Posts filed under ‘Insights & Strategy’

Tobaccowala on the evolving role of marketing

Sometimes, you get good articles from all these newsletters you subscribe to. In this case an article by Lori Luechtefeld from iMedia Connection.

She interviewed Denuo’s CEO Tobaccowala. I like some of the things he says, such that business models have to change the way software does. You can’t keep flailing a dead horse, such called advertising agency business model, or even traditional marketing business model, you have to move on. Also he says that, much more than marketing officers, you need facilitators:

The rest, he says, is all about facilitation. “We need to basically organize the facilitation,” Tobaccowala says. “We need to have chief facilitation officers.” Rather than spending their time crafting messages, marketers should be spending their time helping consumers gain access to companies and their resources — thereby making it easy for consumers to market to themselves.

This totally reflects our own agency philosophy which we call HumanKind: go from milieus and demograhics to actual human behavior, from messaging to experiences, from campaigns to sustained value exchange, and from rigid posititioning and idle brand promise to a human brand purpose. Essentially what he talks about is how marketing organizations and their agencies have to change in order to actually deliver product innovation which can be translated into marketing innovations as well.

To me, the idea of faciliation, seen from the agency side is an important one. If you actually retool your agency structure and process that allows you to deal with creating experiences leading to value exchange that gives people access to companies, you immediatly realize how much more involved your stategic and creative delivery gets. Planning and designing experiences is just much more complex than a catchy claim and a key visual.

But there is more in the article which actually is more specific that lofty philosophies. Check it out.


October 30, 2008 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Germany has the most passive Internet users

We found an interesting, if not shocking statistic in on Upload Magazin, which quotes a Forrester statisitic, claiming that German users are the most passive Internet users in comparison to the US, UK, France, Korea.

Inactive users are classified as people who are not one of the following of Forrester’s categories: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners or Spectators.

In Germany 53% are inactive in comparison to the US with 25%, UK and France with 42%, and whopping 7% in South Korea.

The reasons for this human behavior is definitely worth researching. Is it German culture and history that keeps us from becoming active participants in social matters, or is it something more mundane?

October 28, 2008 at 12:58 pm 1 comment

German Discounter discovers brand image advertising

One of the largest German discount retailers, Lidl, recently started airing a brand campaign. The campaign itself, well, nothing special: the campaign is strongly reminiscent of Mastercard’s “Priceless” campaign, using people situations and using price tags for those situations. Also, the scenes look like they were selected out of stock film reels. Furthermore, it has a brand promise (“A trip to Lidl can be anything but expensive”) that, still reminds everyone: it’s about cheap prices, for which, if you’re honest, you don’t need a brand image campaign, cuz, duh, everyone knows that Lidl is a discounter, not Harrod’s. As a result, it probably tested really well in the pre-tests because it’s not saying anything (that can offend anyone).

What’s really more interesting is the fact that a German discounter actually started thinking about a brand image campaign in the first place. This is highly uncommon. The only “brand” communication we’re used to from discounters is inserts with pork loin offers, at EUR 2.99 for 500 grams for which discounters like Lidl and Aldi shell out a good 200-300 million Euro a year making sure we all have kilos of dead trees in our mailboxes. But a brand film? That’s new. So, what’s going on here?

I basically see it as a discounter’s desperate attempt to stop some trends in the making as far as the market situation is concerned. In Germany, there is a fight over market share going on among the different supermarket retail business models. Like elsewhere, we have three competing models:

  1. Discounters (Lidl, Aldi, Penny…)
  2. Hypermarkets (Real, Globus, Toom, Kaufland…)
  3. Supermarkets (Edeka, Rewe…)

In the past, discounters really ate away the huge amounts of market share of Hypermarkets and supermarkets because of a couple of people behaviors: a) while in the past, discounters where frowned upon for having bad quality, they now established that you can even drive to a discounter in a Porsche if you don’t mind a stripped-down shopping experience: the quality is right, and it is cheaper than local supermarkets b) People’s lives and their shopping behavior has changed: people (especially the younger demographic) don’t shop for the whole week anymore, quick trips to the supermarket around the corner become more common, so hypermarkets with their huge assortment of goods are too far away, less convenient and, frankly, too huge for daily shopping convenience.

However, there are also 3 other trends that might force discount brands to rethink their strategy: a) discounters are everywhere now and have reached maximum proliferation, competing with supermarkets for local relevance which still own local convencience and quality of products, so you can’t grow more by building more outlets b) local supermarkets themselves have responded to discount pricing by increasing their share of private labels, allowing to approximate the price of discounters in a shopping environment that is more tasteful c) Organic foods are everywhere, and expected by people, and while discounters now also carry great organic food, the ambiance of organic food is still more trustworthy and personal in a more upmarket supermarket brand than picking it up from crates stored on pallets and high-fluctuation staffing structure.

So, with discounters having a hard time to grow beyond their proliferation, pure price communication not being sustainable (ever!), and shopping experience becoming a more and more important asset, discounters seem to have discovered brand advertising as a necessity, in order to mitigate the shopping experience strategies of supermarkets, such as REWE and Edeka.

However, I am not sure advertising can really help discounters here (especially if the promise is still just about price). At the very least it can’t help if discounters don’t also rethink their shopping experience strategy. Ads, after all, are just ads. Reformulating your reason for being and providing people with acts that improve their lives, in the context of their shopping needs should prove more successful in building trust than running some ads.

October 20, 2008 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

Can design save advertising?

Here is the thing: advertising really doesn’t work that well anymore.

At least, it doesn’t work for all of the things it used to work for. I won’t go into the reasons for that, because, frankly, the topic is so hackneyed and over-discussed that it is more likely that indigenous tribes of the south-west Amazon have already come up with digital strategies to address the issue, than Sara Palin knowing that the Amazon is a river in Latin America, and not just where she buys maternity literature for her daughter.

My story is more around design. “Funny,” you might say “because isn’t design a completely overused topic as well?” Well, yeah it is, but no so much in the context of what it means for advertising agencies which have made their money with development of messaging.

If you think of design as a mindset of creating acts that lead to valuable exchanges with brands, rather than just a specific design discipline, such as graphic design, as well as if you allow the inclusion of other design fields, such as software design, interior design, product design, you at some point might ask yourself the question: if advertising bombards people with messages they don’t want, and if advertising makes promises brands can’t keep, whereas design actually delivers experiences that people want, can design save advertising? And you can see it’s a timely question because all types of agencies now dabble in or with design.

Why do they do that? Because design delivers experiences, whereas advertising only delivers messages. And, of course we all know, there is a rich market for experiences and not so much for messages. For example: if the design of a software leads to a new algorithm which allows to more successfully rank pages of a search result, you end up getting a brand called Google which doesn’t even have to do advertising. In fact, the software design success of Google’s new algorithm created a platform that is so successful, that everyone who sells stuff has to advertise there.

“If that’s the case, why bother with advertising?” you might say, “why don’t you just do design then? Why save advertising?” Because, here is the cincher: if you have great design, you’re gonna need advertising. The problem isn’t that advertising is evil. The problem is that many brands don’t innovate anymore, so they got nothing to say. Or even if they have innovations, they stick to their advertising/marketing process that doesn’t consider people and their true behavior. The end result: they just advertise stuff people don’t want or in a way they don’t want to be advertised at.

As a result, advertising people need to think about creating acts that deliver experiences for marketing and product innovation even if, in the end, you also deliver ads. This means talking to all sort of designers who can help you come up with solutions that make a qualitative difference in peoples’ lives, no matter how small.

The most important thing though is that whatever we do, we give brands a purpose so they can deliver experiences and communications that are valuable to people. Because, just as with ads, acts that don’t have a purpose with people in mind, are useless just the same. In fact, purposeless brand acts can be even more annoying that purposeless ads.

So, in the end, it’s not about whether design can save advertising. It is about coming up with a human brand purpose that is based in actual human behavior.

A brand purpose, mind you, not a promise, not a positioning, can deliver the necessary reason for being of brand, so it can innovate and create acts for which, ultimatly you can create ads for.

And BTW: hasn’t it always been a fact that every successful brand we know is here because it has or used to invent a new design for a challenge in people’s lives? You need to innovate and do so something before you say something and tell people about it. There is no room for messaging without substance, no room for ads without acts.

October 10, 2008 at 2:59 pm 2 comments

How to get Usability testing done, fast.

We recently completed a multi-market user experience / usability test for one of our clients. Many hours of planning and organization, as well a design and prototype developments went into this, as this was a test for a major european roll-out, and a lot of design assumptions had to be verified.

However, there are so many smaller projects in which, due to timing and budget, usability is never really tested. Sure, for a lot of things you can rely on the empirical knowledge of a senior user experience planner, but really observing people and their behavior with your end product, always shows that you can optimize the experience. Sometimes, you even find critical issues, no matter how well you thought it through.

Therefore, the question for anyone charged with the planning of experiences always is: how do we get user experience testing set up without being on the client’s agenda or in his budget? We usually fall back onto informal testing rounds and rapid prototype development with the designers making changes as planners generate insights and recommendations. We also developed small modules on how accomplish quick turnarounds on such issues as screening and recruiting and developed special agreements with our testing partners. However, we never formalized it as a process.

Today, I came across a great article by Paul Nuschke of Boxes and Arrows and his approach to the problem. Definitely a good read for all the Experience Planners out there.

October 10, 2008 at 11:19 am 2 comments

Shopper marketing gaining momentum

With more and more questions about traditional advertising effectiveness, non-traditional marketing methods, apart from digital marketing are gaining importance.

For inhouse shopper marketing discipline here at Leo Burnett, the following Deloitte study is music to our ears. The first moment of truth, meaning people and their behavior in front of the shelf is a key vehicle to increase relevance of your brand’s products.

Says Brandweek:

Nineteen percent of consumer packaged goods manufacturers and half of retailers rank shopper marketing as the most effective activity for generating strong return-on-investment. Overall, 75% of manufacturers and 86% of retailers studied ranked in-store marketing among the top four activities in terms of gaining strong ROI.

No 30 second spot will help you when your product isn’t staged the right way and can’t show off it’s unique purpose to people in the approriate context.

October 1, 2008 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

Rant on ill-fated Rebranding spots

Ok, it looks like I dissent with the blogosphere about ads these days.

Number 1:

I liked the Jerry Seinfeld / Bill Gates spots, and everyone else seemed to hate it. I liked it regardless of the weird rapport between Gates and Seinfeld (Seinfeld never has a rapport with people/charcters, that his shtick!) because finally it was a spot that wasn’t dictated on Apple’s terms, and Microsoft came across was self-confident, yet self-ironic, quirky. Ok, it didn’t change brand perception all that much. Hello? you cant change brand perception inĀ  2 weeks, and you certainly cant do it with ads, anyhow.

Number 2:

Now everyone says the Microsoft sequel spot is much better and I hate it. Again, it starts with an Apple lookalike actor, then everyone says “I am a PC”… Booooooring AND dumb. Boring because you hear the same line from different faces a gazillion times and dumb because: people aren’t friggin PCs. But the real doozie for the brand that has 97% of market share against Apple is: the whole thing is an ANSWER to Apple’s idea, so again, Microsoft looks like a defensive, insecure dufus without self-confidence having to reference a brand that, well, is just cooler. Microsoft owns the market and still feels like it has to come out with a justification and reason for being against Apple? Hello?

Number 3:

Okay, and now everyone is all over the Tina Fey / Scorcese spot for AMEX. Ok, I love that spot too. Really do. You know why? Because, surpriiiiise, like everyone else, I love Martin Scorcese, plus it’s a great continuation of the first spot.

I just wonder: what the hell does it do for the brand?

Thanks AMEX for entertaining me for a couple of seconds. How does it feel paying millions for making Martin even more popular? Geez, you watch that spot, and think: Scorcese is a bigger brand than AMEX. It’s so ill-matched. Also, it’s a non-sequitur par excellence. He sells a timeshare and then it’s about travel advice?

September 25, 2008 at 11:13 am 1 comment

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