Friday, March 28, 2008

Hal Riney

Today is a sad day. Hal Riney died. He mattered.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bernbach, Ogilvy, Burnett & Occam?

My partner Bob Barrie recently clued me into Occam's Razor, which, quite simply, states that "all other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." (Anybody who has seen Bob's essential work for Time magazine will agree he is an Occam-ite.)

Past masters in our business understood this well. And it wasn't just the clarity of working within three networks and a handful of national magazines. The ideas they created were singleminded and distinctive.

Today, given an unending array of new technologies and channels with which to reach consumers, it is essential that we simplify. Customers are pounded with messages every hour of the day.

Brands such as Target, Toyota, Apple and Disney pass the test of Occam's Razor. They've each diversified and grown without blurring their core brand idea. Starbuck's ignored Occam and complicated their brand idea but seems to be taking the right steps to correct these missteps.

But many brands haven't yet heeded the advice of the esteemed Franciscan friar. For example, Hot Wheels should not be on kids underpants and tooth brushes. Burlington Coat Factory shouldn't be selling baby accessories (and have a brand name which requires it to proclaim in advertising that it is not affiliated with Burlington Industries and that sells more than just coats).

Monday, March 24, 2008

G8-GT USP (how's that for a lot of letters?)

I've posted before about the lost art of the USP. The new Pontiac G8 GT seems to have rediscovered it...at least temporarily.

The G8 TV commercial proclaims the new sport sedan as "the most powerful car for under $30,000." Nice. With one simple line this car is clearly positioned for those of us with a need for speed. Unfortunately, the G8's website has nothing to do with this idea (and also seems to have been designed by somebody with way too much time on their hands).

But the idea of "the most powerful car for under $30k" demonstrates that a good USP needs to be designed into the product, and not just be some brand veneer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Retail therapy for action junkies

I came across a new action sports retailer that seems to be tapping into several powerful trends and insights.

Adrenalina sells gear and fashion for extreme boarding and biking sports. That's not new -- many stores cater to surfers, skateboarders and mountain bikers. But what sets Adrenalina apart is that they've tapped into the trend toward retail entertainment.

Their store design is centered around the Flowrider (normally found in water parks) where customers can pay to surf on a simulated wave. (This creates a revenue source from people who want to surf and great entertainment for those who want to shop.) Adrenalina is tightly connected with the extreme sport TV show of the same name to create a highly authentic connection with Millennials. And, because the TV show airs in both English and Spanish, Adrenalina is positioning its brand within the large and growing Latino market.

Adrenalina has only a few locations in Florida but is planning to expand to Georgia, Texas and Colorado.

Retailing is increasingly about fun and experimentation. This can be as simple as a Trader Joe's store that offers free coffee and food samples or as intense as Land Rover retailers (a past client of mine) that feature an off-road track to demo the SUV's capabilities. What all these retailers have in common is the knowledge that customers increasingly see retail as a source of entertainment.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The future of mobile...today.

Most articles on mobile marketing miss the point about this medium's true potential. The coverage tends to dwell on the question of whether or not consumers will accept advertising on their phones.

While that's a good question, and one to which the answer should be a resounding "no", it is not the question that reveals mobile's true opportunity. Rather than viewing the "third screen" as yet another advertising delivery device, we should view it as a way to transform off-line media into opt-in, interactive media.

Mobile is ubiquitous. We're tethered to our phones while reading a magazine, walking through the airport, listening to the radio and watching TV. Most of the advertising in these media ends with the obligatory website call to action. There's two problems with this: First, who has their computer open at the bus stop? And, second, who by now does not know how to find a company online?

Instead, imagine inserting a mobile call to action -- a simple invitation to "text 1234 to get a special preview" -- in magazines ads, bus shelter boards and TV commercials. (The team here at Barrie D'Rozario Murphy is putting this idea to work for United Airlines as a way to connect with business travellers at O'Hare, United's main hub.)

This is 100% opt-in. It's an invitation not an intrusion. It transforms analog media into interactive media. But it requires two adjustments. We need to design a mobile element into every campaign and we need to stop viewing mobile as new real estate for banner ads.

This is, admittedly, a short-term solution. (But a beautifully simple one at that.) Longer term, the promise of mobile lies in Quick Response Codes. QR Codes, similar to bar codes, were originally developed to track inventory. Marketers in Japan are using it as a way to create a two-way link between consumers and brands. Using a phone equipped with QR reading software, a consumer snaps a photo of the code on a package or magazine ad to immediately launch a browser to learn more information.

Now, isn't that way cooler than blasting banner ads?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A brand's journey toward true north

I believe great brands share two defining traits: they posses a unique and compelling point of view and an unshakable sense of true north. Great brands know who there are and where they're heading in life. They are not confused. They operate with a sense of infectious conviction.

That's why I'm enthralled with the recent brand film from Louis Vuitton. In this TV commercial, perhaps the company's first ever, the renown designer of high end luggage and fashion accessories puts forward an emotional and inspiring point of view on the true meaning of a journey and its role in shaping who we are. While I know full well that I'm being spun by some deft marketing magic, I give into it because it taps into some fundamental human truths concerning self-discovery and fulfillment and, importantly, because it seems to ring true for this brand. The copy, film and music are simply outstanding.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Let's banish the term "non-traditional media"

I'm increasingly bored with the terms "traditional" and "non-traditional" media. My partners at Barrie D'Rozario Murphy have heard my consistent refrain that if you want to make a 20 year old laugh, refer to mobile as "new media." It's all media. There's no such thing traditional media, only traditional thinking that inhibits innovation.

Here's an example of an idea that blurs these silly distinctions. Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner is launching what could be the new model of commercial entertainment. His new program, "The All-For-Nots", a comedy that documents a fictional rock band, will launch next week on the web, mobile phones and HDNet cable.

Web, TV and mobile. They're simply screens. Agencies need to embrace this premise and create powerful branding ideas across all three screens.