Advertising

    New Foxtrot Market Campaign.

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    So I came across what looks to be a fairly new retail brand in Chicago called FoxTrot. Nice name, great logo, smart targeting (urban millennials) and a good deal of energy. Also, some marketing peeps with good provenance. They offer some small, welcoming, design-forward brick and mortar stores and a very fast delivery system. All supported by an app.  One hour delivery, in fact. Sales were growing nicely before the pandemic, but now I’m sure they’re scorching.

    Foxtrot just launched a new ad campaign entitled “Good Stuff Delivered.” Not a very high bar they’re setting, with that line though.  And I dare say calling your up-market products “stuff” is not the best of positioning ideas, even with a little millennial je ne sais quoi.

    An article discussing the campaign references a “surprise and delight” strategy. Yet, searching for evidence of same I couldn’t find any. A free gift card? A gratis cup of coffee?

    This is an example of a strategy work that appears to be lead by the ad agency not the brand people. Perhaps, this is my bad for relying on a trade magazine for information, but my antenna go up when I hear surprise and delight.

    I love the business idea. It has legs. But the ad campaign feels a bit helium-based, rather than foundational. Give millennials more credit.

    Peace.

     

    Kill Off That Low-level Dull Tone.

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    We have a mole problem in our neighborhood. A couple of families across the street planted some pinwheel and noise devices in their grass that make a low-level tone that hums for about 7 seconds every half minute. It’s not easy to hear but when it’s quiet, it’s there. I guess it’s not as loud as, say, playing the Rolling Stones with the window open but it’s there. And it’s annoying. After a while, I wonder if it’s worse than having moles. I kinda think it is.

    Marketers and advertisers suffer from this dilemma. They find a low-level selling noise and publish it. Over and over. Over and over. Repetition or frequency are said to be good things in advertising. But when the message is unwanted or uninteresting, it is not a good thing. In my last three posts I wrote about strategy, simplicity/clarity, and stimulation. Good values all. But let’s not forget that we have to overcome boredom. And disinterest.

    When I develop a brand strategy, it is based upon proof of claim. The job of the brand manager is to constantly seek out new proofs of claim. And share them in interesting ways. New proof is the elixir of brand building.Tired and retread proof create brand disinterest.

    So awake lads and ladies. Keep mining your brand proofs. Build a book of them. Cultivate them. Kill off that low-level dull tone.

    Peace.

     

     

    Burger King’s Impossible Whopper.

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    Thanks to high cholesterol I’m a fan of plant based-meats. There’s just so much chicken a man can eat before he grows man boobs. The Impossible Whopper at Burger King is a creature comfort that’s popped up on the landscape for which I am extremely happy. At a certain age you are dealt health cards where you can eat and drink less of the things you love. It sucks. Meat, for me, is one such. (Scrapple please.)

    I’ve eaten hundreds of cheese whoppers in my lifetime but stopped cold turkey about 10 years ago. Thanks to Impossible and Burger King, I’m back. I’m so back.

    (Picture not linked to video.)

    Here’s the thing though. One of the coolest things about Burger King is the brand value “flame broiled.” What’s The Idea? readers know how I feel about the aroma of flame broiled burgers wafting along America’s streets and what a hunger aphrodisiac it is. Flame broiled is a killer differentiator for BK. But my gut tells me Impossible burgers — though they may have conquered the red blood thing with the heme additive – is manufacturing the grease thing a la George Lucas. I’m not sure coconut oil gets them there. The Impossible Burger TV spots do great job of presenting the whopper in a luscious light. But is the “glisteny” juice sprayed on? If so, they should stop. It’s disingenuous. Food stylists live and die by the spray bottle. But the Whopper, Impossible and flame broiling deserve better.

    Glisten to me. I know of what I speak.

    Peace.

     

    Marmot’s super bowl spot.

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    (This post originaly appeared February 10, 2016, then was taken down die to a hack.)

    I love the Marmot brand. I ski in Marmot, I sleep in Marmot, I do outdoors stuff in Marmot. I want to own more of it.  The gear is well-designed, engineered-to-the-max and good looking.  They’ve done a wonderful job with branding and marketing. (I have tend pole that bent, and it doesn’t even bother me. Why? Because Marmot is like family.)

    Then, before the Super Bowl, I saw a Marmot teaser ad campaign and knew I wasn’t going to like. Super Sunday I saw the real thing.  It’s a Goodby, Silverstein and Partners spot, focusing around, you guessed it, a marmot. Were this toilet tissue or insurance, maybe. But cuddly talking Marmot? Oy. I can only imagine the 2 other campaigns the agency pitched to beat this one. It should never have been presented. Lazy ass trade craft. It is so unfitting of the brand.

    I can just imagine the engineers in the goose down research center, breathing feathers all day, watching the game on TV with their friends. “A talking marmot, really?” No wonder advertising and marketing people have a bad name in engineering focused companies.

    As a brand strategy guy and Marmot fan it was a sad day. Even if the spot tested off the charts with the teens and tweens – the next generation of buyers – it was a brand mistake. A 5 million dollar mistake. And that’s a lot of feathers.

    Peace.    

     

     

     

    United Technologies and Dick Kerr.

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    As a kid growing up in advertising I was lucky enough to work on a piece of the United Technologies account. Comprised of Sikorsky helicopters, Otis Elevator, Carrier air conditioners, and Pratt and Whitney, this juggernaut was a fairly unknown master brand. And a master brand saddled with a pretty poor name.

    To elevate the United Technologies brand they turned to a copywriter named Dick Kerr. They could have gone to Ogilvy or JWT but somehow Dick got his foot in the door and became the creative agency of record.

    Dick wrote all-type ads. Wonderful ads. Ads not about helicopters and elevators, but about people. Places. Things. And behavior. At the time these ads ran – as full-pages on back covers of The Wall Street Journal — this type of corporate advertising was unheard of.  At the bottom of each ad, composed of a single top-to-bottom column of type, sat the United Technologies wheel logo. Captains of industry began to read these babies and understand that  holding companies could be much more than the sum of their parts and balance sheets.

    At one point, readership studies showed that 7 of the top 10 “best read” ads ever to run in The Wall Street Journal, were penned by Dick. By United Technologies. UTC make a book out of the ads called Gray Matter named after Harry Gray, then CEO.

    Dick is gone now but in its waning days United Technologies is still benefiting from his writing, his wit and his strategy.

    Below is copy from the first ad in they series, as I remember.

    Keep it simple.

    Strike three.

    Get your hand off my knee.

    You’re overdrawn.

    Your horse won.

    Yes.

    No.

    You have the account.

    Walk.

    Don’t walk.

    Mother’s dead.

    Basic events require simple language.

    Idiosyncratically euphuistic eccentricities are the promulgators of triturable obfuscation.

    What did you do last night?

    Enter into a meaningful romantic involvement
    or fall in love?

    What did you have for breakfast this morning?

    The upper part of a hog’s hind leg with two oval bodies encased in a shell laid by a female bird
    or ham and eggs? 

    David Belasco, the great American theatrical producer once said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.”

     

     

     

    Accenture + Droga 5 = Band Aids and Champagne.

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    So David Droga has decided to sell Droga 5 to Accenture, a deal which should be completed by the end of May. Don’t count on it.  You think Brexit was hard, try getting creative people in a room with business nerds. And I understand Accenture Interactive will be the home not Accenture proper.  (Again, don’t count on that either.)

    I actually think this exercise will be cathartic for both sides of the purchase. There will be agita. Some feathers will fly. But the reality is, the coming together of business and creativity is the exact aspiration of marketing clients. They are business nerds who aspire to be creative, but heretofore haven’t been able to pull it off. So they farm it out.

    The reason businesses are using consulting companies more and more in marketing today, the reason advertising holding companies find the big consultants to be competitors, is because engagement, data and AI are all measurable.  And when you can bang some inefficiency out of the equation (poor or misdirected creativity) you do it.  Or you lose.

    Droga 5 will learn about the dark side. Accenture and Accenture Interactive will learn about the light side. And learning in general will cascade across the marketing business. Break out the Band Aids. Break out the champagne.

    Peace.

     

     

    Adjectives R Us.

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    My alma mater Rollins College is a really neat school. A beautiful school.  But sometimes its beauty overshadows the academics, so someone smart came up with an idea for a YouTube video to downplay the former and highlight the latter. The video is nicely shot but the script is terribly weak.  Shame.

    Once past the beauty shots and facilities recap, about a third of the video, I began counting marketing adjectives. And there were plenty. The same adjectives any school could and would use. In fact, the same adjectives any institution, company or even brand might use.  Adjectives R US.

    There was a good provable “idea” hidden in the copy but it was glossed over. The notion that classes are small enough to mirror post-graduate work. Sorry to say it but the video proved nothing more than a pictorial sales piece. As it stands, the video strategy “more than just pretty” lay fallow and, sadly, uncultivated.

    Peace.

     

    Advertising is not a task for the lazy.

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    Google ran an ad today in The New York Times using an age-old communication device, listing a number of great user-benefits for which people use the service — a nicely bracketed list of searches Google has allowed us over the years. All true. All fairly amazing, were it not for the fact that we’ve been using Google now for 15-20 years.  In a sense it’s what I call “We’re here” advertising – not much more than a simple logo on a page, conveying no new information. A billboard reminder, if you will.

    Advertising that doesn’t engage a reader with something new, something learned, something blue (sexy), is merely “We’re here” advertising. Repetition and/or frequency is a foundational tool for brand building the old school saying goes. According to the logic, consumers won’t remember your message until they see it a minimum of three times. Not a fan. It worked before we were saturated with ads. Not today.

    If the messaging is compelling, if it teaches, if it stimulates – it’s off to a good start.  Then it needs to make you do something. Act. And lastly, it must make a deposit in the brand bank. Alter your attitude in a way that predisposes you to purchase the next time — for reasons brand managers decide. Advertising is not a ask for the lazy.

    Peace.

     

     

    New Cadillac Spots

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    I wrote Friday about the new Cadillac campaign, sight seen. My qualm was actually with the quote by Publicis’ CEO who intimated image, not car sales, was the point of the work.  I get image. It’s an important got-to-have, but it’s not the primary reason for advertising. Image and an on-brand strategy message are imperatives. Not, however, at the cost of selling.

    The Cadillac ad I watched last night on the Oscars was lovely. Of the time. Its heart was in the right place. The product manager/client made the agency show, at least, some old Cadillac cars. But how hard would it have been to show a new model at the end of the spot? Even grayed out a bit? As mentioned Friday, Cadillac’s challenge the past couple of years has been inelegant car designs. Not showing the new model car almost makes me feel, it’s still a challenge.

    Then Cadillac ran another ad introducing the Escala. (Watch the second commercial on YouTube link above.) It’s product first. Product forward. And the car design is huge. Exhilarating.  These two execution could have ben combined a la the “Imported From Detroit” spot from years ago. That would have been some ad craft.

    Peace.

     

    Paper the Walls.

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    Many years ago I learned a trick about advertising from Brendan Ryan, president of FCB/Leber Katz, in NYC. One day he asked the AT&T Network Systems account team to paper the walls with the current campaign. The headline for each as we “Are You Ready.” Network Systems sold the 5E switches to phone companies that powered American communications. So paper the walls we did.

    Mr. Ryan walked around the plush conference room reading sub-heads, looking at visual and dashing through copy here and there. He pointed to campaign outliers and confirmed what he thought to be the idea. Neat trick. Neat way to level-set the idea.

    Fast forward 25 years to an era when communications manifest across more channels than we ever perceived, some with control, many with none. If you were to paper the walls with the myriad comms we generate today, you’d have a messy, messy room. A walk around that room  would remind you why an “organizing principle for product, experience and messaging” is critical. Otherwise known as a brand strategy.

    So me droogies, paper your walls with your internal and external comms and see what-ith you spew-ith into the consumer realm.

    Peace.