Monthly Archives: October 2010

Derivatives in Marketing


I’m not sure I know what derivatives are in financial markets, but I sure know what they are in marketing…and there are two kinds: derivative creative and derivative context.  

Derivative creative feels like an idea stolen. When you see or hear the idea, you think of another brand.  That’s bad. When an idea has a conscience tied to one brand, you must stay away.  Hack creatives make a living on this type of stuff. It smells like something bad in the fridge.

Then there is derivative context.  This is smart creative.  It’s not as smart as something absolutely clean and un-owned, but it is smart nonetheless and doesn’t require bazillions to seed the idea with consumers. It’s smart because the idea comes pregnant with meaning the marketer doesn’t need to build.  If I say “Hot Tomato” is sounds like “Hot Potato” and contextualized makes one think of something too hot to hold.  (Okay, bad example, but it’s early in the morning.)

Derivative creative bad. Derivative context good. Next! Peace.

Eating Right is Big Business.


You can tell the vitality of a marketing category by its advertising — and right now the retail grocery business is heating up.  With 17 percent of all US adolescents obese and the likelihood that for the first time in the history of our country children will grow up less healthy than their parents, the retail grocery business is finally beginning to innovate and in the right direction.

Thumb through the ads in Progressive Grocer and you will see some with real claims. Real proof.  It’s easy to do good advertising when you have real innovation to sell.  Yeah, yeah there are still some charts and an ad or two with cheesy headlines (Hershey’s “Delivering Innovations Shopping Solutions”), but unlike the ads in a recent copy of CIO Magazine, crafted with stock art by internal market departments, the grocery trades are cranking out work with real stories. And you can tell that the ConAgra’s of the world are excited to be introducing lines of healthy steamed entrees.

Feeding America more healthy, more affordable food (not usually used in the same sentence) is driving “what’s up” in the grocery business. It may not be a sexy category, like social media, or mobile phones, but it’s important and growing.  And in a few months all this trade advertising will move into the general media markets and feed (sorry) the general advertising business. Exciting!  Peace!

MSG Does it Again.


Poor, poor New York Knicks.  They own and play in the world’s most famous arena.  They’re backed by a smart company that has more money and love (for them) than are most sports franchises, but when it comes to marketing they can’t find their fanny with their hands.


Co:, a new marketing company formed by Ty Montague and Rosemarie Ryan, most recently of JWT, touted the Knicks as one of their first clients.  How’s that coffee smell y’all?  What a mess they stepped into.  Today’s New York Times reports the new Knicks adverting effort is a five agency ass-grab, sans an idea.  Co: has really taken a small role, according to the article, with only a limited mention.  Stuart Elliot, the Times advertising writer, suggests the idea is “You. Us. We. Now.”  Is that an idea…or four? Is there an acronym for Cry Out Loud? 

Everyone interviewed in the article says the wrong thing. The story suggests tactics-palloza  — and there is a focus on “fan engagement” that is well-intended but laughable.


Last year the Knicks idea was “Declare.”  What they meant to say was “Represent” but that, I’m sure, was a bit too urban.  How can you be urban and not urban in one word?  

The creative this year focuses on the players because they are all new. Lazy. It should be focusing on the basketball void that has been NYC for years. Hear that sucking sound?  If you want some hoops in NYC this year get your shoes out to Carnesecca Arena. Peace!

Words Are Important.


I was listening to a radio commercial this morning in which Joe Torre and the president of J.H. Cohen are prattling on about professionalism and category experience in the consulting and accounting business.  And it’s bad, so I’m really only listening for how poor the performances are — not really hearing the words.  And then president or announcer recites a list of fluff ending with “unmatched integrity.”  WTF!  Is anyone reading this shizz?

Advertising Claims

There was a time when you couldn’t just poop out claims on the radio. Or in print.  I suspect they are a little more vigilant in the TV standards and practices depts., but today you can say just about anything on the radio. Maybe that’s why advertising is so ineffective.  Anyone can say anything.  “Unmatched integrity?”

If Coors Light can say it’s the “world’s most refreshing beer,” what does that make all the competitors?  Is someone sleeping at the switch?  Words are important; anyone in marketing will tell you that.  As we make words less important, is it any wonder that we need the algorithm to help us find our arses.  Peace.

We’re Here!



This is a leader board from AOL that appeared on  It’s a perfect example of “We’re Here” advertising, doing little more than telling users they exist.  The creative for this baby could not have taken more than 10 minutes.  And that with 3 re-dos.  Come on AOL, you can do better than this!  Peace!

Action vs. Access


 Yesterday’s post was about brand managers ceding control of brand marketing. Today, I’d like to suggest that brand managers need to take back control of their websites. A website done well is a website that creates customer action. And when I say action I don’t mean things like time on site, or likes or pages viewed – I’m talking about moving the ball ahead in the sales cycle. 

Many commercial websites provide lots of product detail, layers of information and customer testimonials. Colorful pictures and product videos are also common. In many of these cases, the web is simply providing access to digital information – not unlike a brochure.  Rather, the web should be promoting action. The sales cycle starts with Awareness, moves toward Interest, then Preference, Purchase and continues on to Loyalty.  Most web metrics today measure Interest (visits). If an e-comm site, they measure Purchase. The Loyalty metric is gauged by repeated visits. 

No wonder many companies think they don’t need websites and focus their selling efforts on Facebook.  There’s plenty of action on Facebook.    

Websites are not brochures. They are not video repositories. Commercial websites should be living, breathing selling tools. Reflections of the product value in an ever changing, colorful, bi-directional medium. A smart marketer once said “Good advertising gets you to feel something then do something.”  The same applies to a good website. Peace!

Ceding Control of Brand Strategy.


Advertising used to make us get off our asses and go buy something. Or, call someone to talk about buying something. That was its job.  Retail advertisers understood this better than most, watching the cash register ring when ads activated customers.   

In the NY market AT&T and Verizon used to be able to tell how many new cellular customers they were going to add based upon how far forward their ads were in The New York Times

The Web has changed all that.  Social media pundits and digital strategists tell us we turn to one another to learn which products to buy. Consumers believe consumers, they say, not ads.  The web facilitates this consumer-leading-consumer behavior.  Through community and ratings machines, consumers can certainly gather information to help them with purchase decisions. No argument from me. But these online tools that gather and parse consumer attitudes, with no organizing principle behind them, are eroding brand strategy.  And brand managers are allowing it. 

Good advertising and market professionals find “reasons to buy” that are way more powerful than those offered by John and Mary Q public. Professionals are trained to prioritize and organize reasons to buy.  If we let consumers decide, and then employ the algorithm to drive our decisions, there is no art or science. We cede control of the brand strategy. It may even alter product design, so everything moves toward the middle.

Marketers who let consumer do their job for them are lazy. Great brand strategy comes from consumer insight, no doubt. But a consumer collective as brand manager? Nuh uh.  Peace.

Where is the Original Art?


 I was just flipping through CIO Magazine looking at the ads and here’s what I found.   There were 17 full page ads: 8 were all type, 4 used simple product shots and the rest clip or stock art.  What would Don Draper say?  And I’m talking about ads from companies like HP, Dell, CA, Symantec and Palm — companies that should know better.

Let’s not even get into whether the ads have an idea, support the brand strategy or are well written.   B2B print advertising today is a joke.  If it wasn’t for clip art, there would be no art.  The people tossing these ads together (tossers) are not professional ad crafters, they’re drag-and-droppers.  This is “We’re here!” advertising at best.

Corporations that allow this type of work are lazy.  I know the economy is poor and companies are looking for ways to cut corners, but let’s put a little art back into selling.  No wonder print is dying.  Sad.  Peace!

A Site 4 Next Generation Business Leaders.


High level departures.  Those of us in the business world are fascinated by them.  Who is being forced out at the Tribune Company?  Which chief software architect is leaving Microsoft?  What CEO is taking fire at one of the world’s largest web portal?  Companies with massive high level departures are seen as damaged companies. And markets move based on this type of intell.

But what is the opposite of high level departures? Mid-level hires? The hiring of really smart people on their way up? Employees with a bullet, on top of their games, destined to change markets? Yup.  These mid-level executives, very much appreciated by their companies, don’t get celebrated publically. Oh, they want the notoriety but they keep their heads down.  Not blow-hard bloggers, they work their asses off, pay their dues, get smart on everyone else and wait for the payday.  By the time they get noticed in the press, they’ve already made their moves.  The human resources people and head hunters who find these people early on are the real heroes.

We need a website that caters to this business segment.  It’s a perfect online community: active, aggressive, engaged. But anonymity is a key. Perhaps this community is sponsored by a recruitment company and all posts are anonymous.  Only the site owner can identify the participants.  It’s experiential not narrative…and the perfect place for mid-level over-achievers to get noticed early.  “I yike it,” as my kids used to say. Peace!

Twitter’s Billion Users.


My first tweet (, a fun application conceived by Noah Brier, contained a typo. That’s just about right. 

Though not a 10 tweets a day kind of guy, I do love the app. Readers know I have great expectations for Twitter in the business world.  Twitter doesn’t have the users of Facebook and many still think it a silly web exuberance, but it really has only just scratched the surface of its potential.  My daughter who’s a Millennial just signed up and she didn’t get Twitter for the longest time.

Yesterday I was in the locker room of a professional sports team.  Can’t say the name.  Outside the looker room in the hall next to the showers is where all pertinent team information is posted.  An 8 x10 memo on insurance, a notice that the barber will be on prem Friday, small laminated color piss charts encouraging proper hydration. Don’t forget to shower before you get in the whirlpool.  Next to all these little officious documents is a huge horizontal poster “Twitter Dos and Don’ts.” 

Dos: Okay to say “great game” and “thank the fans.” Don’ts: no RT (retweeting) other peoples’ unsubstantiated stuff, talk about injuries or the game plan.   The list is quite long and modular so it can be expanded. It starts at eye level and is currently down to the waist. Athletes love Twitter.

I once wrote a brief stating that a musician is never more in touch with his/her art than when staring into the eyes of the audience.  Twitter is not exactly the same thing but its close.  When marketers learn how to use Twitter to really listen it will become, as Dick Costello predicts, a billion-user application. Peace!