Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Web’s Specialty.


There’s a cool story in today’s New York Times about single-food restaurants. It stands to reason that enterprises of this type can only thrive if the food is excellent and the stores located in highly populated areas.  In NYC you can take out and, in some cases, eat in at a Mac and Cheese store or a meatball store. There are places that sell only mussels, only rice pudding, and only fried chicken. It’s a growing phenomenon. Specialization suggests focus; a focus on quality, ingredients, product and knowledge.

In mid-town Manhattan, where there are probably a half million lunches served within walking distance of any high-rise, there are lots of options. So why not go to the best option; the place that specializes? The place that eats, breathe and sleeps its specialty. Forget me not that this type of store can scale well and have a supply chain with amazingly fat margin opportunities. That’s gravy at the gravy store.

This is a key chapter in the story of the Web — and where the web is going.

I’ve written before about “worldwide pricing” and the ability to search the world for the best prices.  Well, how about searching the world for the best quality? The ability to do so is a web app. And specialization and focus are the tools of that trade.

We are bound by product and service mediocrity because of geographic and time limitations. And because of supply and demand.  Well, say buh-bye to these barriers.  Ima stop there and let you entrepreneurs ponder that for a while. Ponder, Ponder.  Peace!

Campbell’s Coulda Woulda.


I’ve been a fan of Douglas R. Conant, CEO of the Campbell’s Soup Company, for a few years and today my fanboy status took a hit.  Soup sales fell for Campbell’s in it most recent quarter, missing analyst targets by one cent — and the stock price fell.

In a tight economy, inexpensive soup becomes a staple of the dollar-conscious.  According to reports, people are still buying the condensed soups and using them in meals prepared at home but sale of ready-to-eat and other condensed soups are flagging. Apparently there is just so much canned soup a body can take.

Mr. Conant who is leaving Campbell’s in July, noted that the sales problem is tied to lack of product innovation and the fact that new customers are not stopping by his area of the food aisle.  For a middle-American family of 5 who has eaten soup once or twice a week for a couple of years, pinching dollars, I can see why there might be some push back from around the dinner table.  I suspect a little recipe innovation, rather than product innovation might have been a good idea.  

This time last year, when business was cranking,  I reached out to the marketing department at Campbell’s and suggested a creative social media program around a “dinner for dollars” video property. (Can’t say more.)  I was told to take my idea to the suggestion box on the website. As Tony Montana might have said “Not look at chew.”  Peace!

Control Your Marketing


Loss of Control is one of marketing’s 6 most motivating selling strategies. (I haven’t locked down on the other 5, though “save money” and “better service” have to be included.)

I wrote a brief once for a home healthcare service catering to well-heeled, upscale individuals who didn’t need to rely on Medicare for payment. I called the target “Captains of the Castle,” a mixed metaphor indicating that not only were these people heads of household from a financial standpoint, they were one-time captains of industry.

Let’s just say, back in the day these individuals were powerful, proud and in control.  Now in their 70 and 80s, Captains of the Castle are still proud, but in failing health and no longer powerful or running the show. (You’ve seen this black and white movie, no?)

Most healthcare marketing in the home care category targets the caregiver. This brief was aimed not at the caregiver but at the care recipients — the Captains. The promise or offer was a specialized homecare program that gave them control back.  Control in their own homes.   (In fact, the brief generated a new product idea.) 

As you are writing briefs and segmenting your targets, don’t forget to ask yourself about the loss of control as a motivator.  And, as you are selecting your media, message and proof, don’t cede control to the consumer.  Media Socialists think that’s the haps and they are largely wrong. Peace!

Wendy’s. Kaplan Thaler. Unreal.


Branding is about owning a discrete idea in the minds of consumers.  Find the right idea — something you are good at and upon which you can deliver – then spend your money proving it.  

A couple of years ago, Wendy’s, a top 3 fast food burger chain, gave its account to Kaplan Thaler Group. Kaplan Thaler does good ads, great music and creates muscle memory for its clients.  It won the Wendy’s business with a neat jingle and neat idea “You know when it’s real.”   The idea revolves around a commitment to use more natural ingredients.  No one doesn’t want more natural ingredients.  So it is a great idea in a category with pent up “bad nutrition” ideals.

We can debate whether the last two year of advertising have delivered on the natural ingredients promise, but there is a $25 million campaign launching for Wendy’s new French fries that has gone off trail. The product uses natural-cut unpeeled Russet Burbank potatoes and sea salt. Presumably they are using a healthier quality of fry oil.  The advertising idea – and here is where the disconnect comes in — is about “taste and sharing.”  People like the taste so much they don’t want to share.  You know when it’s real?  When this work is copy-tested people will play back “the fries are so good you won’t want to share.”  FAIL.  (I’m sure the copy talks about real ingredients, but the idea is about taste and sharing.) This doesn’t put a deposit in the brand idea bank, it makes a withdrawal.  

Money into the market will make sale blip up. It will be viewed as modest near-term success.  But by now, Kaplan should know how brand strategy works: Get them to sing the strategy, then burrow it into their heads.  Props to Wendy’s product people for the product idea. As for the marketing people shame, shame.  Peace!

The Silo Chasm



How does a brand idea cross the silo chasm?  It’s doesn’t always. 

Matching luggage is creative term for creative that travels nicely from media to media.  Let’s say you have a selling idea for a TV commercial – but it’s visual.  How does that idea transfer to radio? (“Hi, I’m a talking horse from Yonkers Raceway.” Ouch. )  Similarly, what if you have an experiential idea, perfect for promotion or digital but it lies like a lox in print? Campaign ideas don’t always travel. So what do you do? 

And today, with marketing silos expanding not contracting, it is even harder to corral a campaign idea and bring it to life – especially for big clients with multiple agencies, all of which want to come up with the “big” idea.  

So here are some rules to live by. Campaigns come and go…a powerful branding idea is indelible. Coke must “refresh” no matter the campaign.  Corona must convey a hot, vacation-like retreat. Norelco electric razors must convey a smooth shave. Rule 2:  Don’t kill yourself trying to force fit a campaign idea to a media. Media is not a strategy.  A hammer does not turn a screw.  Do your best to allow an idea to travel, but don’t force it.  It only will diminish the original idea.  Matching luggage may be nice for Paris Hilton, but she doesn’t have to carry that much shizz with her — she got peoples.

Peter Kim (the deceased one) once told an AT&T client spending hundreds of millions on TV “Campaigns are overated.” Peace.

Coupons pollute the social stream.



In the future, Groupon will be a powerhouse. (Right now it’s a power hose.)  

My first email from Groupon arrived yesterday promoting Bubba’s Burrito Bar in not too far away Islip, NY.  Bubba’s offered me $7 off a purchase of $15.  I clicked through but the link was broken.  Stoked, because I’d been to Bubba’s and liked it very much, I wrote them a note about the link faux pas certainly will visit them soon, coupon or not.

Today, Groupon emailed me a promotion for America Apparel.  Not exactly, where I shop. It’s email number two and already I see an email unsub in my future. So why with this targeting problem do I still expect Groupon to be a winner? 


Groupon has some things to work out but the idea to encourage “group” promotions and group referral by geography is smart…and gaining traction.  Plus this is the right economy to be in the coupon business.  I gripe often that marketers are tainting social media by tossing coupons around Facebook and Twitter, etc. It’s too much. Groupon has the potential to be a cure for this boorish behavior. Coupons need to be sequestered but easily found — they do not need to be all over my social media stream. Period.

If Groupon focuses solely on coupons and coupon users, they will evolve; especially if they pioneer the application of the social graph (relationship mapping of social friends) with coupon use and geo-targeting. Groupon will win this category because of focus.  And because couponing does not belong in the waters of the social stream. Peace!

Facial Recognition is Buggin’.



I watch a bit of TV and one of the technologies that pops up from time to time is facial recognition.  A digital recorder scans the face of an unsuspecting villain comparing facial features to a database  generating a “hit” which ties the person to an abundance of data.    

Does the technology sound expensive?  Sure. Is it?  Probably not.   

As mobile and GPS technologies become more common and applied commercially – always in an opt-in fashion, of course – do you think facial recognition apps are far behind?  Let’s say they start out as a security thing, confirming that your credit or debit card is really yours.  Not so bad. But how about if you walk into a store and are recognized as a big spender by the software, and an special customer care alert goes out to the sales dept?  Smart from the store’s viewpoint.  If a NYer who spends $10,000 a year at Macy’s visits a branch in Chicago, wouldn’t the store want a heads up before check out?

It sounds intrusive, yes. But let’s face it.  We’re bugging ourselves in lots of ways. EasyPass records where our cars have driven. ATM’s track us. Credit card transactions track us. Traffic cams record our car license plates. Soon our smart phones will know more about us than we do.  (Mr. Poppe, you are listing to port.)

I for one, think facial recognition will provide neat commercial possibilities. Time will tell. Peace!

Buick’s Progress. A tale.


I drove a Buick Skylark as a kid and loved it.  Though green wasn’t my favorite color, the car offered a little macho and some pep.  My friend’s dad owned the Buick dealership from whence it came and when he grew up he, too, owned a Buick Dealership.  I went to work at McCann-Erickson in the 90s and we had the Buick account. Market research began to slip out that Buick had become the brand of Q-Tips — little white heads that stuck up from behind the steering wheel. That was the 90s.  As much as the client and agency derided the target and tried to go younger, they never really changed the car models.

The decade of the 2000s rolled in and again management talked about aiming younger.  Tiger Woods was the spokesperson – young phenom that he was.  Some youthful accoutrements were put on the cars, some grilles were youthenized, a new younger nameplate introduced (Lucerne, hee hee), yet the old people car tag did not abate.

Fast forward to today – the 2000 teens.  “People still equate us with big, floaty, boxy cars that are driven by people in their 70s and 80s,” said Craig Bierley, director of advertising and sales of Buick/GMC in today’s paper.  He added “This is really about position Buick in a progressive marketing space, so that people can think of Buick as a progressive company overall.”  This quote, a reference to a new selling application for iPhones and Androids.

Hello?  You can market younger but the car designs must appeal so. They don’t yet. See you in 2020. Peace!

Facebook Email. The chatter and cheddar.


There’s been lots of online chatter about the expected announcement today of Facebook email — and how it might kill Gmail. It won’t.  There are a lots of Gmail fanboys. It will, however, hurt new accounts and current usage among Millennials, teens, and tweens. But the really big news is that Facebook email will be a crazy money maker.

Online Advertising

It is reported that 1 in 4 ads displayed on the web are Facebook ads — with 1.28 trillion banners ads viewed in the 3rd quarter of 2010 alone. Dude!  That more than TV, radio, and OOH combined (please don’t fact check, I just made that up). That is a lot of impressions.  If Facebook’s email — through which users will have personal email accounts  ( — takes off, I smell another trillion…give or take.  That’s some cheddar.

Debate all you will about the integration of web applications into the Facebook email product (Microsoft, Google Docs, Mobile, Enterprise, etc.) and its revenue implications, this puppy is going to be an advertising breakthrough.  Privacy will be a major issue of course. Think about it, if I send an email to a friend about a camping trip (That camping trip joke never dies, thanks Jed) and the recipient gets an REI ad, it’s going to be an issue.  But that’s a story for next month. There will be lots of chatter and lots of cheddar coming off of this announcement. Whoo. Peace!