Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Creation's Conundrum: The Qualitative Quantitative Conflict

What is it about clients that insist on the use of qualitative firms who also quantify their own work? Way back in the early days of pioneering qualitative research this was considered a big no no - you were letting the fox watch the hen house - if you did this no one would hire you. Now, clients want convenient one stop places to shop and don't care about this conflict of interest - let alone the burden to objectivity. Maybe this is just another reason why McKinsey & Company reports that despite solid balance sheets and healthy bottom lines consumer packaged goods executives worry where their growth will come from. How long can you stand the target wherever you want it, and then fire at point blank range? It's like predefining a new trend or psychographic/attitudinal/social marketing target audience, then telling everyone to go shoot at it. You artificially arrest the extent of your business. Hitting the bulls eye becomes a no brainer - with sales results that match. Do yourself a favor and learn all of the tricks you you can skip the mistakes.

This image courtesy of Dee's Liberature.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Airline Marketing Hits Rock Bottom

Didn't yo momma tell you that the instant you trade on price your brand equity's so low you'd have to climb up a ladder to get to the bottom? Has average gotten so bad that an airline thinks it can get to the head of the class by charging for your baggage? I don't know about you, but given the choice of no baggage charge versus a baggage charge, I'll choose free. Still sitting smug thinking their positioning strategies and messaging reaches captive business travelers, how long will it be before some airline wakes up to the magic of abstract creativity? Of positioning their stew as a soup you eat with a fork (Chunky Soup); of finding abstract selling solutions the way Pampers took 'fit & dryness' for granted (business travelers) and found that more diapers (and airline seats) can be sold on a 'developmental' brand platform? Hmmmm? United, "the developmental airline." What could they develop as a campaignable idea that would make all the charges worth it? Business relationships, personal relationships? There are so may Special User Effects still to fulfill - an airline (like American Airlines) could go a lot longer on one tank of creativity.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Topping Google

You know the word "topping" has a lot of connotations. If you're 'topping' someone you could be going them one better; you could also be holding them down, like topping a tree. It cuts them down - like the Hickory Hilltopper's in that great Gene Hackman movie Hoosiers. But I am writing this post because I am tired of all the talk about Microsoft's attempt to buy Yahoo in a bid to, dare I say, 'top' Google? - Or is it more 'just to keep pace and stay abreast so that Google does not get too far ahead. To slow them down.

Google, like Starbucks is starting to show frays in it's cuffs. So let time take its toll. Now all the talk is about investor Carl Icahn (sure has the name for it - iCahn, iKahn, ICON-great new brand name for a Google topping search engine) and cronies such as Microsoft's Steve Balmer reigniting their takeover bid. Hey guys, listen up. All of this takeover action is proof that the guys working the problem don't have the ability to out-invent a new Google. Something better that grows not from pure technology, but from the creation of new knowledge from consumer minds, that by perceptual innovation would discover that knowledge required to change consumer habits and practices with ideas rather than ownership of a rival.

It sure is a lot cheaper , and only takes about six weeks to find that breakthrough idea that would snuff Google's mass appeal. I've done it before. Why not just treat the problem like a new product concept development exercise and invent a real google competitor from scratch for $200,000 or so rather than the $37 billion it would take to buy a Yahoo that's always going to be, like Avis, number 2. Of course, this advice comes from someone who knows how to do this type of problem solving strategic innovation. I don't do those garden variety line extensions.

I think the real problem believes this can't be done. "The cost of pioneering" would bee too high." But it would still be far, far less than what would go into Yahoo's acquisition. Imagine just what you could do if you were a successful new product person with several multi-billion home runs under your belt and someone gave you $37 billion to play with. I'd reinvent the entire consumer packaged goods industry including it's distribution channels.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Banality of Selling Consumer Products

I like the saying, "Branding is something you do when you don't have anything important to say." However, the banality of advertising today, what products and brands are saying about themselves, to sell themselves, borders on absurdity. Now I know that marketers don't want to stick their necks too far out on the line. And they'd rather be safe than sorry, especially in a rough economy. But it also reminds me of the saying, "Ships in a harbor are safe, but that's not what ships were made for."

I make special note here of the new advertising being done to sell 7-Up. Now with real, natural flavors. Who cares! It's a soft drink. I got through all these years with artificial flavors, so what strategic rocket scientist at Cadbury-Schweppes decided this was the best way to go? Reminds me of Procter & Gamble days where the soaps and surfactants division toyed around with the idea that washing your clothes "sanitized" them. DOH! Who cared? My clothes were clean.

Last year, Cadbury Schweppes beverage division, including Snapple and 7-Up was up for sale. And nobody bought. So there's been little growth in the division, and no one wants to buy the division. Don't you think it would be time for a little creative thinking and strategic innovation? This effort isn't picking the high fruit from the tree. As a matter of fact, it isn't even picking up the dead fruit from the ground.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Reality Vesus Actuality: A Construction of The Truth

Reality has swept America. Reality TV that is. Is it real? So quickly the lines blur in one night's viewing. I no more need watch The Apprentice to know that I can make better decisions. But I do not get a better job, or a raise. And gas still costs $4 a gallon. An expense to my quality of life that is needless. That's Actuality. Disney was the first painter of reality. He is the grandfather of reality. He did not paint actuality. No one would watch - no one would come. Disneyland is a study in an idealized America that never existed. But now we watch shows and immerse ourselves in a reality that is not actuality. I do not want to escape. I do not want a shot at love with Tia Tequila.

So those of us who are not so numbed by the barage of reality - wonder about actuality. Are you marketing to actuality? Because that's where the people with disposable incomes are in a crappy economy. They're dealing with Actuality. They're not frittering away their dreams on reality.

Washington Mutual is marketing to reality. They've borrowed billions to remain solvent, and to mask the actuality, tell us they are the bank that makes you say, "Whoo Hoo!" The Germans call that "dreck." Please don't deposit your marketing waste in my Actuality bin. WaMu is using "reality" strategy to mask the fact that it is really the bank that lacks actuality management, and could very well make depositors cry Boo Hoo - if they had a run on the bank and had to lock the doors. Yes actuality fans, disaster at WaMu is really that close.

But as long as we can immerse ouselves in reality, know one will take accountability. And as soon as the credit crunch is averted - because that's what reality helps us do - we'll have dodged actuality again and life will go on taking Visa.

What happened to gold standards.

So in what camp are you placing the future growth of your company, your strategic innovation? Reality or Actuality?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Advertising Campaigns with Zero Thought Profiles

So absurd. Why do companies take their names, shorten them, then use rhymes as advertising campaigns? Washington Mutual. WaMu. Whoo Hooo. Adult minds actually concieve and sign off on this crap. What is it's intent other than to misdirect depositors to think that everything's OK at the bank in spite of having to borrow $10 billion to keep its doors open these past few weeks. Sure they don't want a run on the bank - BUT - There isn't any problem at a company that can't be fixed by a good product, and standards. And I'm not talking about free checking from those friendly, flannel shirt clad bankers in Seattle. It just doesn't sell. Why redirect consumers fears? Why not do something that brings in sound money during a crappy economy? That works. That's marketing. But they told me it hurts their heads to think that hard. That's not smart.

Mitsubishi. Mitsu. Trying not to be Japanese. What's next, Mhoo Shoo?