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Associating your brand with $h!t (shit) Discuss 1

When your brand is shit, what do you do? Make a sophomoric joke? Apparently, the K-Mart marketing department was willing to try anything and went along with an agency idea that, while well executed, and amazingly went viral, was a bad idea. But, if you read the trade press, it was a great campaign:

How could a “best of the year” rundown be complete in 2013 without Kmart’s “Ship My Pants”? DraftFCB made brilliant use of sophomoric humor to create one of the year’s biggest cultural moments from the ad world, which comes in at No. 9 in the TV/film category. It all began with “Ship My Pants,” although the gag later extended to “Big Gas Savings” and “Ship My Trousers,” too.

via Creativity Best of 2013: Kmart’s Foul-Mouthed Viral Hit | Creativity Pick of the Day – Advertising Age.

While it may be funny- it’s not making people shop at K-mart.

a 2.1% decline(d) at Kmart

via Sears posts wider loss as same-store sales drop – MarketWatch.

No, customers generally don’t think shit is funny when it comes to where they spend their money- unless, you run a comedy club. Or run a commercial where you never say the word and do it elegantly like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.

https://youtu.be/rdqwWo13pyw

A local middle Eastern themed QSR, “Shish Wraps” try’s the same gimmick- “Shish Happens,” “Don’t let Shish Happen to you on this Friday the 13th,” and “Get your shish together and stop in today for $5.00 wrap or bowl” the message is shit- especially when the shop is tragically empty and they have a special selling all wraps for $5 in a high rent location.

While humor, irony and exaggeration are all perfectly acceptable foundations for great advertising, the most critical, fundamental piece of the package is a strong brand to begin with, and K-mart hasn’t had that for years. Our local restaurant- never even had the chance to get there. Shit may be funny, but, it’s not a good place to take your brand.

McDonald’s brand managers are fanatical about protecting the brand and the image. No birds ever appear in a McD’s commercial- “rats with wings”  as one campaign concept was shot down to a friend in the business. McDonald’s knows its brand is built on family friendly wholesome happy times. K-mart’s marketing is now built on a pun? Not happening.

Brands that understand their brand equity and work to build it, know that being funny is great- but, always where your brand isn’t the butt of the jokes. It’s time K-mart rediscovered the blue light special, and figured out why dollar stores are beating them at the game they created. As to Shish Wraps, it’s a little harder than just taking the shish out- we’d recommend adding a Gyro to your menu, since people already know what that is, and focus on the healthy Mediterranean diet as an alternative to burgers and pizza. “Welcome to healthy” anyone?

 

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The importance of a name and search Discuss 1

iChat and Messages, same program, but one is unsearchable

iChat and Apple Messages are the same program, but the new name is unsearchable.

My last name is Esrati. For all the years of having it misspelled, mispronounced and having to answer questions about it’s origin, it became an amazing asset with the advent of the search engine. If you search for me, you’ll get one of three people, me, or my parents.

Apple had an application called “iChat” for years. With the advent of System 10.8 it went from being iChat to becoming the innocuous sounding “Messages” and that’s when Google suddenly became useless. iChat was a very specific program that ran on the mac, while “Messages” are what every email program sends- as well as every other chat program- and, how many times have you searched for  “Error message….XYZ” All of a sudden, access to useful, pertinent information about a very specific program became impossible to find via search.

The branding geniuses at Apple apparently don’t use Google.

This isn’t the first time that Apple has made things difficult by not thinking about naming conventions. The Apple Macintosh has had an issue since the 2nd version came out. The original mac only had 128mb of RAM, version 2 has 512mb of RAM, but there wasn’t any indication that this Mac was different unless you got into the tiny print on a label on the back of the machine- and knew Apples product code or some such. The market had to distinguish between these two products- and version 2 became known as The Apple Fat Mac 512″ Hardly the marketers dream name.

Version three got the name MacPlus with a whopping 1 mb of RAM – and was “expandable to up to 4mb of RAM” if you were willing to risk electrocution and had a very long torx screwdriver.  Then came a whole long line of confusing names like the SE30, the FX, the 2CX, the Quadra which had numbers.  There are entire websites devoted to sorting out the differences of the different models and configurations.

Car makers generally try to avoid this problem by identifying products by model year and trim levels. Computer makers seem to be horrified by attaching a date to a computer, and at some point, Apple started naming models with nomenclature like “mid-2010” as if that’s more helpful than simply calling it by a model number- version 2.1 which Apple finally began doing, but only if you could boot the mac and check in “About this Mac.”

Branding and choice of names, be it in the company name (Apple had a long running lawsuit with Apple Corps, the Beatles label, over the name costing Apple hundreds of millions of dollars.).

When looking for a name of a product or your company, there is a lot more to it than making it easy to remember or spell or search. Make sure you think before you name, since it can become a very expensive and difficult proposition to fix later, or as in the iChat/Messages example- make your valued product worth considerably less to it’s users as frustration trumps productivity.

 

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The Pitch Season 2- and why we won’t waste time on it Discuss 0

The Pitch Logo AMC tvWe had high hopes for the AMC series “The Pitch” when it debuted last year. We thought we’d try our hand at a little social media leverage by previewing each episode- with predictions, analyze the client, the agencies, and then do a post show discussion video review. It took up time- it generated some traffic, we made a few connections with some cool people like Mark DiMassimo of DIGO- but, overall, we were highly disappointed with the show and the manipulative editing- and the insanity of the short pitch process. Turns out, the agencies that participated last year didn’t want anything to do with it this year- and for good reason, most of the clients weren’t sophisticated enough to either have a good brief- or the good sense that this is nothing other than an expensive PR stunt- that was watched by a very small audience.

Our recommendations to improve the show included having someone – preferably an outsized ad personality like Jerry Della Femina, as a host- who would work with the client to help guide the process, and provide some consistency from episode to episode. Studio Lambert apparently didn’t change anything- only this time, there isn’t an agency on the roster that we’ve heard of. Last year, they had Wong/Doody now known as WC/CW, BooneOakley, DIGO and the AdStore (2x) – which gave the show a little credibility. Here is the PR from AMC- but, we decided to make the post useful- by adding links- so you can investigate each on your own:

Season 2 consists of eight one-hour episodes and is premiering Thu., Aug. 15 at 10/9c.

Brands to be featured in season two include:

Agencies to be featured in Season 2 include:

via The Pitch – AMC Blog – AMC.

The Ad Age article talks about how many big agencies and networks turned down the offer to be on the show. They say “The most recognizable on the list is Commonground, a gold winner in Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year competition last year” but, I guess that being a gold winner in their competition is like winning a local ADDY- it means something to the shop and the client- but not anyone else (we’ve won our share).

If we had a ton of time, we’d try to figure out what the annual marketing budgets were for each of these clients- our guess is that 1-800 Flowers and Little Caesars lead the pack and “College Hunks Hauling Junk” are one step above flyers at Kinko’s.

I’d love to say that when we were looking at the sites- that one stuck out as amazingly good- but, nothing grabbed us except how bad  the “Heavenspot” site was. OneX looked interesting, only in that they feature a really funky building in their about video.

It would also seem that agencies that focus on multi-cultural got a little more representation this season, maybe thanks to the spot that Muse Communications did called “White Space.” Not that advertising is any less of a “Caucasian occasion” for most of the industry.

It seems like the show also avoided filming in NYC, probably because of the higher costs. Chicago, Nashville, LA for this season. As soon as we find the matchups and the episode numbers we’ll post.

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Self limiting your brand is a mistake Discuss 0

When it comes to branding, naming your company after your location isn’t a great idea. We watched a hair salon move four times from it’s original eponymous address 23 Second Street and the local grocery chain, Dorothy Lane Market doesn’t have a single location on Dorothy Lane.
Of course, that’s just in the name, but what about your audience? A local company makes tarps and tents. They’ve been doing it since 1948, and only see two markets, farmers and local tent rental. The only advertising they do is in a farm equipment guide. Are they self-limiting their brand and their sales? Of course. Every roll-off construction dumpster needs a tarp to cover the debris as they haul it to the dump, yet, despite making the same product to cover grain trucks, the demolition and waste hauling markets are ignored.

Sometimes companies get confused about what they really sell. Department stores used to be a convenience, in that all the things you need for your household are in one place. That was great until malls came around and did the same thing, only the specialty shops within the mall often offered more focused service, and a better branding experience. The reason for a department stores existence stopped once every single department was duplicated in the mall- at least to younger shoppers. Sears was the sole exception, having built strong brands in Craftsman, Die Hard and Kenmore, while the rest depended on other peoples brands to carry them.

Amazon is what it is today, because Jeff Bezos specifically didn’t call it Amazon Books, but just Amazon. Don’t limit your brand by making it synonymous with your first product, and don’t think any company only has, or will have just one market, because limiting your vision will limit your ability to grow in the future.

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In the future stores will know what you want before you enter Discuss 0

As Google continues it’s march into personalization of search results, before long, online commerce sites will be paying for access to your social graph to predict what items show up on your landing page. It’s not far off from what Amazon does by studying your past purchases, comparing them with what others like you have bought and making recommendations. But, sure, we’re talking about online digital items, not physical stores, where moving the atoms around for a box of laundry detergent is a whole other matter right? Wrong.

Google is even trying to map the interiors of buildings now. Not only will they know how to direct you to the bathroom, but, they’ll be able to guide you to the box of Tide in aisle 9. Combine a few other retail technologies, like the electronic price/item labels on the gondola shelving and you could have the shelf label glow a special color as you near the vast selection of detergents.

And the funny thing is, this kind of tech doesn’t require Google glass, or massive changes in the way the systems are built- it just requires the graph to be allowed to grow. Some of this social engineering may make our lives easier, but, it may also start insulating us from having to choose, to make informed intelligent decisions. Others may think it will liberate us from the mundane tasks so as to go on to bigger and better ideas and move humanity to a higher level.

Another aspect of this connected world, might be a whole new world of point of sale advertising- or, comparison ads. The basics are already there on the shelf- if you look at a cost per ounce price for comparison, but imagine being given an option to review a competitors paid last ditch pitch on why you should convert brands? You’d get paid a small amount of store credit, to view the comparison and then choose. If you choose the competitors brand- it would be added to your graph, and next time, you’d be asked, last time you switched from Tide to Era, did you prefer the Era? And so your graph would continue to grow.

Big data may drive a lot of the suggestions, but in the end, it’s just consumers voting with their pocketbooks like they’ve always done, that will drive markets. Of course, when everyone’s connected, all the time, and suggesting and rating, and we have perfect access, the cycle of success or fail may be shortened.

Going back to the old “Pepsi Challenge”- where more people picked Pepsi when blind taste tests were done, sometimes consumers stick with a brand for purely emotional attachment no matter what. If you want to win in the store of the future, maybe the key is understanding how to build emotional attachment points into your product/brand/service that can’t be overrun by the data revolution.

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New ad supported services for targeted markets Discuss 0

An advertisers life was much easier when there were only 3 tv networks. Reaching everyone in the country wasn’t too difficult. Now, we know that even presidential campaigns need to spend billions to reach the entire country- and even then, there is overkill since there are still a lot of people who aren’t even registered to vote.

In doing some research for a friend into software for his medical practice, I came across a new marketing channel- attached to a software as a service. Doctors are mandated to switch to Electronic Health Records as part of “Obamacare” and by insurers including Medicare/Medicade. Practice Fusion is a provided of a software as a service solution- and instead of charging physicians for the system, they are counting on advertising to support the system:

How is your EHR free?

We have a unique ad-supported model. This allows us to provide a world-class EHR technology at no cost to you. These ads never pop up, never interfere with your workflow, and only display one at a time—see a sample ad here. We also make sure to provide you with ads that add value, such as co-pay coupons for your patients. A paid ad-free version of the EHR is available upon request.

via Free EMR | Providers of Medical EMR Programs and Services.

With pharmaceutical companies spending hundreds of millions to reach physicians to inform them of their newest drugs- Practice Fusion is in the enviable position of being able to put an ad in front of a physician while in the process of prescribing for that exact ailment. The ultimate sponsored search ad may be helping to keep the costs of health care down.

What other new media channels are being built to reach very specific markets by providing service in exchange for attention?

Imagine what could happen when textbook companies see this as the new model?

Will Google enter this focused market model too? It could be even more lucrative than search.

 

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The challenges of challenger brands Discuss 0

We were invited to a pitch today. The potential client has grown quickly and out grown the agency they had. This is always an unfortunate situation, but, it’s always better to refocus early, before things get totally out of wack.

In a fast growth market, there are certain places a brand wants to be: first, biggest, most well known. Ideally, all three. The problem comes when you’re none of the above and searching for an added edge to continue your growth. This pitch was a bit different, in that we weren’t given much time (a week) and we weren’t given a brief, it was more of a capabilities presentation. Of course, the first question coming out of the audience (it’s a franchise organization so there were a lot of bodies in the room) was have you done work for someone like us before? The old catch 22 question which is why the old industry adage of  “it’s better to be lucky than good” often comes to play in matching agencies to clients. Or, as they also say- it’s not what you know, but who you know.

In our background research we were finding that they are in a segment experiencing phenomenal growth. They’re on the map as a one to watch. The problem is, the number one player in their field, carved a niche away from the original number one by offering a very clear point of differentiation and then proceeded to own the niche like it’s the main event. The number two and three brands have been busy trying to out niche the leader and our potential client was trying to play leapfrog on the very same platform.

Stop.

This is what challenger brands should never do. Don’t play follow the leader. Don’t assume that what works for the leader can be copied, duplicated or improved- need proof, how’s Barnes and Noble really doing vs Amazon in just the eBook reader market? Never mind the selling of books. If you are going to be a challenger brand, the most important thing that you can discover to build a strong brand DNA is your brands “unique selling proposition,” a concept developed by Rosser Reeves for the Ted Bates Agency in the fifties. Brands that find their USP find that their products and services are much easier to sell and have a conversation with their customers because there is no cloud of confusion surrounding their products. Apple is a great example of a challenger brand that still isn’t the biggest by market share, but has grown from near bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world based on the USP of products that are beautiful and easy to use. Google has grown by proving itself useful. Neither were first to market, but both found that by sticking to simple messaging they could own a position that could be unique to them. You’d think that other computer companies would figure out that ease of use is important, but it hasn’t happened yet.

While McDonalds and Burger King and sometimes Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Jack in the Box and countless others fought to be “THE” burger chain, Subway grew to have the most outlets by focusing on a more approachable business model with easier entry for franchisees. Five Guys is making all the burger joints look twice at trying to be something for everyone, as they stick to the knitting of making a better burger. When McDonalds began, there were no chicken nuggets, salads or coffee bars, it was burgers, fries and milkshakes.

If you want to be a challenger brand, that’s fine. But, the truly great understand that to steal a phrase from designer/author Marty Neumeier,  in his book, “Zag“, “when others zig, zag.” He stresses the need for radical differentiation. It’s not just enough to talk about a strategy, you have to actually have one. Five Guys isn’t winning the burger wars because they have free peanuts, it’s because they hyper focused on a better burger and a simplified menu in a no-frills space.

Challenger brands that find their USP and convey it in a clear, differentiated voice, soon find themselves in a category all of their own. Find your USP, or find an agency that you can talk to about finding it, and you’ll be on your way to success.

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Signature Confections Discuss 0

There are candy stores and there are jewelry stores. Signature Confections is somewhere between the two. They make high-end, unique, and delicious chocolate that almost looks too good to eat… almost. Chocolate zombies, anyone? From the eye-catching flash cuts at the beginning to the fun music in the background, this video captures the feeling of Signature Confections being a candy store for all ages.

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Salon Ventures Discuss 0

Salon Ventures is not a traditional salon. They have a contemporary business model that allows their professionals to set their own prices, make their own hours, and be their own boss. In this video, we reflect the entrepreneurial excitement of this type of business. This video works whether you are interested in starting your own beauty business, or just a customer looking for a new stylist.

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