Friday, June 18, 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. 

An Idea For Big Ed
Stay away from product planning.

A couple of weeks ago, Ed Whitacre appointed himself the head of product planning for GM. A lot of the car guys I know think it's a bad move, seeing as Whitacre has less than a year of experience in the auto industry. Yesterday, Nielsen released a study that confirms it.

According to the study, which reviewed 30 of the country's leading CPG marketers, companies with less senior management involvement in the new product process generate 80% more revenue from new products than those where senior managers are heavily involved in the process.

In my experience, when the head of a company gets involved in new products it usually ends up badly. Most CEOs are millionaires live in their own little world, and have absolutely no idea how the people who buy their products actually live. They cavalierly ignore well-researched consumer insights, pushing the project in the direction of their personal preferences, and no one on the project team has the authority to challenge his ego.

GM has done a lot of things right since Big Ed took over. Nothing's more important than the product, however. And by putting himself in charge of product planning, he's putting our investment at great risk.

I was reminded of the last vehicle that was created when a top GM executive led product planning. The Pontiac Aztek was created by Ron Zarrella. How'd that work out for them?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just what we need. More TV.

Television is everywhere these days. The average US household has three televisions. There's a lot of programming available on your computer. And with the advent of high speed mobile networks, people are watching programming like the World Cup anywhere and everywhere service is available. In fact the average American watches over 4 hours of television per day.

So do we really need little TV screens on store shelves showing nothing but advertising?

Burt Manning, former JWT CEO seems to think so. He and his partners are testing a new network called 3GTV that puts TVs near products and shows ads promoting those products.

Historically, marketers have been willing to do almost anything to win the battle at store shelves. From slotting fees to guarantee shelf space, to coupons on pack, contests, floor graphics, sampling and more, billions of dollars are spent every year to move the needle at the moment of truth. So the reasoning here seems sound.

There's just one problem. Have they ever watched people shop for groceries? They say that their audience is "ad attentive" but how attentive can they be if like most shoppers they're hurrying to get the shopping done so they can pick up Bobby from lacrosse practice and get dinner on the table sometime before 8. Most people hustle through the store so they can get on with their busy lives. Stopping to watch TV ads will only slow the process down.

Winning the battle at retail is critical to brand success. This just doesn't seem like a tactic to me that will have much firepower.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One hot brand

This week Ad Age released it's "World's Hottest Brands" report. Near the top of the list is the Tata Nano. Clearly it deserves to be on this list.

Hailed as the new peoples' car, the Nano is the cheapest new vehicle available in the world today. It costs the equivalent of about $2,000 U.S. dollars and gets nearly 52 miles per gallon in the city.

There's just one problem. They have a tendency to catch fire.

I don't know about you, but I think the spontaneous combustion of their products may prevent Tata from reaching world-class brand status anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A nine-year-old annoyance is not a tradition

If you've been watching the World Cup you've heard them, vuvuzelas, the annoying plastic horns that fans blow constantly throughout the match.

After some debate last year, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter decided not to ban them from stadiums saying they are an integral part of South African football culture.

I'm all for honoring traditions, but this one dates back only to 2001 when commercially produced plastic vuvuzelas were made widely available to South African fans.

A vuvuzela creates a noise as loud as 124 db which is louder than a rock concert. According to OSHA people should not be exposed to noises of this volume for more than 15 minutes per day or they risk serious hearing damage.

But the real damage the vuvuzelas are doing is to football's brand.

Casual fans who tune in to see this worldwide spectacle are tuning out in droves. Complaints have come from viewers around the globe because of the incessant drone on the telecasts. Even hard core football fans are turning the volume down in order to maintain their sanity, while broadcasters are trying to filter out the noise using the latest audio technology.

I personally find the broadcasts damn near unwatchable and I am not a quiet fan, as anyone who's sat next to me at a Tigers' game can attest.

So the enduring memory from the 2010 FIFA World Cup will not be the great play on the field, the crowning of a new champion, the hospitality of the host nation. It will instead be the annoying buzzing of those damn $3 plastic horns.

I'm pretty sure that's not what FIFA had in mind.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A swing and a miss

The newest effort from Wieden+Kennedy completely misses the whole point of what makes a Jeep, a Jeep.

It's not about being American. It's not about being American made. That kind of jingoistic bombast sounds good in the boardroom but falls on deaf ears in the marketplace. As one of my first creative directors used to say, "If you wrap yourself in the flag, they'll bury you at sea."

Jeep is about adventure, exploration and possibilities. It's about having the ability to go where no one else can, even if you never plan on leaving the confines of your cushy suburban life.

That's what makes this spot the best Jeep Commercial ever produced.

W+K's work for Nike and ESPN is terrific. It's some of the best on TV. But based on their work for Subaru years ago and now this effort for Jeep, they just don't get cars.