Friday, August 31, 2012

Whither the web

Today one of my favorite marketers, Seth Godin, has written a long (for him) explanation of the difference between magazine ads and web ads and why ads on the web will win in the end. You can read the entire post here, but I think the following paragraph sums up his position pretty well.
"Until advertisers start to value the focused, memorable, impactful opportunity they have in buying the right ads in the right place for the right audience, web users are going to be stuck seeing irrelevant ads on sites that don't respect their time and attention as much as they should. We have salespeople and investors and agencies and buyers that come from a world of mass and scarcity, and the opportunities of focus and connection and abundance are taking a while to sink in."
While I don't disagree with the theory of his argument, in practice what he's hoping for is a world I'm not sure will ever exist.

To achieve the kind of pinpoint accuracy Seth envisions requires people to give up massive amounts of data – or marketers to practice data mining on a scale that no privacy advocate would ever allow.

This marketers' nirvana where consumer purchase history, online behavior, GPS location, attitudes and other discoverable data are all compiled, analyzed and employed in the service of connecting a single consumer with a tube of toothpaste, or some other product, just isn't going to happen.

At least not in any world I want to live in.

Marketing has been and will always be as much an art as a science, because a great number of consumers will be increasingly careful with the data they share and continue to be unpredictable in their actions.

Anyone who thinks they have a handle "the science" of online marketing need only look at the plummeting value of Facebook (its IPO price was set based on its speculative value as a marketing vehicle) to see how scientific it really is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You've come a long way, baby

I guess, it seemed like a good idea in that brainstorming meeting.

What if we made a pen specifically for women?

Women have smaller hands.

And the gals will love a pen that comes in pink and other pastel colors to match their outfits and make up!

Bic For Her? What year is this? Are there any women at Bic?

Whoever is in charge of marketing and innovation at Bic needs an intervention or at least to come out of his parent's basement and spend a little time with his sister's friends.

I'm not a huge focus group fan, but spending four hours with a few dozen women would have averted this disaster. I don't have too much of a problem with the actual product, but the inane, ham-handed positioning is classic internal team under-think.

The literal name and tagline, The Cristal reserved for women!, are lazy and uninspired.

They could have come up with a hundred name options that wouldn't have pigeon-holed the product and brought a deluge of derision to the brand.

Bic Tints, Bic Stylewriter, Bic Chic, Bic Vogue... Anything would have been better than "for Her!"

At least one good thing has come out of this product positioning debacle, the hilarious reviews on Amazon. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Avis takes a wrong turn

Today after 50 years, Avis stopped trying harder.

The perennial underdog in the rental car category is launching a new campaign under the auspices of their new CMO with the tagline, "It's your space." You can see how this tag buttons up their new message and positioning here...

Why make the shift from such an iconic and meaningful position to one that focuses on vehicles, something every rental car company has? Avis' new CMO, Jeannine Haas explains thusly in Ad Age:
"Consumer-centric brands must always evolve in order to keep pace with ever-changing customer needs and preferences. Avis is evolving as a premium brand to better meet those needs. It's Your Space is reflective of our ongoing mission to be a customer-led, service-driven company, and presents the brand in terms of the customer experience and the advantages inherent in renting from Avis."
Now I'm not one to shy away from change and move in a new direction when the market requires, but I have just one question...

How is "It's your space" – and its application in these generic commercials – more consumer-centric and service driven than "We try Harder?"

It seems to me (and my friend Rick Rusch) that Ms Haas, while I'm sure well intentioned, is leading Avis into no-man's land where they will wander for a while until they realize they'll have to try a lot harder to differentiate themselves from Hertz, National and the others.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Imitation is not innovation

Last Friday, a jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion as they successfully defended their patents against Samsung – and by proxy Google.

Critics are already coming out of the woodwork saying that this verdict will limit consumer choice, increase costs – as Samsung and other manufacturers with similar designs will have to pay royalties to Apple – and limit innovation.

My reaction: tough.

Apple did the hard work. They spent a lot of time and money developing the iPhone, iPad and the software to make them work so well. They created the interface and made it desirable. Samsung and others, with the support of Google, piggybacked on that success. Taking Apple's ideas, knocking them off and making them cheaper.

Well, that's not innovation, my friends. That's plagiarism, and now they're paying the price.

Innovation isn't about value engineering. It isn't about following the leader. It isn't about taking someone else's idea and putting your spin on it.

Innovation is about combining existing knowledge and technology with new ideas to create something the world hasn't seen before.

Yes, because of this decision we may have to pay a little more for our Android-powered smartphones. But don't dare argue that protecting patents stifles innovation. If anything it encourages innovation.

Only when we protect those who invest the time, money sweat and blood to create products that change the world will the copycats be forced to abandon their me-too strategies and invent something new themselves.

It's time for Google and Samsung to stop paying their lawyers, hire more engineers and start innovating for a change.