Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lion hunting.

The team at Barrie D'Rozario Murphy is thrilled to be one of only two U.S. agencies to win a Gold Lion award for film at last week's International Advertising Festival in Cannes.

BD'M was hired by the Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis to draw more guests into its bar, linger a bit longer, and, of course, run up higher tabs to boost the luxury hotel's revenue.

The result was a faux surveillance video that led guests to believe they were privy to live security shots around the hotel. We included shots of actual guestroom interiors interspersed with a variety of staged scenes - a nun praying to a man in a chicken costume, an alien in the hallway to a blow-up doll on a bed. The video, designed to complement the Chambers' collection of original contemporary art, helped deliver a double-digit increase in traffic to the bar.

It's an exciting example of the role and effectiveness of nontraditional media in solving business challenges.

To watch a excerpt, visit bdm.net, and click on brand experiences/chambers.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A battle of business models.

A BD’M client noted recently that they were engaged in a battle of business models. This is a clarifying thought – a competition between the fundamental strategy employed by each competitor for creating and delivering customer value.

This point of view implies that each company competes through a single, overarching business model. But can a company compete by spreading its bets across multiple business models?

This was on my mind when I read an article in yesterday’s New York Times about how Amazon will employ three different business models to sell books. As we all know, Amazon’s core business is selling pulp books direct to consumers. And, with Kindle, Amazon is now in the business of selling digital downloads of e-books. But Amazon has decided to also sell its e-books on competitive services, such as iTunes, for the same $9.99 price it charges Kindle owners.

Jeff Bezos and company have created three different models, a move primarily designed to follow the customer and preempt competitors, and also produce a healthy side-effect – greater internal competition to drive ongoing innovation and greater focus.

Strategy guru Michael Porter has long said that alignment is the test of a great business strategy – i.e., a unique value proposition, delivered through a differentiated value chain, with all activities aligned, and all connected back to the balance sheet. Porter’s litmus test doesn’t go away, rather companies will have to apply this thinking across several business models simultaneously – a game of three-dimensional strategic chess.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How to reposition a brand.

Sun Chips is a case study in the making of what can happen when a marketer thinks outside the box, or in this case, the bag.

Sun Chips have long been positioned as a slightly healthier alternative, with less salt, fat and other naughty stuff. Most every snack brand tries to make this same claim. So how do you stand out? By deciding to ignore the conventions of typical snack food marketing.

Their new marketing campaign is smart and tightly aligned:
  1. They've taken their name and created a logical brand association: sun --> solar --> green --> healthier planet.
  2. They are forging this brand association through actions, not just words. (Solar powered manufacturing plant, biodegradable packaging)

  3. They are using unique media properties to reinforce the brand idea.

  4. They are tapping the power of PR and crowd-sourcing to seek and fund other ideas for a healthier planet.

  5. They are aligning the company's philanthropic investments behind this idea. (Donating $1m to create a solar-powered recovery center to help a tornado ravaged town get back on its feet.)

It's too early to tell if this will be a wild success or an abysmal failure. What is clear, though, is that they are refusing to play small ball. This is a brand team that is truly reaching for the stars.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The lesson of BMW Films

An article on adweek.com questions why our industry hasn’t built on the success of BMW Films and the potential of branded content. I used to ask this same question until I realized it is the wrong question.

BMW Films made its online debut in 2001 with short films produced exclusively for the web by marquee talent, including directors John Woo, Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott among others, and starring actors such as Clive Owen, Madonna, Mickey Rourke, Forest Whitaker and Don Cheadle. The Hire consisted of eight action-packed episodes featuring Clive Owen putting the ultimate driving machines through the paces.

The Hire was ahead of its time. Broadband penetration in the United States in 2001 was less than 20%. (Remember the tedium of viewing rich content on dial up?) The films couldn’t capitalize on social media because Mark Zuckerberg, Tom Anderson and Steve Chen (founders Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, respectively) may still have been in high school at that point.

Yet, back in the day, these films broke new ground by changing how we viewed the web. Up to that point, marketers used the web as a substitute for print. Sites functioned like online brochures -- very heavy on text and photos. BMW Films showed that the web didn’t have to be static – it actually could be a replacement for TV, using sight sound and motion to engage viewers.

And that's precisely why the question posed in Adweek misses the point. BMW Films used the web like TV. Right for then, wrong for now. The web has changed dramatically since 2001. It is no longer about one-way broadcasting. It’s about ceding control, co-creation, relevant functionality and crowd-sourced input.

Contrary to Adweek's story, branded content is not struggling to find its footing, an assertion that seems weighed down by a Hollywood-centric definition of content. Branded content is flourishing in new ways that are more tailored for Web 2.0. Subservient Chicken allowed consumers to control the entertainment. T-Mobile’s flash mob campaign capitalized on social media. GE’s online effort for ecomagination and Nike’s mobile initiative both used augmented reality to glue our eyeballs to the brand.

We should tip our hat to BMW Films and appreciate what it unleashed. But instead of looking backwards, we should embrace its essential lesson: Consider how consumers are using the web today, then rethink it and set the bar higher.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Project Natal

I've seen the future. It's spelled N-A-T-A-L.

The new human interface for Xbox is mind-bending. No controllers whatsoever. You are the controller. It reads body movements. It makes Wii look old fashioned.

I'm not a gamer. I'm more fascinated about the implications this technology can have on product design -- e.g., computers, home entertainment, retail.

It seems the technology we witnessed in Minority Report wasn't so far in the future after all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

we > me

My previous post on popularity discussed the influence that crowds can have on consumer decision making and behavior. This post highlights how a company can use crowd-sourcing to improve its own decision making and behavior.

Few companies have the courage to fully expose themselves to the power (and potential pitfalls) of social media like the folks at Best Buy (disclaimer: a BD'M client).

Best Buy's CMO is a prolific tweeter (@bestbuycmo), using microblogging as an external internal communications channel to reach the 20-something year old Blue Shirts working in the stores who are unlikely to read email from HQ. Barry Judge uses this channel to invite suggestions and feedback beyond the protective bubble that normally surrounds senior executives.

The Best Buy Idea Xchange opens up Best Buy's innovation process to its best customers to suggest ways to improve the retailer's merchandising selection and business practices. I like the honesty and commitment expressed on the site. Here's an excerpt:

We're new at this. Its probably going to be messy for awhile. We'll probably miss stuff. We'll probably screw up. But we'll learn and get better as fast as we can. We'll blog every two weeks with updates at first. Then we'll build in new and better ways to talk to you about your ideas - when we're reviewing them, or implementing them or when we decide we just can't do anything with them. We'll always be honest. We can promise we're all going to do our best. That means listening closely, talking openly about the ideas that you've shared. And trying our hardest to make it happen.

These behaviors are a good example of the formula that drives social media: we > me. Most corporate decisions are based on feedback in a conference room of 10 like minded executives, or off the results of 50 people in focus groups. Social media exposes companies to ideas -- good and bad -- from a much wider cross-section of people and perspectives, helping to break the protective bubble that tends to insulate companies from their customers.