A recent reviewer of a RFP/RFQ response wrote this in the evaluation/scoring:
Plan provided is NOT a marketing plan it is a Operational plan. RFP is for Marketing not a replacement of the Administration.
People who think marketing is something separate from operations shouldn’t still be in business anymore. That myth should have gone away a long time ago. Wisdom from Leo Burnett should be a good starting place, and he died in 1971.
“What helps people, helps business.”
“Before you can have a share of market, you must have a share of mind.”
“We want consumers to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product” instead of ‘That’s a hell of an ad.'”
“The sole purpose of business is service. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders.”
“The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.”
Considering the potential client runs a service business, funded with tax dollars, and is getting a failing grade on every count, (a local school district) a new operational plan and way to communicate the new way of doing business is the key to changing perception and their fortunes.
Marketing does not exist in a vacuum, it’s interrelated to everything a business does. Looking to management guru Peter Drucker, who died in 2005, we find yet another quote:
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
If that doesn’t tell you that an operations plan is marketing, you should reexamine your boss credentials.
Everything a business does, reflects upon its brand. And the brand is a story that the world tells each other, based on what they think they know about it. Apple, Nike, Google, the great brands- have a story that people can share without a whole lot of prompting- and for the most part, it’s a positive one. Sure, each has its detractors, but overall, the Q-score and the buzz line up with the company vision and goals.
To me, Apple started out as a “bicycle for the mind”- a tool to exercise your further your ideas and to help you share them. Nike reached into the competitor in all of us, and gave us an uplifting mantra- “Just do it” and Google, knew long before the rest of us, that with great power, came great responsibility and stated that their goal was to “Do no evil.” It’s take over a decade for most people to understand the power that Google had harnessed.
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Great companies do great things and communicate those things often and consistently. But here’s the key- it’s not through words or ads- “actions speak louder than words” should be the mantra of every ad agency across the globe. Doing good is doing well. Talking about yourself is just talk, and often times, boorish.
Need an example of actions speaking louder than words? I was at a minor league hockey game last night. I’ve been around hockey for at least 50 years, playing and watching. In a freak instance, a players stick was flung into the stands, and a fan caught it. Granted, sticks can cost as much as $300 these days- but, the team had the nerve to send down a team official to take the stick back. The crowd booed for at least 5 minutes. Considering the home team was down 2 goals, the players had to wonder why they should be trying their hardest to win- when they were getting a steady raspberry. Would a marketing-centric company dare to ask for the stick back?
The story that the fan will tell now is “I got hit by a players stick flung out of the rink” and they came and took it away. Or, the proper response, “I got hit by a stick at a hockey game, while sitting in my seat, and they came and checked to see if I was OK- and offered to let me come down after the game and get it signed by the entire team.”
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apple is famously and profitably successful because of their attention to design detail and simplicity and consistency of their user interface. And while they’ve made more than a few mistakes along the way, the replacement of the Google maps application which has been a part of the iOS operating system from day 1, may become a classic business case study in what not to do.
Taking away benefits/functionality from your customers without their consent is a very dangerous move.
To summarize what happened- Apple and Google are no longer friends because the open source Android mobile operating system has gone head-to-head with the proprietary and highly regulated Apple iOS. Apple deleted the Google Maps application in favor of their own mapping software with iOS6- despite it not being either an improvement or even a good replacement for the original software. When you start making the New York Times about your product changes, it should be a bit of a worry.
Apple’s reckless deletion of functionality of transit maps in their iOS6 mapping app brings satire to the surface
Missing are the highly useful public transit details- a system that is invaluable in NYC, and much of the data that has been tweaked and refined over the years by millions of users. Frankly, Apples map program is being forced on users as an “upgrade” when it isn’t. This isn’t what the customer bought when they bought their iOS devices.
The right to take away a purchase after it’s been bought is a slippery slope, that smacks of “Big Brother” - the very same one that Apple so famously rallied against in their classic Superbowl ad 1984 that launched the Macintosh. What’s next- publishers having the right to come to your home and take back books that you bought because they were too useful? (Textbook manufacturers are becoming guilty of this- but that’s another matter).
Rumors abound that Google is going to release a version of Maps via the Apple store- however, that would and could possibly sink the chances of the Apple maps app from ever reaching parity. Digital maps data is improved by the size of the user base, a primary reason Google was probably willing to allow Apple to use their data when the iPhone launched before they had an Android OS.
Google could probably rake in millions by selling their app on the iTunes store now, but the shopkeeper, Apple, despite a chance to gain 30% of sales may still block it from happening (debate is raging on this subject).
But this is a lesson for all marketers. The restaurant that used to offer free bread that now charges, the gas station that stops offering free air both risk alienating customers by taking away something that was previously accepted. Once one fast food chain began offering free refills on soda for dine in, going back is nearly impossible as is not offering the same option.
Apple may be getting cocky at the wrong time and place as the newest king of corporate monopoly, but we’ve seen companies make potentially fatal flaws before: thinking they know what’s best for their customers and trying to force a reset. Quikster anyone?
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