Monthly Archives: September 2016

Auto Fill For Life.


There was a story today in the NYT about the potential ascendancy of Google’s digital assistant over all others. Over Siri, Cortana and Alexa/Echo. If not Google, who?  Assistant voice recognition is getting there as is voice response. But it’s machine learning that will make or break the digital assistant business. And one can imagine Google has a leg up with all of the data it has on us.

Do you ever find yourself driving around looking for directions and wondering why your nav. assistant doesn’t know you better? I do. Or why you phone can’t make your life easier with repetitive functions? Like an auto fill life? I do. A learned (pronounced learn-ed) assistant is going to be an amazing help to us.  It will save time, energy and planetary resources. The possibilities are truly endless.

As it stands now (according to the NYT), Siri owns the phone, Echo owns the home, and Facebook Messenger rules the streets – when you’re out and about. Google’s digital assistant, which I’m sure will have a much cooler name than Google Assistant aspires to be the lone assistant. (Learn-Ed is actually kind of a nice name. Hmm, you listening Learn-Ed?)

Anyway, should be a fun ride and amazingly profitable.




Insights and Brand Briefs.


One of the challenges when writing a brand brief is knowing which insight to use to fuel the claim. (The claim is the idea at the top of the brand strategy, supported by 3 proof planks.) Often in a brief there are 2 or 3 really exciting insights, all of which offer enough power to motivate brand predisposition. But which to pick, that’s the question.

What I love about the brief I use, borrowed from McCann-Erickson’s Peter Kim 2 decades ago, is that it has a serial framework. One section leads to the next. Like puzzle pieces, they don’t always fit, but fit they must. Until they fit, you need to keep working. Until there is a linear story you are only bumping along the cobble stones. Chank a chank.

As I work the brief, key insights find their way into the story. But some must be let go. What’s funny is the outcome of the story – the claim – is often not known until the story plays out. Insights float in the back of the mind as you work toward the end, some more strongly than others, but the big finish is often a bit of a surprise.

There can’t be two endings. Enjoy the ride.


Start charging for Twitter.


Twitter needs to start charging for its service. I don’t like to pay for anything but Twitter is something I’d happily go to the old dusty wallet for. Especially if it keeps out some of the riff raff. Twitter should not sell to another ad-focused company with an intent of getting bigger. It should charge and be more profitable. And stay smaller.  (As if 300 million custies is small.) And with a smaller, paying customer base, the advertising product would likely be better and extract more margin.

So then the next question is “What would people be willing to pay for Twitter?” How about $20 a year? That’s two chicken wraps with cheese per month. Say 40% of users drop out — you’d still be booking $3.6B in fee revenue.

Twitter is part of our media world. It may not be for everybody but it is a world-flattening necessity. Don’t sell it off like some underperforming service company. That would be crazy short-sighted.

Massifying free web services is only for low-value properties. That certainly doesn’t describe Twitter.

Peace. Announces Expansion.


I have decided to work on the What’s The Idea? website, expanding it to include a number of offerings, real and in Beta. Here’s a list of the first few offerings to be included — some of which are also memes on the web.

Return on Strategy (ROS). Unlike return on investment where expenditures on tactical marketing dollars or project dollars are measured, return on strategy links revenue and value to strategy.  With ROS, attitudes, perceptions and dispositions are weighed against behaviors and sales to determine drivers of market success.

Brand Strategy Tarot Cards. In the brand strategy tarot card reading, client companies come to the meeting with 5 pieces of content.  Serially and in real time each piece of content is turned over and read.  Learnings and gleanings are shared with the marketing team until all five pieces are revealed. The reading ends with a summary of brand strategy and a view into the brand future.

Brand Strategy Workshop. This three part workshop walks attendees through the key stages of the What’s The Idea? brand strategy development framework. This hands on, participatory workshop allows attendees to more fully understand brand strategy by experiencing the discovery, boil down and synthesis process that results in powerful brand ideas.

Posters Vs. Pasters. Born out of social media research, Posters vs. Pasters is a quick-draw research tool used to arrive at consumer and market insights. It is a wonderful early stage brand planning discovery tool. At last count the market was make up of 92% Pasters, 8% Posters.

Twitch Point Planning.  A Twitch Point is a media moment during which a consumer changes his or her media consumption in search of clarification or greater meaning. Often changing devices or apps. Understanding, mapping and manipulating these twitch points in a way that moves users closer to a sale is the goal of Twitch Point Planning. Think customer journey with real weigh points.

Stay tuned. And all inquiries are welcome.




Apple and Drivables.


Apple hasn’t always been the darling it is today. And the slowdown of the iPhone sales was predictable. Factions in the company focused on preserving revenue versus those who want to blow it up in search of a replacement device (watch?) are impeding things. But, hey, that’s the price of progress and free enterprise.


But don’t bet against Apple. Some smart Apple people are looking into the next BIG thing – self driving cars – and kicking all the right tires. An investment in McLaren, a tech forward company, would be a good fit and take the average revenue per customer up from a slim handheld to large, large drivable.  Every person has a phone and nearly every person has a car. Do the math.  Apple’s look into Lit Motors, a motorcycle company, is genius too.  Ever look around a highway? Nothing but single car drivers surrounded by empty space. Making smaller, safer drivables into self-drivables is a trillion dollar bet. And with boomers aging, caregivers won’t have to take away mom’s car keys. Good for the planet too.

Don’t let the iPhone 7 thing cast a pall over your perspective on Apple. Those dudes and dudettes are boogying.  It won’t all be pretty (Did you see the movie?), but it will be spectacular.




We’re Here Advertising


There is a type of advertising that really rankles me. I call it “We’re Here” advertising. Effectively, it’s nothing more than a banner with a brand name and logo. We’re Here advertising conveys what is being sold and, hopefully, where to buy it. Unfortunately, We’re Here advertising is not uncommon…and it has even been known to work. The logic goes, by just showing up and reminding consumer you’re there, you’ll garner consideration. It’s such a waste.  

Real advertising contains reasons to buy. A claim or two. Logic that supports a buying decision. Back in the day when there were 3 TV channels, showing up in a tutu beneath a lyrical song may have been enough. Today, image is important, style is important ,  but reasons to buy are exquisitely important.  And above all, reasons to buy must be memorable and evidence based.

If you spend any money advertising to savvy American consumers, you need to look at your ads and make sure they’re not We’re Here ads. If they are, fix them.



Self-Driving Cars. Oh my!


Automobile accidents in America have reached their highest points since 2008. Why, you might ask?  I suspect it’s because of mobile technology. Texting, downloading, GPS settings, lying to Waze. Even calls from mom.

Mobile technology is here to stays and, sadly, we haven’t had the foresight to legislate it so we don’t run into one another. We need to block hand-operated digital phones used by drivers. But that may not happen. So what’s the next best thing in this age where we will only use technology and phones more? Self-driving cars.  It’s a safe alternative that will allow us to use our phones and other tech. No brainer.

Had it not been for growth of mobile devices, self-driving cars may not have on our radar for a few more years. Perhaps we’d have cured cancer – causing the average life expectancy of Americans to reach 95. And that would have necessitated the need for self-driving cars.  We always need to see the big picture as well as the cause and effect. Just sayin’.



Brand Strategy Workshop, Part 3.


In my two previous posts we outlined “proof gathering” and the creation of “brand planks.” Now comes the hard part. The Idea. As in What’s The Idea?  The idea is actually a claim. A claim of something offered or gained. It must be consumer-valuable. Good claims often contain a little poetry. Perhaps some fun and timely culture or metaphor.  That way they’re pregnant with meaning.


The claim must be single-minded. No commas, conjunctions or run on thoughts. A simple lone statement. It must be tied to the 3 brand planks. Since planks are proof of the claim, you’re really working backwards. Be careful not to use common marketing words in your claim. Spice them up. “Low cost,” for instance, isn’t very exciting. Lastly, the claim must spark creativity among the art directors, writers and designers assigned to handle the buildable.

Part 3 of the workshop will be assigned as homework. You can’t force an idea. But since all attendees will be working from the same briefing documents, we will entertain “ideas” from the group. Over the last 45 minutes we’ll paper the walls with claims and attempt to tie them to the planks as a group.

Attendees will be given 48 hours to submit their final claim and proof planks via email at which time a winner will be announced. It should be a blast.

If your organization would be willing to act as a trial balloon for this new workshop, please write



Brand Strategy Workshop, Part 2.


So yesterday I outlined part one of my (in-development) brand strategy workshop. In it I’ll provide a data and information dump to attendees and have them underline all the “proofs” of marketing success they come across. Part two will see them take the 30 or so pages of proof and do something smart with it. 

For the allotted 30 minutes, attendees will be instructed to read and reread the underlined items.  The goal of this “reading of proofs” is to begin to organize them into groupings.  Ideally at the end of the exercise, I’m going to see it they can find 3 discrete groupings. There may be two or four and there will certainly be some outliers, but three is the goal. This is the beginning of brand planks.  The groupings we’re looking for are extreme customer care-abouts or brand good-ats.  At the really expensive business consulting companies these groupings are called clusters. Clusters that computers and data analysts array.  In our workshop, the brains of attendees will do the work.  

Tune in Monday for Part 3. The Claim.

Brand Strategy Workshop, Part 1.


I’m thinking about developing a brand planning workshop around the part of my practice devoted to “proof.”  I’ve spoken before groups on numerous occasions but those speeches tended to about theory.  Presentations include “Social Media Guard Rails,” some others about marketing plan development, and others sharing planning tips and tricks. But I have yet to do a participatory workshop. That’s what people want. A workshop where they learn by participating.

So my idea is to create a big dump of reading, maybe with some picture and video, about a company or product. It might include a piece of topline research and trade some press articles. The lion’s share would be interviews with customers and stakeholders. The dump will offer about 45 minutes worth of reading.

I’ll explain that their task is to underline the proof. Proof of value. Proof of superiority. Proof of “good-ats” and “care-abouts.” Not marko-babble…tangible, understandable value.

Tomorrow, I’ll share with you what we’ll do with that proof.

PEACE in Syria.