summary point #3, “Everything starts with strategy.” What pushed strategy to #3 escapes me, but his notion that campaigns come and go but a “commitment to the brand” (idea) is the way forward sealed the deal.  Read Jaffe.  But better yet, have a conversation with him. Peace!

Mobile. Search. Ads.


I grew up watching advertising on television. Part of life.  Direct mail pisses me off due to all the wasted paper and atmospheric warming.  Dinnertime telemarketing annoys me but it’s hard to be mean to humans. Spam in the email box irritates. Telemarketing to my mobile though, oh that one drives me insane.

Google is about to launch a mobile phone handset business, using a Taiwanese manufacturer (“Do no evil” apparently doesn’t extend to domestic job creation) and the exciting, free Android operating system. The phone will not be free and sold “unlocked” — meaning buyers can choose their own compatible (GSM) carriers.  With most cell phones subsidized by carriers in the U.S. it will be hard for Google to make money on the hardware so what’s their play?  The answer is search ads.

 If you think search is big from your chair at work or your couch at home, wait until you see the power of search for those on the go.  People en route are way more likely to want to search for something than people in a chair – and Google knows this, hence the mobile computing effort. Google’s OS is a critical component to mobile search and by owning the phone they keep control. But toes will be stepped on. What sets my hair on fire is the thought that all mobile searches in couple of years will be wrapped in a big fat advertising wrapper. I smell an opportunity.  Peace!

Aol. vs. Yahoo


Aol. and Yahoo have both finally figured out that good content begets readership, viewership, referral, and participation which begets — the same.  These two seminal online brands will be dooking it out for years to come. They both took different paths to get here and both have CEOs with unique perspectives, but the battle should be fun to watch. Coke and Pepsi, AT&T and Verizon fun.

Armstrong vs. Bartz

My bet is on Aol. Tim Armstrong hitched his ride to a rising star (Google) and got that success smell on him — but I think he created some of that smell with his focus and good leadership. Carol Bartz’s career advanced by good blocking and tackling and good business decisions, something Yahoo hadn’t had for a while prior to her arrival.  Yahoo made lots of decisions, just not with a solid brand idea driving them. Until proven otherwise, I’ll give Mr. Armstrong the edge and write it off to “derring do.”

Ad dollars are moving online, no doubt, but those in the know will tell you the lion’s share are going to Google thanks to AdWords and their direct-to-consumer, DIY, analytics-powered ad model. As Aol. and Yahoo re-create their online brands and lead the market in the generation of original content (paid and contributed), search will stay a powerful, lucrative utility, but won’t be the best way to find good content. That will be the domain of Aol and, hopefully, Yahoo. Peace!

Kid Healthy Branding.


v8 fusion

General Mills and the Campbell Soup Company are doing some really good work to change the poor eating and drinking habits of kids.  General Mills, which already increased the whole grain content in its children’s cereal, has now agreed to reduce sugar in cereals advertised to kids. Campbell’s has created a line of heart healthy sugar and fructose syrup-free V-8 Fusion fruit drinks and marketing them to schools.

Kids love cereal and they love soda and juice, so if the right products are available, affordable and actually taste good, kids will go for them — reducing obesity and diabetes down the road. 

I have always loved the marketing ploy of Campbell’s: one V-8 is like multiple servings of vegetables. That idea carries over to its V-8 Fusion and V-8 Splash drinks. It’s a great, focused branding idea — pregnant with healthy consumer imagery (salt aside).  General Mills is trying to make whole grain a differentiating branding idea, but it’s juggling that with a new effort to reduce sugar.  It’s doing the right thing, but dividing its message to conquer. Were I General Mills, I’d work on the whole grain idea and leave the sugar-free as a side bar.  Sugar free is a bandwagon issue, whole grain is big. Peace!

Publish This!


I’ve been talking to a number of people in the publishing business lately — website owners, newspaper strategists, newsweekly VPs, trade publishing executives — and one thing they share is a deer-in-the-headlights gaze. “How are we going to make money?”  “How are we going to stem losses?” “How do we fight off citizen journalism?” 

Let’s face it, there has been a perfect storm of events helping to gut the publishing business.  For me the solution to the storm lies in the very roots of publishing.  People don’t want to search hit or miss for the best news, analysis and entertainment — they want it aggregated, categorized and curated. And they want it from sources with whom they’re in synch.  I read The New York Times because its one place to get what I need.

Publishers do need to worry about paper vs. digital and ad revenue vs. headcount but first they need understand what they do best – what their readers want.  Then they can think about innovation in delivering the content. Too often, they’re thinking innovation first and it is resulting in me-too delivery tactics.  (Can you say Podcast?) Once publishers understand the consumer need they fulfill, the content and content wrappers will emerge. They will stop thinking like newspapers, or magazines, or websites and start thinking like publishers – and the gleam will return to their eyes. Peace!

Look Behind the Digital Curtain.


oz curtains

There is an amazing theory in physical anthropology called phylogeny recapitulates ontology which suggests that the ascent of man from micro to human form is recreated every time a baby is born. From fertilized egg the form grows fishlike, reptilian, birdlike, to muuun-key (as Peter Sellers used to say) and finally goo-goo gah-gah person.

I think every marketer needs to experience life as a small business before making decisions for a large business — and that doesn’t always happen. Small business owners have to do it all and be responsible for all. They may not be good at everything, but they need to experience and understand everything.  Only when they “get” each business and marketing function can they make fair decisions about execution. Not all large business marketers see the whole picture and it’s a shame.

Noah Brier a smart digital strategist at the Barbarian Group has said every marketing who uses the Web should take an interest in and learn, however rudimentary, to write code. Most slough off this advice, but he’s right. Like the marketer who needs to understand the evolution of the business from small to large and the scientist who should be aware of single cell to complex organism, the online marketer is better off if understanding just what’s behind the digital marketing curtain. And understanding its power. Peace!




In a tweet yesterday I noted that Twitter is to marketing what stem cells are to healthcare. In the right hands, with the right intentions, Twitter can provide amazing results. In untrained hands it’s simply microscopic marketing goo with mad potential. 

Marketing News 

Good marketing news travels like wildfire on Twitter.  Say Pearl Jam is doing a surprise show on the roof of Looney Tunes Records in West Babylon at 2 P.M. today (They’re not.). Do you think that will get around the Twittersphere?  How about Looney Tunes is offering $3.00 off all CD purchases Saturday? I don’t think so.

Marketing applications for Twitter are about news. Real news, not pablum. Hashtags are the key — because they are how news spreads on twitter. And anyone can start a hashtag.  #Isleptwithtiger2. See what I mean?

Ben Bensons’ Steak House and the Man.


Ben Benson 

Ben Benson is a New York steak house legend and a very smart businessman.  Talk about personal branding?  Ben and partner Alan Stillman double handedly invented the “singles scene.” Friday’s, on the upper east side of NYC, was the branded place to pick up members of the opposite sex when it first opened.  The bar and its sister bars Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, which didn’t fair as well, eventually evolved into the TGI Friday’s chain, now with different owners.

Ben and Mr. Stillman parted ways with Mr. Stillman becoming a corporation, a publically traded company (I think) with lots of restaurant properties around the city and country.  Ben stuck to his knitting, stuck to his store (123 West 52nd Street, NYC, “I think you’ll love it.”) and has built a brand the old fashion way: One steak at a time. Mr. Benson, who has had some health problems (Who wouldn’t being surrounded by sirloins all his adult life?) has outlived many peers in the business world. Literally and figuratively.  Thousands of captains of industry who used to dine at Ben Benson’s ordering $400 bottles of wine are long gone and forgotten. Not Ben.

A Marketing Lesson. 

I once told Ben he should give away umbrellas on rainy days to his best guests who had been caught unaware by the weather. (Ben has a wonderful, striking logo.) The umbrellas cost about $19.00 a piece and would be walking billboards around the city I told him. “You know how many steaks I have to sell to pay for one of those umbrellas?” was his response.  “My steaks are expensive — I only make about 2 dollars a steak. I’d have to sell eight steaks to pay for one umbrella.”  The lessons I learned from Ben resound. When I ask clients to spend their money I think of steaks jumping across plates and it grounds me.  Ben is a Harvard Business Review case study. Study him.  (But buy a steak first.)

Venture Capital and Clean Air.


NY venture capitalist Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures posted yesterday about how venture firms often follow the herd.  If social networks are hot, VCs look for a new good one. Mobile apps? They find someone second to the party, but who tells a fine story.  Mr. Wilson believes this is too safe and in being too safe it is not safe at all.

 Mr. Wilson is, drum roll, successful.  He is because he “fails harder” as Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy says. Or “falls forward fast” as Joe Nacchio used to say.   Mr. Wilson is smart, hard working but most importantly unafraid to look to the future. He goes where the herd will be. Where the herd is is a little stinky –albeit an active breeding ground. Mr. Wilson looks for clean air.

Brand Planning.

Good brand planning and good VC investment share this “ahead of the herd” mentality. When I present a great branding idea there is often an odd look in the eyes of the decision maker.  It’s part smile, part fear.  The smile connotes I get them.  The fear can result from a few things but usually it’s the unknown.  When presenting to Newsday the brand idea “we know where you live,” they thought it too intrusive, maybe a bit creepy. But it was their differentiator. They added a little water and bought it.  For a health care system the strategy “a systematized approach to improving healthcare” felt cold and calculating.  Finally they agree as long as we didn’t use the “s” word, we were good.  They came to grips with the fact that they were a system. Herds are safe. Bold wins out. Peace!