The Wankel marketing engine

There is a secret in advertising that everybody knows, but few will admit to: there is never a quick fix.

In fact there is a cycle that works like clockwork in this business, it looks like this:

Sales are declining, flat or not rising as fast as someone wants.

A decision is made to shake up marketing. Someone wants a grand slam home run- without bothering to plan how to get the bases loaded first.

A new CMO, agency, or plan is put into play. They may or may not come up with some deep new understanding of the marketplace. The plan is wildly cheered and latched on to. Yet, after too short a time- the results don’t match the enthusiasm when the new journey was plotted. A course correction is ordered.

This is the proverbial fork in the road. Do we deeply, truly believe this is the right strategy? Or, are we scared- and reach for reassurance? So often, the reassurance comes with the line “this has worked before” or this is “tried and true.” The safe option is on the table. Probably 90% of the time- it’s implemented.

The original strategy is either abandoned, or diluted. The course is reset. All the metrics are thrown off and no lesson is learned. before long, the process begins again. It’s a circle- a rotary engine- it goes round and round.

The funny thing is- despite witnessing this over and over with marketers- the place where it became painfully obvious was made clearly watching network TV dramas- good shows, that didn’t get the early ratings they deserved. An “expert” was called in- adjustments are made, and new characters are introduced. The good show- just became a mediocre one- because the initial creative brief- the storyline- wasn’t being given time to grow.

Everyone wants a grand slam- they want a viral video like “I’m on a horse”- or Subservient Chicken- but, aren’t willing to understand that these are the few and far between. They are also not true engines of marketing- just a one time spark. Sometimes the spark is all that’s needed. Altoids got a jump start with a small successful revamped campaign- focusing on mints so strong they come in a metal box and some nice visual puns “Nice Altoids.” Instant hit- for a sleepy old brand- but then, brand extension nearly killed the initial success.

“Just do it” has been a strategy that Nike hasn’t been able to leave. They’ve tried- several times to move away from what is probably the strongest marketing positioning ever- only to realize that those three words are more valuable than the swoosh. The thing for marketers to remember is that it took years before Wieden + Kennedy came up with those three words. There is never a quick fix.

The Wankel engine is different from all other engines in that it is a rotary design- with a three sided rotor. The three faces are much like the three phases of marketing- they can change phases- but the amount of power derived just depends on the amount of pressure (interest) put on on the three faces. Which brings us to your goals as a marketer-

First is to make sure the motor is spinning and generating enough power to make your company run.

The next question is are you aiming to make what you have go faster, more efficiently or stronger?

Or, do you want to trade in the whole motor for a new one- bigger, better different? You may believe this is what you want- but, most of the time you only make en effort to do the faster, more efficient stronger. And that’s why you are in a rut.

Switching engines, despite one being a better design, doesn’t happen quickly, and requires lots of adaptive learning.

Most companies fail to realize that switching engines is a complete transformation- not an adaptive one and that’s why the new plans almost always fail- or the agency gets blamed.

In order to hit the grand slam home run, you must realize that loading the bases is a series of singles- and that Grand Slams might not be the goal at all- runs are.

So despite all these mixed metaphors and stories in this post- if you are looking for a new marketing mechanic- first figure out what you want to fix- then make sure you are ready to fix what’s broken.

It may not be the engine at all.

What they aren't teaching advertising students

Had a lovely meeting with a student to review her portfolio today. She’s a few months away from graduation and the el-crapo job market and I’m afraid the years of honing her skills haven’t given her a sharp knife to cut her way through.

Yes, knowing how to use tools like the Adobe Creative Suite is important, but knowing how to use ones brain is why someone wants to hire you.

So, here it it is, in real simple words: your job is to make me more money than I pay you as your boss. And my job is to make my clients more money from the money they spend on advertising/marketing/design/development etc.

Because, advertising only costs if it doesn’t work.

Yep, there you have it. The essentials of business, all in one nice, easy to digest post.

You’ll see those words all over this site (unlike other ad agencies) who talk about all kinds of other things that sound good to MBAs, but, when we get right down to it- we do things to help sell stuff. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative, good or worth a dime to anyone.

How does a student need to prepare for that moment of terror when they walk in with their book and ask for someone to hire them, instead of all their other classmates?

Here’s a secret: you are the product. If you can’t sell you- how can you sell other peoples sugar water, netbooks or feminine hygiene products?

Just like any other creative brief, you better have done the research: what’s the industry, who are the leaders, what’s their claim to fame, what did they do better than their competition? If I get one more student through these doors who hasn’t heard of Bernbach, Ogilvy, Chiat, Clow, Fallon, Wieden, Bogusky, Rand, Pentagram, Duffy, etc. I should start cutting off ears and sending them back to their schools. How can you teach this business and not talk about those who’ve changed the industry?

And as much as we like to think it’s all pretty pictures with snappy words, you better understand something about how money is made. What’s a business model, what’s the distribution channel, how does your client make their money? Is it the razors or the blades? How can you make your client money if you don’t know what makes them money? Being able to focus on the right thing, is the first step in making them more money than they pay you. Read a few business books- get cozy with Peter Drucker or Tom Peters. Know what’s made to stick and who is a linchpin. (I should be putting in links galore here- but, I’m already giving you the secret tools to your success, you should have  to work a bit).

Last but not least, the job market you are preparing yourself for isn’t the one that’s there today, but the one for when you graduate and beyond. You better be tapped into what’s the next big thing- not what’s the big thing right now. Hint: Web 2.0 is already well established- start thinking about what happens when your phone has the bandwidth and speed of a desktop machine and is always on and connected. If you don’t know how to run a content management system, optimize for search, build community or produce video don’t even think of graduating yet.

And when you do go in to interview for that job, and you’re sitting across from an old guy like me (face it, men still rule in advertising) it shouldn’t be me interviewing you as much as it should be you interviewing me- because the first job you take will have a lot to do with how much you get to grow. Make sure the passion is still burning in your future boss as brightly as it’s burning within you, because it’s going to a take a super hot fire under your butt to add your name to the list of those who’ve come before and changed this business.

That’s what makes me get up every morning and love what I do. Because, as the saying goes, even a bad day in advertising beats a great day in anything else.

And that’s why you went to ad school in the first place? Isn’t it?

GM “Reinvention” spot fails business 101

You’d think with the world watching as the worlds greatest automotive company declares bankruptcy, the first effort to rebuild the brand would reassure you that they still know how to produce quality – would at least mention it?

https://youtu.be/WR9KtVJyS6o sorry embed is off.

Not so with the new spot from Deutsch.

The reason GM failed was that they took their eye off the ball, and refused to listen when Americans started buying smaller, higher quality, better fuel efficiency from companies that didn’t change the trim a little bit and try to convince us that a cat was now a dog.

Telling the American people that “This is not about going out of business. This is about getting down to business” in a spot full of canned imagery including hockey, football, baseball and horse racing- isn’t about getting down to business at all, it’s more mumbo-jumbo from a company that has not only failed it’s stockholders, stakeholders but our entire country.

When the saying used to be “What’s good for GM is good for America” you can’t just slap some anonymous announcers voice on top of  emotional images like a tattered flag waving and expect people not to wonder why our government just backed you up.

Lee Iaccoca set the standard when Chrysler took a bailout, coming on camera with a direct and honest apology for failing- and making a promise to come back. What this spot says is that GM doesn’t even have anyone left with balls enough to lead them out of their mess.

Compare this Chrysler spot from 1984, and you’ll understand why GM still has no clue about what “Getting down to business” means.

Why Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the reigning king of Hoopla (advertising)

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is proving why they are at the top of almost every agency search consultants list. Burger King continues to have same store growth after years of failed campaigns, and changing agencies. VW was almost ready to give up on the US market, again, but have at least started to rebound sales. But what started out as an embarrassingly bad intro for Microsoft with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and then into an “I’m a PC” has now hit pay dirt by not even talking about Microsoft’s products, but by doing a comparison between PC hardware and Apple hardware.

“Laptop Hunters” is credited with changing perception of brand value, according to a BrandIndex study:

Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.

via In Mac vs. PC Battle, Microsoft Winning in Value Perception – Advertising Age – Digital.

Hefty gains in a short time, although Apple hasn’t sat idly by:

But, while this battle royal can wage for years, the real reason that Crispin Porter + Bogusky keeps winning for their clients is that they get the fundamentals right.

They know that advertising is supposed to surprise and delight, not inform and sell. They take great pains to make sure that you might actually want to talk about the ads they do around the water cooler at work the next day.

Today, they pulled one out of the hat for me. I own a copy of “Hoopla” which is their monograph. For the most part, it’s heinously designed making it almost impossible to read, but, inside the back cover- I discovered (via a tweet by Alex Bogusky) there is a secret second book:

This guy @DomineConcept discovered the hidden book that was bound inside the back cover of our book Hoopla » link to Dominé Concept | Hooplanetics and a ripped up HOOPLA book….

Which led me to carefully operate on my $50 copy:

A secret book awaits inside the back cover

A secret book awaits inside the back cover

I’ve also been watching the CP+B Ebay auction of their interns time:

ANNOUNCING THE CP+B INTERN AUCTION

In the past, our interns have created work for companies like Burger King, Volkswagen, Guitar Hero and Microsoft. And now they can do the same for you. Bidding starts at $1 for three months of service with all proceeds going to the hardest working people we know – the CP+B interns themselves. So bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate.

via Crispin Porter + Bogusky Intern Auction: Summer 2009 – eBay (item 270392380113 end time May-27-09 10:57:37 PDT).

Which is currently going for $5,400.

It’s innovative, it’s interesting and it’s not strictly advertising. It’s a conscious effort to manipulate and shape contemporary culture, cajoling and dancing outside the boundaries of conventional advertising wisdom. Everything can be an ad if you make it interesting enough.

And that’s why they are winning awards, accounts and owning the crown of the Hoopla kings.

More on comparison advertising

It’s becoming an epidemic, your competition does a “great ad” so we should “one up” them with something derivative.

Here is TBWA Chiat/Day’s original MacBook Air commercial introducing the super slim computer”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLb7EVF6-Jc

And, then Ogilvy does a response ad (much later) for Lenovo:

And while this may seem funny, it’s not really building the Lenovo brand, but reminding you of who was there first.

I heard a great quote the other day, “cover bands never change the world.”

The same thought applies to advertising.

Lessons for students of advertising

It’s summer, which means we get assaulted with e-mails from students who want to intern at The Next Wave. Generally, they start out telling us how great our work is, and then tell us all about their skill set. Usually, their cover letter, and or resume are both too long. I’ve seen students pad out “experience” to be longer than what I’ve seen from 20 year veterans with international awards under their belts.

The funny thing is, we get very few candidates who actually attempt to market themselves the way they would sell any product or service for a client. You want to be in advertising? What would an ad for you look like?

There are a couple of things in reviewing portfolios online or in person that always bug me:

If the work isn’t able to explain itself, other than what media it was in, where or when it ran- or the budget, you shouldn’t be showing it. In a PDF portfolio- only include the briefest description (ala Luezers Archive)

The second is that just because your professor gave it an “A”- or the client ran it, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s done, finished, the idea is over. If you’re looking for work, you should be constantly improving your work, updating it, fixing the things that you weren’t quite satisfied with.

Ira Glass talks about this in this great little video about good taste and perfecting the craft- watch the whole thing (thanks Angela for posting about this gem)

2017- the video has been removed: https://youtu.be/loxJ3FtCJJA

This may be it:

This ties back to Sally Hogshead’s famous post on doing 800 headlines for BMW Motorcycles to get the right one. Or Chiat/Day’s mantra- “Good Enough, isn’t Good Enough.”

There are no excuses for a portfolio- if it’s got flaws, or your resume has holes, it’s up to you to fix or fill them. If you want to be in this business, there is no excuse good enough for a client who just blew a hundred million on your experiment.

So, before you think you’ve got it all covered after a few years in school, just take another listen to Ira playing back his work after 8 years in the field, and realize, you’ve still got a long way to go before you’ll you before you should start your cover letter praising our work. We keep our awards in the bathroom, our heads still fit through standard doors- and we’re working as hard as we can to get better too.

We want you to show us how you can be a part of improving our work- and just tell us the basics. We know good work when we see it (and we’re even happier when it’s ours!).

Best of luck.