Sunday, November 30, 2008

Avoid Fork, Knife, Butter

I was recently at a Judges Breakfast for a regional advertising award show. The guest speaker/lead judge (who shall go unnamed) had just given an impressive speech on the need, now more than ever, for advertising agencies to be innovative on how they connect between brands and consumers. To exemplify this point he engaged the audience with a basic question and pointed at random to the attendees for a response. The questions was “what items do you find in a kitchen?” He points at an individual at the front table - “Fork!” is the response. Another “Knife”. Another “ Butter”. This goes on for a few minutes, with more responses coming out representing cutlery, dishes, or appliances- “Fork…saucer…fridge…party…blender…plates”. Stopping the exercise our judge asks the intent listeners what was the most memorable kitchen item? The resounding response: “Party”.

Apparently, the top three responses received when this question is presented to a group of people are Fork, Knife, and Butter. I guess Butter is the attempt at some people to avoid saying Spoon, and rounding off the cutlery name game. This exercise was a great example of how unconventional thought, when appropriately applied can create a memorable response amongst listeners, while telling a lot about the brand that is making the statement.

On the discussion of unconventional thought, a member of the group asked the lead judge what his thoughts were on the “
Gorilla” ads for Cadbury – which happened to win a Gold Lion at Cannes this year. His response and the other responses that surrounded the discussion, were very similar. The general consensus was that the ads were irrelevant to the brand, were another gimmick used by Director Juan Cabral (creator of the Sony Balls and Paint spots)”, and without the hindsight of Cadbury's success, it may not have been so well received by its peers.

I’m not sure if you’ve picked up on this, but even if you haven’t seen the ad, you can guess by its title that it is beyond conventional. With the previous demonstration of the need for marketers and advertisers to avoid Fork, Knife, Butter, I did find it a little bit surprising that many members of this group would be surprised that a Gorilla playing the drums could have a chance at delivering positive results for brand and product. In fact one of the judges mentioned that this ad would not win in this regional competition as they couldn’t see the connection between the brand and the ad, and although it was funny, would not constitute good advertising.

I had a look at the spot. I don't have 30 years of creative experience. But after seeing the ad and taking in the discussion at the breakfast, I’m reminded of a quote I read once “the products and services that succeed wildly are the ones that everyone expected would fail..." (Is that Seth's?). In this context “products and services” could be replaced with “ad campaigns”. A group of old agency executives all looked at the Gorilla ad and said this won’t work. Even with the hind sight of knowing the ads success with the brand and at Cannes, most of this group would still never consider producing an ad that followed the unconventional, left-field, thought process that went into the Gorrila spot. To play on the metaphor – these folks would avoid Fork and Knife, but deliver Butter. Party is too risky.

Whether you like the Gorrila spot or not, my point is that all the rules of business are changing - and the agency world seems to be the last to take notice. This spot doesn’t seem to connect to the product. But it DOES connect to the emotion. It DOES catch your attention. It DOES guide you through 60 seconds of experience (don’t most of us pray for 12 seconds?). And it DOES make an effort to break the mold and give the audience something to share.

The Story of

You may have heard of micro-credit or micro-lending agencies. They've received tons of press and even garnered a Nobel Prize. The business model is simple – lend small amounts of capital to organizations in developing countries. Empower marginalized communities, women, villages, and the other stakeholders that make up the lifeblood of these countries to grow their business and collectively improve the standard of living. agencies. They’ve received

You also may have heard of the Meatball Sunday. The thesis that describes the tendency for traditional companies to take the strategies that worked in a pre-internet/globally connected consumer landscape and combine them with the new media and the latest technology fads- thus resulting in a disgusting concoction of communication that fails the brand and further alienates the consumer base. The lesson being that the globally connected consumer has changed the strategic landscape, and in many cases existing companies either need to reinvent the way they view their consumers or make room for new companies who ‘get it’ to take over the ill-served market.

This brings me to the story of The organization that has taken the lessons learned from micro-credit organizations and has been built to serve this new consumer landscape. It provides the tools for people around the world to connect to businesses in developing countries. It provides the mechanism for these people to build new relationships and help build new economies.

The fundamentals of are simple: It isn’t a charity. It doesn’t provide gifts to small business. It’s a lending system that allow anyone to lend as little as $25 to the business of their choice.

Here’s how it works*:

1. You go to the Kiva site and choose an entrepreneur who has posted and been screened for a need. Example: A small fish selling business in Mozambique.
2. You make a loan for as little as $25 through Paypal or a credit card. This may assist that fish selling business to buy more product and provide a necessary service to a community.
3. Receive a journal so you can keep track of how your entrepreneur is doing.
4. Withdraw or re-loan the proceeds from your original loan.

The amazing thing about this program which now raises millions of dollars a month for poor entrepreneurs is the loan payback is at about 99%. If lending isn’t your thing, will connect you to several volunteer opportunities as well.

The success with has been all about knowing the audience, knowing how to connect like-minded individuals and building an authentic sense of ownership for the community it serves.

*Paraphrased from this great article by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. He delivers a dose of daily insight and always delivers something to think about.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gillette's Trying to Connect

The latest online attempt for Gillette to interact with it's consumer base takes online interaction to a whole new level. The website is a cross promotion between Gillette and EA Sports and promotes their Champions of Gaming tournament. Who would have thought that most EA Sports gamers are men who need to groom more often? The real experience comes from two promotional tools that are available for a visitor to interact with. The site allows you to "Star in your own Times Square billboard" and "Host your own press conference". These two features take this one dimensional campaign used to hype an online gaming tournament (and provide a nice hallo for the Gillette brand) and goes a step further to provide the environment for a consumer to:

  1. interact
  2. be involved in their own story
  3. increase the possibility that in some way they will associate this positive experience with Gillette in future purchase decisions.

Meanwhile, the corporate sponsors are provided with the data needed to better reach these people in the future - increasing the relevance of the promotions they bring to market and improving the product (or at least its marketing).

"Star in your own Times Square billboard"
Innovative and interactive. Playing to the egos of sports fans everywhere, this application allows you to upload your picture, which it will place on a EA sports billboard in Times Square. The site will send you a photo of it and gives you an approximate time when it will be 'live' (my approximate time was between Nov.1 and Dec 31, VERY approximate)

"Host you own press conference"
This takes the "Snakes on a Plane" phone call from Samual Jackson one step further. You upload your photo to the website. The application places your head on top of a suit in a press conference photo. It then animates your face so that your eyes move and blink, and your mouth moves. Then you are taken through a really interesting process. You input your phone number, and immediately receive a voice automated call. It asks you "press conference" questions and records your response. Your response is placed into the sequence of the press conference, where you animated image answers the questions posed by the press.

Although this site is still a commercialized connection, and is somewhat superficial, this online experience succeeds in three ways:

  • It entertains
  • It delivers on the promise (the experience is flawless)
  • It plays on the insight of fame to connect the consumer to something bigger.

If Gillette and EA are following the consumer response beyond the immediate sales I'm sure they are hoping to see, this website could become bigger than either company expects. The next step for this site to build a true brand following, would be to watch for consumer engagement, allow the consumers to control the experience more and connect to each other. This will assist both companies far greater than the current emphasis on connecting these consumers to the product.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hurry Up And Wait!

Okay, so here’s a challenge for today. I invite you to respond to this post or send me a question that is provocative, polarizing, and begs to be responded to. The potential for the conversation is huge. You’ll get excited. Other readers will get excited. Then I won’t respond. You’ll wait. How long? A couple of days? Hours? Minutes? You’ll become frustrated. You’ll comment to others about the poor experience. The conversation we’re having will lose its impact. The things that make dynamic conversation or that define inspiring marketing will disappear. This happens all the time. A client demands immediate action for assistance on a product launch from their marketing company. The marketing company meets the deadline. The client then delays the response a year. A boss demands the latest sales report from an employee and then takes weeks to respond. A company demands immediate delivery of a new service that pushes all other business and customers aside, only to take months to pay the supplier that helped them.

Time is the one constant, the universal currency - its value is greater than ever.

The insight here…avoid the “Hurry Up & Wait” strategy. If something is urgent, deal with it. Complete it. If you demand something of your customer, be sure to value their time equally. If you demand the priority of your employees or partners time, be sure to reflect the value in their response by investing the time to provide feedback. If you have a doubt that a task requires more thought, more feedback, bureaucratic approval, or your conscious tells you otherwise, then hold off – but manage those who have committed their time to date. Relationship marketing and customer service have far less to do with the image we project, and far more to do with how we are perceived to manage our customers time. If you practice “Hurry Up & Wait” in your company, with your suppliers or with your consumers, you’re working against yourself. You’ll have watered down your relationships (or brand) and lost one more level of trust with the people that pay your bills.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

10 Ideas for Corporate Counselling

"Maybe I hate my customers. Does that make me a bad business person?" I have heard these words - or their variance many times in conversations and the actions of companies. The solution: Corporate Therapy. I’m sure this is a service that falls under “Consultants”, but I really think there is opportunity for psychologists to branch out into this area of therapy. Some companies hide from their customers, some run from ideas, others just don't really enjoy being a company. The point - there are companies out their with huge self-esteem issues that seriously need help.

Before you respond too seriously, allow me to run with a short scenario to help connect the dots here...

The scenario: A marketing team has decided to take a step and present an idea that is truly authentic and exciting (For the purposes of this scenario, we'll say it was agreed that it is the best solution available). The idea is presented to the executive team. One executive, Jim, says "Great approach. But do you really think our product is that beneficial? I mean, I know it has its benefits, but don't you think this is a bit too positive?" Another executive, Mary, says " I agree with Jim. We are well priced and can sometimes connect with our consumers...but we're not THAT well priced to actually be so bold". Finally, a third executive - Rob - pipes in "You know, we really should look at scaling down this idea, or maybe merging it with that neat campaign we did in the Fall of '92."

Jim, Mary and Rob all need serious help. They suffer from Poor Corporate Self-Esteem, often found in monopolies, or single player markets that have seen increased competition. Their inability to go beyond what was, while trying to improve on what actually is, will lead this company into a deeper depression.

I’m sure we’ve all worked with a Jim, Mary, and Rob. With my experience working with companies and executives, it would seem many fall for the same problems that often ruin marriages or individuals.

Maybe some areas of counseling could be:

1. Why Talking To A Machine Is Not The Same As Talking To A Human

2. Egos – Not Just For Athletes And Monopolies

3. Battling Fiscal Year Vision

4. Customer Hatred And Why It Paralyzes Growth

5. How To Be Friends With The Kid Across The Street

6. How To Recover From A Wahoo Hangover
(thanks Ben McDonnel & Tom Fishburne - 10 Questions with Tom Fishburne )

7. Let’s Learn How To Share

8. Why Nobody Cares About the Fall Campaign of '92

9. Why it's good to leave the boardroom to find customer opinions

10. Build culture through communications - you are not as intimidating as you think. (Presidents edition)

I could go on...but I thought it may be interesting to see what topics you would add?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Crowd or A Community?

The difference is simple. A crowd consists of a group of individuals who are all in one place. They all have a place to go and will push, pull, shove, yell, or sneak past other individuals in order to get where they need to go. The individuals in a crowd spend more time running into each other or wandering aimlessly than getting to their destination. Like a crowd, a community consists of a group of individuals who are all in one place. They too have a place to go. However, these individuals look to each other and realize that only by working together can they reach their destination.

This is a wonderful analogy that works well beyond the marketing space or its literal meaning (although appropriate in either case). As wonderful as it is, I have to confess - these words aren't mine. They were spoken by a young man with an insprirational story - Doug Ulman. Doug is President/CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. After beating cancer three times before he was 21, Doug has worked every day since to defy this terrible disease. A leader in every sense, Doug was asked to participate in a discussion during an evening of music, cocktails, and inspriational stories for the Tony Griffen Foundation - which has another truly remarkable story (hint: Coast to Coast, over 4500 miles, on a bike). What I found so profound was that this group of individuals, of all different backgrounds, and brought together by a common experience, personal or otherwise, have recognized the power of community and have reacted in a truly remarkable and provocative way to deliver change and inspire others to act. Even though they were touched by tragedy, they allowed themselves to submit to the passion that was burning within them. It may not have been the rational way to react. It may not have been what was expected by friends or family. In many cases, it turned the world as they knew it upside down. But they committed to act and delivered on this commitment. As a result they have stretched the boundaries of human possibility and become true global citizens. The ability to allow themselves to adhere to their passion, versus what would be expected, is what seperates those with remarkable stories from the rest of us.

It is lessons like these that resonate most with me. The ability to not only determine your passion, but embrace it without pretence, takes unimaginable courage.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Online ads don’t sell your product

This was a comment I heard during a presentation the other day from a large media company. It was backed up by statistics from the companies internal tracking and some comScore reports. Apparently online ads get little results, so instead of saying that online ads are a tool to drive sales, advertisers are switching their tune to say online ads are now just another tool to build brand awareness. My thought is that advertisers have dropped the ball when it comes to online communication. They’ve trained the consumer to ignore ads by consistently delivering irrelevant content.

There are two reasons for this trained consumer behavior – the failure of ads to deliver and a Need for Impressions Inertia. Perhaps each influences the other.

A consumer is surfing the web, searching for Gluten Free Restaurants in New York. They see an ad that peaks their interest. When they click it, they end up on a generic company home page, miles from the content they went there to find. The trust is lost. The ad failed to deliver on its promise. The impact is felt across the online medium.

A perfect example of the Need for Impressions Inertia was given in that media presentation I mentioned. In the question period following the presentation there was some debate about the true purpose of online advertising. The following response was used to support the argument that impressions are a better indicator of an ads performance over click-through-rates. When asked for an example of a context where impressions served as a better indicator, the presenter described a media buy on the Weather Network for a communications company. The ads get in front of a lot of people..but people on the weather network are there for the weather, not the products the communications company sells. Wow. My obvious question – why were you serving ads on a content network that had no connection to the product? Would you advertise Kobe Beef on a PETA website? I mean a ton of people would see it, and it might even boost the brand awareness index. I guess the Need for Impressions Inertia is the legacy left from a generation of mass advertisers and another example of trying to fit an old business model into the new rules of marketing.

Online ads can deliver sales. Like ALL communications, there must be content, context, relevance to the audience, and a promise…that is delivered. We all know this. It's old news - so why does this continue? (feel free to let me know through your experiences)

There is obviously more to tracking online ads than a few metrics, but my point is only that advertisers often justify the media to your problem, versus solving your problem through any means possible. The result is a less than favorable ROI that hurts the media (even if it is useful), it hurts the consumer who can not trust the medium, and it hurts the company who has lost, yet another, opportunity.