Thursday, March 7, 2013

Can't buy me like cover image Fast Company features an important new book, "Can't buy me like" by By Bob Garfield and Doug Levy.   The book expands on the premise of this blog with current examples.  If you suspect being good is good business then this looks like a must read.

Monday, February 13, 2012

How > What

Chipotle set the advertising world all-a-flutter last night with their two minute animated TV commercial during the Grammys.  See coverage from Advertising Age here.

Yes the spot was unusually long (2 min.) and Willie covering Cold Play was neat.  But what I think is remarkable here is the company's decision to focus its first real TV message on the way it does business as opposed to talking about burritos.  Not the typical fast feeder approach.

Chipotle actually made sustainable agriculture feel cool and they did it sandwiched between the glitziest and most highly produced content the entertainment industry could muster.

For many reasons a lot of people are talking about Chipotle today.  Does anyone remember any other food advertising from the show last night?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Extraordinary product strategy

The New York Times' David Carr did a great profile Monday on a rare bright spot in print media.

While much of the the magazine industry continues to cost cut its way into irrelevance, a new publication, Lucky Peach, has sold-out the first two printings of its $10, 174-page "streetwise" celebration of food and its preparation.  Read the article to see how they did it (Hint:  They essentially disregarded all accepted wisdom pertaining to magazine publishing).

A circulation of 42,000 is no People Magazine but this was the first issue.  Profitably exploiting a niche is easier as connecting with your audience has never been easier - especially when the audience does a lot of the connecting for you through social media. 

Lucky Peach is another example of the exceptional overtaking the ordinary.   Breaking conventions to make something "insanely great" (Thank you Steve Jobs) seems to prevail more often over models where marginally pleasing the largest number at the lowest cost is the rule. 

As marketers we should look at our own brands in this context.  What's the next tired category to be transformed by the Lucky Peach approach?  Can legacy brands or products be re-engineered to be insanely great or are they destined to be replaced?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Who ya gonna trust?

The announcement that Bing will incorporate Facebook likes into search rankings is a big deal.  All of a sudden, the mechanistic algorithms that determine what we see when we do a search will get a helping hand from real live human beings.  Search results will be influenced by Facebook likes in general and more specifically by your friends (if you happen to be logged-in to Facebook at the time).

This is a game changer in four ways:
  1. The Bing brand of search just became a lot more differentiated.  My curiosity to see what the crowd and my friends like in search results will cause me to use Bing more.
  2. We all have more incentive to make Facebook an "always on" utility in our online lives.  Welcome even more Facebook ubiquity.
  3. Knowing my vote really will be counted when I like a brand will cause me to like brands on more occasions while making me a little more selective in awarding my endorsement.
  4. Facebook likes just became a much more important tool for businesses seeking to improve their page rank in search.  Gaming the algorithm with clever page titles and link building campaigns could take a backseat to cultivating Facebook likers if this initiative succeeds.
The trend of aggregating active human endorsement in search is bigger than this Bing announcement.  Google is making strides toward social search with it's plus-one initiative.  Social search is where things are headed because it's human nature to trust in your friends' opinions.

The implications for marketers are profound.  Delight a customer and step to the front of the line to be found by others.  Offer an average customer experience and be consigned to invisibility among the herd of the mediocre.  Disappoint or anger the customer and end-up on page 29 of search results.

Smart brands will not only improve their customer experience but will solicit likes by showcasing less tangible aspects of their brand that appeal to people on a values level.  A brand's enlightened environmental, sustainability and labor practices are all now potential marketing tools.  The issue cuts both ways.  Polluting a local stream or off-shoring jobs could have a substantial marketing cost if the Facebook community takes note and decides to get active.

This is going to be interesting.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Greed can be good. Ask Mother Earth.

I've been saving this post for Earth Day because Bloomberg's decision to carry environmental information on its financial news terminals is indeed a gift to Mother Earth.

Paul Tullis at Fast Company expertly reported this decision and the rational behind it earlier this month.  Bloomberg is catalyzing an emerging truth on Wall Street: A positive environmental track record is a good indicator that a company is well run and is more likely to offer superior financial performance over time.  Now Bloomberg is supplying the numbers financial wizards need to track and price this theorem into valuations.

This blog has focused on the consumer side of the sustainability is good business debate - suggesting that consumers more and more choose brands that act with integrity toward customers, employees and the environment.  Bloomberg's action has the effect of enlisting the almighty hammer of the capital markets in the cause.

This will get the attention of the corner office crowd.  Companies will look for ways to improve their ESG (environmental, social and governance) scores because there's money to be made doing it.  Altruism is nice but in the end, it's behavior that counts.

This is an opportunity for the smart marketing executive to bring ESG issues into the boardroom.  A significant improvement in ESG will improve not only the stock price but can provide a real and meaningful point of differentiation for consumers making purchase decisions (read; good ESG = free marketing).

I've become more and more skeptical that government will ever have the fortitude to come to the aid of the environment in meaningful way.  The challenges are too big, too immediate and big money is too entwined in the workings of Washington.

I'm heartend this Earth Day by the vision of Wall Street and engaged consumers doing what government can't by making sustainability not only a priority but profitable.  Mr. Gekko, meet Mr. Gore.  I think you two have something to talk about.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's the story stupid. Now more than ever.

The Dining section of The New York Times is not usually where I go for marketing inspiration.  A story there today by Jeff Gordinier on how exotic sake is sold in Las Vegas has caused me to reconsider that assumption.

As the article points out, sake is a marketing conundrum.  You can't read the labels.  You can't pronounce anything.  The story points out an even bigger challenge;  "It can be difficult for an untrained American drinker to figure out the difference between the name of the sake, the name of the brewery, the type of sake and the region of Japan that it comes from." So have fun marketing a new wave of artisan sakes that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars a bottle.

The savior in this situation is the story.  Anglicized brand names and unusual bottle colors may help but it's the story that makes these products special, memorable and successful in the marketplace.  The quote that seared it's way into my long-term memory was from Henry Sidel, president of the Joto Sake distribution company in Manhattan.  Print out this next line and tape it to the top of your computer screen:

“There are no brands if there aren’t stories.” 

Read the article.  It's packed with amusing anecdotes about igloo filtering, nomadic quests for sake brewing knowledge as well as fascinating insights into the psychology of wealthy Asian "whales" and their exploits in Las Vegas.

The high end liquor industry is steeped in story telling.  I'm still fascinated with the yarns I heard visiting the Rémy Martin operation in France while pitching their advertising account back in the day.  The marketing secret the French have understood for centuries is more relevant today than ever.

An unremarkable product from an unremarkable company used to be able to grow and profit by hammering the market with ads, paying for shelf space or through aggressive price promotion.  An entertaining TV commercial could compensate for lackluster product.  Today unremarkable brands are losing traction as a result of the creeping impotence of mass-media weaponry and consumers better equipped to sniff out a crummy product.

Being remarkable and delighting customers is the new marketing currency.  There's no such thing as a  remarkable brand without a story.  A customer has rarely been delighted and not shared their story as a result.  Social media exponentially amplifies these truths.

Brands really can't make-up their stories anymore.  Authenticity is more and more a key differentiator.  The price for getting busted for fabrication is high, immediate and measured in tweets.  A powerhouse brand of the 1980's, Bartles & Jaymes would probably garner a shrug among today's twenty somethings.

The importance of the story applies to every marketer.  Packaged goods, services and retail brands all need coherent, meaningful stories.  This applies to the local landscaper as much as it does professional grade kitchen appliances.  

I think the Japanese auto brands could learn a thing from their sake marketing countrymen as I'm challenged to recall a coherent, meaningful brand story for Toyota, Honda, Mazda or Subaru.

Does your brand have a story?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Real marketing innovation

I almost turned the page this morning, mistaking Hyatt's newspaper ad for a pharmaceutical long copy dirge.  Fortunately I skimmed the headline and was pleasantly surprised to discover something genuinely rare in travel marketing . . . a new product.

Hyatt now offers hypo-allergenic rooms in 125 properties.  Branded Respire by Hyatt, every room undergoes a rigorous six-step process that dramatically improves air quality and removes irritants.  Improved HVAC systems and filters, special cleaning of hard and soft surfaces and encased mattresses and pillows are some of the things that make these rooms different.

Hyatt is targeting the 25% of Americans who are affected by asthma and allergies.  That's a sizable market.  My question is who of us wouldn't want one of these rooms given a choice?  Every road warrior can reel-off cringe-worthy tales of odors, mold, pests and grunge discovered in their hotel rooms.  Clean and healthy could be the new premium designation in travel.

Just a year ago I was panning Hyatt for not anticipating the backlash from draconian measures to take cost out of their housekeeping operation in Boston (they instructed housekeeping staff to train "vacation help" that turned out to be their outsourced replacements).  Ironically, by looking at housekeeping and room cleanliness as a feature as opposed to a cost Hyatt can use it to differentiate in a commodity category.

Hyatt has hit on real, meaningful product innovation.  Travel marketing is overdue for a new idea. Not since boutique hotels and later some of the larger chains decided to make hotel beds aspirational as opposed to punitive have we seen anything like this.  Traditional hotel marketing tools are getting tired.  Loyalty programs have devolved into parity and we're all numb to glossy images of models posing in infinity pools.  I think Hyatt has a winner on its hands.  Now if they could only figure out how to make an ad that is as good as the product.