Friday, October 1, 2010

Lincoln goes Mad (Men)

I was scanning through Ad Age this morning and laughed out loud when I read the following paragraph.

"John Slattery is parallel to the Lincoln brand," Connie Fontaine, Lincoln's luxury and non-traditional communications manager, told Ad Age. "A lot of people say they know John, have heard of John, but can't quite put their finger on him. It's 'Where do I know that guy from?' People say they've heard of Lincoln and know Lincoln, but then they're surprised when they get in a dealership and see one."

The Lincoln brand was founded in 1917 and acquired by Ford in the '20s. Over the years they've spent hundreds of millions of dollars to let people know who they are with apparently little success.

(Actually I think people know Lincoln and just don't love what they see. But that's another post.)

So now they expect to bring clarity to the brand by featuring a minor celebrity in an ad talking about fuel economy in copy laced with cliches?

Good luck with that.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The way out

Lets face it, the economy still stinks. And it's not going to get better unless we fix it.

At the onset of this economic downturn, most companies cut back on long-term investments in an effort to stay profitable and keep their stock price up. That's why the market looks good even though unemployment remains high.

What we need to get the economy going again isn't cheaper goods or more profitable companies. We need a new wave of innovation.

It's not just me saying that. In this recent survey from McKinsey, 84% of executives say that innovation is extremely important to the future of their companies. The good news is, most account for innovation at strategic planning time.

The problem comes in execution. Only 39% say they're good at bringing new products and services to market. They cite lack of a formal process and poor internal alignment as the major reasons for this. Exacerbating this is the fact that many companies reduced R&D investments over the past few years in order to improve their bottom lines, and most large companies have structures that make interdepartmental collaboration difficult if not impossible.

I've said it before, ideas are easy, execution is hard. Chances are most companies have the ideas they need to move forward with in house. Here are five ideas to help jump-start the innovation process.

  1. Give your team a mission with clearly articulated, aggressive, but realistic milestones. 
  2. No project ever succeeds without a clear champion who is authorized to make decisions. Make one person accountable for each program.
  3. Remove the barriers between departments. Take the people you need from engineering, programming, design, marketing, etc. and put them together not just on paper, but in the same room or area to create a new product development team. You solve problems faster when people communicate face-to-face rather than hiding behind email exchanges.
  4. Speed the process by having more frequent, but less onerous reviews. The stage/gate process is a good one, but in large organizations gate reviews tend to be major undertakings with days of unnecessary preparation and too many unnecessary people in the actual review.
  5. Don't wait until the end of the process to start the marketing. Build it right into the product. If you know a key point of differentiation is, for example, simplicity, design it in with obvious cues.  
Think about the greatest innovations in history – the wheel, the printing press, the automobile, the internet – they were created by small teams of committed individuals working closely together, not separate departments sending emails over the intranet of a multinational corporation.

It's time for corporations to act more like the Magnificent Seven and less like an entrenched bureaucracy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Warm follows function

The architects who designed the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas should have listened to Louis Sullivan a little more closely. It's "form ever follows function," not the other way around.

According to this article, the architects who designed this beautiful curved glass structure forgot about one little thing, the sun.

So now when the sun hits the building, the highly reflective glass focuses its rays and creates an intense beam of light that shines down on the hotel's outdoor recreation area. Apparently this "Death Ray" is hot enough to melt the guests' plastic cups and even singe their hair.


On the upside, they probably don't have to spend much money to heat the pool.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I guess TV isn't dead after all.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "Reports of television's death was an exaggeration."

Seriously, does anyone really think TV is going away? Best Buy doesn't. In fact they're so bullish on the medium they're bulking up this holiday season.

TV isn't dying, it's just different. Now with so many channels it's harder to buy the masses with one program. With a well thought out plan, however, you can buy masses across a number of programs. You also get people who are committed to their show, because they've made a conscious choice to watch that particular program versus the 500 options they have at that time.

Instead of buying eyeballs, you're buying passion. The audiences for shows like Mad Men, The Deadliest Catch and SNL may not be as large as they were for Bonanza, but they're much more committed. The key is to take advantage of that passion and build a complete marketing program that leverages your TV efforts over multiple platforms.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter aren't replacing television advertising. They're complementing it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The land of second chances

Some people like Donald Trump bet big and lose it all. Others like Michael Vick do stupid, criminal things and throw everything away. Both have bounced back from their failures to reach the pinnacle of success.

America is a place where talent, drive and performance outweigh just about everything else.

So rather than worry about roadblocks and mistakes, focus on the goal, work at getting better, and push past failure to success.

Others have overcome more.