Rear-view Mirror Planning

One of my brand planning peeves is what I call rear-view mirror planning. Basically rear-view mirror planners discovery process is all about what’s happened in the past – what’s behind the brand. To take the metaphor further, there are also side-view mirror planners. Side-view planners care about what’s going on now. Which competitors are gaining? What brands, trends, and attitudes have traction today? But real genius in planning is predicting the future. Creating the future. Sound cocky? Yep.
Fashion designers live with this every day, as do artists, and in advertising so do the really great creative people. It requires sticking your neck out. But it’s the fastest way to success. Watch where you are going.

Is Starbuck’s growing too fast?

Uncle Steve thinks so. I happened to be on the periphery of the whole Krispy Kreme collapse a couple of years ago and one thing I said at the beginning was that Krispy Kreme’s expansion plans were going to be its downfall. Adding more stores was okay up to a point, but then putting the donuts in every gas station and big box store, was a tad greedy.
The allure of Kripsy Kreme is that it’s a sweet treat, and too many treats are like to many creeps (Bush Tetras reference.)  Starbucks building 7 stores a day is evidence of that same insatiable build-out thing that many marketers fall prey to. It’s like a drug addiction. The company plans to build 10,000 stores over the next 4 years. I know it’s a big world, but come on. As Lou Carnesecca once told me when referring to Bobby Knight’s erratic, driven behavior “How many cars can you drive? How many steaks can you eat?  
Slow down, Mr. Schultz and smell the chai!

Mario Batali

Mario Batali has been enlisted by General Mills to sell frozen dinners. My big thing in brand planning is context.  Any good creative brief asks the planner to articulate what consumers know about the product or about the competitive offerings. If your product is new or unique, context helps explain your product to consumers with understood cues and meanings, rather than having to spend precious time and energy educating them.
Mario Batali, for those who know his upscale restaurants or have seen him on Iron Chef America is a wonderful and creative chef. Context. If you don’t know Mario but read his name or see his picture on the box you probably note he is Italian (context) and, due to his girth, he believes in his craft (more context). Have you read of his reported dalliances with Courtney Love, you know he is famous. Again, context.
This endorsement and licensing deal with Mr. Batali happens to be a brilliant move for General Mills — much more so, than his endorsement of a cookware line. Mario uses cookware, but is famous for great food. He is a perfect spokesperson, licensor and launching pad for this new product line of frozen pastas.

The Holy Google Empire

“For Google to maintain its current momentum, it needs to become the king of something else beyond search, or play a meaningful role in a market that is much larger than the $16B online advertising market,” said Jordan Rohan, an analyst with RBC Capital Market.”
Take this quote from today’s New York Times and substitute the word “Rome” for “Google,” and you begin to see how voraciousness and gluttony can fuel an empire’s downfall. Google is search. That’s what it does best. What arguably makes it a good fit with YouTube is that Google allows for efficient search of videos. The Google article noted above is about Google getting into the TV ad sales business. This will work, if, and only if, Google focuses on searching for available and open TV inventory, rather than providing strategic ad sales, which goes way beyond technology.
Eric Schmidt, please don’t forget what happened to the Roman Empire…or any empire for that matter.  

Just Do All.

I sit in my cube today in a red St. John’s tee-shirt, Levi’s jeans, and a pair of black high-top Chuck Taylor’s. St. John’s, my favorite college basketball team, is a university for whom I’ve done some strategy work.  Nike has also done a good deal of work for St. John’s.  In fact, their design team came up with the new sports logo. If you are in marketing you know about Nike’s brilliance. 
That said, today Nike is in trouble.  Remember the aforementioned Chuck Tailor’s? They squeak. When Converse was wholly owned, they didn’t squeak.  Now Nike owns “Cons.” Squeak, squeak. Nike is losing focus. They design logos for college basketball teams, re-design uniforms, and even sell golf balls. Nike is now trying to reinvent the tee-shirt, looking at 74 neck variations and changing the wicking properties so they can charge $25 per swoosh.
The WSJ tells us Nike is re-focusing on core, higher margin products. Here are the categories on which they are focusing: basketball, running, soccer, sports lifestyle, men’s training and women’s products.  If that’s focus, I’m Greg Oden.  Under Armour is a company with focus. They will be the next Nike.

Fillmore and Irving Plaza


Two rock and roll brands are merging: The Fillmore and Irving Plaza. Next to CBGB’s, these two rock venues hold some seriously strong rock memories for me and I’m sure many others. My first concert at the Fillmore East included the Pointer Sisters singing with the Elvin Bishop Group, The Allman Brothers Band (Yes, that show.), and Johnny Winter And with Rick Derringer.  Irving Plaza was also a favorite haunt during the punk rock and new wave years. Where else could you watch a show with bigger rockers in the audience than on the stage?


By bringing back the Fillmore name the owner of the brand, Live Nation, is walking on some exciting ice. It’s a powerful rock brand but needs to be managed properly. It’s not Hardees. You can’t open one in every town. There is only so much “good” rock to go around. And if you start showing too much pop, you’ll dilute the brand’s power. 


Preserving the Irving Plaze name (the NY venue will be called “Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza”) is a good idea. New generations of rockers have spilled lots of brew on the floorboards of Irving Plaza, without ever having stepped foot in a Billy Graham venue. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.


We’re here.

What does a page go for in the Wall Street Journal. Michael Dell do you know? 
Dell has started what appears to me to be a new campaign about its business services. The first ad up is one highlighting the DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Here’s what I learned: Dell is working with Daimler (that’s news I guess). Dell helped them work in a more efficient way (benefit). They are in direct dialogue with Daimler (I would hope so). And they offer managed service (outsourcing), server solutions (duh), and 24/7 support (they probably have pagers).
Though one could say the ad contains some information, I would place this ad in the “we’re here” category, which does little more than tell consumers what you sell.
My guess is the copywriter had no clue as to the crux of the Dell/Daimler relationship and, frankly, it smells like he or she never left the copy department to find out. Worse, this may even be an ad developed by Dell in-house. Either way it is lazy work. How many laptops do you think Mr. Dell has to sell to pay for a 4-color page in the journal?

My Calvins

Calvin Klein. When I say the words what image comes to mind?  Well-defined, well-proportioned bodies, whose clothes — if they are wearing any – adorn almost as skin?  Perhaps a bronze patina to the photo?  The focus is always on the form of the body and the beauty of the subject and setting.
Calvin Klein broke a few rules — selling jeans, then underwear, then fragrances.  How can one brand do so well and stand for so many different items? The answer: Calvin Klein was more about the brand, less about the product. That’s why it transferred so easily.  The marketing and advertising focus was always, always consumer-centric. The brand management was true, focused and arrow straight. 
But there are plans today to add to the Klein portfolio: mattresses, gold apparel, watches, cosmetics, cologne. Did I say mattresses?  It will be hard to manage the visual communications in such a way that all these products can take up clear brand space in the mind of the consumer.  It will get muddled. This expanding of the portfolio will dilute Calvin Klein’s branding idea, brand, and consumer franchise. Is it a harvest play?

Music Artist Loyalty

The data is in, digital music single sales (single song purchases) are outpacing albums by 19:1.   Buying music a la carte is killing the music business. Piracy is what the record industry is concerned with but they haven’t been paying close attention to one of the other big issues: how single song sales are diminishing artist loyalty. 
“Only true fans are buying full albums,” is a smart quote by Vatana Shaw of the R&B Group Cherry Hill in the March 26 issue of the New York Times, which gets to the heart of the problem.  Most albums have an array of work — some of it more commercial than the rest. Only after listening a number of times to an album are consumers able to get a full understanding of the artist and their art. That fuller appreciation turns into loyalty.
Single song sales create burn-out.  There is only so long you can listen to a favorite song.  (I ODed on strawberry shortcake as a kid and have rarely been back. The food, not the group. Please.)  The record industry has to get listeners to experience the whole package or artist loyalty will tank. If that happens one and two hit wonders will abound.  

Good call.

Oh, I hope not to end up being one of those self-aggrandizing bloggers who pat themselves on the back for being right all the time.  I find that so cumbersome. But I had to smile this morning upon learning that Crispin Porter Bogusky resigned the Miller account. A few days ago I indelicately suggested that Alex Bogusky fire Miller, which he and Chuck Porter did. Congratulations.  Good call.    
What caused the rift? Miller Lite’s decision to create and produce an ad in-house. I saw that ad last night and it had all the markings of a client-produced spot: it was an “awards” ad. Clients’ love awards ads. They love ads about themselves. Agencies love ads about consumers.
I don’t for a minute believe Miller Lite will remain in-house, it won’t. They are too smart for that. And, the “unfurl the award banner” spot may actually sell a few extra kegs of beer near term. But next agency beware. Miller needs a big strategic idea, but more importantly they need to believe in it.