Thursday, February 26, 2009

At Last

When I was at Ogilvy we pitched and won the Jaguar account with a beautiful campaign featuring Etta James’ immortal torch song, “At Last.”

The lyrics were tailor made for a brand that, at the time, peopled admired and aspired to someday own. The campaign ran for several years and, along with some new product, helped to revitalize the storied marque. (There was an anecdote of a priest alluding to our campaign in his sermon and using the lyrics to draw an analogy about finding salvation in our lives. How’s that for branded content?!)

However, yesterday I saw a spot for Hoover using Etta’s song (sorry Beyonce, it will always be Etta’s tune). I was crushed. It ruined my fond recollections of that campaign. How it fits a vacuum cleaner, I don’t know. And whether or not Hoover’s version finds its way into a Sunday sermon remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hard lesson for Tropicana. But smart response.

I'm clearly not the only one who questioned Tropicana's new packaging.

The NY Times reports the brand is bowing to public pressure and bringing back the iconic image of the straw stuck in the orange.

When I started this blog, I coined the term "wikibranding" to capture this very phenomenon -- i.e., brands are increasingly defined and communicated by customers, not by the manufacturer.  Rock on tweeters!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Focus. Execute. Learn. Repeat.

A new study by the CMO Council confirms what many of us see every day. Marketers are far too distracted by short term issues ("random acts of marketing").

Several months ago I spoke to an MBA class (CMOs in training) at the University of California, Irvine and shared my POV on the hallmarks of great marketers. Given today's business climate, it would be unwise for any CMO to attempt to excel on all the traits I outlined. With mounting demands and pressures facing today's CMO, and with ever-decreasing resources, it's essential that a CMO set priorities and operate within a clear and focused framework. For example, I recently offered this framework to a CMO at a large company:

  1. Clarify the value proposition. Seek relevant differentiation. The noise in the market is loud and confusing. Make sure the offering is in-step with customer needs.
  2. Reassess loyalty drivers. Get close to your best customers. Categories and customers change. What drove loyalty five years ago may be less sticky today.
  3. Appeal to new segments. Begin attracting tomorrow's customer -- e.g., younger customers, multicultural markets, older customers, etc. If the target statement in the marketing plan reads like it did three years ago, time to blow off the dust.
  4. Make sure the website is the best in the category. The most functional. The easiest to navigate. The most well designed. This is a powerful manifestation of the brand. Ensure all marketing activities lead back to it.
  5. Continue improving. Innovation doesn't have to happen on a grand scale. It can be a series of small test and learn opportunities. Follow the 70/20/10 rule.

Recessions don't last forever. The smart marketers are those that are focusing on initiatives that will help their company be healthier, leaner and stronger as the economy recovers.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Marketers, fear is thy enemy

I've posted several times about ways in which marketers are adapting strategies to grow market share during the recession. I continue to applaud what I see from Hyundai.

Hyundai is addressing the fundamental issue -- FEAR. The vast majority of consumers are not facing layoffs or home foreclosures, yet are understandably anxious about the future. Therefore, they curtail spending.

Hyundai launched its Assurance program in January, allowing consumers to return their new Hyundai within a year of purchase if they lose their job. Smart. Sales jumped 14% in January in a month when the industry was down 37%.

Yesterday Hyundai sweetened the program by offering to pay the vehicle loan or lease for 90 days while the owner looks for work. The owner will not have to repay Hyundai for these payments if they decide to keep the car.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy, shiny brands

Barack Obama's campaign sold us on the idea of hope and optimism. Judging from recent brand makeovers, corporate America is banking on hope and optimism to sell us on everything from colas to cream cheese.

Happy, shiny brand logos, however, are not enough to tap into the energy that President Obama helped to unleash. The lesson to be drawn from Obama's successful campaign is that we are in the era of action, not just words.

The marketers that best captitalize on this wave of optimism and change will be those that actually do something positive and new.

Marketing that shouts and interrupts needs to make room for marketing that provides a useful service to its customers (think Nike+, Southwest's "Ding" or Lucky's iPhone app).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why have a digital agency of the year?

Brian Morrissey wrote a provocative post on his blog: "Should there be a digital agency of the year?"

I hadn't pondered this question before. My gut tells me the answer is no. After all, in this media environment, how can one be Agency of the Year without innovating and pushing the boundaries in digital? And isn't "traditional agency of the year" an oxymoron? Can you truly be considered the best while carrying the moniker "traditional." The agency of the year should be the shop that made its clients successful in the most innovative and game-changing ways, whether through smart creative ideas or innovative digital architecture and platforms

Friday, February 13, 2009

And the winner is...

It's not often a two year old agency is mentioned in the same breath as DreamWorks, but then again we like think of Barrie D'Rozario Murphy as a "grown up start up."

Last week the International Animated Film Society held its 36th annual Annie Awards to celebrate the best animated work across all media.

Our "Heart" commercial for United Airlines was selected as the best animated commercial. Congratulations to our partners at United and Duck Studios.

And, yes, some film called Kung Fu Panda also cleaned up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hey the hard work begins

In announcing its new Kindle 2, Amazon implied it wants to do for books what the iPod did for music. Amazon’s vision is to make more books more accessible and portable for more people.

This analogy makes sense on the surface, but Mr. Bezos and company have their work cut out for them if they hope to emulate Apple’s success (and do so before Apple begins spreading iPhone book apps).

The original iPod was successful for reasons beyond its design and ease of use. Apple owned and grew the market through constant innovation. Even before the iPhone, the iPod kept evolving and changing to bring more people into its orbit – e.g., lower-priced models, smaller versions, more capacity, new colors, etc. Apple's frenetic pace of innovation prevented competitors from finding a way in.

The iPhone transformed the portable music player into a swiss army knife, with applications for business (email), entertainment (videos), and now with iPhone apps, every conceivable aspect of our life.

Kindle will need to do the same if it intends to do for books what the iPod did for music. Constant innovation. Broad price range. More functionality. And the audacity to dream of uses that go well beyond its original intent.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We love screens

I am the father of two screen-agers. I am a screen-ager as well, as are many of us. We crave screens.

Contrary to popular belief, TV is not dead. According to Randall Stross' article in the NY Times, we're spending more and more time in front of the tube. We're spending more time online. We are also spending more time viewing videos on our mobile phones, the so-called "third screen." With sites like Hulu and, even iPhone videopodcasts, we're increasingly blurring the distinctions between all of these screens.

What we're not doing as much is reading magazines and newspapers. (You would probably not be reading my blog if it weren't on a screen.) Although I am a devoted reader of the New York Times, I must confess I am reading it more often via my iPhone app, relegating the pulp version to airplane reading.

Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts nailed this idea several years ago in his book, SISOMO, which compelled us to think beyond TV and think screens instead. Screens provide sight, sound and motion. We crave sight, sound and motion.

We need to begin having more conversations about screen strategies, not just media strategies. A screen strategy would force us to think about how to link the three screens (perhaps four when you consider the rise in digital out of home) into a cohesive experience.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Web without words

Joy Hart, a former colleague of mine, dialed me into this website...web without words. Don't know who's behind this, but their intent is to deconstruct popular websites by removing all words to expose the underlying design framework. Interesting brain candy.

Joy Hart also writes one of the better blogs out there -- joy to the world wide web. Love the pairing of ideas and music. Check it out.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Times are cool. Stop ranting.

Love this video because his insights are bang on! And also because it's LOL funny. We live in the coolest of times yet we seldom take a nanosecond to appreciate this.

His point about air travel is right. We're sitting in a chair up in the sky and instead of marveling, we're complaining about the peanuts!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Marketing in a recession

I've written some earlier posts on marketing in a recession. Here's the next installment.

Hyundai and Allstate offer two different examples of how to market in a recession. One attacks the issue with a tangible offer; the other through an intangible and comforting message. What they have in common is that they attack the underlying issue: fear. (Perhaps inspired by FDR when he proclaimed, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.")

Fear of the unknown. Will I keep my job? Will I have to cut costs to survive? It is this anxiety, even among people who may not be facing a layoff, that stops us from buying an expensive new car, or compels us to opt for lesser brands as a way to cut costs.

Hyundai is offering its Assurance Program. Buy a new Hyundai, and if you lose your job can return the car and be protected from the first $7,500 in depreciation.

Allstate's new advertising is seeking to give us the emotional comfort that we've been through this before and will come out the other side, no need to panic (or choose cheaper insurance).

Hyundai's sales in January were up 14% vs year ago. I don't have similar data on Allstate.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lucky idea.

iPhone apps are proving to be some of the most innovative marketing programs around. The latest to catch my eye is from Lucky, the Conde Nast magazine.

For those who don’t know Lucky, it's basically a fashion catalog posing as editorial. Lucky is for young women who like to shop, which gives it a potential subscriber base of a zillion. ;)

The Lucky app allows users to search for a specific designer hand bag (or shoe or dress or…) and use the phone’s GPS function to pinpoint the closest store that is selling it. Lucky’s call center will also contact the store and have the item set aside, sending a confirming text message to the user. Best of all, this is all free.

If this app is as good as it sounds, I think Lucky could have charged a buck or two for the download. But it sounds as if Conde Nast’s real play is to use this tool to drive magazine advertising revenue, both as an added-value lure for advertisers and as a research tool to demonstrate audience engagement.

I hope it works. Magazine publishers need to show a bit more innovation across the board.

Time to retire the babies and animals.

There has long been a formula for creating a great Super Bowl commercial. And therein lies the problem.

The old formula is tired and out of step with the times. This premise was on full display yesterday. The decline in the quality of the spots has nothing to do with the notion that marketers need to play it safe because the economy sucks. I don’t subscribe to this school of thought. Now more than ever, we want to be entertained.

No, the dynamic that is undermining the age-old Super Bowl formula is YouTube. In a pre-YouTube era, animals, animal puppets and babies doing hilarious things used to be really fresh and funny. Super Bowl commercials were the original viral video. Now we can see even more outrageous and funnier videos from around the globe every day of the year with just a few clicks of our collective mouse. It is hard to out-zany the Internet.

The Super Bowl is still one of the best places to be if you want to reach a huge, tuned-in audience. But don’t go there for buzz. Three million is a lot to pay for a brief burst of chatter. If you show up, have something to say.

Be in the Super Bowl when you need to launch something meaningful, perhaps a new product or a new positioning, because it still has the power to place new ideas squarely in the middle of pop culture. Get more than :30 for your money ($3m to be precise) by teasing weeks ahead of time to get the entertainment and news media to extend the message. Design an employee promotion around the sponsorship to use it as a morale-boosting event. Redesign the website (message and functionality) to capitalize on the inevitable burst of traffic.

So what did I like yesterday? Pepsi and Gatorade stood out. Both were launching big brand positioning campaigns. Both used it as a reveal after weeks of teaser advertising. Both executed well. The Denny’s spot was extremely funny, and is supported by a big promotion offering free Grand Slam breakfasts tomorrow all across the country.

Don't get me wrong. I like seeing guys getting whacked in the head, Mr Potato Head driving a car, a Cheetah unleashing killer pigeons and fully agree with Pedigree that dogs rule. But folks, we're talking about spending $3m for something you could have done any day of the year.