Monthly Archives: October 2013

It’s Evolution Baby. (Da, da, da, da dahn.)


Raise your hand if you think this mobile computing, mobile communications thing is a fad. Exactly…tricorders are here to stay.  Facebook just announced that 49% of its ad revenue is from mobile devices.  It also reported that “users were clicking on them (ads) in their news feeds more frequently.”  What does that tell you?  Well, Tarik Sedky wrote in Digiday that the banner ad is just about dead, which tells me we are getting better at crafting ads offing value for people’s mobile feeds.  Do I smell some Twitch Point Planning?

It stands to reason that anyone looking at their phone, say, while talking to a hottie, during a meeting, or at dinner, is someone looking for a diversion. Smarter ads, ads that understand context, ads that provide real value are getting clicked on. The ad business is evolving and mobile behavior is helping us. As we move from diversion clicks to clicks that move consumers closer to a sale, we’ll evolve even more.  

Content marketing my ass. Social media marketing my ass. Untill Facebook , Google and Yahoo start charging subscription fees or transaction fees, this advertising thing is going to keep floating the boat. Evolve me droogies. Peace.


The Great CPG Data Dilemma.


Data drives marketing. The most important data is sales. Duh. Always start with sales: daily, weekly, monthly, annual, forward and back. Data on purchase clusters, purchase frequency, bundling and demographics provide a wealth of insight, especially when compared to key competitors. One can look at dollars or units, regions, sales tied to marketing investments, both on and off-line.  However, as the data gets more complicated and pervasive, the sources require greater scrutiny.  How the data is classified and arranged is critical.  Consumer product data from Mitel and Euromonitor International aren’t always organized the same way and even when done so don’t always agree.

The next problem happens when marketers cloudy-up the waters by making hybrid products.  Can a beverage be a carbonated soft drink and water at the same time? (Ice, for instance?) Is a frozen, ready-to-bake cookie clssified as a frozen dessert or cookie? Many are these data dilemmas. It’s troubling. And if the data companies don’t know how to classify a product it’s likely consumers are having similar trouble.


Enter the Is-Does. What a product is and what a product does.  The Is is different from the Does.  The iPhone is a phone. Some product marketers don’t get the Is and it can be staggering – especially for startups. And the data dilemma is only making this phenomenon worse. So get your Is-Does right first and the data will follow.  

Healthcare Advertising


NY Pres heather

A couple of friends in the ad business, Peter Rabot and Orson Munn, used to do some of the best hospital TV ads in the country.  Their campaign for NY Presbyterian anchored to the line “Amazing things are happening here ” are Spielberg-esque…probably better.  If you were in the business and saw one of these black and white, close-up first person stories of NY patients, including one with Mayor Ed Koch, you stopped talking and watched. If you were not in the business you did the same.

It was advertising that made you feel something then do something.

I understanding NY Pres. was not perfect client to work with (Who is?) and Munn Rabot has taken its craft and moved on.  They now work with NYU Langone.  NYU likes print ads which are harder to do well, especially in this category.  And especially without an idea.  I haven’t seen the idea from NYU yet, but it’s coming.  

Having Munn Rabot do a generic awards ad or clinical practice ad in print sans idea is like asking a goldfish to “sit.”  That’s what’s happening now. The agency and client have only worked together for a month or so; they are in that getting to know one another stage.  Let’s hope they land on a brand idea and that the hospital allows the agency to do what it does better than anyone else. These guys are specialists. Artists. Patients don’t argue with their surgeons.  

The work will tell the story. Peace.  



IPO fever is back. SnapChat, Instagram, Chegg, and the soon to go off Twitter have once again contributed to the investment energy that is IPO fever. We are reading about the fever from all angles: the composition of investors, the inventors, the bankers, underwriters and VCs, until we all in a lather. It will “bubble out” but that’s not even the worst of it. The worst is when young  entrepreneurs start to think they can build a billion with a smart idea, some energy drinks and an all-yearer (like an all-nighter but longer). Some will, most won’t.

I’ve watched CTOs with the fever working for the big payday, scrimping on quality testing, usability testing and market research all with Sand Hill Road and Union Square dreams dancing in their heads. Some smart VCs see these guys coming an say no, so the “fevered” go looking for angels and second tier investors.

The fever can be market debilitating. It’s exciting and needs to happen in a growing innovation driven economy, it just can’t be so exuberant that the inventors lose sight of business fundamentals.  Let’s just breathe. Invent and breathe.  Peace!  

Microsoft Strong.


God forgive me but I’m going to disagree with Robert Scoble, my technology pundit hero. I do not think Microsoft should be split in two: one side about the enterprise and software, the other consumers and devices.  

Mr. Scoble’s logic, and it seems some Wall Street finaciers agree, suggests the business side is “crushing” it (thanks Techmeme), while the device business growing modestly at 4%. Split the company, they say, and let consumer people handle the devices and business people handle the enterprise. I say bullshit. Together there is way much more to learn. And business and marketing is all about learning. Together there will be tensions that are hurtful, yet hopefully transitional. Brothers and sisters argue but they care about the family. And if the tensions are insurmountable, there is always mother (CEO).

Microsoft has so much cash, so much penetration, and enough smart people that it can continue to innovate and make an occasional misstep.  Como se Kin?  And though Microsoft’s brand diaspora is a problem, it is getting better and is certainly fixable.  Mother?

Microsoft is a living organism. It feeds itself while feeding upon itself, yet it is still better as one. With all deference to Mr. Scoble and the financiers and lawyers, the latter motivated by a pay day, let’s not break apart the machine that is crushing it.


Insight Diving.



Wanna know what I do for a living?  Have you heard of dumpster diving? (Read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.) Well, I am an insight diver. I submerge myself into the murky waters of product, competition, product usage, experience, data and consumerism and I hunt for important market and brand building insights. 

What’s the difference between an insight and an observation? The latter leads to the former. Insights are scientific, projectable and actionable patterns that can be manipulated into preference or sale.

Many brand planners focus on finding one key insight around which they build a tactical brief, say for an ad or a digital  campaign.  I do that too, but start a bit earlier in the process, doing more foundational work. My definition of brand plan is and organizing principle that directs all marketing: product, place, price and promotion. One claim, three proof planks. One needs to dive deeply to fill this insight vessel.

Peter Kim (RIP) a brand planning mentor of mine often talked about “massifying” when it came to understanding the target.  That is, gather all possible targets then massify them into one target that shares a common trait related to your brand.  The hardest work at What’s the Idea? is taking all the gathered insights and massifying them into one claim — a claim which can be assiduously supported by three selling planks.   

I blind squirrel can find an insight. Creating an organizing principle for selling and loyalty, after you surface from the insight dive, that’s what I do.  Peace.

The Affordable Care Act Image Problem.


The Affordable Car Act (JKJK), the Affordable Care Act, has an image problem.  Sure the govie website doesn’t work and sure the all the databases that feed the “accept” button are speak different languages — but that’s not atypical in the technology business. The problem is that the masses believe the beneficiaries of ACA are the poor. And that’s an image problem and inaccurate. I know people under economic pressure, without insurance, who would benefit greatly from the program. Some with preexisting medical conditions. One of these people is so anti-Obama, so anti-government that s/hey won’t look at the website. Image problem. Too angry, too proud, too too…

It doesn’t help that the gov’t has allowed the insurance service to be called ObamaCare rather than the Affordable Care Act.  And it doesn’t help that the image of the act is tied to serving the Medi-s (Care and Caid).  In the future, when this thing works (think dial-up service early on rather than broadband), we will have smarter, more efficient, more effective healthcare…in the most advanced country in the world. Not care ranked 23rd or whatever globally. Embarrassment, at that point in time, will come from the people who were gouging Americans for hip replacement devices, not people who shows a government (state or fed) insurance card.  

The government should have seen this coming,  I’m all for fixing the exchanges and the product experience, but maybe we should have dealt with the image up front; made this thing an aspirational American right, not a political football.  Peace.


Alarming Marketing Data from Google.


This just in: Google earnings are up but the price per share dropped. Why?  Because it’s underperforming in mobile. The most interesting fact in the NYT story was this:

  • Mobile ads cost a half to two-thirds more than do desktop served ads, but lead to purchase a quarter to a third less.

Readers who have heard me espouse Twitch Point Planning will perhaps see how the “mapping and manipulating” of consumers closer to a sale with a digital buildable (content seems too flat a term) will outperform an ad the size of a wax bean.

I’ve spoken with some pretty smart people in the business — really smart people — and as much as they all think about “what’s next,” they have a hard time grasping that a twitch point buildable is a better revenue generator than an ad.  For some, I guess, vision is about only what you can see. Where Christopher Columbus is???

Marketers need to think about Twitch Points. Only then should they think about content marketing. Content marketing without a brand plan is typing and recording. Content marketing without understanding (fast twitch) digital media and consumer purchase behavior is what?  Advertising. 


UPDATE:  After the market opened today, the share price of Google soared over $1,000 before retreating slightly.  I guess investors think Google will fix the mobile ad problem.


The brand is my oyster.


oyster farm

A few years ago, a pal Chuck started an oyster farm where there was no Foursquare check in. He did it not because he wanted to be a bazzillionaire but because he likes oysters. And he likes building things.  In this case he wasn’t smitten by building oyster racks for his Blue Island oysters (the name he uses with his distributor), he was interested in building a business, a brand, and a little piece of the craft economy. Some are referring to this as the maker movement.

Over a frosty yesterday after a few hours helping in the field, I tried to explain what a brand planner does. He looked at me like cormorant might look at a garbage truck. Huh? Then we got to talking about renaming his oysters; the nearby inlet, the history of Fire Island and the importance of story with muscle memory in creating a brand and our crafts collided and it made sense. 

I love talking to people who love what they do.  All this talk about passion is so 2000 and, frankly, I’m tired of it.  (It’s like ROI — if you have to talk about it, you are not getting it.) Hard work is passion. Members of the craft economy tend to put a little extra into what they make. It’s more about what they make and less about what they do. Think product, not process.

Chuck, I suspect, could work on Wall Street or manage thousands, but he chooses to put on the waders, schlepp oyster seeds, and put the near-market-ready oysters in the tumbler.  When he brings his saline little beauties to market — be that at Le Bernardin, The Dutch or Babylon Fish and Clam (just guessing), he’s putting a product on a plate like no other.  “Take another little piece of my heart now baby.”

Do you love what you do?  Become a member of the craft economy. Peace.

(Pictured is Greg, Chuck’s marine biology-studying employee.)

Water and Human Rights


Today is Blog Action Day and the theme this year is human rights.  As a marketer and advertising agent, I’ve done my share of toothpaste selling.  That said, I must admit to enjoying cause-related marketing.  Readers know brand strategies with a cause, or facsimile of a cause, tend to have greater ballast.

I was at the Influx Creativity Conference yesterday in NYC and Paull (two Ls) Young spoke about his organization Charity Water.  It is a wonderful charity whose purpose is to make clean water available to all earthlings. Check them out here.  Where do water and human rights intersect? The root cause of human rights abuses is poverty. Around  Anthropologists will tell you that when hunter gatherers learned how to farm, governance and science accelerated. So when 2 to 4 hours a day are not dedicated to water gathering, there is time for other positive pursuits such as education.  And education is an inoculation against poverty. (You with me?)

Mr. Young suggested that every $1 invested in water and sanitation provides a $13 dollar economic benefit.  Take that marketing return to your CFO.

One of the cool tactical ideas in support of the charitable giving effort was to get people to swear off receiving birthday present for the year. If everyone in your family donates the cash equivalent of your birthday gift to the cause, it turns into a fairly nice sum. Plus it begins a groundswell of participants, who pass on the deed and become invested in it. It’s a feel good tactic with purpose-based virality.

There’s lot to Charity Water and its smart marketing strategy, but it is at its core an anti-poverty campaign. Peace be upon all the Charity Water donors.

PS. Thanks to Ed Cotton, Influx and Butler Shine Stern and Partners for a great Influx Conference.