Monthly Archives: March 2016

New York Presbyterian’s Poor Brand Craft.


One of the foibles common in advertising is lack of adherence to brand strategy; more specifically to brand strategy claim.  A claim is only as good as its proof — and ads today are often bereft of proof. Here’s an example torn from the pages of The New York Times.  It has been a while since I priced a page in The Times but it wouldn’t be misleading to say the ad cost north of $75.

New York Presbyterian’s claim is “Amazing Things Are Happening Here.” It’s a wonderful and powerful brand idea developed by Munn Rabot. (They no longer do NYP’s ads.)  In an ad celebrating National Doctors Day the headline is the above stated claim.  Here is the copy. (See if you can find any proof.)

Every day, our doctors combine knowledge, curiosity, intuition and compassion in amazing ways.

They change patients’ lives. They advance the frontiers of medicine. And they ready the next generation of physicians to do the same.

On behalf of our patients, families, and everyone else whose lives you touch, thank you.

Advertising has two jobs. Accomplish the tactical objective which in this case is thank the docs. And second, advance the brand strategy “amazing things.”  This is another example of all claim, no proof.

Poor ad craft. Poorer brand craft. Peace.


Is your brand strategic?


Can a brand be strategic or must strategy be left to the brand managers? Save for machines, inanimate things can’t do animate things.  However, by recasting the What’s The Idea? tagline, to include “Brand managers come and go…a powerful brand strategy is indelible,” I offer that a brand can be strategic.

In Kansas City many moons ago while exposing ads to consumers for the launch of WorldWorx videoconferencing service, a focus group participant claimed “That’s not an AT&T ad.  AT&T would never speak to me that way.” Ad dead.  Brand strategy alive and well.

People are the best administers of brand strategy yet they are fallible. Only when brand strategy is truly codified and attached to a product does it begin to grow in brand value. One claim and three proofs planks is how one builds a brand strategy. It’s how a brand sustains — in deeds, actions, messaging and, even, offering itself.

If your brand cannot be articulated via this simple claim and proof array, it’s not strategic. The people are. Bad berries.



Binge Marketing.


Binge watching TV series is a relatively new phenomenon. One Christmas I watched a season of Homeland in a weekend. Bam! Lately I’ve been binging on mystery writers. Finding an author, say Henning Mankell, and reading all his Kurt Wallander books in a year is a form of binging.

But what happens to the art as a result of binging?  Does it loose some of its power? Or allure? Where the real time water cooler discussion? Serial story telling goes way back. Weekly radio programs, stories by Charles Dickens in old England monthlies, the list goes on.

Today’s on-demand digital culture removes a little bit of anticipation, I’m afraid. It removes some emersion. It can also upset the feng shui.

Marketers and brand managers in particular must be mindful of this behavior. As we storytell our brands to life – meting out our best, most convincing and fresh narratives, – we have to recognize they won’t always be experienced as the serial stories we hope.  I can be partially controlled, but not fully.

Stay Tuned.


Yahoo 2016.


A couple of decades ago when the Internet was young I would go to Yahoo daily and check out the list of new websites publishing that day.  Every new website was listed on Yahoo (I can’t remember where) and as the number grew they were indexed by category. It was a raw way of seeing what was new on the web. Very wild west.

Then Yahoo became more of a portal, with a home page, news and other information utilities, e.g,. weather, stocks, etc.  Where Yahoo and Google diverged was in content.  Google kept to search and developed a wonderful advertising model while Yahoo meandered into news, entertainment, video and the like. Yahoo, in other words, tried to be an online newspaper, radio station, TV network and perhaps the world first amalgam of those things. Como se expensive? Advertising revenue grew and the company liked being in the content business but the business model was muddy. Not extensible. And expensive. What did Google do? Cleaner search and smarter ads.

Any hedge find worth its salt will tell you to focus. They look at trends and business fundies then pare, pare pare.  Starboard Value, pushing for dissolution of the Yahoo board, is no different. Starboard is the “stick” that will probably help Yahoo live on. I would counsel them, however, to bring in a brand strategist who can provide some depth to the decision they make. Yahoo is a powerful brand. It owns much space in the minds of consumers.  Don’t toss out that value, use it.





Microsoft Mission.


satya nadella

In a recent Microsoft speech in NY, Satya Nadella shared the latest company mission. I know this because following are his words. (Frankly, at America companies missions are a dime a dozen — as oft changed as ad campaigns — but when Microsoft speaks we must listen.

The mission:

“Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Mr. Nadella added that the mission will act as “a guide to inform the choices we make every day, whether it’s a customer interaction or a product design decision.”

Whether you like the “empower achievement” words or not, you have to give credit to Mr. Nadella for boiling down what his company does.  Personally, I would call this a brand claim, but either way I like how Mr. Nadella suggests this is a guiding principle for people and product. By enculturated a brand claim throughout Microsoft, he is tightening the reins and empowering his people.

Missions are broad, brand strategies are tight.  Where brand strategies put real money in the bank, though, are via the brand planks: the three key proof or support areas that prop up the claim. This is what I haven’t heard yet. Right now we have a claim…I’m eager to hear the proof planks.




Prevention Planks.


I’ve been thinking a good deal about prevention this morning. There’s an exciting article in the NYT on some Medicare trials to prevent diabetes among at risk populations.  Another article on the bombings in Brussels had be wondering how we can prevent the kind of hatred that causes people to blow themselves taking fellow citizens with them.  

Much of what modern societies do when faced with ills, illness and hatred focuses on curative or  after-the-fact action. Not root cause prevention.  

Yesterday’s What’s the Idea? blog post was about articulating positive “care-abouts” and “good-ats.”  By highlighting positives, the logic went, one can trump positioning around negatives.  So I’m asking myself today if I should be thinking about including a preventative plank in my strategies; rather than trump an existing brand or category negative, what if we look at ways to prevent them?

It may be a poor example but in a brand strategy I wrote a few years ago for a “healthier-for-you cookie,” I realized most cookies in the space were perceived as “dry.”  Rather than build a plank around moisture, which I did, perhaps I should have taken a preventative approach — highlighting the use of coconut oil as a key product additive. Coconut oil smacks of moisture.

As you can see, it’s not a full baked idea but you have to start somewhere.  And my gut tells me prevention and the education around it, is a def worth a strong look.



Always-Always Land.


The SWOT Analysis is an age-old business planning tool. Mapping out Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats sets businesses up to self-evaluate and make better decisions.  Google the words business, marketing or brand consultant and you will prob find 50% of the websites referring to SWOT.

garden of eden

Well, I am a brand planner. I don’t do SWOT.  I look primarily at positives. My brand strategy discovery gravitates towards “Good-ats” and “Care-abouts.”  Brand strategy is all about positivity. Aspiration. Likes. Sure, some of these overcome negatives but branding, at its very core, is about identification and positive reputation. So why, why spend time in negative land.

If I turned my framework on its head, I’d be asking about “bad-ats” and what consumers don’t “care about.” As a single shingle brand planner, one who needs to be nimble and cost=effective, I choose to live in always-always land. Where goodness lives and happens — and where brands are built to serve people in positive ways.

And I’m sticking to it. Peace.  



Peeps in The Creative Selling Arts.


SXSW is a cool show in a cool town. One of the things that’s neat about South By is its three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.  Interactive is where a lot of the heat is today.  POTUS spoke there this year for instance.  Some articles hit the wire suggesting Interactive may have jumped the shark, but I don’t think so. Tech is a huge commercial force and it’s only going to grow. But for my money, SXSW Music is the place to be. As someone who helps companies sell shit for a living and who is informed by trends and futures, I look to the independent American musician for what’s next.

The kids arriving in vans and sleeping on floors for South By Music are so much more in touch with what’s up in America than are the smarty flotsam from Stanford, Silicon Valley and other tech havens.  I loves me some techies, don’t get me wrong, but grass roots Americana trends are arriving 5 to a car, packed with Amps and warm local beer.

Sundance, Park City’s independent  movie festival, used to be like SXSW Music, before turning crazy bougie. But you can still find inspiration there.

For marketers and people in the creative selling arts, spend some time at South By Music and if you have time, do a drive by at Sundance.



A Thought About Suspensions.


I’ve been a student of educational marketing for a couple of years. K through 12 specifically. A recent study was published suggesting Charter Schools have a rate of suspension comparable to that of public schools and in both cases black students are 4X as likely to be suspended as white. Suspension is one of the disciplinary tools available to schools but like yelling at your children for yelling or the death penalty for murder, it doesn’t seem very effective.

I’d love to see a charter school go on record as taking suspension off the board as a disciplinary option. Pulling kids out of class as punishment makes sense, but how can you create an environment where kids learn and feel some remorse for their transgressions? What if the school were to put them in a classroom with a teacher or administration to supervise lessons, but also include some of their parents to aid in supervision. Say for every 20 suspended kids, at least 5 of their parents must be there for half a day. Don’t make it feel punitive for the parents – make it a supervisory, learning moment. Get parents more involved. For younger students, many parents have to stay home anyway.

Making parents more involved in schooling is a goal of successful pedagogy. Involving them in discipline, for their own kids and community kids, may be worth testing. At least it’s not the same old same old.




A Twitch Point By Any other Name.


A couple of years ago I posted a presentation on SlideShare on something I called Twitch Point Planning. My first presentation of Twitch Point Planning was to Karen Kovacs, publisher of People Magazine.  One of my last presentations was to Joshua Spanier, Google’s Marketing Director of Global Media. These meetings sandwiched a number of others with business titans, one of which, George Gallate, suggested “Get the URL.”

Twitch Point Planning is a comms planning rigor that takes advantage of media “twitches,” moments in time when a person moves from one medium to another in search of information or clarification. By “understanding, mapping and manipulating people closer to a sale” via these twitches, we  create new levels of accountability, learning and success…the theory goes. 

Here’s is a quote from today’s New York Times, by Google’s Paul Muret, VP for Display, Video and Analytics:

“Mobile is about moments, shorter and more fragmented. It’s important we string these together. We need to understand the desires of consumers in each point in time to understand their context and intent.”   

Google rang up $19B in the 4th quarter and now is looking to expand that number by launching a new product called Analytics 360 — a tool that looks to take advantage of cross screen media twitching.  I suspect they’ll make more billions and do so by automating the process.  But me thinks the human element is still a necessary component of this process. Let’s see.

All aboard!!!!