Brand Planning

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There are two kinds of brand planner practicing today: “side view mirror” and “forward- looking.” Planners of the side view mirror variety tend to spend their time, budget, and resources finding out why people bought product in the past. This is not wasted learning, of course, but it’s only part of the story. Forward looking planners take that learning and apply it to what will sell in the future; to a selling scheme that hasn’t been done.
 
Fashion designers are “forward-looking.” They are some of the most creative people in the business world. Why?  Because they design with the future in mind. They stick their necks out predicting what will sell, not what has sold.  The marketing planners who see the future — who predict the future — are those who will win the day. 
 
The person who invented the Heely sneaker was a forward-looking planner. 

The copywriter.

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It is my opinion that the copywriter is the most important spoke in the wheel that is advertising.  I’m a big strategy guy, don’t get me wrong, and brand strategy is the fundamental building block upon all selling must take place, but the copywriter is the persuader.  The salesperson.  

Is copywriting a lost art today?  You betcha.  And it is very sad.

I forgot who once said “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” but he summed up pretty well what’s going on today in copy.  Many copywriters think their job is done when the facts are communicated. Perhaps with humor. Maybe even using the parlance of the target. Certainly with nice cadence and tempo. However, more often than not, they are not intoxicating the consumer with persuasion and truly creating disposition toward purchase.

Real copywriters can do this.  The good ones still do.  And the really good ones should be paid millions.  

Cessation

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As a kid in the advertising business I was once dressed down by McCann Erickson’s creative director for making a minor copy change to the call-to-action on an ad.  In front of the copywriter, who apparently ratted me out, I was told in no uncertain terms never to change copy.  I guess it would “f” up the art, the gestalt, the continuity.  (She was right, of course.)

Anyway, if an account manager with intimate knowledge of the client and consumer can’t couldn’t change a word or two, why in the world would we cede control over the entire message to a consumer?  Cessation of message control to consumers is going to send our already reeling business even further down the rabbit hole.  As it has with Network TV.  We’ve ceded control of TV to consumers, to a degree, by going the reality TV route.

It all will get better, but we’re in for a rocky couple of years.

Peace one (whatever that means.)

Ogilvy-ism

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One of my favorite David Ogilvy quotes is, and I paraphrase, “Our business is infected by people who have never sold a thing in their lives.”  

It is so true.  I would venture to say 80% of the advertising product out in the media today is “creative for creative’s sake.”   It’s not about communicating a unique product value, it’s about getting people to stop and pay attention. Even worse than that is what I call “We’re here!” advertising.  Basically “We’re here”! ads simply tells consumers what you sell and where to buy it. 

I can’t read the newspaper without seeing this lazy crap.  

If you find someone who really understands advertising and the craft of selling, don’t let him or her go.  They are a dying breed.

To member or not to member.

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I am with a company developing a free Web property. Our hook? It will be the fastest, easiest way to create and publish content to a Web site. One of the things that keeps me up at night is looking like all the other membership-driven Web sites. If there are members, then there are non-members and that is exclusionary. Isn’t it counter to the whole Web culture, the roots of which are tied to offering free access to information? Can you say “Open?”
 
Membership is a data-collection ploy and one designed by and for advertisers to quantify ad buys. In addition, it is also a means by which some site owners can keep information private, which is their right; but the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. The whole membership thing, which brings up images of velvet ropes, and gated communities, and cliques, is not right. We can make “non-membership” a competitive issue and advantage, I believe. Part of our brand. Let’s not forget, technology is copy-able, brands are not. 

Too much of a good thing?

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When I went to see Borat a few weeks ago I was underwhelmed. I love the character and his wonderfully zany impolitic viewpoint. (With in-laws from the south, it would have been nice had he not picked on that region so, but that’s life. What’s the word for a northern red neck?)

So why was I underwhelmed? YouTube. So many of the fun bits had appeared on video sharing and media sites that most if the movie wasn’t first run for me. If movie studios keep letting this over-saturation happen it will hurt their numbers at the box office. Trust me. 

Movie studios need to let content out in drips, not open the faucets.

Heroes

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Not the TV show. Marketing and advertising heroes. One of my favorite interview techniques when hiring is to ask the question “Who are your advertising and/or marketing heroes?” Especially for tyro candidates. It shows me to what degree they are really students of the art.

Lately, I have to admit, it might be hard for me to answer that question. If pressed, however, I would offer up David Droga. That guy is a thinker. He sticks his neck out and puts real wood behind the arrow. He will help change our business for the better. Can’t wait to meet him.

Communities, more or less.

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When it comes to online social networks or communities, I vote “more.”  It is human nature to commune with like-minded individuals, so the growth of communities will tend to be toward more communities, with smaller villages of interest.  Dogster is a community of dog lovers/owners.  Is Muttster not in our future. And Pomeranianster?

In its infancy, social networking and its first sites are expectedly huge, but following the television model where we moved from 3 channels to 700, we have only just begun the shake out the possibilities.  And don’t forget, refined, no-waist targeting is a major plus for advertisers. 

“Copy” as Agency of the Year

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It wasn’t that long ago that the word copy dominated the lexicon of the big advertiser. It was a synonym for creative, for TV, for tagline, even strategy. A good creative idea, delivered in the form of memorable copy (or string of compelling words) was the basis of the business. It’s what advertising agencies did…and still do.

Great copy cannot be developed consistently by consumers. Though a blind squirrel does, indeed, find an acorn every now and again…

Agencies aren’t going away any time soon.

“You” as Ad Agency of the Year.

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This week Advertising Age awarded its annual Agency of the Year honors to “You.” On the heals of Time Magazine naming “You” Person of the Year, this award is a little, shall we say, derivative.
 
Though anyone can make an ad, only a select few can make good ads.  If the consumers are the advertising agency of the year, the business is in real trouble.  The business is changing, yes.  But ad agencies will continue to be the best agents of the selling arts in the near and distant future.