Monthly Archives: December 2013

iSpot is Tres Cool.


iSpot is a new ad tracking platform that marries TV spot appearances and spending with an overlay of online sharing activity.  It’s a brilliant idea. (Oh, happy New Year’s Eve, by the way.) During my time at McCann while spending big bucks on TV advertising for AT&T, the tracking people always paired weekly spend with the revenue it generated. I always marveled at how the revenue lagged the spend by a week or two. This lag was the case for most consumer packaged goods. It’s interesting to note that according to iSpot there’s a similar lag in social sharing of TV spots.  Most shares of the Geico “Hump Day” and Samsung Galaxy Gear spots were not on the night of the ads, but a few days after. Check out the metrics.

My problem with social, and I know it works trust me, is that what we are often measuring is divorced from sales.  Clicks. Likes. Shares. Views.  iSpot’s new platform provides data feed that should plug in nicely to sales reports. Como se holy grail?

Readers of Whats The Idea? know about Twitch Point Planning — a twitch being a media moment when one engages a separate device for additional information, learning or sharing.  iSpot is a platform with a chance to make Twitch Point Planning a prime time tool. And vice versa. Stay tuned in 2014.

Peace be upon you.  

Big Plans for ExxonMobil?


ExxonMobil was once the world’s largest grossing company.  It’s still way up there. In early 2012 they started running K-12 education advertising.  A cause marketing effort. The ads were pushing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which one might explain as a recruitment effort as ExxonMobil was looking toward the future — reinventing the energy business. But I think is was more post BP Gulf oil spill driven — an attempt to deflect negative oil company press. (I was working in the education space at the time and paying attention.)

Frankly, I’m not sure what ExxonMobil is doing with their advertising these days but at least some of the latest ads involve energy, or what I call an “endemic category message.”  The new ads promote an energy quiz and use the line “Energy Lives Here.”  They have a really smart planner at BBDO working on the business (or they did as of a couple months ago) so I wonder what the problem is?  BP’s licking its wounds and rear-view mirror planning; that’s to be expected.  But ExxonMobil?  Just not sure. They have a good agency and plenty of money so I expect they’ll find their way at some point. Peace.    


The Svelte Apple?


As big as the Chinese mobile phone market is, I’m not sure Apple should be pursing its current growth plan there.  And last year Apple sold 23 million phones in China. The price of an Apple mobile in China is in the US$700 area. The price of a locally produced Android based phone US$100.

In my view Apple should attack the Chinese market with a local start-up.  Don’t dumb down and feature down the 5Cs and 5Ss, to get the price margin better.  Leave them as they are, priced as luxury phones for the up market consumer. Start a new company to fight more fairly the Chinese manufacturers Lenovo and Huawei and South Korean behemoth Samsung.

Keep your R&D eye on the ball in America, the ball being other internet connected devices. We forget that Apple, when not bothered by business blocking and tackling (and shareholding-focused share gain), has a history of inventing new categories.  I fear that with all this energy focused on selling iPhones in China, Apple will regress in the ROW (rest of world) and start to slide.

Small share in PCs gave birth to the Apple of today. Stay the course. Innovate the form, the features and the software. Technological obesity in unbecoming. Especially for the svelte Apple. Peace.

Fight the Machine.



Starbucks executives, always on the lookout for ways to make more money (as they should be), have, until now, sat idly watching the growth of Nespresso and Keurig. Home and office brewing of coffee in single servings it is a hot category.  A category that follows the razor blade theory…discount the device, make money on the replenishments.

Starbucks see this single brew trend as not going away and recognizes coffee bought in pods is not coffee bought at their retail stores. Sooo, they’ve decided to sell a coffee maker. In other words, they are betting against themselves and accelerating the single serve brew category.

Stop it!  This is not a line extension, it’s a cannibalization. It diminishes the mission of the brand. These machines are the enemy.  The afternoon Starbucks run, the mocha, choca, locca $6.50 morning drink, the aroma of the coffee beans and din of the cool music gone. Fight it. Go all Davy Crockett on its ass. Davy may be dead but he’s alive in our hearts and minds and he defended and reshaped a country.

Starbucks is part of the craft economy. Convenience be damned.  Starbucks needs to stand up and fight! Fight the machine. Peace this holiday season.


Luxury Craft.


I love sushi but I also love money. The wifus and I debated whether or not to gift each other for Christmas two seats at a new exclusive sushi restaurant in NYC.  The per seat cost is $150. I’m assuming that doesn’t include drinks or tip and when you add a train ride to the list we’re talking mortgage payment money.  

I read today about a cured ham from Spain branded Iberico that sells, on the hoof, for $500. One famous cutter of said ham charges about $5,000 to perform the specialized act of serving this delicacy. These are examples of the luxury economy.  They touch the craft economy in that there’s mad craftsmanship going into each piece of sushi and slice of acorn-fed pig, but in my definition these are not craft economy examples.

The craft economy is about building and making things that are sustainable, fixable and have a low impact on the planet. It’s about saving, not wasting. There’s a place for everything in this wonderful world, but we are going to be a better place when the craft economy is more the norm. Peace!

The Power of Branding.


In Spike Jonze new film “Her” in which a man falls in love with his operating system, there is a wonderful example of the power and influence of branding.

Having seen the trailer, I immediately put the movie into the “goofy, not going to see it” category, yet there was something familiar and alluring about the voice of the operating system.  It wasn’t until the reviews started rolling in that I found out it was Scarlett Johansson’s voice. Hmmm.

Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times today “It’s crucial that each time you hear Ms. Johansson in Her, you can’t help but flash on her lush physicality, which helps fill in Samantha (OS) and give this ghostlike presence a vibrant, palpable form.” It is this muscle memory associated with Scarlett Johansson’s voice – this Pablovian response — that smart brands attempt to build.  The frosty Coke bottle image on a hot day. The sweet pillowy taste and texture of a Krispie Kreme donut. The olfactory-palooza of a Peter Luger porterhouse.  

When you have a brand plan, complete with promise and support planks, the casting becomes easy. Rich. And powerful. Peace.  


Eyeball, ads and privacy.


I wrote in a presentation yesterday that much in the way of web innovation today is about eyeballs and ads. Ads being the way start-ups are monetized after funding.  For the past 20 years technologists have spent lots of time, effort and money helping consumers bypass advertising. It’s kind of ironic, no?  Well, in one man’s opinion, privacy, or the lack thereof, will be the new advertising. The new digital coin of the realm.

Today’s headlines are about federal judges admonishing the NSA for “systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls” which “most likely violates the Constitution.”  Yah think?  So clearly, Mr. Snowden, people are starting to pay attention,

As this grumble turns to a roar, data collecting companies and big data will have a problem. And data collection will become opt-in. For the ability to have web apps and web features for free, many will be willing to share their data. Data is scientific and when used properly helps predict behavior and purchase. Data is worth a great, great deal. Databases know the sex of babies, often before grandparents.

Yesterday I mentioned TV ad spending will slow due to social media. Today I suggest digital ad spending will wane thanks to the opt-in sale of personal data. Anytime smell a trend here?


Beyonce meet Kanter Media. Kanter meet Beyonce.


There is an old marketing textbook maxim that states as a brands gets older and more mature, it requires less money to promote.  This promotion argument is based on awareness levels. A consumer aware of a product, needs only a fast reminded and product value pitch to engender a sale. So if a national product introduction through TV costs $7M, then a reminder flight of advertising 2 months later may require only $4 million and deliver the same sales results.  

Beyonce’s launch of her new album, using the web, social media and her millions of followers blew the textbooks out of the water. She did not spend one penny to promote the album and 365,000 units (full albums, not songs) sold in a day.  Her legions of fans did the awareness and value work.  Pearl Jam is the same way; they needn’t take out ads. Pent up demand, loyalty and social remove the need for an investment in promotion for big, big brands in certain categories.   

Not everyone is Beyonce or Pearl Jam. And the wedge between the marketing Haves and Have Nots is a wide one. But the economic impact of social media on overall advertising spending will be massive.  Total advertising spent in the US in 2012 was $140 billion (Kantar Media), and smart marketers with followings like Beyonce are going to pocket a good portion of that money…by being more social and not spending it. As my Norwegian aunt would say “tink about it.” Peace.  

UPDATE:  Kantar disclosed 3Q TV spend was down 6%. Read here:



Beyond the Wireframe.


At a recent Dachis Group conference in NYC, Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis said something that really resonated with me.  I paraphrase, “We’ve been making websites for about 25 years now, wouldn’t you think we could make a good one?”

If great marketing is supposed to make you feel something then do something, Mr. Solis’s rant is dead on.  If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, it’s hard not to well up with emotion. When was the last time you had a single feeling while on a website? About. News. Services. Contact. Websites are little more than navigation tools offering a way for people to find information organized by the most basic of interests.  

Brands and web development companies often don’t get that the home page is not only a positioning tool, it’s a selling tool, and loyalty tool. 90% of websites are navigation tools. Ladies lingerie, third floor. 

When you drop someone at a traffic hub with 6 streets leading out, they make the choice. When you drop them at a location with only one street, you lead the way. You dictate the narrative. You can make them feel something. The only reason user experience is such a growing business today is because websites provide a cacophony of choices, with no brand strategy end in sight.

Cookie me this.

The first time on a website, or on a revised site, a visitor’s pathway should be directed by the brand.  Return visitors should be allowed to navigate their own way. This said, home pages should never be allowed to sit unchanged – to get old. Feel something then do something. This is the way beyond the wireframe. Peace.

Social Media Crackpotism #1.


I visited  the agency website of a new Twitter follower yesterday which describes itself with the catchall, “social, digital, advertising” and probably one other descriptor. The site had a video front and center which talked about new and social media.  The video offered an apocryphal statement I had to tweet: “Storytelling is the foundation of marketing?”  


The What’s the Idea? blog used to be titled “Marketing Musings” until too many people started using musings. Now it is called “Marketing Mythos.”  My goal is to highlight myths and set them straight, among other things. There is an almost a mythological set of beliefs out there being shared daily when it comes to new marketing channels.  Bordering on crackpotism. Ergo my idea to occasionally share some of the silly things I come across. And because these crackpotisms will be shared via the web, I’ll number them – a big online attention-getter.   

Why is storytelling not the foundation of marketing?  Because product is.  Other foundational cornerstones are “price,” “channel,” and “promotion.”   Feel me?  Storytelling may be the foundation of attention and memorability, even oral history — in fact, it’s a pop marketing driver of advertising nowadays — but it is not a fundie of marketing.  Tool, yes. Foundation no.