Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Idea Friday

Ideas are easy. Execution is hard. Every Friday I will share an idea that's been rolling around in my head that I have neither the time nor the where-with-all to execute. Remember, it's free, so take it for what it's worth. 

The other day a friend posted on Facebook that she and her coworkers were enjoying bacon flavored popcorn. I'm one of those people who believe that bacon makes everything taste better, but I'm skeptical of products that use artificial bacon flavor, so I decided to take it to anther level.

I fried up three pieces of Nueske's Applewood Smoked bacon (if you haven't tried Nueske's, do. It will change your life), poured a couple tablespoons of the grease into the bottom of my popcorn popper. Then after popping half a cup of kernels, I added the bacon bits to the popcorn and drizzled maple syrup over top. Can you say, "magic?"

This got me thinking. Couldn't you package that in a microwaveable container, sell it in the refrigerated section with the bacon bits and maple syrup co-packed in separate bags.

Would it be more expensive than the microwave popcorn you buy now? Of course. Would it be worth it? Oh, yeah.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Talent rules

Sparky Anderson, former manager for the world champion Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds said it best, "The players make the manager. It's never the other way around."

Mike Holmgren didn't forget how to coach when he got to Seattle. In Green Bay he had all-pro talent to execute his plan: Reggie White, Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman, Desmond Howard and Keith Jackson and more.

This isn't only true in sports.

When I was first promoted to creative director, David E. Davis, Jr., legendary automotive journalist and the CD who was responsible for Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet offered me this bit of advice, "Hire the best people, let them know what you expect, then get out of their way."

Vision alone doesn't get the job done. You need talent at all levels to execute flawlessly. And in today's world, talent has never been easier to find and put on your team, whether full time or on a project basis.

The trick is knowing who's right for what project. And that's the key to being a great manager.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Apple the new Microsoft?

Apple has always operated a little differently. From their decision early on not to license Apple OS to making candy colored computers when everyone else sold gray and tan boxes.

But lately they've been acting more and more like an imperial dictator or petulant child than a benevolent wizard.

The decision not to include Adobe's Flash software on the iPhone and iPad renders some of the web's most popular sites unusable and excludes a lot of advertising that pays for most web content. I know Apple is working on a competing platform, but until it's ready, include Flash. There are more than a few of us who want to watch 30 Rock on an iPad.

The latest – and as far as I'm concerned more egregious – example is the step they've taken to prosecute Gizmodo for publishing information about an iPhone prototype that was found on a bar stool. Read the account in the New York Times and you get the picture of a company that's operating on pure paranoia.

According to Gizmodo's side of the story – and that's the only one we have because Apple isn't talking – the person who found the phone tried to return it to Apple the next day. It was only after being turned away by customer service that he decided to make a few bucks on his find.

Yes, he broke the law. But that doesn't mean Apple has to go all Nixon over his and Gizmodo's asses. (Sorry for the bad Photoshop. I just couldn't resist).

Apple asked for the prototype and it was returned. A story ran showing all the cool new features coming on the phone. This would all be over now if Apple had just said "Thanks".

But now people are buzzing about Apple acting like a schoolyard bully.

That's not consistent with their brand. And it will hurt them if it continues.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ford moves forward

After yesterday's post about GM, I thought I'd contrast that with a company that's doing something right, Ford.

Today it was reported that Ford's first quarter profit was $2.1 billion. That's a stunning number considering that just four years ago Ford was fighting for survival. And this isn't some paper profit driven by accounting acrobatics. Ford's market share is up to 17.4% from 14.7% in just a year and their sales grew by $4 billion.

Not bad. But how did they manage to do this in the teeth of a bad economy while other companies continue to struggle?

Here are a couple of thoughts.

First of all, they bit the bullet on costs early. Ford made some hard choices years ago – closing plants, laying off workers, cutting models – while they could still afford to.

They didn't let ego get in the way of success. Even though his name is on every car that rolls off the assembly line, Bill Ford was smart enough to realize the need for an outside perspective. Enter Alan Mulally. 

Then they got the product right. The Fusion, Focus, Taurus and Mustang are all pretty damn good cars. Car for car, category for category they're as good or better than anything from Honda, Toyota and Nissan. The F-Series continues its dominance in the full-size truck segment thanks to significant upgrades.

They've differentiated themselves from other Detroit car companies through their marketing. While GM trots out Whitacre to tell us how committed they are, and Chrysler shows us more sheetmetal, Ford focuses on its customers, putting cars in their hands and letting them tell the story.

These spots are just one element of an entire marketing program where they're using new media and technologies to engage customers in conversation. Interestingly Ford didn't need to change ad agencies to modernize its marketing. They still work with J. Walter Thompson, as they have for at least 70 years.

Lets hope the success continues.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The end is never easy

It was a relationship that had existed for 91 years. Through wars, depressions, recessions and booms. The invention of TV, the internet, the interstate highway system, and GPS. And Friday, it came to an unceremonious end.

Chevrolet the American icon, fired Campbell-Ewald, the advertising agency that helped create it.

See The USA In Your Chevrolet; Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet; The Heartbeat of America; Like a Rock are just four of the memorable campaigns that were a result of a relationship built on trust, respect and security. I was lucky enough to be a participant in that relationship twice. Creating campaigns for Chevrolet cars, motor sports and trucks.

I've recounted the story previously in this blog of why I left Detroit, and frankly the issues that Chevrolet and GM suffered from over the past 30 years had nothing to do with the quality of their advertising.

Campbell-Ewald wasn't always perfect, but they always had the client's best interest at heart. Everybody in that building can hold their head high knowing they did everything possible to raise the perception of the brand and move the sheetmetal.

There are a lot of good people at C-E who've given their professional lives to Chevrolet. They did great work. And now those people will suffer because GM dug itself a hole so deep they have had to resort to moves like this to prove to Wall Street they're actually changing something.

What does this mean? In the grand scheme of things, not much. But it is the end of an era. The last great Agency/Client relationship is now over. And I dare say we won't see another like it. Ever.