Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Changing the Marcom Mindset (part VIII) – Mindsets are Hard to Break

February 3, 2010

The advertising mindset

I can hear many ad folk say: ‘I get it. Create experiences. Make stuff people will want to watch or look at. Make ads that are more entertaining, attention-getting, and creative. Make ads more experiential.’

But they really don’t get it. Ad people equate experiences with entertainment. Visuals, sounds, and stories that is more visually stimulating or socially shocking than the next ad. They can’t get around the fact that they’re still interrupting people. And they can’t get around the fact they treat people like a passive audience: look, listen, but don’t do.

Photo by Aaronyx

Interactivity is missing in most marcom

Powerful experiences are interactive, not passive. Most agencies don’t have the mindset or skill sets to create interactive experiences. And most agencies are wed to platforms that limit interactivity.

Agencies don’t start with the thought: ‘What experience can we design for consumers?’ They start with the thought: ‘What kind of 30 second film can we create for TV?’ Or they think they’re being cutting-edge by asking: ‘what kind of film can we create for the Internet? Maybe we can get people to pass it on too!’

Pleasure and meaning is missing in most marcom

Most marketing activities don’t provide pleasure or meaning. They don’t provide a benefit, utility or a value. They’re usually quite the opposite: interruptions.

Next time: Developing Your New Mindset


The Price For Attention…Going Up?

November 28, 2009

Out of the hundreds of RFPs and briefs I’ve read over the past several years, the majority of them say creating ‘increased attention’ for a particular brand (product or service) is their primary goal.

Our industry doesn’t have a reliably accurate awareness metric like Cost-Per-Attention. Sure, we can commission recall studies, or extrapolate neuromarketing results to ad exposures, but no one can truly measure the cost for generating attention or recall, let alone attribute those costs to a specific marketing activity. But if we could…

Will marketers pay more or less to generate attention in the future?

My sense is marketers are an optimistic bunch. They see technology as a cost-cutter, providing advances in media mix modeling, behavioral targeting, and results attribution – things that should lead to greater efficiency. They also see developments in digital media and what has been touted as Web 2.0 as an effective, low cost method of engaging consumers and generating awareness via word of mouth.

On the flip side, we’re seeing an avalanche of content, media, and activities competing for attention. Media costs aren’t getting cheaper and consumers are increasingly successful in avoiding advertising. We’re also seeng more SKUs and services than ever, all competing for our attention.

Add to that the cost of agency services. Margins are falling as brand marketers adopted a cattle-call/jumpball approach to selecting agencies. What brand marketers don’t seem to understand is they’re paying bloated rate cards to offset the increasing cost of prospecting and pitching. Every time a brand manager does an agency search, or sends out an RFP to a dozen agencies, they’re burning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in agency costs. Those costs need to be made up somewhere, and in the end, they’re paid in hidden fees by the agency’s customers – the brand.

My guess is price for attention is going to increase over the coming years, but unfortunately nobody will be measuring it.


The Truth About Crowdsourcing

November 18, 2009

Nigel Hollis of Milward Brown had an interesting post on crowdsourcing last week, outlining how numerous brands and some agencies are using the concept. His post and the comments that followed cemented my opinion that crowdsourcing is really about the procurement of spec work from professionals, not the solicitation of ideas and content from typical consumers.

I’ve written about User Generated Content and Consumer Generated Content in the past. With few exceptions, most branded content worthy of any attention (by other consumers) is actually being produced by skilled amatuers and semi-pros, not crafty brand loyalists. We can add professionals and agencies to the list of producers.

Most brands continue to create an illusion that their crowdsourcing activities are consumer contests, but Mountain Dew’s recent campaign is fully transparent, listing agencies and independent film companies as their primary target audiences.

Crowdsourcing has become nothing more than a massive RFP drop based on the theory that creative is a numbers game. Get enough participants/entries and you’re likely to find suitable work at bargain basement prices.

Why would any agency, independent film company, or industry professional spend their time, energy and money on what amounts to the lowest pay spec work with poor odds? Because they see these activities as promotional and portfolio-building opportunities; a means to get noticed, build a reputation, and get hired for ‘paying gigs’. Apparently these participants feel no cognitive dissonance about crowdsourcing.

Will crowdsourcing become widespread or mainstream? Will agency fees for creative and production crater as a result? Nobody knows for sure, but what we do know is over time marketers run the risk of creating a patchwork quilt brand without the guiding hand of experienced marcom strategist.


Marcom Strategy – The Basics (part 3)

August 6, 2009

In my last post I touched on ten outcomes of a marcom strategy. But before one can be developed, there are five things every strategist needs to know. Most of this stuff will sound elementary, but you’d be surprised how often one or two pieces are neglected.

consumer_shopping1. Consumer intelligence

Knowing thy customer is the most important input for any strategist. Any person involved in developing a marcom strategy should have a deep understanding of the consumer segment(s) they may need to engage – who they are, what they’re saying, what they’re doing, and why.

Strategists should also be driven by empathy for, not manipulation of the consumer.

2. Brand Immersion

The second most important factor for a strategist is to know the brand on every level: the product attributes, rational benefits, emotional benefits, personality, appearance, history and core insights.

Brands with weak or ill-defined brand architectures are difficult to create marcom strategies for.

And it doesn’t hurt to intimately know a lot about your competitors. Who are they and what do they stand for? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can this be used to your advantage?

macarthur_nimitz3. Goals

Briefs and RFPs usually fail on two counts: 1) tactics are listed as goals or 2) briefs include a list of goals that include everything except a cure for cancer.

The most common marcom goals marketers strive for is awareness, acquisition, adoption, adoration or advocacy. These goals can be a sequential continuum that ladder consumers to the next level of brand relationship.

As a rule of thumb, marketers should focus on no more than two goals, even if additional goals will be addressed indirectly. Having too many goals is a recipe for a diluted, ineffective strategy.

Lastly, I’ve seen both clients and agencies lose sight of their stated goals as early as the planning and ideation phase. Every idea and tactic should be held up against the brand goal and killed if they’re off target.

4. Budget

Brand Marketers tend to keep budgets a closely held secret. They let their agencies play guessing games, pitching numerous ideas and an ala carte menu of estimates.

This game is wasteful and usually results in a Frankenstein-esque collection of tactics – tactics that are chosen primarily because they fit into the budget box, not because they work best together. Integration becomes an afterthought, and matching luggage is hailed as success.

Budgets have an enormous impact on strategy. For example, a marcom strategy designed to drive purchase continuity will be much different with budget of $500,000 vs. a budget of $5,000,000.

iphone users5. Trends

Trends can often be a driving force behind a strategy. Strategists should be aware of societal, cultural, economic, technology, demographic, even political trends.

Just recognize there’s a difference between fads and trends. Latching onto a fad might make your brand appear out-of-touch by the time consumers have an opportunity to engage with your marcom.

Next time…

What makes for a good strategy?


Agency Pipe Dream

June 12, 2009

bo-jacksonOver the past decade or so many agencies have struggled to add digital services to their offerings. Those who succeeded realized the shortcomings that came with adding digital to the mix. For one, digital often became viewed as a siloed production group, where creatives and account service with backgrounds in traditional advertising, promotion, and PR called the tune for the unwashed geekdom. As a result we saw thousands of examples of print design and one-to-many thinking introduced to the Web by agencies.

Eventually these agencies made attempts in “integrate” digital into the agency culture and process. Their motivation was laudable, but the operational vision of the new agency was almost always illdefined and the methods used to achieve integration were doomed to fail.

One of those methods is to cross-train the workforce so the entire agency would eventually become conversant in and capable of producing digital marketing solutions, at least in the areas of creative and strategy.

On top of enriching the knowledge of the workforce, agencies thought their re-minted employees would provide a utopian flexibility: The Art Director who designs a print ad on Monday would pick up the website design for the same campaign on Tuesday.

Keep in mind the senior management in most agencies, those leading the charge for “integration”, come from a traditional marcom background. Most have/had little hands-on experience in digital.

sleepingFrequently the existing digital staff is tasked with developing both the curriculum and training for the rest of the agency, and this training strategy introduces many interesting issues.

Curriculum and content development for training isn’t a trivial matter. We’re talking about taking a huge amount of information and finessing it into bite sized pieces. This is a huge time-suck the employees who happen to have the digital experience, the “trainers”.

Because many agency leaders lack understanding of digital themselves, they significantly underestimate what is needed to support the most basic training needs. There is also a sense of resentment that grows amongst those designated as “trainers”. At first they’re flattered by the idea of sharing their knowledge and skills. But after spending a few months spoon-feeding traditional brethern with their hard-earned experience, they realize the structure of the agency will still position them as a downstream implementor, and very few of their “students” will ever spread their wings and fly.

The biggest obstacle to the cross-training philosophy is that the vast majority of folks in agencies who aren’t already doing digital don’t have the interest, desire or aptitude for it. This comment isn’t meant to demean, but to point out a hard, cold reality. You can’t take a talented athlete in one sport, train them in a sport in which they have no inate interest or desire, and expect good results.

mad signThe same goes for agency folks. Digital requires a different mindset and skillset – skills that only improve by being continually immersed in the discipline.

Sure, Bo Jackson’s of the agency world exist, but the idea of creating an agency were the majority employees are both multi-disciplined and highly-skilled is nothing more than a pipe dream.


One small step for…everyone

June 4, 2009

Over the past several years I’ve ranted endlessly about the diminishing effectiveness of display advertising as an awareness and branding vehicle. The benefits that ad unit standardization has delivered, namely efficiency in both media buying and ad unit creative development, has also resulted in a significant downside: banner blindness and user indifference.

Our industry must reverse this tide through innovation, innovation that can only come through more collaboration between publishers and marketers. Today I ran across an ad that demonstrated innovation.

The ad below is a full page ad for Prius on the landing page for But what’s truely innovative about this ad, is it doesn’t get in the way of goal oriented users, the exact mindset of users who visit


Unlike page takeovers and interstitials, ads they have conditioned users to impulsively seek the “close” or “continue” button, this ad allows users to accomplish the task at hand without forcing another click. And unlike page takeovers, this ad is likely to actually gain the awareness of users.

Granted, ad formats like this can’t be easily replicated on other sites. And I’m not saying this is the greatest thing since Google, but it just goes to show advertisers that a little collaboration and creativity can result in something that pleases everyone – advertisers, publishers, and users.


Drifting Creatives

June 3, 2009

Drifting creativesDrifting Creatives (Martin Hooper and Gavin Braman) are hanging out with us at infuz today. They’re traveling the country and offering their design skillz to the less fortunate.

We’re hoping they enjoy their stay in St.Louis and have time to contribute to small design project we’re sponsoring.


Authenticity Plus

May 29, 2009

Fast EddiesLast week I found myself at two establishments in the St. Louis area that exemplify staying power and authenticity, Fast Eddie’s Bon-Air and Angelo’s Pizzeria.

Fast Eddie’s the ever popular roadhouse/bar in Alton Illinois with a seamingly simple recipe: cheap food and cold beer. They claim to to move over 4,000 half-barrels of tap beer a year and God only knows how many tons of grilled food.  Standing-room only crowds on weekends are quite common, even after doubling their footprint a few years ago by adding a large patio. While most bars in Illinois suffered after a state-wide smoking ban, Fast Eddie’s business exploded.

Fast Eddie’s doesn’t boast fancy decor (in fact you might call the place “run down”), great advertising, or a charismatic owner. Their cheap food + cold beer recipe isn’t exactly a secret either. What Fast Eddie’s has is something most other establishments don’t: authenticity.

fast eddies 2

Fast Eddie’s isn’t a copy of something else. It isn’t pretentious, flashy, commercialized, or formulaic…and the menu is reliably the same. Their patrons also add to the realness of the place, an ecclectic midwestern bar crowd if you ever saw one: from leather-clad bikers to silk-tie businessmen, from fresh-face 20-somethings to craggled-face oldsters, from country bumpkins to city slickers.

fast eddies 3

fast eddies 4


Angelo’s Pizzeria in Black Jack Missouri has a slightly different formula to success. This family run operation simply make the best thin crust, St. Louis style pizza in the entire metropolitan area. It’s almost shocking that such a thin wafer of crust can hold their generous slathering of toppings. And while other pizzeria’s try to keep customers coming back with novelty pie creations and skimpy toppings, Angelo’s continues to pile it on.

Angelos Pizzeria

And there’s the authenticity factor too. The family is the staff, from front to back, and their branding and marketing is basic if non-existant. The dining room is spartan despite grandma’s “masterpieces” hanging on the wall, they don’t have a website, and their pizza boxes are plain white…not even adorned with a taped-on menu or bounceback coupon.

And if you ever visit Angelo’s, don’t expect a packed dining room or long lines. Just expect to hear the repeated ring of the phone and “Hello, Angelo’s.”


A word on the word…loyalty

May 27, 2009

chevy tattooI’m amazed to see the word “loyalty” misused so frequently in briefs, books, articles, etc. I believe what most author’s really mean is continuity, or at least I hope so.

My definition of brand loyalty is a consumer’s rigid predesposition to buy a product or service, even if a competitor offers a substantial incentive to switch: e.g. price discounts, gifts, special access, etc.

I have a friend who is a classic example of a brand loyalist. He drinks Miller Lite beer exclusively and drives nothing but Chevys. Persuading him to switch to Bud Light or Ford would be like asking an Ohio State fan to trade his season tickets for half-off Michigan tickets. It ain’t gonna happen.

Advertising, promotions, and PR play an extremely small role in creating consumer loyalty. Some consumers may identify with how a brand is portrayed in their marketing communications, but there is little evidence that branding is an important gateway to true loyalty.

When marketers speak of loyalty or “loyalty programs”, they quite often mean purchase incentives or points programs. Incentives can drive repeat purchases, but rarely will this rote buying behavior result in true loyalty. Unlike addictive drugs, once the incentive is removed, brand preference disappears.

Giving small purchase incentives to a loyalist who isn’t influenced by them makes no sense either.

I do believe certain marketing activities can reinforce loyalty and generate advocacy: for example, exclusive memberships that include insider access and beta/new product review opportunities. These are true loyality programs, not continuity programs.


Generational brand loyalty

June 19, 2008

HondaMy family now owns a fleet of five Hondas and it occurred to me that I don’t really consider myself an emotionally invested loyalist. Hondas and Toyota are both in my consideration set – price and availability are the tie breakers. Honda just happens to be on a winning streak lately.

So why are Hondas and Toyotas always in my (and the country’s) consideration set? They consistently deliver on the basics: reliability, durability, and low cost of operation. Change their oil every 3,000 miles and they seem to run forever – my Civic has 245,xxx on the odo.

When our friends in the media report on the woes of the domestic auto manufacturers, they always surmise the salvation is a breakthrough product, unusual styling or whiz bang gadgetry. Honda and Toyota built their kingdoms on none of this.

Automotive brand loyalty is a powerful thing. Families pass down their brand preferences to their kids, so delivering value on high ticket, low frequency products is incredibly important. Advertising and promotion is less significant because “trial” is not in the automotive marketing vernacular.