Yearly Archives: 2012

Ideas Vs. Tactics


Ideas are hard to trust. Tangible things like design, ads, copy, promotion, and user experience are easier to trust.  You can see them, ask your friends about them, test them.  “I love that logo. That ad brought in 100 new customers.  My email campaign had a 1.25% click through rate.”

But ideas? You can’t scientifically parse and evaluate an idea.  Brand strategies are ideas. Volvo makes you safer.  Coca Cola refeshes. Cottonelle is softer.  These brand strategies, like all good ones, are indelible.  I’ve written a great deal about ROS or return on strategy.  So far, ROS is just an idea.  Though one can calculate ROI ( return on investment/tactic), return on strategy is much harder to calculate.  Why? Because ROS tries to understand the value of an idea. When I sell “rebooting the phone business” to a VOIP client along with 3 organizing principles to support the claim, I’m selling an idea. This idea might be measured in year over year sales, but on paper, how it is dimensionalized and quantified is not easy. (I still have work to do.)

Because ideas are easy to understand but harder to trust, branding has lost ground in today’s marketing world.  I joke that digital has created tactics-palooza and it’s true.  The best brands are idea-driven. Tight ideas and tight supports. Ideas create new products. Ideas motivate armies. Ideas make you happy or sad.

Ideas are hard to sell but the top tier CMOs get them. And live them.  What’s your brand’s idea? Peace.

Relentless and Boring.


There’s an old marketing adage — okay, I just made it up – “The more times you say something the more consumers believe it.”  Hell, the more marketers themselves believes it.  Advertising agents take this notion and create campaigns around it.  Some campaigns last a long time (I can still sing the Good and Plenty song from my childhood), but most don’t.  Rote repetition in advertising is bad – it burns out.  That’s why, to coin a phrase, campaigns come and go.

There is a change management theory, espoused by the godfather of GE Jack Welch, suggesting change is best affected by making communications “relentless and boring.”  You can’t argue with Mr. Welch’s success so let’s say that one’s sacrosanct. It seems that many marketers and their agents also fall into this trap.  I understand relentless but when selling it has a negative connotation. Geico is relentless. There is clearly such a thing as too much selling. Advertisers need to be relentlessly on message, about that I would agree, but not baseball bat relentless with the pound, pound, pound of same ad frequency.  It’s boring. And off-putting. 

As for boring, there is never a place for it in marketing and certainly not in advertising.  Relentless creates boring…and boring creates boring. Two strikes.  

So here’s a guiding principle for marketers and agents. Find a brand strategy (a claim and supports), live it, message it, listen to it with your own ears, and enliven it — daily. Touch consumers with meted frequency, especially when they’re most willing, refresh those touches continuously, and do so without being boring. Easily typed, harder deployed.  That’s why they call it work. Peace!  

Ecommerce and fruit picking.


Who are experts in ecommerce?  Those people involved in “social CRM” or “big data,” two topics covered in Charlene Li’s thoughtful post this morning? Sure.  But who else?  Who else sees how ecommerce is meted out across the country every day?  Who are tested for their memories and see patterns like few others?  Who are in touch with grass roots buyers and sellers every day – not retail goods…ecommerce goods? FedEx, UPS  and US ostal carriers, that’s who. 

Massifying insights is important for brand planners, but so are one-on-one insights.  And in for ecommerce, I’d absolutely love to study letter and package carriers for a while to see what they know about ecommerce.  Not just on deliveries from Amazon but from all online sellers. The people who deliver the fruits of ecommerce, the fruit pickers as it were, process a wealth of information about this growing marketing practice. If you are worried about privacy, don’t worry about Facebook, it’s your letter and package carriers you need to care about. Hee hee.

So marketeers, if you are involved in ecomm, get your focus group hats on. Stop, interviewing house-husbands and start feeding M&Ms to the UPS guy and the FedEx girl. Puh-eace!  

Best Buy. “We have a situation.”


Look, I’m no genius.  When I predict things like the trivestiture of Google (gonna happen) or that Best Buy will suffer at the hands of its current CMO  — predicted at the pinnacle of his celebrity – it was just simple brand and marketing logic. Larry Downes’ article in Forbes, on the other hand, is a little bit of a genius. Entitled “Why Best Buy is going out of business…gradually” it is beautifully organized, a story well-told, and emotionally charged. It’s hard to read it without being convinced.  (That said, I don’t agree Best Buy is going down, but the case is compelling.)

What I found striking in Mr. Downes’ article was a not-so-new Web phenomenon that occurred after Thanksgiving when Best Buy could not fulfill some online orders. A situation. Here’s the missive they sent to customers:  

 “Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers’ online orders.”

I was at a start-up not too long ago with some under-cooked technology that fried the night of Beta release.  We were a media darling at the time. The response of our CTO was “Due to extraordinary demand, the servers went down and…”  Turning negatives in to positives might have worked in 2007 but not in 2011.

No doubt ecommerce has reshuffled the 4Ps. Some might argue Ps have been removed. Others might suggest Ps have been added. I’m sticking with 4. Get them all right — you will still encounter situations but you’ll be prepared to deal. Peace!

Technique Vs. Result.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of education in America and how it can be improved. In brand planning there is research and there is insight. One is a technique, the other a result. In academia there is teaching – a technique, and education the result. Too great a percentage of those in academia are teachers, not educators.  

One of my favorite “insights,” mined on behalf of  an entertainment property was “a musician is never more in touch with his/her art than when looking into the eyes of the audience.” Immediate feedback is available in the eyes…in the bop.  In class, those with the ability to connect with students, to get through – who can see the light in the eyes of students—they are the educators.  In all we do, let’s not confuse the technique with the result.  Peace!