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Random thoughts

The likelihood of losing an account for an agency is in direct proportion to the quality of the advertising!

Sad, but seemingly true*. Three account moves come to mind:

Wind Mobile, moved from Clean Sheet to MacLaren following the most successful mobile launch in Canada’s history and a record breaking year for the brand, exceeding all targets.

TD moves from DRAFT to Leo following (or in the midst of) what is undeniably the best, most sustained, most integrated and most actualized financial service advertising anywhere in the world (and, honestly, I should know).

Juniper Park loses Tropicana in spite of winning awards for advertising (see previous post).

There are numerous other examples, which I won’t dredge out, but we all know what and who they are.

On the other hand, there is no relationship between terrible advertising and being fired. Weird, huh?

What’s the lesson: agencies beware of excellence.

*Some may say this is an extreme generalization; others might say the line between extreme generalization and brilliant insights is, at best, murky.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Has the world gone barking mad

Sears Canada names Unitas as new AOR | Marketing Magazine.

Nobody, really, had ever heard of Unitas Reputation Management/Services/Communication/Agency (their online SEA doesn’t seem to include focus), except presumably the wise men at Sears. But it’s nice and it’s a start-up and their “context” is, of course, brilliant (who would have thought of trying to get enthusiasm for the clients among “all the people who influence their success – customers, employees, allies* and investors?) Of course, it’s entirely possible that searching for these search experts will lead to another Unitas Communication Reputation Management agency, altogether, but that’s probably an intentional oversight.

Try to guess which Unitas is the Unitas Sears are hooking up with. It’s hard to believe that these guys did not Google the name to see how many other companies by the name of Unitas co-opted the “Reputation Management” discipline (from its original PR application and it’s down market cousin, “Online Reputation Management”).

Actually, there can be no doubt that Unitas Communication (US) Unitas Reputation (Canada — see, I got it finally, communication versus reputation, not confusing at all) are excellent at managing reputation and creating enthusiasm (although, to be honest, again, I thoroughly doubt the Canadian version has any clue how to change the culture of an organization as culturally entrenched as Sears, but, hey, it’s worth a try).

But, whatever happened to retail marketing! What makes great retailers great? It starts with unique, relevant merchandise. Ask the Sears hardware and automotive merchandisers. If you don’t sell it, they won’t buy it, no-matter how enthusiastic you or anybody else is. Then, it’s useful to be where the customer is, location, both real and virtual. Then, it’s important to tell the potential customers that you have the stuff they want (and stuff they don’t want — remember surprise and delight) where they want to buy it. this is an old-fashioned idea, called advertising (call it whatever you want, but it’s advertising and without it you’re fxcked). Then, you need to manage the relative value proposition: is the sticker price they pay right taking into account the quality of the merchandise, the satisfaction (may I say it, enjoyment) of the experience, the after-sales promise and all of this relative to the competition.

Brand is the degree to whether this entire experience is positively imbeded as an expectation — if it is, you will be heard and believed, if not, you will be ignored or, worse, disbelieved, disdained and dismissed. Enthusiastically, probably.

Internal branding — not a new idea at all — is critical at all phases, because of the importance of the experience. But so is advertising, brand and tactical. Or, perhaps none of them — take Costco as an example, they do neither and they’re not doing too badly.

My point? It’s just plain weird for a retailer whose business is falling through the floor (or not — Sears business falls and rises like a yo-yo) to hire an agency that prides itself on the po-mo fad of “reputation” management, and to do this over the phone without benefit of a review!!

I might agree with the man from Sears that they can’t advertise their way out of the hole (or not-hole). But they can’t reputationise themselves out of it either. A real review, based on a real brief resulting from deep and honest soul-searching, among the leading experts in retail turnaround (and, if they aren’t in Canada, then wherever they are) would have been the right thing to do: right by the people who work for them who (in addition to being enthusiastic) want to be employed; right by the shareholders who have some legitimate concerns that they are expressing in radical ways (and if this is about a LBO, then they are even more in the wrong direction — think “fill the till”); right by the communities they are in (that can really do without losing more jobs and stores); right by the country (we really don’t need to see another brand bite the dust); and, of course, right by their customers (who, let’s face facts, in the end don’t give a damn because they can always get exactly the same stuff elsewhere — except maybe with less enthusiasm).

In honour of the time-honoured tradition of go and see what the people who are winning are doing, Sears might wander over to The Bay and see what they’re doing. I doubt Bonnie Brooks or Richard Baker (Lord and Taylor and HBC) will be turning over their marketing communications and consumer strategy to a “reputation agency” on the basis of a phone call. But then, perhaps the enthusiasm for success at the management level is such that they are fixated with getting it right the first time.

One other point of free advice: if this is about Target, then forget about high-minded meaningless “reputation management” crap and get back to basics with a new, exciting and revolutionary twist. Ask yourself: how many people who have been to Target start off by saying “I was in a store that was so amazing, you have to go there, it has incredibly enthusiastic people” [actually, if anything, the Target people are its weak point]. The answer is NONE, ZIP, NADA. But how many people say: “I was in Target and they had the most incredible selection of exactly what I was looking for. And the prices were really great. And then I saw this outfit, wow, I was amazed, didn’t think they had it. And have you seen their ads.”

*By the way, what’s with this “Allies” silliness in the “context”?

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Surely We’ve Figured Social Media Out by Now

I have just returned from a really serious, important Branding Roundtable. The smartest branders (or, as the English roundtablers called them, Marketeers) discussed hospitality marketing in the most serious, sometimes academic terms (it was, after all, hosted at Cornell University, by the Center for Hospitality Research). We learned many things, and we taught many things. All in all, time very well spent.

But, this is the second year in a row I have attended this, and I have attended myriad similar conferences and round tables and symposia in this and other categories, in the US< Canada and  other countries, over the past four years. maybe five. And there is one constant. One conversation that has not changed in content, tone, volume, intensity, or anything. And that is: Social Media and “we know this is changing the world, but we don’t understand it and how to do it.” Every time, every where, we hear the same mantra: we don’t understand Social Media but it is very important and we need to understand it. A subtext: we need to use it more, but not like everybody else is using it. we need to be “strategic” (unlike everybody else). And yet, when asked what being strategic means, we hear , “we don’t understand it yet….”

Okay. I get it. But I don’t.

"According to a research done by AAL, there are a billion social media experts on the internet. Do you know what do they do on a daily basis? After “interviewing” more than 20 (actually none) experts, this is what I found out."
This comes from a brilliant blog by Aaron Lee -- click on the image to link to her post.

We do understand it. Many companies are strategic. Many companies do utilize the various SM options tactically to generate sales. Many companies think of Twitter as a wonderful way of finding our what people are thinking about them; spreading news, etc.

So, let’s all make a deal: we will never say the following words in our out loud voice: “we don’t understand social media.” Let’s also make a pact to stop saying that everybody else is not using Social Media strategically. If we think this, then we’re not paying attention to what other companies are doing!

On another, but similar point, we can now stop patronizing youth. We say — and I am referring to “marketeers” — that we need to get a a handle on “young people” who have grown up completely digitally and live completely differently from anything we have experienced. And we need to listen to them about their “new world,” etc. Yes, people growing up these days used technology forma younger age than people growing up before them. But, and they will be the first to agree (I know, I personally called every young person and asked them) that this digital difference does not define them. They do not spend all their waking moments doing incomprehensible “digitalism’ on Facebook and

Twitter. They do “digitalistic” things, like texting, when they are with friends or in class. But, they also talk to friends in person, go to movies, watch TV, read books (okay, okay, they do it on ipads, except they don’t really if you look at the penetration of digital readers compared to the total number of people who read). They laugh, cry and wonder about the world around them. they have no greater comprehension of the qwerty keyboard than anybody else; and their thumbs are still roughly the same size as anybody else’s in spite of texting on tiny keyboards. They don’t really expect everything to happen instantly, even if some things, like texting somebody, can indeed happen quickly. They shop. They buy stuff that makes them happy and they buy stuff that they hate and that they think is crap and return it to the store. They listen to their friends’ advice on what to buy and then make their own decisions. They are exposed to advertising and remember clever tag lines and jingles (yes, jingles!).  They also smoke, drink and do drugs, which is about as analog as you can get!

Mostly, they are tired of being patronized by a generation of marketeers that has too much time on its collective hands!

One final plea: please don’t turn “today’s patronized youth” into a sociological/marketing insight.

There…now you know. And if you are seriously interested in who does this right, look at stores like Canadian Tire or their sister brand Sport Check.

Filed under: Are they stupid or just mean: design idiocy in action, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Is Behavioral Economics Really a Game Changer for Marketers?

Much has been written, and said, lately about the impact of behavioral economics on marketing. Some pay no attention to it, some fear it and some adapt it to their own particular cause. But, in reality, does behavioral economics really change anything?

Read more about this at the CMA Blog. Click here (or anywhere, actually)

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, , , , , , , , , ,

The Secret of Life Revealed

“When we think about it, nothing is as important as we think it is when we think about it.”

This delightful sophism is an extension of the original quoted by Ogilvy UK Vice Chair Rory Sutherland in a discussion published last August in Research (Questioning the Nature of Research). The quote is attributed to a certain Paul Dolan who is identified as “the government’s well-being advisor” (presumably the UK government as no North American government in power is particularly interested in well-being unless it is of the financial kind.  To be fair to the good Mr. Dolan, I added the first “when you think about it” in order to create a certain mind-fuckness about the thought.

Actually, the Sutherland piece came to our attention via a LinkedIn post that posed the question posted by Edward Appleton: “What’s market research’s response to behavioural economics?“.  Also worth reading.

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Human Dominoes…why not

Okay, so human dominoes is not the most watchable feat of human strength, but it is among the silliest. On the other hand, it’s for a good cause, and, most notably, it’s an initiative of a hotel company that is almost totally altruistic. One comment from the youtube version rally sums it up: (from jeffmacdonald62: “It was more than amazing. I’m so proud of my company!”

I wish I came up with initiatives that make people proud of their company — imagine the savings in “internal branding” and other exercises in convincing associates to live the brand!

HOTELSMag.com – Daily News.

Filed under: Hospitality and Tourism, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Selling Luxury 1: Secret Fears of the Super-Rich

Secret Fears of the Super-Rich – Magazine – The Atlantic.

Two blogs on the super rich in honour of a conversation I had yesterday on the subject of luxury. Luxury is an experience, not a thing; luxury marketing, which is often confused with selling expensive stuff to rich people, is dependent on the ability of the marketer to activate an intrinsic experience in the target’s soul, which is difficult enough, but it needs to be done in such a way as to yield a profit to the marketer. Which is why luxury marketers generally default to doing nothing more than selling expensive stuff to rich people.

The two items below demonstrate the difference — although they both are extreme in the extreme:

0,000 Blancpain 1735

This $800,000 Blancpain stainless steel watch looks, let’s face facts, not much different from your run of the mill $250,000 Patek Philipe or, Heaven Forbid, $6,000 Rolex (or, for that matter, $100 Timex). But, it’s value comes from the intricacy of the manufacturing (it takes a year to make), and I imagine the owner gets a great deal of pleasure in knowing the degree of “complication” he is wearing. This, in my world, is luxury — not for what it is but for how it is experienced. Marketing this requires a subtle understanding of what makes the target tick (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Compare it with this:

0,000 Crystal Tourbillon

This diamond encrusted watch is by Jacob and Company, and costs roughly the same as the Blancpain (well, it costs $900,000, but what’s a hundred grand between friends when we’re talking about quality?). The value of this is entirely extrinsic (not entirely, I mean it probably has a good enough mechanism that ensures it keeps time, even though it’s probably impossible to actually tell time because of the “design” of the face).  I imagine the person buying this is doing so because it is expensive, more expensive, he might think, than any others (he would be wrong — Vacheron Constantin have a leather strapped watch for $1.5 million in case you were wondering: http://www.powersaversearch.com/content/expensive-watches/2.asp). It is, to him, very publicly expensive and clearly telegraphs this to everybody around him. Selling watches to the person who buys this is simply selling expensive stuff to some guy who can afford it.

Which is the difference between marketing luxury and exploiting the rich!

On the other hand, the rich beg to be exploited, as my next blog shows.

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Archetypes of Adventurers

Adventure Travel – National Geographic Adventure Blog.

This is an interesting discussion of the typologies of adventurers framed in Jungian archetypes — this sounds a lot more technical than it is.  The author presents a simplified and highly readable introduction to atchetypes, without mentioning Jung even once!

Inner Directives, our Jungian Archetype segmentation system, has been used in exactly this manner on exactly this topic by the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC). As part of the branding exercise we undertook for CTC, we segmented potential visitors to Canada into archetypes using MBTI and applied these findings to the marketing potential for different types of activities (or, roughly, the different regions of Canada).

Archetype segmentation is not a rigid science, but rather an almost qualitative approach to understanding the unconscious drives that motivate choice. It delivers insights that get to the heart of people and motivations and, as this article demonstrates, allows for colourful, actionable descriptions of customers (in this case adventurers) and their relation to the brand (in this case “adventure”).

As an aside, it was this process that led to a clear distinction between “:tourists” and “travelers,” which has subsequently become on e of the underpinnings of travel positioning in Canada and other parts of the world.

Filed under: Behavioral Economics, Hospitality and Tourism, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Study: Only 1% of Facebook ‘Fans’ Engage With Brands

This is really long URL, but worth it — for those of us who have questioned the blind faith in the power of social media to “build relationships” with brands that (presumably, although never explicitly stated) result in increased sales, true-loyalty, brand ambassadorships and so on, this piece of research is enlightening.

However, just because only 1 out of every 200 people who “like” the brand actually create any content about it, does not mean that the whole facebook exercise is pointless. But, the point of the Facebook exposure is, ultimately the same as any other exposure: exposure!

And, as I have written here before, exposure and frequency of exposure is key to building brands. Engagement, though nice, does not actually build brands (it may deepen relationships, although some may also question the point of this as well). But the idea that thousands of people see the brand, maybe feel something about the brand, is certainly worthwhile.

So, keep up the good work on Facebook!

http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=5568699569434271756&gid=31804&type=member&item=91677100&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fadage%2Ecom%2Farticle%2Fdigital%2Fstudy-1-facebook-fans-engage-brands%2F232351%2F&urlhash=x6GC&goback=%2Egde_31804_member_91677100

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Rats Have Feelings Too

Yes. In a recent experiment (as reported in the Montreal Gazette — why am I not surprised?) researchers at University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer is yes! Click on the rats for the full article.

Even better news is that they will only rescue other rates of they’re real rats — the researchers tried the experiment with a bound and gagged toy rat and NO, it was not rescued by the other rat.

I am convinced that there is some deeper meaning to this, but, honestly, it escapes me at this moment. But, it’s worth pointing out that no person is trying to break through the door to rescue me from the confines of my office.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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