Monthly Archives: May 2012

Brand Strategy is Not Fluid.


So my friend Mr. X, who is a great ad and idea guy, is telling me about a goob (short for goober) he worked for a few months ago. She had a presumably well-paying job at an ad agency  but he could tell she was an empty suit.  Said boss once mentioned to Mr. X, with whom I’ve had a strategic donnybrook or two, that strategy is not that important.  “Strategy is fluid, Mr. X” she said imperiously. Now Mr. X might stray from the brief every once in a while in an effort to perk up an idea – but he giggles over the fluid notion.

Strategy is not fluid.  But WTF, I don’t know everything – so I posted the question on the account planners group on LinkedIn.  The response seems to favor the fluidity side of the argument, though primarily in nuance and interpretation. It seems fluid is a pop marketing word these days.

Marilyn Laurie of AT&T marketing fame once talked about her brand as a bank.  You are either putting deposits in the brand bank or you’re making withdrawals. Well, here’s a fluidity question:  If you don’t have a brand strategy, clearly defined, how will you know what’s a deposit?  Riddle me that. Idea and planks.  Aka claim and proof. The organizing principle of brand strategy. Peace!   

Life and Story.


Visiting Nurse Service of NY has a new program it is launching called Medicaid Managed Long Term Care (MLTC). It’s a great name, but they renamed it Choice Health Plans, an awful name.

The demand for this program is, and will be, great.  It allows the chronically ill to stay at home where the care will be much more agreeable to the family and to the pocketbook (hopefully).  Traditionally, home care is less expensive that hospital care.

The campaign launched this week and is couple of notches better than typical healthcare stuff.  Nice warm color photos of interesting patients, heartfelt selling copy, a basic description of services and couple of calls-to-action.  Going through the copy, though, I found an idea that could make the work great. “Decisions about member care are made by clinicians, not by clerks.”  This is the idea that should drive the campaign. It has dimension.  It’s real. It’s an idea with life and story. 

To life. L’chaim. Peace.

Yahoo needs a tandem hire.


The two most important titles at any large public company are CEO and CMO.  The former is the owner of “now” and all business metrics.  The latter owns the future and the money making machinery. When these two positions are in alignment and share a challenge, things should work wonderfully.  When at odds or working cross purposes, things become interesting, exciting and pregnant with possibility. If there is respect, this is a good situation. But when the two titles are ships passing in the night, the company is either lazy, lopsided or in danger.

Operations, HR, finance, customer, sales are all vital to a company success, but they feed at the trough of leadership and product strategy.  That comes from the CEO and the CMO.  In my mind, Yahoo’s problem in the C-level suite is tied to a weakness in the marketing area.  Yahoo doesn’t have an Is-Does. Yahoo is a company of lots of Ises and lots of Doeses. The way out of the problem at this point is to find two people who can work together to solve this thing.  A tandem hire is needed. Peace!




“Words are important” is something I have been saying a lot lately.  Misuse of words. Random use of words.  Repetitive use of words — all minimize the promise.  What we do in the marketing business and the advertising business is attempt to find a creative use of words.  Words marketing thought leader Bob Gilbreath might call meaningful.

Nine tenths of marketing is words, so you’d better get them right.  One of my colleagues read me an email he received yesterday from an unknown spamming technology company. The email explained they offered the lowest price and custom solutions, they cared about what he cared about (if they did, they wouldn’t have spammed him), and listed every other marketing promise in the book.  And for good measure they repeated one or two.  We both giggled. A colossal waste of time. It was customer benefits-palooza.  “How could anyone not want our product/service” a would-be marketing director might ask?

The answer is — no one would care.  Because the email was written in the contemporary foreign language called marko-babble.  You can’t connect with buyers by using words strung together in marko-babble. It’s not a language.

Now I’m going out to look for some authentic friends. Hee hee.


A Man and His Garden.


James Dolan should remove himself from Cablevision and focus on Madison Square Garden, Inc.  For my friend Mac who jeers Mr. Dolan after every Knick home game as he passes into the tunnel this idea won’t find favor. But it is the right thing to do.  Mr Dolan’s heart is not in Cablevision and Newsday and telephony and financials the way his head in into sports and entertainment.  And face it, Mr. Dolan has goobed it up a little bit with the Isiah Thomas fiasco, but he still has time to play guitar, smile, and hit the Garden with love in his heart. Did I mention the NY Rangers are killing it?  And NYC has become a mecca of hoops once again.

Mr. Dolan is not the boss’s son at MSG; he is a man learning a business. Every day.  He’s sticking to it and earning stripes by surrounding himself with different kinds of people – some smart, some not so.  (I don’t know Mr. Dolan from Adam, though we made a TV spot together as 20-sometings.) Life it too short, sir.  Give Cablevision to some cable/telco/media nerds and get back to Broadway.  Where else are you going to find Kate Upton, Melo and some crazy happy kids from the Bronx screeching on a Thursday night?  Peace. 



I think positivity is a word…it’s just hard to use in a sentence.  As a principle for brand planning though, it’s a good word and should be used more often. 

There are lots of different kinds of people in the world — and many greys.  But it’s a universal truth that people who share the positive are more enjoyable.  It’s hard to enjoy negative.  As we search for brand planks for our brands – the supports and proof(s) that create brand allegiance and value – it is a good idea to focus on the positive.  Some might look to create a positive that fills the void of a competitors negative, and that’s not an ineffective approach, but it may relate to a non-endemic value of your brand; a second language as it were.

Don’t sell against other’s weaknesses, sell your strengths.

Social commentators are important. Improvement is important.  That said, it’s very mother-in-law like to focus on making things better. Positivity is worthy.  Peace. 

Brands planks, heroes and additives.


What is heroic about Miracle Whip? What is heroic about the North Shore LIJ Health System? One is a dollop on a sandwich, another is a healthcare org that saves lives. What is heroic about Windham Mountain?  Actually, in the winter the resort has a program for the physically challenged – that’s pretty heroic.

In brand planning I love probing consumers for heroes and pride; rich areas that get to the heart of a person.  Yet many planners ask questions such as “Tell me how you use mayonnaise?” “What’s your favorite sandwich and why?”  “Share with me a story about the best place you ever ate a sandwich?” All nice tactical questions, but not brand plank questions.  And don’t get me wrong, not every brand has or needs heroic traits. In fact, for mayonnaise the notion is silly. But an ad about a kid who stands up to a bully in the school cafeteria and is rewarded with a tasty sandwich may be compelling to a mom.  Context.

Sometimes a brand plank may not have endemic value — it may be aspirational and tangential. It may not relate to heroics or pride but align with other human emotions.  As brand planners, we have to organize brand planks with hard values and soft values.  Just the right amount of lemon can turn Miracle Whip into Hellman’s. Hee hee. Peace!