Monthly Archives: May 2016

Social Media SME.


At what are you expert? It’s a question I ask clients looking to fathom and navigate the world of social media. If the answer is “nothing,” social strategy becomes more of a grind. If you (or your brand) are expert in something and it is in great demand, your social media strategy can be quite easy.  That said, if your expertise is in a commodity market, say search engine optimization or low-priced appliances, the difficulty picks up again.

It is the strategist’s your job to find an expertise or sub-expertise that really makes the brand best in class. A friend of mine is a fish wholesaler in NYC. He sells to sports stadiums, cruise lines and top fine dining chefs. His expertise is in getting fresh fish to clients faster than competition at reasonable prices. Inside his head is more information about fish seasonality, migration, weather, shipping and demand than 99% of the people on the planet. Not great cocktail discussion but something of great interest to tops chefs and buyers.

He’s s SME. A Subject Matter Expert. Not a journalist. Not an MBA. Not an oceanographer. When he has something to share about fish quality, futures and price, people listen. Taking that information and creating a social program around it – and finding the right followers – is a business home run. Commercially, it’s a market-changer.

At what are you or your brand expert? That’s where you want to start.




Hitting the Wall a Brand Planning Trick.


I learned a trick from ad agency president Brendan Ryan many moons ago that has contributed mightily to my brand planning framework.  Mr. Ryan, who ran FCB New York, would ask for a print campaign to be tacked to the wall. And sans any briefs or account foreplay he’d review what he saw, explain the “idea,” and identify which ads fit.  It was after-the-fact ad forensics.

This approach also works in brand planning.

I did some work for an agency that handles a top 5 financial institution. I was helping the agency create a strategy for the holding company brand (sitting atop the retail and commercial bank, personal wealth group, and investor relations). Our strategy wasn’t being served up as a corporate branding assignment per se, just an organizing principle for delivery of the brand online (wink wink).

Anyway, one of the tools we used was borrowed from Mr. Ryan – we reviewed all the content on the site (stories, copy and videos) and pasted them up on a wall. Our team was then to cluster the content into discreet, organic segments. If we couldn’t find a segment, we were to move outliers off to the side.

I can’t share business secrets but this forensic approach helped show us where the centers of gravity were. Our next step was to make sure these clusters were customer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.” If they weren’t, we needed to make corrections.

It’s a wonderful brand planning exercise and one I must say was borrowed from another. Peace.



Microsoft’s Mobile Marketing Mistake


Microsoft has blown billions on the mobile phone business. Yes, billions. The Nokia purchase was smart I thought but never got its head above water. All the problems can be tracked back to marketing.   Marketing is best defined by the 4Ps (product, price, place and promotion).  The product, sadly was the first misstep. The handsets could have been differentiated and weren’t. The tiles software is still a good bet, but it could have gone farther to draw in desktop features. Desktop tendrils. The cloud utility and automatic back-up of photos was clunky and poorly executed.  With Price, they should have won the day.  As I wrote in posts years ago, Microsoft could have bought share by giving away low end Windows OS smart phones. Didn’t happen.

Promotion didn’t happen – or if it did I didn’t see an ad.  As for place, they ceded control of handsets to HTC and others (after the Nokia hardware group was trimmed) making it hard to actually find a Windows phone at a Verizon store.

Satya Nadella should be applauded for focusing the company. However, mobile was not a business he should have left. People are carrying two mobile phones around for God’s sake. It may be a growth business…ya think?



The “C” Word in Branding.


Computer Sciences just announced a merger with the call center and enterprise services businesses of HP Enterprise (recently split off from the HP computer business). I’m not sure what they will call the entity but wouldn’t be surprised if it was named Computer Sciences. The new company will be dedicated to services, a la managing other people’s networks and call centers. I’m thinking there will not be a lot of PhDs at this company or a huge R&D budget. Ergo, “science” may not be the most accurate and descriptive word for the name.

I’d go with something new. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. Computer Sciences was a huge brand in its day. But with tooth brushes having computers in them, they may want to jettison the “C” word and find some new naming territory.



Scott Weiland Brand.


scott-weilandI went to see Scott Weiland the week before he died. It was his second to last show. I suggested my son go to see him; Scott being one of the great rock voices of all time. Mr. Weiland’s gravelly pipes and larger than life presence on the rock scene couple of decades ago was an American dream.  His Stone Temple Pilots were right up there with Nirvana (Kurt Cobain), Soundgarden (Chis Cornell) and Pearl Jam (Eddie Vedder) as vocalist-centered superior bands that walked Grunge to the fore of the American consciousness.

But Mr. Weiland’s voice was not the same toward the end of his life. My son scratched his head a little when hearing Plush and other songs sung in a higher register. Sans gravel. Sans primordial ooze.  

Mr. Weiland’s voice was his brand. Addictions aside, it must have been hard to lose his most important performance asset. Pitchers lose their fast ball, football players lose their legs, finger-pickers lose their dexterity. So when we refer to people as brands (it’s a thing) we aren’t being fair. People age and their skills diminish. Beauty Kim Novak aged. Patty Smith aged. Some do so gracefully and allow their sso-called brands to do so as well.

People are not brands, however. I just wish Mr. Weiland had realized it and allowed himself to evolve and reinvent before his final act. He was a great. A historic great.



More’s Law…of Marketing.


“Sell more, to more, more times at higher prices” is a Sergio Zyman construct about the role of marketing. In an ideal world you’d like to do all 4. If you do all four, at the same time, you’re a marketing savant.  I work with a company Kitchen Magic that remodels kitchen cabinets for half the price of new. We replace the doors and drawers with new ones and wrap the outside of the old cabinets with a ¼ inch of new wood to match. Ingenious really. It transforms a kitchen quickly and inexpensively. Kitchen Magic has done thousands upon thousands.

If we look at Mr. Zyman’s marketing construct, refacing is an opportunity to sell “more times.”  A typical Kitchen is redone every 25 years. With refacing we should be able to reeducate the market so that people are willing to update their kitchens every 12 years. Most home owners have a price in mind when they think about redoing their kitchen. (And often that price was based on an experience from 20+ years ago.) If they knew what it really cost today, they’d be much more open to the idea.  

Kitchen Magic is on a mission to re-educate home owners as to the cost of kitchen remodeling today.  Consumers can now afford to remodel their kitchen every 10-12 years, rather than once or twice in a lifetime.  More times Mr. Zyman.

Every business needs to watch all the “mores.”







More Evidence of the Craft Economy.


On Long Island where I live we lost 1,200 grocery store jobs year-over-year. Where did those jobs go?  Costco I am betting — a much more efficient and price-favorable retailer. This is the way of the world, this big box approach. Yet as we know, what goes around comes around and even Amazon is experimenting with brick and mortar retail stores. And big consumer packaged goods companies like General Mills and Campbell’s and even Anheuser-Busch InBev are investing in start-ups and small participants in the craft economy.  The craft economy dabbles in small batch, high-value products with an artisanal bent.

I suspect the craft economy will also result in a resurgence in small specialized retailers popping up in towns again.  In our little town, Crushed Olives opened a year or so ago offering assorted olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  Kilwins is offering specialty fudge. And our second independent coffee barista just opened. They’re premium priced but seem to be worth it. The craft economy will by no means be in every neighborhood. But it’s here for those with a little extra cash who like to savor the flavor.  It is fueled by people tired of selling junky or pedestrian quality products. And there is demand.  The craft economy is a multi-billion dollar category.




PTSD in Advertising.


Can advertising agents get PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)? Good question.  As someone who worked at advertising agencies and made mistakes I know what it’s like to get reamed out. I know what it’s like to make thousand dollar mistakes. I have scar tissue on my back from run-ins with creative people. Voluble creative people who belittle suggestions from non-art and copy brethren.  I’ve also been canned by clients and ad agencies. According to peripatetic wonder-planner Sean Boyle, that’s a good thing…badge of courage.  

Does all the scar tissue, mean-girl activity and failure contribute to an ad agent’s lost nerve? Do we sometimes pull back on a great idea, because we are afraid? Or do we learn from our foibles to become a better agents?

I reckon both are true.                                                   

It’s not a business for the weak hearted. And apologies for any suggestion that trauma in ad world is akin to that in the theater of war, but hey, we use metaphor here. The fact is, when you make decision to spend other people’s money there may be a cost along with a reward. Be thoughtful but be firm. No one is going to die. Learning is the best elixir for nerves. Learn faster than others and you win.



Home, Turn Off My Nest.


Google is introducing a new product today called Google Home. It is their entry into the voice-activated home assistant market. A market first entered by Amazon with the Echo. Voice activated virtual assistants began with the wonderfully named Siri by Apple.  Simple, mellifluous and unlikely be to be confused with other words.  The Amazon Echo is also nicely named, however the software is named Alexa — the name of their web analytics product. So one name for and device another for the assistant; a bit inelegant.

Enter Google Home.

Google has invested in a number of Internet Of Things (IOT) home products, the most obvious of which is Nest a nicely named device that monitors and controls thermostat, smoke alarm and surveillance. Google Home would have been an okay name had it been the first offering to market — a nice segue from its web search engine. But now, the timing is poor. It’s certainly an intuitive name and will act as a nice hub name for all other IOT devices, but lacks panache.

I suspect when speaking to the Google Home device you will simply say “Google, order me a pizza,” rather than “Home order me a Pizza” or “Google home, order me a pizza,” but the whole naming convention may have been better handled. One would expect more.

That aside, the home tech sector is heating up and it will be an exciting ride with lots of money exchanging hands.






What do Google and Amazon have in common?  Google puts the world’s information one click away. Amazon puts the world’s goods a few clicks and a couple of days away.

When my daughter was young, she was waiting at a restaurant for a tuna fish sandwich. Every time a server walked by my daughter asked her mom and grandmother “Where is my sandwich?” “It’s coming, it’s coming.”  This went on for a while. And since the English language didn’t seem to be communicating properly to this very young girl, she clarified “I want my sandwich in my mouth now.”

Business ventures that take into account immediacy, instant gratification and convenience tend toward success.  

In a service business especially, people want faster, more and for less. As you are looking to improve your business and business strategy spend time understanding obstacles. Then remove them.