Posts filed under ‘Strategy’

The long tail: digital myth or not?

The “long tail” has been a theory accepted as fact in the digital community. It described and explained what we believed in so well, and it all makes sense. In fact, to some of us it was a source of credibility for whatever it was we’re doing, selling, or referring to: the power of the individual, individual experiences, tailored and customized offerings in a distributed and digital world that makes all of that possible.

Now, some people are rocking the boat and saying that it was all a hoax. Not a surprise, really. Every theory has a counter-theory. Surprising is that it took this long.

Found on Alan’s friendfeed


July 2, 2008 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

People are not the problem. Marketing warfare is.

What’s been frying my goat for a while lately (like 10 years or so) is looking at how we conduct our business in the agency landscape. We use military words like Briefing, Strategy, Tactics, Campaign, Target, Territory, Launch and Positioning everyday. I am wondering what good it does using this language of war. Everyone says that marketing is war. Is it? War against what?

Let’s ask Billy Bob, a traditional, gun-toting marketer who believes marketing is war:

Billy Bob: I tell you who we’re fightin’, buddy. It’s them dang evil-doer consumers. These folks are conspirin’ against us, leadin’ a lawless digital lifestyle, creat’n’ all this brand brouhaha for us marketers, destroying our brand values and shooting web2.0 flak right down from the blogosphere and what have you. If we don’t strike them with a big nice nuclear promotion, we be fixin’ to go down with our brand reputation. So, I am asking you: are you with us or with the consumers?

Personally, Billy Bob, I believe war is not an answer. We’ve been seeing this for a long time and we’ve been turning our faces away, hoping this Internet thing would just go away. Fact is, we’ve just made it a war because we see human behavior as something we need to manipulate and change, and we made it marketing’s job to manipulate that human behavior. Also of course, it is our job to build a ridgid brand fortress, that can defend itself against its enemies, the competition. Now that digital technologies have empowered people and changed the rules of the game, it isn’t as easy to manipulate people, and advertising just doesn’t seem to work anymore. And, for lack of a better idea, what’s our response? More troops for the trenches, bigger defense budgets, more artillery.

Because the Billy Bob Marketing budget for ineffective advertising, whether in “traditional” or “digital” channels, is steadily rising, no matter how inefficient. As a result, to stay within the militaristic metaphor we seem so used to, “consumers” soon become “casualties of war.” Well, I guess, you know, such is war. I mean, we tried to use our smart micro-segmentation bombs and even put 10% of our budget into our magic digital targeted media bullet, but you’re always gonna get some collateral damage, right? After all, this is why we call those casualties consumers: this way they remain abstract and we don’t have to connect with their actual life.

Seriously, this terminology, and more importantly, the warped thinking behind it isn’t appropriate anymore, and maybe never was. So if you’re asked by Billy Bob to support the troops in advertising and marketing , it’s just not black and white anymore. All I know is: I don’t wanna support the troops and their strategic goals of “increasing brand awareness” or “building brand preference” or “driving brand consideration” if all I get is an unhuman, purposeless advertising carpet bombing campaign. This marketing warfare myth has to go. The point is, you can’t work like that anymore.

Ok, sure. Let’s say we all agree. How would we go about everything if we stripped out all this militaristic lingo and the thinking behind it?

  1. Don’t just think about positioning in “what is…”, think about “what if?”
  2. Don’t start with the category, the product or the brand. Because, guess what, you will end up where you left off.
  3. Instead, start with a purpose. A purpose, mind you, not a promise. A purpose needs a conviction, a reason for being and a fuel that amplifies it. Fuel comes from a human behavior that we want to enable.
  4. Based on this purpose, think of acts that a brand can create to enable that human behavior in positive ways, instead of just cranking out ads.
  5. Don’t think of creativity as idea generation for campaigns, think of creativity as ideas for experiences and valuable exchanges.
  6. Don’t message at people, message for something they believe in.
  7. Don’t call them consumers, call them people.

Peace out, y’all.

March 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm 3 comments

Kenneth Cole making life’s tough issues his own.

These days, it’s like more and more companies and brands aren’t just releasing blogs; some are taking a position on any globally important issue, or, to hell with it, all of the world’s important issues. Such as global warming, child labor, inner city poverty, nuclear waste, etc. How do you do this? Well, just do a blog. Even if the topics don’t have anything to do with what your company is selling. And why should it? Opinions, especially when they come from people you know are happily read by people. And, it makes you feel somehow you are becoming more aware and are contributing to a cause.

But you can’t just do a blog. You need to have a known voice, a staff of writers people inherently trust, complete avoidance of your usual marketing messaging and plan to keep it up for a long time. If you communicate with a human purpose, people will be open for what you have to say.

Now Kenneth Cole has done just that. His release of the Awearnessblog is a prime example of branding social and environmental issues with the help of celebs such as Joe Pantoliano and others. The blog entries are actually well produced, seem researched and leaves the sponsor’s business out of the picture for credibility sake.

Critics may say it’s just a really smart way of branding social issues for your own sake, or decode it as a PR stunt where everyone wins with little effect on the issues discussed, but rather only on the philanthropist image of the blog’s sponsor. Be that as it may, philanthropy has always also been about raising awareness, getting people to donate time and money to a cause, which inherently follows the same key steps as PR and advertising for products. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how this spawn of the blog phenomenon will fare in the future.

March 5, 2008 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

Citroen is unmistakably German

Citroen is out with a new spot for the UK market. UK car shoppers first consider German cars, then others. Based on this insight, Citroen goes all the way and uses every German cliché about Germany and Germans. It is a bold move for a french brand.

Also refreshingly absent are description of product benefits cluttering the experience. Rather, the whole spot is used to communicate the “unmistakeably German” message with a sense of German humor. The campaign is also supported by a German-Test Website, which, unforunately mistakes Mozart for being not German.

Kudos to Citroen for having the brand balls to move away from boring and uninspired product advertising to category-shifting, unconventional communications!

Thanks, Philip!

February 27, 2008 at 11:57 am 6 comments

The case for Experience Research.

As someone in the line of experience planning, I know how, over the years, hard it has always been to convince companies to pay a little more to learn more about their customers. Even if you get them to pay for research, it is usually limited to research on perceptions and messaging in line with traditional market and consumer research methods, while the methods of user or shopper research such as shadowing, task analysis, user testing, etc have been even harder to sell.

Most of these insight generating practices aren’t even that expensive and bring truck-loads of new insights you wouldn’t have even imagined when you designed your product or service. In the end, this saves a lot of money when you market a product that has usability faults, or when your marketing does not conquer the “last stretch” into the customer’s life-style.

In my opinion, marketing can’t be about awareness and campaign-thinking only. In order to build long-lasting repeated product usage, you need to invest in this type of stategic planning. After all, the product or service your customer buys stays with them longer and/or has a more immediate effect on their opinion of your brand than the advertising you do. It is certainly as, if not more, important than to pretest your print ad on whether that caucasian male in the key visual looks urban enough to the target audience.

Maybe because some of the methodologies come out of software engineering and user experience design, brand and marketing clients have been slow to pick up. However, as the success of brands depends more and more on how relevant they communicate in the context of the touchpoints of today’s empowered digital customer, it’s a good idea to ask your agency whether or not they have capabilities in this line of research, regardless of how digital your product or service is.

It’s good to hear that some companies do invest in this sort of research and allow the customer help build their business. After all, it the an effective way to help brands communicate in a relevant fashion.

July 22, 2007 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

More news about the death of the 30 second spot

Based on Tivo Stopwatch, a research tool which tracks how TV viewers forward through advertising, some new insights have been generated. Used by Publicis’ Starcom, second-by-second analysis of viewer behavior is being made available to advertisers.

The finding? The commercials least forwarded aren’t the award winning creative ones but the “boring” salesy ones: Direct response ads.

I guess everyone had better brush up on their sales pitch tonalities and get with the program.

Anyhow, the more positive way to describe it is that communications needs to be more and more geared to specific needs that consumers have instead of bombarding them with context-insensitive, over-emotionalized and unauthentic brand messaging. For me that does not mean being more salesy and less creative. It means adapting to market needs. After all, communication ideas are just a product too, so agencies should heed the new needs of the consumer, also when it comes to how he/she wants to be communicated with.

Read the article here: 


July 17, 2007 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

How not to build a brand community site

Patron Tequila (a Tequila I actually really prefer over any other) just launched their Social Club site. While the idea is nice, and fits the brand, it’s missing out on its true potential.

This is just one example of many. What are some of the issues?

  1. Lack of credibility
    • It’s hard to build community sites for brands and stay credible especially for FMCG brands. The attachment to the product doesn’t usually warrant participation in a community for just that one product, unless there is another overaching idea attached to it. For example, I might be in the target and also really like knowing about the latest drinks. If so, why would I not go to a site that shows interactive drink recipes, instead of just getting the company’s product recipes? A coop with a known recipe site that fits the brand attributes might have worked better.
  2. Lack of benefits
    • If you can’t or won’t be product centric, you have to offer other benefits to give consumers a reason to believe in the website, like promotions and give-ways. Simply replicating community tools from other non-brand communities that are then limited to this one brand community won’t cut it, unless the product has such a loyal customer base and a product that deserves explanation, e.g. car community sites. A tequila is a tequila. What else is there to say? If you can’t tell a story, then don’t tell anything at all. Another example of where no functional benefits where given is the Stella Artois site. Does it matter? No. It tells a fun story where you can interact and learn about the brand by learning how to pour a beer correctly in a Belgian bar with a grumpy bartender. But you better have that story. And it better be interactive.
    • So, you could be life-style centric: yep, and that’s what Patron tried to do. The thing is, if you want to get lifestyle information, we all know about a dozen local and national community platforms that are connected through APIs to other sites like youtube, google maps, and flickr, giving me real social web and local information that have more user-generated content and lifestyle information than a company website with a couple posts. Telling people to post only works if you communicate a benefit and if you make the posts publically accessible and allow a free sharing of the information. Inclusion of completely standard blog functions such as bookmarking, ping backs, and commenting would have helped.
  3. Censorship
    • The absolute no-no! The brand asks for your opinion and then censors your posts? Bad idea. If your brand isn’t ready for the prosumer who helps shape your brand because of corporate or marketing guidelines, don’t try to build a community website with user generated content. It just doesn’t make sense. You will find the guys you censor now on your “community” website on other open communities dissing you brand. And if you’re Agency tasked with this project, don’t try to convince your client it’s a good idea, if the brand isn’t ready. Come up with something else.

July 9, 2007 at 6:28 pm 4 comments

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