Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Blog Experience To Date

I know a lot about marketing, and not much yet about blogging. So I went to simonworld to learn what to do. Good direction...but, recommendations to join the TLB Ecosystem left me out in the cold. They have no innovation, creativity or business community. Similar carnivals seem hard to find. I went to technorati as prescribed to gain assistance but find their customer assistance to be slower than molassas. Their search box doesn't work. Updates are slow. Link counts are incorrect...though sites are linked to mine...the list could go on. I was denied publisher and associate status by text link ads - why know one knows. etc. etc. Still if you crave marketing and innovation data unavailable elsewhere I will persevere on my site.

The Matrix Effect - Can You Sell A Fan?

The Matrix is a film in which protagonist Neo (Keanu Reeves) sees a reality behind a curtain to which the rest of us are blind.

The film describes a world in which the Matrix is an artificial reality created by sentient machines -rather than marketers- in order to pacify, subdue and make use of the human population as an energy source by growing them and connecting them to the Matrix with cybernetic implants. (Sounds like big company marketers trying to find strategies that cajole and control or grow consumer audiences to try and buy their products with dollars being their energy source.)

The movie contains numerous references to philosophical and religious ideas, the hacker subculture, and homages to Hong Kong action movies, Japanese animation and cyberpunk.

But if you are a big company marketer, at say Microsoft, Nestle, Procter & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson, can you see behind the veil of consumer needs and category attributes that, for all you know, account for all consumer perceptions in your business?

For example, Colgate, Procter & Gamble and other oral care product marketers already know that there are only five category attributes that account for all consumer perceptions in their business. They know that there are only five reasons you brush your teeth: for whitening, cavity prevention, breath freshening, tartar control and gum care. No one at P&G cares which agency has the account, as long as the one they choose talks about any one or any number of those category attributes.

But if you were them, could you sell a fan to a consumer? Category concensus has it that all fans are sold to either cool or comfort people. But what other things can a fan do that might alter the competitive landscape of the category - if you wanted to innovate a breakaway positioning that would sell an incrementally greater number of fans with year round rather than seasonal appeal?

Where would you look for an answer? In alternate ABSTRACT DIMENSIONS promoted by innovation consultant Calle & Company

Fans, with brand names such as Vornado and Blizzard can do many other things. They reduce stress, provide comforting sounds, mask urbannoise, are less clinical and dehumidifying than air conditioners, improve interpersonal relationships and help you party, or relax (need states). Fans facilitate conversation, an exchange of ideas. Fans improve the human condition and don't always have to have some arctic ice imagery, violent weather brand names or tropical breeze positionings. Carrier air conditioners are called Weatherbeaters, but are also antiperspirants and deodorants for the soul, they make you smell sweet and help you put on a sunny disposition. Wouldn't Garrison Keeler of Praire Home Companion be an excellent spokesperson? Oh, there are so many other things a fan could do for just one enlightened marketer choosing to look behind The Matrix Effect.

New Marketing Dictionary

With over 70 years of big company marketing and innovation experience I've come to learn that the best answers are always so obvious, they're not obvious. Journalist and feminist leader Gloria Steinem said, "When I got there there was no there there." To get there today, a marketer must strip away the veneer of what they think they know, information on which their category operates for example (something Business Week Innovation Editor Bruce Nussbaum calls the Commodity Knowledge Economy) and operate with the lowest common denominators.

For example, a brand is nothing more than something that someone started that caught on -branding is something you do when you don't have anything important, or highly differentiating to say. A category is nothing more than a bunch of brands all hanging around on a street corner all saying and doing the same things about themselves different ways. Anyway, you get the point. To innovate, you must remain humble, even if you are number one. Otherwise arrogance will blind you to the open mind required to create a different future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Oh Fishsticks!

Here's an easy one. Last year hot California (and rapidly expanding) eatery Wahoos sold more fish tacos (a delicious warm corn tortilla containing beer battered fried fish, crunchy cabbage and sauce) than the Gorton Fisherman sold fish sticks. Consumer trends and preferences aside, Gorton's President said recipe dissemination of fish tacos by his firm were probably one of the worst things he'd ever heard of - even though the recipe's popularity would dramatically increase purchase frequency. Anyone want to take him to dinner, buy him a cervesa and demonstrate the use of a slice of lime?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Innovation? There was no reply at all

How important is innovation to a consumer product company. It is very important given Wall Street's new found ability to factor innovation into the determination of corporate valuation using measures such as patents and power of patents. But if innovation was stirring such a buzz, why isn't anyone listening at consumer product companies? What are we talking about?

We phoned CEOs at the top 100 consumer product companies asking, "who is the leader in charge of innovation driving the growth of the company." In 97% of the phone calls no one was quite sure. I guess no one got the memo on that one. Responses ranged from a disinterested, "He has 17 direct reports - which one do you want to talk to," to "You want Al in product design." Oh, I see...Al in product design is responsible for the innovation driving the growth of a multi-billion dollar consumer products organization. This is true grist for the Michael Moore, Roger & Me or Oliver Stone antagonist documentory film engine. Next.

No wonder the US$ 2 trillion consumer packaged goods industry is losing much of its glow despite solid balance sheets and healthy profit margins. Revenues and market values are going flat, and executives are wondering where the growth is going to come from according to top business consultatant McKinsey & Company and remember, let's not confuse motion with progress. Replacing the old with the new, turning a mop into a Swiffer, is not an "innovation." The update has failed to sell an incrementally greater number of "mops" or caused people to clean their floors more often. Just like old fashioned Lysol, cleaning implements tend to stay in cupboards and closets, out of sight and out of mind, and often purchased only when on sale.

Pot Calls Kettle Black

Consumer giant Procter & Gamble, the world's largest advertiser, who has long dominated retailers with its strong brands, is now taking it up the ass from Costco The August 21 issue of Advertising Age reports that to earn the right to sell Tide (the detergent category's #1 brand) at Costco, Procter & Gamble must specially formulate the product for distribution to Costco's standards. This is like the child telling the parent what to do and P&G Chairman & CEO A.G. Lafley must be fuming. When did he loose the strategic high ground to retailers?

When young, Costco, like any other retailer, would have cow-towed to P&G just to earn the right to sell its covetted brands. Now the shoe is on the other foot. With nearly equal sales (P&G $57 billion & Costco $52 billion) P&G has lost the advantage. The eye of the tiger that enabled P&G to dominate mass marketing (a core competency) with the invention of soap operas to sell its products has given way to an era wherein it will not be long before other retailers demand P&G make the same concession across other categories. Are Board and C-level executives across the packaged goods industry loosing sleep? If not, you'd better sell your stock.

The tail is wagging the dog and Procter & Gamble must innovate new forms of distribution; new product delivery systems to regain the advantage. Chasing consumer ears and eyeballs wherever they can be found, especially on the internet. will not resolve this prickly marketing issue.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Coca-Cola & Pepsi Explore New Beverage Concepts

Coca-Cola and Pepsi are at wits end trying to create new beverages. Health and wellness directives at the companies are up against the wall due to growing consumer obesity and FDA concerns. Two places not to look: new age and suppliment beverages have already been done. It's not the carbonation that makes a soft drink a soft drink. It's the corn syrups. New age beverages were originally soft drinks without corn syrups - perceived by consumers to be a healthier and more thirst quenching beverage. But corn syrup salespeople at ADM and Tate & Lyle Americas are crafty sales people, and now even new age beverages contain corn syrups. So much the better for Coke and Pepsi because if you take away the corn syrups you dont have a product to sell to vital bottler and fountain accounts accounting for 65% of the two soft drink giants sales - and neither manufacturer wants to leave a bottler or fountain account high and dry - they'll switch sides. As regards herbal suppliment beverages: Who wants to take on Red Bull. Just buy the company. Who will win the Red Bull challenge? Coke or Pepsi?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Automotive Consumer Insights: The Differnce Between Bentley & Rolls Royce

Automotive research conducted by international innovation and marketing strategy consultants Calle & Company explains why one millionaire spends $380,000 for a Rolls Royce and another spends the same $380,000 for a Bentley. Apparently, Rolls Royce owner's perceived confidence is extenal and must be worn on the sleeve to scream "look at me" while a Bentley owner's confidence is all internal and needs no external exclamation - understated elegance - the people with the most money simply don't show it. The same can be said of General Motor's Cadillac versus Buick owners.

Cereal Giant Merger Rumor

An unsubstantiated report has it that cereal giant Kellogg is considering the acquisition of Post cereals from Kraft Foods The move would be all up-side for Post brands that have long suffered from freshness issues versus Kellogg's much higher shelf velocity.

Put Your Money Where His Mouth Is

William Shatner. Toyota did.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Conversation Starters

Looking for the perfect innocuous one liner to greet strangers? Open any door for them and say, "Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton! Enjoy your stay!" Word of mouth marketing gets a smile every time. My favorite Ritz-Carlton is the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta.

Best Comeback

Customer Service is the buzz word of the day at retailers such as Costco, The Home Depot and The Gap The next time an over eager retail sales associate approaches to ask, "how may I help you," ask them for $10,000 to get through the rest of the week.

Best Business Card Title

"Knower of all things." Any takers?

Advertising Leadership

According to leadership mentor John Maxwell and Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, "failure is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently." When Thomas Watson founded IBM, one of his employees made a mistake that cost the fledgling firm $600,000. Board members pressed for a dismissal. Thomas Watson retained the employee saying, "why would I want to fire the man and let all of that experience go to a competitor? I just paid $600,000 to train him."

Advertising is a learning experience.