Monthly Archives: June 2018

Marketing Memes an Afterthought.


It only takes one meme to move a market. 

I’ve been in advertising, communications and marketing since 1978 (Geezer) and know one of the quickest ways to success is a big communication idea that captures the interested of the masses.  If you capture consumer attention, they will sit still long enough for you to deliver something of value, which in turn, hopefully, gets them to buy.

Back in the day, big ad campaigns or big news headlines got people to pay attention. Today online, big headlines and big campaigns are harder to come by. On news sites, every headline is a big headline. Roseanne.  Anthony Bourdain. Comey. World Cup. And the ads online are tiny. There are no big campaigns online.

In digital marketing the communication of choice is the meme.  A good meme acts like wildfire. But most memes are consumer created. Marketers aren’t good at them. Memes are antithetical to advertising and digital agencies because they can’t get paid for them.

Agencies need to work hard to create marketing memes – then charge for the virality. Charge for the impressions earned. That way they’ll take them seriously.

Today’s marketing world is not optimized unless it takes the meme seriously. 



Product Innovation and Brand Planning.


Brand planning is not just about words on a paper. Colors on a palette. Planks and buckets and values. Or even taglines…and I’m a big fan of taglines. (If you’re spending marketing dollars which don’t prove your tagline, you’re “off piste,” as I like to meme.)

Brand strategy is integral to marketing. As such, all brand planners are marketers. As marketers we need to be look beyond the dashboard. Look at what’s next. The earth is not flat.

My night job is to wake up with new product ideas. Ideas that deliver on the brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks).  If in consumables, I’m dreaming about making packaging more planet friendly.  I was watching a YouTube video yesterday about shampoo bars that sell sans plastic bottle and cap.  Come se Genius??

The growth of innovation labs, incubators and new product teams is a big thing today. In my humble if jaded opinion, no one is better able to crack an innovation opportunity than a brand planner – the person responsible for the care and feeding of the brand claim.



New Brand Strategy Rigor.


Here’s an exercise for brand planners.

I read this morning that when president Richard Nixon prepared for a summit in China to meet Mao Zedong, he created a checklist. What do we want?  What does China want? And what do we both want? Each question had three answers.

Brand planners should ask themselves the same questions only with a slight modification at the end.  What does the company want? What do the consumers want? And what does the brand want?  The brand’s desires may not align with that of the company and could be a healthy source of exploratory tension.

The What’s The Idea? the brand strategy process plumbs consumer “care-abouts” and brand “good-ats.”  The nexus of these qualities decides the brand claim and proof planks. But with the tripartite “What want?” approach, it may make the planner look at a new dimension.  May.

Might be worth a try.




Pride and Embarrassment.


I’m always on the lookout for new questions to use in brand discovery.  I rely on a fairly static battery of questions for company stakeholders, who provide the business foundation for my consumer questions. (Consumer questions are way less static.) Truth be told, the company is paying the bills and approving brand recommendations so they get dibs. The people I choose to speak with in the company are also the ones closest to the customer. Consumer insights are a planners’ bread and butter, but understanding the business side is fundamental.

So, I’ve been think of adding a new question to my discovery and it delves into “embarrassment.”  I love plumbing the depths of “pride” as a matter of course, but embarrassment is something I’ve not dealt in. Embarrassment is opposite of pride. My pride questions goes like this “What is the nicest compliment someone ever paid you about_____?”  Imma have to think a little more before I come up with the embarrassment Q.

Stay tuned. Peace.


Pick A Brand Claim and Earn It.


I hate to pick on Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and its ad and web agency. MSKCC does such important work.   

It’s a brand with some of the greatest promise in all of brand-dom. Healing. And had the organization not developed a great brand promise “More Science. Less Fear,” I’d have probably let them go about their business. But I can’t.

The thing about brand strategy is, you find a claim, then you have to prove it every day. With every ounce of marketing being. With every marketing dollar.

Above is a screen grab of the current home page. Where’s the science? Where?

“Specializing in you” is the most over-used service headline in the history of headlines.  

Granted, the “more science” claim is not present on the home page, but it’s their claim none-the-less.   





Neat strategy, “not so” creativity.


There has always been a tension in advertising between strategy and creative.  The best creative ideas, creative people will tell you, come from coloring outside the lines. Think Different, to quote TBWA Chiat Day and Apple. The creative mind flourishes without bounds.

Strategy people like lines and organization. We love creativity, but our day job is about lines. Flexing the tension is another of our day jobs.

Both groups know there are no absolutes. I often say “Campaigns come and go, a powerful brand strategy is indelible.” That shit flies in one ear and out the other of creative people. 

The best strategy, though, is tempered by great creative.  And the best creative is infused with great strategy. The two create maximum advertising effectiveness and must coexist.

Le Bernardin, the NYC seafood restaurant, garners 4 Stars because of Maguy Le Coze (a neat and order freak) and Eric Ripert, creative chef par excellence.




Professional Is-Does.


My LinkedIn profile lists me as a Brand Strategist.  That’s the “Is” of my Is-Does. As for the “Does” I say “Redistributor of marketing wealth.” 

I use redistributor of marketing wealth rather than redistributor of business wealth because one can redistribute business wealth by buying a company.  That’s business and finance, not marketing. Marketing is about product, demand creation, competitive positioning and sales.

“Redistributing” is an interesting choice of words because it does not include creating new wealth. Or incremental wealth.  If L’Oreal doubled the hair color market by getting men to color that would be new wealth. Not redistributed wealth.  Coming up with a new product or service category would also not be included in redistributing wealth. Or would it?

Someone smart once told me the money spent on your product has to come from somewhere. Airlines took train revenue. That’s a redistribution for sure.

What’s your professional Is-Does?



Post-App World. GitHub. And Software Of Things.


Tomorrow’s technology world is a post-app world. Software yes. Individual downloadable device apps, no. The functionality of apps will reside in the cloud and be seamless. All will be powered by open software, developed by coders and engineers whose open source proclivities will live into eternity – or until some science fiction event reverts us to privatism.

Code and software are the blood of technology, downloadable apps are the plaque.

This all became clearer today when I read of Microsoft’s purchase of GitHub. MSFT will learn much (restraint included) by properly feeding and managing GitHub – a platform for developers to share, store and discuss code.  Together, they will populate the cloud and allow the Software-Of-Things to merge our online and offline futures.

Software-of-things. Hmm, I like it.