Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wikibranding driving online brand activism.

Ten years ago I coined the term Wikibranding when it occurred to me that social media would cause brands to become increasingly crowd-defined.  Ten years later, The NY Times has reached the same conclusion. :)

From today's article:  "Social media is the new TV.  In the era when television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image through advertising. Then came the internet, which didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.  Yes, they can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Ford vs Tesla.

Insightful assessment of Tesla vs Ford. From a financial standpoint, Ford has had five straight years of profits amounting to over $24 billion, while Tesla's losses total $2.2 billion over this same period.

From a product standpoint, Ford's Fusion Hybrid is now outselling the Prius. (Plus, Ford is investing $4.5B to create 13 electric vehicles over the next several years.)

Do I admire Tesla and Elon Musk? Absolutely. And I admire even more seeing a 114 year old company reinvent its future.

Here's the article.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Job vs a Profession.

So happy today to be able to spend time with GTB's STRIVE team and talk with young professionals about ways to create a rewarding career in advertising. We discussed the difference between a job and a profession. When viewed as a profession, you commit to being in the business of building brands (not tactics); view your career as a journey of learning; know there is no substitute for hard work and preparation; and always have a POV. Above all, you dare to be wrong!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Want to work in Marcom? Learn to write!

This was drilled into me when I started my career at Ogilvy. I am a better business leader as a result. This is a must read...and do.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Your brand's multicultural strategy is also its growth strategy.

New census data shows that minorities are now the majority in 12% of counties across the U.S.  In 370 counties across 36 states, non-Hispanic whites accounted for less than half the population as of July 2015.

And this trend will accelerate.  Three quarters of Americans age 55+ are white.  Whereas among those aged 18-34, that figure drops to only 56%, and even lower among minors.

In explaining his greatness, Wayne Gretzky credited his father's advice to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.

For marketers, that mean skating to an increasingly multicultural customer base.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Remember when"...I could have been a billionaire.

In April, 2011 Facebook launched Timeline to enable us to chronologically categorize photos and events.

In September, 2008 I scribbled this idea in an old journal that I recently stumbled upon:  Create a website called "Remember When" – a chronological scrapbook of the moments in your life.  

Yes, I had invented Timeline nearly three years before Facebook.  No, I did not do anything with the idea beyond writing it down in an apparent plot to torment my future self.

At the time I was inspired by the insight that many of us have a running stream of memories and events that are sometimes fuzzy on dates and details.  Was it in 5th grade or 6th that I took that camping trip with my childhood friend Mike Harris?  Was that memorable guys reunion trip to Vegas (that we really should not remember) in 2002 or 2003?  In what year did I spar with Muhammad Ali on the back of that plane?  Was the drunken Barney the Dinosaur at Lauren's 4th or 5th birthday party?

The idea was based on a wizard that would prompt and post memories along a timeline so that over time you could see the story arc of your life.  It would include multiple views into your life's chronology – through events or photos or pop culture milestones.

I also wrote about a community of friends posting recollections of shared memories, with an ability to overlay a friend's timeline on your own (what were you doing when I was doing...).  What kills me most is this next notation:  include a way to alert friends when you post a memory that includes them.  
So the moral of the story is this:  If you can dream it you can do it.  And if you do the legal rights before Mark Zuckerberg does. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Why I love working in advertising.

I love working in advertising.

We help companies care about their customers' hopes and dreams.  We help companies grow.  We get to collaborate with smart, funny, talented people with diverse backgrounds and interests.

Several times a year I serve as a guest lecturer at University of California, Irvine and Chapman University.  I enjoy mentoring the next generation of advertising professionals.  They remind me how lucky I am.  When I look out across the classroom, I see in their eyes that they would walk across hot coals to be doing what I do.

I always begin my talks with my profession of love and appreciation for my career in advertising, for being able to spend my days at the intersection of business and everything imaginable.  A day in advertising is a day spent absorbing market dynamics; social trends; new technologies; design; emerging media platforms; pop culture influences.  It's a business of ideas – ideas born of hard work, knowledge and serendipity.

True, it can be a day and night job.  And it can be emotionally draining and stressful.  But, again, we get to work in a business of ideas.  That doesn't suck.

I recently spoke to a group of University of Michigan students who asked me to share my advice as they embark on their careers.  Here's what I told them:

  1. Pursue a profession, not a job.  Whatever you decide to do, be the consummate professional. Accumulate skills and knowledge.  Be great at a few things and not simply average at many things. 
  2. Be curious.  Embrace your career as a journey of learning.  You need not know everything.  But you need to ask more interesting questions of those who do know.  Questions provoke ideas and progress.
  3. Fail.  Learn.  Repeat.  (Need I say more?)
  4. Be accountable.  Blaming others is not only is a waste of time, it's a wasted opportunity to learn and grow.  Victimhood serves no purpose.  
  5. Be dependable.  We value people who do what they say they're going to do.  (True in life, true in business.)  Demonstrate early on in your career your ability to get things done.  
  6. Solve problems.  Don't whine about problems.  It's what we're paid to do.  The sales graph pointing downwards is a problem.  Unhappy franchisees is a problem.  High bounce rates on a website is a problem.  Negative brand perceptions are a problem.  We fix problems. 
  7. Have a voice.  Meetings aren't a spectator sport.  Have the courage to show you are a thinking individual.  Always have a point of view.  Don't worry about whether your perspective is right or wrong.  Expressing your idea will be a catalyst for others to challenge or build upon it.  And this is how ideas are born, from the collision of diverse perspectives.
  8. Reimagine yourself, often.  Don't allow yourself to grow stale.  Enroll in the training your company offers.  Accept opportunities that force you to learn.  Creative people must continually evolve.  Years ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk given by George Martin, the legendary producer of the Beatles.  This was his lasting lesson from the Beatles – they experimented and took risks and, by doing so, avoided a repetitious formula.
  9. Always ask "why" and "why not."  These two seemingly simple questions pack tremendous power.  Why challenges the status quo while also signaling curiosity.  Why not is the eternal anthem of optimists.  It's hard to go wrong navigating by these two questions.
  10. Learn to be a commercial anthropologist.  I believe this is central to succeeding in advertising.  Your anthropologist side requires a fascination with people and the strength to observe without judgement.   The commercial side is a constant reminder that advertising exists to help companies sell.  Keep both sides in equal balance.  Too much human observation without bottom line impact isn't good.  Too much selling devoid of human insights creates a commodity business. 
My parting advice to these students is always the same:  I don't care what you end up doing.  But thirty years from now, make sure you can stand up and say "I love what I do for a living."  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hard work and luck.

Companies can be customers.  Or clients.  Or even partners.  But to me they have been teachers.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with 17 companies listed in Fortune Magazine's 2016 compilation of the world's most admired companies. 

P&G – Coca-Cola Company – Unilever –  UnitedHealth Group – Aetna – American Express – JP Morgan Chase – Hilton – Sony – Medtronic – Applied Materials – Pulte Homes – Best Buy – United – Ryder Systems – Toyota – Ford. 

I continue to learn from all my clients. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How social media is changing new product reveals.

This New York Times article offers a fascinating perspective on how social media is changing product reveals.

This is now the case in fashion.  I wonder if this dynamic is also in play in automotive and consumer electronics – two industries that also reveal products well in advance of the on-sale date.

Interestingly, the music industry is embracing a different reveal strategy – artists now "drop" a new release with no advance notice.  In doing so they own the social news cycle,  burning hot and bright at the very moment when the "product" is on sale.

Something for marketers to consider.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Making companies better.

Can the approach that revolutionized product design change the way entire companies are organized and work?  Can a corporate culture be design centric?

Design Thinking simplifies complexity and makes customer interactions more intuitive and enjoyable.  It emerged out of Stanford's D-School and IDEO.  It is not about aesthetics – it's a business strategy to achieve differentiation, customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Design Thinking forces a company to embrace a more intimate understanding of its customers and their interactions with the brand, and then be very reductive in creating more valuable experiences.  Principles such as user empathy, rapid prototyping and learning from failure make Design Thinking practical and action-oriented.

This practice has been embraced by companies as diverse as Hermann Miller, Apple, Kohler, 3M, Method and Target to improve products and customer experiences.  David Butler, Coke's head of innovation, stopped using the squishy "D-word" and instead talks about how his team can "make stuff better."

So this makes me wonder if Design Thinking can go beyond "stuff" and make entire companies better.

For example, applying Design Thinking to a professional services firm like an advertising agency could have a tremendous impact.  It would inspire us to reorganize in a way that emphasizes what clients value most (e.g., ideas, innovation, results).  We'd simplify how we solve complex marketing challenges to create more time and space for big ideas.  We would emphasize rapid prototyping and use an iterative ideation process to create bigger and more effective ideas.  And together, agency and client, we would have to become more comfortable with risk, an essential ingredient in a test and learn culture.

Team Detroit was born of change.  If any team is capable of being the first to apply Design Thinking to itself, it is us.  After all, it's what we do!

Monday, August 24, 2015

How digital video changes story telling.

Thought provoking discussion on how storytelling differs between TV and digital video.  This goes deeper than length.  It's about breaking free from the traditional closed loop story arc (having a beginning, middle and end) to a more open ended storyline.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What we're doing online.

Great infographic.  It is mind-blowing to see the change in our online behaviors and growth of new platforms in just three years.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Google's take on the future.

I met with the team from Google today and continue to respect the ideas that come out of the Googleplex.  Yes, they're always right on the verge of Big Brother type stuff.  But the stuff they do helps organize our lives and enable us to do more (consistent with their mission!).  Since the future of Google is increasingly the future of us, this is worth watching.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Moore's Law.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Moore's Law.  And I'm typing this on a tiny device that is smaller, more powerful and less expensive than any of its predecessors, yet will be larger, less powerful and more expensive than the device I will likely be using in two years time.  

I became enamored with the power and clarity of Moore's Law when I worked with Applied Materials to help market the world changing merits of nanotech. Moore's Law is one of the primary reasons why we live in awesome times, and why business is increasingly more productive. 

Thank you Gordon Moore.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Never stop learning.

It was good advice then, it remains vital advice today, given the increasing pace of change.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SXSW Panel: What marketers can learn from political campaigns.

From the emergence of mass media via Television, political campaigns have used the medium with great effect to build belief in their candidates. From Eisenhower’s patriotic “I like Ike” campaign, to LBJ’s “Daisy Girl” commercial, campaigns used the broad appeal of television to create belief. Today, technology has democratized conversations and put power into the hands of real people—emphasis on real.

What can Madison Avenue learn from this transformation?

In this panel, we discuss how brands and marketers can adopt the road-tested tactics of successful political campaigns, including smart data segmentation, rapid response, emotional storytelling, and influencer engagement. By moving supporters up the ladder of engagement and asking them to take more and more meaningful actions on behalf of the things they care about, brands can create a community of advocates prepared to act on their behalf anytime, anywhere.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's the state of relationships in a digital age?

As humans, we need to be safe; we want to belong; we yearn to be loved; and, most of all, we hope that we matter – to our friends, to our families, within our communities, and to the companies with which we do business.  Relationships help satisfy these basic needs.  That’s why we seek them. That’s why we need them. 

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the annual JD Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas and pose this question to the audience: What is the state of human relationships in the digital age?  This isn’t an abstract question. As marketers, we have no choice but to confront and resolve this question.  (Click here to see the speech.)

I’ve come to embrace a simple truth about marketing – what’s true in real life should be true in marketing  Listen to our vocabulary:  Brand relationships; Customer relationships; CRM.  If our goal truly is to build customer relationships, then we should dig deeper to better understand how people form real, personal relationships. 

As marketing becomes increasingly driven by data and technology, we must re-learn how to forge more personal, more authentic customer relationships.  In a digitally-driven world, the 4Es of personal relationships—empathy, experiences, endorsement and energy—gives marketers a clear framework for creating relevant and lasting customer relationships. 

After all, to connect with customers that increasingly prize authenticity in companies and brands, it pays to remember that what is true in life should be true in marketing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Meet Generation Z

I don't like the name Gen Z.

Given that this young cohort accounts for nearly 26% of the U.S. population, we could show them a bit more respect by giving them a better name.  They are not last in line, as implied by the letter Z, but in fact are at the forefront of new trends that will impact culture and commerce.

Unlike other generational names, Gen Z conveys little insight into the characteristics of this group.  Boomers aptly described the population boom that follwed WWII.  Gen X drew its name from the cohort's embrace of extreme sports, music and culture.  And the term Millennials came about for obvious reasons.

Gen Z (basically anybody under the age 18) will have an enormous impact on the U.S., both from a social and an economic standpoint – they deserve a better name:

  • Gen Tech, because they draw inspiration from technology, not just the internet.
  • Inclusives, describing their multicultural and co-creative nature.
  • Makers, tapping into their desire to build and create, not just watch and share.

Regardless what we call them, we should first get to know them.  This presentation from Sparks & Honey is a great starting point.

Monday, July 14, 2014


This is a good video about the role that design can play in driving commercial success.  John Maeda is a graphic designer, computer scientist, author and all around big brain.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A quick peek inside Team Detroit.

My previous post summarized Team Detroit's commitment to training and inspiring the next generation of advertising professionals.  This video, produced by our winter crop of interns, gives a peek inside the agency and why it's a great place to grow your career.

Friday, June 13, 2014

David Ogilvy's "teaching hospital" is flourishing in Detroit.

David Ogilvy once described his agency as a “teaching hospital” – a place where young advertising professionals simultaneously learned and practiced their craft.  As the legendary ad man said, “Great hospitals do two things.  They look after patients, and they teach young doctors.   We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people.” Having spent the first 15 years of my career at Ogilvy, I can attest to the benefits of growing up in a culture of learning.  

Team Detroit has picked up the baton that David Ogilvy passed to the next generation and are proud to continue his teaching hospital tradition.

We start our training with the greenest of the green – our quarterly internship program, aptly named The Greenhouse.  Each quarter we take approximately 15 paid interns to work throughout our agency – creative, brand integration, digital marketing, design, media, etc.  In addition to their day-to-day projects, our interns experience job shadowing, community service, personal branding workshops and recruiter sessions.  (Check out our newest crop in the Greenhouse.)

Our Hi-Potential program enables us to spotlight future leaders and give them the chance to grow and shine, including the opportunity to shape Team Detroit’s presence at NewCo.

But the heart of our teaching hospital is the training we provide to people at all levels throughout Team Detroit.  We invest in over 140 training programs covering topics as varied as emotional intelligence, digital technologies, leadership development, team building, presentation skills and so much more.  Many are in-person workshops; others use online and mobile technologies to allow people to learn at their own pace.

It’s long been true in advertising that the best professional development comes from the clients with whom we work.  Spend time working with blue chip marketers in complex, competitive categories and you will get better at your craft.

I’ve been lucky to count among my clients some of the world’s best-known companies, including Ford, American Express, The Coca-Cola Company, Sony, Dell, P&G, Mattel, United Airlines, Hilton, and Callaway Golf.  However, my time working in automotive leads me to believe that this category is probably the best training ground for young advertising professionals.

Young people working on an automotive account receive a master class in brand planning, including brand architecture, portfolio branding and global branding.  They learn ethnographic research, trend analysis, how to balance of rational vs. emotional persuasion. 

Working on a car brand offers exposure to a wide range of career-building skills, whether through debates on design strategies or the application of predictive analytics or how to orchestrate successful product launches.

These up and comers will become fluent in retail marketing.  This is a category in which brand and retail must work in harmony.  Learning how to match media and incentives with demand and competitive dynamics is a critical skill.

And since interactive marketing is increasingly central to successful automotive marketing, these digital natives can flourish, whether in analytics, online, mobile or social.  (In fact, well over half of Team Detroit is immersed in digital marketing.)

Several times a year I get to play hooky and serve as a guest lecturer at the University of California, Irvine and at Chapman University.  I always describe to these graduate and undergraduate students how much I love what I do for a living, because a career in advertising allows us to work at the intersection of business and almost everything imaginable.  Nowhere is that more true than in automotive.  And nowhere is that more passionately embraced than by the 1,500 people at Team Detroit.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Vision of the future, from those likely to invent it.

A fascinating & quick read – POVs from leading thinkers such as Marc Andreessen, Reid Hoffman and others. 

Which industries will tech make obsolete? Which technologies will soon be antiquated? What futuristic tech will soon be commonplace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Marketing as a service.

What if we re-imagined marketing as a way to serve customers?  What if we designed it as a way to provide real-time value and utility to customers?

Our SXSW panel at explored these issues and more.  Marketing as a service harnesses Big Data to provide more meaningful and helpful experiences for customers.  It is a principle born of the belief that the dynamics of customer loyalty have fundamentally changed.  Loyalty can no longer be solely defined by customers staying loyal to a brand.  Because the internet provides us with unlimited choice, the tables have turned – brands must now demonstrate their loyalty to customers by serving them.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The power of design in a connected world.

Michele Silvestri, who leads Team Detroit's global design practice, along with fellow designer Christine Jones, led one of our more popular panels at South by Southwest, discussing how design can help brands become more elastic and integrated in a hyper connected world.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The evolution of storytelling: brands as broadcasters.

This is the keynote address from Team Detroit's panel discussions at SXSW, given by Toby Barlow, our Chief Creative Officer.  We are hard wired to understand stories.  Stories convey meaning.  They help us understand ourselves and our world.  And while the nature of storytelling keeps changing as media platforms evolve, the principles of great stories are timeless.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The audience has an audience.

Here's the video of my speech to the 4As conference last week.

Marketers must remain relevant at a time in which consumers are themselves the broadcasters, sharing content with their own audience via social, mobile and online channels.  By adopting a brand syndication model, with the persuasive power of video's sight, sound and motion at its core, marketers can authentically join the conversation.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A look at two Americas.

Informative report from the Wall Street Journal illustrating America's rural/urban divide.   The gulf has never been wider or more stark – something to think about when creating national marketing strategies.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What leading CMOs are thinking about.

CMOs are beginning to last longer in their jobs.  Executive search firm Spencer Stuart reports that CMO's are staying in their post an average of 45 months, a marked increase from 2005 when the average tenure was only 23.5 months.

So why the increase in job security?   I am seeing more and more senior marketing leaders focussing on enterprise marketing solutions, not just branding strategies.  CMOs are getting closer to their customers through Big Data, digital technologies, multicultural trends, and more contemporary media strategies.  They are working more closely with their company's CIO to develop smarter, data-driven strategies.  This is a welcome change from the days when a new CMO would put their stamp on the company by firing the agency and developing yet another advertising campaign.

The new CMO agenda is focused on four big questions:
  1. How can data and analytics help optimize my company's marketing investment and mix?  How do we embrace Marketing Cloud solutions to get more accurate marketing attribution?  
  2. How fast can we become a "mobile-first" marketing organization to get even closer to our customers, one that embraces "mobile as a service"?
  3. How can we better engage customers who are tuning out of mass media?  Can we lessen our dependence on big campaigns and instead re-imagine marketing communications as an always-on, content publishing discipline?
  4. How can we build a coalition of growth by serving our core customers as well as an increasingly multicultural America?   

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What MBAs can learn from kindergartners.

What do you get when you mix 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow?  A deceptively simple design exercise that reveals clear and instructive lessons in collaboration and innovation.

During an innovation forum today at Team Detroit, Elyse Pachota on our Enterprise Digital team introduced me to The Marshmallow Challenge, which asks teams to build the tallest free-standing structure out the spaghetti, tape, string and marshmallow (which must be placed on top of the structure!).

Watch Tom Wujec's TED talk in which we learn how The Marshmallow Challenge underscores the benefit of rapid prototyping, iterative ideation and the need to uncover hidden assumption early in an innovation process.

Wujec also reveals how Kindergarten kids embrace these innovation principles better than MBA grads and CEOs.  (CEOs score better only when their Executive Assistant participates.  Seriously, I know.)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brands as Broadcasters

Several months ago I attended the Future of Storytelling Conference (#FoST) and helped lead some workshops on "Brands as Broadcasters" and "The Empathetic Corporation."  Great experience.

Yesterday I participated in a follow up conversation held via Google Hangout where a few of us explored these themes more deeply as part of an ongoing effort to harness the power of storytelling, both its timeless principles, and also the new non-linear forms of storytelling.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The future of advertising is in Motown.

If you're looking for the future of advertising you will likely find it at the intersection of real time analytics and custom content creation.

Team Detroit, Ford's global marketing communications agency, is putting this to work today for the launch of the 2015 F-150 – revealed this morning at the North American International Auto Show.

Our Content Studio combines the talents of our analytics, strategy and creative teams collaborating side-by-side with Ford's marketing team (which also includes real time legal input).  Walking through the room feels more like a news room than an advertising agency, and that's the point.  The team's goal is to use real time social sentiment analysis to inspire custom content that responds to the conversation surrounding the launch, thereby amplifying the impact of social media and public relations messaging.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trends for 2014 and beyond.

The second edition of Ford’s annual publication on micro trends, Looking Further with Ford, examines the drivers of change and the complex response of consumers worldwide. This collection of 10 micro trends reflects our view of the attitudes that will alter consumer dynamics across the globe in 2014 and beyond.

Compiled and curated by Sheryl Connelly, who leads Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford Motor Company, it also includes contributions from WPP's Global Team Ford.