Make History, Don’t Repeat It

Apple recently reported their second quarter earnings of 2012 and to say the least, they are very, very impressive.

How did they manage to do that?!

Apple has provided astonishing goods, services, and they have kept amazing relationships with their customers, but as most business owners know there’s more to it than that. The reality is that they’ve created paradigm shifts and they’ve always thought different. That’s the true strategy that brings in $11.6 billion in quarterly net profits. It’s all about providing nothing less than amazing.

Here's to the Crazy Ones

Creativity is the core of advertising

We’re in the business of creativity. Advertising is just a word to describe the industry we’re working in. We’re no Apple, but what we do brings our clients larger audiences and noticeable presences. Yes – we will work closely with you, but what’s more important is that we will think differently to market and grow your business.  Google has said it best: don’t be evil.  It’s easy to understand why it’s wrong to be unfair to your customers, but what’s more crucial is understanding that you are hurting yourself every time you attempt to repeat history.  Make your own history. Take the risk – make decisions that are odd and abnormal. If you are the first one to do it, then you’ll be the first to get noticed.

Questions for the small business owner

So what are you doing to make sure your customers remember you? How are you reaching them? How are you thinking different?  If you can’t answer these questions quickly maybe it’s time to change what you’re doing.

Our motto is simple – our job is to make you more money than you pay us.  We are here to do precisely that, so what’s stopping you?  It’s time to establish your brand, attract an audience, and permit the edge of the universe to be your limit.

Guerrilla ads for a guerrilla political campaign: how to wow on the cheap.

I’m not going to go Sun Tzu on you, but a guiding principle in warfare is to attack where your enemy is weakest. In judo, you try to make your weakness your strength. Political advertising may be one of the areas where this is toughest- since incumbency and large campaign chests are considered prime indicators of product value. Shrewd political contributors don’t give to longshots, they bet their dollars on who they think can win. It’s the nature of the game, and a very hard marketing battle.

Think of it as launching a challenger brand, with no money, no time, and a very absolute deadline to dominate the market (election day). Can you imagine Procter and Gamble launching a new detergent and having to have 51% of the market make a purchase in two months?

Here is our first shot at launching a local political activist into a National Congressional race. Please note, not only did the candidate star in the ad, he wrote it himself (unlike his competition) because of course, the candidate is the same person writing this post.

it is also available as a downloadable iPod version here: http://esrati.com/?p=490

One of the keys of viral marketing and leveraging your low budget campaign is getting others to talk about it- the “word of mouth” factor. You can’t count on this happening automatically. This is where your established network of customers can make or break you. First, you have to actively tell them that the campaign is out there. Digitally- this means sending e-mails, posting appropriate comments in appropriate places, and reaching out to people who think as you do. It used to be marketing to the influencer or early adopter- now, it’s to your social network either formal (Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) or informal as I did. Here is what creative genius Ernie Schenck said about the spot:

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?
Seriously, people, show me a spot in this already tired political year that comes close to this simple little gem from Dayton ad guy, David Esrati, and I will eat my moustache. Attention, candidates: A little imagination, a little self-deprectation and a little ability to lighten up can go a long way. The man ought to get elected on the spot alone. Nice work, Esrati.

A client, and really smart guy, Charles Halton posted on his Awilum site:

it’s the funniest political ad I have ever seen. If politics were more like this it would make election season actually fun!

Another client, who happens to be a member of the Democratic Underground site posted it here:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=385×82652
which quickly became the highest click through on YouTube- even though the numbers are very low for what it has to do. (more…)

Back when marketing still meant something

Cirque Du Soleil mime on stilts at the 2nd Street Public Market in Dayton OHToday I was at the farmers market and their were clowns/mimes there from Cirque Du Soleil doing advance work for the Saltimbanco show next week. Call it “street teams” or guerrilla marketing, it was refreshing to see a business go out and actively seek customers in their environment. Doesn’t happen much anymore. We’ve gotten lazy- trying to invite our message in by interrupting their entertainment with commercials, their landscape with billboards and their websites with ads.

But while I was shopping, I was listening to American Public Radio’s Marketplace on my iPhone, and heard a story of how Procter & Gamble invented the market for Crisco- and it reminded me why they are the marketing powerhouse- not just by dollars spent, but by long history of working hard to connect with consumers. Our current industry fixation with “Branded Content” is nothing more than a new name for the soap opera- a P&G invention.

Here is an excerpt of the podcast- and a link to the whole she-bang. Highly recommended short podcast:

Marketplace: Crisco: A marketing revolution
…Crisco maker Procter & Gamble was a pioneer in the emerging science of creating demand. Historian Susan Strasser says the Crisco experiment started in 1911, when the company was selling Ivory soap. Cottonseed oil was a key ingredient.

Susan Strasser: And they decided to develop a product that would use a lot more cottonseed oil, so that they could control that market, really.

P&G’s scientists came up with this white, fluffy substance. It sort of resembled lard, and yet had no taste and no smell. It wasn’t food, exactly, but the company would ask consumers to bake and fry with it. Thus began an American mass-marketing milestone.

Strasser: Originally, they tried to call it Crispo, but then they discovered that a cracker factory already had the trademark.

P&G hawked its new product as a “scientific discovery.” The company sent free samples to every grocer in America. They held Crisco teas — an early version of the focus group. P&G even niche-marketed the product as kosher to the Jewish community….

In the podcast they talked about how P&G educated the consumer in how to use their products- something that the web is incredibly useful for. Yet, how many company websites feature big how-to communities built around their product?

Screen shot of Flash intro to BMW motorcycle Xplor siteFor instance, BMW motorcycles has an xplor area that’s focused on tips and tricks for sport touring – the segment of the market that they have a preferred position. How to pack your bike best, tips on GPS usage, and segments on where to go. However, it’s a members only site for BMW owners- you have to provide a vin number- and not open to the general public. Why not open the doors- so that potential customers can get a feel for what “joining the family” by buying BMW means?

Back to the Crisco story:

Marketing scholar David Stewart says P&G’s genius was not only giving people a convincing reason to try the product but training them to use it as well, with free cookbooks and recipes.

David Stewart: First of all, they focused on the health benefits — recognizing that this was a time we didn’t know about transfat and so forth. And then they taught people how to use it, they taught people how to cook. They gave them ideas. And between giving them a real benefit and information about how to use the product, they were able to get people to adopt it.

Crisco’s crowning achievement was creating demand for something nobody knew they wanted.

In today’s open information economy- putting your “recipes” behind a log-in is as silly as trying to charge for it. Would Google have been as successful if they had asked users to pay per search? Sounds absolutely stupid, doesn’t it? How about having to log in to use Google? Again, very silly.

To make friends with consumers today you have to be informative, useful, practical- and be able to demonstrate value. So, before you do an ad that is either hard sell- or entertaining- think first about what it does to enhance the customers life. The same way P&G introduced Crisco as the consumers friend: “Honestly, with a little Crisco in your frying pan, you can have supper on the table in a jiffy.”

That was marketing.

New Volkswagen CMO from Volvo

I guess they are stuck on companies that start with V in their rolodex at Volkswagen- bringing in former the Volvo ad director to direct marketing and VW agency Crispin Porter Bogusky to try to sell some Vee dubs in the USA. It won’t help until VW addresses shoddy workmanship, poor resale value, low JD Power ratings and now, they will be fighting a rock bottom dollar when compared to all major world currencies. VW may as well put a revolving door on the office- and keep it spinning.

Volkswagen Taps Volvos Ellis as VP-Marketing – Advertising Age – News
Volvos global advertising director, Tim Ellis, is moving to Volkswagen to run its North American marketing operations, according to a Volkswagen spokesman…

New title
Though his title is new, Mr. Ellis will succeed Kerri Martin, director of brand innovation, departed the automaker in January. Volkswagen works with MDC Partners Crispin Porter & Bogusky in the U.S. and Omnicom Groups DDB Worldwide elsewhere. Volkswagen spent about $419 million in measured media last year the U.S., according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Mr. Ellis ran the recent account review that ended up with Volvo shifting its global ad business from Havas Euro RSCG to sibling Arnold and independent Nitro.

In a recent interview, Volkswagen of America President-CEO Stefan Jacoby told Ad Age that the marketer didnt plan to change agencies, though he did say some of the work done under Ms. Martin was too narrow. “We have to address our communications with a wider net,” he said.

Creative reputation
Since joining Volvo in 2003 from independent Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, Stockholm, where he was a managing partner, Mr. Ellis, an American, has been known for doing more creatively with fewer ad dollars than his competitors.

Mr. Ellis is best known for 2004s “Mystery of Dalaro,” a hoax that started with a fake news story about 32 families in a tiny Swedish town all buying the new Volvo 540 model on the same day from the same small dealership. That led to a documentary about the eerie coincidence, which was soon revealed as a fake, by a director who didnt exist. The “Mystery of Dalaro,” created by Euro RSCGs Fuel Europe, ran across Europe in TV spots, and at great length on Volvos website.

Mr. Ellis, and Fuel, followed up with another low-budget, web-oriented effort called “Life on Board.” To make Volvo seem warmer and friendlier, they staged a series of conversations pairing interesting people who had never met getting to know each other by chatting in a Volvo.

Interesting revelation that VW spent $419 million on media- a bump from what was previously reported as a $300 million dollar account. Also, Mr. Ellis moved Volvo to Arnold- VW’s previous agency. Could a change be in the works? Stay tuned to the continuing drama of VW’s search for the old Bernbach mojo.

Video for fund raising events: there is a secret formula

Once a year the local runaway shelter, Daybreak, hosts a fund raising breakfast where they have table captains invite 9 people for a free meal.  Of course there’s a catch, you have to sit through a program that makes you feel warm and fuzzy about their charity cause. This year, the fifth year of using the “secret formula” for raising money- Daybreak asked The Next Wave to provide the 7 minute video for the event.

Yes, folks- it’s prescribed as 7 minutes, and you are supposed to make the audience cry 3 times. It’s near the close of the session, just before the gut-wrenching, heartfelt story of success despite the odds, and the final ask for donations.

After watching the four previous years videos, we knew one thing- we weren’t going to do anything like them: a montage of interviews, “recreations” and narration by staff. It was time for something totally different- something where you wouldn’t know what’s coming- or get caught up in the delivery of the story- just a focus on the story.

Our original idea was to draft David Chappelle to do the MC of the video- and I actually spent 20 minutes talking with him, face-to-face, and offering to pay him to help us out. The goal was to bring national attention to the shelter- and to make more kids aware that it was a positive place for them- instead of an option of last resort. Unfortunately, Mr. Chappelle isn’t reliable- so we found one of Daybreaks own to step in- Mr. Robert Neal Jr.

By placing the clients behind the screen- 60 minute anonymous interview style- we knew that our audience would focus on the story- not on the personalities, when the ending came, it would all draw together in a powerful close. We didn’t want slick production values- and the number of times we had to set up made it an even more daunting task- but the real payoff was the results- watch the video before you look to see how effective it was.

I watched the audience at the table next to me: totally riveted to the big screen, when the totals were counted:

For the first time they had a donor pledge at each of the two highest levels- $10K a year for 5 years and $5K a year for 5 years. Total donations were higher than ever before. They took the concept of the “Fairy tale” gone wrong- and built the whole morning on the theme. While sometimes we wonder if selling more widgets is truly a noble cause, the opportunity to help a great social service organization headquartered a mere 4 blocks from our office makes us proud to do what we do.

As to the secret formula- yes, the whole one hour program follows a fixed script on how to manipulate an audience into giving money. It has worked like clockwork for our client, however, this year, it worked even better.

That’s why we are The Next Wave.

The Web 2.0 marketer: where every page is a home page

We teach a seminar called Websitetology to try to educate clients on web 2.0. We also teach a fair number of other ad agencies (even the local competition) because, well, that’s the kind of people we are.

One of the things we stress is that if you aren’t on the first page of Google you don’t exist, and that content drives traffic. Build valuable content and they will come.

Unfortunately, it’s falling on mostly dead ears. Even huge advertisers like Apple, Burger King and BMW don’t seem to understand how to port their marketing to the web properly. It’s not about how your site looks, especially your “home page”- it’s about the content on every page: every page is home for someone- about something.

So- it was good to see new media bigwigs Avenue A/Razorfish do a study to confirm what we already knew- excerpts from the Ad Age article follow- with a short primer on what we know works on the web:

Do Home Pages Have a Place in Web 2.0’s Future? – Advertising Age – Digital
Avenue A/Razorfish: Brands’ Main Sites Decline in Importance as Consumers’ Reliance on Search Grows
By Abbey Klaassen Published: October 01, 2007

Garrick Schmitt was sitting in a meeting, listening to a client talk about the need to make its website “Web 2.0-compliant,” complete with tag clouds and profile pages. “Tag clouds?” thought Mr. Schmitt, VP-user experience at Avenue A/Razorfish. “Really?”…

The request seemed curious to him — do that many people really use tag clouds that a brand marketer’s website needed to incorporate them? Surprisingly, he couldn’t find the answer to that question. So he decided to find out. (more…)