Insure Product Meaning


    Yesterday I Tweeted the question “Does anyone know what the Discount Double Check is?” Everyone has heard of it; it’s all over TV.  Especially on NFL football. Aaron Rodger’s who mimes putting on a championship belt after touchdowns has sold the little dance to Allstate Insurance who has paired it with some double check insurance option and uses that as a differentiator.  I’m so interested in the humor (or lack of it), I’ve yet to figure out what the product feature means. Perhaps you do. What are we double checking and how does it work? 

    It only took AFLAC half a decade to move beyond its quacking name-onic brand device until the advertising explained to customers that AFLAC is insurance that pays out if you are hurt on the job.   

    In both cases we knew what the company IS but not what the product DOES. They both fail the Is-Does test. The first test of marketers, and I know it sounds fundamental and silly, is to get the Is-Does out of the way. So all you self-described lifestyle brands out there, that’s way too inside baseball. It’s too markobabble. Get your Is-Does right.



    Selling business.


    Native advertising is defined by some as advertising done to look like the content of the media on which it appears.  The ads are tailored to the media. A couple of decades ago if you made your TV ad to look like a newscast and scheduled it to run on the evening news, standards and practices would not approve it.  It had gone too native. Lately, I’ve seen some cable stations using program actors to promote products in commercial pods during the show.  It’s worth a rewind…until you see it’s an ad.  Smart idea actually.

    In the web world, native advertising is doing similar things, allowing marketers to appear to offer site content but then pulling the rug out quickly to reveal a product endorsement. It is a way forward, and if does properly effective yet it will make us callous to the media channel.

    I’m all about value…and native advertising has the ability to add a little value to the selling message, but it does detract from the media channel’s integrity.

    But here’s the thing.  Today many regular ads aren’t native to their own selling message. So why be native to a media property.  Ads are typically native to humor, to visual extravagance, to performance and story but not the product. Let’s fix that first before we go mucking up other media channels.

    Great consumer insights married to emotional and logical selling schemes are the way forward. Let’s not forget we are in the selling business.  Peace.

    When is an object an ad?


    I was running near Southards Pond the other day and saw up in a tree a nice pine board birdhouse. A friend of mine makes birdhouses using his table saw and untrimmed logs. Logs with bark still on them.  They are amazing.  The word rustic comes to mind. I got him on Etsy and he moved some merch. The houses are so unique you want to stop running or walking and get a closer look.

    Rather than print out a color picture, laminate it and attach put peel-off telephone numbers, and post it on the trail in a pseudo guerilla marketing effort – a ham handed one, at that – why not put a house up at eye level with a subtle URL burned in it. Small, like a painter’s signature. Make it feel more like art than commerce. I don’t need to do an A/B test to find out which approach would work better. Ham-handed would sell some houses quickly and be removed from the trail. The artful approach would reach “Posters” or influencers (as opposed to Pasters or “the led”) and he would have a longer-term showing and be celebrated by all.

    A rustic product needs a rustic approach. Redefine how and where you put your product sale and message. Pick your spots and your tactics carefully. Kirshenbaum and Bond once did ads for Snapple where they put stickers on fresh mangos in the grocery store that read “Also available in Snapple.” Peace.


    Data Chunking.


    Omnicom and Publicis agreed over the weekend to merge.  Como se unexpected? The story even made front page of The New York Times. The spin was all about big data. More people, more devices, more messages. And the best way to reach all these things is through smart use of earned, owned and rented data.

    Data companies are finding new and exciting ways to track people. And it’s only just beginning. Home thermostat apps can indicate when a person is at home, road side cameras can log when a license place passes a dinner, voice activation apps can capture when a body needs a sushi fix.

    When I pitch Twitch Point Planning to marketers and their agents I explain the offer in three words: understand, map and manipulate.  Big data feeds the understand and map components. Capture and organize data.  But as David Droga rightly says in the article on the merger (last para.), someone has to do something smart with the data. (When everyone has the understand and map tools, data will just become a commodity.) And that’s the subtext not covered in the Times article. Ad agencies are best at creating the manipulative message. Not bad manipulation, but good. Important. Heartfelt and personal. Dare I say poetic.

    I agree that marketers will do understand and map in-house. But the manipulation part, they can’t do well. For this, even for a one-on-one mobile phone ad, they need professionals. If you want to follow the money, this merger is about good old fashion creative, not chunking data. It bodes well for agencies of all size and stripe. Peace! 

    Purple ads.


    langone edit

    Growing up in the ad business and knowing how hard it is to do well, I often harp on poorly conceived advertising. Especially that of the print variety.  This adverting is done by a good mid-sized agency in New York City, but either the planner or the creative director doesn’t care because week in and week out the execution – the whole campaign, in fact – is just sad. The hospital likes the ads I’ve heard, so at the agency the only one digging this work must be the CFO.

    A great litmus for an ad is the idea.  The idea as played back a day after it has been seen.  This ad is “one of those purple hospital ads.”  “The ones with the one word headline.”

    I read this ad stem to stern as I have many of the others in the campaign and still haven’t a clue as to the strategy. Or what the brand stands for.

    If you spend enough money, people will see your ads. It you buy the right media people will see your ads. If you don’t have an idea, people will see your ads. They just won’t be able to form an opinion about you – other than you have enough money to advertise. You have a name. And in this case, you like the unique color purple. Peace!

    PS. I’m sure the women and men at NYU Langone are terrific and save lots of lives. I applaud you, but it’s time to find a brand and brand idea.  



    Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Radio Spots.


    One of my favorite advertising campaigns is for Frank’s RedHot Sauce.  It may be my only favorite ad campaign.  I heard if yesterday morning and had to remark about it to the lady at Ace Hardware.  The business strategy is to get consumers to put Frank’s RedHot Sauce on more dishes.  I use hot sauce on burritos and tacos only.  My brother in law from North Carolina likes it on his eggs.  (It’s not bad.) The more dishes Frank’s can get you to spice up with hot sauce the more sales it rings.

    Now normally funny advertising for the sake of funny is not something I advocate.  Funny is rarely a brand plank. But the little old lady with the graggy voice who performs these spots is quite the star. But the copywriter is the true star.  Each ad repeats the line “I put that shit on everything.” Of course the word shit is beeped out. The bleeped word is the hero of the spot. Try not laughing. Try not understanding the strategy. Try not visualizing a little old lady putting hot sauce on her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Some church people will be offended. Some parents with small children will have to explain to their kids why they are laughing. Some will want to protest.  Me?  I just love that ____.  The best ad campaign I’ve heard in a long time. Peace. 

    Weighing in on Dove.


    You knew I would.  Weigh in on the new Dove campaign that is.  I love the idea of this campaign, which is to redefine what is beauty. The latest tactic in this evolving effort revolves around asking women to describe their faces to an artist, sight-unseen.  A friend is similarly asked to describe the same person to the artist and a comparison of the drawings is made. The research shows women being much harder on themselves and their features than are their friends.

    The first iteration of the campaign, begun in 2005, showed a number of smiling and confident women in white underoos. The women stretched 6 or 8 across showed a variety of body types, few of which you would find on the cover of Women’s Health or Cosmo.  The women’s skin, however, was amazing. (An endemic brand quality.)  This new campaign is an evolution of the so-called “real beauty” campaign and it’s important, but I’m not sure it is killing as a soap selling idea. It’s likeable. Heady. Emotional. And a great message.  Without the linkage to creating cleaner skin, though, used long term it may prove to be an opportunity lost.  

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Dove is selling well and this campaign kick starts some retail movement.  People may fall in love with the message and appreciate the brand by proxy. But should those same women find a soap that has qualities more agreeable to their skin and cleaning ability, this social statement about beauty will remain appreciated and important — but not necessarily a motivator for purchase.  I suggest sticking with the “real beauty” idea Ogilvy, but find an endemic product quality to illuminate. Peace.   

    Brand in Name Only


    Brands are more than names.  But don’t tell that to Bethpage Federal Credit Union.  Federal credit unions have an advantage over banks.  They are not-for-profit. As not-for-profits, people who bank there are members  — the rewards of membership being better service and better rates.  Were more people to know this, they would sign up in droves, but not-for-profits don’t do a great deal of advertising – to keep costs down for members.

    Bethpage has done some good things over the years but creating a brand strategy is not one of them. I look at the body of work and the only things that stick out are spokespeople Beth and Page. They smile a lot, are helpful and sort of goofy, but play absolutely no part in the brand strategy other than their names.  Is the TV work showing Beth and Page a campaign? You tell me.

    Here’s the point. Just as I suggest to people with social media programs they need a motivation for their social persona, spokespeople need a strategic reason for being. They need to be motivated toward a brand goal. Beth and Page are very nice people I’m sure – but right now if consumers were asked to talk about them all they would say are their names. This is the oldest mistake in the book. And frankly it’s childish. It’s like advertising done by an app. Sorry for my snark, but come on…Peace.


    The Marketing Deficit.


    Ads are money. At least they cost money. But many people don’t always think of them that way CFOs do. CEOs do…sorta. Ad agents and marketing managers think of budgets as the invisible air they breathe, not as the life sustain force. Not as money. What am I getting at? We have to start treating advertising and marketing related expenses as the money it is. Make that money accountable. What is working? And by what measurable quantification?

    When a family goes broke, the debt that keeps getting added to the credit card and credit line, stops. Mommy or daddy cuts up the credit cards. When Social Security and Medicare trend toward an unsustainable level, we need to make changes. We are often operating at a marketing deficit.

    We can’t take the art out of advertising and marketing. But let’s remember, branding is not design. And a Super Bowl ad than makes us giggle but sells a competitor’s product is a blight. We can start to treat advertising like the business tool it is. (The web too, for that matter.) These are tactics that need to move consumer closer to a sale – if not directly to a sale. On the show Top of the Lake on The Sundance Channel one of the characters beats himself with a belt before his mother’s grave to rid himself of guilt. Maybe we marketers should smack ourselves around a touch to remind us of our real business purpose. Peace.

    Advertising and Power.


    Empower is a word that used to be the haps in marketing.  Now it has been replaced by “transparency” and “authenticity” in the markobabble lexicon. Being a contrarian, I look at the word empower and wonder how to use its opposite. Depower? To remove from power or to remove power. When you think about it, removing things that make a consumer’s decision hard is what advertisers try to do.  By simplifying the decision for a consumer, removing all the impeding loci, it becomes easier to buy.

    Are you the type of person who has a hard time deciding when looking at a restaurant dinner menu?  Me too. I like duck, and pasta, a steak.  So when I read the menu I’m using the descriptions to aid me. I prioritize the descriptors.

    If we look at an ad as a selling device and are speaking to a consumer who must decide using many factors — factors that may not play to our product’s strong suit — we have to depower those factors. So a Coke that may be very refreshing but filled with calories and sugar, needs to depower the latter two qualities so it properly highlights the former. It’s not always about focusing on the positive attributes, the best advertising and marketing strategy sees the rest of the power grid and on all. A little like chess, no?  Peace.