Don Draper, Coke and the fundamentals of advertising in just a few words

The hint of what was to come in the ending was summed up in this very short exchange in the episode before the finale. Don is asked to fix the coke machine

His response: “Don’t they do that”

Coca-Cola is one of the top brands of all time, and they, for the most part, outsource the “fixing” of their brand to guys like Don. They make the Coke- but, the few, the proud, the brave, come up with the ideas to sell it, which Don proceeds to do in the last scene of Mad Men, sitting on a hilltop, meditating, Ommmmmmm…… ding!

Clients often their ad agenices “to give me a new one” when what they really need is a new way to connect emotionally with their customers.

We have a favorite quote from Guy Kawasaki that fits: “advertising is the plastic surgery of business,: a procedure to make ugly and old products look good” from his book Selling the Dream,  and that’s what Don does.

How the big ideas come, is still the magical part of advertising. The really big ideas, almost always fit on a cocktail napkin.


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

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.

Are “anonymous donors” a marketing strategy for Kmart?

Kmart is a brand in search of itself. It’s needed saving for a long time. I can’t recall a reason to go there, and my significant other can clearly tell you why she never will again.

The brand is troubled. It’s hurt Sears too- they became part of the same company when a financial wizard who knew nothing about retailing, but “saw value” in the real estate that came with the company.

No matter how much money Kmart could spend on advertising this holiday season, they couldn’t have bought the positive PR they’ve received in this area with “anonymous donors” paying off layaway accounts. From the Dayton Daily News:

Kmart stores across the region report that anonymous donors are paying off the remaining balances of layaway accounts of strangers in a showing of holiday generosity.

Kmart store managers in Trotwood, Fairborn, Beavercreek and Riverside said unknown visitors are acting as secret Santas and spending hundreds of dollars to cover the layaway bills of complete strangers, especially people who are late on their payments and who are in danger of having their orders canceled.

Most of the donors also look to pay off come-due or past-due layaway accounts that contain toys or gifts, hoping to prevent some area families from having an empty space beneath their Christmas trees.

“They are looking for layaways with children’s clothing in it and toys in it to try to help out families that might be in need,” said Ron Monmaney, store manager of the Kmart in Riverside. “It must be the season.”

On Saturday, two unknown individuals spent more than $1,000 at the Riverside Kmart to pay off the layaway accounts of six strangers. Monmaney said the customers were “elated” to find out their orders were paid off, and they were touched by the gesture.

On at least five occasions in the last two weeks, unknown individuals walked up to the layaway counter at the Kmart in Beavercreek and paid for the accounts of strangers who were late on their payments or who were struggling to make them, said Jerry Campana, the store’s manager. He estimates the mysterious Good Samaritans spent at least $800.

“I think it’s truly amazing,” Campana said. “The best part of it is they are not doing it for any kind of recognition … they are just going out and doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and for people they don’t even know.”

The random acts of kindness started earlier this month at Kmarts in Michigan, but stories of the activity spread through news coverage and online, and it is now taking place all over Ohio and the country.

via Anonymous donors paying off Kmart layaway bills.

When you look at Kmart shoppers and realize that the people using layaway are at the absolute bottom of the income spectrum, the idea that put stuff on layaway with the hope that some “wealthy donor” will pay it off works the same way that buying a lottery ticket does: building an unrealistic dream. Is there any tool more used in advertising?

Supposed Kmart decided to invest between $3K and $5K per store in “anonymous donors” - compared to spending it on TV ads nationally. With 1,382 stores nationally, at $4k per store: that works out to $5.52M, which is a 2.5% of a  2009 budget of  $224M. The payback in free mentions of this “feel good” story far exceeds what paid media would achieve.

Considering Kmart has gone through upteen store prototypes and new logo launches in the last ten years, maybe it’s just time to be the hail-mary store for the poor and do it better than everyone else.

Sometimes the best advertising isn’t advertising at all.

What can you do with advertising dollars that might be better spent creating positive PR?

“I built a website- where are the customers?”

With the tough economy we have a lot of new entrepreneurs starting up. Many worked for other people and are getting their first taste of how business really works.

I highly recommend reading The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, which spells out the difference between a business and a job.

We’ve been getting a lot of “beginner” questions lately- and so I thought I’d share some answers:

As to the question in the title of this post- just having a website doesn’t bring customers anymore than having a business on a side street. You still need to advertise,  marker, or beat a drum. Building a reputation requires continuous action and reaction.

SEO be damned- even turning up first on Google isn’t anymore of a strategy than being listed first in the yellow pages- even if your name is really “Aardvark.” Although turning up in Google somewhere is mandatory- but, a quick trip to can solve that.

“I want to buy a bunch of email addresses and send out a newsletter to get them to my website so they’ll buy.” Sure- and what do you do with e-mail that comes from strangers? Do you read it all?

“Call the paper and find out why they didn’t write a story about my new business.” Right now newspapers are having a hard enough time writing real news- and getting people to read it. Some have a “press release submission” page on their site- and post everything. When was the last time you went and read it?

“My prices are the best in the {pick one: City, State, Nation, Continent, Planet, Universe} why aren’t people buying from me?” If you are planning on using price as your main marketing tool, get out of business now. It’s hard enough competing with price comparisons a google click away.

Here are some bits of wisdom for all new entrepreneurs:

  • People do business with people they like. Do thinks that make friends- online and offline, and then work like hell to get your friends to talk well of you.
  • Trust is the most important currency in business today, don’t play games with prices, people, or promotion. Mean what you say- stick to your word and under-promise and over deliver and you’ll be fine.
  • Branding does matter. If people are going to talk about you- they need a name to talk about. If we print it on a t-shirt for our employees- will customers want to buy the shirt from you to wear around town? That’s the quick way of figuring out if you have a brand people like- or not.
  • In this economy there are no “safe” moves. Don’t do things like your competition- do things that make them want to be like you. Being flamboyant is cool again- be it with constant self-promotion via social media like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook- or, driving a billboard. Don’t be shy- it’s not going to get your name out there.
  • As a warning- many of you will find that working for someone else isn’t the same as working for yourself, you thought you got rid of your old boss- now every customer is now your boss. The idea that when you own your own business you can take a half day off anytime you want- the correct answer is which half, the first 12 hours or the second 12. Young businesses are like babies- they need a lot of attention.
  • Banks aren’t lending like they used to. Be warned, credit cards aren’t your friends. Learn quickly the value of cash- and never forget it. It’s probably the least pushed part of small business accounting in business school- but, cash is king- you heard it here first. With cash- drive a super-hard bargain every chance you get- and try to get your vendors to finance as much of your business as possible- then they have a real stake in if you will succeed or not.

And if you still are wondering where the customers are- you can always call a good ad agency who can help you find them and deliver your core message. We’re available btw.

Transforming the marketing formula

There is a reason we’re not “The Next Wave Advertising” or even say we’re an ad agency (unless forced into a corner so that people know what little mental box to check off). It’s because back in 1988 we knew advertising was already dying.

What they taught us in “marketing” and in “advertising” was that it’s all about deliver a product to match up the consumers needs with our products and services. Only one small problem in our eyes- consumers who had unlimited choice and the entire globe to buy from- and an abundance of information aren’t rational- they are emotional.

The nice science of the “4p’s” didn’t work. It wasn’t Product, Place, Price, Promotion” - it was what makes me happy. Selling was out- stories were in. People activated when charismatic leaders put on great performances- just look at what Steve Jobs did with Apple- and has refined over the years.

That Apple computer had a position called “Evangelist” was the writing on the wall- not a VP of sales- but a fracking Evangelist. Which would you rather have on your business card?

We thought the most cogent explanation of business to date was one from Peter Drucker- that business only had two tool- marketing (in the broad sense) and innovation- hence our name.

But our methodology was all Apple- it was style with substance. It was stories and sales. It was more about “In Search of Excellence” - the first mega-business best seller book by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, than about marketing and advertising- we wanted customers to delight in the process of buying things.

One of our hero’s is still David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy advertising- and even though he died in 1999, with the epitaph “I’d like to be remembered as a copywriter who had some big ideas” his firm lives on- and is still generating big ideas for big clients.

Recently, they posted their new take on the 4ps- which they believe as given way to the 4E’s- and we concur:

from Product to Experience

from Place to Everyplace

from Price to Exchange

from Promotion to Evangelism

EXPERIENCE Discover and map out the full Customer Journey on your own brand – in your own country.

Develop your knowledge of new media and channels the way a chef masters new ingredients. Try new things – do something that doesn’t start with TV or print.

EXCHANGE Appreciate the value of things, not just the cost. Start by calculating the value of your customers – and what their attention, engagement and permission are worth to you.

EVANGELISM Find the passion and emotion in your brand. Inspire your customers and employees with your passion.

via The 4Ps Are Out, The 4Es Are In | Ogilvy & Mather.

The reality is that even the best advertising only brought customers to your door- you still had to do the final sale. The best ad agencies in the world now tell their clients- we’re not only going to do your ads- but we’re even going to tell you how to ask for the sale- how to answer the phone. It’s why Burger King has finally found an ad agency in Crispin Porter + Bogusky that’s delivered the kind of growth that BK hadn’t gotten out of the traditional agencies they’d worked for previously. Pull through the drive thru- and the voice on the speaker will say “nice order” after you finish. Crispin has even helped with product development- typically not a part of what an ad agency does.

The move from a media creation and buying agency to one as partner and consultant has been difficult for many agencies and clients alike. With the overload of media and messages that the typical customer experiences everyday- there is one thing that will always outperform any ad: an amazing experience with your product or service.

So before the next meeting with your ad agency- instead of asking what the next ad is going to look like- maybe it’s time to discuss what the next customer should experience- because that’s where the money changes hands if it’s done right.