A whole lotta “ones.”

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My day job is director of marketing for an Internet start-up called Zude. Zude, we like to crow, is the fastest, easiest way to build and manage a personal website. There is lots more you can do with Zude, but you don’t have the time so that’s the boil down.
 
As people begin to sign up for the Zude Beta launch (May 1) and I review the database of email addresses and comments, I realize that it’s going to be very hard to deal with each of these users (there are thousands) on a one-to-one basis. Now, I have never gone one-to-one with Martha Rogers or Don Peppers, but I would say to them that I can treat my users like individuals. I can mail them more appropriate mail, I can serve up more contextual ads, but I will not be able to have a meaningful conversation with each and every one of them.
 
What I will be able to do is sample their feelings, their likes and dislikes, and design a brand plan that best delivers on that information. With a promise that’s clean and can be articulated without an Excel chart.  If the promise is right and we stick to it, we will have built a brand and a whole lot of “ones” will know what we stand for.

Joe Nacchio

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A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of working indirectly for Joe Nacchio, Qwest Communication’s ex-CEO, who was indicted yesterday for insider trading. I certainly don’t know about his recent escapades, and I can’t begin to understand how someone with seemingly had so much could do something so self-destructive, but I will say that he was one hell of a marketer.
 
While the head of AT&T Business Communications Services in the 90’s, Mr Nacchio used to ask his ad agency McCann-Erickson to develop pretend ad campaigns by chief rival MCI which he used at sales meetings to incite his sales and marketing teams.  When AT&T was in jeopardy of losing a huge portion of its 800 service business, after the government decided 800 numbers could be moved by customers from one long distance carrier to another, he emptied the buildings and sent every able bodied employee out onto the street to meet with customers face-to-face. It not only worked, it really worked.
 
The man was daring and decisive. He didn’t teach, but you couldn’t help but learn. He certainly had a brilliant marketing compass and it took him to the very top of AT&T’s corporate suite; at a time when AT&T was one of the world’s top multinational corporations. Somehow that compass lost its bearing when he left NJ.
 

Mr. Dell open that window.

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Dell’s marketshare is slipping…still. Dell has allowed its computers to be commoditized by its emphasis on price. Okay, those print ads are covered in features too — but for many approvers of computer brands, most of those features are like additives on a can.
 
Dell’s brand imprint is made daily by junk mail (oops, direct response,) catalogs, and full page ads showing 3 boxes, 6 prices and 125 feature bullets. 
 
What’s the idea? What does Dell stand for?  
 
I’m not suggesting they do ads with smiling kids holding laptops aloft in a field of green grass, but come on.  Boxes and features? Who is Dell’s agency? Oh that’s right, they do it in-house. Hee hee.
 
It’s getting stale, and you are not a kid anymore.  Mr. Dell, you need to open a window (lower case “w.”)
 
 

Kmart

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Grey Advertising was just replaced by Draft FCB as agency of record for Kmart. According to Grey’s Jim Heekin, a smart ad guy, Grey just “reinvented the brand, gave it new relevance and created humanity that connected with consumers.” To me, that sounds as if he’s talking about Grey, not Kmart customers.
 
About the change, Kmart CMO Maureen McGuire said “We think the campaign (Grey’s which is about to launch) works well.” The change “is about all the capabilities Draft FCB brings.” To me, that sounds like she’s talking about Draft FCB, not Kmart customers.
 
Nobody is talking about the consumer! Nobody is talking about the idea.
 
Everyone is talking about process. And the subtext is almost always about ego.  Name one consumer who knows the name of an ad agency or CMO.  Consumers know the branding idea. It either works or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, agencies are changed. It’s that simple.
 
It is the idea that consumers keep in their minds. It’s the idea that creates relevance, humanity and connection, to use Mr. Heekin’s words.
 
Campaigns and agencies come and go but powerful branding ideas are indelible.

Words and Copy

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What does it take to be a salesperson? A car? A clean shirt? The ability to say “ask” rather than “aks,” or “you” rather than “youze?” That’s a start, I guess.

What does it take to be a great salesperson? Empathy? The ability to listen? Purpose and confidence? Believability? Yes to all.

What does it take to be a copywriter? A pen? Microsoft Word? A dictionary? A place that will run your ad? A reader?  I reckon so.

What does it take to be a great copywriter? A heart? An ear? A nose (to smell the stale)? Experience with consumers? Experience selling? A steady hand? Huevos?
Yes, 7 times yes.

Words are powerful tools. We must choose each and every one wisely if we are to write great copy.

Too big, too fast?

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Well, Google just stepped over the line. Their recent YouTube purchase only made sense to me because it furthered Google’s franchise as the world’s best search engine. Though video hosting is not a core competence of Google, searching for those videos certainly can be. Now Google has made a deal to buy DoubleClick, the Web’s leading ad server business.
 
Some might say an ad server uses search algorithms to find the most appropriate place to host an ad, but I’m going there. This purchase is about growing bigger and growing faster…in almost Googolplex dimension. It will prove too much food on the plate for one company to eat with elegance. Is anyone getting a Monty Python image?

Things we remember.

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We remember beauty.
 
We remember new.
 
We remember rich.
 
We remember melody.
 
We remember funny.
 
We remember nature.
 
We remember poetry.
 
We remember pain.
 
We remember educators.
 
We remember warmth.
 
We remember charity.
 
We remember happy.
 
We remember love.
 
These are the things we remember.
 
These are the things consumers remember.

Imus

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I’m not a Don Imus fan but I am a listener. Opie and Anthony, please? With Howard Stern gone I turned to Imus to listen to his political guests.
 
Imus and his crew have long made me cringe because of racial undercurrents in their comments. If I can pick up on these cues, I’m sure people of color can. It’s wrong and way unnecessary for someone with a public forum to be so racially offensive. And frankly, it’s not even close to funny.
 
I love ethnic humor and off color stuff, but I don’t tell gay jokes to my gay friends or fat jokes to my overweight friends. Stereotypes and parody are great sources of humor, but name-calling is just plain lazy and juvenile.
 
Imus, and especially Bernard McGuirk who spurs him on, got caught for what they are. Insensitive louts. Does Imus donate lots of time, money, heart and soul to good causes? Yes. But I bet the world’s biggest hate mongers pet a few dogs and kissed a few kids in their day, too.  If he can’t be sensitive and exercise some self-control he should hang up his spurs. 
 
This story made it to the cover of the New York Times today. And it deserved to.
 

Passion or commitment?

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Here’s a quote from today’s New York Times by Sony Electronics new SVP of advertising “Sony’s consumer research showed that consumers had great passion for Sony but that the brand was not making an emotional connection.”
 
Could we please, please stop confusing passion for a brand with commitment? People love Sony because of amazing design and quality. Sony ads need to convey that design and quality and do so without getting in the way.  But to listen to BBDO’s David Lubars it’s all about the ads.  Said Lubars, “They make products that delight people, that are fun and entertaining, and their communications should reflect that humanness.” (I’m sure Mr. Lubars said a lot more this, but that’s all that was reported.) The Times reporter embellished, “The humorous quality of the ads was meant to make the brand feel accessible.” 
 
Passion and “feel good” are byproducts of advertising — related to tone. Commitment to purchase is what agencies need to work on. Commitment to purchase and repurchase are the rational things people conger up when being passionate. Demonstrations of product superiority and difference are the way to that grail.

The diluted talent pool.

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One of my favorite sayings in marketing is “Just when you think you know something about this business, someone comes a long to prove you wrong.” I like it because I coined it.  There are no hard and fast rules about advertising, marketing and branding. There are many good rules, but no absolutes. You have to know, in your gut, when to break the rules…and that’s the fun part!
 
Those in the business who have actually spent some real money and seen what an investment in marketing can do tend to have a pretty good handle on what works and what doesn’t. Those are the people you want to work with.
 
But today’s ROI tools have made it so easy to measure success that marketers don’t rely on “people” to predict success, they rely on the “tools.” By testing click-through rates of online messages or direct mail cell performance they let the tools decide what works and what doesn’t. This is why the advertising and marketing talent pool has become diluted.