Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amazon, the next big bank?


The logged and tagged workplace, an insight I mined and packaged for a client last winter, delves into the interchangeability of  personnel at corporations. There once was a time companies used knowledge workers for what they knew. In the logged and tagged workplace, everyone’s work product is accessible, shareable and archived.  Well, this is not just an idea for the workplace anymore.

Facebook and Google, are among the leaders in analyzing and selling consumer data to marketers. In their world, online behaviors are viewed at a microscopic level, providing the ability to serve ads on a one-to-one basis.  Much of this is based upon behaviors — things such as likes, locations, visits, cookies and last pages viewed. Also data scrubbed with picture tags and social networks used. But you know all this.

So what if rather than tracking logged and tagged behaviors, we tracked what people actually purchased? The hell with the soft measures, let’s go for the jugular. Who owns that data?  As cash becomes less relevant and retailers become more accepting of debit cards, which by the way are now experimenting with monthly fees, banks are the true owners of the transactional holy grail. 

Here’s a thought.  Who better than Amazon to be the next big bank?  And not a bank that makes money off of money, but one that makes money off of information. Think about it. Peace.

Underdog Billionaire.


I had a theory a while back that Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) blew billions of dollars on technology missteps just so that he could learn a couple of important things about the future.  With all the money it prints and the legacy business it controls, Microsoft has had the luxury of launching challenger devices and services that were dogs — but from which Mr. Ballmer gathered data, insights, and ways forward.  His overbuilt, over engineered products were real-time usability tests. Costly but smart. Poor Mr. Ballmer.

Mark Zuckerberg is scary because all the news out of this year’s Facebook developers conference, called f8, points to Facebook’s desire to own to world’s user data. If banks or the treasury owned the data Facebook will and does – knowing how, on what, and when we spend our hard-earned, it would be a major antitrust violation.  And all Mr. Z has to do is put some software code, cookies , crumbs and apps behind his platform and it will become a one-stop-shop for everything behavioral. When behavior becomes data and sortable as such, allowing for 1-to-1 targeting, the game will be over. That’s why Google was scared into Google+. 

No one likes an overdog, but that is what Facebook is becoming. Mr. Zuckerberg will soon need to hire a Chief Overdog Officer.  In this light, Mr. Ballmer will be the underdog billionaire. Peace.


Loyalty Marketing.


Why are we loyal?  And when we begin to understand loyalty, how do we foster and strengthen it?  Moreover, how do we build loyalty from the ground up?

One of the reason I got into brand planning was the realization that a poor Appalachian dirt farmer with nary a pot to pizzle in will spend his hard earned cash on a premium brand of motor oil.  Did his daddy suggest it’s the only oil to use?  Did his favorite NASCAR driver sing its praises on ESPN?  Was it promoted in the window of the store he bought soda pop in as a kid?

Here’s another question: Why do most college kids, after only 4 years, retain a level of loyalty toward their school not reserved for jobs, the towns they grew up in, or even a 20 year marriage?    

These questions need to be analyzed, understood and acted upon. Consumers don’t become loyal to ads, direct marketing, PR or promotion.  They may become loyal to a website, because websites are brand experiences or brand distribution channels (read Amazon, Zappos, Gawker), but loyalty to a message un uh. Bad marketing agents will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen — that’s not how you build long-term market share.  Loyalty comes from other places. Trust. Consistency. Aspiration. Community. Pride. 

At the end of every day, marketers need to leave the building asking themselves “What did I do today to strengthen brand loyalty?” If they don’t have an answer, they are losing ground. Peace!

Can save lives but not an idea.


UnitedHealthcare (one word) is an insurance company with 78 thousand employees serving 70 million Americans. Those are some big numbers. And big numbers are what drive the company’s current advertising campaign. “Health in numbers” is the idea. With lots of data in hand and lots of analysts managing its output, the promise to consumers is an improved healthcare experience. That’s the micro promise; the macro promise is “we’re huge and can offer better insurance pricing.”

I’m pretty sure Ogilvy is the ad agency for UnitedHealtcare and, sadly, the ads are forgettable. Today there’s one in The New York Times showing a 60-something man riding a motorcycle with a flurry of animated numbers flying in his wake. That’s the visual idea. I know this advertising is targeting number crunchers in corporate America more than patients, but this is high school stuff. The copy in the ad is focused on “knowledge in numbers” and how data records can prevent contra-indicated medicines from being administered to patients, so as a brand student I can see there’s a plan here. The other brand planks are: strength in numbers, humanity in numbers and comfort in numbers. (Okay, I didn’t say a good plan.)

Here’s my diagnosis: Good strategy, not so good creative, poor client brand management. I’m betting the work was the product of a team of clients that couldn’t agree and therefore went with a hodgepodge, duct taped effort. The revenue was there for Ogilvy, the B team delivered a product, and the agency will live to see another campaign year. Maybe.

Ogilvy is better than this. And a company that can analyze data in a way that can save lives, is better than this. Peace!

Leo’s Brilliant, Mistimed, Cloudy Future.


Today there will be lots of stories written about Leo Apotheker’s plight at Hewlett-Packard. And of the HP board, and potential replacements for Mr. Apotheker. One lens I like to look through when doing strategic planning is the “history” lens.  When viewed over time – a long time – will the company, product or leader have made a historic contribution?  Typically, that means looking at strategy rather than tactics.

In Mr. Apotheker’s case, it is clear to me that his PR handlers were at fault.  His moves to purchase Autonomy, shed the PC and tablet business, and stop investing in WebOS were historic moves — looking well beyond the dashboard.  One might say, and say accurately, that when you put a software person in charge of a mixed media multinational, the road to the future is paved with software.  Mr. Apotheker saw deteriorating PC sales, reduced profitability in services (the cloud is getting not only bigger, but smarter), and device manufacturing (especially sans Steve Jobs) under enormous cost pressures. Think device kudzu.  Rather than stay and fight for integration of solutions hard and soft around his OS — which code-wise may not have been ready for primetime and perhaps at risk from new OS pushes by Microsoft and Apple — he decided to retrench with eye toward the future. Very ballsy.

The cloud is the future. Device complexity will reduce over time and when it does, the cloud, run by software, will become the electricity of business. And that is where Mr. Apotheker was going. Sadly, he had a lapse in judgment and bad guidance and announced it at the wrong time and inelegantly.  Como se billions in lost shareholder value?  Some strategies (read historic) are better left unannounced. Is that not so, Mr. Jobs? Peace.    

Twitch Point vs. Engagement Planning


There is an 8-slide presentation on Twitch Point Planning I’ve shared with a few people in the know and on one occasion, with Michael Stich, COO of Rockfish Interactive, I was challenged to blow it out a bit.

Twitch Point Planning is the process whereby one understands, maps and manipulates consumers closer to transacting a sale.  It uses any and all of today’s media choices, but focuses on those that consumers are most comfortable using to learn more. A twitch point during a car shopping excursion might be a trip to JD Power site on one’s hand held.

Mr. Stich asked me to dwell on the suggestion in the presentation that companies need to “add brand value” at key consumer twitch points.  He, like many who talk about engagement and liking and registration and click-through, know that nothing happens in marketing until someone buys something. And though soft metrics are the haps these days, sales and net revenue are what investors and corporations care about. Mr. Stich’s questions about “adding brand value” is one reason WPP purchased Rockfish and why he is a person of interest in the new evolving marketing landscape.

If strategic planners take the “understand” part of understand, map and manipulate to heart, they’ll get closer to finding ways to positively influence brand value. Twitch Point Planning, though akin to engagement planning, puts more emphasis on delivering brand value, not just customer touches along the journey. And twitch point planning cares about “closing.”  Closing sales. Engagement planning metrics often get stuck in dashboards. A twitch is more of a collision.  Hee hee.  Peace!

PS. Go see Cameron Crowe’s movie Pearl Jam Twenty. Como se wow!

Zeros for Customer Care.


There’s a whole side business in marketing devoted to customer care.  And there should be.  Caring for customers is important.  Back in the 90s as telephone and computers were learning to get along, call centers were investing heavily in computer telephony integration.  Software was reading inbound telephone numbers and matching them up with database records, putting customer information at customer service people’s finger tips. It was a great use of technology.  Problem resolution was making great strides. But the equation required putting people in the call center, which was a recurring expense.

Along came something called IVR (interactive voice response) “for credit cards press or say 1.” This invention helped keep headcount down in the call center by providing recorded information via prompt. Enter the web, which allowed the web to provide problem resolution via FAQs and tutorials – again less people. 

I received a call from Chase Bank last night – automated, of course – asking me to call a toll-free number because someone was trying to change my account access code or some such. In a panic I called and for 15 minutes was pushing prompts. McCrazy!  They called me. Luckily, the wifus (pronounced why-fus) was nearby, because I stalled at a prompt number 12 when  asked for my debit card number…which I don’t own.  “They want your ATM card number honey.” Turns out everything was fine and it was false alarm. So they say.

I’m so glad JPMorgan Chase is developing iPhone apps to make people’s banking lives easier.  But do you think they – and everyone else with customers – could employ a universal “I want a human” telephone prompt like 0-0?  That would be progress. Peace!  

Brand Planners and Strategists.


There are two kinds of marketing strategy people: brand planners and strategists.  Brand planners create a brand architecture comprising brand strategy and support planks that organize the 4 Ps of marketing. Once that architecture or band plan is done, so are the brand planners.  Then it is up to the brand managers to toe the line – to make sure all things marketing align with the plan.  If you want to keep the brand planner around to handle that function, you can, but the key is sharing the plan with all interested managing parties. You rarely find brand planners in marketing jobs, they tend to work at agencies or consultancies.  Frequently they’re involved in new business.

Strategists have the brand planner bone, but tend to spend their days improving the focus or the quality of specific tactical work.  Good strategists mine market insights, behavioral insights, even product insights and present them, usually in deck form, to the makers of things – the creative teams. Say you are strategist at Wieden and Kennedy in NY working on ESPN — right now you might be getting ready for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.  What are you doing?  Writing creative briefs. By the end of the week you may need two briefs for radio, one for TV and two for an in-arena mobile programs. The paper you make (the strategy) will be judged by the quality of the creative ideas generated.  And with good creative people to work with it’s a fun, nice living.

Brand planners take their orders from the brand.  The brand is their master. Strategists often view the creative product as master. It’s why strategists will allow good work through when it is off plan. Because it is good work. And it will get noticed, and talked about, and may even spike sales.

It is this dual marketing planning reality that drives Naked Communications.  Naked is a brand planning organization. As the marketing business gets more exciting, granular and complicated, the need for more Nakeds will emerge. Bright Sun in the 90s understood this…they were first. Peace.  

Branding: Scorch, drone or look ‘em in the eye.


It was not long ago that advertising was governed by a scorched earth approach. Fire up a message and spray it in every direction.  If you bought the top TV show, the best read magazine, the leading radio station and newspaper in the 10 largest cities, you reached everyone.

Extending the metaphor, following the scorched earth approach, thanks to the web, we are now more in drone attack mode. We don’t target those not interested in our products and messaging, that would be wasteful, we conduct due diligence then hover over our targets and bomb the shit out of them. Behavioral targeting, search engines, opt-in vehicles all enable drone attack kills.  The problem with drone attacks is that there are often lots of accidental casualties. Drone attacks are not only singularly expensive, they can give a brand a bad name. Drone attacks are preferred to scorched earth because corporate executives feel more in control and can see immediate results.  

The reality is, drone attacks do have kills (sales) though as a marketing tools they dilute our brands. Brands today are defined by campaigns, not brand values.  Ask a consumer about Old Spice and the first thing they’ll say is “that football player” or the “guy who rides the horse” or “guy with the great pecs.”  They rarely play back the human connection to the value of body spray.  

What I love about new media – social media – is that corporate executive can tune in to consumers from street level. That’s where it counts. Scott Monty of Ford is tuned-in where it counts. Sure he’s Mr. Twitter and Mr. Fotchbook, but he hears his audience every day. And Alan Mulally, his boss, and the shareholders benefits. Mr. Monty is on the ground listening, not operating a drone remotely. That’s the way to build a brand. That’s how you build a marketing program. With a brand, a plan, and a policy. Not a campaign dashboard.  Peace!

Bullets vs. Tweets.


Which is more powerful the bullet or the Tweet?  I’m not likely to keep my ass down if someone is firing off a Tweet at me, but one can safely say the Arab Spring and its Gandhi-esque approach to changing the world is way more a function of Tweets than bullets. That’s power.

As we get nearer to UN Resolution 194 on a Palestinian State I’m very nervous about bullets.  Very.  The Arab Spring uprisings have, for the most part, been internecine struggles.  But the Palestinians and the Israelis are anything but.  Leading up to the U.N. vote on the Sept 23rd, the world will be watching.   And this is no platitude or verisimilitude, the world will be watching.  Thanks to Twitter and Twitpics and YouTube. 

If there is bloodshed over the resolution it will be front page news and winners and losers. And certainly lots of spin.  If there is no bloodshed, just civil disobedience and true debate, there will only be winners.  It will provide new steps toward real compromise. 

Gandhi didn’t need Twitter…but had he a smarty and some agile thumbs, independence in India may have taken months. Peace!