Friday, 9 December 2011

Who thought the eurozone would work?

One currency, 27 agendas. 27 different sets of economic problems to solve. Interest and exchange rates were the ultimate get out of jail free card for policy decision makers. So now what do you do when your country becomes uncompetitive and you run out of money. There are no macro economic fine tuning tools available to you. It's just like you and me with no job and your house dropping in value. So the answer is you borrow more, get state support or default.

The euro zone has benefitted the stronger economies, and probably no coincidence the ones with better transportation systems sitting centrally in Europe. They have more more accessible markets.

No prizes for being right. What do we do now? Break it up or devalue the euro and everyone will lose money. Ouch. Luckily I work in an industry that is essential to the economy. Marketing and advertising ... May be not then.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Integration is not the answer or even the question

I have always thought an obsession with integration from a brand owner is a good indicator that their brand lacks salience and personality.
The word integration encourages us to think in terms of events and campaigns. When mathematicians talk integration, it is often in relation to time. And that is the main point. The best integration is something you do over time. It is a brand rather than a campaign thing.

We tend to integrate campaigns for all the wrong reasons – safety rather than the conviction that dovetailing messages or replication of a message in different media somehow communicates better. A fear of failing rather than a desire to just do it better. Everyone understands and learns better if they are exposed to different stimuli, whether it is learning to ski or speak Spanish. Too often we forget, conveniently, the basic virtues of different media – TV (one message to the masses), Direct Mail (tells a longer story to people we think are more interested), Poster (presence and stature), Digital (depth of engagement).
The most powerful communications display brand connectivity. The tone, style and flavour of the brand are consistent and shine through. It is a brand conversation. It is how you do it. Not what you do or say that’s important; More brand essence than brand values. I still think the best example is Honda. The integrational device is the brand. In every communication they demonstrate the ‘maverick obsession’ that lies at the heart of the brand. They have been consistent over several years now.

So perhaps we should stop fussing about integration and talk about brand consistency. This allows you to ignore a medium if it is not working/required for a particular campaign. You’ll talk again, there is always next time. The brand becomes more important than the proposition. We should carry on using integrational devices, but call them integrational devices not integration. They are tools rather than philosophies.
So when clients create cross discipline briefs the two most important elements are – the brand what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like, how it does things and the integrational devices. So in the case of Coco Pops - and i am paraphrasing someone else here - its chocolatey breakfast fun for kids ... and don't forget the chimp.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

What do Honda, Yeo Valley and Toilet Duck have in common?

Differentiate yourself, be distinctive, identify points of difference. Marketers treat the expressions as synonyms. This is the first mistake.

Here is what happens.

A point of difference is identified. It could be an extra 50 minutes on a mobile tariff, a longer warranty, alternative skins for your laptop, uk call centres. All of them are positive attributes, all of them are researched and when pushed respondents state a preference for them but do they make a difference. Probably not, yet we hang most of our marketing on them. Of course if you are first to offer something like 36m warranties when everyone else offers 12m or all the laptops are silver black and grey and you offer a host of coloured skins then brilliant go for it but otherwise tread carefully.

Focussing on points of difference can give you a nice warm feeling, your job is done. All you need to do is to tell everyone; responses and customers will surely come. But then you find testing the approach in the real world reveals that people are not that interested in what you perceive to be the important part.

When markets are commoditised or several competitors are offering similar services - white goods, communications, energy even automotive you need to stand out, be distinctive. This doesn’t have to be rational and probably can’t be unless you transform how you support or deliver your product. You need to zig when others zag. Context is important, the mundane looks good when everyone else offers risky or quirky. Bond markets look pretty sexy for most investors these days although Greece and Italy are doing their best to de-sex them. Being distinctive could be your brand, your values, your service commitment, your web design, the in store experience. It is important and increasingly so.

An example.

Honda are great engineers, so are the germans. In fact most cars are well made according to JD Power. But Honda grew market share by being different, almost maverick to the disciplined German approach. They had different interpretations of engineering obsession, the considered test and learn Germanic approach, the clunk of the door, versus the creative and total commitment approach of the Japanese. This was reflected in their cars and styling. The points of difference like Honda’s v-tech engines were terrific but sensibly they recognised it was not enough to excite consumers, it could have done the opposite. Reinforced the good but boring Honda tag.

Another example.

European flights. Easyjet. They are orange, they are cheap. Should they talk about speedy boarding, the range of services in flight, number of destinations or UK airports they fly from? No. Shouting price in an orange style seems to work.

Marketing courses talked about the importance of differentiation, economics courses told us it was best to be second into markets. Learn from mistakes, minimise risk and steal best practice with pride. If you can do this but do it in a distinctive way then perhaps you have cracked it. And maybe this explains the successes that are Toilet Duck, Go Compare, Shake n' Vac, Yeo Valley, Lynx.

Friday, 9 September 2011

MC Hammer on social media and marketing

This is really fun and strangely impressive. MC Hammer speaking at Stanford. The best ever time to be an entreprenooooor, a downmarket.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Brittany Economics

This may be a little naive but my hunch is the Bretons have got it more right than wrong.

France operates an ultra progressive tax regime. It is possible to earn more gross and yet your net income goes down. This 'threshold' is around Euro80k. So there is a disincentive to work - too hard. Naturally round here some restaurants only open 2 months a year to avoid the wealth trap; Shops charge premium prices because they are happy to work on low volumes, high margins. Lower sales (but with higher margins) also set lower expectations for the taxman. Easier to avoid Inc tax.

Then try to find non French products in the supermarkets, very tricky. It is an unofficial (cultural) trade barrier. Harder to police and more efficient. And of course those not working their socks off the two main summer months have the whole of august off any case.

Wonder where they are on the IMF happiness index, probably not very high. Pissed off they haven't won world cup for a while and they don't get July off as well.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Corporate humanisation

I wonder if the real benefit of social media to the marketer will be the humanisation of companies. Of course businesses have looked to control the brand and the marketing experience but we all know that is getting harder and harder, closer to impossible. Trying to monetise social media in social selling works, dell do it great, so do eurotunnel, there are lots of others. But it may be coming a zero sum game of sorts. Brand a steal from brand b, brand a also canibalises its other channels and manages to give additional margin away to customers who display considerable loyalty already.

Heard it argued that technology is killing the need for intelligence and the real skill shortage will be social skills. that is not happening yet but certainly intelligence is being replaced. Normally when you say that there is a bit of an outcry but no one thought a computer would beat Gary Kasparov. Apparently that is a trivial task according to IT experts, sounds bloody tricky to me (that's the level up from downright impossible). They say quizzes are harder for computers. To be honest i would rather think that a computer is managing air traffic control than a pro plus popping physics grad so I am all for computers taking over (judgement day scenarios aside)

So back to the humanisation of companies. everyone has a facebook page, a twitter account maybe customer service staff start using it more haphazardly. Retail business like Best Buy in the US are doing this. Could service staff become almost heroic, cooler than the creative technologist, with a bigger following than the CEO. The only problem comes when they want to leave who owns the following and the fans if the they were acquired on company time, sounding corporate again.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Conspicuous marketing plans

I can't remember the last time I saw a marketing plan, not a spread sheet, but a proper one with objectives, strategy, goals. I don't think the need to be agile is a good reason not to do one. I have even offered to write one for clients and they seem reticent.

Anyone, any theories?

Friday, 7 January 2011

What is (digital) planning?

Old fashioned communications planning was all about messaging.

Customers dont do A because they think B. So if we want customers to do A we have to tell them C. The assumption was attitude preceeded behavioural change.

On other the hand if someone wants to describe digital planning they use keywords rather than what they are trying to achieve for their clients (which is odd in itself) ... information architecture ... engagement ... SEO ... content management ... social media ... HTML.

Strikes me that planning used to be about asking the question what do we say? Nowadays good planners, digital or not, ask the question what can we offer - information, added value, experience? Before they ask what can we say.

(Yes, we should all have working knowledges of HTML, social media ...)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Want to start your digital business in 2011?

You may not be able to start that company up on the back of this but a nice summary of some new models of business. Neat slideshare presentation spotted, thanks Peter.

About Me

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United Kingdom
Just curious about marketing, psychology, economics, business, irrational behaviour, people, models, communications, advertising, market imperfections, b2b marketing. I work in the marketing communications industry for OgilvyOne.