In the past, the ads and the personalities were criticized for being BS artists. But today the trade publications, professional associations, and universities which should be objectively critiquing are not.
The industry needs self-criticism because it is a creative business. Creativity doesn't have golden rules. Even when the media landscape was simple, there was a lot of debate about creative process and how to judge creativity.
That's why the business has attracted very intelligent, thoughtful people who consider it a responsibility to figure out what works and contribute integrity to the creative business. At one time, I was told that being published by ADAGE was a true test of critical thinking and communication skills.
But that's not true anymore. Publications like ADAGE reprint press releases without investigation. As the media landscape has become very complex and uncertain, agencies, universities, professional associations, and new ad tech companies claim they are using data to make a science of creativity. The race is on to be the first with the answer and to educate the market.
But there are no answers and there is nothing to teach, yet.
Ironically, the best creative professionals I've ever worked with are the worst at tooting their own horn and very good at helping clients recognize what advertising can and can not do. They are circumspect about this race to make creativity a science.
But that doesn't mean they aren't curious and interested in experimenting.
A true experiment starts with an hypothesis. Not an objective to survive or to reduce costs or to destroy the establishment. Experiments take risk. Educated risk. A valid hypothesis based on honest observations of the past. Not case studies written to make the actors sound prescient. Not myths.
We invite all those interested in developing and funding thoughtful experiments to join the COMRADITY Strategy and Creative Resource Center Explorers' Club.
There is little coverage in the US Sunday news shows of the Paris Unity Rally. So here's a link to the live coverage on the BBC. In Connecticut's Cablevision it is channel 104.
Here's to the power of the "we" over "I", a theme we have been encouraging in The COMRADITY Journal:
Our appeal to Ariann Huffington that she personally responded to and invited us to publish in the Huffington Post.
An inspiration to realize that a positive purpose will compel the "I's" to contribute to "we".
Good luck to all of us.
We all know there's a temptation to make the leap because everyone else does.
But we may not realize just how irresistable the fear of missing out can be.
Or that it is so persistent today that there is an acronym for it: FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
Or that there is evidence that it can blind us.
FOMO is why "Americans Can't Go Two Hours without Checking Technology Devices" according to Crucial.com: "One in four Americans becomes stressed by going longer than 30 minutes without checking their email or phone due to fear of missing out."
But more importantly, we don't perceive how compelling FOMO is: "The independent survey . . . conducted by GMI Research . . . found a disconnect among Americans when it comes to the perceptions and realities of their technology use . . . While three in four men reported having a balanced or very balanced tech-life ratio, 84 percent of men admitted to having checked a mobile device while driving . . . "
This disconnect isn't benign. It is related to "Inattentional Blindness" - "an event in which an individual fails to recognize an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight."
In a driving fatality case in Utah, the accused driver, Reggie Shaw, has become an anit-texting law evangelist after being shocked to realize that he didn't remember texting at the time of the accident, until the evidence was presented to him in trial.
Since FOMO is so irresistable and blinds us to reality, some liken its power to an addiction. But others contemplate that it could be even worse. Addiction is usually related to something that gives a positive reward all the time. Matt Richtel, author of 'A Deadly Wandering,' loooks at the science behind why FOMO is "so magnetic."
You would think that if our devices delivered us lots of irrelevant or non-urgent information, we'd be conditioned to press it less. Perservsely, we're conditionded to press it more.
He calls it "Intermittent Reinforcement" which comes from the early behavioral research of B.F. Skinner on rats.
Every parent can see the FOMO effect in their kids - evidenced by the piles of tried and discarded toys children "had to have" six months earlier. The size of that market nears $100 Billion in the US.
But FOMO drives marketers' judgements too, encouraging digital media and marketing innovation bubbles that burst.
FOMO is a powerful barrier for innovations based on market intelligence instead of illusion.
Making sense of many marketing choices is challenging. Positioning is a strategic tool that narrows the choices.
Think of positioning as a navigation tool. It identifies where your brand belongs on the marketplace map. The simplest way to visualize a markeplace map is on two dimensions: quality and price.
A high quality/high price positioning will narrow the competitors and marketing tools, certainly. But within this competitive niche, a positioning statement with a purpose distinguishes the brand even more. For example, in the home furnishing business, one brand's purpose may be modern and smart for a young adult with a tiny, yet expensive apartment versus another brand, whose purpose is to be classic and traditional to signal affluence and prestige.
A well-defined purpose helps to inspire marketing choices which capitalize on the brand's competitive advantages.
For example, the leading bubble gum brands, shapped in discreet cubes, promoted long-lasting flavor when we launched BUBBLE TAPE. There's nothing discreet about a cannister of 6 feet of gum. We defined the brand's purpose to be "kid" cool - as in purely uninhibited, attention-getting fun. Research told us that 12 year old boys were the most uninhibited and into getting attention - i.e., the "ring leaders". Convenience stores near schools, where kids make purchase decisions uninhibitied by an adult, was their channel of choice.
We produced television ads "For You Not Them" ("them" being grown-ups) to run in the kid's television shows that 12 year old boys spent several hours a day watching. Salesforce time and efforts were concentrated on Convenience Stores.
The results were stunning. In Year I, with only Convenience Store distribution, BUBBLE TAPE became a leading bubble gum brand.
It is natural for an established brand to invest marketing dollars everywhere to defend against competitors. But consider that narrowing marketing choices to capitalize on competitive advantages could be the most effective way to get more for their money.
In the 1980's many leading consumer packaged goods brands began to see increased competition from discount brands. When increasing advertising support didn't help Procter & Gamble's SECRET antiperspirant compete with lower priced "white label" competitors, they chose to shift advertising dollars into trade promotion - i.e., discounts to maintain valuable distribution real estate, pulled through by couponing in local newspapers.
Why didn't increasing advertising work? As background, the purpose of SECRET Antiperspirant is to meet the unique antiperspirant needs of women. The "secret" is that the PH balance of women's sweat is different than men's and therefore harder to neutralize.
But the legacy advertising campaign wasn't working as hard as it did in the earlier days of the "Women's Movement". Known internally as "Jack and Shirley", the stories were based on women's relationships with husbands. By the 1980's, (as evidenced by a plummeting birthrate), women were more likely to be working and facing relationship issues with men like discrimination at work. The tagline "strong enough for a man but made for a woman" didn't work very hard to overcome a woman's challenge to prove that she was equal to men. And "strong enough for a man" actually contradicts the true story that a woman's antiperspirant has to work harder than a man's. (a very relevant metaphor for young women in the workplace.)
Imagine what the SECRET marketing plan would be like its packaging and advertising were updated to align with its purpose to meet the unique antiperspirant needs of women. Specifcaly to communicate that SECRET works as hard as women.
Who are the women who will most relate to this message? For example, Young High School and College athletes, young women studying in STEM subjects or entering the workforce.
Where are they most likely to buy it? Probably drug and convenience stores.
Where do they spend a lot of time? Working hard - getting in shape for their sport, studying, or at their desk.
The outcome would be a marketing plan that doesn't look anything like the competitor's. And the dollars, energy, and time spent will be concentrated on opportunities where the return on investment is highest.
A couple of nights ago I was driving home and listening to NPR's Melissa Block's @NPRmelissablock interview with Bill Prady @billprady, co-creator of "The Big Bang Theory" (among other rare TV block busters). He was talking about the buzzwords used by comedy writers. The phrase that resonated with me was "Laying Pipe" (get your head out of the gutter, not the 'urban dictionary' definition "/). Here's how the conversation went:
PRADY: Laying pipe is one of the most annoying things to have to do when you write a script. And laying pipe means delivering exposition, creating a way to share with the audience information usually that the characters already know. So you often hear it done very clumsily. You hear somebody say, well, John, you're my brother and an attorney, so you should be familiar with this.
PRADY: What you look for is a way to do it artistically, and sometimes, you know, you can talk about how it was done in restoration comedy, where you had what was called feather-dusting scene. So a maid came out and said, well, here we are in sunny Spain, and that set the scene. But, you know, in a modern comedy, that's not the kind of thing you want to do.
BLOCK: That's not going to fly.
PRADY: No, you look for an elegant way to lay pie. And then you can sort of modify the lingo. You say, oh, that pipe is nicely hidden.
Here's the entire interview: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/05/361820803/in-comedy-writing-fear-the-bonos-and-nakamura
This brought to mind the days at Leo Burnett of training creative strategy writing. Most beginning account executives were wannabe copywriters, so part of their training was to understand that inspiring great creative does not mean writing the copy. It means "laying the pipe."
As Bill says above, it can be tedious to "lay the pipe." Behind every great creative strategy is a study of the marketplace - the consumer, the competition, the product development.
But a really great creative strategy is elegant in its simplicity. Like a "well-hidden pipe," it has just enough information to "get" the key who, why, where. But it leaves the "how" to be discovered.
To inspire a great "how", a great strategy ignites ideas the way a match sparks when it hits a strike. For example, 'the Holidays are a busy time when stressed-out customers deserve a treat' paraphrases a strategy that inspired a promotional spot for McDonald's by Jim Ferguson @HicoBoy. It featured a family at a christmas tree lot safely tucked away in the station wagon while the Dad posed with different trees in the pouring rain for their approval. That spot performed so well vs promoting McDonald's Holiday Chicken McNuggets as a party pack it was repeated in subsequent years.
The tension must be relevant, and must live at the intersection of your brand and your customer’s life. Finally, the tension must be vividly set up, and then discharged by the story of your respective product or service.
I continued to test and retest this theory incessantly in the days and weeks that followed. I studied tension and what was known among psychologists and social scientists on the subject. I came upon the quote by Sigmund Freud that became a mainstay of every presentation that I’ve ever given since: “Without tension, there is no release. Without release, there is no joke.” All of the best humor is rooted in tension. Think about it: Tension is at the root of all great stories however they are told or whatever medium is used to tell them, including advertising.
He points out in this post that most of the time, it is the creatives who come up with the tension, as is illustrated by the "Be Like Mike" campaign, written by @BerniePitzel. He then goes on to describe the thinking process that led to the strategy for the long term positioning of Gatorade around the tension of sustaining confidence day-to-day for atheletes.
The examples shared here relate to a time when advertising was designed to build awareness - primarily via Network TV at home - far away from the point of purchase. Do the criteria for a great strategy from this time apply today?
Bill Prady's interview explains that "laying the pipe" is not a new concept, but must be applied with today's audience in mind. Today's audience has a shorter attention span than ever before. So the techniques of the best :30 second advertisements, print ads, and billboards should be more relevant than ever before. But there are new factors to consider. The flood of information overwhelming the strategists, the creators, and the customers. New media which reach customers or prospects at diverse stages in the purchase decision process, including the "Moment of Truth" at retail. The resulting tension of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
To improve results - and there is a lot of room for improvement - we need to put as much time into figuring out how to use new media capabilities strategically as was done "back in the day", when we had less information and fewer choices to make.
STAMFORD, CT, November 06, 2014 – Comradity, Stamford’s new space for creative business professionals, announced that BrandTaxi LLC has relocated its headquarters in Stamford and become Comradity’s newest Resident Member. Jim and Katherine Kern, the founders and principals of Comradity, made the announcement.
“We are delighted to welcome BrandTaxi as the latest Resident Member of our growing network of strategic and creative businesses,” said Jim Kern, chief executive officer of Comradity. “We are honored that they have chosen Comradity as their new headquarters and welcome their collaborative spirit.”
“BrandTaxi is a specialized consultancy firm with extensive expertise across brand strategy, expression and experience that knows what it takes to differentiate a brand in today's crowded marketplace," added Katherine Kern, chief membership officer of Comradity. “BrandTaxi is already capitalizing on our growing award-winning, multi-disciplinary Member Network talent pool to expand their offerings organically – by just walking a few feet to a member’s desk and collaborating on a current project.”
BrandTaxi's mission is to provide powerful insights for companies to optimize value and result in measurable business growth. Clients include GE, Unilever, Discover, MasterCard, MedStar Health, Disney, IMS Health, Johnson & Johnson, Alcatel-Lucent, IBM, Ingram Micro, Pacnet, Ace Insurance, Morgan Stanley, Man Financial and GlaxoSmithKline, among others.
“In today's rapidly changing economy, there is a new paradigm to creating big ideas," said John Grace, founder and managing partner of BrandTaxi. "Ideas are now generated in a collaborative manner where the value of the collective, working in a natural environment, spawns the greatest insights, rather than from working behind closed doors in a corporate board room.
"Comradity’s unique setting in the Harbor Point area of Stamford offers us ideal physical space and ambience to generate ideas," he continued. "At the same time, it offers a 'captive' group of marketers, communicators and creatives with expertise across numerous channels that can help bring ideas to life. We are very excited about tapping into these resources through Comradity.”
Tis the season for media and marketing buying decisions to be made: Yearend cutbacks. Next year's budgets are emerging.
The abundance of choices contributes to the uncertainty. Should we concentrate on what has worked in the past or diversify into new innovations? Ironically, despite the promise of digital media to answer Wannamaker's challenge ("I know half of my advertising works, I just don't know which half"), today, few businesses believe even half of their advertising works.
Big Data and digital advertsing promised to bring more certainty about the returns on marketing investments. But the returns aren't so great.
As the Telegraph story further observed, “…judging by correspondence from Telegraph readers and disillusioned shoppers, one of the reasons that consumers are turning to [discounters] Aldi and Lidl is that they feel they are simple and free of gimmicks. Shoppers are questioning whether loyalty cards, such as Clubcard, are more helpful to the supermarket than they are to the shopper.”
WARC reports: "Speaking at the Ad Age Data Conference in New York last week, Julie Fleischer said as much as 85% of (digital) ad impressions are rejected by (Kraft).. . 'That's 75% to 85% is either deemed to be fraudulent, unsafe or non-viewable or unknown,' she said."
The decline in advertsing confidence isn't a recent, digital media phenomenon. The 1980's saw the beginning of the shift of advertising into trade promotion. According Jack Meyers, advertising media advisor, the majority of today's budgets are "below the line":
The majority 65% to 90% of their budgets, known as below-the-line, are targeted to generating sales and direct return-on-investment through consumer and trade sales promotion and direct marketing.The majority 65% to 90% of their budgets, known as below-the-line, are targeted to generating sales and direct return-on-investment through consumer and trade sales promotion and direct marketing. - See more at: http://www.jackmyers.com/media-business-report/Advertising-vs-Below-the-Line-Shopper-Marketing-The-Economics-.html#sthash.6JcLfpbl.dpuf
In this remarkably simple historic media infographic video by the ECONOMIST, via @johannes_ernst we learn that despite growing lack of confidence in advertising, spending increased to as high as $200 Billion. The reason is increased redundancy. As media choices proliferated, the audience fragmented. So it took more and more media in the mix to reach fewer eyeballs.
Since the 2008 collapse, digital advertising has been growing at a faster pace than all other media, with newspapers trailing the most.
If businesses like Kraft and Tesco are not seeing a return on these digital media investments, where will these dollars go next?
Jack Meyers predicts that digital media will benefit from marketers investing in digital shopper marketing solutions, presumably mobile couponing and interactive digital video signage. Additionally, he predicts that automated buying will contribute to an increased share of digital media spending, presumably because automated buying promotes more certainty. As we've witnessed above, better accountability may deliver more certainty about results, but those results aren't necessarily better.
The implications for the average business are not clear. Even if you look for direction based on where the market is going, the only certainty is that we don't know what's next.
One way to improve results is to make decisions expressly based on your business. One way to compete is to strategize differently.
Here are some questions that may lead you to making different, more proactive choices:
What is your business situation? Are you a new category or an established category? Are you the premium choice or the best price?
What is your objective? To retain existing customers? To find customers? To convert prospects?
What is the challenge? Awareness? Competition?
What do you want to learn to improve? The content of your message? The media you choose? The time spent managing both?
Tis the season of Fear! When it is okay scare your neighbors with pranks and frightening disguises and it is okay for grown ups to scare little kids with creepy decor and scary music. (full disclosure - it is my favority holiday).
Why does this pagan tradition of facing our fears prevail in a modern culture?
Could it be that coming together to name our fears is cathartic? Is it possible that facing the unknown together brings people - even those who would otherwise disagree - together?
About six months ago, the bug,"Heartbleed", invaded the global, open and secure e-commerce platform. The Atlantic reveals how limited the resources behind this critical infrastructure is. In fact, it was just two weeks ago that all the programmers who write code for this infrastructure were altogether in one place . . . for the first time ever. (via @TheAtlanticTECH)
What Heartbleed did was raise several issues to those who work on the code day in and day out. One immediately correctable problem was the fact that no more than a handful of its developers had ever stood in the same room and discussed what problems they ought to tackle first.
Isn't the lesson learned that when everyone is fragmented, operating in a silo all the time, the system is vulnerable.
Isolated participation in the online social system makes it vulnerable to bullying. PEW Research reveals how pervasive bullying is on-line, with 60% having witnessed someone being called offensive names. via @MediaREDEF
Of those who have been harassed online, 55% (or 22% of all internet users) have exclusively experienced the “less severe” kinds of harassment while 45% (or 18% of all internet users) have fallen victim to any of the “more severe” kinds of harassment.
Perhaps the spirit of Halloween is needed to bring the online social system together to demystify the bullies.
There are many false boogy men out there, boosting their self-importance with false promises. The next new shiny silver bullet in the marketing world is ubiquitous. The marketing world feeds the monster by wasting money on fragmented, diverse tactics instead of making sense of the cacophony. All the while in denial that there is no one silver bullet. Tom Goodwin @tomfgoodwin offers an insight that is consistent with our experience:
We’re all too busy to notice it, but marketing is creaking under the pressure of modern marketers’ needs . . . Our first mistake has been to create complexity. We’ve arranged ourselves in endless new vertical silos that hamper us when it comes to working more closely and the free flow of ideas, each with our own profit and loss centres, client leads, language and ideas.
Marketing, as well as other business functions, should take advantage of the spirit of Halloween to come together to name our fears and overcome the vulnerabilities created by isolation, false promises, and denial.
Would you start a talk about how great BIG DATA is with the premise that it has "Reached its Moment of Disillusionment"?
This week at COMRADITY, the American Marketing Association of Fairfield County hosted Bernie Gracy of Pitney Bowes to talk about "BIG DATA". He got our attention by starting his presentation with the Gartner Group Hype Cycle chart and Svetlana Sicular's analysis of where "BIG DATA" is. He then made a pretty compelling argument that Pitney Bowes product development is taking data to the "enlightment" phase by integrating several acquired proven technologies to produce valuable insights. Relevantly, he pointed out to the marketing crowd in the audience that Pitney Bowes product development is way ahead of perceptions of its brand and its marketing.
Does it have to take a bubble to get to the "enlightenment" phase on the Gartner Hype Cycle chart? Why? Think how much money is wasted on the hype. I'll bet that is a staggering figure if someone wanted to estimate it.
What's the alternative?
Start with the business model: Greg Satell @Digitaltonto, who has pointed us to the the Business Innovation Factory and writes smartly about innovation, shares Kerry OConnor's 6 Ways to Design a Business that results in a business model. I like several insights, especially the idea of defining the problem to restrain the process to strategically sound solutions. But my favorite comment relates to the ineffectiveness of copying what has been done before:
The biggest mistake business design students make is to just copy business models of existing companies, especially those that their innovations seek to supplant. There’s nothing wrong with building a better mouse-trap, but that product will stand out from the pack if it’s supported by a novel business system.
For example, the paid content business model: Many posts here call for new business models to replace the traditional advertising model. For example, start with creating content worth paying for. Paid content is the business model that Netflix has used to transcend the "bubble". Now HBO and CBS have been "enlighted" to enter the market, suggesting that there will now be a competitive marketplace for good content that is sustainable. (via @comScore)
Traditional media should see this as an opportunity: Doc Searls @dsearls points to the 'DASH' conference in the city defined by automobiles and American music icons: Detroit. Since most radio usage is in cars, this conference featuring innovation in car "audiotainment(tm)" should help a traditional media re-think its business model.
Collaboration seems to be a part of the "productivity" phase in Gartner's chart: Twitter is reviving integration with IFTTT (If This Then That) a service which can help users find relevant content. via Travis Wright (@teedubya)
APPLE appears to be continuing to propel the "productivity" phase by winning an indie developer fan, Aral Balkan (@aral) with its new SWIFT IOS app programming language. John Gruber's tweet at the APPLE developer conference has been retweeted or favorited hundreds of times:
Could the marketplace be evolving from hype cycles to cycles that starts with great products worth paying for?