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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Power of Empathy

I write frequently about the power of empathy.  (Remember, what's true in life is true in marketing.)  But I never thought about the contrast between empathy and sympathy.  This piece nails it. (As usual, as does RSA's animation.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cord cutters, aka, the death of TV.

This article from Business Insider provides a clear and fact-based analysis of the upheaval in the TV/cable industry as more and more Americans cut the cord and instead get their video fix via broadband, through services such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, Aereo,, et al.  This massive change in media consumption patterns is the bi-product of new generational trends, broadband, economics and, of course, the declining quality of network television programming.  (As the great poet Springsteen sang, "57 channels and nothin' on.")

Here are Business Insider's major conclusions:
  1. People are unplugging.
  2. Cable TV ratings are sinking.
  3. Fewer people are watching TV.
  4. Ratings for some major TV events are in decline.
  5. For the first time ever, the number of cable TV subscribers at major providers is about to dip below 40 million.
  6. Cable and broadband companies are increasingly unable to retain customers.
  7. For the first time ever, less than half of subscribers at major broadband companies now subscribe to cable TV.
  8. Fewer households actually have TV.
  9. Few households have TV because they are watching video on mobile devices instead.
  10. Mobile video is booming.
  11. Tablets are stealing prime time, the period we used to devote to TV.
  12. Ad dollars are following eyeballs, shifting from TV to digital media of all kinds.
  13. Ad revenue increases are masking the macro decline in TV.
  14. People who are unplugging from both Cable TV and broadband internet are likely going to free wifi.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The power of the first follower.

I've always loved this lesson in leadership.  It's not the leader that sets movements in motion.  It is the first follower that shows the courage to be the first person to stand up and embrace change.  The organization tends to model this behavior, not that of the so called "leader."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beautiful storytelling.

This online film series from Intel and Toshiba brings together so many powerful elements – the power of storytelling, the acknowledgement that digital media is a powerful branding platform, and the energy and momentum we can create when we let the audience own, personalize and share the message.

Ideas like "The Beauty Inside" are what inspire me to work in this business.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Digital marketing as a service.

Today at a global marketing meeting I was asked for my point of view on which company is doing digital right.  My answer?  Delta.  The reason I chose Delta is two-fold:  First, they're using digital to reshape marketing as a service (MaaS); second, they are quickly distinguishing themselves in an industry often associated with poor customer service.

I admire what Delta has done over the last few years to employ digital tools to transform marketing into something that serves customers and not simply sell to them.  Witness these examples.

The Delta mobile app provides friction-free service.  I can shop, book and manage my account while sitting in Starbucks.  It will help me remember where I parked my car at the airport.  The iPad version even includes something called Glass Bottom Jet, in which I can watch the world pass underneath me in-flight.  Several weeks ago, in that wretched moment when the baggage carousel stopped without first producing my bags, the app enabled me to scan my boarding pass and find my bags.  That is mobile marketing as a service.

Delta uses social media (@DeltaAssist) to provide real-time, personalized customer service.  Their social service team attempts to resolve customer complaints on the spot.  It's impressive.  A colleague recently told me how on a recent flight his family's seat assignments were scattered throughout the plane.  So, after not receiving help at the boarding gate, he tweeted his plea to @DeltaAssist and received a direct message resolving the issue by seating his family together.  That is social marketing as a service.

By the way, I'm posting this using GoGo in-flight wifi, a standard on almost every Delta flight.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Native Advertising 101

I found this primer on native advertising – aka, content marketing – to be very helpful.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Persuasion and the Power of Story.

Jennifer Aaker studies happiness, and how stories can affect our happiness; she believes that stories are more meaningful–more memorable, more impactful, and more personal–than statistics alone.  This short film captures the persuasive power of storytelling.

I've long believed in the power of stories.  Stories convey meaning.  And meaning trumps information.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

The future of storytelling.

I've frequently posted about how great brands tell great stories.   So you can imagine how geeked I'll be to attend this event in NY next month.

Stories are a very potent form of communicating. Stories help us understand. They convey meaning. And in an overwhelming and fast moving world, meaning trumps information.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The hands-free web.

Three innovations seem to be signaling the future of how we will interact with technology.  We may want to call it the hands-free web.

Google Glass, Apple's Siri and now Leap Motion's gesture controller all point to a similar future, but are getting there by different roads.

Google Glass enables us to "wear" the internet, having it always on and within sight.  Siri signals a future in which we may have Siri-enabled homes that allow us to access the web with simple voice prompts (and we can only hope a later version will understand that "find restaurant" does not mean "blind astronaut").  And now Leap Motion's gesture controller takes us one step closer to feeling like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, controlling technology through intuitive hand movements.

Glass still involves the presence of a physical object to access the web – ie, the glasses.  This technology is pointing toward a cool future, but I don't think it's the final destination.  My hunch is that future will be "touchless" – the web will surround us and require no physical objects or interaction – and will be accessed through a combination of voice and hand gestures.  Of course, that is until we have a chip embedded at birth. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rethinking Apple's culture.

Today a judge found that Apple conspired to raise the price of eBooks in collusion with the leading publishers.

Brands are often an extension of a company's culture.  (Think Harley, Oakley, Wal-Mart, etc)  That is why I believe Apple's challenge won't be solved through advertising.  The company must rethink its culture – be the company that democratizes great things instead of being elitist and evil.  (Wasn't that the moral of Apple's epic 1984 spot?)  Culture shapes values and behavior, which in turn shapes a brand's persona.

We fell in love with Apple because of its values, and because it always seemed evident that company's actions (product, pricing, promotion, etc) were in sync with its values.  In real life, when a person's words and actions are consistent, we call that credibility.  So too in brand marketing.  (Remember:  what's true in life is true in marketing.)

My greatest hope is that Tim Cook will invest more time getting Apple's culture right again.  Because we know how inspiring Apple can be when its values and behaviors are in sync.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creativity for left brainers.

Over the last two days I led a live case study for MBA students at the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.  Their challenge was to identify a new flavor for Dasani Drops that is relevant to the brand and could drive incremental sales.  I am grateful for the hard work shown by all 12 teams and am excited to get two teams in front of my friends at Coca-Cola.

Beyond evaluating the soundness of each team's research and findings, I was also looking for signs that they were willing to color outside the lines.

In the innovation workshop I run for left brainers, I explain that creativity is not a dark art – it is simply counter-intuitive problem solving.  Yet if corporate whiteboards could talk they would tell tales about the three most common creativity killers:
  • We accept assumptions and end up solving the wrong problem.
  • We know what we know and narrow our thinking within well-trodden mental paths.
  • We aren't comfortable pursuing multiple solutions and lock in too early on a solution.
The innovation framework I teach exhorts left brainers to embrace four catalysts for creativity:
  • Define:  As Norman Berry once said, "Give me the freedom of a tightly defined strategy."  Challenge the definition of the problem you've been asked to solve.  Create a ruthlessly well-honed problem statement.  A more accurate definition of the problem will inspire more specific, imaginative and effective solutions.  (The design team tasked with creating a better water bottle for bikers recast that challenge as creating a better way for bikers to hydrate.  The outcome was the Camelback.)
  • Know:  Michelangelo is said to have tweeted, "A man paints with his brain and not with his hands."  Creativity flows from knowledge, not guessing.  Category knowledge is essential.  But limiting our knowledge to this can stifle fresh ideas.  New information from other categories and seemingly unrelated trends will disrupt preconceptions.  For example, a few of the Dasani teams looked beyond water to examine trends in flavored vodkas and emerging culinary taste profiles.
  • Invert:  Not to be outdone by Michelangelo, Einstein once quipped that "Imagination is more important than knowledge."  The process of inverting a problem requires that we pick it up, turn it upside down, and see it with fresh eyes.  If we are in the hotel business, let's solve the problem as if we were in the entertainment business.  If we are in the packaged good business, let's ask ourselves how Apple might solve this problem.  By inverting the problem we free ourselves from the ankle bracelets that trap us within the conventions of the category in which we work.
  • Collaborate:  One of my favorite maxims is "We > Me."  The era of the lone genius is dead.  The biggest ideas result from the collision of disparate ideas, perspectives and people.  Collaboration isn't about brainstorming with people who are similar to you; it works best when you're brainstorming with people who are dissimilar to you – people from disciplines outside of marketing; people with a different lifestyle or upbringing; people who might look at the problem from a very different perspective. (For example, if you're brainstorming products for kids, don't limit brainstorming to parents – throw in a few teachers who actually spend more time with these kids than parent do.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Apple rediscovers the power of empathy.

Empathic Marketing is a model for integrated marketing that I developed from a simple human observation – what's true in life is true in marketing.  It was inspired by my observations over time and across categories that the ways in which we form personal relationships mirror how we form brand relationships.  The 4Es of relationship building – empathy, experiences, endorsement and energy – shape our best and most lasting relationships, both in real life and with the brands we embrace.

Apple has long mastered the 4Es.  At its launch, it struck an empathetic bond with creative souls everywhere who yearned to think different.  Its stores, not to mention its its design and packaging, created experiences that transformed perceptions into deeply-held beliefs.  Its legions of fans created a peer-to-peer endorsement network.  And Apple's steady cadence of new products created a aura of infectious momentum and energy.

However, I believe that Apple's advertising lost its emotional stickiness years ago, probably around the iPhone launch when it's communications focused more on app functionality.  The new iPhone campaign fixes that.  It artfully reminds us of its intimate and irreplaceable role in our life, not through app functionality, but through authentic emotional empathy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I love teaching.

One of the reasons I love teaching at Chapman University and UC Irvine's Merage School of Business is having the opportunity to inspire just one student to pursue a profession that pays you to connect the dots between business and almost everything imaginable (technology, art, social trends, pop culture, media...). It's a huge investment of time, but this feedback from that "one" student makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Liberating marketing from old vocabulary.

In my recent talk to the students at Chapman University's Internet Communications Program, I exhorted this next generation of marketing ninjas to help liberate marketing from the antiquated vocabulary that fosters silos in how we think and act:
  • We must reject tired distinctions such as "traditional vs non-traditional" marketing.  (There is only traditional thinking...and this is punishable by irrelevance!)
  • We must admit that terms such as "new media" represent old thinking.  (If you want to make anyone under 25 laugh, refer to mobile as "new media.")
  • We must not allow "offline and online" to live in separate silos.  (In a world of QR codes and second screen viewing, is anything truly "offline"?)
  • We cannot restrict "brand advertising" to mean TV and print.  (The Internet is the most powerful branding tool ever.  Storytelling.  Sight, sound, motion.  Peer endorsement.  Experiences.)
  • We must embrace media as a source of creativity.  (How and where a brand appears is as important as what it says.)
  • We need to enthusiastically embrace metrics, both hard and soft.  (Ignore store traffic and nobody will care about the awareness gain.  Similarly, click through rates at the expense of emotional relevance and differentiation will not matter if the brand degrades to commodity status.)
Finally, we must break with the past.  Old branding models are out of step with the way in which people consume media and interact with brands.  Instead, new models such as Empathic Marketing build brand relationships by mirroring the ways in which people tend to form real, human relationships.  These 4Es of real relationships –  empathyexperiencesenergy and endorsement – form a clear and measurable brand planning model to help marketers create more customer-centered brand platforms.  After all, what's true in life is true in marketing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Introducing Empathic Marketing.

Yesterday at Chapman University's Internet Communications Program I shared my approach to Empathic Marketing, the integrated marketing model I developed from a simple, human observation:  What's true in life is true in marketing.

Empathic Marketing was inspired by my observations over time and across categories that the ways in which we form personal relationships mirrors how we form brand relationships.  

Forces such as empathy, experiences, endorsement and energy help shape our real life relationships.  Think about the people with whom you enjoy your most lasting relationships.  It’s likely those individuals who “get you” because you share the same values, sense of style, point of view or sense of humor; these same people are likely those with whom you've enjoyed truly memorable experiences; they are likely the people you trust most because their reputation is consistent; people who always seem to be up to something new and interesting.

What’s true in life is true in marketing.

These 4Es of real relationships –  empathyexperiencesendorsement and energy – form a clear and measurable brand planning model to help marketers create more customer-centered brand platforms.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lessons in leadership from an accidental CEO.

One of my favorite quotes is in Tom Peters' book, Re-imagine"If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less."  This quote always serves to remind me that life, let alone our careers, is a journey of learning and growth.

Today I was invited to give a talk on leadership to the Executive MBA program at the University of California Irvine's Merage School of Business.

My lessons in leadership are a work in progress.  They are skills I've learned through trial and a lot of error; skills that I'm constantly refining; skills that I hope will inspire these Merage students to develop a style that is tailored to their unique talents and personalities.

I often refer to my self as the "accidental CEO" because I never set as a goal occupying the top box on the org chart.  Instead, my goal has always been to take on new challenges and to keep learning and growing.  Years ago, when I was President of Y&R in Southern California, a friend of mine shared with me this quote:  "Those on top of the mountain didn't fall there."  I've kept this on my desk for the past seven years as a reminder that the harder I work the luckier I get.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seven universal stories all marketers should know.

I've written frequently about the power of archetypes and storytelling in creating enduring branding strategies.  After all, archetypal personalities tend to transcend time, cultures and geography.  We are hard wired to understand the Ruler, the Jester, the Magician, et al.  Defining a brand in archetypal terms will resonate more deeply with consumers than surface level "tone and manner" statements.  As for stories, I think we can all agree that stories convey meaning, and in the media saturated world in which we live, meaning trumps information every time.

This piece published in Adweek offers a very helpful insight into the seven archetypal plot lines told in literature and movies.  Every brand marketer should know these time-tested narratives.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Challenging misperceptions of challenger branding.

T-Mobile's new campaign is a promising example of challenger branding in action.

A common misperception of challenger branding is that it is simply a case of the #2 or #3 brand tweaking the category leader.  However, challenger branding is more nuanced than that.  There is a range of challenger branding models:

  • "The higher cause" – challenge consumers to lift their sights and opt for something more meaningful than what's offered by the status quo.  Dove has championed this approach in its "real beauty" campaign through its opposition to the falsehood of media-defined beauty.
  • "For all of us" – a democratization strategy in which a brand liberates and makes available to the masses what has heretofore been exclusive or out of reach.  Target democratized chic design, starting years ago with the Michael Graves toasters.
  • "Change of the guard" – the classic storm-the-palace strategy in which the leader is repositioned as out of touch and out of date.  Apple epitomized this with its famous 1984 commercial.  Years later, it seems Samsung is using this very same strategy against Apple to market its Galaxy smartphones.
  • "Counter culture" – an approach that enlists bands of co-conspirators to zig when the category leader demands that we zag.  Miracle Whip has employed this successfully in its underground war against mayonnaise.  Apple played in this area for years with its exhortation to "think different."
  • "The common man" – an empathic strategy that challenges the category elite by siding with the common sense point of view of the average person (if there is such a person).  Miller High Life's "delivery guy" rants are a text book example of this in action.
  • "Total rethink" – a moment in time in which a marketer draws a line in the sand and declares that "there's got to be a better way."  The new T-Mobile campaign is the latest example of this approach.

One final and important point about challenger branding:  never confuse challenger branding with competitive advertising.  Challenger branding should feel like a movement; a moment in time in which things will be different from this point forward.  Consider Bing's effort to challenge Google.  They conduct product comparisons that show that people prefer Bing over the category leader.  But it doesn't feel like a call to arms or an invitation to rethink all you've known to date.  It simply offers up the facts and invites us to try Bing.  Perfectly effective comparison advertising, but not challenger branding.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is Facebook fatigue setting in?

Yes, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.  Some highlights:

  • 27% of Facebook users in the US who were surveyed reported that they plan to reduce the amount of time they will spend on the site.
  • The study found that 61% of Facebook users have taken a break from the site for several weeks or more.
  • A lack of time and interest seem to be driving this trend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Social media demographics.

We're beginning to get a better understanding of who is using social media, thanks to new research studies such as the one released recently by the Pew Research Center (and published in Adweek).  Some highlights from the Adweek article:
  • Two-thirds of internet users engage in some form of social media, with Facebook being the dominant platform.
  • Women are more likely than men to use social media, and are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest:
  • When in comes to ethnicity, Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to use Instagram and Twitter.
  • Not surprisingly, social media uses is highest among 18-49 year old internet users.  Among the 50+ segment, Facebook by far the preferred platform. 

  • Level of education doesn't seem to drive social media usage overall, but it does seem to influence the relative choice of platform.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The second screen revolution.

Today Twitter announced that it bought Bluefin Labs, a software company that analyzes online conversations about television programming.  Here's why.

A decade ago pundits predicted that the battle for Interactive TV would be won by whichever company owned the set top box.  Perhaps a Cable TV company, or Microsoft's Xbox.

This didn't turn out to be true.  Like most bad predictions, we based our view of the future on what we knew in the moment.  We didn't know what we didn't know.  For example, in 2003 we did not know about Smartphones, Tablets and WiFi enabled homes.  These three technologies have since conspired to bring about a new form of interactive television – second screen viewing.

Americans are increasingly watching TV while interacting with the content via a mobile device – aka, the second screen.  We share our opinions about what we're watching on TV on Twitter and Facebook.  We quickly research information about the product we just saw advertised.

  • 88% use a mobile device while watching TV.
  • 45% use a mobile device to access social media during TV ads.
  • 27% look up information about a product they just saw (slightly higher among women than men).
  • Not surprisingly, this behavior is higher among teens that older boomers (62% vs. 33%).
The second screen revolution is prompting advertisers to rethink the old school call-to-action.  Instead of inviting viewers to visit, we are seeing a steady increase in calls-to-action to join a twitter conversation (via a #hashtag), to get deeper content by using Shazam to tag the commercial, or simply to visit the brand on Facebook, the website the viewer is likely already on as they're viewing the commercial.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Micro financing a car.

Some ideas are brilliant in their simplicity.  The Dodge Dart Registry is one of those ideas.

The website allows prospective Dart buyers to get friends and relatives to help fund the car.  It elegantly intersects several existing behaviors and cultural dynamics:  It is grounded in the familiar behavior of gift registries, then adds new dynamics from the worlds of microfinancing and social graphs.

Buyers start by configuring the car.  Then they set a funding goal.  Finally, they push the registry out to friends and family who can choose to fund the wheels, sound system, leather upgrade, etc.

Instead of innovating new message to tell me why I want a Dart, Dodge opted to innovate new ways to make it easy and fun to buy a Dart.  Proof that the path to getting to a new answer often starts with asking a different question.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Digital trends in 2013.

This time of the year always brings a surfeit of predictions and prognostications.  Having said that, I do believe this Adweek story does a good job pointing us toward the larger events on the interactive marketing horizon.

I continue to believe that the future of interactive is inextricably linked to the future of mobile.  Two themes in the Adweek story, should they fully materialize, have the potential unlock mobile's true marketing value:  "second screen" viewing and mobile payments.

And while thinking about the future of mobile, check out this demonstration of Blippar, a platform that may make QR codes seem quaint in due time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marketing's new normal.

Today I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at Chapman University's Internet Communications class.  Cory O'Connor, the Assistant Professor who extended the invitation, knows a thing or two about shaping strong brands, having been Sr. VP for the Disney Channel.

My goal was to outline a few themes that have bounced around this blog, particularly that marketing communications professionals should embrace marketing's new normal by eschewing tired distinctions between "online" and "offline", "traditional" vs "nontraditional", as well as my favorite old school term – "new media."  Further to my crusade to simplify planning by stamping out jargon, brand pyramids and Venn Diagrams, I also outlined my simple belief that what is true in life is true in marketing – i.e., they way in which we form personal relationships mirror how we form brand relationships.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Why I love what I do.

First of all, I work in a profession that sits at the intersection of business and everything – technology, art, pop culture, entertainment, societal trends, media.  How can you not love that?

I get to solve business problems that help companies grow. I try to never forget why we do what we do.

I get to live each week as a commercial anthropologist.  The inspirations I need are constantly swirling around me, whether I'm on Facebook witnessing nascent online memes, seeing a new special effect in a movie, learning about new technologies in Wired, scanning relevant business trends in the Wall Street Journal, or walking through the grocery store and watching how people shop (creepy, I know).

I get to have weeks like the one I just had – one that reminds me that I actually have multiple careers:  I work in fashion (reviewing fashion trends for Charming Charlie); spirits (digging for insights for SKYY on why women love flavored vodkas);  fine jewelry (working with teams to define the true meaning of "love at first sight" for Tacori); travel (discussing positioning for Cunard Cruises); and bottled water (exploring angles on health and wellness for Dasani).

I get to engage in conversations about "what's next" – exploring new ways to link social media to retail; vetting new applications of interactive technologies in retail stores; investigating how Millennials value corporate social responsibility.

I get to inspire the next generation of talent, whether doing one-on-one training or preparing for next week's talk at Chapman University.

Most of all, and this has always been true, I get to work with really interesting, smart, curious and fun professionals.

Thirty years on, I love what I do.  This week was just another one of those weeks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What marketers can learn from the election.

There's little doubt that the line separating politics from marketing is fading with each campaign.  The purpose of this post is not to comment on that dynamic, nor to offer commentary on the recent presidential election.  Rather, it is to examine the aftermath of this campaign and see what lessons marketers can learn from these increasingly sophisticated and well-funded political campaigns.

Here are three simple questions a marketer can ask before launching a major new campaign:

Are you aligning your brand with emerging demographic trends?  Chances are your customer base looks nothing like you – it is increasingly multicultural; it must appeal to a new generation of well-educated and empowered women; it is consumed in gay and lesbian homes.  This doesn't suggest that a marketer should abandon its core customer group.  What this means is that we should stop treating "diverse" audiences as secondary or tertiary targets and make sure these customers are well represented in the brand's main campaigns and media strategies.

Are you using analytics to understand the science of persuasion?  Gut feel doesn't cut it nine out of ten times.  We live in a world of facts and analytics.  Use data to understand how consumers behave.  The Obama campaign team built a massive predictive analytics database to guide media selection, direct mail offers and advertising messaging.  Setting aside political leanings, this is precision marketing at its best.

Is the brand idea built on clearly defined brand equity?  Consumers, like voters, seek clarity.  This is not likely to change any time soon.  In fact, given the 24/7 media overload, clarity is more important than ever.  Obama's campaign organized all of its messaging within a simple one-word brand equity:  Forward.  It was clear and positive. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Leadership lessons from dancing guy.

Love this video..."Leadership lessons from dancing guy." So true, it's not about the leader, it's about the risk taken by the early followers. That's how movements happen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Handbook for left brainers.

I was invited this week to speak to a group of marketing executives at Kimpton Hotels about how to become a more creative thinker.

If you're familiar with Kimpton, then you know the company is creative to its core.  Michael Depatie, Kimpton's CEO, exhorts employees to "celebrate the tries, even if they don't work."  Niki Leondakis, Kimpton's President, supports a culture of creativity by saying "if you're not willing to laugh at yourself and be silly, then we're probably not the company for you."

Clearly I was not there to inspire Kimpton to be creative, but rather to provide a framework and useful tools to help teams create bigger ideas more frequently.

To me, creativity is not a fluffy art, it is counter-intuitive problem solving.  The first step is to recognize and avoid the top three creativity killers:  (1) We accept assumptions and solve the wrong problem; (2) We know what we know and narrow the scope of our thinking to ideas that are familiar (perceptual narrowing); (3) We lock down too soon and don't pursue multiple solutions (divergent thinking).

My framework for creative problem-solving follows four steps:

  1. Define:  Create a ruthlessly well-honed statement of the problem – challenge assumptions; be specific about what you want to achieve.
  2. Know:  Gather new and relevant information to disrupt preconceptions.
  3. Collaborate: Remember that ideas get bigger when they result from the collision of disparate perspectives, experiences and people.
  4. Invert: Consider the problem from a radically different perspective to disrupt familiar mental routines and get to new and innovative solutions.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Re-imagine your website as a branded newsroom.

Ian Schafer's article prompts an interesting idea.

Normally we design websites to get people to visit the brand.  What if we changed the goal and instead designed a website programmed around socially shareable content?

By "programming" Mr. Shaffer is suggesting that we keep the content fresh and interesting on a daily basis, similar to the continuous editorial decisions made at an entertainment news website or TV network.

This would require that the website be led by an editor-in-chief charged with making daily content decisions about news/videos/tips that will increase the brand's chances of being shared within social networks.  Like the article suggests, the website would be run like a newsroom.

Love ideas such as this that totally reframe a problem.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The importance of brand empathy.

This piece from HBR corroborates they key themes I've advocated in my 4Es branding model.

HBR calls into question the commonly accepted belief that customers want relationships with brands.  They don't.  It goes on to point out that what customers seek is a sense of shared values.

That's why I've embraced a brand planning model based on the power of empathy.

As I've written previously, I believe that the way in which we form brand relationships mirrors how we form personal relationships.  Forces such as empathy, experiences, energy and endorsement help form our real life relationships.

Empathy tends to be the basis of our strongest and lasting personal relationships.  We connect with people who share our values, sense of style, even our sense of humor.  This holds true with brands.  Brand empathy occurs when customers project onto your brand their own attitudes and values.

Like people, brands are judged by what they do, not just by what they say.  We tend to believe something after we've experienced it first hand.  In marketing, well orchestrated brand experiences help turn perceptions into beliefs when customers sense a brands words and actions are in sync.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nostradamus and social media

I've been in conversations lately in which people predict that social media will prove to be a marketing folly – a waste of time and money better spent in other channels.

This may or not be true.  I don't know.  I'm not sure even the great 16th Century seer could give us guidance.

However, I do believe that the way in which we'll use this medium in the future will be very different than how we're using it today.  It will evolve in ways we cannot yet see, and in doing so will become more useful for marketers.

Why do I believe this?  Sometimes the past can give us a clue to the future.

Back in the late '90s, and even in the early 2000s, the way in which agencies and marketers used the web bears no resemblance to the way in which we're using it today.  First of all, dial-up was the dominant access method, so it was unrealistic to use rich images and long-form video (the dominant form of interactive marketing today).  Second, we were very inexperienced in this new medium, so we treated the web as a one-way, broadcast version of a brochure.

Back in the 2000s, there were breathless predictions about the advent of interactive television.  The battle for control over this new form of marketing was being defined by the set-top box – the source of viewer interaction.  Or so we thought, until recently when we began witnessing the emergence of "second-screen" viewing, in which viewers interact with broadcast content through a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

In the case of the web, we couldn't see a near future in which broadband would change the online experience, and how the web would evolve from a broadcast medium into a service channel.  And as for interactive television, we didn't see the iPhone coming.

The moral of the story is that we should not define a medium's future potential based on our current practices and the current state of its technology.

So will social media evolve into a powerful marketing platform?  Probably.  But not in the form in which it exists today.  Savvy agencies and marketers will test, learn and be ready for what comes next.

Oh, in case you're wondering, @Nostradamus has 1,449 followers.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homeward. Onward.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." ~ Andre Gide

This is one of life's bittersweet moments.  I'm choosing to lose sight of the shore in order to get back to the ocean I love.  After five amazing years, I have decided to leave Barrie D'Rozario Murphy and return home to Southern California. 

Partnering with Bob Barrie and Stuart D'Rozario and everyone at BD'M has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.  Bob, Stuart and I always joked that in 2007 we ran off together to join the circus – an experience I will always cherish and would never trade.  We had fun.  We did well.  Together, we built an award-winning agency that earned the confidence of clients such as Dell, Lands End, Del Webb, Wagner, Medtronic, Applied Materials, Best Buy and United Airlines. Along the way we were named "Best Small Agency in the U.S." by the 4As.  We won some EFFIES and a Gold Lion in Film at Cannes.  Not to shabby for our "grown up start up."

While I'm sad to leave the many friends I have in Minneapolis, my decision to return home is a happy one because it will allow me to spend more time with my daughters, plant roots and have just one place that I call home.  Also, those who know me well know that I'm a sea critter – I am happiest by ocean.  And as luck would have it, Lambesis overlooks the beach.  (Several of my friends told me they knew something was up when I posted recently on Facebook that I was no longer selling my boat.  I have clever friends.)

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream. Discover." ~ Mark Twain

Here's to knowing when it's time to set sail for new lands, and to knowing when it's time to point the compass back towards home.

Homeward.  Onward.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Celebrating creative brilliance in Cannes

I tip my hat to my peers whose work has been justly celebrated in Cannes.  This is the level of creative innovation that keeps me excited and passionate about my profession.  To echo the great Adidas mantra – impossible is nothing.

Here's some of the work that not only inspires me, but clearly inspired the judges in Cannes:

Solar Powered Annual Report:
Austria Solar and its design firm, Serviceplan Munich, produced this Annual Report that featured nothing on its pages until you exposed it to sunlight – a brilliant way to reinforce the company's mission.  (Watch this video to see it in action.)
Nike Fuelband:
Nike's new Fuelband is a sleek wristband that allows you to track daily calorie burn throughout the day.  It's brilliance is not just its design or function but its ability to seamlessly integrate the Nike brand into your entire day, beyond the gym. Kudos to Nike and R/GA.  (See the commercial.)
Mercedes Invisible Drive
How do you promote a zero-emission vehicle?  Make it invisible.  And that's what Mercedes and its agency, Jung Von Matt, did by covering the car with LED lights that displayed images from cameras mounted on the side of the car, creating the illusion that the car was "invisible."  (Watch the video.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A jargon-free approach to brand planning.

Today I had the opportunity to be the guest speaker at Chapman University's Internet Communications class.  Cory O'Connor, the Assistant Professor who extended the invitation, knows a thing or two about shaping strong brands, having been Sr. VP for the Disney Channel, so I was honored to get the call.

My goal was to outline a few themes that have bounced around this blog, particularly that marketing communications professionals should embrace marketing's new normal by eschewing tired distinctions between "online" and "offline", "traditional" vs "nontraditional", as well as my favorite old school term – "new media."  Further to my crusade to simplify planning by stamping out jargon, brand pyramids and Venn Diagrams, I also outlined my simple belief that what is true in life is true in marketing – i.e., they way in which we form personal relationships mirror how we form brand relationships.

As always happens when I speak to students, I think I'm the one who comes away more inspired about my profession when I see the passion they have to enter it.

Welcome To Advertising's New Normal.
View more presentations from David Murphy

Friday, April 20, 2012

Why diversity matters in advertising.

The imperative to create a more diverse agency culture is not something we should do because it is politically correct. It's something we must do to ensure the long-term success of our industry.

We are in the business of helping clients build their business through our unique ability to understand and connect with main street America. We did this well over the years largely because we tended to mirror the face of America.  As the American landscape continues to become more diverse, so must agencies, or we risk falling out of touch with consumers and becoming less capable of providing clients with fresh, relevant ideas.

In many states across the U.S., multicultural markets are increasingly mainstream – not just in California and New York, but also in states like Delaware, Maryland, Louisiana and Nevada.  In each of these states the white population accounts for about two-thirds or less of the total (2010 US Census).

If you want a glimpse of the future, look no further than the ethnicity of the youth market:  among people under 18 years old, whites make up only 57% of this cohort.  Millennials have grown up during a time marked by dramatic growth in immigration and racial integration.  Multiculturalism is simply a fact of life for this group, reinforced early on by Sesame Street, and later in the classroom, as well as in film and music.

This film, The Pursuit of Passion: Diversity in Advertising, makes the case in an inspiring way.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tips on starting a successful agency career.

I was invited last night to speak to the Chapman University Ad Club and offer career advice to these aspiring advertising agency professionals.

This is a switched-on group, many of whom are preparing to compete in the Ad Fed National Student Advertising Competition.  Having just judged the District 10 regionals in Shreveport, I know how long and hard they've been working on their presentation.

As I told the group last night, this summer will mark my 30th year in advertising,  I still love what I love what I do for a living, mainly because advertising sits at the intersection of everything – business, art, pop culture, technology, societal trends, the media revolution.

I thought I'd share an abbreviated copy of my slides in the hope that it will provide some inspiration and guidance to those who want to be equally passionate about their career in 2042.

Friday, April 13, 2012

What agency vets can learn from students.

I spent the last two days being inspired about my profession by college students who would walk through fire to get a shot at a similar career.

The occasion was AdFed's District 10 National Student Advertising Competition in Shreveport, where I served as a judge.  Students from 20 universities competed as full-fledged agency teams on a live case given to them by Nissan.  Their assignment was to help the automaker increase its share among multicultural millennials, and they did so by conducting their own primary research, developing positioning strategies, creating fully integrated creative campaigns against a $100m media plan that they researched, priced and designed.  The teams had been working on this assignment since last fall, and it showed.

I was in awe of their poise, their professionalism and their fearlessness.  They rocked it.

During my two days I couldn't help but think that agency professionals – those who already have the careers these kids covet – could learn a lot from these students.  This goes for me, too.

They did their homework.  They knew their content and exuded confidence in their points of view.  Too many times we see agency professionals "wing it" due to lack of prep time or sheer laziness.  This is apparent in meetings where it's often easy to spot the person who read the executive summary versus the individual who took the time to probe, dig and validate.

They showed passion and enjoyment.  They exuded the feeling that they had fun working on the assignment.  Clients love this, but too many times are left wondering whether or not the agency team actually likes the client's product or company.  (Think how that must feel.)

They behaved as an ego-free team.  Although they had their account director, media director and creative director, these were merely titles, not dueling fiefdoms.  They came across as one team with one dream.

They presented with confidence.  Granted, they had a lot of rehearsal time.  But it is often shocking how many times we see agency professionals unable to present.  We are in the communications business, and one that sells at that.  Presentation skills should be a given.  

They took risks with their ideas.  They behaved as if they had everything to gain and nothing to lose.  This mindset liberated them to present ideas that were unexpected and bold.  They weren't trying to play it safe or make people happy.  They played to win big.

This summer will mark my 30th year in the business, from when I started as an Assistant Account Executive at Ogilvy in New York.  Three decades later I am still passionate about what I do.  I love the left brain/right brain nature of the job.  I love that advertising sits at the intersection of business, art, pop culture, entertainment, anthropology, psychology and technology.  I love the smart, passionate and rebellious people this industry attracts.

My hope is that these kids will say the same thing in the year 2042.  Between now and then, I hope they never lose the traits they displayed this week, and that our industry embraces this next generation.  We need them more than they need us.  As I've written about before, the Millennial Generation has the skills to help save and reinvent Madison Avenue.  Let's give them their shot on their terms.