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25 posts from September 2007

September 28, 2007

Can't I just get ads and a website?

Birthbeggingdog_2  Every where I've worked I hear this from clients, many expecting incredible results after just an initial meeting. You have to know who you are and who your customer is before you start. A lot of agencies, maybe desperate for work, don't even begin to go through a  process that helps them uncover information.

Michele Schermerhorn President of Online Business Institute Inc.(via the brandXpress blog) has seven key steps that every marketer should go through before they begin developing ads and I'll add into that the brands expression online, websites (comments after the steps are mine):

  1. Know Your Customers Better Than You Know Yourself - In my mind, this is really what planners and in some cases IAs are for.
  2. Understand Your Competitive Environment & Competitors - Same thing here. It's important to define your competitors broadly, not just the ones that a client might list out in five minutes. Often a brand is competing with things that  might not  be in a 'marketing' category (like a TV show competing with activities that don't involve the TV)
  3. Define Your Brand Personality - This is who you are. If you don't know, how do you expect potential customers to figure it out?
  4. Make A Brand Promise - Remember that Janet Jackson song in the 80's (pre-wardrobe malfunction) "What have you done for me lately?", your customers sing it all the time. Define what your going to do for them. A definition should be definitive meaning it also says what your not going to focus on without necessarily listing those things out.
  5. Define Your Brand Strategy - How will you get your message out their in the minds of your customer? Not the tactics, the rules and guidelines that will define and create boarders for the tactics
  6. Identify Your Branding Game Plan - Now the tactics.
  7. Be Consistent in Action - Too often we'll plan things out and then, due to expediency or laziness, we'll do things just to get them done. Plan the work, then work the plan.

- Paul Herring

September 27, 2007

5 Reasons to Shut Off Your Computer

Menu Jim Stroup wrote a nice piece about how and when to say "no" when you know you must ("Negotiating to 'No'"). It was timed perfectly, because just then I was faced with a situation where, after telling proxies "no" for so long (and offering alternatives to what we were being asked to do), I finally had the opportunity to meet directly with the client in charge of the project. To my surprise and delight, we arrived at a mutually acceptable resolution within 10 minutes.

Even in this world of instant communications, it's amazing how powerful meeting face-to-face can be. Here are five ways meeting in person can help overcome obstacles that may be plaguing your project:

  1. Increase decorum. It's harder to be dismissive and snide when the person you're dealing with is looking you straight in the eye. The apparent anonymity brought by a computer screen makes it easier to forget that you're dealing with another person and just focus on winning an argument.
  2. Spontaneous interaction. In complicated projects, it's almost always assured that there is some contingency you haven't thought of. When you meet in person and something unexpected comes up as an objection, you can address it immediately.
  3. What you think isn't what you wrote, or at least how it was perceived. When we write, although we try to keep the audience in mind, we can often miss the gaps that need to be filled. In conversation, the person you're speaking with can quickly tell you what he needs to know.
  4. Cut down on needless side conversations. In person, it's much easier to get a conversation back on topic if you see it's going off.
  5. Facilitate understanding of shared goals. It all comes down to this point: You're on the same side. But that doesn't mean you want to accomplish the same things. It's possible that you're at cross purposes, and that would explain your disagreement. If that's the case, meeting in person can identify those issues and help you come to a common understanding.

Not every problem is going to be so easy to resolve that it can be done within 10 minutes. Come prepared. Be willing to admit you are wrong in light of new information that says so. And make sure the right people are with you who can answer questions you can't. - Cam Beck

September 26, 2007

Hall of Fame to Accept Baseball Branded with *

Vote2_ball The 756th baseball Barry Bonds slammed into oblivion, after changing hands a few times culminating in a bid of over $750,000, will be donated to the Hall of Fame after all. However, before it goes, it will be branded with an asterisks.

So sayeth the people.

From the AP:

Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey, also interviewed on the show, said accepting the ball did not mean the Hall endorses the viewpoint that Barry Bonds used drugs..."We're a nonprofit history museum, so this ball wouldn't be coming to Cooperstown without Marc Ecko buying it from the fan who caught it."

Nor would it have come to Cooperstown under these conditions unless the Internet was used to give people the opportunity to vote on it. In my mind, this enshrines social media in the Hall of Fame along with the ball. - Cam Beck

September 25, 2007

How to Save a Lost Customer

184972748_53b85a2912 A few weeks ago I dropped my wife's car off at the dealership for them to troubleshoot and fix a squeak. I really hate taking cars to any technician. I know so little about their maintenance that I could be raked over the coals and I wouldn't know it. While I was waiting in line, I saw that a belt replacement was going to cost close to $300. Knowing the belt itself couldn't possibly cost more than $50, I figured the rest of the cost is in labor and the expertise that the technicians had to replace it properly.

When the dealership called me back, they told me the belt wasn't the problem, but it was something concerning the belt's tension (The customer service person may as well have called it a "tensionometer," and I would have nodded my head in ignorance). To replace it, we were going to have to fork over $400. They didn't replace the belt, but when we picked the car up, they said the belt was borderline and would have to be replaced soon.

Why didn't they, we asked, just replace the belt when they had it all disassembled to save us the labor cost. They didn't have an answer.

On Monday, my wife noticed the squeak didn't go away, and she set an appointment the next day to get it fixed, already planning on what she would say to them when she got there. However, on my way home that evening, I got a call from a quality control service person, who asked me how well we were satisfied with our service.

I told her politely that we were a little bewildered that they didn't just replace the suspect belt instead of forcing us to pay for the labor twice (although admittedly, for all I know, they may have anyway). I also explained the problem wasn't fixed and that my wife had an appointment the next day to correct it.

When my wife got there for her appointment, the service people replaced the belt and charged her only for the cost of the part, which amounted to less than $50. Honestly I didn't expect them to waive labor charges without a fight. She didn't even have to say anything to them. They already knew we were dissatisfied because they followed up with me by phone.

I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't quote company policy on me in their own defense. I didn't have to threaten them, ask for a manager, or derogatorily write about them on this blog to get the attention of someone who was frightened of bad publicity. They just fixed the problem and made it right.

So to honor them for doing it right (after all, why should we only call out companies who do it wrong?), the name of the dealership was Vandergriff Toyota. Thanks, guys. - Cam Beck

Photo courtesy of vkdir.

September 21, 2007

Can you come out and play?

Stop work and enjoy a blast from the past....

Marketing the Greatest team you've never heard of

I know we've covered this campaign before, mainly from a personal perspective. Watching the FIFA Women's World Cup, though, I've seen the whole campaign unfold.

Nike (and Wieden + Kennedy) has produced advertising that crosses media channels and that, most interestingly, seamlessly transition between creative messaging.

From what I can see, the campaign started out with establishing the tag line "The Greatest Team You've Never heard Of". There was a series of print ads that highlighted the teams commitment to each other and their sport (tip of the hat to AdGrabber):

Find more photos like this on AdGabber

Then there was the website where you could meet the team members a little more personally:

Now that the games have actually started, they've take a slightly different approach. They've set up a series of commercials parading the adventure of Jim Mike (aka Dwight from The Office), the new PR manager for the team:

For the record, their are no three point shots in soccer, or two point shots for that matter.

It seems like each time they win a game, we get another ad. I think they're hilarious and well done so, Go Team USA! Beat England!

Of course there are a lot of interactive features on their website that I'll cover in another post.

Overall, one of the best executed campaigns I've seen. - Paul Herring

The 30-Second Spot: Dead or Only Napping?

Marc Brownstein of AdAge reported that a panel of industry insiders concluded that the 30-second spot isn't dead (article), and that the main reason they are ineffective is essentially that the creative is lousy. Improve the creative, he pontificates, and the 30-second spot will rule once again.

He's not right, but he's not far off, either. First, he points out that spots are still the primary vehicle driving brand awareness. Now, I have no data that supports that, but I'll assume it's true for the sake of argument. It's reasonable for the time being to assume that, but just because the volume of awareness may be high, that doesn't make it an efficient or effective means of driving it.

Second, he suggests that the platforms and level of interactivity will change, and I completely agree that, executed well, it could be a great idea. However, once interactivity is added, it becomes something other than a 30-second spot. It may incorporate video, and until 3-D rendering techniques are mastered and made affordable for the masses, video remains the best way to tell stories, which are vital to communication and persuasion.

Perhaps the most telling display of myopia, though, is that Brownstein listed these three attributes as threats to the 30-second spot:

  • Lousy creative
  • DVR/Tivo
  • Distracted, multitasking impatient viewers

By calling these things threats to TV spots, Brownstein tips his hand to show us where his allegiance really lies. The viewers themselves are threats to his (and presumably the entire panel's) desire to force people to watch 30-second spots. And we know they want to force users to do it, because DVR/Tivo is also a threat.

I don't want to understate the importance of good creative. Improving it will help immensely. However, people only have a limited amount of attention on a given day. If everyone's creative 30-second spot is good -- even great -- then everyone's 30-second spot becomes at once ordinary. When that happens, only the bad will stand out. This is partly why Sales Genie's abysmal Super Bowl spot, when everyone else was clamoring to be the most creative, was effective (Sales Genie: Dumb Like a Fox).

The biggest problem isn't ultimately the creative. It's advertisers' love affair with the medium. That's why Brownstein's goal is to save the 30-second spot rather than build relationships between people and brands in a way that fosters 2-way affection and loyalty. This doesn't mean that we'll ever see the end of 30-second spots. Indeed, 30-second spots may remain an important part of a robust communications package. However, their importance will be diminished as we find more effective and less intrusive ways to communicate with our audiences. - Cam Beck

September 20, 2007

What if Microsoft Shrugged?


Watching only the most recent lawsuit against Microsoft unfold, in which the software giant is being told by courts and legislators what it can and cannot put in its operating system, I cannot help but be reminded of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

In this classic novel, the companies that produced things of value were hampered by lawsuits and legislation that the antagonists claimed were designed to level the playing field. Eventually, those who the readers were led to believe were the heroes of the story for their perseverance against such opposition were revealed to be enemies of the cause, because they were the ones responsible for rewarding the populist looter mob and giving them the capital to operate.

But upon meeting the mysterious John Galt, even they decided to shrug off the burden of carrying society and allowed them to fend for themselves, to disastrous results. Although they hid, the powers that represented the mob would use any method of coercion at their disposal to find the businesspeople and scientists in hiding and force their talents be put to use, for they had none of their own.

The question made famous in the novel reflected a sense of helplessness. "Who is John Galt," really meant, "I will take no responsibility to change this injustice."

Microsoft deserves much of the criticism it gets, but the most effective criticism we can offer when we object to a company's actions comes not in the form of lawsuits, but in the refusal to use their products. We ought to be ever suspicious of attempts by all companies to use the courts to broker innovation. If we have learned anything over the last 100 years, is that such attempts are usually marred in failure and inefficiencies.

I've given Microsoft a lot of grief in the past, but I've always maintained that I admire them as a company. I also own several Microsoft programs. I have to wonder if they would be free to fix the problems that cause me to be critical of them if they didn't have to spend so much money fighting off lawsuits and protecting its right to innovate.

Ah. What am I saying? Who is Bill Gates? - Cam Beck

September 19, 2007

Getting out of the Ecko chamber


Barry Bonds apparently doesn't get Marc Ecko. The fashion designer who spent $750 thousand on the ball that marked Barry Bonds' 756th home run and consequently broke Hank Aaron's record, is offering to get rid of the ball, deface the ball, or send it to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown unscathed. And he's going to let the public decide (Vote).

Barry Bonds thinks Ecko is "an idiot."

In his mind, a baseball can't be used for any other purpose than what it was intended, which is to play a game. If that's the case, then spending $750,000 on a ball would indeed be a colossal waste of money.

Apparently those performance enhancers Bonds allegedly took did not help him with his reasoning or marketing ability. First, he seems to think that the allegations against him are no big deal to the rest of the public -- especially baseball fans. Second, he doesn't see the value Ecko is getting for that $750,000.

While it might be true that Ecko is so passionate about baseball that he wanted to ensure Bonds took some lumps for breaking the rules, depending on what Ecko wants to do with it, $750,000 could be quite a bargain for all the publicity he's getting.

Last I checked, almost 1.5 million people have cast their votes, and we can expect more to come as the effort gets publicized.

Bonds isn't the only one with myopia, though. Many times marketers have difficulty seeing past their own organizational structure to realize that people don't look at their company like the marketers think they should. Instead of taking account of how people actually behave, marketers and designers try to force them to act in a way that goes contrary to their experience.

Most people won't bother, especially when the competition is only a Google search away.

Case in point: Kleenex was developed to help women take off their makeup, but when people started using it as a handkerchief, instead of calling them "idiots," Kleenex tested consumer response to advertising that showed their product being used in the way it was actually being used. Sales doubled. (Read more at About.com).

The key here is that rather than cursing the customers, Kleenex responded by showing the product in contexts that made most sense to the consumer. By doing so, they also effectively doubled the consumer base they were targeting, as there weren't many men using makeup that they had to remove.

If people aren't getting your message in the way you intend, don't fall into the Barry Bonds trap and assume your customers are a bunch of morons. Instead, be like Kleenex. Listen to your customers and respond by giving them what they're already telling you they want. - Cam Beck

September 18, 2007

14 million people can't be wrong

Untitled A few months ago I built my Facebook profile, really just to learn about how the social network works. Here's a few things I've learned:

A lot of my friends are also on Facebook. Once I put my profile up and (automatically prompted) joined groups from former employees, schools etc., friends found me and became part of my 'network'.

Compared to MySpace profiles, Facebook profiles are pretty simple. There's not a lot that you can do with the look and feel of the profiles themselves.

There are a lot more applications for Facebook. As a matter of fact this really seems to be the focus of the social network.

So, for those of you familiar with these networks, none of this probably comes as a surprise. What was surprising to me was a recent post on Compete's blog that said 14 million people have used Facebooks applications in August. Take a look at the different ways they've interacted with the site. (if you're old like me, you may have to click on the graphic to enlarge it.)


This approach seems to be creating competition for MySpace in this area. As a matter of fact, according to Compete, Facebook is ranked third in terms of page views (an appropriate metric for this type of site) while traffic to MySpace is down by 20%.

Facebook has a long way to go before it comes close to the traffic on MySpace. However, from this data, it appears to gaining steam. - Paul Herring