Friday, February 27, 2009

bagels don't get it back

it's funny how people think food is the universal "fixer."

now, i myself am a big fan of food, generally speaking, and probably enjoy a little too much of it on a too-frequent basis. this is why, though willy & hoover would be ecstatic to have me working from home, i must leave my house for minimally 8 hours every day. otherwise, i would be spending 6 of them in, on my way to be in, or thinking about what's in... the refrigerator.

i would eventually become so large that i would be unable to hoist myself from the couch, but i'm quite certain i would still be able to crawl, slide or drag myself across the floor to have yet another grazing session. how do i know this? a few years ago, i had to have surgery on both feet at the same time, and was, effectively, unable to hoist myself from the couch. didn't lose a pound, though.

anyway, food as fixer sometimes occupies an interesting position in the efforts of companies and people to right past wrongs or convince you of something that may in fact not be true.

for example, you'll see a restaurant have a health department issue, and then 2 months later they're open again, and giving away free apps as a way to entice diners to return (shame on you if you believe the rats are really gone for good). or you'll see a boutique that had horribly overpriced things have a "special sales event!", and they'll have snacks and drinks to lure you in to see marked-down things which are still ridiculously expensive... but now you've chowed down on the canapes and slugged back the wine and feel guilty that you're taking advantage of the store if you don't buy something. or, my personal favorite ... someone mistreats or offends you and later brings you bagels or cookies as a "peace offering" to convince you that he/she isn't such a bad guy/gal after all.

what a bunch of horse hockey this sort of thing is! it's bad practice on at least 3 fronts: 1) it's dishonest because it's not well-intentioned; 2) it's stupid because it presumes the recipient is not smart enough to see through the charade; and 3) it's unncessary because people are not going to believe you anyway.

net net -- bagels don't get it back for you. people may eat them, but ultimately it's unlikely that they're going to change their minds. if you want to have a strong brand, you have to behave with integrity -- the first time, and every time, you engage with people whom you wish to be loyal to you over the long run.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

the doghouse

i'm officially in the doghouse with willy & hoover today, for not letting them go outside in what i SO DESPERATELY HOPE will be the last snowfall of the year. (this photo is from last year). that of course does not mean i get to hang up my parka -- have to wear that until at least late may to avoid being below my admittedly somewhat narrow acceptable temperature range of 70 - 71 degrees.

anyway, it caused me to remember that recently someone mentioned that i'd not cited j.c. penney's doghouse campaign in my "faves" post from a couple of weeks ago. i can't believe i forgot to include it, because it is truly incredible marketing genius at work.

Multiple reasons why it's great:

1) it's intelligent without being too highbrow. this is the difference, i think, between, say, GEICO's gekko spots -- which are truly funny but i think potentially a little too upscale for the mass audience they're seeking. i suppose they're trying to balance these out with the caveman spots, which are terrible, and so if that's their strategy, i'd say it's not quite sound. besides, they're giving up a ton of recognition and ability to make either campaign better by splitting media investment between the two. doghouse nails a universal human truth -- which comes across no better than in my favorite line, "not a big fan of that look" -- that couples have experienced since ... well, caveman times.

2) it's a story that demands attention. the direction on this piece is fabulous and it's impossible to stop watching it, even if you've seen it multiple times. in fact, each time i see it, i see (or hear) something i didn't notice in the previous 1027 viewings (1028 if you count the one i had to do before writing this post). i've listened to the audio track by itself because there is some really funny stuff going on in the background which you can miss if you're watching the vid.

3) it's got opportunities for involvement. penney's has continued to improve the site, including a much easier way to put people in the doghouse (via a link to facebook), photos of them, and those who've been released, and links thru to material on their diamond offering and jewlery services. as well as the original vid that started it all.
i personally think they oughtta figure out a way to update their youtube viewership in realtime -- more than a million views since 11/21. that's some serious traffic.

yes, it's too bad that more of those folks didn't run right out to penney's and buy diamonds in december -- sales were down 10% for the quarter, profits down 50%. ouch! JCP looks just like any other retail stock right now, or for that matter, any kind of stock at all. but we all know that brand building isn't for this quarter, or even the quarter down the road ... it's for 3 to 5 years from now, and will require a lot of continued investment and care in the meantime. i hope penney's keeps it up, though, coz as soon as i have a couple extra dollars, i'll be heading in their direction.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

musings on a cool video

i happened to be at the ibm website today, and came across this video, "start at IBM," which is pretty cool. they have jump-cut a kazillion interesting images in sequence and crafted a piece of creative which in my view says alot more with this visual style than the words and music convey ... though the words and music are quite good, too.
whoever put this vid together, and whoever at IBM had the vision to make it something different than the typical "hey, let's show our employees saying great things about us" video, deserves some snaps. now, i myself have commissioned the aforementioned style of careers video, and it is lovely in that the employees are quite earnest and compelling and say the things we wanted them to say... and that's the problem. everyone who watches it will know the employees are saying the things we wanted them to say, or we would never have allowed it up on our website. so automatically there's a certain lack of authenticity, because you know while these people might have said these things on their own, they probably would've said some other things, too, and those comments aren't there. like, everything that's after the word "but..."
"yeah, this is a cool place, but ... they work us like dogs" (NB: willy & hoover on this topic sometime in a future post.)
"i love it here, but ... i really wish my big-mouthed cubemate would just SHUT UP! i can't hear myself think!
"the pay is fabulous... but yo have to be willing to brownnose the folks at the top."
so, the IBM piece gets past all of that by simply showing us people in motion. are all these people and places actually at IBM? i dunno, but i guess i give them the benefit of the doubt on that. are all these people happy? i dunno that either, but i'm not called upon to think too much about that because they're not challenging me to question the veracity of the employees' statements. i'm just letting a bunch of pictures and words and music wash over me and create the sense of a company in constant motion. my only gripe is that the nature of that motion is jerky and not fluid, which if you take this to an abstract level, it might mean that you would be working with jerks who don't drink. and that would be bad.
also, i wonder about the clean room shots -- how'd they get the camera/gear in there? they shoulda dressed it up in a little white coat and shower cap, too ... would've added an element of humor that might have made the piece a little less sterile. but on the whole, it worked for me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

linked in, facebook, twitter, and being social - as told by hoover levy

hi, hello, hey, everyone! hey! hey! hey! gimme that toy! gimmee! it's me, hoover. i'm the black dog in the levy household and i'm easily the most social being in the family, as well as having a pretty bad case of ADD. or maybe because of that, i dunno. squirrels! squirrels! oh, how i love squirrels!

anyway, my mom does a pretty good fake, but there's no doubt my dad and my brother willy and that stupid cat are socially backwards and don't even really like talking to people, which is why you'd think that they would be head over tail on these social media tools. but they're not. I'D use them, for sure, if i didn't have these giant paddle feet for paws.

the trouble with social media is, well ... it's addictive. when you're a dog, you can afford to be addicted to things because you know your parents are gonna buy you another one of whatever that is, except if it's, like, an armani loafer or a tin of cajun spice or pine-scented wax candle or 10 lb butternut squash or tube of superglue. (all of those things are extremely tasty, by the way, except for the superglue, which is a bit chewy and difficult on the gums). but when you're a person, it can be bad to be addicted to things -- especially things that require a lot of money or time. i'm a dog, so i don't really understand what "time is money" means, but my mom keeps saying it to me, especially when i'm looking for that perfect spot. it's just like for you humans -- placement is important and i don't like to be rushed.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


so yesterday i was contemplating the whole president's day thing, and was struck by the idea that there really is no true "market" for these types of occasions and other hallmark-induced holidays. (for my international readers, these are sort of like the bank holidays in germany, which occur, it seems, about once every 2 seconds, especially in the summertime or octoberfest season).

let's think about "markets," shall we? tom peters, in the original in search of excellence, which was a book in search of an audience until tom went out on a speaking tour and was so compelling in person that people bought the book in droves, said something to the effect of:

"the problem with 'marketers' is that what they really like to do is to play with numbers and draw nice charts, and they're really not concerned with listening to what customers really want, or think they want.... the truth is, a market never bought anything. people buy things."

and so, relative to my comments the other day about the people who are involved in hallmark holidays -- which people are in fact the market? the people who are presidents? or grandmothers? or secretaries? or are they the people who are buying the cards for these people? and who are those buyers? clearly, in the case of the latter 2 examples, we know that of course you're going to spring for a card for grandma on grandma's day lest you be boxed about the head and shoulders by she who bore you, or he who had to stand there while she bore you. and secretaries -- or to be entirely pc -- "assistants" -- well, that's obvious too. if you want those files, or your phone calls, or your calendar with the correct appointments vs. those with people who don't exist ... you'll come up not only with a beautiful, expressive card... but the flowers or gift cert as well.

but... presidents? is there anyone buying anything for anyone on this day (except for perhaps the $787B gift of the american people to themselves and the world? not to minimize that, by the way. some of my best friends are republicans and they think, naturally, that the stimulus is stimulousy, but i disagree. in fact, i think it's the equivalent of a giant traffic jam, involving, like 6 billion people, all of whom are out in the streets just sitting there and nobody's moving. just think... what if everyone started to move? all at the same time? in some kind of orderly manner, even? well, that would be cool, and if it happened in the economy.... banks would start lending to each other, and then people could buy houses and cars, and then the people who work for builders and auto companies could keep those supply chains active, and so on and so on and so on. it may never be like it was, but it can absolutely be better than it is right now, and i think there's little doubt that this package will help.)

ANYWAY, back to president's day. is there a market? are there people who are disposed to buy something on president's day? here's what i bought yesterday:

- a spinach salad for lunch
- a soda at 4pm

not terribly different than what i buy pretty much every other day.

so... i dunno. if the act of "market-ing" is all about bringing to the attention of people those things we think they should buy, and causing them to be pre-disposed to do so (my own definition) ... then something has been left out here on the marketing of president's day -- at least for me. i'd like to buy a president, sure -- who wouldn't? -- but given all the trouble rod blagojevich and roland burris are in at the moment, it looks like spinach salad is probably the better way to go.

Friday, February 13, 2009

bad marketing

sorry, everyone. bad marketing is everywhere. it's like that movie, the sixth sense. except i would whisper, "i see bad marketing. only the people who're doing it don't know it's bad. they walk around like nothing's wrong." i might not be as convincing as haley joel osment, but that doesn't mean it's not so.

let's take my #1 offender, capital one, which has held that dubious distinction for some time -- well, at least since the stupid ads broke in 2005. at that time, ad critic steve hall did a pretty interesting review, with which i completely concurred. i'm sure both of us thought the ads were not long for this world, but in fact they've continued, and gotten worse (although the always annoying david spade is no longer present, which i suppose would have helped if the premise had been improved. but as it is, it really doesn't matter. with or without spade, these ads still suck.)

here's another reason capital one is guilty of bad marketing -- there's got to be more to the campaign than just ads, even if they're great ads. there's zero integration of the creative across the touchpoints where the brand contacts the consumer. check out the website -- it looks like... well, a bank's website. or the collateral -- nothing to do with the goths, the aliens, or the web presence. it's totally different approach. or the cards themselves, even. they look like ... a credit card. even though i hate the concept, i'd actually give the campaign credit if they pulled through the creative to the rest of these things.

my father-in-law, one of the smartest guys i know, hates these ads but admits he has a cap one card because it's the only banking organization that doesn't charge you a fee when you use the card outside the u.s., and my inlaws travel alot, so that could add up to some big $s. to me, that's a USP that ought to be front and center, not alien creatures.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

dogs don't shop

that willy... i swear, a pair of glasses and a haircut and he could be ed begley, jr. except slightly less bizarre.

but he is an ever-present reminder of one of my favorite marketing stories, called "dogs don't shop." it's a little fable about market segmentation, and how sometimes even smart marketers miss the basics. it goes something like this:

once upon a time, there was a dog food company (willy would say, "oh boy! oh boy! mom, go work there! maybe you'll get free product! maybe i can come to work with you and I can get free product!). and the marketers at the dog food company have produced a new type of dog food, one that is lower-calorie and intended for overweight dogs. and the marketers are talking about how their segmentation should thus follow that path -- they should now come up with line extensions, for thin dogs, and maybe old dogs, and young dogs, and pregnant dogs, and dogs with various kinds of health problems, etc. the entire conversation turned on what different kinds of dogs there are and what those dogs need. by the end of the meeting, they've got a segmentation wheel full of potential targets based on dogs.

and that's the problem. DOGS DON'T SHOP. (well, sometimes willy thinks he's shopping, but that's only because we usually agree on what he should have at the local pet smart).

who shops? DOG OWNERS. and are they more likely to be motivated by the dogs needs, or by their relationship with the dog? if you have a dog, you know it's the latter.

so this caused the marketers to re-evaluate, and come up with a segmentation schematic that actually addresses the real targets and the real buying motive, PEOPLE AND HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THEIR DOG. this became:

dog as dog -- people (and shame on them) who stake their dogs outside, and have them sleep in doghouses.

dog as pet -- people who include their dogs as family members, but they better not get up on the sofa.

dog as child -- come on up on the sofa, girl. that's right, snuggle right up next to your daddy.

and, finally, dog as grandchild. these are the dogs that are getting all kinds great bling like $350 hermes collars and custom-made dog furniture from the pampered puppy.

next time you go to the pet store, look in your cart and see which target you are!

by the way, willy's advice on the subject is to check out this great list of other reasons why dogs are better than men -- or women.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

willy's inaugural guest blog

hey, everyone -- it's willy here. my mom just got back from denver and says she's "cat-tired." (we don't use that other expression in our house, 'coz it's simply a lie.) so, it's time for my first blog entry. well... my first on THIS blog, that is. i actually have a full time gig on some others. just a way to get a little extra chow.
before i begin on marketing, i'd like to paws (ha! get it? paws! that's funny!) for a moment and adjust the font and size of the text on this blog. my mom has been using verdana, which is a nice face, but i'm really more a trebuchet kinda guy. and clearly the letters have to be bigger 'coz my -- ha ha! paws! -- get stuck on the keyboard. clearly, it's time for a toenail clipping.
so, here's what i think about marketing. it's pretty simple to tell good from bad. if it's about dog food or dog toys or dog beds or dog food or dog food or dog food, it's good. if it's about those stupid little dog outfits, or dog ear cleaning solutions or dog diets, then it's bad. see? you don't have to be terribly enlightened to know this. however, it does help to have read How to Raise a Jewish Dog, by the Rabbis of the Boca Raton Theological Seminary. unlike my parents, who are jewish only about 2.3 days per year, i'm jewish all the time. my brother is too, but he's somewhat less observant and moves in semi-nomadic fashion from meal to meal only when brisket and latkes are being served.
so that's it. my mom (who also has read the jewish dog book) is trying to guilt me into laboring over this post, the way she does on hers ... but i'm so over that noise. there's gonna have to be some serious cookytime involved to get me to do that.
see ya,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

presentation tomorrow

so tomorrow i'm chatting with the good folks at the Colorado Business Marketing Association (BMA), which, by the way, has nearly 700,000 google hits to its credit. way to go, guys.

they've asked me to speak to them about global re-branding. this is a topic about which i am completely jazzed, and i'd have no problem speaking for days on end about it.

the big disconnect with some folks is that they think B2B companies don't need to invest in "all that consumer stuff." i argue that it's precisely the reason we DO need to make those investments. B2B sales are, as we all know ...

1) are typically higher in $s (or Es or yen or RMB or pick your currency)
2) typically have longer lead times
3) can be fraught with more disasterous consequences if you screw up and pick the wrong partner (due to #1 and #2 above, but also because you've now put a company's products or services in place, and when those are either highly customized or very expansive or otherwise a PITA to change, people start to look at you funny and wonder aloud about the state of your 401K)

ANYWAY, i digress. the point is, "all that consumer stuff," which to me is codespeak for "brand building work that improves our awareness, preference, margins and marketshare" becomes increasingly critical when the sales are few and far between and when the switching barriers are high. people -- and it doesn't matter if they're industrial buyers -- cannot buy what they don't know about, and they won't buy what they don't find compelling, and they won't keep buying from a company that can't solve their problems and with whom they don't feel they have a good relationship. this is all really simple stuff but it's kinda funny how often we forget about these basic truths.

i intend to show the BMA group a very interesting video which has gone viral on the web. it provides current context for technology-based efforts -- cutting to the chase, it says we're behind before we even get started. and i'm sure the #s it references have already changed since it was originally posted. but still, you really should check it out.

i know i promised a diatribe on "bad marketing," and i promise that will follow soon.

Monday, February 9, 2009

good marketing

what's good marketing? one marketer's trash is another marketer's dream ... there's an amazing amount of disagreement, i think, even among folks who have spent their entire careers in this field, about what's "good." some think award-winning advertising is good. some think the proof is entirely in sales. some think the answer lies in net promoter score (NPS). and others think those folks ought to stfu and let's go get some drinks, the client's an idiot for god's sake, and we get paid whether it works or not.

so here are some of my past and present favorites. i have a long list, so you'll see more faves from time to time. the fact that these show up first is meaningless...they surfaced in a recent conversation with the dogs (who are all about making stains, drinking bottled water, and riding around in cars), and perhaps that's why they're now top of mind.

tide to go stain stick. this is an outstanding combination of product development and competitive differentiation, channel marketing, and communications. tide figured out where shout had gone wrong -- a great idea, the wipes were, and they were first to market -- but the idea was poorly executed, and not promoted well. plus, tide's 2008 superbowl ad was incredibly well-done and the web tie-in was equally cool. and this, about a laundry detergent! i admit, as one who's prone to spilling things on herself, i am in fact the target for the product ... but i think i would still have liked it.

evian. what can one say about a company that can convince people (before anyone else did) that it's not only okay to pay money for something which is free -- but that it's really required if you want to improve your image? i hadn't been to evian's website in a while, but it's really quite something. i HAD seen the line extensions (jean paul gautier, christian lacroix and the new cool "palace" bottle) and it'll be interesting to see if that's enough to continue to propel the brand. i still remind people who tell me that people will never pay more that "evian" is "naive" spelled backwards, and people will ALWAYS pay more if you simply give them a compelling reason to do so. "brand" is not "margin" spelled backwards, but really, isn't this what it's all about? the only gripe i have is that the music on the site sounds remarkably like a soundtrack from a low-budget porn flick. (How do i know this, having never seen a low-budget porn flick? i'm guessing, and have heard from others).

hyundai. ok, time will tell whether these guys were incredibly brilliant or seriously misguided when they came up with the "lose your job, give back the car" deal, but you've gotta admit, it's a pretty solid idea for the current time. so far, only suburu and hyundai are hanging onto increases in the car market (slim ones, but still positive numbers vs. the other automakers). their work is having a positive impact on their brand performance, and jd power doesn't lie about quality -- hyundai has it over acura, bmw, volvo and a host of other more expensive vehicles.
next time ... bad marketing, and what can be done about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

why, oh why, am i doing this?

because, dear reader, it's become clear to me that there are just too many people out there who don't understand what good marketing is, and why it's important. and too many of them are in decision-making roles, where they are either permitting unfortunate displays of adolescent behavior(see, doritos superbowl commercial) or constraining their organizations by forcing them into been-there, got-the-t-shirt initiatives (see, ABB billboard). there obviously will be marketers who disagree with this -- especially, i would guess, those who work for frito-lay and ABB.

but this is the web and, as i tell willy & hoover, my labradors, "on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." or for that matter, why you think you should be entitled to blog about marketing. (by the way, willy is part-human and may, from time to time, serve as a guest blogger. hoover is a tornado in a dog's body and suffers from sub-standard typing skills, so willy or i will have to convey his thoughts.) they certainly have their own, highly well-informed opinions on marketing which have been developed during hours of watching animal planet when i'm not home. however, on this point, they both are in agreement with me:

good marketing should be brought out into the light and celebrated even (willy argues, "especially") by those who are not the target. bad marketing should be ridiculed and serve as a reason to make conscious choices for the products and services provided by a company's competitors. ok, i know "ridiculed" sounds a little harsh. but seriously, would you consider having a capital one card in your wallet? i'd be afraid of what others would think of me. (hoover says, "can it buy dog food? and toys? oh, i reeeeeaaallllly need some news toys.....")