Friday, December 13, 2013

A marketing miracle

By now, we've all seen this video of the amazing stunt marketing event from the Canadian Airline, WestJet.

Actually 19 million people have viewed it directly on Youtube, more on social media channels and millions upon millions have read about it thanks to all the press its garnered in just the week since it was posted.

How did they achieve such success?

Let's start with the concept. It's big. No, not just big, huge. I can barely get the shopping done for my family in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Buying Christmas gifts for 250 people in just a few hours is a massive undertaking.

It was executed perfectly.

Starting with Santa on video gathering wishes, to the army of employees who were sent to do the shopping to the decorations around the baggage carousel, they nailed every detail. It was magical from start to finish.

This effort was clearly genuine, heartfelt and relevant, promoting the company's real differentiator, service.

The result is that for less than the cost of producing a national TV commercial, WestJet was able to create international fame. This is an incredible marketing achievement that is sure to be honored at Cannes and every other advertising festival next year.

The question is, how can they take the momentum from this event and use it to build their business in the coming year? Their brand now stands for 'miracles' and they have to deliver on that promise on a regular basis, maybe not with grand stunts like this, but little gestures that demonstrate how much they care about their passengers. Otherwise, this big event is just marketing and all the energy it created will be drained as quickly as the batteries in a child's toy on Christmas morning.

I'm assuming that a company smart enough to create and execute this event knows that. So I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is your brand fireproof?

On June 2, 2011, a full three weeks after it was crash tested in a controlled environment by the NHTSA, a Chevy Volt caught fire because the battery was improperly handled after the crash. You'd have thought from the resulting media firestorm that every Volt ever sold up to that time had caught fire and that GM management had perpetrated a coverup larger and more nefarious than Area 51 and Watergate combined.

Yesterday, the NHTSA announced it will investigate the Tesla S after a third car caught fire immediately after a crash on the open road in just the past two months. And yet, criticism of Tesla is slow to come.

What's the difference?

The brand.

People have been burned (pun intended) so often by GM's engineering missteps over the years that they almost expect any new technology that comes from GM to be flawed. Thus a story about one car that was involved in an artificial crash simulation and caught fire only because government safety investigators didn't follow GM's published protocols for draining and discharging the battery after a crash, suddenly became "fires." It got so bad that to calm owners' fears GM had to offer up loaner cars while an investigation took place.

Tesla and Elon Musk, on the other hand, don't have GM's baggage, so the fires are minor issues. Teething pains for a fledgling company, if you will. The media and public don't assume negligence or incompetence, and even give Musk credit for requesting an investigation into the fire (though the NHTSA disputes that claim).

If you have a strong brand, a good reputation, it can protect you from the occasional stumble. But if you stumble too often for too long then that becomes your brand and what people expect from you.

That's why Tesla's brand is acting as a fire extinguisher, while GM's brand only fuels the flames.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A campaign I hate (and love)

Personally, I hate the new Dodge Durango campaign featuring Will Ferrell. It feels gimmicky, forced and just doesn't speak to me.

But I'm a also big fan of this campaign.

What? How can I hate it and be a fan?

In a word, positioning. 

It's an old marketing term made famous by Jack Trout and Al Reis in the book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, and it's as relevant today as it was 32 years ago when the book was published in 1981.

This campaign is funny. It's disruptive. It's memorable. It's Will Ferrell at his finest. More importantly it actually positions the vehicle in the minds of potential buyers.

Dodge Durango is a mid-size SUV competing with Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota 4Runner and others of its ilk. A cursory review of the marketing for all these nameplates leads me to believe that none of these companies are doing a good job of creating a differentiated positioning for the products in this space. They're all go anywhere, do anything vehicles for you and your family. 

So I give Dodge credit for doing something different. I noticed. And I'm sure millions of others did also. The positioning take away is that the Durango is the bad boy of the category. The mid-size SUV that's powerful, rough around the edges and maybe a little bit more fun. 

I like that this campaign (and the Dodge brand in general) is not trying to be all things to all people. And it's the positioning that gives it that edge. They know what they're about, who they're for, who they're not for and how they're going to be different. Assuming this product delivers on that expectation and an SUV with those characteristics is relevant to enough people, this campaign should be a success. 

This positioning isn't for me. I prefer my rides a bit more sophisticated, but at least Dodge is not delivering ads that are bland – or worse yet invisible – which is the case with Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chevy and so many other car companies.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ordinary isn't extraordinary

Yesterday evening, after a crowded but uneventful flight from Nashville to Newark, I grabbed my bag, got on the bus that took me from terminal A to terminal C and then hoofed it a few hundred feet to a very crowded gate 92.

No problem and nothing out of the ordinary.

Our plane was on time so I hung around the gate and waited for the boarding call which came just as expected. Since I was in zone 5, the last to board, I sat and waited while they pre-boarded, got all the first-class passengers settled in and started general boarding.

Our 737 was packed and fortunately I had been able to change from a middle seat to an aisle, but by the time they called my group, we were informed all the overheads were full and we'd have to check our bags. A hassle for sure, but not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. When I finally got on the flight I dropped into my seat to settle in for what promised to be an on-time departure.

All in all it was just a normal day of air travel. Nothing bad happened. Nothing special happened. But due to the crowds, lines, checked bags, bad airport food, etc., it was exhausting.

Then a tiny monitor in the seatback in front of me flickered on and this video began to play.

What was this world they were depicting in this video? Where were these smiling, helpful people?

Now don't get me wrong, no one was unfriendly, a little curt at times perhaps. But nothing about the experience was exceptional. By showing me this video in the midst of an incredibly average and ordinary trip, United made that obvious.

Here's the issue. You can say you're exceptional. You can train your people like crazy. You can put all the incentives in place you want, but unless I experience it, it isn't happening. After being herded onto the plane with 200 other tired, cranky passengers I couldn't have been less receptive of this message.

My guess is that if the people who placed this video were a little more empathetic and understanding of what we'd just been through they wouldn't have shown it right at that moment.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The future is here

Samsung has hit its stride.

This spot for the new Galaxy Gear wrist computer hits just the right balance between intrigue and information, tone and truth. It works hard without trying too hard. Maybe that's why it was one of the few spots that aired over the weekend where people in the room I was in stopped talking about the game for 60 seconds and actually watched an ad.

One thing I like about this spot is that it seems Samsung have finally gotten over their Apple envy and are ready to promote their own products without bashing those of a worthy adversary. Maybe that's just because there is not equivalent Apple product or maybe, just maybe they're ready to sell their devices on their merit.

Either way, thanks to 72andSunny for concepting and producing a great spot and sparing me from another lousy car, truck or beer ad during the game. Now let's just hope the product actually lives up to the promise of those Hollywood gadgets that inspired it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Everyone has a brand

I spend a lot of my time talking about branding and its impact on a business. Invariably, someone will say, "My business is too small. I don't have a brand." To which I reply:

If you're in business, you're branding.

When you pick a name for your company, you're branding.

When you hire your first employee, you're branding.

When you answer the phone, you're branding.

When you design your product, you're branding.

When you choose your location, you're branding.

When you pick your office furniture, you're branding.

Branding isn't just your marketing communications. It's everything you do, because everything you do communicates something about your brand.

That's why it's important to make sure you understand your mission, vision, promise and values so you can deliver on them every time in every interaction. A strong brand directs more than marketing. It directs your business.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's in a brand name?

This is a caterpillar.

So is this.

This is an apple.

So is this.

Brand names become brand names when they are given context in the form of products, features, benefits and values. Until then, they are just words.

That's why a lot of product names never become brands. Companies don't take the time or make the investments to transform them from words into brands.

Successful companies create powerful brands by focusing on a name and working hard to promote that. Apple is the brand that drives sales of it's products. iPhone, iPad, iMac are just product descriptors, not brands.

Even P&G has simplified its "house of brands" strategy and focused on a smaller, more powerful portfolio of product line brands like Tide, Crest and Fabreze. The corporate brand does very little to sell those products.

Understanding which name drives your brand is critical to understanding where to invest and when you might need a new brand to launch a new product or service.

Because when it comes to brands, the name's the thing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Moving forward

As you may have noticed, I haven't been blogging for nearly two weeks.

This break was unplanned, and not the result of anything other than the fact that I really needed a break.

I will be back next week, but not every day.

Going forward I will blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the occasional extra post thrown in when something just can't wait. I will continue to share my thoughts on all the smart and stupid things that companies do around marketing, branding and new products.

Thanks for your patience and your patronage.

See you next week.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Who are you for?

Back in 1969 John Lennon and Paul McCartney penned the lyric, "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."

I doubt they were thinking about branding when they they sang it on Abbey Road, but great companies understand the reciprocal nature of their relationships with their customers.

If you want to create advocates for your brands, you have to advocate for them first. So the question you must ask is, "Who are you for?"

Now let me be clear, that is not "Who would you like to sell to?"

That's "Who are you supporting, rooting for, fighting for?"

P & G doesn't just make diapers, wipes, toothpaste, soap, beauty products and detergents. They are for moms.

Harley Davidson doesn't just make motorcycles. They are there for riders.

Organic Valley doesn't just sell food. They are for farmers.

Want to create passionate, loyal fans who are willing to pay more and advocate for your brand?

Then ask yourself one question, "Who are you for?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

How ESPN anchors its network

ESPN is clearly holding its own in the new battle over 24-hour sports television. They have the NFL, MLB, NBA and other important live sports properties. But they have something else. An incredibly strong brand in SportsCenter, their nightly wrap up show that has been a staple of the network almost since its inception.

Why is SportsCenter so strong?

Not because they show scores and highlights, you can get most of those on your local news sports segment. Not because of all the high-tech wizardry they use on their set. Not even because it's on one of ESPN's networks almost every hour of the day.

What makes SportsCenter so strong is its cast of anchors and the personalities each member has created for him or herself. If you watch the show regularly you know who likes which sports, their catchphrases and the idiosyncrasies that make their presentation of sports news interesting.

But one way the network helps bring those personalities to life and demonstrate how inside sports ESPN is, is the This is SportCenter campaign, of which this is just the latest excellent execution.

If Fox, NBC or CBS ever get into the conversation of 24-hour sports broadcasting, it will be because they don't just deliver sports news and but because of the strong brands of the people who deliver that news.

That's the only way to truly differentiate their networks in the long run.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A moment of silence

Twelve years is a long time. But when you're dealing with an event where thousands lost their lives and was the impetus for a war that cost thousands more, it might as well be twelve seconds.

Like the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Battle of Gettysburg, the Twin Towers falling is a permanent marker in the history of our nation. The last thing anyone needs is an advertiser telling us to "never forget."

As if we ever could.

364 days a year the mantra "Do good and take credit" make sense in PR. Help out veterans, donate to first responders groups, give to the food bank, build affordable housing, then promote your largesse to build goodwill.

On 9/11 do something because it's the right thing to do and if people find out, they'll give you credit. Self serving promotion on this day that has so many emotions attached to it by everyone in the nation has very little upside and a whole lot of downside as AT&T and Tumbledown Trails found out.

Frankly, even though this "tribute" is beautifully shot, edited and scored, it's still an ad for beer no matter how loudly the folks at Budweiser say it's not.

Next year please, if you must commemorate 9/11, do so like most Americans, in a moment of self-reflective silence.

Thinly veiled attempts to connect with consumers through their grief is just a little more than I can take.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I wasn't going to comment on the new Yahoo! logo until I read this headline in Ad Age.

Wow, she worked a whole weekend on it!

No wonder it looks like it came right out of the 1980s.

Ms. Mayer, you are the CEO of a company that some say is worth $25 billion. Do you really think the best use of your time is playing with Illustrator? Every designer in America had to cringe when they read this quote:
"On a personal level, I love brands, logos, color, design, and, most of all, Adobe Illustrator. I think it's one of the most incredible software packages ever made. I'm not a pro, but I know enough to be dangerous :) So, one weekend this summer, I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the trenches with our logo design team."
Well, at least she was right about one thing. Based on the result of this project, she is dangerous.

What is it with CEOs and their belief that there is no subject they are not expert in? Are they given a subliminal messaging tape in business school to play while they sleep that says, "You know everything about everything" on an infinite loop?

Here's a tip for CEOs everywhere.

Unless you went to RISD, CCS, Pratt or Art Center, leave the design work to the professionals.

I'm not saying you can't have an opinion, but believe it or not great designers aren't a dime a dozen. Designing a logo isn't as easy as powering up a Mac and opening Illustrator, even though the best designers often make it look that way.

Design matters as much as anything in business. Would you "roll up your sleeves" with your lawyers and help them file your patent applications? Would you dive into the trenches with your software engineers and help them write code?

If the answer is yes, you're going to have a hell of a time getting good people to work for you.

Do your job and let other people do theirs. You'll be surprised at how much better that works for everyone.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ignore your brand at your own peril

Hyundai has hit a speed bump on its way to what it had hoped would be a sales leadership position in the United States auto market.

While Hyudai's sales were up 8.2% over the previous year last month, that lags the overall growth in the U.S. market, which expanded by more than 17%.

What's behind this slow down?

In my mind, a misguided strategy. Funny thing is, it's the same strategy that has hampered VWs growth for decades.

Like VW, Hyundai came into the U.S. market as a classic disruptor, with low-cost materials, basic design and just enough features to be attractive. But their cars were inexpensive, so they sold to those who wanted a new car and could afford nothing else. It was a strategy that helped them grab sales from Toyota, Chevrolet, Honda, Ford and other mainstream brands.

But then they altered their focus slightly, still offering a low price, but attempting to improve the perceived quality of their products by upgrading the materials and their styling. They also helped mitigate the perception of poor quality by offering a ten year 100,000 mile warranty. In addition when the economy went soft, they created their Assurance Program which allowed new buyers to return their cars with no hit to their credit if they lost their job. As they did this sales accelerated and the Elantra and Sonata both climbed the sales charts.

Not satisfied, however, to enjoy growing success at the lower end of the market where margins are thin, Hyundai decided they had the brand power to take on more entrenched and esteemed competition at the high end of the market in the states.

So just a two years after running commercials that were designed to teach people how to pronounce their brand name...

Hyundai introduced the $60,000 Equus in the U.S. adding Lexus, Audi, BMW and Mercedes to their competitive set.

VW made the same mistake in the early 2000s when they tried to move upscale by launching the Phaeton.

While the cars themselves might be fine, with luxurious appointments, acceptable power and everything else the leaders in this category offer, neither the VW nor Hyundai brand are able to support a credible competitor to Audi, Mercedes, Lexus and BMW.

If they really wanted to launch and upscale product, they only had to look at Toyota for a roadmap. Lexus was launched in the late 1980s because Toyota had taken a large chunk of the mainstream market and wanted to migrate into the luxury segment. They knew, however, Toyota wouldn't be relevant at the top end of the world's most important automotive market, so Lexus was born.

They didn't just build a new car, however. They built a whole new brand. With separate dealerships. Separate experiences. Separate promises. That's why they succeeded where VW and Hyundai seem to be falling short.

Hyundai can't compete at both ends of the market with one brand. Luxury buyers don't want the same badge on their car as one advertised by local dealers to the credit challenged. Nor do they want to be seen in the same dealership as consumers who aren't sure if they can even afford a new car.

The powers that be in Seoul need to let Hyundai be Hyundai. And, if they really must compete at the high end of the market, spend the money to create a new brand.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A teaching moment

I can only imagine how unhappy executives at Mercedes Benz were when they first saw this spec ad made by German film school students.

While this ad is clearly disruptive, memorable and demonstrates a new product feature, it is yet another reason why creative directors are critically important in today's youth obsessed advertising culture.

A good creative director has enough experience to understand there's a line between funny and offensive. A good creative director might also have a sense of history and know that there's a direct link between the Mercedes Benz, Hitler and the Third Reich – an association I'm sure the brand is loathe to remind people of. One can only hope that if the team worked in an actual agency a good CD would have reminded them of that fact and sent them back to the drawing board as their teachers should have.

I'm not even sure the students' basic premise makes any sense. Tobias Hunter, Jan Mettler, Lydia Lohse and Gun Aydemir, the creators of this ad were quoted as saying "We wanted to pose the question of what might happen if technology had a soul."

The ability to peer into the future and decide who lives and dies hardly qualifies as soul.
What this spot has me wondering is if those students have a soul between them. Otherwise how could they use the fact that millions of people suffered and died at the hands of Hitler and his disciples to sell a car brand that helped him even peripherally in this effort?

Hopefully they've learned through this little media brouhaha what they weren't taught in ad school.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Charter:

We've been together for more than seven years now and for the most part I have been very happy. My cable, internet and phone all work as expected a majority of the time and even when I've had problems your customer service people have been surprisingly friendly and helpful.

Yet every week or so I get a little note from you in my email that's clearly intended for someone else.

How dare you.

Aside from the really lousy copywriting – "what you're majorly into" is just wrong on so many levels – this email only reminds me how little you actually care about our "relationship."

For seven years I've spent countless hours and thousands of dollars to keep us together. I can't quit you. I must have your precious high-speed internet. Sure I could stop there but then I wouldn't be able to waste all that time watching bad reality shows, irrelevant sporting events and rigged cooking competitions in stunning high definition that come to me courtesy of your coaxial cable.

But, according to this email you're just not that into me anymore. Your love light has turned to new customers who must be better than me since you're willing to let them have you for nearly half of what I'm paying.

Have you ever thought just once about how that makes me feel? Sure, everybody loves the new kid in town, but what about those of us who have stood by your side through the service outages, billing errors and four hour installation windows?

What do I have to do to get your attention? How can we rekindle our relationship? Here are a couple of thoughts.

First, just show a little compassion and stop making your ogling of other customers so obvious. Could you please make sure I don't see the messages you send intended for others who catch your eye?

Second, you know what I watch. You know what I like. How hard would it be to give me a little something-something every once in a while? I wouldn't mind a free on-demand movie or access to the occasional Red Wings game. Use that big data of yours and surprise me.

I'm not asking for much. Just the attention I deserve.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's not me, it's you

What Nike understands so well that few other brands understand is that it's not about them.

It's about you.

Their brand and this campaign is relevant after 25 years because it's not about their patented design, their special materials or even the sports stars that endorse their products. It's about that little voice inside of all of us that says, "Get up. Get going. Go further. Go faster." It's about our desire to reach that next level, whatever that level is for us as individuals, while acknowledging the possibility that our potential is beyond what we can even imagine today.

They found that truth about the connection between their products and their users and it became the core of their brand.

What's the truth about your customers? What do they want not from you, but from life? What makes them tick? How does your product help them achieve that? Answer those questions and you'll be on your way to creating a lasting brand.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A writer's writer

My connection to Elmore Leonard, though tenuous, goes way back to the late '60s.

He lived near us in Birmingham, Michigan when I was seven or eight.

Later when I was working at Campbell-Ewald advertising, I learned he had been a copywriter there as well. Rumor has it, he penned his first novel behind a closed office door while he was supposed to be writing copy for Chevrolet.

I only really knew him through his writing.

His work is clean, compact, and seemingly effortless. For those reasons, some don't consider him to be a great writer. I consider him to be great precisely for those reasons.

He knew how to grab attention, create characters, write dialogue and craft stories that sucked you in, all without drawing attention to himself.

He told the story, never getting in the way of it.

As someone who writes for a living – albeit at a very different level – I can only admire his work and hope to learn from its craftsmanship.

Over the past two days, I have seen many celebrations of Leonard's work, but this does it best for me. It's a compilation of all the opening lines he's ever written in published novels and short stories.

What can we learn from these? The importance and power of a strong opening.

They're so good, I need to reread those I've read already and get my hands the ones I haven't.

It's a good thing I have a lot of travel time coming up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Getting it right matters

It's hard to believe someone could develop a product so awful that it could kill an entire category, but GM managed to do just that back in the '70s.

Compared to gasoline engines, diesels are more efficient, more reliable, more durable, can run more easily on synthetic and biofuels, and now are very clean burning.

With all those benefits why aren't there more diesels in American cars? I offer exhibit A: The 1978 Olds Cutlass Diesel.

The 5.7 liter V8 diesel that GM cobbled together for that car in the midst of the energy crisis was so bad it killed the whole concept of diesels for generations of American car buyers.

So while more than 50% of new cars in Europe are sold with diesel engines, that number is about 4% in the U.S. and would be closer to zero were it not for the efforts of VW and BMW who have both spent millions of dollars in advertising to trumpet diesel's benefits.

This is just a reminder that when developing new products, if you do something wrong – really, really wrong – you can, in fact, ruin it for the rest of us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Love it or hate it, it's brilliant

God bless the British for their sense of humor and bad condiments. They've come together to create this wonderful spot for a jar of their beloved/despised Marmite.

This spot is so wonderful on so many levels.

It's a smart strategy for a brand that is seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

It actually acknowledges that not everyone loves the product – the young boy's reaction upon taking a bite of his toast and Marmite is priceless.

It's a great send up of the rescue shows that are proliferating across cable today.

And of course, it has some people up in arms, so it's getting even more play in the media.

Yes surprise, surprise, the perpetually offended are complaining that this spot makes fun of animal cruelty and demeans animal rights workers and volunteers.


I have no doubt the spot will stay on the air. After all Unilever, Marmite's corporate overlord, is no stranger to controversy as the parent to the Axe brand.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Honda steps back in time

This is an interesting project.

Drive-ins provide a wonderful, classic movie experience and have for generations. They're certainly a part of my past. I remember sneaking a friend or two and a couple of six packs in the trunk of my old Fiat 124 – clearly I had diminutive friends – into Petoskey's Northland Drive-In Theater when I was 16.

But that's just it. Even though over 300 of them still exist today, drive-ins are a part of our past. Their heyday was over 40 years ago. They transport us to another time.

Are they worth saving? Yes.

Is this a cause I'll donate money to? Sure.

But is it a good idea for Honda to tie its brand to such an iconic symbol of a time gone by? Maybe.

The danger is that while this project may help them connect at a deeper emotional level with American automotive culture, it could also give people the impression that they're stuck in the past.

Maybe that's why, as much as I like the effort, I'm glad Chevrolet wasn't the sponsor.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tweet this

In its new Twitter Causation Study, Nielsen Research has found that twitter activity had a statistically significant impact on the ratings of programs 29% of the time. And, according to the study there's a reciprocal relationship:
“Using time series analysis, we saw a statistically significant causal influence indicating that a spike in TV ratings can increase the volume of Tweets, and, conversely, a spike in Tweets can increase tune-in,” said Paul Donato, Chief Research Officer, Nielsen.
So when more people watch a show they tweet more about it and when more people tweet about a show more people watch it.

Thus, when someone tweets, "Dude, are you watching #Sharknado?!!" a few more people tune in and when more people tune in, more people tweet about the awesome awfulness that is Sharknado.

This is good news for TV networks and for marketers because it's hard evidence that Twitter works as a word of mouth platform to a degree.

The challenge is nobody talks or tweets about ordinary things. You have to be remarkable to get the conversation started. In Sharknado's case, the show was remarkably bad, in a fascinating "I can't turn away even if I wanted to" kind of way.

So to set the twitterverse afire you need a killer product, a surprising and relevant marketing event, or a great story worth sharing.

Because while people are tweeting about a tornado that transports sharks, the unreal acts of real housewives, and backstabbing top chef/designer/model competitions, nobody's tweeting about a documentary of vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Time waits for no brand

Just because your brand is relevant today, doesn't guarantee it will matter to people tomorrow.

Technologies change. Tastes change. Your competitors change. If you don't adapt your brand to keep up with the changes, it will die.

Indy racing thrived as a series where manufacturers proved the durability of their products by pushing them hard for 500 miles. But now that even the cheapest cars are expected to run for 100,000 miles with barely a tune up, the series has little relevance to everyday drivers and the stands are empty.

Flip phones were all the rage when portability and style were the relevant benefits in mobile technology. But with the introduction of mobile email, web browsing, video and other location based services, smart phones have taken over, and today a flip phone is about as relevant as a land line.

Light lagers from a handful of brewers dominated the market until beer drinkers discovered that beer actually could have flavor and their long steady decline began.

People may love you today, but don't get too comfortable. Someone or something will come along soon and that easy chair you're sitting in will become a hot seat.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's all branding

It amazes me that a leading publication in the advertising industry still doesn't get it.

It's all too clear based on this headline on

I'm going to say this very slowly to make sure they understand:

Branding is not a logo;
it's everything a company does.
Especially the product.

The fact that McDonald's can create ads showing just the product with very few other visual cues only demonstrates how strong their brand is. They've managed to differentiate it right down to the two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles on a sesame seed bun...

If you want to see how strong your brand really is, this is a great exercise. Go ahead, create an ad without a logo. If you can't recognize it as yours, neither will your consumer. That's a signal you should get to work on making your product, your packaging and everything else unique so that it expresses your brand. That'll make your "branding" work a hell of a lot harder.

Here are images from the "unbranded" campaign in question.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The future of advertising is more advertising

Well, there it is.

Yesterday Facebook announced it would start selling 15-second video ads for as much as $2.5 million per day.

What's surprising about this is not that video ads will now be part of Facebook's everyday experience, but that the only way you'll be able to target your ads is by age and gender.

So basically, they're admitting to the lie they and every other social media platform has been telling advertisers since the invention of the internet and will advertise to their users just like television does, en masse. No geographic targeting. No affinity targeting. No slicing and dicing their reams of data so I can speak to the exact person I want to at the exact moment that matters most.

The one-to-one future is dead, at least for now.

Facebook is a mass-medium and proves that when it comes to marketing. They've proven customization doesn't scale. The platform's only real value is in the aggregate of its users.

Maybe this will change. Maybe when we're all used to seeing spots roll after every 20 posts on our timeline they'll start selling space to local advertisers and microtargeters. If they're selling a few hundred companies a day at a million dollars or more, 365 days a year, however, why would they?

The folks at the networks are breathing a little easier tonight.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In advertising bigger is only one thing, bigger.

Over the weekend Publicis and Omnicom announced their intention to merge. Of course the public statements were all about improving client service, the creative product and overall effectiveness of their work. There is, however, really only one thing this merger is about:


Not to be too cynical, but the benefits to the clients in this are few and far between. Maybe somewhere there's a big data angle here to help the new company better compete with Google, but even the clients don't expect much to change. Anheuser-Bush InvBev VP of Marketing, Paul Chibe was quoted in Ad Age as saying, "It doesn't change anything."

So this larger holding company will gain efficiencies in back room operations, be able to consolidate some real estate, and probably jettison a few thousand newly redundant staff members making it less costly to produce the same amount of work. All reasonable business moves.

I can guarantee you, however, the monetary gains from increased efficiency won't result in lower rates charged to clients.

I'd love to be Maurice Levy's real estate agent today...

Monday, July 29, 2013

A brand is not a veneer

I'm not sure if this story is about the power of a brand or the depth of some people's stupidity.

Since I learned about it on the Colbert Report, I'm guessing it's the latter.

Either way, it's a good story and yet another reason why branding gets a bad rap... (sorry).

This is another example of what I call veneer branding, taking an ordinary product and applying a brand to the surface in an attempt to make it more valuable. In this case it works – shockingly well – but it's the rare example. Kanye's following is either passionate enough or so utterly blind that they're willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for anything that has his name on it. Good for him.

But every time he adds more benjamins to his bank account by charging $120 for a product that's not substantially different from the one that's available at Target or Walmart for $5, he's making a withdrawal from his his brand bank.

All he has to do is look at Plymouth, TWA, Circuit City and Hydrox and the thousands of other brands that slapped their names on undifferentiated products to turn a profit.

What Kanye's doing isn't really branding. It's profiteering.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It's the product, stupid

Two years ago, Chrysler captured the attention of hundreds of millions of people with this ad on the Super Bowl.

After spending over 14 hours in a Chrysler 200 on a drive from Madison to Chicago to Minneapolis and back to Madison. I can now state unequivocally that almost every dollar they spent on that ad and media placement was a complete waste of money.

This fantastic commercial drove millions of people to showrooms to get behind the wheel of a car that is underpowered and noisy, with uncomfortable seats, lousy handling characteristics and a derivative, uninspired design. Consequently, even with this phenomenal launch spot, the 200's sales rank a distant 6th in its category behind the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, Sonata and Malibu.

Worse yet, I doubt anyone who actually bought one of these dogs will ever buy another Chrysler again no matter how good their next Super Bowl ad is.

Friday, July 19, 2013

NeverWet may soon be nevermore

When I saw this spot for Rust-Oleum's new NeverWet spray, I thought. Cool. Now I never have to worry about bolognese sauce ruining my white polo ever again.

But then I did a little research.

Apparently according to this review on Gizmodo, NeverWet's label explicitly states "Contents contain a chemical known to cause cancer and birth defects." Hmm. That's something I don't want anywhere near my skin or mouth.

Strike one. says the spray leaves a "frosted white coating" on whatever it's applied to. So unless your putting it on a white surface, NeverWet will be visible. Apparently it rubs off pretty easily as well.

Strike two.

This demo video that's been viewed over four million times on YouTube shows it being applied to several items (electronics, clothing) their own website clearly states NeverWet should not be used on. And since it causes cancer, I'm not sure I'd want it anywhere near my beer.

Strike three.

So this amazing product is poisonous, can ruin electronics, and discolors whatever it's applied to. Those are probably three things they need to work on in version 2.0. But based on the way they've marketed this version there probably won't be a version 2.0 because people will be so disappointed after trying it, they'll never buy anything from Rust-Oleum again.

Just a little tip when you're launching a new product. Be honest about it. Nothing kills a bad product faster than great advertising. If you're product doesn't perform as promised, the long term effects on your brand will be cancerous.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why should I care?

You might have a product. You might have a name, a logo, some ads, promotions, a PR campaign and social media strategy.

None of that guarantees you have a brand.

Brands exist solely in the minds of people who care about the products or services they represent. 

If people aren't thinking about your brand – if people don't care about your brand – you don't have a brand.

So when you set out to build your brand, don't just give people a reason to believe. 

Give them a reason to care.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Good enough

"Good enough" is your friend at the idea stage and your enemy at the execution phase.

Any questions?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Living in the shadow of the past

I love the technique in this Honda video. I like that Honda is reminding us of all the great things they've done over the years. It's a great statement about the company's willingness to be innovative, daring, and human.

What I don't like is that their current automotive line up doesn't live up to this promise. While all their vehicles are solid, have the features you want and are made with excellent quality, they are anything but innovative, daring or human.

Let's hope a few of the 3.5 million people who have seen this video are the designers, engineers and program managers who are developing the next generation Civic and Accord. I'd love for their future be as interesting as their past.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stereotypical marketing

In another of those coincidences where I write about something one day and a brand proves my point the next, we have this quotation in an AdAge article from Harley-Davidson's Mark-Hans Richer about their new campaign #stereotypicalharley:
"There really is no stereotypical customer. That's the whole point of it."

I have criticized Harley-Davidson marketing for parting ways with Carmichael Lynch, the ad agency that saved their bacon in the '80s, and their decision to crowd-source creative ideas for their ads. I still don't believe those decisions will serve the brand well in the long run.

This campaign, however, gets one thing right. It shows how one brand can serve many different demographics by finding something common in all of them. In the article, Mr. Richer says it's about "living the life you choose." That's a politically-correct way of explaining what really binds these people together.

I'd say its about expressing their inner outlaw.

Yes, these people may be teachers, soccer moms, artists, soldiers, etc., but when they get on their Harleys they get to be something else, something the world doesn't ordinarily see. It's obvious from the images in the spot. The riders are not smiling, happy innocents.

These normal, workaday people get on their bikes and suddenly they're a little bit badass.

That's the common bond for the Harley brand. It feeds that archetypal need that exists at some level within all of us to rebel from conformity.

What deep-seated desire can your brand feed? Focus on that and you'll find a way to attract more – and more diverse – people than you ever thought possible to your products.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Attitude is everything

This isn't a new idea, but it's something I still end up talking about more than I should in meetings.

Demographics are not a reliable way to segment your customers and potential customers.

Attitudes are.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Let's say you're selling business menswear, suits, shirts, sport coats, dress slacks. A man walks into your store. He is in his 50s, married lives in the New York City Metro area, and earns more than a million dollars a year.

That could be this guy...

Anthony Bourdain
Celebrity Chef
College dropout

It could also be this guy...

Hugh E. "Skip" McGee III
Chief Executive
BS in Engineering Princeton, JD University of Texas Law School

You're not going to sell them the same suit, the same tie, the same shirt, or shoes. Nor should you sell them in the same way. If you try to, you're going to lose one, the other or both.

It is possible to adapt your messaging and tactics to appeal to distinctly different attitudinal segments. All you have to do is figure out what about your brand is relevant to both and then treat them like individuals.

It's not easy, but it's what the best marketers find a way to do.

Monday, July 8, 2013

You can't build value on features alone

You may have all the features people want. You may have excellent distribution. You may have a healthy advertising budget. You may have a nice share of the market.

But if you don't have a brand, you have nothing.

A product without a brand is a commodity.

Samsung is quickly finding this out.

Despite a relentless drive for innovation, increasing their ad budget by 58%, launching high profile promotions and partnerships with every major carrier, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will miss sales projections by 20 million units. One investor said the reason was "Galaxy Fatigue."

I think it's more like Galaxy Apathy.


Because neither Samsung nor Galaxy stand for anything other than a collection of features.

What is the benefit of owning a Galaxy over an iPhone, HTC, LG or Motorola?

A bigger screen? A higher definition camera? More memory? Hands-free answering? All features that are easily copied.

Brands must offer value beyond the product otherwise the minute a competitor offers better features or the same features for less money, you're toast.

Nike continues to dominate the market not just because it makes products with features that people want, but because it makes those who own its products feel like athletes every time they lace them on.

Toyota was able to survive a slew of recalls and its unintended acceleration scare because they built a reputation for reliability that allowed them to ride out those dark days.

Great brands own a relevant word, concept or phrase that makes them distinctive to such a degree that when that brand's name in mentioned that word or phrase comes immediately to mind.

What does Samsung stand for? Anyone... Anyone...

That's what I thought.

That's the reason Samsung will continue to suffer wild swings in demand as other companies match features, prices and other functional factors in a highly competitive market.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Comedy isn't pretty

Let's start out by admitting the obvious, convenience store coffee is usually horrible. 

Made from low quality, poorly roasted beans then brewed by people who are too busy watching for teenage shoplifters to ensure any sense of freshness; expecting great quality coffee drinks from gas station barista is like hoping to pick up a real Rolex from a street vendor in Soho.

So I give Cumberland Farms credit for not creating a campaign about how fabulous their iced coffee is. 

On the other hand, I'm still not sure this effort works.

What's not to like? It has The 'Hoff singing a super-cheesy pop song in front of awesome '80s graphics and a couple of fawning babes on the beach. It's all there.

But something's missing. This spot gives credence to the old adage, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."

It takes a deft touch to create satire and someone totally committed to the genre, the idea and the details. That's not the case here. It's as if the producers of this spot felt that getting Hasselhoff to sing was enough. 

It's not.

Let's start with the fact that there is no idea behind the spot. There's no story to the video. It's just a random series of images that are intended to be ironic. But like a bad cup of coffee, there's no reason to come back for more.

The spot is also missing the layers that would make it really work. 

The music is poorly composed and badly arranged. There's nothing interesting about it and on top of that, while the guitars are right, it's missing the trademark synth and other sounds of the era. 

Even though there's ample opportunity for real humor in the lyrics, there isn't a single line that makes you laugh out loud. 

The images could work so much harder to make the drink the star. Hasselhoff is singing about his love for Farmhouse Blends, that's the story video should be telling. Instead it's all about him, which after watching it a few times makes the drink even less appealing.

I give these guys an A for trying something different, but an E on execution. On that level, it certainly leaves me thirsty for more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It isn't over until we say it's over


Here we go again. Another article by a smart, successful articulate marketing professional on the cataclysmic shift that's happening in the advertising industry today.

The author argues that traditional advertising is no longer relevant because we all have smartphones and other wiz-bang technology, we can tell stories about people, and we are capable of inventing incredible new products that disrupt entire categories.

He, of course is right. Except he's not.

True, there are products that are so remarkable they don't need advertising.

True, great businesses are being built that change the way we think about the very business they're in.

And true, brands that demonstrate their benefit to their customers and relevance to their lives are more interesting and successful than those that talk only about themselves.

But here's the thing that Mr. Inamoto fails to mention:

It has always been thus.

From the moment the first images were painted onto cave walls promoting the exploits of great Paleolithic hunters, advertising has been evolving.

The printing press, radio, television, the automobile, the internet, smartphones have all changed advertising as we know it. And every new technology that's introduced will continue to change it.

Let's face it, if people are attending, watching, reading, interacting or otherwise involved with some activity, companies will find a way to insert themselves into the action to promote their products and services. That's what advertising is.

It's not just a :30 second TV spot selling trucks.

It's not just a four-color magazine ad selling beer.

It's not just a banner ad selling men's suits.

It's not just a guy jumping out of a balloon hundreds of miles above the earth selling energy drinks.

Advertising has always been adapting to meet the culture of the day's consumer and to take advantage of the technology of the day's media.

Yes, advertising as we've known it for the past 20 or so years is changing – just as it has been doing every day since the dawn of mankind. So let's stop with the histrionics. Let's refrain from the proclamations that we are in a special time of extraordinary transformation because here's what hasn't changed.

Companies that understand who they are, what they offer, how they benefit their customers and get that message to people in interesting, relevant and compelling ways using any and all of the tools available to them will continue succeed.

Advertising is dead. Long live advertising.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A strong start

On July Fourth Chevrolet will begin its most important vehicle announcement in years with the launch of the new Silverado.

Each Silverado delivers approximately $12,000 profit to the corporation. Full-size pickups, like popular priced sedans, are at the very heart of Chevy's DNA. It's a category they have to play successfully in to be whole. And they need this campaign to help change the trajectory of the brand.

Chevy Trucks were always the bright spot in the Chevrolet product line. Even as the company was losing share in cars, their truck sales remained strong, nipping at Ford's heels. But then the bankruptcy happened and that broke the brand's faith and trust with some truck buyers.

You see, Chevy wasn't just an American-made brand. Chevy Trucks helped make America. They hauled hay on the farms, towed tools to the jobsites, moved mountains of dirt, rock and sand to make way for progress.

When GM went begging hat in hand to the federal government bail it out, it was a sign of weakness. It undermined one of the essential pillars of the Chevy brand. Now people weren't leaning on Chevy Trucks. Chevy was leaning on the people. Chevy wasn't like a rock anymore, and truck sales began to decline significantly.

Clearly the people at Commonwealth and Chevrolet understand that their road to redemption won't be built on the strength of superior features alone. Especially since any superiority that this new truck may have in mileage, towing capacity, comfort, etc. will quickly be matched or lost once Ford launches the new F-Series in six months.

Chevrolet needs to become something more that just a collection of features. It needs to find its center; that one thing the brand is famous for. Based on this spot, it's clear those in charge think the future of the Chevy Truck brand is buried in its past.

First of all, I'm going to come straight out and say it. I like this spot. While there's nothing really new here – the images are those we've seen in truck spots for generations, using a popular artist to create a new song for the brand, bolting an irrelevant tagline on the end – are all hallmarks of Chevy Truck advertising.

This spot works because the details are right. The tone is right. The fundamental message is right.

Trying to own the word "Strong" is smart.

Chevy was always about dependability, being there when you need it. Every image and every line in this song remind us of that. Since Ford has been the category leader, Chevy has been a feisty underdog, not afraid to take shots at the big boy. We did it 20 years ago when we produced the Chevy Truck Ford County campaign. They're doing it again here with the line "Everybody says he ain't just tough."

Will this campaign lift Chevy Trucks out of the doldrums and have it challenging Ford for sales supremacy? Not on its own. The product has to be right and the grass-roots marketing has to get people behind the wheel and experience the product. It's going to be a long, tough road.

This is definitely a strong start.

Here's a full-length, web version of the spot that does a better version of conveying the entirety of the positioning. Enjoy.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Eating the past

They're back.

Twinkies, those golden concoctions with the creamy white center, will be returning to store shelves soon. And with them comes an interesting question.

Is nostalgia enough to revive a product whose ingredient list looks like a chemistry experiment and oversweet taste would make even Paula Deen blush.

Twinkies disappeared from store shelves a year ago when its owner, Hostess Brands felt they couldn't profitably manufacture the finger cakes and its other products under existing union contracts. So they shut the company down selling the brands and other assets.

I'm guessing it wasn't just high labor costs that caused the company's demise. With a brand portfolio that also includes Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's, and Wonder Bread, Hostess products are as on trend as handlebar mustaches and Victrolas.

Yes, there will be a huge surge in sales when Twinkies first return to the stores. And after the initial frenzy dies down, I'm sure still be a niche market for the them. Thanks to financial maneuvering by Twinkies' new owners, they might be able to fabricate them at a lower volume and still make money for the foreseeable future.

Even still, it's not a future that will look anything like the brand's illustrious past. Twinkies' relevance on this planet passed with the Eisenhower administration and will continue to fade as the food industry migrates to healthier, more natural options.

So there they'll be, on store shelves waiting for people to pick them up when they're feeling nostalgic.

Thankfully, they have such a long half-life, because that's not a very good recipe for fast turnover.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Features do not differentiate brands

As product developers, we are obsessed with features. What can we add to our product and service to make sure we have everything the customer wants and needs – even those features they never knew they needed until we added them?

Features are great. Features are important. Features lead to benefits. Without relevant features there's no reason for anyone to buy our products.

But features do not differentiate brands.

You can get adaptive cruise control on a $25,000 Ford Fusion and a $205,000 Bentley Flying Spur.

You can get vibrating bristles on a $4 Oral-B toothbrush and a $100 Sonicare.

You can get a 15-inch HD display, Intel i7 processor and 500 GB of storage on a $1,300 HP Spectre and a $2,800 MacBook Pro.

The difference isn't the feature. It's in how each brand executes that feature. It's in the design, the materials, the experience, the positioning.

When Volvo touts its all-wheel drive system, it does so by saying that it makes you safer.

When BMW promotes all-wheel drive, it does so by saying it improves driving performance.

Features do not differentiate brands.

Brands differentiate features.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Smart is smart (in Germany)

From yesterday's post about a ridiculously overblown launch about a car that claims to be able to better mankind, here's a spot that makes a more believable promise in a fun, self-effacing and interesting way.

The Smart Car was built to do one thing, make city driving easier. This spot from Germany demonstrates that in an witty and memorable way. Maybe the Smart USA team can learn a thing or two from it and start doing a better job of marketing the car here in the US.

To paraphrase Michael Porter, the important part of strategy is knowing what not to do. Smart Germany understands that. Smart USA not so much.

When they stop trying to sell to so many and become everything to a select few and they will be much more successful.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A little humility, please

If this is all Honda has to attempt to revive the Acura brand, they're in big trouble.

Made For Mankind?

I get that great brands are built around higher order benefits. I get they they offer more than mere functional performance. I get that great brands are aspirational.

But this, this, this... is nothing other than a random collection of hackneyed images and a vapid promise with no discernable proof that it can possibly be delivered upon.

"Because if your quest is to build the world's smartest luxury SUV for mankind, you must hold yourself to the standard of mankind."

Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon. A cure for polio. A world peace initiative. Those are are the things that elevate themselves to a promise for the benefit of mankind. A very nice SUV, not so much.

If Acura wants to position itself as "The Smartest Luxury Automotive brand" than this is a pretty dumb way to go about it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Promotions should build brands

Because I own a Samsung Galaxy S3, on Monday I can download an app from the Google Play Store that will allow me to download Jay Z's new album for free three days before it will be available to the general public.

I'm sure this promotion will matter enough to some people to tip the scales in Samsung's favor if they're shopping for a new phone right now. It might also create enough goodwill with current owners to factor into their decision to choose another Samsung phone when their contract runs out and it's time to upgrade.

But as big as Jay-Z is, he doesn't appeal to everybody.

So the question becomes; for those who don't own a Samsung phone, or do and won't download Magna Carta Holy Grail, does this promotion still build the brand?

It's generated a lot of online "buzz" and PR in newspapers, TV and radio across the country. And clearly this promotion has me writing about a brand that I wouldn't otherwise, so that boost in awareness counts for something. Based on these results alone, they've probably already gotten their money's worth.

But after the excitement is over, then what?

Does aligning their brand with Jay-Z make Samsung more relevant? And does it help differentiate the brand from others?

That's the difference between a good promotion and a great one.

If Samsung can answer yes to those two questions, then it's really money well spent.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Men's Wearhouse makes a mistake

Yesterday, Men's Wearhouse announced the firing of their founder, Executive Chairman and spokesman of 30 years, George Zimmer.

Sales were up 5.1% the last quarter. 

Sales were up 4.4% for the calendar year 2012.

Profits were up over 10% to $2.55 per share.

Those are numbers JC Penney, Sears or Kmart would kill for.

So why did he get fired?

Richard Jaffe, an financial analyst thinks it might be the advertising.

“They continually rework it, adjusting how much presence do we have on George. Does he stand? Does he sit? But it’s always all about George Zimmer — his voice, his physical presence. An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22- or 24-year-old.”

If he's right, then the board at Men's Wearhouse is wrong.

Yes, George Zimmer is older than his target, but that doesn't mean he can't connect with them. In fact, based on the performance of the company it looks like he has.

There have been a lot of spokespeople who managed to connect with an audience that didn't look like them. Dos Equis' most interesting man in the world comes immediately to mind. Dave Thomas sold a lot of burgers to 20-somethings. Frank Purdue was the tough man who sold tender chickens to millions of moms.

If being old means you can't sell to younger audiences, The Rolling Stones would be in wheel chairs instead of on tour.

It's not about age, it's about attitude and relevance.

At a time when more and more men are dressing like boys, George Zimmer was that voice that told guys, when you're ready to be taken seriously we're here to help.

It worked.

It worked because he is authentic. It worked because he is honest. It worked because he projects the right combination of authority, empathy and confidence.

Thanks to the board's decision, we're in for a long run of one-off ads while the Men's Wearhouse searches to find a voice as effective as that of Mr. Zimmer.

I guarantee it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Gimmicks do not sell cars

When I saw this article in Ad Age, I had just one reaction. Ugh, aren't we over this yet?

Crowdsourcing ads makes about as much sense as do-it-yourself heart surgery.

The agency loses because these campaigns devalue the very product they're selling: strategic creativity.

99.99% of all participants lose because, of the thousands who will spend hours and hours generating ideas and producing materials without compensation to enter in the competition, only one will be chosen.

The client loses because instead of having the agency spend time uncovering insights and developing ideas to build the Chevy brand and sell cars, they're knee deep in consumer-generated garbage trying to find a few gems.

I have only one question about the campaign:

How does having aspiring film makers create a commercial on the Oscars lead to higher sales?

If the answer includes the words engagement, community, conversation, advertainment or any of the thousands of other social media buzzwords, you might want to start working on a new idea.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And the winner is...

The oh so ridiculously named Cannes International Festival of Creativity – formerly the Cannes Advertising Festival – got underway yesterday and this year's first winner is actually very creative.

Developed to help reduce the number of deaths around railroad tracks in Australia, "Dumb Ways To Die" is a campaign does everything great marketing is supposed to do.

It's disruptive.

It's memorable.

It's engaging.

It's shareable.

And best of all it's effective, reducing deaths by 21% last year.

The campaign starts with a great insight: nobody likes to be lectured to. That's what most public safety campaign do. Don't drink and drive. Wear your seatbelt. Don't smoke. Stop drinking 64-ounce sodas. All of these campaigns have one strategy; they nag, nag, nag – to the point where nobody listens anymore.

Starting with a perky happy pop melody and lyrics that are dark and disturbed, this video is impossible to ignore or forget.

Not satisfied with nearly 50 million views YouTube views. The campaign's creators worked hard to get the song played on local radio. They created a karaoke version that people have used as a foundation for their own videos. They printed coloring books and built a smartphone game for kids. And of course, they produced this fun, interactive and informative website.

It's the rare smart campaign that prevents humans from doing dumb things.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The value of profit

In the world of business, nothing is more important than profit.

If a company isn't profitable it won't be around very long.

So it's not surprising that companies work hard to manage their bottom lines, leverage resources and look for opportunities to make their businesses more efficient.

It's a pretty simple equation: value – cost = profit

The problems arise when companies believe that the only way to increase profitability is by managing the second half of the operation.

You can cut costs all you want, long-term profitability, however, is the result of building value. 

Here's why:

Someone will always make it cheaper. Someone will always offer a lower rate. Someone will always be willing to shave a few points off the margin.

Companies that last focus on profitability through value. They deliver what's important to the customer in a way that's remarkable. They invest in their systems, their people, their research and development, their infrastructure, their communities, their brands.

They know the cheapest way isn't always the best way.

Because while you can always cut your way to a quarterly profit, you can't cut your way to greatness.