Monthly Archives: April 2014

Getting Credit.


A couple of years ago I wrote a strategic white pager for Accenture Interactive, having previously met with a planner at Deutsch New York about a bank assignment.  I came to the conclusion that not much intellectual or marketing capital is being spent by banks promoting savings.  Savings, for banks doesn’t put biscuits in the oven. Lending is where banks make da monies. So as contrarian as it was, I suggested taking advantage of low, low consumer trust of banks and a climate in which 7 of every 10 dollars in political ads were banging banks, to recommend telling consumers that finances are best when saved. Not when borrowed.

No one was doing this. No bank was encouraging consumers to save their money. The idea was to become the “savings bank” in a sea of lending banks. Build a story, claim and proof, build a new banking brand position.  And where would people go when they wanted to borrow some cash?  Because we know there will always borrowers be. To the one bank that really cares about its customer finances, the savings bank.  In strategic planning, sometimes by doing one thing you get credit for another. Tink about it (as my Norwegian aunt would have said.)


Story Vs. Advice


The last two evenings I attended events that reminded me of a lesson worth repeating.  Two nights ago I was on a panel before a number of Hofstra masters students. Our answers to many of the instructor’s questions were served up as advice. “Do this.” “I learned that.” “If you__, you can ___.”  This is what you’d expect in a teaching and learning environment.

In the second event, entitled “The Role of Planning Through the Ages” Panel Discussion with Jane Newman, there was a good deal of the same. It was awesome – trust me — but a lot of the knowledge dropped was in the form of teaching.  What I found most fascinating and instructive, however, were the stories. Everyone can remember a story.  Stories that are meaningful to the listener and the teller are best. There are many shitty story-tellers, but few make it far in brand planning.

In my months studying the K12 education space, I learned that broadcasting knowledge is not particularly effective. This applies outside the classroom as well. Embed your advice in a story and watch the cerebral cortex light up.


The Marketing Commons


I wrote a biz/dev letter to a software company owner last week explaining what a pain in the ass RFPs are for most companies. My suggestion was to extend his product in such a way that it replaces RFPs.  Pent up demand in marketing is a great thing.

As big data engulfs us, there’s a mad rush toward replication and standards that save time. So in K12 education we have Common Core. In college applications we have the Common Application. In business the RFP. But as were search for common, what becomes of the uncommon? I fear it is often lost.

I sat through an online phone demo yesterday for an amazing platform product, conducted by a really smart tele-sales guy. A brit. He didn’t fall into that trap of repeating my name ad nauseam, but you could tell he was scripted. He even made fun of the script to be a bit uncommon.

In the marketing field, there are lots of tool makers trying to streamline selling. To make selling common. The reason the ad business is stronger than ever is because of the hunt for the common. The best ad shops are repelled by the word.  Sadly, uncommon by itself doesn’t always sell. Uncommon with a purpose — with a brand strategy — does. 

That’s why when I sell brand ideas in the C-suite, decision maker invariably buy, but with a pang of discomfort. (Do we have to use that one word?)  That’s when I know I’ve got them. Uncommon.


How’re your Apps and Them?


I was on a panel last night at Hofstra University talking to Masters level students about technology, PR and marketing and a mobile question came up. “Is it better to build a mobile app or use responsive design on your website and send the mobile traffic there?” The answer lies in what the marketer is trying to do or sell – an app is not a website – but this got me thinking about apps. And here’s where I net out. Apps are downloadable tools easily accessed on smarties. But do they need to be downloaded at all?

One of the panelists got lost while parking on the Hofstra campus and suggested it would have been nice to have had an app that led him to McEwen Hall. Frankly, that app could be sold to any school. But why an app? Why not go to Hofstra, click directions and click a “guide me in” button?

I just think the functionality of all of these apps will eventually be in the cloud and accessible in real time. Why load up our endpoint devices?  Is it a wireless bandwidth issue? A security issue? A developer remuneration issue?

Just as we are coming around to not having to distinguish between marketing and digital marketing, I think the proliferation of apps as downloadables will wane and we’ll just have web-based functionality.   What do you think?

Peace. And thanks Hilary Topper for allowing me into your class.


Ever Feel Cornered?


Kathryn Ruemmler, the current white house counsel, is leaving her post in May. A long running presidential advisor, one of her more highly rated skills is her “uncanny ability to see around the corners that nobody else anticipates.”  

Lots of marketers, myself including, tell stories about Steve Jobs and how he didn’t listen to research on what consumers wanted next. Jobs would tell consumers what they wanted next.  The oft heard “we don’t skate where the puck is, we skate to where the puck will be,” a Wayne Gretsky-ism also supports this forward looking approach. Seeing around the corner is more than a skill.  Tainted Tylenol.  Spittle-covered pizzas. Ignition keys that fall out of the steering columns. All examples of corners that couldn’t be seen around.  Business needs to be prepared for the corners. Those are on the negative side of the ledger; there will be many positives around the corner as well.

Brand strategy is built upon what customers want and what a brand is good at. One idea, three proof planks is the organizing principle which yields business success. The planks look backward and forward. Coca-Cola is about refreshment and refreshment is way more than high fructose corn syrup, for instance. Forward looking. 

When you evaluate your brand plan ask yourself if it is built to see around corners. Peace. 


Websites That Don’t.


A lot of money is exchanging hands today in the design and manufacture of websites. People get the “Is” of the website.  It’s a thing. Every company needs a site. But the vast majority of websites are all about the Is not the “Does.” And if there is a sense of Does, it’s about offering information. Contact. About. Products.  Some conduct ecommerce on their websites, but very few.

The best websites start with the “Does.” What is the role of the website in moving a customer closer to a sale?  I think it was Ford’s James Farley who first said “Good advertising makes you feel something, then do something.” 

We might call this approach doability. Doability before usability.

As ad agencies wean themselves from making just ads and move toward selling applications and selling buildables, they will transform what the modern website looks like. And I can’t wait.  Brain Solis of the Altimeter Group said last year “It’s 2013, why do websites still suck?”  Because they are overlooking the Does.

Brand planning starts upstream, pairing what a company is good at with what customers want.  Great websites do the same. They start upstream. Call it customer journey or whatever you like, but websites are about predisposing customers toward a sale at the very least and about placing an order at the very most. So please don’t share this post. Write or call me and let’s do.


Amazon’s next, next business.


“Because we’re selling millions of set top boxes already, we hear what’s working and we hear what’s not working,”  said Peter Larsen, Amazon VP yesterday during his presentation of the Fire TV set top box.

No one has to tell you Jeff Bezos is smart and that Amazon is juggernaut to end all juggernauts, but this quote points to a market research revenue stream that will be a new business for Amazon. One smart big-data nerd with some UI chops is going to create an algo and process to tap, parse and quantify sales, comments, and loyalty behavior that few, if any, companies can match. And it will happen at Amazon.

Have you ever tried to purchase data from IRI, Mintel or Euromonitor?  It like ten grand.  Since web companies like to give it away, why not do so with market research? There are crazy amounts of data available to Amazon and SMBs are data-starved. I was kidding about giving it away, but only a little.  With a low price point for qual and quant, Amazon can build $100M business in 12 months. And it will grow and grow.

Remember when Sabre (American Airline’s ticketing system) became more profitable than their fannies in seats business? Of course you don’t.

This will take some work, however. Have you ever sold consumer products on Amazon’s and been inside its data portal?  Oy. OY.  It’s like Excel clones from another planet. Think one man with one pick looking at the side of an ore mountain. Even so, the data opportunity is impressive. Especially aggregated category data.

Data waiting to be mined has got to be Amazon’s next business. Fergus O’Daly, a smart mentor of mine, once said about marketing “nothing happens until somebody buys something.” There’s a whole lot of that going on at Amazon. Peace.

Let the Wearable Games Begin.


disney bracelet

There’s a story today on the cover of The New York Times Business Section on Disney World’s launch of wearable technology intended to improve vacationers’ experience in the park.  It is a wonderful commercial idea. Using a wrist band, not dissimilar from a FitBit or Lance Armstrong bracelet, this puppy will port to your credit card, have geolocation, personal information (“Cinderella says Hello Steve”), and, of course, the ability to track lost children. Limitless are the apps and advantages for this piece of wearable tech.

ScholarChip smart cards were just sold into Baltimore County schools for security, attendance taking, visitor managment and a few other things. The ultimate promise of these cards is to improve student learning. Not many of those apps are available yet, but they’re coming – married to evolving “individualized learning” pedagogy.  Today smart cards have to pass by a reader. So 2010, but a good start. Wearable is so in that future.   

At Dizzy World it looks like readers are also needed though anyone can see the future is about ambient wireless readers. Disney World is investing $1B in this technology and though it is probably going to go all for a couple of months, is an amazing test case for the future.  (Think of the marketing implication people.)

Right now bracelets seem to be the best user interface for wearable. Glasses are cool, working in the ocular realm, but inhibit dexterity.  Handhelds aren’t going away – ish. Watches are bracelets. Buttons, broaches and clip-ons make sense.  Ohh wee.

Let the games begin.  Peace.

Brand Target vs. Tactical Target.


The target for a “brand brief” is very different from a target for a tactical brief. The target for a tactic is much more specific. Much more finite.  For a brand brief, everyone who comes into contact with the brand must be accounted for.  

The rigor is this: Look at all the groups who may be influential in a brand decision. Let’s say we are selling a protein drink to an elderly consumer. One group would be the consumer himself. Then the consumer’s caregiver – usually a family member – and there are many flavors of caregiver, trust me. The physician is certainly an interested party as are paid caregivers like home nurses. Also payors are a target, such as insurance companies and govie groups like Medicare/Medicaid.

Once you have all the targets, you need to understand what motivates them. Peter Kim, the author of this thought process, would say you must re-massify the target; searching out a commonality they all share. With the protein example, you can see that a consumer might have different motivation (taste) than a physician (grams of protein) or insurance company (cost). Which may be different from a caregiver (compliance). It’s a bit of a maze. The deeper you dig with each target the more likely you are to find the common ground.

Brand building is bigger than a click or a sale. Branding building is not transactional. Brands live on. Brand planning must be an inclusive pursuit. Measure twice, cut once. Peace.