Yearly Archives: 2009

Google…Leaving the Building.


Part of the fun of blogging is to go on record and predict how other people’s marketing initiatives will turn out.  One of the questions I ask when doing such prognostication is “Does the move further the corporate strategy?” Or, in my simplified worldview, does it further the branding “idea.” 


When I first read about Google’s forays into online radio, print and TV ad sales I was surprised and befuddled…and expected them to fail. As of yesterday, only the TV ad sales business is still alive.  I’m not a big fan of a number of Google’s non-core business apps: Write, Google Docs, the spread sheet program; they are all nice novelties. But what do they do to further Sergey Brin’s initial brand idea We deliver the world’s information in one click”?  

While director of marketing at, a social computing platform, my directive to employees was to ask themselves every day as they left the building “What did I do today to make Zude the “fastest, easiest way to build an manage a website?”  That’s was a focused mission. That was an idea.  Google needs a "leaving the building" question.


Denny’s Grand Slam Promo Indeed.



I remember hearing in advance about Denny’s Super Bowl spot and even remember watching it, but don’t remember it being a promotion offering free Grand Slam breakfasts the Tuesday after the game. Must have had nachos in my ears. Talk about a promotion? Absolutely brilliant!


I love the Grand Slam breakfast, which is a great value at $5.99: 2 eggs, 2 pancakes, 2 pieces of bacon and 2 sausage. What else could a body want? Denny’s promotion was intended to reestablish the sit-down breakfast as an American pastime, then take their unfair share. Let’s see if it worked. Denny’s estimated 2 million Grand Slams were given away on the fabled Tuesday, at a total cost of $5 million, inclusive of the spot.  Since a Super Bowl spots ran $3M for a :30, Denny’s generated well over 2 million visits and fed those visitors for less than the cost of 2 spots. Hear that Budweiser?


Getting people into the stores, getting them to talk to friends about going to Denny’s, on top of the good will generated during tough times plus the free publicity is a huge hit in my book.  So long as the food was served hot and tasty and the servers held their own, I would estimate that America will be doing breakfast at Denny’s in much greater numbers starting this week. Take that IHOP. Bravo. Peace!


Lachky. Wass Down?



Chief creative officer was the most recent title for Robert Lachky at Anheuser-Busch. Mr. Lachky has stepped down and by many accounts his legacy at Budweiser will be viewed as a good one. He presided over many notable TV campaigns.  But he was also a senior officer at a time when many AB properties lost share and relevance.  Coming in number one in the USA Today Ad Meter Survey of Super Bowl ads doesn’t necessarily translate into keg sales, it would appear.  Mr. Lachky deserves props for establishing Bud Light — I’ll give him that — but in my mind his focus on creative rather than product-based differentiation was his undoing. 


The next time you see a consumer packaged good executive with the title of chief creative officer, run.  Peace!    








Cablevision — A Marketing Intelligence Laboratory.




I was talking to my accountant yesterday who is a bit of a firebrand when it comes to local politics and he mentioned how our local cable company, Cablevision, is in position to gather an amazing amount of data about its customers. We on Long Island have always thought of Cablevision as a monopoly when it comes to our television, but check this out: Cablevision owns most of the Internet pipes into our homes. Not to go all “24” on you, but that means they can monitor IP addresses visited. They have intelligent cable boxes in most houses and can easily monitor TV viewing habits by channel, time-of-day, recording habits, commercial viewership, even room. Moreover, they are setting up free a Wifi network which will be able to track our log-ons all over the island.


Sound like a lot? Cablevision also owns Newsday, Long Island’s only real newspaper and, an online property that may someday be the cash cow. They own a chain of movie theaters, now tied to a rewards program. They own a telephone company, which is bundled with Internet access and TV for better value. And they own Madison Square Garden, should we ever decide to leave Long Island and visit the big city. Oh yeah, they own the NY Knicks and the NY Rangers. 


This company has the potential to know more about the denizens of Long Island than Google or Homeland Security. If they were to invest in a really smart database and decide to use all of this data for good, Cablevision might just become a marketing intelligent and predictive buying company of historic proportion — something they never imagined in their business plan. Peace!



Food safety before auto bailout.



The current outbreak of salmonella poisoning in the peanut and peanut butter industry is an example of lax government oversight that will only get worse. Remember the milk crisis in China? The tainted jalapeno pepper/salsa problem last year?  Bad farmed salmon from South America? Mad cow disease in American cattle?


The NY Times today did an excellent piece on the Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella mess, which started with a family-owned processing plant in Blakely, GA.  Workers weren’t paid good wages, temps were used, roofs leaked, rodent schmoo on the floor and government safety inspectors who were over-stretched. A recipe for disaster.


This type of thing, though certainly not rampant, is happening all over. As company profits dry up and workers let go — and as the government eases up oversight due to lack of funds – food safety problem will multiply.


And can’t you just see a bunch of marketers stepping into the breach, segmenting the market with premium food brands that tout higher levels of quality control under the guise of  “pure-natural,” or “healthiest choice” or some such — by inference, positioning regular store brands as for the other class of shopper. Whole Foods, to a degree, is already catering to these up-market consumers.   


The government needs to step up here and pump some serious stimulus money into cleaning up the food industry. Let’s put the search for the car czar on hold and clean up a food plant or two first.  Food safety before car bail-out.    



Awareness vs. Action.


A smart General Motors marketing executive (no giggles) once said “Good advertising makes you feel something then do something.” All “feel” and no “do” can make a dull marketing effort.  Here’s a digital example: Sony Pictures recently used Facebook’s engagement ad program – a vehicle directing Facebook friends to an app that creates an action, which is shared with other friends – in which they provided a commenting object about a clip from the film “Rent.”  It was tested in a particular city. According to Ad Age, the app doubled awareness of the movie among Facebook members.  Well, did anyone care to see if incremental movie tickets were sold in that city? I’m betting it was measured and the program didn’t translate into ticket sales — that’s why it was left out of the Ad Age story. 

This effort may actually have created some initial “do,” perhaps a little “feel,” but none of the most important “do” which was go to the movies. The target, it seems, may like to hang out online.  Peace!

Pride Sells


One word that turns up rich consumer insights when brand planning is “pride.” Consumers know how to articulate pride.  Delving into pride helps planners get to brand truths. It may be one of the seven deadly sins but pride helps planners navigate the psyche and mine selling ideas.

When Hyundai began marketing cars in the US, it was not a car many people took pride in owning, but when the cars designs improved consumers could begin to take pride in ownership. Then Hyundai introduced its 10-year warranty and owners crowed like roosters, looking quite smart compared to other consumers. One can take pride in looking smart. 

Hyundai’s new Assurance program, which guarantees it will take back any new car it sells, at no cost, if the buyer loses his or her job, is another smart move. Add those smarts to the announcement that the newly launched Genesis was named North American Car of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show and you begin to see how momentum is built. Sin indeed.


Smile as a predictor.


Mario Batali of Del Posto, Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque and
Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Perry St., Nougatine and
Matsugen really really want you to visit.
(Photo illustration by Tony Cenicola, NY Times)


I’m no foodie, but I do know who Mario Batali and Jean-George are — and I’ve certainly heard of Le Cirque. The picture above attempts to put a smile on the harsh economic reality of the NYC restaurants business, but it doesn’t.  I wouldn’t want to have been the photo editor for this piece in today’s New York Times Dining section. If you look beneath these stiff smiles you can actually feel their pain.  

In a recent article about Ben Benson’s Steak House, also in NY, Ben said the first 200 covers pay the bills while the next 25 make the profit. Today, many restaurants are not getting close to the next 25 and if world-famous restauranteurs like these are losing their smiles you can well imagine what’s going on in the family run places. A big NYC restaurant shake out is a coming.


Mattel’s feelin’ it.


What’s the idea with the economy? As I wandered the village last Saturday doing chores I asked retailers how the economy is hitting them. Bert the dry cleaner says the volume of shirts is the same but that people are waiting longer to bring in suits. (It’s not good for the suits, BTW, says Bert.) Linda of the barbershop believes people need haircuts to look good so she doesn’t see a downturn.  She’s a bit of a hottie, though, so her role in the survey may not count. Derek the busboy says the weekend dinner business at Al Atalia has slowed.  

Then I read that Mattel’s profits have been halved and sales of Barbie and Hot Wheels are off  21 and 22 percent. Ouch!  When parents stop buying their kids toys it is bad. Forget that my retirement fund lost some serious zeros last year — toy sales are down. What would Warren Buffet say?  We’re in some shizzz boys and girls. Well he might not say that, but you get it. Peace!

Art and commerce.


What’s the idea with money and art?

The best art is, and always has been, created by people without a piss to pot in. As a student of rock, I’ve seen great bands lose their way as the money gathers. Today’s geezer rock is so bad because the oldsters never were able to recreate their earlier art after becoming flush and tour with old material.  And today I’ve been reading about the downward spiral of Conde Nast magazines which, it would appear, have been written and produced under the thumb of such opulence that the editorial edge has retreated. 

Money impacts the conscience. Hotel rooms and breakfasts in bed soften and deadens artists’ feelings. Drive is de minims in those who are waited upon. Imagination becomes fettered. They are a rare few who maintain their art when fame and money become a way of life.

One of my favorite questions to ask when interviewing people is “What is your art?” Sadly, the question often requires explanation. Marketers who favor art over science are still the most pure and prolific. Peace!