Friday, May 28, 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. 

A day to remember
Memorial day isn't to remind us to save money on all the things we need for summer. But given that it's a long weekend and shopping is our national pastime, I guess I shouldn't be offended to see ads like this on a holiday that's dedicated to honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Actually there is one brand that has the right to step up its marketing activity on this weekend and were if I were marketing director, I'd make Memorial Day a significant element of my annual planning. That brand is Jeep.

Jeep's legend was born on the battlefields of World War II, carrying troops, generals, supplies and weapons through mud and snow, over rocks and hills, supporting our greatest generation in its finest hour.

And while Jeep has moved away from communicating that part of its heritage over the years, this weekend provides the opportunity for the brand to remind us just how authentic it really is.

Jeep should sponsor parades, community picnics and other activities surrounding Memorial Day. They could host a veterans tribute on the National Mall in DC. Sponsor documentaries on television honoring veterans of all eras. Raise money for veterans charities. And ultimately help us remember what this weekend is all about.

It's not a time for sales, rebates and "come on downs," but once a year, to reconnect us with an important event in world history, and the role that Jeep played. Then, having re-grounded itself, Jeep can move on to more traditional marketing activities the rest of the year.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Enjoy the weekend and take a moment thank those in the military who have made and are making the sacrifices that allow us to lead the lives we love.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Seeing RedX

I'm confused.

Who are the RedX engineers? Why do they live in a glass box in the middle of the factory floor? Why do they all wear red shirts? Why is their logo a trademark of Shainin LLC? And why is Chevrolet promoting them in this commercial?

I understand that quality is an important factor in the automotive decision-making process. After all, Toyota's been kicking GM's proverbial ass with it for the last 20 years. But dressing up a few people and giving them their own cool logo while showing a bunch of cars being tortured isn't going to get it done.

People are interested in the result, not the process.

They're convinced by proof not pablum.

"Our mission is to build the best cars and trucks in the world," please, that's just a waste of the announcer's breath.

I'm not saying that focusing on quality isn't a good thing. But this isn't the first time that GM has focused on quality. In fact, they've been focusing on it since the earliest days of their existence. They've told me so in numerous commercials throughout the years. What possible reason do I have to believe they're actually getting it right this time? Guys in red shirts? Really?

GM's quality has improved. I know it. My 2007 GMC Acadia was a damn fine vehicle. But you're not going to convince people of that by talking at them. They need to experience it for themselves.

As well produced as this commercial is, it's a good thing it's the last effort from Publicis, because it's not going to solve the problem.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When it comes to ideas, more is better

One of my favorite quotations is from Nobel Prize winning physicist, Linus Pauling.

"The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas"

This raises the question: How do you have more ideas?

There's a whole section in your bookstore dedicated to this topic. Authors like Roger VonOech, Art Vangundy, Brian Mattimore, Doug Hall and others all have written great books with tactics and exercises to help you have a lot of ideas.

I've led brainstorming sessions for companies of all different sizes using some of these techniques and others that I've created. Speaking from experience, they work. But there are four things that are critical to creating a successful session.

1. Make sure you have a well defined objective and everyone in the session is briefed on the situation. You can't expect people to come into a room cold and solve a problem that's been vexing you or others for months.

2. Invite a diverse group of people. Try to include someone from every area that will be a part of the development and success of the idea. Engineering, manufacturing, finance, marketing, even your customers and end users.

3. Develop the ideas in three dimensions even at this early stage. Have people give the product or service a name, draw a picture, describe the key features and benefits and how it's different from what's out there now.

4. Suspend judgment. It's not that there are no bad ideas. There are. I've seen them. Anyone think a barbecue chicken flavored milkshake is a good idea? I didn't think so. It's just that if you say to someone, "that's a stupid idea" they'll stop contributing and you lose a potential source of ideas. On the flip side, if you say "wow, that's a great idea" everyone will think the problem is solved and stop working. There's plenty of time for judging the ideas later.

Brainstorming isn't the only way to generate a lot of ideas, but it can be a good one, especially if you need a team to help execute it. It gets people across the company invested in the idea early and can create champions that will help get it over the inevitable hurdles that you will encounter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Are you ready for some futbol?

Nike executives have called this spot one of the best they've ever produced. It's a 3-minute epic that attempts to demonstrate how deeply the World Cup impacts both culture, commerce and national pride.

Released just last Friday, the spot already has over 7 million views on YouTube and soccer fans buzzing. It has everything: the biggest stars in the sport, hip pop culture references, and I can't even start to imagine what the budget for this is. It's clever, powerful, engaging, funny and has a wonderful cameo by Homer Simpson. All in all a damn fine spot. But is it the best Nike spot ever?

Not in my opinion.

While it's fun and entertaining, it has none of the emotional power of this spot featuring Lance Armstrong.

Now you can argue whether Armstrong is a doper or not, but you can't argue that his fight with cancer inspired millions. That's what makes it my favorite.

Nike's produced a lot of commercials over the years. Some of the best in our industry. It's time for you to chime in and let me know which one was your favorite.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weight weight don't tell me...

In case you missed it, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, an advocacy group made up of the country's largest food manufacturers, restaurants and retailers, announced that it will reduce the American diet by 1.5 trillion calories by 2015.

According to this press release, they're going to do it by cutting the calories of existing products where possible, offering low calorie alternatives and cutting portion sizes.

Just how much is 1.5 trillion calories? Based on this actual chart I downloaded from their website, it sure looks like a lot...

But lets have some fun here, shall we.

There are 300 million Americans who, estimated conservatively, eat 2,000 calories per day 365 days per year. That's 219 trillion calories. So if my math is correct (and it may not be, after all I majored in Latin), that's a reduction of about .7% in our collective diet.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for doing things to help us eat and live healthier, but our national obesity crisis is not going to go away without a significant reduction in calories and increase in physical activity.

So take this project for what it is, smart marketing that will have little effect if any on the actual problem.

Now, where's my jelly doughnut?

Oh and thanks to my buddy Chad from EatBigFish for the heads up on this one.