Thursday, December 8, 2011

A case for SMS over QR codes.

QR codes are the rage in marketing.  I'm not yet a full-on fanboy.

Adoption rates are low.  The user experience is spotty.  Today's piece on CNN summarizes many of the key reasons, including the most basic – it is complicated and time-consuming.  My earlier posts on misusing QR codes noted that many marketers are leading customers to content that is largely unsatisfying.  Why go through the bother of snapping a QR to get the same content I could have gotten by typing a URL?

Asking consumers to text DEMO to 1234 to view a product demonstration is familiar and uncomplicated, can be done on every smart phone, in every lighting environment.  To me, that sounds like the quickest response.

Clearly, we need to avoid blanket prognostications.  Tech-savvy consumers and professionals are prime candidates for using QR codes.  It's hard to flip through an issue of Wired without seeing QRCs from marketers as diverse as The Glenlivet, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft.

We may reach a tipping point as QR readers become native features within smart phones, and as their quality improves.  We may also encounter alternatives to QR readers – I've had good experiences to date interacting with print ads embedded with Google Goggles.

Mobile is an opt-in response device more so than an advertising medium.  It has the power to blur offline and online marketing.  It is a central part of a brand's overall "screen strategy" in which we seamlessly link the power of sight, sound and motion across TV, online and mobile.

Marketers do best when they embrace fundamental human behaviors.  We all know how to send text messages.  Inserting an SMS call to action may be a better alternative to inserting a  QRC, which may not work, depending on the lighting, may not be enabled on the phone, or may or not be fully understood by most people.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The age of screen strategies.

Video content, regardless of the type of screen on which it appears, was the star topic at this week's UBS global media and communications conference.

TV advertising is not dead, as many people mistakenly proclaim. Worldwide spending on television advertising is growing. Viewership remains strong, albeit increasingly splintered.

But this fact hides the bigger opportunity for marketers — it's no longer about television, it's about "screens."

I watch football live on my TV, but I stream CNN live on my iPad. I DVR "Modern Family" but use Hulu+ for my daily dose of Stewart, Colbert and Portlandia. Other times I stream "Once Upon a Time" (my guilty pleasure) on abc.com.

Even my "print" is on a screen, mostly The New York Times and Wired on my mobile appendages.

All of these screens provide ample opportunities marketers to employ sight, sound and motion — the building blocks of memorable storytelling.

TV advertising became king in its day because of the persuasiveness of sight, sound and motion. Unlike the original Mad Men, we now have myriad opportunities to use this branding tactic. (That's why I believe this is truly the most exciting time in our business.)

The key to an effective screen strategy is not simply to create video content, but to determine in advance ways to seamlessly integrate and link these storytelling assets. For example, the SMS call to action in the print should lead to product demonstration videos that subsequently link me to customer testimonial videos on the website. Using screens is smart; connecting screens is smarter.

The successful screen strategies are those that create custom content for each screen's unique context and experience. For example, shows on Hulu+ or abc.com are usually sponsored by a single advertiser. The common mistake is to run one TV commercial four times (and be annoyingly repetitive) and miss the opportunity tell an ever-deeper story in four chapters. (Remember, unlike TV, online viewers cannot skip the ads.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shifting attitudes toward premium brands.

The 2011 Mendelsohn Affluence Survey reinforces several themes from my earlier posts on premium branding.  For example, the definition of premium is relative – 89% agree luxury is in the eye of the beholder (a BMW is clearly premium to most, while a Prius is premium to others).  Premium brands continue to derive their worth from the emotional content and meaning they convey.

The study also shows how the definitions of luxury and premium brands is shifting.  Value is playing an increasingly large role.  Small indulgences can be as rewarding as buying an expensive luxury item.  Some consumers are defining these at "treats.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thinking inside the box.

Marketing a service can be challenging because it is intangible.  (I learned this first hand when I led Marketing Communications at Aetna Healthcare.)

More service brands are tackling this challenge by literally thinking inside the box. 

I'm seeing a trend toward productizing intangible services – i.e., making the service look and feel like a packaged good you might find on a store shelf.

GM OnStar is the latest marketer to embrace this idea.  By placing a satellite-based service in a box, it now feels like something consumers can better comprehend, something you could imagine buying at Best Buy.

Perhaps GM is lifting a page from Progressive Insurance's playbook.  We all know Flo works in an "insurance store" filled with boxes of insurance products.  Again, seeing things in boxes = tangible = comprehensible.  Going even further in this direction, Progressive's new Snapshot is truly a tangible product – a monitoring device customers plug into their car to receive safe driving discounts.

Over the last few years, ING Direct has launched banking cafes in eight cities around the U.S. to help transform IRAs and CDs into a tangible brand experience.

Looking back, I suggest that Jyske Bank is the Rosetta Stone for this trend toward productizing intangible services.  Several years ago Denmark's second largest bank transformed its dusty banks into something akin to Apple Stores, complete with boxes of banking products displayed on shelves.  (See my earlier post on Jyske Bank.  It's a fascinating case study.)

These examples provide a perfect illustration of embracing design as a business strategy, not as an aesthetic process.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Innovation – aka, don't let a good crisis go to waste.

The Wall Street Journal's small business innovation competition shows how businesses can succeed in a poor economic climate by using the realities of the marketplace as a source of new business models and product offerings.

This made me pause to think about our small business, Barrie D'Rozario Murphy.  Starting an agency on the eve of the Great Recession is a focusing experience.  And while we were named in 2009 by the 4As as the "best small agency in the U.S.", we believe we've gotten better since because we started rethinking what marketers need from an agency.

Our clients needs ideas – not just TV ideas; not just print ideas; not just banner ad ideas.  They need the best solution for the problem at hand.  Any agency that specializes in one solution, whether that is TV or interactive or social media, is the proverbial hammer that views all problems as nails.

We deepened our commitment to being an agency with "no walls."  No walls between us and our clients; no walls between us and other partners working for our clients; no walls preventing us from discovering new and innovative partners that can help our clients succeed; no walls between people of different disciplines.

"No Walls" has inspired us to design smart phone games to sell a la carte travel options for United Airlines (using gamification as a powerful communications strategy).  We created an extensive iPad app for Medtronic to tell its corporate brand story (the modern version of the :60 corporate branding effort traditionally reserved for Sunday morning news programs).  We created social media savvy street teams to launch Best Buy's eBikes program (the new way to link local events to a larger audience).

And throughout this journey we haven't lost our advertising mojo, having created beautiful print, TV and promotional programs that have been recognized with Gold Lions in Cannes and EFFIE Awards from the American Marketing Association.

The morale of the story.  Never led a good crisis go to waste.  Rethink everything, and discover something even better.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Steve Jobs mattered to us.

Steve Jobs' death is being mourned worldwide because he changed the world.  He democratized technology.  He liberated it to do good.  Most importatnly, he brought optimism, creativity and joy to the lives of ordinary people.

His passing is particularly saddening for people in creative professions, and within the agency world in particular.  His impact upon people in our industry extended well beyond the power of his products to inspire and enable creative expression.  Steve meant more to us than that.

On the surface, we admired his creative instincts - in the design of his products and in the campaigns he approved.

Perhaps we looked up to him as the archetypal client.  Those who worked with Steve say he was tough and demanding, but always in pursuit of greatness.

And, maybe, just maybe, on a deeper and more personal level, we wanted to see a bit of ourselves in Steve Jobs and identify with him as a kindred spirit - one of the dreamers; the crazy ones; the few people in corporate America who dared to think different.

We can honor Steve Jobs' legacy by honoring his standards.  Don't accept anything less than great, because life is too short to be merely average.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Design as a competitive advantage.

Fast Company's cover story on design ("The United States of Design") is a must-read for any business leader looking to find a sustainable source of differentiation.  Its central point is that design's strategic value is not just in improving the product offering but in rethinking the entire way businesses operate.

I've written on several occasions about the value of embracing design thinking as a business discipline, not as an aesthetic process.  Design thinking forces executives to view the world from the customer's standpoint. It focuses on the overall experience and not just the tangible product. It requires reductive thinking. All of which are extremely healthy business practices, not design practices.

Design as a business strategy and source of differentiation was embraced years ago by early adopters like Hermann Miller, Apple, Kohler and Target.  Now companies as diverse as McDonalds, 3M, Black and Decker, Jawbone and Method are following suit.

As Fast Company points out, the value and power of design is misunderstood in many companies.  In fact, David Butler, coke's head of global design, jettisoned the squishy D-word and instead talked about how his team can "make stuff better."

Fahrenheit 212's Mark Payne notes that "design is differentiation made visible, visceral and experiential."  Well put.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What makes a premium brand premium?

I was thinking the other day about the DNA of premium brands.

One thing is certain -- it's a relative idea. For example, Hyatt is not a premium brand if you're used to staying at a W or a Ritz Carlton. But if your vacations to date have been holed up in a Holiday Inn, then by all means a stay in a Hyatt is a premium experience.

Another thing is certain -- a brand is considered premium only when we believe it is worth the price. And that's where we can dig deeper. Why are we willing to pay more for a product when there are others that provide the same service or function at a lesser price?

I have spent a good part of my career in advertising developing strategies and ideas for a wide range of  premium brands, including American Express, Sony, Callaway Golf, Hilton, Jaguar, Land Rover – even the Toyota Prius.  Through these experiences I have come to believe that a premium brand is built upon specific tangible and intangible attributes that give it a sense worth:
  • Sensual – It arouses our senses and feels indulgent.  It is an experience.  We want to touch it; we enjoy looking at it.  (Think about Steve Jobs' obsession on how a iPhone should feel in your hand, or how Jet Blue orchestrates a total sensory experience – from snacks to entertainment – to set itself above the fray in a fiercely competitive category.) 
  • Mysterious – It draws us in deeper and reveals more to us over time.  We are intrigued to learn its back story.  (Witness how Land Rover cultivates its image as a global trekker to set it apart from the herd of grocery-hauling SUVs.
  • Rare – It represents a discerning choice, intriguing because it is uncommon.  (Audi has cultivated this particularly well – the thinking person's alternative to BMW and Mercedes.)
  • Confident – It projects a feeling of intrinsic worth.  (Burberry didn't ask permission to transcend its classic trench coat.  It confidently asserted its plaid on to a wide portfolio of products and dared us to question its right to do so.)
  • Authentic – It knows its "true north" and remains committed to this ideal.  (Ritz Carlton's premium experience is a direct result of its mission statement – "ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. " With this simple ethic, the hotel's employees know exactly the business they are in and how they should serve customers.  Starbucks lost its way for a while before CEO Howard Schultz refocused the company back on coffee.)
  • Quality – It is consistent and shows obsessive attention to detail.  (Tiffany understands the premium cues conveyed by a detail as simple as a white bow on a blue box.)
Managing a premium brand is one of the most difficult challenges in marketing. Like any business, premium brands must pursue growth strategies. However, unlike many mainstream businesses, premium brands must do so in a way that doesn't dilute the brand's image or the user's sense of exclusivity and pride. Certain strategies are off-limits. Brand managers for premium brands must know when it is best to pass on short-term growth opportunities that could tarnish the brand's long-term health.

Marketing a premium brand demands that we think through every facet of the brand experience.  Packaging matters.  The choice of materials and lighting in the lobby matters.  Attentive customer service matters.  And within the company itself, culture matters.  Culture is often the alpha and omega of successful brands – particularly in the case of premium brands.


NOTE:  This is updated from an earlier post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Is digital killing luxury brands?

Oddly enough, this is not a question that's keeping me awake – it's one recently posed by Adweek.  I'm writing this because I disagree with the article's central premise:  the web's democratizing power might weaken a luxury brand's cachet.


The article suggests that most luxury brands were slow to embrace "new media" because the web makes brands too accessible.  (By the way, if you want to make a 30 year old laugh, refer to the web as "new media.")


To address Adweek's question we need to tighten the vocabulary.  I don't believe cachet comes from offering a luxury, it is about being premium.  A brand is considered premium when we believe it is worth a higher price.  That's how you measure cachet.  


Certain brands compel us to pay more even when there are others that provide the same service or function at a lesser price.  Previous wikiposts have explored this point.  Having worked with brands such as Sony, American Express, Jaguar and Land Rover, I tend to believe premium brands are built on a core set of attributes that give them greater perceived worth – e.g., sensuality, rarity, confidence, authenticity, quality.


Brands are defined by creating an empathetic relationship with customers.  Those brands that offer a premium lifestyle or image, in particular, are often defined by what they do, not just by what they say.  In other words, it is our experience with the brand that helps define its worth.  Part of Apple's worth is the retail experience; part of Nike's worth is its authentic and deep involvement with athletes at all levels; Land Rover's cachet is in part formed by the off-road test tracks at the dealership, and the fact that its showrooms feel more like an LL Bean store than a car dealer.


Given the importance of orchestrating rich experiences, no medium is better suited for this than the web (other than event marketing).  Interactive platforms, whether a website or an app, offer the opportunity to inspire deep engagement, personalized experiences and highly emotional storytelling.  These tactics can build mystery, exclusivity, a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship – the hallmarks of a premium brand.


The web's accessibility is not the point.  A Burberry store in a mall is equally accessible.  It is the experience that Burberry creates in its stores that makes it feel premium and exclusive.  This same attention to detail when designing the in-store experience – e.g.,lighting, surfaces, wardrobe, signage, product displays – is required when designing an online experience.   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Marketing's new normal.

There seems to be a steady stream of books offering breathless predictions about the death of advertising and, by extension, agencies.

I’ve recently come to believe that the Chicken Littles who squawk loudest about the perils of not embracing the new normal in marketing are secretly rooted in the past.

Good marketing professionals – marketers and agencies alike – realized this several years ago, adapted and got on with things. Successful companies tend to do this. Others don’t. They go out of business. Just as Mr. Darwin predicted.  Moreover, the next generation of talent streaming into the marketing field are probably clueless as to what these authors are debating. If you want to make a 25-year-old ROTFL (whether they be a brand manager or a copywriter), refer to the web as “new media.”

Those who still go on about the how the business is changing do so because deep down they still use the wonder years of network television and national magazines as the yardstick by which to measure change.

The new normal banishes words like "traditional" and "nontraditional." Is a print ad with an embedded QR code traditional? Or how about bus board with a mobile call-to-action? You get the point.

The new normal doesn’t view "brand" through the narrow lens of a product’s TV or print campaign because consumers build brand impressions through a complex mix of first-hand experiences, peer opinions and, yes, intangible and emotional imagery.

The new normal views interactive media as a powerful brand-building medium because it has the ability to inspire deep engagement, expose customers to peer reviews and immerse customers in highly emotional brand narratives.

The new normal embraces media as a source of creativity, not as the pipes through which we beam ideas. The context in which we appear in a customer’s life is often as important as what we say.

The new normal embraces metrics, both hard and soft. Those who embrace only one set over the other will struggle. Ignore ROI or store traffic and nobody will care about the awareness gain. Likewise, click-through rates at the expense of relevance, differentiation and likability will not sit well when the brand degrades to commodity status. True professionals work hard to balance these seemingly conflicting goals, and that’s why they’re good at what they do.

The new normal also recognizes the business value of TV, print and radio. Good luck reaching C-Suite executives with a viral video, or my mom, for that matter, through Twitter. And let me know how efficient your street teams are relative to a spot on an NFL game in reaching millions of guys. When we close our eyes to the power and effectiveness of mass advertising, we are as blind as those who ignore the creative possibilities within social media or mobile marketing. True professionals embrace all forms of marketing and know when and how to deploy each.

So let’s just get on with it. The industry doesn’t need to change. It needs a good dose of creative destruction. Let market forces take their toll. Those who embrace the new normal will prosper. Those who don’t will not. Couldn’t be simpler. Don’t you love capitalism?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where does your brand draw the line?

If you've read my earlier posts on brand narratives then you know I believe brands should invest as much time defining what they oppose as they do defining what they stand for.

Knowing what you stand for provides a clear sense of true north.  Knowing what you oppose keeps brands focused, aligned and authentic.  (Michael Porter has written that great strategy not only tells you what to do, but should also tell you what not to do.)

That's why I applaud Abercrombie's decision to pay the Jersey Shore to stop dressing its "stars" in A&F garb.  Whether or not this is a genuine offer or merely a PR stunt is beside the point.  What Abercrombie is doing is drawing a proverbial line in the sand so that its customers know the brand's point of view, taste and values.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why we declined United's invitation.

United Airlines announced yesterday that it selected McGarryBowen as its new agency of record after a lengthy review.  We're happy for our friends at United and wish MB great success.

Many people are asking us why BD'M declined to participate in the review.  After all, BD'M created for United arguably the category's most distinctive and effective advertising (continuing the great work my partners Bob and Stuart led at Fallon).  The animated Rhapsody campaign has won nearly every international creative award through the years, and last year won an EFFIE for the effectiveness of our Travel Options campaign.

After United and Continental merged, with the inevitable management shuffle, the three of us came to the sober conclusion that incumbents seldom prevail in a post-merger environment and declined United's invitation to defend the business.  We decided it was smarter to invest our time and money, as well as the talents of our employees, doing great work for current clients while pursuing new opportunities.

Granted, it's easier to make a bold, principled decision after you've just prevailed in a major pitch to win a global AOR assignment from Dell, besting a range of multinationals for the computer giant's Public Sector business.

Did we make the right decision?  We think so.  While we miss our friends at United, being on offense instead of defense helped BD'M win a second global AOR from Dell, this time winning its Large Enterprise assignment, as well as the recent AOR assignment from Wagner.

I suppose the moral of this story is that sometimes in life you need to step back in order to move forward.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wagner selects BD'M.

Our world just got more colorful with the news that Wagner Spraytech has chosen BD'M as it agency of record for its full line of power paint sprayers and power rollers.  The assignment spans all channels, from print to online to in-store, and all points in between.

I've long enjoyed working on DIY-targeted assignments because these consumers are extremely engaged and open to new ideas. It was easy to measure the entire agency's passion for this assignment by our willingness to finally allow a splash of color on the pristine white walls of BD'M.  (An agency with "no walls" finally paints its walls.  Ironic.)

This year is shaping up to be one of momentum and diversification for BD'M.  In addition to Wagner, BD'M has won two global AOR assignments from Dell (Public Sector, followed by Large Enterprise), a corporate branding assignment for Medtronic, and global AOR responsibilities for Chamilia jewelry.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The power of empathy.

Whenever I present my point of view on the defining elements of brand equity, I always talk about the power of empathy.  I believe what is true in how we form personal relationships is also true in how we form brand relationships.

We tend to have our deepest and most lasting relationships with people who share our values; our beliefs; our sense of humor; even our sense of style.

As human beings we are soft-wired for empathic behavior.  Many neuroscientists believe we are equipped with "mirror neurons" that cause us to experience another's plight as if we were experiencing it ourself.

Empathy is how we bond with one another.  It is also how brands bond with customers.  We gravitate towards brands that get us.  Define a brand's source of empathy with its customers and you'll get to the essential truth of the brand.

I found this video to be a fascinating journey through the history of empathy – first established through blood ties, then shared faith and later through national identification.

Friday, June 24, 2011

21st century advertising.

When I started reading Marc Ruxin's HuffPo piece entitled "The New Creative Department" I was prepared to feel dissatisfied over not having reached yet another moving goal post that defines a next gen advertising agency.


Marc posits that what marketers need in today's media and cultural landscape is "a creative team that can manufacture content in an age where news feeds, social games, Pandora, daily deals, photo sharing, on demand or time-shifted video competes with live television, magazines, movies and radio."


I agree.  And I'm also proud to say that Barrie D'Rozario Murphy is doing this every day for its clients.  When we stand up to give our credentials presentation here's what we show:
  • Mobile games to promote United's Travel Options.  (Check them out on iTunes, they've been played nine million times and counting.)
  • Station Domination take-over to help Dell connect with hard to reach IT decision makers in D.C.
  • Social media campaign for Applied Materials' burgeoning solar division.  (Follow The Sun on Twitter @TweetFromTheSun.)
  • iPad app to help Medtronic's customer-facing employees tell the corporate story.
  • Street marketing buzz gangs to launch eBikes at Best Buy.
  • QR codes for Compellent that imbue static collateral with the sight, sound and motion of customer testimonial films.
  • SMS-enabled airport banners to show video demonstrations of United Airlines' new International First and Business Class sleeper seats, as well as a microsite to help road warriors track the roll out.
  • Viral film for the Chambers Hotel that won a Gold Lion at Cannes.
  • Documentary films to capture the vitality of Del Webb's residents.
  • Rich media to allow women to design Chamilia bracelets in the unit itself.
  • And, yes, some award-winning TV and print for all our clients.
So what's the moral of the story?  First, I'm proud to partner with Bob Barrie and Stuart D'Rozario and the creative teams they lead; second, it's been my observation that those who write how the our industry needs to change must take more time to observe what successful agencies such as Goodby, Wieden, Crispin, Anomaly, etc. are already doing; finally, let's not call it "creative content" – it's advertising.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Misusing QR codes

A QR code should not be a substitute for a URL.

Used correctly, a QRC is one way to imbue offline, static communications with the brand-building power of sight, sound and motion — e.g., a link to an emotional brand video, or a provocative product demonstration, or compelling customer testimonials.  (For the record, I'm no QR fanboy.  I believe an SMS call to action is a more natural behavior for most people.  Not everyone has a barcode reader, but all know how to text.)

Use it incorrectly and you end up doing something like Medica has done, which recently wallpapered Minneapolis with its QR codes.

After a couple of weeks of curiosity (one of the secret draws of a QR) I broke down and tagged the code. Imagine my joy when it revealed a mobile site that can give me a health insurance quote. I feel this misses a QR's true potential and also overlooks the role of context in brand-building — a parking garage usually is not the place where I want a price quote on my health plan.  (Those more mundane moments in life may be the exact time to inspire me with tips and tricks to live healthier.)

If you want prospects to go to a microsite, simply give them a URL.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Groupon dissected. Merchant beware?

Here's a provocative POV on Groupon from TechCrunch - internet marketing company or small merchant loan sharking scheme?  

A few excerpts:
Groupon is not an Internet marketing business so much as it is the equivalent of a loan sharking business. The $21,000 that the business (up front) for running a Groupon is essentially a very, very expensive loan.  They get the cash up front, but pay for it with deep discounts over time.  Now here’s the crazy part.  Not only is Groupon effectively giving loans to merchants, but it also works the other way around.  The merchant is on the hook for the entire value of those deals until Groupon pays the merchant back its portion.  Unlike other loan providers, the merchant is making a short-term loan to Groupon. (Not technically, but effectively.) They buy inventory in advance of the Groupon run. They also serve the initial rush of customers. The business is in a hole before they get their 30- and 60-day Groupon payouts.


Even more interesting is the squeeze that Google Offers is putting on Groupon.
In (Groupon's payment terms), the first installment is 33% in 5 days. If they have to pay merchants faster, that could lead to problems.  And Google might force that to happen. According to Google Offers’ payment terms, merchants receive 80% of their share in 4 days—more than twice as much, 1 day earlier.  There’s no way that was an accident.  If Groupon matches these payment terms, they’ll need cash faster and need to grow faster.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Happy birthday, David Ogilvy.

David Ogilvy would have been 100 today.

I spent my formative years at Ogilvy & Mather, going there straight from Duquesne University and leaving 15 years later with a grasp of brand strategy, integrated marketing, global branding, and most importantly, the value of big creative ideas.  O&M helped me grow up professionally and personally, and I am forever grateful.

In those days Ogilvy was a "teaching hospital" – you learned while you practiced your craft.  In addition to formal training programs we were inspired by the ever-present Ogilvy-isms – a body of "how to" principles for creating effective advertising.


Even though David had long since retired to his chateau in France by the time I joined O&M, I did have one memorable encounter with the man.  We were pitching Jaguar Cars on the Friday afternoon before the Memorial Day weekend, but half the agency had left early for the long weekend.  So we created the perception of a bustling shop by moving people around the building by walkie-talkie (in the days before cell phones) as we led the clients to various pitch rooms.  In in the midst of this logistically complex pitch I heard that David Ogilvy was in town and wanted to meet the clients.  What could be better than to have the man who penned the famous Rolls Royce ads meet the gentlemen from Jaguar Cars?  David entered the final room on the walking pitch, introduced himself, and asked the clients to leave with him.  For 15 minutes, Charlotte Beers, Graham Phillips, Bill Hamilton, Rick Boyko, Kelly O'Dea and I, sat there with absolutely no clue where he had taken them (fearing that I had not only lost the pitch, but I had literally lost the clients).  We later found them huddled in David's office.  It seems David needed to pee, so he brought them to the men's room, then to his office to hear his wisdom.

We won the account – my first victory leading a pitch.

Thank you, David Ogilvy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shazam – The QR code of TV.

Progressive Insurance is running (testing?) TV spots that are Shazam enabled.  When I saw the spot the other day I was excited and jealous at the same time.

I love Shazam – it's a very cool music app.  Last weekend, after tagging "Pumped Up Kicks," I found myself wondering why Shazam hadn't yet positioned itself as a QR code for TV.  TV audio is just like a music track – it's all about ones and zeros.  When I later saw the spot I realized I wasn't alone in pondering this question.

Using Shazam to tag the Progressive spot downloads content from Flo, a link to get a quote, a Flo-isms app, etc.  Is Progressive the best test case of Shazam?  Not sure, but I applaud them for testing it.  It would certainly be good for a brand that needs deeper demonstrations or explanations – e.g., cars, computers, financial services, etc.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Going mobile.

I've long advocated that marketers view mobile as an opt-in response device and not as an advertising medium.  Let's agree on a simple truth:  everyone has their phone in hand or nearby all of the time.  Sad perhaps, but undeniably true.

The huge potential of mobile is captured in this infographic, courtesy of Microsoft.

By including a mobile call to action we blur the tired distinction between offline and online; between traditional and nontraditional; between one-way and opt-in communications.  Is a QR-enabled print ad in Fortune traditional or nontraditional?  Is an outdoor poster with an SMS invitation offline or interactive?

I believe mobile response is best used for bringing sight, sound and motion (an amino acid of brand marketing) to otherwise static media.  For example, for United Airlines BD'M included an SMS response on airport banners to enable smartphone wielding business travelers to watch a video of the airline's new first class sleeper suites; for Compellent we embedded a QR code in their brochure to enable IT managers to immediately see customers raving about "Fluid Data."

The jury is out on the effectiveness of QR codes vs SMS.  I believe simple solutions that require less fiddling around will always win (aka, Occam's razor).  Some people may want to snap a photo of a mobile tag, but most may find it more natural to send a text – something they already do dozens of times a day.  (To that end, check out Zoove.com, a service that makes it even easier to create and own "vanity" numbers which are more memorable than most short codes.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Repositioning a brand in a nonlinear world.

Let's admit that the AIDA model of awareness –> interest –> desire –> action is dead

Brands exist in a nonlinear world of social media, SEM, viral and, yes, advertising. This is why I coined wikibranding — more than ever before, brands are defined by consumers, via peer influence and first-hand experiences, and less so by linear brand marketing.

Here's a personal case study: Buick.

I remember when I moved to America from Ireland as a kid seeing Buick ads that featured a catchy Mad Men-esque jingle, something along the lines of "wouldn't you really rather drive a Buick...than any other car this year?"

Through the years my answer to that question was a resounding "no." Buick's gray styling, quality and customer profile placed the brand squarely in the "I'd rather eat prunes" mental filing cabinet.

As of last week, however, I now would consider a Buick Regal and advocate that my friends do likewise. Did I suddenly become aware of the redesigned Regal? No. My Buick Regal journey didn't follow the AIDA model.

I experienced the car first-hand, by accident, when I rented it at National. I was impressed by how well it drove — precision and road-feel, balanced with Lexus-smooth transmission and suspension. It's interior styling was premium and smart, as was the exterior.

I was so surprised by the Regal that I posted my epiphany on Facebook.  The ensuing skepticism of my import-driving friends further reinforced the challenge brands like Buick face — it's hard to change perceptions when your image is trapped in time (and a social media echo-chamber).

Later that week I was driving through Laguna Beach when a good looking car cut in front of me; I stared at it because it didn't look immediately familiar – yet again, the Regal. My earlier driving experience caused me to impute positive perceptions on a car that I would otherwise have ignored.

A day later while flipping through Wired I noticed an ad for the Regal that invited me to photograph the ad with Google Goggles to view additional video content.

I'm quite sure that Regal and its ads have been trying to get my attention long before my first-hand experience. But all these efforts were invisible to me because our brains are the original spam blocker.  My positive first-hand experience made me more open to listening to Buick.

So what are the lessons learned for well-established brands like Buick that seek to change perceptions?

Rethink the role of brand repositioning advertising. In a nonlinear marketplace, I no longer believe the objective of a repositioning campaign is to build awareness – its true function is to reinforce newly formed perceptions brought on through first-hand experiences. Think about it: if a consumer knows they don't like prunes, running ads that make prunes seem hip and cool isn't likely to work. Accept the truth that the consumer knows what they know. After decades of dismissing Buick, the last thing I had time for was reading one of its ads.

Create experiences that allow the consumer to reach their own conclusion — e.g., sampling, trial offer, public displays, 3D immersive experiences online with like/dislike review options, in-person demonstration, trusted peer reviews.  This is the root of wikibranding.

Embrace new behaviors, not just brand imagery. Consumers judge brands by what they do, not simply by what they say. Media can play a huge role in redefining a brand by signaling new behaviors. Buick's ad was in Wired, not Golf Digest, where I would expect to find Buick. That brand context, combined with the Google Goggles interactivity, helped me see the Regal as a tech-savvy brand.  No amount of copy would have had the same effect.

I will be the first to say that this model may not apply to a new brand which desperately needs awareness.

But for brands that need to recast their positioning and perceptions, awareness can be a ball and chain (i.e., "I know you and know that I don't like you.")  For these brands I would suggest that instead of AIDA, we let consumers practice EOIS – experience –> open mind –> investigate –> share.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Multicultural is the new mainstream.

The 2010 Census data released last week further underscores why marketers must begin blurring the distinctions between the general and multicultural markets.

In marketing terms, the multicultural effort is often managed in a silo, funded with the money left over from the general market campaign.  Those days must fade away – population trends and good business sense demand that we think differently.  Multicultural marketing must be central to our thinking.

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.

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.

Moreover, those who view multicultural marketing in black and white terms need to think again.  The 2010 Census shows that the U.S. Hispanic population jumped 42% over the past decade and now accounts for 1-in-6 Americans.  Hispanics are now the dominant minority group in 191 of the nation's 366 metro markets – and not just in the Sun Belt.  This trend will likely keep growing, if for no other reason than the simple fact that the median age of Latino women is 28 years old, whereas the median age of white women is 42.

This multimedia tool from USA Today offers a nice summary.

(PS:  penned by a Pakistani-born son of Irish immigrants...aka a census category of one.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Anantomy of a successful viral video campaign.

Guess which brand's YouTube channel gets more views than BMW.  Even more than Disney.  Did you guess Orabrush?  Nah, didn't think so.

The story of Orabrush's success with its YouTube video campaign is very instructive.  Even the NY Times has covered it in an attempt to decode its success. 

Orabrush's YouTube channel has received more than 33 million views and is the seventh-most subscribed channel, beating brands like BMW, Disney and Nintendo Wii.  Why?  After reading the NY Times article and viewing a bunch of Orabrush's videos, I think their success in going viral can be attributed to a few factors which many marketers would be wise to consider:
  1. Be funny, even slightly outrageous.
  2. Don't be slick.  YouTube is not TV or web.
  3. Be prolific. Program the channel. Make a lot of videos and release them over time to build a following.
  4. Cede creative control.  Persuade the community's "alpha-producers" to make parodies of your video.
  5. Be authentic.  Don't let the dark magic of Madison Avenue be seen or felt.  
  6. Cross your fingers.
Relatedly, check out Ad Age's list of the top viral videos, with commentary on why they were so successful.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is Facebook becoming The Internet?

I read a couple of items tonight that helped bring into sharp focus the sheer magnitude of Facebook's market influence.

First, some data and insights from a talk given by NYU professor Scott Galloway :
  • Facebook now accounts for 10% of all time spent on the internet.  More people around the world spend more time on Facebook that any other site.
  • "People are leaving the internet and spending more time on social media platforms.  There's an emerging generation for which Facebook is their OS.  They don't leave it all day."
  • Currently, Facebook has 580m users.  If we apply Moore's Law to this we can envision this user group doubling in 18 months to 1 billion – perhaps exceeding 20% of all time spent online.  And as we've witnessed so far, as Facebook gets bigger, it tends to grow even faster.
  • If Facebook were to account for 40%-50% of time spent online, then effectively Facebook has become the internet.
Then there's this factoid from today's Wall Street Journal: In February, more than one-third of all online display ads in the U.S. appeared on Facebook – more than 3x Yahoo, its closest rival.

Perhaps this is why I chuckle every time I receive an email from classmates.com.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Medtronic selects BD'M

Minneapolis based Medtronic has selected BD'M to help tell its corporate story.  And what a story it is:  from two guys in a garage in 1955; the first pacemaker; to a $15 billion leader in medical technology.

Beyond its commitment to innovation, what strikes me as special about Medtronic is its culture – they haven't changed a single word in their mission statement since it was penned in 1960 by the founder, and every employee can recite it by heart.  You don't usually find that in companies of this size.  (I'm a student of corporate cultures.  It brings out the wannabe anthropologist in me, because great cultures tend to be tribal in nature, unified by shared legend, lore, symbols and rituals.)

In January, Dell enlisted BD'M as its global agency of record for its Public Sector business unit, followed shortly by Chamilia.  The momentum feels good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to be a social brand.


Here are some good insights from Headstream Consulting's  recently published Social Brands 100 ranking of the top social media brands.  While the rankings will likely ebb and flow, just like social media conversations, I found Headstream's insights into the traits of truly social brands to be instructive and useful.


Ten key insights from Social Brands 100:
  1. Social brands don’t just send messages, they create value for people and communities.
  2. Social brands are happy to exchange rigid control of their brand for greater involvement with people.
  3. Social brands manage their brands in a more human context. It is less about the word of the brand guidelines and more about the spirit of the brand, often replacing formality around tone of voice in favour of expressing brand character, values, purpose and cause.
  4. The types of content that social brands create can be categorised as providing information, utility, entertainment, reward, incentive or something that reflects a person’s character and what they value. Brands are still totems to what we believe, reflecting our personality.
  5. Timeliness of response is a critical indicator of social enablement. Social brands are agile and responsive to the needs of people, relishing opportunities as they arise.
  6. Being appropriate in social doesn’t mean using a lot of brand outposts. The use of brand outposts is driven by what is most relevant for the community.
  7. Negative and positive sentiment is acknowledged and accepted by social brands
  8. Social brands create, develop and encourage behaviours that mirror community or individual behaviours. They meet and exceed expectations, often delighting people in doing so.
  9. Social brands are true, compelling, authentic and transparent.
  10. Social brands simplify their intent and continually act against it. They have established what they want to achieve and ensure everything builds towards this commitment. To be a social brand you have to be a good brand, a good employer, make good products, provide good customer service and have a moral centre to your purpose by those that represent you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Are you a typical human being?

National Geographic, as part of its look into our 7 billion strong planet, offers this summary of the average human being, circa 2011.

So next time you think you're just a face in the crowd, remember how unique you are – unless, of course, you are an educated Mandarin-speaking Chinese Christian male who lives in the city and works in a service-related job.




Monday, February 21, 2011

Six-word stories.

I've written extensively on my belief that 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).

Today I stumbled upon a new exercise to help further fine-tune this process:  six word stories - based on the famous challenge issued by Hemingway that resulted in his shortest story ever:  "For sale:  baby shoes, never used."

Some of the brands I've worked with might tell these stories:
  • Land Rover:  "Been there? Twice. Saved village chief."
  • Jaguar:  "Still flirt, no more flings. Monogamous."
  • Sony:  "Can't be done? Not to dreamers."
  • "Del Webb: "Retire? Prefer do-over. Shelved many dreams." 
Why is this important for brands? Allow me to sum it up in six words:  Information overload.  Little time.  Parity attributes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Creating a culture of learning and innovation.

Tim Brown's piece in HBR ("Permission to Innovate") prompted a good amount of responses and opinions (the holy grail for a blogger!).  His thesis surrounds the idea that certain companies create a culture of innovation by first fostering a level of tolerance - or permission - from users, channel partners, etc. to occasionally miss the mark, provided the company hits the mark more often than not.  These innovative companies tend deploy multiple strategies to experiment and grow in adjacent categories.

What prompted such a volume of comments on Brown's post was his assertion that "what you can't measure, you can't get better at."  (As one comment noted, it was Einstein who said "not everything that counts can be measured, and not everything that can be measured counts.")  The community's response is understandable since metrics are usually code for success v. failure.

I'd suggest a different way in which to view metrics - they should be viewed as a source of learning.

When I worked with Toyota as a client, I was taken by the company's culture of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.  Kaizen is a culture of test, learn and improve - not pass or fail.  Metrics are used as a way of learning, not assigning glory or blame.  If a program misses the mark, managers are celebrated if they can identify root cause solutions and learnings for v2 of the program.

The onus here is on leaders to instill this culture within teams.  When reviewing metrics in staff or project meetings, ask all presenters to focus more on learnings that can be applied going forward, as opposed to discussing metrics in the past tense.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chamilia selects BD'M.

Barrie D'Rozario Murphy has been selected by Chamilia as the agency of record for the jewelry company’s brand campaign.  Chamilia is a rapidly growing premium, personalized jewelry brand with distribution around the world.  Our assignment will include brand strategy consulting, digital, print and POS creative, as well as media planning and buying.


"We chose BD'M because they understood the passion our customers have for the fashion designs we create," said Claudio Garcia, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer.  BD'M wowed us with ideas we believe we help us achieve our growth goals."  (Thanks Claudio!)


Adding Chamilia is another in a series of wins for our four year old agency.  Two weeks ago BD’M was appointed by Dell as the computer company’s global agency of record for its Public Sector business unit.  And in 2010 we won AOR assignments from Bissell and Del Webb. 


I'm liking 2011 more and more.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Delighting customers

The 2011 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index underscores the role of "authentic innovation" in delighting customers.

It also underscores several themes I hold near and dear to my thinking when designing brand strategies.

First, it's not about the product or service per se.  It's about the total experience.  Every interaction defines the brand.  The packaging.  How the phone is answered.  The quality of the customer service people (are they brand ambassadors or employees?).  The website.  Events.  You name it, the list goes on.  Why?  Because experiences turn perceptions into deeply-held beliefs.  (At BD'M, our approach to Persuasion Planning demands that we think through the types of experiences – not just messages – we want to create.  After all, brands are judged on what they do, not just on what they say.)

Second, it's about "authentic innovation."  I've written before about innovation that solves real customers needs, not just gadgets and gizmos for the sake of gadgets and gizmos.  Innovation is not the domain of the lone genius, it is a highly collaborative process that starts and ends with customer empathy.

Check out Andy Lark's post on this topic, through the lens of Net Promoter Score – the metric that leaves uninspiring brands no room to hide.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Creating shared value.

The current issue of the Harvard Business Review carries a compelling piece by Michael Porter (my favorite author on business strategy) on how businesses can do well by doing good.

Porter and his co-author, Mark Kramer, make the case that companies that create shared value – i.e., value for the corporation as well as for the communities and customers it serves – to unlock new opportunities to innovate and grow.

The authors note that capitalism has come under siege as business has been blamed for a range of social, environmental and economic issues.  Much of this blame is well deserved – the result of companies off-shoring jobs and shuttering plants (and communities) in pursuit of better quarterly earnings.

Porter argues that companies such as Wal-Mart, GE, IBM, etc are creating high returns from activities that create social value.  According to their research:
  • "There are three distinct ways to do this: by reconceiving products and markets, redefining productivity in the value chain, and building supportive industry clusters at the company's locations."
  • "By better connecting companies' success with societal improvement, it opens up many ways to serve new needs, gain efficiency, create differentiation, and expand markets."
We see this theory in action in Wal-Mart's efforts to decrease its carbon footprint throughout its supply chain, Sun Chips' support of solar energy and recycling, the Toyota Prius (a former client of mine), Johnson & Johnson's employee wellness programs.

Porter and Kramer draw an important distinction between corporate social responsibility and creating shared value – the former is largely a strategy to improve a company's reputation and is often divorced from business strategy, while the latter is integral to a company's profitability and competitive position.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dell selects BD'M.

We received the best news this week when Dell selected Barrie D'Rozario Murphy as its global agency of record for its Public Sector business unit.

This is a huge win for BD'M on many levels.

First and foremost, we are inspired by Dell's mission to help people grow and thrive.  Working with the Public business unit puts us in the business of connecting Dell with customers who share that mission – healthcare, K-12 educators, higher education and government.

This win also allowed us to forge very strong partnerships (and friendships) with the folks at Tag, SolutionSet and Naked.  We're looking forward to a long and happy relationship as we team up around the world for Dell.

Lastly, adding Dell to our client roster extends the momentum we gained in 2010 when BD'M was named "Best Small Agency in the U.S." by the 4As and won AOR assignments from Bissell and Dell Webb.

Growing and thriving, indeed.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winning the future.

I sat down to write my point of view on last night's State of the Union address when I remembered that I had written it two and a half years ago during the 2008 primaries.

It is indeed time to "win the future" through a better educated workforce; through a more intelligent information-based healthcare system; through a clean energy policy that is less dependent on OPEC; and through a 21st century infrastructure that boosts productivity and employment.  These investments are not abstract issues for policy wonks, these are kitchen table issues.  (If you have kids, think about these issues relative to their future and you'll know why I believe this.)

But, similar to what I expressed in 2008, I think the message needs to be clearer and more motivating (and without a slogan that can be shortened to "WTF.")

While "winning the future" attempts to inspire, we see time and again that messages tend to be more motivating when contrasted with the perils of inaction.  Compelling stories need both a protagonist and an antagonist .  Is essential to the Hero's Journey.  It is essential to brands.  It is essential to winning the future.

The "Sputnik moment of a previous generation was a direct reaction to the Soviet Union's sudden superiority in space.  The American people had no doubt who we were trying to surpass and why.  To that same end, I thought President Obama should have made clearer the level of investment China is making to win the future in alternative energy, high-speed rail and education.  As a people, we tend to pull together when we have a clear sense of purpose.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Marketing during a recovery.

Over the past two years I've offered points of view on ways marketers can tailor message, media and product strategies to win share during the Great Recession.

Recent economic indicators – namely steadying home prices, declining unemployment claims and increasing consumer spending – point toward a slow but steady recovery.

Now we must summon the power of optimism and begin thinking about marketing strategies for the Great Recovery. An article in this month's Harvard Business Review offers two good starting points:

  1. Withdraw recession-pricing tactics. It's time to phase out those lower-margin price-leaders and promotions (two-for-one, 18oz size for the price of 12oz, kids eat free).  If your brand cannot command a marginal price increase, then you must question if you really have a brand.  After all, the role of branding is to be able to charge a slight premium in exchange for intangible emotional values or a tangible point of difference.
  2. Introduce new premium products.  I've written about the fallacy of the "new normal."  It always sounds dreamy, yet always gets trumped by the "pleasure revenge."  As paychecks become more secure and 401k plans once again conjur a sense of wealth, consumers will likely seek their hard-earned reward.
It would be wise to not abandon all strategies that worked during the recession.  For example, in earlier posts I wrote about marketers investing more in product innovation to increase differentiation and demand; developing programs to listen to and serve their best customers; or rethinking old rules and using interactive for branding, not just transactions.  These are sounds strategies during good times  as well.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The media mashup.

I enjoyed this article in yesterday's NY Times on the great media mashup.

I entered the advertising business last century as an assistant account executive at Ogilvy & Mather New York. In this millennium, I'd enter as an assistant media planner. The reason is simple:  media is no longer a channel through which we beam cool ideas, media is the cool idea.  Today, media creates content; media creates brand experiences; media creates social relevance.  In other words, media forges many of the dynamics that help create vibrant brands.

I hope 2011 is the year we banish the vocabulary that continues to shackle innovative thinking – offline vs online; traditional vs. nontraditional.  After all, is a print ad with an embedded QR code traditional?  Is the web really "new" media?

It's all media.  It's all nontraditional (if we're doing our job right).  And it all must lead back to online interactions.