Thursday, June 23, 2016

Your brand's multicultural strategy is also its growth strategy.

New census data shows that minorities are now the majority in 12% of counties across the U.S.  In 370 counties across 36 states, non-Hispanic whites accounted for less than half the population as of July 2015.

And this trend will accelerate.  Three quarters of Americans age 55+ are white.  Whereas among those aged 18-34, that figure drops to only 56%, and even lower among minors.

In explaining his greatness, Wayne Gretzky credited his father's advice to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.

For marketers, that mean skating to an increasingly multicultural customer base.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Remember when"...I could have been a billionaire.

In April, 2011 Facebook launched Timeline to enable us to chronologically categorize photos and events.

In September, 2008 I scribbled this idea in an old journal that I recently stumbled upon:  Create a website called "Remember When" – a chronological scrapbook of the moments in your life.  

Yes, I had invented Timeline nearly three years before Facebook.  No, I did not do anything with the idea beyond writing it down in an apparent plot to torment my future self.

At the time I was inspired by the insight that many of us have a running stream of memories and events that are sometimes fuzzy on dates and details.  Was it in 5th grade or 6th that I took that camping trip with my childhood friend Mike Harris?  Was that memorable guys reunion trip to Vegas (that we really should not remember) in 2002 or 2003?  In what year did I spar with Muhammad Ali on the back of that plane?  Was the drunken Barney the Dinosaur at Lauren's 4th or 5th birthday party?

The idea was based on a wizard that would prompt and post memories along a timeline so that over time you could see the story arc of your life.  It would include multiple views into your life's chronology – through events or photos or pop culture milestones.

I also wrote about a community of friends posting recollections of shared memories, with an ability to overlay a friend's timeline on your own (what were you doing when I was doing...).  What kills me most is this next notation:  include a way to alert friends when you post a memory that includes them.  
So the moral of the story is this:  If you can dream it you can do it.  And if you do it...secure the legal rights before Mark Zuckerberg does. 


Friday, March 11, 2016

Why I love working in advertising.

I love working in advertising.

We help companies care about their customers' hopes and dreams.  We help companies grow.  We get to collaborate with smart, funny, talented people with diverse backgrounds and interests.

Several times a year I serve as a guest lecturer at University of California, Irvine and Chapman University.  I enjoy mentoring the next generation of advertising professionals.  They remind me how lucky I am.  When I look out across the classroom, I see in their eyes that they would walk across hot coals to be doing what I do.

I always begin my talks with my profession of love and appreciation for my career in advertising, for being able to spend my days at the intersection of business and everything imaginable.  A day in advertising is a day spent absorbing market dynamics; social trends; new technologies; design; emerging media platforms; pop culture influences.  It's a business of ideas – ideas born of hard work, knowledge and serendipity.

True, it can be a day and night job.  And it can be emotionally draining and stressful.  But, again, we get to work in a business of ideas.  That doesn't suck.

I recently spoke to a group of University of Michigan students who asked me to share my advice as they embark on their careers.  Here's what I told them:

  1. Pursue a profession, not a job.  Whatever you decide to do, be the consummate professional. Accumulate skills and knowledge.  Be great at a few things and not simply average at many things. 
  2. Be curious.  Embrace your career as a journey of learning.  You need not know everything.  But you need to ask more interesting questions of those who do know.  Questions provoke ideas and progress.
  3. Fail.  Learn.  Repeat.  (Need I say more?)
  4. Be accountable.  Blaming others is not only is a waste of time, it's a wasted opportunity to learn and grow.  Victimhood serves no purpose.  
  5. Be dependable.  We value people who do what they say they're going to do.  (True in life, true in business.)  Demonstrate early on in your career your ability to get things done.  
  6. Solve problems.  Don't whine about problems.  It's what we're paid to do.  The sales graph pointing downwards is a problem.  Unhappy franchisees is a problem.  High bounce rates on a website is a problem.  Negative brand perceptions are a problem.  We fix problems. 
  7. Have a voice.  Meetings aren't a spectator sport.  Have the courage to show you are a thinking individual.  Always have a point of view.  Don't worry about whether your perspective is right or wrong.  Expressing your idea will be a catalyst for others to challenge or build upon it.  And this is how ideas are born, from the collision of diverse perspectives.
  8. Reimagine yourself, often.  Don't allow yourself to grow stale.  Enroll in the training your company offers.  Accept opportunities that force you to learn.  Creative people must continually evolve.  Years ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk given by George Martin, the legendary producer of the Beatles.  This was his lasting lesson from the Beatles – they experimented and took risks and, by doing so, avoided a repetitious formula.
  9. Always ask "why" and "why not."  These two seemingly simple questions pack tremendous power.  Why challenges the status quo while also signaling curiosity.  Why not is the eternal anthem of optimists.  It's hard to go wrong navigating by these two questions.
  10. Learn to be a commercial anthropologist.  I believe this is central to succeeding in advertising.  Your anthropologist side requires a fascination with people and the strength to observe without judgement.   The commercial side is a constant reminder that advertising exists to help companies sell.  Keep both sides in equal balance.  Too much human observation without bottom line impact isn't good.  Too much selling devoid of human insights creates a commodity business. 
My parting advice to these students is always the same:  I don't care what you end up doing.  But thirty years from now, make sure you can stand up and say "I love what I do for a living."  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hard work and luck.

Companies can be customers.  Or clients.  Or even partners.  But to me they have been teachers.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with 17 companies listed in Fortune Magazine's 2016 compilation of the world's most admired companies. 

P&G – Coca-Cola Company – Unilever –  UnitedHealth Group – Aetna – American Express – JP Morgan Chase – Hilton – Sony – Medtronic – Applied Materials – Pulte Homes – Best Buy – United – Ryder Systems – Toyota – Ford. 

I continue to learn from all my clients. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

How social media is changing new product reveals.

This New York Times article offers a fascinating perspective on how social media is changing product reveals.

This is now the case in fashion.  I wonder if this dynamic is also in play in automotive and consumer electronics – two industries that also reveal products well in advance of the on-sale date.

Interestingly, the music industry is embracing a different reveal strategy – artists now "drop" a new release with no advance notice.  In doing so they own the social news cycle,  burning hot and bright at the very moment when the "product" is on sale.

Something for marketers to consider.