Uninspired, lazy advertising

This Holiday season we've noticed a lot of ads which are using the animation, look and feel of the old children's Christmas specials, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The ones which we see the most are the Alltel ads. Same characters as their other campaigns, but looking like Herbie the Dentist and Santa Claus. Let me state this clearly...this is lame. This is simply putting an existing ad into another skin. That skin happens to look familiar to anyone who watched the shows during their childhood. It is laziness on the part of the creatives, and shows that they are uninspired.

The other one we particularly remember this year is the Apple ad. Same thing, we have the "I'm an Apple...I'm a Mac" thing going, but animated. We expected better from Apple...

Defenders of this might say that by using this animation treatment they are tapping into a specific demographic, say mine, who remembers Rudolph and the other shows. This is not unlike the Burger King ads which play nostalgic, classic rock & roll songs while showcasing their Whopper. Again, this is lazy advertising. Using a song or a classic Christmas tale to inspire emotion is missing the point of emotional advertising. You want the emotion to be between the product/brand and the consumer...not the consumer and the theme of the ad. The emotion of a Nike ad makes me want to compete, work out and play sports - things I need sneakers and apparel to do. I can tell you, I'm not inspired to switch to Alltel.

Marketers' Top Brand Strategies in 2007 - and Resolutions for 2008

MarketingVOX reports that marketers' biggest regret of 2007 was not investing enough in understanding customers, according to the Brand Strategy Trends Survey of marketing executives. Read More

Getting More Clicks at the Bricks

Retail stores are scrambling to catch up with shoppers empowered by the web. What it comes down to is realizing that online, consumers have more control than ever before, and that you must figure out ways to translate that control to the consumers when they are in-store.

Some interesting success stories:

  • Bloom - Visitors to can key in a shopping list and get a printout of the aisles they need to hit. That can be risky, because when shoppers know what they want and where to find it, they may be less likely to buy on impulse. Echoing the Internet's user-generated craze, Bloom also lets people "build your own six-pack" of imported brews.
  • Barnes & Noble - kiosks that allow people to search inventory, locate merchandise, and order out-of-stock items.
  • Nordstrom - a personal shopper keeps 5,000 customers in a database and routinely blasts come-ons to 500 of them - says they are selling 37% more merchandise as a result. Now Nordstrom is experimenting with text-messaging the cell phones of younger customers.

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The right way to pitch a blogger

If you've ever tried to reach out to bloggers to promote your product or service, you've no doubt realized that you need a much different approach than you would for traditional media. With bloggers, its all about personal touch and specifically NOT the hard sell (Hmmm...what a novel idea).

If you're still not sure how to get bloggers to write about you without offending them, read the full article at
"Now THIS is how to pitch a blogger" at The Viral Garden.

Get Back in the Box - How Constraints Can Free Your Team's Thinking

Chip & Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick, write a monthly column in Fast Company. In the December 2007 issue, the talk about how to become more creative by actually constraining your thinking. This may sound counterintuitive, but it makes sense. When you have 100% free reign, its often too much to be effective.

We're always told to think outside the box. But it's about time someone spoke up for the box. Because, paradoxically, thinking inside a box can spark creativity, not squelch it. So maybe you don't need to think out of the box. Maybe you just need a new one to think in." Read the full article here.

Made to Stick

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Banyan Tree: The brand imperative

INSEAD recently interviewed Ho Kwon Ping, founder of Banyan Tree spa hotels, regarding branding and strategy. "There are only two advantages in life which are proprietary rather than relative: technology and branding," Ping says. Truer words were never said, especially in the world of technology, start-ups and entrepreneurial companies. In an increasingly global marketplace where products can be replicated easily, inexpensively and quickly, you must create something for your customers to be drawn to. The ultimate question - do you know enough about your market to "own your customer?"

Thanks go out to my friend and advisor,
Timothy Heath
who sent me this piece.

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Robert Reich gets it all wrong

The January 2008 issue of Conde' Nast Portfolio has two very interesting articles that are in the general vicinity of one another. The first is No Obligations by RWhy companies should forget social responsibility—and why we should let them," which at face value sounds like an uncharacteristic laissez faire statement by the liberal economist. As you read on, you see that his point is that companies should not worry about social responsibility because consumers have shown that they aren't willing to pay more for such activities, and companies should justifiably work to be profitable. Again, strangely capitalistic of him. Then all again becomes right in the world...

"Unfortunately, improving the bottom line doesn't always make the public better off, of course. Polluting, stiffing workers on health care, and encouraging kids to eat junk food are often better for profits than taking the opposite approach...That's why we need government. It's not the job of private enterprise but our representatives in Washington and state capitals to tackle public policy issues...The answer isn't to push companies to be more socially responsible; it's to get corporate money out of politics so we as citizens can decide what the rules of the game should be. Condemning companies for not giving their employees better pay and health benefits may be emotionally gratifying, but it's a sideshow. What we really ought to be doing is condemning large corporations for polluting our democracy."

Nobody wants big companies ruling government, I agree. But Reich states a fundamentally different world view than that of a capitalist. He doesn't trust the market to agree with his views, so he calls for government to mandate those views. And one thing he failed to mention...for every government mandate on business, there is a cost to that business. More costs equal higher prices. That doesn't sound like a consumer-friendly idea to me.

Now, juxtapose that article with the second by Roger Lowenstein, The Wild Blue Yonder of Markets. In this article, Lowenstein talks about a new book, The Blue Way: How to Profit by Investing in a Better World about how companies who back Democrats and populist causes outperform those that do not. I'll let you read the whole article, but the point Lowenstein makes, which is 100% correct, is that they have their causality backwards. Strong companies happen to be led by Democrats, its not their Democrat views that make the company successful.

"Google's cushy employee benefits are not the reason its stock has soared; its search engine is. Indeed, if ample employee benefits were their own reward, wouldn't GM's be a hot company instead of one on the verge of going broke?"

Why do I praise Lowenstein? Because he is the only one of the two that is giving proper credit and respect to the real drivers of the economy AND the government...the consumer. We get what we ask for, on the shelf and in our government. Reich insultingly thinks that price is the sole driver of consumer preference. Tell Toyota that, as they sell the Prius in big volume for well over market value. Tell that to Method, who is selling safer, cleaner, environmentally better cleaning products like hot cakes. Tell that to Patagonia, who leads the apparel world in social causes as well as outdoor wear.

Why are these companies successful? Not simply because they are more socially conscious, but because that social consciousness is coupled with great design, great quality, great service and a reasonable price. In other words, these companies (and others) provide VALUE to the consumer. Value is the comparison of perceived benefits to price. Didn't they teach you that in Econ 101 Mr. Reich?

For all you companies out there, be socially responsibile to the degree that you can, be innovative, and make sure that when you do it its wrapped around a great product that has more to it than simply being responsible. Do that and we will all win.

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Cool Quote for 12.30.07

"There is only one boss. The customer. And she can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending her money somewhere else." - Sam Walton