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.