Celebrities, Influencers, Reviewers and avoiding the real reason you aren’t selling more

influencers celebrities and your brandAdWeek tell us that influencers lead to more sales than celebrities. 22% of consumers have bought a product or service because of recommendation on social media, whereas only 12% have been persuaded to buy thanks to a celebrity endorsement. It’s across all age groups, although younger consumers are even more likely to pay attention to some social media star over a jock, actor, famous conventional person type.

That’s all well and fine, but, influencers are just as susceptible as celebrities as doing something stupid. If brands haven’t learned from OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Bill Cosby, Michael Vick (notice all these examples are black men who fell from grace) or Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Jared Fogle, or Donald Trump for anything… they will start to learn that you can’t buy a perfect endorsement from a human.

When the flow of information was limited, publications like “Consumer Reports” or “Stereo Review” or “Car and Driver” were the go-to platforms for comparative insight in the purchasing process. Now, consumers are more likely to trust an anonymous amateur posting unvetted reviews to Amazon or BHPhoto.com in making their purchasing decision.

When it comes to restaurants, it’s not just the Michelin or Mobile guide, it’s Yelp, Trip Advisor, FourSquare, Google reviews etc. Everyone is a critic. And, since we’re all consumers subjected to a barrage of marketing and advertising, we’ve all become experts at that too.

Except we really haven’t. The best marketing, advertising, campaigns, word of mouth and sales growth aren’t any more accidental than before the age of the internet in your pocket. Smart marketing still grows out of better insight into what makes the consumer lust for your product or service. Universal truths still hit home. Selling someone without making it obvious still outperforms the most expensive campaigns.

How do you find that secret sauce that propels your brand to the forefront? By knowing your customer and making sure you solve the problem they perceive they have better than anyone else. It’s why you are in the business you are in. You should be the expert.

Once Nike figured out they were in the aspirational motivation business instead of the sneaker business- everything else fell into place. Apple wasn’t in the computer business- they were in the bicycles for your mind business (wish they’d rediscover that lately). Barack Obama wasn’t a politician as much as he was the promise of Hope and Change. Donald Trump (for equal time) was in the “Make America Great Again” business.

We’re not in the advertising business- we’re in the Trust and Lust business. What business are you in?


What will your brand legacy be?

Imagine your company gets swallowed up by a larger competitor. I know, that will never happen to you, but, when was the last time you went to a locally owned bank, a hospital that wasn’t part of a network, or checked into a hotel that wasn’t part of a conglomerate?

The New York Times wrote about Virgin Airlines customers lamenting the loss of the Virgin brand personality when Alaska Airlines finishes the takeover- the comments, the insight into what made Virgin flights different, coming from customers are a lesson for brand marketers:

“I like Alaska, I don’t love Alaska. But I love Virgin,” she said. “I think of it as a young, hip airline. Alaska is more of a friendly aunt.”

Travelers like Ms. Bansal are wondering what to expect from Virgin America under its new parent company: skinny jeans and stilettos, or sweatshirts and sneakers. After all, Alaska started in 1932 with a single three-seat plane owned by an Anchorage furrier, while Virgin America was founded by a flashy British billionaire less than a decade ago with a goal of restoring glamour to flying…

Although Alaska has been a perennial leader in best-airline rankings, its allure comes more from its reliability than mood lighting or funny safety videos. Like Virgin America, it inspires loyalty among customers, if not the same passion….

Alaska and Virgin have been ranked first and second in operational performance in a top industry list for two straight years, and Virgin America is a mainstay atop Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler’s readers’ choice rankings of the top domestic airlines…

“I always liked @alaskaair but I hope they learn how to fly like @VirginAmerica, which I #love,” @salsop posted.

Source: Virgin America Fans Ask if Alaska Airlines Takeover Will Mean Loss of Cool

If you have any question about why Virgin will be missed. Think back to the last time the safety video came on while you are crammed into coach. Did you want to watch it again? When Virgin did their inflight safety video, it had 5.8 million views on YouTube  (in a dozen days) - by people, not strapped into their seats.

What’s interesting is that both Virgin and Alaska have worked with some superstar ad shops. Virgin with Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Alaska with WongDoody.

Note the origin stories for both airlines in the NYT piece- Richard Branson, the “flashy British billionaire” started an airline to “restore glamour to flying” as opposed to getting people from point a to point b. Maybe this is why Virgin is becoming another casualty of consolidation, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent to doing things differently than your competition.

For a while, it seemed like Apple wasn’t going to make it, but, now, even though it doesn’t have anywhere near a majority of the computers running their operating systems, they are doing quite well as the worlds most valuable company- in the mobile operating system space. They also were known to use a superstar ad shop- and the campaign that’s credited with turning them around- was “Think Different.”

Virgin thought different about air travel, and unfortunately isn’t going to stay with us- but, don’t let that dishearten you, is it better to go down with a crowd of fervent followers, or quietly and not really be missed? You decide.

Hopefully Alaska Airlines will try to assimilate the Virgin culture and attitude, so that when they get gobbled up, we end up with at least one airline you can love for more than cheap, easy or their frequent flyer program.

Apple stole my tools

Apple- bad to the coreSeth Godin doesn’t need more retweets, or shares, but when I read his post this morning, he struck a nerve. His post, “Peak Mac” talks about leadership in your field, and putting named leaders in charge. I believe Apple does that, but as they’ve gotten rich, large, cocky and even more arrogant, they’ve lost a connection to the people who got them there- the ones like Seth and me, who started out with a very underpowered machine (my first was in Jan 1985- a 512K Fat Mac) and we struggled together to make beautiful things against the odds.

Here is what Seth says (and btw- I also was a Ready Set Go guy- long before Quark 3.0 became usable and Pagemaker was still a bad joke).

I got my first Mac in 1984. I was a beta tester for the first desktop publishing program (ReadySetGo) and I’ve used a Mac just about every day for the last thirty years. It occurred to me recently that the Mac hit its peak as a productivity tool about three years ago.

Three years or so ago, the software did what I needed it to. The operating system was stable. Things didn’t crash, things fit together properly, when something broke, I could fix it

.Since then, we’ve seen: Operating systems that aren’t faster or more reliable at running key apps, merely more like the iPhone. The latest update broke my RSS reader (which hasn’t been updated) and did nothing at all to make my experience doing actual work get better.

Geniuses at the Genius Bar who are trained to use a manual and to triage, not to actually make things work better. With all the traffic they have to face, they have little choice.

Software like Keynote, iMovie and iTunes that doesn’t get consistently better, but instead, serves other corporate goals. We don’t know the names of the people behind these products, because there isn’t a public, connected leader behind each of them, they’re anonymous bits of a corporate whole.

Source: Seth’s Blog: Peak Mac

Over the years, I’ve felt I’ve been unjustly treated a few times. When Quark charged me an upgrade price of $300 for a new license because I bought a PowerPC computer- but the “upgrade” didn’t give me a single extra feature. When my Apple Quadra 650 had a different chip in it than the Quadra 850- and it’s video co-processor was a fail, when every time a new mac came out- I had to leave my very expensive RAM in the old machine because they changed the spec- the list goes on.
But the newest problems have been tangible and critical- and really irresponsible.
It started with iMovie and then Final Cut Pro- in the name of progress, Apple “reinvented” my tools- and all of a sudden, the basic staples of my craft were gone. Need to edit two cameras at the same time? Or three- or eight- sorry, you can’t do that anymore.
If you were a carpenter, and one day, Eastwing “upgraded” your hammer- and you could no longer hammer nails… you get the point.
Keynote used to be able to create movies easily- synced to sound. Now, of course, you could do it in Motion, or in Final Cut- or a host of other programs- like After Effects- but, in Keynote, it was down and dirty and very easy. We’d also use it as a prototype tool for websites- for speed and ease. Now, we almost dread opening the app. It’s been dumbed-down to work on a phone. And, if you used any fonts on your mac- too bad, the iPad will swap your beautiful laid out prezo into something really ugly.
Learning a new interface was one thing- but then finding your tools don’t work- well- #applefail
We’ve also been the proud owners of Apples “Pro” line- usually this means you get to upgrade them to customize your tools. Our MacPro- the trashcan- which took three months to arrive- greats us with a constant battle of disk full errors- despite being connected to a 20 TB drive- because Apple Apps and most others - cache and save files to the root disk- a jarringly pathetic 256gb proprietary PCI flash drive that is way too small for our apps. Can we upgrade it? 2 years in- the answer still seems no.
And speaking of upgrades- Apple continues to charge premium prices for RAM and Harddrive space- how much? Try buying a laptop with a 1tb drive. With a 13″ display- it’s $2,500. The last upgradeable MacBook Pro- is the 2012 model I’m writing this on- bought as a refurb for $850 or so- and then upgraded with $120 of RAM to 16GB and a 1 TB flash drive for $300. Total cost- about half of what Apple wants to charge- and if anything goes wrong- they just point to my “after-market” mods. Note, any PC laptop can be found with 16 GB RAM and a TB drive for under $1000- with a bigger screen, because the money isn’t in the hardware anymore- unless you are at Apple that still doesn’t understand that they could have the Mac dominate the market the way the iPhone does- if they’d get rational about their pricing. Even the Mac Mini- which used to be easy to upgrade RAM- is now built as an expensive throw away- I’ve got a 2014 with 4gb ram and a 128GB flash drive sitting on the accountants desk that I’d like to throw away because it can’t run more than Quickbooks for mac (a heinous example of bad porting) and “Messenger” without being a dog. And, btw- let it be clear, you never owned Quickbooks- you only rented the current version, which has a loss leader price- so they can suck you into their very expensive payroll service.
The huge revenue growth at Apple hasn’t been from their hardware sales- it’s all been from the App Store and iTunes- where they take a 30% scrape from every purchase of everyone elses work. Sort of like the Mob asking for “protection money.” You buy from us- and our vetted sources, and we’ll make sure your stuff keeps working.  Great- except, my iPhone 6 now barely makes it through half a day without a charge- since iOS9 came out.
I won’t tell you how many OSX Server upgrades have broken my configurations causing my machine to not work anymore- costing me time and money. Or, go on about renting my tools like Adobe CC- making me a digital sharecropper- instead of a craftsman who used to proudly own the tools of my trade.
I’m also waiting for my internet infrastructure to improve from third world status- so all this online joy of rental is actually fast and effective- but the people running the company that I grew up with don’t live in places where gigbit internet is a pipe dream instead of a fast pipe.
Do I agree with Seth- and all the other pundits who think Apple peaked already- no. I’m sure there is a bunch more money they can wring out of us fanboys and fangirls, but as to being my benevolent partner in my pursuit of creative bliss- now, more than ever, the big ideas will still be drawn on a napkin- because the tools of the trade are no longer owned by me. I’m just renting and trying to beat the system that wants to turn me into a sharecropper.

And before you hire a celebrity…

Just say no to celebrity endorsements No Jello plus Bill Cosby

Can Jello wiggle out of this?

Let’s see, we can’t really figure out what’s unique or better about your brand or product.

The boss likes… hobnobbing with celebrities! Great, we’ll hire one, or create one, or associate our brand with one.

How’d that work out for?

  • Hertz with OJ Simpson?
  • Florida OJ with Anita Bryant?
  • A whole bunch of brands with Bill Cosby- including Jello?
  • Same for Tiger Woods.
  • Kobe Bryant. Martha Stewart. Donald Trump…

Today, Subway’s spokesperson, Jared Fogel is being tied to child porn, although there are no pending charges or proof.

Why risk building a brand on a person who is human and capable of falling from grace? Even if it’s the CEO- Wendy’s has floundered since the death of Founder Dave Thomas.

Find your brand voice and build it so that it has a life of its own. McDonald’s Ronald McDonald, who never goes away. Kentucky Fried Chicken had the Colonel, then they didn’t, then they became KFC, and then after years of floundering- back comes the Colonel, only this one’s a lot more memorable.

Even if for three years, Apple used two actors to say “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” you didn’t hear them identify themselves- or make claims based on their own credibility.

But, if you insist on going the celebrity endorsement route- make sure you buy celebrity fail insurance, because, as they’ve always said, “the bigger they are, the bigger they fall.”




Advertising done right: "United Problem Solvers" campaign for UPS

UPS is an old brand. FedEx was the upstart. FedEx marketed like crazy, to sell its speed and reliability- “when it absolutely has to be there overnight.” UPS was dragged kicking and screaming into consumer advertising, and had a CEO that didn’t believe marketing was the answer. Maybe that’s why “We run the tightest ship in the shipping business” and “What can brown do for you” and finally “We [heart] Logisitics” all didn’t really talk to the consumer- but- about UPS.

First thing to understand about great advertising- it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for your customer.

Finally, Ogilvy hit the nail on the head with the new UPS campaign “United Problem Solvers”- telling consumers exactly what they want to hear- UPS solves my problems.

“It does signal a way to look differently at UPS and what we can offer, instead of just thinking of our capabilities of making shipments from point A to point B,” said Maureen Healy, vice president of customer communications.

The ad campaign highlights offerings including temperature sensitive health-care solutions, its ability to help grow small businesses and its e-commerce expertise for retailers.

The company has tried to convey a broader message before. Indeed, the new campaign replaces the company’s previous campaign, “We [Heart] Logistics,” which had been in place for nearly five years and targeted companies aiming to sell their wares globally.

“It’s very hard to break through to have people think differently about UPS, because they think they know what they need to know about UPS,” said Alda Abbracciamento, world-wide managing director at advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, who worked with UPS on the campaign. “While very well-known, we’ve got to provide additional meaning to that.”

via UPS Launches New Ad Campaign - WSJ.

Pivoting the United Parcel Service UPS brand to “United Problem Solvers” may not have been the easiest sell to a company that’s been in business since 1907, but since they’d abbreviated the name to UPS so long ago- they’d lost the essence already. And while those in the business may still use the word “parcel”- we’re in a much less formal era when companies will say “ship my pants” - for shock value. UPS needed a refresh from stodgy- and if you think parcel is an antiquated name- let’s get real- we all thought you were lying when you said you loved logistics.

Good campaigns can change the way consumers view your brand almost overnight. Wendy’s found it out with “Where’s the beef” which hammered home the unique product differentiation that had Wendy’s burgers hanging out past the edges of the bun. Nike found their groove with “Just do it” and now, we may be see UPS finally finding their mantra.


Associating your brand with $h!t (shit)

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.

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?