Thursday, December 19, 2013

Trends for 2014 and beyond.

The second edition of Ford’s annual publication on micro trends, Looking Further with Ford, examines the drivers of change and the complex response of consumers worldwide. This collection of 10 micro trends reflects our view of the attitudes that will alter consumer dynamics across the globe in 2014 and beyond.

Compiled and curated by Sheryl Connelly, who leads Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford Motor Company, it also includes contributions from WPP's Global Team Ford.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Power of Empathy

I write frequently about the power of empathy.  (Remember, what's true in life is true in marketing.)  But I never thought about the contrast between empathy and sympathy.  This piece nails it. (As usual, as does RSA's animation.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cord cutters, aka, the death of TV.

This article from Business Insider provides a clear and fact-based analysis of the upheaval in the TV/cable industry as more and more Americans cut the cord and instead get their video fix via broadband, through services such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, Aereo,, et al.  This massive change in media consumption patterns is the bi-product of new generational trends, broadband, economics and, of course, the declining quality of network television programming.  (As the great poet Springsteen sang, "57 channels and nothin' on.")

Here are Business Insider's major conclusions:
  1. People are unplugging.
  2. Cable TV ratings are sinking.
  3. Fewer people are watching TV.
  4. Ratings for some major TV events are in decline.
  5. For the first time ever, the number of cable TV subscribers at major providers is about to dip below 40 million.
  6. Cable and broadband companies are increasingly unable to retain customers.
  7. For the first time ever, less than half of subscribers at major broadband companies now subscribe to cable TV.
  8. Fewer households actually have TV.
  9. Few households have TV because they are watching video on mobile devices instead.
  10. Mobile video is booming.
  11. Tablets are stealing prime time, the period we used to devote to TV.
  12. Ad dollars are following eyeballs, shifting from TV to digital media of all kinds.
  13. Ad revenue increases are masking the macro decline in TV.
  14. People who are unplugging from both Cable TV and broadband internet are likely going to free wifi.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The power of the first follower.

I've always loved this lesson in leadership.  It's not the leader that sets movements in motion.  It is the first follower that shows the courage to be the first person to stand up and embrace change.  The organization tends to model this behavior, not that of the so called "leader."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Beautiful storytelling.

This online film series from Intel and Toshiba brings together so many powerful elements – the power of storytelling, the acknowledgement that digital media is a powerful branding platform, and the energy and momentum we can create when we let the audience own, personalize and share the message.

Ideas like "The Beauty Inside" are what inspire me to work in this business.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Digital marketing as a service.

Today at a global marketing meeting I was asked for my point of view on which company is doing digital right.  My answer?  Delta.  The reason I chose Delta is two-fold:  First, they're using digital to reshape marketing as a service (MaaS); second, they are quickly distinguishing themselves in an industry often associated with poor customer service.

I admire what Delta has done over the last few years to employ digital tools to transform marketing into something that serves customers and not simply sell to them.  Witness these examples.

The Delta mobile app provides friction-free service.  I can shop, book and manage my account while sitting in Starbucks.  It will help me remember where I parked my car at the airport.  The iPad version even includes something called Glass Bottom Jet, in which I can watch the world pass underneath me in-flight.  Several weeks ago, in that wretched moment when the baggage carousel stopped without first producing my bags, the app enabled me to scan my boarding pass and find my bags.  That is mobile marketing as a service.

Delta uses social media (@DeltaAssist) to provide real-time, personalized customer service.  Their social service team attempts to resolve customer complaints on the spot.  It's impressive.  A colleague recently told me how on a recent flight his family's seat assignments were scattered throughout the plane.  So, after not receiving help at the boarding gate, he tweeted his plea to @DeltaAssist and received a direct message resolving the issue by seating his family together.  That is social marketing as a service.

By the way, I'm posting this using GoGo in-flight wifi, a standard on almost every Delta flight.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Native Advertising 101

I found this primer on native advertising – aka, content marketing – to be very helpful.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Persuasion and the Power of Story.

Jennifer Aaker studies happiness, and how stories can affect our happiness; she believes that stories are more meaningful–more memorable, more impactful, and more personal–than statistics alone.  This short film captures the persuasive power of storytelling.

I've long believed in the power of stories.  Stories convey meaning.  And meaning trumps information.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

The future of storytelling.

I've frequently posted about how great brands tell great stories.   So you can imagine how geeked I'll be to attend this event in NY next month.

Stories are a very potent form of communicating. Stories help us understand. They convey meaning. And in an overwhelming and fast moving world, meaning trumps information.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The hands-free web.

Three innovations seem to be signaling the future of how we will interact with technology.  We may want to call it the #HandsFreeWeb.

Google Glass, Apple's Siri and now Leap Motion's gesture controller all point to a similar future, but are getting there by different roads.

Google Glass enables us to "wear" the internet, having it always on and within sight.  Siri signals a future in which we may have Siri-enabled homes that allow us to access the web with simple voice prompts (and we can only hope a later version will understand that "find restaurant" does not mean "blind astronaut").  And now Leap Motion's gesture controller takes us one step closer to feeling like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, controlling technology through intuitive hand movements.

Glass still involves the presence of a physical object to access the web – ie, the glasses.  This technology is pointing toward a cool future, but I don't think it's the final destination.  My hunch is that future will be "touchless" – the web will surround us and require no physical objects or interaction – and will be accessed through a combination of voice and hand gestures.  Of course, that is until we have a chip embedded at birth. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rethinking Apple's culture.

Today a judge found that Apple conspired to raise the price of eBooks in collusion with the leading publishers.

Brands are often an extension of a company's culture.  (Think Harley, Oakley, Wal-Mart, etc)  That is why I believe Apple's challenge won't be solved through advertising.  The company must rethink its culture – be the company that democratizes great things instead of being elitist and evil.  (Wasn't that the moral of Apple's epic 1984 spot?)  Culture shapes values and behavior, which in turn shapes a brand's persona.

We fell in love with Apple because of its values, and because it always seemed evident that company's actions (product, pricing, promotion, etc) were in sync with its values.  In real life, when a person's words and actions are consistent, we call that credibility.  So too in brand marketing.  (Remember:  what's true in life is true in marketing.)

My greatest hope is that Tim Cook will invest more time getting Apple's culture right again.  Because we know how inspiring Apple can be when its values and behaviors are in sync.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Creativity for left brainers.

Over the last two days I led a live case study for MBA students at the Merage School of Business at the University of California, Irvine.  Their challenge was to identify a new flavor for Dasani Drops that is relevant to the brand and could drive incremental sales.  I am grateful for the hard work shown by all 12 teams and am excited to get two teams in front of my friends at Coca-Cola.

Beyond evaluating the soundness of each team's research and findings, I was also looking for signs that they were willing to color outside the lines.

In the innovation workshop I run for left brainers, I explain that creativity is not a dark art – it is simply counter-intuitive problem solving.  Yet if corporate whiteboards could talk they would tell tales about the three most common creativity killers:
  • We accept assumptions and end up solving the wrong problem.
  • We know what we know and narrow our thinking within well-trodden mental paths.
  • We aren't comfortable pursuing multiple solutions and lock in too early on a solution.
The innovation framework I teach exhorts left brainers to embrace four catalysts for creativity:
  • Define:  As Norman Berry once said, "Give me the freedom of a tightly defined strategy."  Challenge the definition of the problem you've been asked to solve.  Create a ruthlessly well-honed problem statement.  A more accurate definition of the problem will inspire more specific, imaginative and effective solutions.  (The design team tasked with creating a better water bottle for bikers recast that challenge as creating a better way for bikers to hydrate.  The outcome was the Camelback.)
  • Know:  Michelangelo is said to have tweeted, "A man paints with his brain and not with his hands."  Creativity flows from knowledge, not guessing.  Category knowledge is essential.  But limiting our knowledge to this can stifle fresh ideas.  New information from other categories and seemingly unrelated trends will disrupt preconceptions.  For example, a few of the Dasani teams looked beyond water to examine trends in flavored vodkas and emerging culinary taste profiles.
  • Invert:  Not to be outdone by Michelangelo, Einstein once quipped that "Imagination is more important than knowledge."  The process of inverting a problem requires that we pick it up, turn it upside down, and see it with fresh eyes.  If we are in the hotel business, let's solve the problem as if we were in the entertainment business.  If we are in the packaged good business, let's ask ourselves how Apple might solve this problem.  By inverting the problem we free ourselves from the ankle bracelets that trap us within the conventions of the category in which we work.
  • Collaborate:  One of my favorite maxims is "We > Me."  The era of the lone genius is dead.  The biggest ideas result from the collision of disparate ideas, perspectives and people.  Collaboration isn't about brainstorming with people who are similar to you; it works best when you're brainstorming with people who are dissimilar to you – people from disciplines outside of marketing; people with a different lifestyle or upbringing; people who might look at the problem from a very different perspective. (For example, if you're brainstorming products for kids, don't limit brainstorming to parents – throw in a few teachers who actually spend more time with these kids than parent do.)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Apple rediscovers the power of empathy.

Empathic Marketing is a model for integrated marketing that I developed from a simple human observation – what's true in life is true in marketing.  It was inspired by my observations over time and across categories that the ways in which we form personal relationships mirror how we form brand relationships.  The 4Es of relationship building – empathy, experiences, endorsement and energy – shape our best and most lasting relationships, both in real life and with the brands we embrace.

Apple has long mastered the 4Es.  At its launch, it struck an empathetic bond with creative souls everywhere who yearned to think different.  Its stores, not to mention its its design and packaging, created experiences that transformed perceptions into deeply-held beliefs.  Its legions of fans created a peer-to-peer endorsement network.  And Apple's steady cadence of new products created a aura of infectious momentum and energy.

However, I believe that Apple's advertising lost its emotional stickiness years ago, probably around the iPhone launch when it's communications focused more on app functionality.  The new iPhone campaign fixes that.  It artfully reminds us of its intimate and irreplaceable role in our life, not through app functionality, but through authentic emotional empathy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I love teaching.

One of the reasons I love teaching at Chapman University and UC Irvine's Merage School of Business is having the opportunity to inspire just one student to pursue a profession that pays you to connect the dots between business and almost everything imaginable (technology, art, social trends, pop culture, media...). It's a huge investment of time, but this feedback from that "one" student makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Liberating marketing from old vocabulary.

In my recent talk to the students at Chapman University's Internet Communications Program, I exhorted this next generation of marketing ninjas to help liberate marketing from the antiquated vocabulary that fosters silos in how we think and act:
  • We must reject tired distinctions such as "traditional vs non-traditional" marketing.  (There is only traditional thinking...and this is punishable by irrelevance!)
  • We must admit that terms such as "new media" represent old thinking.  (If you want to make anyone under 25 laugh, refer to mobile as "new media.")
  • We must not allow "offline and online" to live in separate silos.  (In a world of QR codes and second screen viewing, is anything truly "offline"?)
  • We cannot restrict "brand advertising" to mean TV and print.  (The Internet is the most powerful branding tool ever.  Storytelling.  Sight, sound, motion.  Peer endorsement.  Experiences.)
  • We must embrace media as a source of creativity.  (How and where a brand appears is as important as what it says.)
  • We need to enthusiastically embrace metrics, both hard and soft.  (Ignore store traffic and nobody will care about the awareness gain.  Similarly, click through rates at the expense of emotional relevance and differentiation will not matter if the brand degrades to commodity status.)
Finally, we must break with the past.  Old branding models are out of step with the way in which people consume media and interact with brands.  Instead, new models such as Empathic Marketing build brand relationships by mirroring the ways in which people tend to form real, human relationships.  These 4Es of real relationships –  empathyexperiencesenergy and endorsement – form a clear and measurable brand planning model to help marketers create more customer-centered brand platforms.  After all, what's true in life is true in marketing.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Introducing Empathic Marketing.

Yesterday at Chapman University's Internet Communications Program I shared my approach to Empathic Marketing, the integrated marketing model I developed from a simple, human observation:  What's true in life is true in marketing.

Empathic Marketing was inspired by my observations over time and across categories that the ways in which we form personal relationships mirrors how we form brand relationships.  

Forces such as empathy, experiences, endorsement and energy help shape our real life relationships.  Think about the people with whom you enjoy your most lasting relationships.  It’s likely those individuals who “get you” because you share the same values, sense of style, point of view or sense of humor; these same people are likely those with whom you've enjoyed truly memorable experiences; they are likely the people you trust most because their reputation is consistent; people who always seem to be up to something new and interesting.

What’s true in life is true in marketing.

These 4Es of real relationships –  empathyexperiencesendorsement and energy – form a clear and measurable brand planning model to help marketers create more customer-centered brand platforms.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lessons in leadership from an accidental CEO.

One of my favorite quotes is in Tom Peters' book, Re-imagine"If you don't like change, you'll like irrelevance even less."  This quote always serves to remind me that life, let alone our careers, is a journey of learning and growth.

Today I was invited to give a talk on leadership to the Executive MBA program at the University of California Irvine's Merage School of Business.

My lessons in leadership are a work in progress.  They are skills I've learned through trial and a lot of error; skills that I'm constantly refining; skills that I hope will inspire these Merage students to develop a style that is tailored to their unique talents and personalities.

I often refer to my self as the "accidental CEO" because I never set as a goal occupying the top box on the org chart.  Instead, my goal has always been to take on new challenges and to keep learning and growing.  Years ago, when I was President of Y&R in Southern California, a friend of mine shared with me this quote:  "Those on top of the mountain didn't fall there."  I've kept this on my desk for the past seven years as a reminder that the harder I work the luckier I get.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seven universal stories all marketers should know.

I've written frequently about the power of archetypes and storytelling in creating enduring branding strategies.  After all, archetypal personalities tend to transcend time, cultures and geography.  We are hard wired to understand the Ruler, the Jester, the Magician, et al.  Defining a brand in archetypal terms will resonate more deeply with consumers than surface level "tone and manner" statements.  As for stories, I think we can all agree that stories convey meaning, and in the media saturated world in which we live, meaning trumps information every time.

This piece published in Adweek offers a very helpful insight into the seven archetypal plot lines told in literature and movies.  Every brand marketer should know these time-tested narratives.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Challenging misperceptions of challenger branding.

T-Mobile's new campaign is a promising example of challenger branding in action.

A common misperception of challenger branding is that it is simply a case of the #2 or #3 brand tweaking the category leader.  However, challenger branding is more nuanced than that.  There is a range of challenger branding models:

  • "The higher cause" – challenge consumers to lift their sights and opt for something more meaningful than what's offered by the status quo.  Dove has championed this approach in its "real beauty" campaign through its opposition to the falsehood of media-defined beauty.
  • "For all of us" – a democratization strategy in which a brand liberates and makes available to the masses what has heretofore been exclusive or out of reach.  Target democratized chic design, starting years ago with the Michael Graves toasters.
  • "Change of the guard" – the classic storm-the-palace strategy in which the leader is repositioned as out of touch and out of date.  Apple epitomized this with its famous 1984 commercial.  Years later, it seems Samsung is using this very same strategy against Apple to market its Galaxy smartphones.
  • "Counter culture" – an approach that enlists bands of co-conspirators to zig when the category leader demands that we zag.  Miracle Whip has employed this successfully in its underground war against mayonnaise.  Apple played in this area for years with its exhortation to "think different."
  • "The common man" – an empathic strategy that challenges the category elite by siding with the common sense point of view of the average person (if there is such a person).  Miller High Life's "delivery guy" rants are a text book example of this in action.
  • "Total rethink" – a moment in time in which a marketer draws a line in the sand and declares that "there's got to be a better way."  The new T-Mobile campaign is the latest example of this approach.

One final and important point about challenger branding:  never confuse challenger branding with competitive advertising.  Challenger branding should feel like a movement; a moment in time in which things will be different from this point forward.  Consider Bing's effort to challenge Google.  They conduct product comparisons that show that people prefer Bing over the category leader.  But it doesn't feel like a call to arms or an invitation to rethink all you've known to date.  It simply offers up the facts and invites us to try Bing.  Perfectly effective comparison advertising, but not challenger branding.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is Facebook fatigue setting in?

Yes, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.  Some highlights:

  • 27% of Facebook users in the US who were surveyed reported that they plan to reduce the amount of time they will spend on the site.
  • The study found that 61% of Facebook users have taken a break from the site for several weeks or more.
  • A lack of time and interest seem to be driving this trend.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Social media demographics.

We're beginning to get a better understanding of who is using social media, thanks to new research studies such as the one released recently by the Pew Research Center (and published in Adweek).  Some highlights from the Adweek article:
  • Two-thirds of internet users engage in some form of social media, with Facebook being the dominant platform.
  • Women are more likely than men to use social media, and are five times more likely than men to use Pinterest:
  • When in comes to ethnicity, Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to use Instagram and Twitter.
  • Not surprisingly, social media uses is highest among 18-49 year old internet users.  Among the 50+ segment, Facebook by far the preferred platform. 

  • Level of education doesn't seem to drive social media usage overall, but it does seem to influence the relative choice of platform.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The second screen revolution.

Today Twitter announced that it bought Bluefin Labs, a software company that analyzes online conversations about television programming.  Here's why.

A decade ago pundits predicted that the battle for Interactive TV would be won by whichever company owned the set top box.  Perhaps a Cable TV company, or Microsoft's Xbox.

This didn't turn out to be true.  Like most bad predictions, we based our view of the future on what we knew in the moment.  We didn't know what we didn't know.  For example, in 2003 we did not know about Smartphones, Tablets and WiFi enabled homes.  These three technologies have since conspired to bring about a new form of interactive television – second screen viewing.

Americans are increasingly watching TV while interacting with the content via a mobile device – aka, the second screen.  We share our opinions about what we're watching on TV on Twitter and Facebook.  We quickly research information about the product we just saw advertised.

  • 88% use a mobile device while watching TV.
  • 45% use a mobile device to access social media during TV ads.
  • 27% look up information about a product they just saw (slightly higher among women than men).
  • Not surprisingly, this behavior is higher among teens that older boomers (62% vs. 33%).
The second screen revolution is prompting advertisers to rethink the old school call-to-action.  Instead of inviting viewers to visit, we are seeing a steady increase in calls-to-action to join a twitter conversation (via a #hashtag), to get deeper content by using Shazam to tag the commercial, or simply to visit the brand on Facebook, the website the viewer is likely already on as they're viewing the commercial.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Micro financing a car.

Some ideas are brilliant in their simplicity.  The Dodge Dart Registry is one of those ideas.

The website allows prospective Dart buyers to get friends and relatives to help fund the car.  It elegantly intersects several existing behaviors and cultural dynamics:  It is grounded in the familiar behavior of gift registries, then adds new dynamics from the worlds of microfinancing and social graphs.

Buyers start by configuring the car.  Then they set a funding goal.  Finally, they push the registry out to friends and family who can choose to fund the wheels, sound system, leather upgrade, etc.

Instead of innovating new message to tell me why I want a Dart, Dodge opted to innovate new ways to make it easy and fun to buy a Dart.  Proof that the path to getting to a new answer often starts with asking a different question.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Digital trends in 2013.

This time of the year always brings a surfeit of predictions and prognostications.  Having said that, I do believe this Adweek story does a good job pointing us toward the larger events on the interactive marketing horizon.

I continue to believe that the future of interactive is inextricably linked to the future of mobile.  Two themes in the Adweek story, should they fully materialize, have the potential unlock mobile's true marketing value:  "second screen" viewing and mobile payments.

And while thinking about the future of mobile, check out this demonstration of Blippar, a platform that may make QR codes seem quaint in due time.