Friday, February 24, 2012

Where are you headed?

Vision is the most critical element in executive leadership. It's also the most rare.

The stock market favors this quarter's performers.

Everybody starts a company with an "exit strategy" in mind.

When the average tenure of a CMO is 30 months, it's hard to look beyond the next promotion. Because maybe if you throw enough coupons into the market you can get a bump that will stretch that to 36 or god forbid, 48 months. Then you're a freakin' genius.

There's a serious lack of long-term thinking in business today. Investments must be made in your product, in your marketing and in your people.

If, however, you don't have a vision for what things will look like three to five years down the road, you don't have any business running a business.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sonic goes boom

This is what fear does to ad agencies.

You see back in October 2010, Sonic fired Barkley the agency that created a campaign featuring the two guys at the drive in. Apparently growing from $776 million to over $3 billion in sales over the 17 year relationship wasn't good enough.

After a review the business was awarded to what I considered to be one of the better agencies in the country, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Their work, however, which has been largely formulaic and forgettable, hasn't moved the needle in the right direction. Sales have declined .9% over the past year.

So Sonic Sonic made the decision to return to what had been working and bring back the two guys.

Here's the funny part. They didn't go back to the agency that created the characters and helped them grow for all those years. They had Goodby execute the campaign.

I'm sure the guys a Goodby fought like hell to come up with and sell their own original idea. But someone at the client had made up their mind to bring the two guys back. So with several other high profile client losses already this year and a very public layoff of a lot of good employees, Goodby did the "smart thing" and acquiesced.

If Goodby hadn't just lost HP and Sprint would they have fought harder? If they hadn't just laid off over 100 people, would they have done the "right thing" and resigned the account over "creative differences" as other agencies in similar situations have? Who knows?

If I were part of the team at Barkley that created this campaign, I'd be pissed. But the client paid for the work, so the client owns the work. Sonic can do whatever they want with their characters.

Unfortunately for Barkley, Sonic found out a year too late just how valuable those characters actually were.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Context is everything

There's nothing unusual about a Harvard graduate. There are tens of thousands of them around the country.

There's nothing unusual about an American male of Taiwanese descent.

There's nothing unusual about an undrafted free-agent becoming a successful NBA player.

Put these all together in the center of the media universe, New York City, and you have a sensation. (Sorry, you won't get any Lin____ puns from me.)

This is as clear a branding lesson as has ever occurred in pro sports. Jeremy Lin is getting so much attention for four reasons.
  1. He's different. See above.
  2. He's relevant. In pro sports that means winning. Believe me, no one would care how many points he's scored or assists he's dished out if the Knicks hadn't gone on a seven-game winning streak.
  3. He's authentic. This is not a manufactured, pre-packaged sports star. This is not "The Decision," Metta World Peace, or Blake Griffin dunking a basketball after leaping over the hood of his sponsor's car.
  4. He has a platform. With all due respect to Oklahoma City, Portland or Detroit, this wouldn't be as big a story were it happening in any of those cities. Awareness matters when building a brand.
So if you want to be the next big thing in branding, all you have to do is be like Jeremy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A robot car? No thank you

I love to drive.

I love to belt myself in behind the wheel, turn the key, hit the accelerator, engage the clutch and rocket off down the road to wherever my future may lead.

That's why I hate the idea of an autonomous car.

I'm not going to get into the whole "can they make it fool-proof?" argument.

Sure, current cars suffer from occasional electromechanical glitches that prevent airbags from deploying, induce acceleration without warning or cause wiring harnesses to overheat, resulting in failures of the lights and brakes. But that's still no reason to believe we won't be able to just sit back and read the paper, watch TV, check our stock quotes or make hot, sweaty jungle love to our sweeties while our robot cars safely guide us down the highway.

Even if we could be assured all the sensors and controls will work as directed 100% of the time, I still don't like the idea.

I learned a lot about myself and life behind the wheel of a car. I learned about responsibility, self control, physics, focus, and human behavior. If all our cars drive themselves, where will we learn those oh so important life lessons?

I understand the need to make driving safer. But if people are too stupid to realize they shouldn't be applying mascara or sending a text message while they're hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour, maybe they shouldn't be driving.

That doesn't mean this won't happen. If you take a look at the graphic, you'll see it's from a personal-injury law firm. My guess is this is a warning shot across the bow of the auto companies. Lawsuits for not having this technology in place will now be de rigueur every time some moron runs his car into a telephone pole because he was too busy trying to find a song on his iPod.