Friday, December 17, 2010

More consumers are phoning it in.

I've posted frequently about the huge role that mobile will play in engaging customers and continue to hold the view that mobile is not an advertising medium; rather, it is best viewed as a customer service app or as an opt-in response device.

Yesterday's report in the WSJ documents the rapid increase in the number of consumers using smart phones not only for comparison shopping, but also to make the purchase.  We're heading to Wal-Mart to shop, then, while standing in the aisle, buying the product for less on Amazon.  According to the article, "on the Friday after Thanksgiving a year ago, consumers using mobile devices accounted for just 0.1% of visits to retail websites...this Black Friday, they accounted for 5.6%." 

Essentially, mobile phones have transformed Wal-mart's, Target's and Best Buy's stores into one massive showroom for Amazon. 

I believe a brick and mortar retailer's best response is to reimagine their stores, more as customer service centers that create a tangible value for buying there, not just shopping.  For example, whereas currently Best Buy charges a premium for its Geek Squad service, I can imagine a day when this added value is offered free of charge.  Amazon would have a hard time matching this.  I can also imagine a day when Best Buy takes a page from Apple's playbook and turns its Blue Shirts into an in-store genius bar.  I'm less likely to buy from Amazon if I know I can make an appointment at Best Buy to get a tutorial on my new gizmo.

Mobile's other big value is as an opt-in response device.  By replacing generic calls-to-action with a mobile invitation (e.g., SMS to learn more, QR code to view product demo), mobile has the ability to make moot the silly distinctions between online and offline.  To wit, is a magazine ad with an SMS call-to-action traditional or nontraditional? You get the point.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't discount natural demand.

Yet more evidence that discounts seldom build incremental sales.  Instead, they tend to pull forward demand and reduce profitability.

According to a study out of the University of California, Berkeley, the government's "Cash For Clunkers" incentive increased car and truck sales by 360,000 units.  Sounds great until you read that sales for the next seven months were down by 360,000 units.  That was a $1.4B investment in discounting natural demand  (360k units x $4k/unit).

My purpose here isn't to criticize this specific program.  As economic and social policy, it put more money back into the consumer's wallet and helped remove less fuel-efficient cars from the road.

But this does reinforce what we see time after time in marketing – straight cash incentives (coupons, cash back) tend to discount sales marketers are likely to get anyway.  The best promotions tend to be those designed to change preference and long-term demand – e.g., discounts targeted at competitive customers (register-generated coupons targeting competitive users, online retargeting to reach competitive customers with a trial offer, member-get-a-member referral offers) or incentives to stimulate sales during off-peak periods (fly this summer, get a discount next winter).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is leadership?

I gave an address yesterday to the Executive MBA program at the University of California Irvine's Merage School of Business.

My goal was to share with these executives what I've learned about leadership through observation, trial and error.  Core to my beliefs is the idea that leaders create more leaders to achieve things that matter.  The attached presentation outlines my point of view on the traits of effective leaders.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The power of local intimacy.

I've long believed that empathy is an essential building block in any successful brand strategy.

Empathy is how we bond with one another; it is also how brands bond with customers.  We gravitate toward brands that get us; that share our sense of humor; that share our values; that make us feel good about ourselves.  Define the basis of your brand's empathy with its customers and you'll get to the essential truth of your brand.

SABMiller has reached the same conclusion, and has done so on a global scale.  Rather than follow the siren song of global efficiencies – i.e., one message worldwide – the brewer realized that local marketing can be more effective in creating a tight bond with the emotions, values and culture of its customers, which, particularly in the case of beer, can vary widely from market to market.  SABMiller calls this "local intimacy."

This doesn't mean a marketer must sacrifice global efficiencies.  To be sure, a blue collar worker in Krakow likely shares many of the same values as his or her peer in Kalamazoo.  Hard-earned rewards for a hard day's work can be a universal appeal.  Many creative assets can be shared to enable local markets to invest less on production and more on media. However, in a "glocal" model, markets should use these assets flexibly to cast their message within the local zeitgeist (sports, humor, pop culture).

This flexibility can help make your brand feel like a good friend sitting on the next bar stool versus a passing stranger who tries to strike up a conversation.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is anybody listening?

Three years ago while speaking on an Ad:Tech panel, I coined the term wikibranding to convey an observation that brands are in fact wikis, entities that are increasingly defined by the crowd and less so by the manufacturer.

Given the disruptive forces in social media that have taken hold since then – YouTube and Facebook weren't yet the mass forces they are today, and Twitter hadn't yet tweeted – I believe this to be even more true today.

So the question is not whether customers are talking, it's whether marketers are listening.  What are marketers doing with the flood of peer-to-peer likes and dislikes that travel around the world at light speed?

I've grown tired of traditional dashboards.  They provide heat but little light.  They report but don't inspire ideas.  That's because most analytics are a dizzying blur of data that are disconnected from the building blocks of brand equity; disconnected from product innovation; disconnected from the CEO's line-of-sight on what's actually happening in the marketplace.

Infographics is a start.  Sure to get more senior management attention on what the data are saying.

The chatter about the emerging role of Chief Listening Officers is another step, but one that will add value only if the CLO is given a mandate to make things happen.  (Shouldn't the CMO be the CLO?)

Another way is to begin aligning analytics with the key principles of how brands build equity and value. (A project that's already underway at BD'M.)

Whatever the solution turns out to be, it's sure to require an equal balance of lateral thinking to find insights within disparate data points, as well as patience to make sure we don't react to every opinion that passes as fact on the Internet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The economic value of crisis management.

Interbrand just released its annual ranking of the Top 100 most valuable global brands.  The usual suspects made the Top 10 – e.g., Coke, IBM, McDonalds, GE, Microsoft and Disney.

This year, while looking at how Toyota and BP fared, the study made me think about the value of crisis management.  Both brands faced a major crisis of consumer confidence.  Toyota suffered through problems with sudden acceleration and customer fatalities, made even worse by the company's slow and confused response.  BP created an epic environmental disaster, and then had its CEO make matters worse by having us feel as though we were inconveniencing his summer holidays.

So how did each do in this year's ranking? Toyota dropped from the Top 10 to the #11 position, while BP dropped off the list all together.

Why did Toyota's brand value hold up better than that of BP?  Certainly years spent building brand equity and consumer trust worked in Toyota's favor.   And despite Toyota's halting initial response, it did something smart by deciding to offer its advanced STAR safety system as a standard no-cost feature on all models.  This showed great insight because, even though Toyota's problem was one of sudden acceleration, the emotional issue in play was a feeling of being vulnerable and unsafe.

And BP?  It ran ads.

If ever there was a case to be made why we need to consistently invest in brand equity – through a mix of product, service and advertising – this is it; particularly when we see how quickly a brand's economic value can evaporate.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Announcing the echo chamber app.

We live in a world where we can access the entire knowledge base of the human race within two clicks.  Why, then, do we increasingly find ourselves in an echo chamber?

The echo chamber happens when we tune in only to the cable news channels or blogs that reinforce our political points of views; when we use Twitter to hear ourselves speak but not to listen; when we only absorb topics within our comfort zone of daily water cooler chatter.  It's human nature to hunker down during a storm, and the interweb is a virtual tsunami of information.

Today, Christopher Taylor and I riffed a solution:  An app that monitors our daily intake of media, web searches, entertainment, appointments, tweets, social network interaction, etc. (which largely exist on our computer or smartphone) and provides a daily infographic illustrating whether or not we made it out of the chamber.
(My DV% to avoid the Echo Chamber.)
The app would require us to establish desired pre-sets – similar to the % Daily Value nutrition labels – that seek a balance between topics and people we know versus time spent exploring new subjects and voices.

Maybe the app could ping us at regular intervals during the day to let us know if we need to increase our intake of the new and unfamiliar.

Chris added that we could make this into a game.  Everyone loves badges, after all.  But unlike Foursquare, where you become a mayor by visiting the same place over and over (geo-echochamberism), we'd give out badges for visiting a place for the first time.

By the way, I just met Mr Taylor today for about 30 minutes, so I think I hit my DV% of New Opinions.

Now where's my badge?

Monday, August 9, 2010

What I learned at Lollapalooza.

I just returned from three days at Lollapalooza with my daughters. Great time with the girls.  Outstanding festival – really well planned and run.  (Chicago is a fantastic city!)

While I've spent years creating events for youth marketing programs, often from the outside looking in, this gave me chance to experience youth marketing from the mosh pit out.

By and large, the marketing was fairly flat-footed.   The usual branded swag became white noise.  The best efforts came from a handful of marketers whose presence added something to the fan's experience.

The best by far came from my old friends at Toyota.  Their tent wasn't an escape from music – it celebrated music and creative expression.  There you could hop in a Corolla retrofitted to be a four-door photo booth; spin to win some cool prizes; listen to little-known, up-and-coming bands (the roots of Lolla, right?) who performed in the tent and were streamed over the interweb; as well as create art and posters.

Estancia Wines showed that it understood a simple fact about three-day concerts:  people need to sit in the shade.  The Estancia tent was set up like an outdoor ultra-lounge, featuring leather chairs and couches, cafe tables and stools, and, of course, a wine bar.

AOL did a decent job promoting its Lifestream service by setting up a helpful charging station.  Very simple and insightful.

The most well-intended but ineffective effort came from AT&T, which handed out ear buds to promote that it was offering free wi-fi inside the festival.  The only problem was that its wi-fi coverage didn't extend throughout Grant Park. Epic Fail.  (They've learned what veterans of Lolla and Coachella have long known – 3G networks become paralyzed by tens of thousands of people simultaneously blogging, posting, tweeting, texting, poking and uploading.)

My daughter Lauren has a great idea for any marketer gearing up for next year:  Sponsor a tent where fans can decorate and personalize their own "find me" stick, and perhaps upload the image to their friends.  I noticed in the crowd how some people brought poles and sticks decorated with stuffed cats, balloons, jesters, etc – anything they could hoist up to help their friends find them in the sea of fans.

Let me not mislead you into believing that I actually spent three days thinking about this stuff.  It was all about the music.  And here's the music I really loved:

The Strokes
Arcade Fire
The National
Frank Turner
Against Me
The Walkmen
Matt & Kim
Gogol Bordello (tied with Matt & Kim for the most entertaining band)
Social Distortion
and, of course, Green Day

Me and Green Man are tight.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why Millennials will save Madison Avenue.

(As published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.)

Listen in on most brand planning meetings and one word comes up over and over – Millennials.  Sometimes called GenY or EchoBoomers, this is the generation born between 1982 and 2000.  Millennials are no longer solely on the playground; they're running companies (Mark Zuckerberg), entertaining (Rihanna) and winning Olympic Gold (Shaun White).  To marketers, Millennials represent a 76 million strong brand-conscious demographic.

Recently, however, I’ve started viewing this generation through a different lens.  Beyond being a coveted advertising target, the characteristics that define this generation make them extremely well-equipped to re-architect the modern advertising agency.  

I believe this to be true because Millennials are widely viewed as a generation of collaborative, tech-savvy, multicultural, problem-solvers – the very skills necessary to address the questions marketers increasingly voice about their advertising agencies.

Let’s break it down by examining some of the defining traits of Millennials, as outlined by Lynn Lancaster and David Stillman in their recent book, The M-Factor, and examine how a career in advertising meshes with these values.

Millennials are inherently collaborative:  This is a generation that believes we > me.  They’ve been working in teams since kindergarten as classrooms increasingly emphasized group participation.  Soccer became the suburb’s biggest after-school sport because it prizes team flow over star-power.  Advertising is a great profession for people who thrive on collaboration (or “no walls”, as we call it at BD’M).  The agencies that are succeeding are those that have banished silos, where media, creative and strategy form one big mosh pit of ideas.

Millennials are the first multicultural generation:  This generation has grown up in a time in which the U.S. experienced 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.  Let’s face a hard truth:  the advertising industry must do a better job when it comes to diversity. This is not simply a politically correct goal – it is an economic imperative. We're in the business of helping clients connect with main street America.  Agencies succeeded at this over the decades largely because we mirrored the face of America.  This is no longer true, and unless this changes we put at risk our ability to give our clients relevant and intimate customer insights.  Millennials can play a huge role in reshaping the face of agencies and our ability to understand and connect with multicultural America.

Millennials want to be innovators and problem-solvers: Marketers hire us because the lines on the graph are heading the wrong way.  At its core, advertising professionals solve problems by inspiring clients to embrace new solutions.  More and more these solutions involve online, mobile and social media.  Millennials have been training for this job since birth.

Millennials want to feel they are contributing: Boomers and Xers sometimes label Millennials a needy group requiring constant feedback.  To be sure, this is a generation that received trophies for simply participating, not to mention an endless flow of reinforcement from their “helicopter parents.”  Advertising is an excellent career for people who thrive on instant feedback.  In this business you’re either a hero or a goat; there’s nowhere to hide.  Whether you’re writing the TV spot, mapping the online user experience, or crunching the CPMs for the media plan, your work is out there in the white hot spotlight for all to critique. 

Millennials want a job in which they can be heard:  On the night before a pitch, a great idea knows no title.  If you are a so-called “junior” and feel you have the answer, irrespective of the fact that your title has half the syllables as that of your boss, shout out and be prepared to defend your point of view. Anybody who has worked with me knows that I refer to meetings as a full-contact sport.  Come play.

Millennials want to make a difference in the world:  Like it or not, we live in a consumer culture bombarded by media in all its forms.  Smart, talented and creative people can get intimately involved in creating marketing ideas that make a difference.  Witness Starbucks’ support of Red; Pepsi’s strategy to crowd-source world-changing ideas; Target’s support of the arts; GE’s ecomagination; or Ford’s support for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Millennials want to express who they are through work:  Good luck expressing yourself in a huge corporation.  Conversely, an agency is like high school for grown ups.  You can earn social currency through your individual sense of style, taste in music, tattoos, social causes or antics at the last party.   We really don’t care if you are gay, straight, indie, emo, conservative or downright crazy, just as long as you have smart ideas and come through when it counts.

To capitalize on the opportunity that Millennials present, the advertising industry has to begin making a clear case why this profession should attract this generation's best and brightest.  (Anybody who hasn’t viewed Rory Sutherland’s 2009 speech at TED –“Life lessons from an ad man.” should take a few moments to watch it and reflect on the economic value and cultural impact we create when we do our jobs well.)

The 4As must ramp up campus recruiting and attract talented graduates by connecting the values of this generation with the unique career opportunities advertising agencies present – a career that stands at the nexus of business, media, entertainment, technology, pop culture and any and all new trends.
Most importantly, senior leaders of advertising agencies need to stop dwelling on what they had to do back in the day to get ahead and instead unleash the creativity and energy of the twenty-somethings buried in their agencies.  Any agency that is having a hard time grappling with social and digital media is simply an agency that hasn’t tapped its in-house experts – its Millennials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jobs = income = demand = profits. Not vice versa.

Yesterday I attended a leadership meeting for the Merage School of Business at the University of California Irvine, where I serve as Vice Chair of the Dean's Advisory Board.

At the meeting Paul Merage, whose gift and vision has helped propel the school's progress, reiterated his vision that the U.S. is in the midst of its third economic epoch. The current Innovation Economy is radically transforming our country from its earlier roots in its industrial and agrarian based economies. As Paul points out, our country faces twin challenges if it hopes to succeed in this economy: we need a new generation of executives to lead in a global innovation economy and we also need a well educated work force to ensure these innovation-driven jobs stay at home.

This same theme is put forward in a must-read article in Business Week by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel. The legendary Silicon Valley leader makes a compelling case for why we need to fix America through jobs and not Wall Street profits, particularly when there is 10x more tech jobs in China for every one in the U.S. Sure, our jobs pay more, but left unchecked this is the path toward wider class and economic divisions in our country — a highly unsustainable economic and social model.

While Henry Ford is rightly credited with pioneering mass production, what he actually created was a viable middle class to consume these mass-produced and newly affordable cars, appliances and, later, TVs. Higher paying manufacturing jobs creates real income which fuels consumption which underpins demand. QED.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Winning is sweet.

Today Bissell announced it has chosen BD'M to handle the launch of an exciting and important new brand.  Everyone at the agency who worked on the pitch was so taken by the culture and people and Bissell.  And the new product is definitely going to make a statement.  We're looking forward to a very good partnership.

So far 2010 is shaping up to be a year of quiet momentum at the agency.  In addition to winning this assignment from Bissell, earlier in the year Pulte Group named BD'M as AOR for its Del Webb brand; UnitedHealth Group enlisted us to lead a brand positioning and identity project; and, along with our partners at United Airlines, we just won an EFFIE for our Travel Options campaign.

The people at BD'M have given their all and more this year, and it's beginning to pay off.  Let's hope the Great Recession is finally giving way to the Great Recovery!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Opt for success.

Last week BD'M and United Airlines were awarded an EFFIE by the American Marketing Association for the success of its Travel Options campaign.

Travel Options by United is a marketing program that enables customers to purchase a la carte the premium perks traditionally enjoyed only by elite business travelers – e.g., using the faster security line, boarding early, enjoying extra legroom in Economy Plus, shipping your bags directly to your hotel room, lounging in the Red Carpet Club.

The agency's challenge was to launch Travel Options in a way that separated it from things like baggage fees and other price increases airlines had to implement to combat volatile fuel prices and a drop in air travel during the recession.

United and BD'M made this a success by digging deep to understand the product from the customer's point of view, mapping every conceivable touchpoint along the customer's journey, and adopting a very collaborative test and learn approach.  But perhaps real magic behind the program was the quirky little word we happened upon:  "Opt."  This simple idea not only conveyed choice, but became the glue which held together the full range of products and services United offers within Travel Options.

While BD'M has earned a number of accolades during this past year, including a Gold Lion in Film at Cannes and the distinction of being named "Best Small Agency in the U.S." by the 4As, the EFFIE Award represents an agency at its best – creating distinctive work that delivers superior results for its clients.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is a brand?

A column on today discusses a widely known secret in our industry – we're in the brand-building business, yet no two professionals seem to share the same definition of a brand.

Some define a brand as a promise.  Some define it as an idea.  While others define a brand as mash-up of rational and emotional benefits.  There's likely an element of truthiness to each definition.

The article challenged me to set down in writing my beliefs about brands – a point-of-view formed over the years through different experiences and inputs.  So here goes...

Brands are based on an empathetic relationship with customers.

When I grew up at Ogilvy, Charlotte Beers used to preach that brands are defined by relationships.  That got me thinking, and over the years I tightened that definition to focus on the power of empathy.  I believe people choose brands the same way they choose their friends. Walk into a crowded party where you don't know a soul and notice who you end up chatting with – someone with whom you have something in common.

Empathy is how we bond with one another; it is also how brands bond with customers.  We gravitate toward brands that get us; that share our sense of humor; that share our values; that make us feel good about ourselves.  Define the basis of your brand's empathy toward its customers and you'll get to the essential truth of your brand.

More and more we are witnessing a third party in this relationship – our peers.  In a social media environment, brands are increasingly based on the relationship that exists between the product and the customer and the other customers who use the product.  This observation is why I coined the term wikibranding.  (My former boss at Saatchi, Kevin Roberts wrote a great book called Lovemarks; perhaps his sequel should be "Brands: A menage a trois.")

Brand equity is not a static metric – it is the combination of four essential dynamics:  differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge.

When I was President of Y&R Irvine I worked closely with a brand equity model called Brand Asset Valuator.  BAV, the world's largest database on brand equity, demonstrates across hundreds of categories, time after time, country after country, that brand equity is built by the sequence and relationship between a brand's levels of differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge (aka, DREK, a very unfortunate acronym).  Of these four dyanamics, relevance and differentiation are most important:  relvance = volume, while differentiation = margin.  Define a specific and tangible strategy for these dynamics and you will have a clear plan for building brand equity.

Experiences transform brand image into brand beliefs.

Customers judge brands on what they do, not just by what they say.  This has always been true, but is amplified ten-fold in a social media world.  When I see a compelling brand ad I will absorb it and remember it.  When I engage a brand in a unique experience – sampling, a cool app, helpful online experience, an event – I will tweet about it.

Great brands tell great stories.

Stories help us understand.  They convey meaning.  And in a fast moving world, meaning trumps information.  Too many brands get bogged down in lists of nouns and adjectives. Brands are verbs; like characters in a story, they do things.

The approach I've developed over time for creating persuasive brand narratives involves identifying your archetypal personality (the universal characters that form our collective unconscious), the hero's journey (the brand's true north, why it exists) and conflict (great literature hinges on a clearly defined antagonist; great brands define what they stand for by being equally clear about what they oppose).

Alas, if it was only that easy.  Greatness is in the execution.  And some brands simply out-execute other brands.  They convey an infectious sense of momentum through purposeful innovation.  And they embrace marketing's "new normal" and eschew tired distinctions between offline and online, traditional and nontraditional.

In the end, one may debate whether I'm right or wrong, but not where I stand on the issue; nor the fact that I've been fortunate to have worked for some smart people over my career.  Thank you all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Can Cadillac lead again?

A while back I was interviewed for a piece on how Cadillac can regain its cool factor.  The new spots from BBH are visually stunning and a step in the right direction.  But the line "The Mark of Leadership" leaves me wondering how Cadillac intends to lead.  Leadership in performance?  Leadership in design? Leadership in technology?

If the answer is "yes" to all three, that is wishful thinking because it is not singleminded.  Cadillac's identity is so fuzzy that it requires nothing short of a laser-like focus on one theme.  In the piece I wrote I suggested technology, which by the way is a singleminded platform that can be used to support a range of messages, including safety, performance and even design.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Facebook or deodorant: What matters more?

I recently conducted a survey via social media to better understand our relationship with the personal technologies that increasingly define our daily lives.  After all, we’re glued to smart phones, addicted to Facebook, Twitter and texting, and seem to be caught in an endless hunt for wi-fi.

The survey explored a range of questions, such as how we personify our relationship with technology, how our life might change if we had to live without our favorite gadget for a year, as well as what we’d be willing to sacrifice in order to keep our favorite tech (Sleep? Deodorant? Proper nutrition?).

Boomers and Xers display the most angst over whether our addiction to technology is good or bad, in large part because we can recall a time when we weren’t tethered to work 24/7.  Among Gen Y respondents this issue is a nonstarter – like debating the merits of electricity. (Hasn’t the entire knowledge base of the human race always been two clicks away?)

We have a love/hate relationship with our personal technologies.  We love it because it’s like a personal assistant, helping to keep us in the know and be productive.

We hate it when it reveals things about us we’re not proud of – e.g., we’re socially needy, we’re workaholics, we can’t control an obvious addiction.
A few themes emerged.

Technology is our concierge:  We accomplish more things more easily.   Our smart phone is like a best friend – always there, always helping us. 
  • “Technology is like a brother to me.”
  • “A valued assistant.”
  • “Technology is like my third child.  It plays a hugely significant role in my life.”
  • “We’re tight, me and technology.  Close chums.”
  • “It’s like electricity.  Always there.”

Technology enslaves us:  We are tethered 24/7.  While respondents see this as helpful to our personal relationships, it comes at the price of always being “at work.” Gen Y respondents seem to fear that being off the grid equates with being socially irrelevant.
  • “Addicted and in constant pursuit of more.”
  • “Cell phones have become a socially acceptable drug with no cure.”
  • “It’s a devil and a saint.”
  • “If I don’t respond to a my friend’s text right away it’s taken as an insult.”
Hygiene matters less than connectivity:  Respondents would give up deodorant before giving up their favorite technology – perhaps a sign that our personal technologies have isolated us, so poor hygiene might not matter much.
  • “I’m locked away emailing most of the day so giving up deodorant wouldn’t be an issue.”
  • “I’m sure there are plenty of unwashed, staying up all night Facebooking and Dorito-eating folks descending into that abyss right now.”

We hunger for more meaningful connections:  Because of texting and Facebook, our personal connections are broad but not deep.  This became evident as respondents reflected on how their life would change if they gave up their favorite personal technologies for a year:
  • “My personal interactions would be narrower, but deeper.”
  • “Less texting, more face to face.”
  • “Less time ignoring caller ID and actually picking up the phone and realizing someone really did need to talk to me at that moment.”
  • “I’d probably have trouble handling the small daily stuff but might actually have more time to focus on big important issues and relationships.”
Clearly, there is no turning back.  Nor should we.  There are countless ways for consumer technology companies to make technology more of a friend and less of a frenemy.  Nintendo’s Wii has been successful because it brought back face-to-face interaction to gaming.  Apple’s success is due in large part to how its design and functionality makes technology simple, inviting and less intrusive.  Bing has picked up market share by addressing the issue of information overload, smartly positioning itself as a decision engine.  And Best Buy’s “twelp force” has brought a degree of humanity and personalization to the act of shopping for electronics online.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The same old "new normal"?

Today I saw a study on "The New Affluents" and how they will be behave differently from previous generations of people with more dollars than sense.

According to this study, affluent Americans are now into self-expression, not status.  They will not buy anything to impress others because conspicuous consumption is out.  Brand choices will be guided by perceptions of quality and authenticity.

Sure.  If that's true we'd all be driving a Honda.

I cannot remember the last time I heard somebody admit in research that they are shallow and driven by what the Jones' think.  Seriously, did the researcher expect that in the midst of the Great Recession respondents would agree that conspicuous consumption is a personal priority?

I am wary of research that predicts that consumers will respond differently during this recovery than we did following previous recessions.  As I posted at the onset of this recession, the narrative of the "new normal" (i.e., grounded values, cocooning, authenticity, personal fulfillment) always comes to the forefront during a recession, only to be followed by new cars, new houses and designer baby buggies during the shiny, happy days that follow.  This has occurred after every recession since the early '80s.  Marketers that bet against deeply ingrained human needs tend to lose.

To be sure, what will be different in this recovery is the power of social and online media to make us smarter and more empowered consumers.  But don't be surprised if we once again experience what Faith Popcorn once described as "the pleasure revenge."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Three fools. One good agency.

Only fools would start a company just as the economy was about to crater, and do so on April Fools Day.

On April 1st, 2007, three guys at the top of their game left great jobs and corporate comforts to run away and join the circus.  The result was Barrie D'Rozario Murphy.

The agency was hatched over multiple breakfasts when Bob and Stuart made the tough decision to leave Fallon to launch their own agency, followed by multiple phone calls from Stuart persuading me that joining a 3 person shop would be more exciting than leading Saatchi LA's 300 person shop.  Stuart is quite persuasive.  And prescient.

We call our company a "grown up start up" – a handle Jon Bond kindly gave us one night in New York after we launched, inspired by several martinis and Jon's passion for giving brands a clear positioning.

Three years later, BD'M has earned the trust of marketers such as United Airlines, Bissell, Best Buy, Applied Materials, Compellent, Del Webb, UnitedHealth Group and our founding client, the Sunset Marquis.  Our work for the Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis garnered one of only two U.S. Gold Lions in Film last year at Cannes.  And the 4As named BD'M "best small agency in the U.S."  (Go to our site and read the tongue firmly in cheek ad we ran in the New York Times.)  But we take most pride in the talented people who have ventured from near and far to join BD'M.  We'd be nowhere without them.

A start up?  Not so much anymore.  Grown up?  Well, Bob, Stuart and I are still working on that part.

So this April Fool's Day, do something very foolish and follow your dreams.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Here's a viral idea BD'M created for Compellent to allow IT managers to work out their angst over outdated data storage technologies.

Have some fun.  Trash the SAN!


Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How Games Can Help Us Solve the World's Biggest Problems

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: Thought provoking presentation by Jane McGonigal about how the skills acquired by gamers can be applied to solving the epic problems the world is facing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finding a brand's emotional truth.

I had been scratching my head this past year wondering why Bud Light was touting "drinkability" as its new brand positioning.  It's an odd word for a beer, somehow very powerpointy.  This week the answer came into the light:  consultants.  According to Advertising Age, "drinkability" was the output of a consulting group hired by Anheuser-Busch.  

I fully embrace the clarifying power of one-word brand equities.  However, some strategic language should stay in the brand bullseye and not become the creative expression.   At least Coors Light bills itself as "refreshing", a word that makes me thirsty for a beer.

The consultant's explanation is that all brands need to be underpinned by an emotional and rational appeal, and that relying solely on an emotional message runs the risk of being replicated by competition.  That may be true in many categories, but I'm not sure this is true with beer.  And it is certainly not true if you take the time to peel back the layers of the brand to reveal its essential emotional truth – something that cannot be replicated.

Witness Dos Equis.  The campaign featuring "The most interesting man in the world" is purely emotional.  It taps into powerful archetypes and storytelling.  The campaign has contributed to double-digit sales growth.

So next time you're in a bar, you can order a beer that is drinkable, or a beer that makes you interesting.  Enough said.

Monday, March 15, 2010

ING Cafes - the Starbucks of banks.

I stumbled upon an ING Cafe in Philadelphia last week and was struck by the brilliance of the bank's decision to reach customers in such a unique way and give the bank a tangible personality.

I've since learned there are seven ING Cafes across the country, each a fully functioning coffee shop and retail bank.  In addition to a latte, customers can choose to speak with an ING representative about opening a checking account.  But if you simply want to kick back with a cup of coffee and tweet to your heart's content, the ING bankers will stay in Barista mode.

These Cafes are a savvy way to feed social media and boost the bank's Google results, which include restaurant reviews in Yelp and New Yorker Magazine – a media context in which a bank is seldom mentioned.  

The ING Cafes seem to be inspired by the successful Jyske Bank case study I've highlighted in previous posts.

While advertising is certainly a proven way to build a strong brand image, first-hand experiences are unparalleled in their ability to turn perceptions into deeply held beliefs. 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl commercials 2010

The big commercials on yesterday's Super Bowl seemed a bit smaller than those in years past.  Perhaps the problem is that we tend to use as our benchmark the waste-money-at-all-costs commercials of the days when you didn't have to say anything, just have a chimp clanging a symbol or punch somebody in the nuts to get a laugh.

So while the spots seemed a bit smaller in scale, many seemed to nail a new model:  humor that reinforces a big brand message without getting in the way of it.  

Some exemplars included Snickers ("Betty White"), Bud Light ("Lost", "T-Pain"), Coke ("Simpsons") and, as usual, Monster ("Fiddlin' Beaver").  

Super Bowl ads need to draw a laugh in a room full of noisy, well-lubricated fans.  Talking animals, guy-humor, and, yes, people getting punched in the nuts, are all part of the formula.  But using this huge stage to land a big message must be part of the formula as well, particularly in an increasingly results oriented climate.

Two other consistent themes yesterday:  seemingly guys have been neutered beyond belief and several brands that start with the letter "D" (dudes?) are here to help men be men again (Dodge, Dove, Dockers); Danica Patrick must move on and leave GoDaddy in her dust – she's better than them.  I think.

And, finally, one observation:  As more and more marketing budgets get redirected to digital and search marketing, it was ironic to see Google running a Super Bowl spot.  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The power of a big brand idea.

All of us at BD'M are very proud of our new work for Compellent.

Compellent is one of the country's fastest growing network storage companies.  Their "secret sauce" is a unique technology that is extremely dynamic, scalable and efficient.  The company enlisted BD'M in 2009 to dissect the brand and develop a new plaftform to help fuel Compellent's next phase of growth.

The result?  "Fluid Data", a big brand idea that marries the essential truth of Compellent's technology with a clear point of view on what the future of data storage should be.

This brand video is the tip of the iceberg.  There's more cool stuff in the pipeline.  Stay tuned, because the future is fluid.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Viewing event marketing as mass media.

I really like this Coke video that's sweeping YouTube.  It nails the brand idea (happiness).  It's also and interesting blend of event marketing and viral marketing.

The basis of event marketing used to be to stage something provocative to get customers to in a specific location to experience the brand in a new and engaging manner.  The event would be seen by the 500 or 5,000 people at the event, whether on a street, a campus or at a sporting event.

Social media changes everything.  Now we need to think about event marketing as a form of mass media.  Stage an interesting event that can be documented and seen by the 500,000 people who will view it and share it on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.  At last count Coke has racked up over 784,000 views so far.  I would imagine that is slightly more than the number of folks on the campus where they staged the event.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The PayPal of mobile commerce?

The Red Cross text message campaign to raise donations for Haiti is brilliant.  It's simple and immediate, two things that tend to resonate in America.

It's also been hugely effective, raising about $22 million in donations as of this past Sunday, or nearly one in every five dollars raised so far by the Red Cross for Haiti.

(By the way, if you haven't done so already, please text "Haiti" to 9099 and and $10 donation to the Red Cross relief effort for Haiti will be added to your phone bill.)

This makes me wonder about the future applications of this idea.  Why couldn't I do the same thing to buy a product?  Why can't AT&T or Verizon step forward to become the new PayPal for mobile commerce?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The BD'M culture club

Culture Club
By David Gee

“Do you want to start an agency?” said Fallon vet Stuart D’Rozario to his former and current colleague, Bob Barrie, over cocktails late one afternoon several years ago. The reply, “Can I tell you in the morning?” As you might imagine since you are reading this story, the answer did indeed come back in the affirmative and thus began a new agency called Barrie D’Rozario. Astute readers, however, will no doubt note there is a Murphy missing from the BDM triumvirate.

“We agreed that we needed a third partner on the strategy side,” continues D’Rozario, “and I told Bob I had once met this cool ad guy, David Murphy, several years earlier and that he might be a fit. At that time, Murphy was president of the combined offices of Young Rubicam and Wunderman in Southern California. I looked him up and found he had moved on and was running the 300-person Saatchi & Saatchi LA office. So we both said to ourselves, ‘Good luck with that.’ called David anyway and said, ‘Do you remember me? We met five years ago. How would you like to leave your job, and run away and join the circus?’ One thing led to another, and four or five months after the phone call it all came together.”

On April 1, 2007, Barrie D’Rozario did, indeed, become Barrie D’Rozario Murphy.

“The draw and the lure is having the opportunity to partner with other people who have a similar vision of what the culture should be like,” says Murphy answering his own question—and mine. “The world doesn’t need another ad agency, but when you have people who understand the role of culture, the right culture, the right people will be attracted to that and the right clients will value that. We have the same passion, the same interests and it’s very collaborative.”

“That said, we are very different people with different perspectives,” interjects Barrie. “I’m the guy who has spent my entire career in Minneapolis; five years at a couple of retail shops and then 24 at Fallon. Stuart, on the other hand, has worked in Seattle, Hong Kong, Boston and Bombay, and David was born in Pakistan and has worked all over the world as well.”

Having given up successful jobs in other places, the three now work together in a clean, crisp, open space on the second floor of the Wyman Building, to create and collaborate and run an “agency with no walls.” And, as per their own verbiage, they do just that:

No walls between BD'M and the clients …

“We think of it as one team,” says Murphy. “We don’t think of it as us and them. Clients say to us all the time, ‘don’t give me the org chart, just give me a handful of people that are going to make us successful.’”

No walls between BD'M and other partners working for clients …

“We’re obviously independent, and that has its blessings,” says Barrie. “We can collaborate with virtually anyone in the world without undue influence to use a certain company or person simply because they’re ‘in the network.’ The model has become that clients don’t have just one agency anyway, they tend to work with a lot of agencies. Whether we are the lead brand agency, like we are with United, or a supplemental support agency, like we are with Best Buy, we play well and collaborate with others. A lot of agencies are real competitive and constantly jostle for position, but we found our work is better and the mood is better if we approach it as ‘we’re all in this together.’”

No walls between people of different disciplines in the agency…

“My pet peeve has long been the creative department,” says D’Rozario, a former creative director at Fallon. “Everyone thinks it’s ‘hallowed ground,’ this special place. The one thing we will never have at BDM is a creative dept. It’s all just smushed together.”

Of course, there are only a couple of dozen people “smushed together” at BDM, as opposed to the several hundred people at places where the three principals have worked previously. What about the head count? The infrastructure? The heads of the big agencies in New York, Chicago and L.A. will obviously always say size matters. Does it still in the ad agency world? I asked David Murphy.

“When I was running the Y&R shop in LA, I developed this game that I used with people in response to the question, ‘What’s the agency going to do about this or that?’ I’d say there’s no such thing as ‘the agency.’ Because for Callaway Golf, one of our clients, there were seven people. That was the agency to the client. For Sony it was 22 people. So it really comes down to small teams. There are never 200 or 300 people working on one client’s business. The team we have working for BD'M on United’s account is no different than the number of people who would be working on it at a bigger agency. One thing that is different, however, is that bureaucracy and compartmental silos do not encumber our team. We have the same brain power, the same resources, but they are more directly applied to the client and their jobs.”

So you can make the argument size doesn’t matter, but awards always do. And the BD'M crew scored a big one this past fall when they came out on top in the small agency category for the American Association of Advertising Agencies O’Toole Award for Creative Excellence. And they took out a full-page ad in the New York Times (see sidebar) to tell the world about it.

“We got phone calls and emails for days, including from people who aren’t even in advertising!” says Barrie excitedly. “They were sitting in a coffee shop and calling saying how much they loved this ad because it spoke for the little guy.”

“We had a lot of fun with it, but it was actually kind of a risk,” adds Murphy. “The industry is starved to have a point of view and it was really kind of cheeky.”

“I actually wrote the ad sitting at the kitchen table,” says D’Rozario. “It has helped bring us some business, and we enjoyed it, but then you move on. The biggest thing about awards is that clients are hiring us to make them more successful and it gives them confidence that we are successful ourselves.”

And as the ad says, the agency’s principals do want BD'M to grow. However, they are quick to add—in unison—they want responsible, healthy, organic growth so the agency doesn’t get too big, too fast, and implode on itself as they have seen others do. And that involves not only paying attention to revenue and head count and clients, but also the culture.

“One thing I have learned here at BD'M is it really is all about the culture,” Murphy closes. “Everyone has the same processes, the same flow charts, etc, but it’s the culture that makes things happen.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The decade of analytics.

I believe the new decade will be defined in marketing circles as the analytics decade.

Over the past ten years marketers have become adept at using ones and zeros to market to customers.  We now must use these same digital tools to learn more about satisfying our customers.

Traditional forms of market research have long revealed the chasm between what customers say versus what they actually do.  What people say in focus groups is often quite different than how they actually spend their time and money.  We often find clearer insights when we observe real behavior.  We used to rely solely on field work to see consumer-erectus in its natural environs.  Now we can use their actual online shopping behavior to get a real-time fix on their behaviors, wants and needs.

A recent NY Times article ("A Data Explosion Is Remaking Retail") illustrates this point in action.

I particularly like the example of Wet Seal, the teen fashion retailer, which bases its merchandising and inventory decisions on the trends it observes when customers use the Outfitter feature on its website to see how different items might look when paired together -- e.g., which tops go with which jeans, color combinations, dressy/casual mash-ups, etc.

To be sure, we've long been able to gauge behavior by looking at what people buy online.  What's interesting about Wet Seal's Outfitter application is its ability to analyze what people would like to buy in the future, based on real behaviors on the retailer's website.