Monday, December 31, 2012

5 IMPORTANT THINGS you can learn from 5 exemplary marketing phenomenons of 2012

First of all, this list is not another top 10 ad campaigns or social media: it’s not about fun AD campaign or smart social media use, it is about real  original marketing thin king translated into an integration of various channels & modes of communications: they can each teach us something new & groundbreaking when it comes to approaching  the strategic direction of a brand or a company: the reason I have selected them is that I believe that less & less marketers are actually looking after the deep health of the brand they manage but rather busy chasing the latest impressive cosmetic fix:

  • The rediscovery of vertue & relevance of a mastebrand portoflio: P&G’s “Thank you Mom” for the Olympics:
On Mother's Day 2012, P&G launched a campaign called "Thank You, Mom." Throughout the campaign, P&G featured Olympic athletes training from a young age, and emphasized the impact their mothers had on their lives. The "Thank You, Mom" campaign also included the "Raising an Olympian" video series to highlight specific athletes' experiences;
For a company whose products or services aren't directly related to sporting goods, P&G managed to speak to both mothers, homemakers, sun & daughters that we all are at some point with an overarching , fundamental emotional message /dimension , also generating more coverage for this campaign than many other masterbrands like Nike whose products were more naturally & historically linked to the Olympics. Each "Raising an Olympian" video received close to 1 million views, and the main "Thank You, Mom" video received about 53 million views !
The lesson here is very simple: through an effective use of “newsjacking”, P&G not only leveraged the popularity of a major, worldwide event, but they also stood out with relevance , true to the core values of their brand portfolio & corporate mission and the key consumer groups they cater to across the board…  As a result, they were also able to attract a lot of media coverage and thus, reach a global audience. When you're coming up with your next marketing campaign, think about ways you can expand its reach to more people and in a universal yet focused way  ? 

  • Best Sponsorship/branded content : the Red Bull Stratos project: talk about integrated, core to the heart & values of a brand & standing out:
When one thinks of Red Bull, one might remember their creative tagline, "Red Bull gives you wings." Well this year, Red Bull decided to put that tagline into the hearts and minds of their audience by hiring Austrian extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner to break the world record of the longest freefall jump of 128,000 feet above the Earth, reaching the high speed of 833.9 miles per hour. Talk about intense!
Over 8 million people watched the jump live, and over 30 million people have relived the jump on YouTube since then. Furthermore, the live jump was shown by over 40 TV stations and 130 digital outlets. Red Bull's Facebook photo of the jump generated 216,000 likes, 10,000 comments, and over 29,000 shares. The jump was also a trending topic on Twitter worldwide.
Breaking world records is always an exciting way to garner some attention. Red Bull's jump also aligned with its tagline, "Red Bull gives you wings." As a marketer, you always want to make sure your marketing campaigns are aligning with your company's mission and the interests of your audience. You may not always have the opportunity to break a world record, but an important lesson from Red Bull is to remember that your company's culture and mission should also be taken into consideration when executing any campaign.Plus this event was totally consistent with the line of events that Red Bull sponsors around the world such as FlugTag, Air race etc… 
  • Guerilla tactics & social buzz marathon: the 2012 Obama presidential campaign: and it’s not here because of the content of the political platform or quality of his record but how it was played;
Of course, there was the magnitude of the biggest brand war ever waged (with budgets expected to top $4.2 Bn by Nov. 2, amounting to what is essentially the biggest product launch /Ad campaign even conducted  Even global advertisers like Procter & Gamble (4.18Bn) or the Coca-Cola Companies (2.5Bn) spend less across their entire portfolio of brands (over 300 for Procter, more than 500 for Coca-Cola)…
Of course, Republicans had a huge Women’s sympathy deficit, an Hispanic problem…Of course, the GOP failed by focusing too exclusively on white men : as Marketers crafting campaigns would be wise to remember, GOP strategist Chuck Warren who mused that “To be frank, we’re a Mad Men party in a ‘Modern Family world.”
And in the last round, hurricane Sandy totally eclipsed the Romney campaign narrative and naturally reinforced the sitting Commander In chief position & credentials for the job in a very emotional yet powerful way.
But more importantly, there was a consistent set of smartly designed & crafted guerilla tactics, largely driven by digital research & channels: a large portion of the cash raised online came through an intricate, metric-driven e-mail campaign in which dozens of fundraising appeals went out each day. Here again, data collection and analysis were paramount. Many of the e-mails sent to supporters were just tests, with different subject lines, senders and messages. Inside the campaign, there were office pools on which combination would raise the most money, and often the pools got it wrong.
Another astute insight uncovered by the campaign strategists was the importance of the ‘understands problems of people like me’ question” as into the summer, Romney was in the teens in this category, the choice was made: the onetime campaign of hope and change soon began a sustained advertising assault that cast Romney as a heartless executive, a man who willingly fires people and is disconnected from how average Americans live their lives — an approach reinforced by Romney’s mistakes along the way.
There was also the smart Facebook leverage: the O campaign used Facebook to "replicate the door-knocking efforts of field organizers" on a mass scale. During the final weeks of the campaign, Obama's supporters received pictures of their friends in swing states. They were then urged to click a button asking the swing state voters to register to vote, vote early or get to the polls. The campaign found that the tactic worked 20% of the time "in large part because the message came from someone they knew."
In the Chicago H.Q, the campaign recruited a team of behavioral scientists to build an extraordinarily sophisticated database packed with names of millions of undecided voters and potential supporters. The ever-expanding list let the campaign find and register new voters who fit the demographic pattern of Obama backers and methodically track their views through thousands of telephone calls every night.
That allowed the Obama campaign not only to alter the very nature of the electorate, making it younger and less white, but also to create a portrait of shifting voter allegiances. The power of this operation stunned Mr. Romney’s aides on election night, as they saw voters they never even knew existed turn out in places like Osceola County, Fla. “It’s one thing to say you are going to do it; it’s another thing to actually get out there and do it,” said Brian Jones, a senior adviser. In the end, the result was an electorate that was far less white, and far younger, than Republicans had ever anticipated.
Without the clear financial advantage it had in the 2008 battle, the Obama campaign relied more on the tools of micro-marketing than on the oratorical gifts of the nation’s first black president. Above & beyond the gravitas of the well written inspirational speeches, the president focused on Romney. Meanwhile, his campaign spoke early and often with “persuadable” voters, selected for targeted e-mails and doorstep visits through demographic data unavailable last time.

  • Best Retail revival: TacoBell Doritos & new menu roll out are building the chain's customer base. To start, the popular Doritos Locos Tacos introduced earlier this year are improving perceptions about the brand among its core customers of young men.Meanwhile, the introduction of higher-quality "Cantina Bowls," positioned as an alternative to more expensive competitor Chipotle, are bringing in more women.
Who would have ever thought that fast-food Mexican chain Taco Bell, faced with sagging sales in 2011, would find life again in a taco with a Doritos-flavored shell The Doritos Locos Taco was launched in March of 2012, and with more than 200 million units sold, it has become the chain’s best-selling new product ever, even helping to lift profits for Yum! Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company, by 23 percent. To put some perspective on that number, McDonald’s sold its first 100 million burgers in 1958 – 18 years after the first McDonald’s burger stand opened, and three years after Ray Kroc started his first McDonald’s franchise… The company credits much of the DLT’s success to marketing campaigns using Instagram and Twitter.Their CMO stated that the way they thought about launching was, What’s the story? “We wouldn’t have sold 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in the first ten weeks if all we did was say, It’s a new product and you’re going to love it because it’s now made with Doritos. We really listened in a different way for this program, to what people were tweeting and saying on Facebook. And that’s how we got our launch execution. We found out this kid drove 900 miles to Ohio get a hold of a DLT during the market testing, and it became inspiration for the commercial. It’s been a real breakthrough for us, in terms of turning our brand into an experience around stories shared. Most recently, we’ve got an ad on TV that is told through all the Instagram pictures that everybody is taking of the DLT, and we’ve done Twitter campaigns where we post people’s tweets about the DLT on billboards in Times Square and Sunset Blvd…”
Not only this innovation became a powerful commercial success story but it also turned an entire marketing approach around the customers…Talk about full bloom customer centric marketing transformation !

  • Just spreading fun Gangnam style: well, this one is not really a marketing strategy but simply an organic phenomenon: like the Macarena or other Lambada in the 90’s, it took the world by storm:
We all know by now that it became the first video in the history of the Internet to be viewed more than a billion times and it is the most watched video on YouTube, after surpassing Justin Bieber's single "Baby”…it’s not highly sophisticated, this Hip Hop Korean guy dancing like a cow-girl is just so much fun to watch, you just want to get along: it’s a tribal thing, a universal totemic symbol of being light & silly despite any gloom of reality, worth seeing for its caricature of contemporary Asian and American urban lifestyles-it turns out that the video is rich with subtle references that, along with the song itself, suggest a subtext with a surprisingly subversive message about class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society…
The label behind Gangnam, YG Entertainment, had a plan long before the video went live. They knew they wanted to break into new markets and started building a platform they would be able to push content out on. Looking at their various YouTube channels they had 2.5 million subscribers pre-Gangnam and had achieved in the region of 1.6 billion views of musicians’ videos across those channels. Having these subscribers is key and meant they could get a high number of views in a short space of time helping them quickly gain shares and get featured in YouTube’s daily chart.
After debuting  at number one in the Korean Pop Chart and gain 500k views on its launch day mid July,
 the video started to build global momentum the next month, but the volume of tweets and searches rose at a far slower rate than later on in the campaign, and predominantly featured traffic and search emerging from South Korea.
In mid-July there were then a few further tweets from @AllKPop, relating to the video's general profile, sales of the song as a ringtone doing well etc, but nothing out of the ordinary. Although much has been made of the impact of various celebrity supportive tweets, my interpretation is that mainstream media coverage initially brought it to many people's, including celebrities attention.
On 30th July Gawker wrote it up leading to 19k in Facebook likes/shares. I believe this lead to Billboard writing it up and the barrage of well followed celebrity tweets that followed, all pushing lots of traffic to YouTube.
There was no stopping Psy after this, with coverage in Time Magazine and Mashable followed. The next big announcement came on September 3rd when a YouTube video showing Psy drinking a shot with Scooter Braun, who is best known for managing Justin Bieber. This shot wasn’t just some friends catching up over a drink it was the start of them working together and marked Gangnam for big things in the states.
Activity over the next two weeks triggered the biggest spike in the entire campaign, as Scooter Braun made some inspired media bookings. Alongside these bookings, Scooter also has a contact book to die for and his own artists have some of the largest marketing databases in the world, all of whom Psy now had access to.
Thanks to Scooter Braun, Psy appeared at the MTV Awards as a last minute guest and alongside another of Scooter's clients, before going on to make his first appearance on the TV Show Ellen alongside Britney Spears. Britney (of course) tweeted this, creating a huge 1.3m tweets containing the term "Gangnam Style" over those few days alone. Just as growth started to slow again, Scooter got Psy a spot on NBC Today show, and a second appearance on Ellen, that triggered a final but forceful spike in searches, tweets and video likes.
Imagine if you are a marketer wise enough to get associated with this type of thing, how much groove & exposure you can just gain…But be reminded that like any tribal thing, it will be forgotten in a global glimpse, moving on to the next gimmick of the moment. So not much long term , multidimensional brand building on this one…but still a good trick not to forget, especially if you are a brand in need of instant global recognition.

CONCLUSION: What these 5 stories show is a set of very different modes of communicating in a 21st century global environment of the most competitive & crowded marketplace: from catching attention to surprising with a real innovation  or capturing imagination, from convincing to inspiring , making news or just feeding or entertaining, these 5 cases give new pointers for modern marketers to score big. It proves that not one channel or marketing vehicle is prevalent or serves a a magic bullet  but rather that a daring, passionate & integrated  big idea executed with the right strategy & grassroots tactics can make a global success.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The 2012 US presidential campaign: a telling case of complex brand strategy & 21st century marketing

 (for the lazy or time-challenged)
This election is a fascinating example of all layers & key dynamics of a complex, massive scale 21st century brand strategy exercise that will probably mark a turning point in terms of societal values and ethical marketing

As the US are about to elect a new president, the American people and beyond, the global community at large, have to form an opinion and make a choice between 2 very different brands incumbent Barak Obama & Republican nominee Mitt Romney…
Of course it’s a choice of society, set of values that you believe in…but with all the digital ads, social buzz before / after each appearance, campaign trail quotes or debates , it has also become  a true branding war in which  each candidate attempts to convey the essence of his platform, character & values, towards what Mark Twain once called the "best Congress money can buy”…

The campaign budgets are staggering, expected to hit an all-time record, topping $4.2 Bn by Nov. 2, according to various sources, amounting to what is essentially the biggest product launch /Ad campaign ever conducted (in comparison, the 2010 election in U.K. amounted to just over £30M ($50M) and the 2012 French presidential race -where political campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling- didn’t exceed the €22 M mark ($30M). Even global advertisers like Procter & Gamble (4.18Bn) or the Coca-Cola Companies (2.5Bn) spend less across their entire portfolio of brands (over 300 for Procter, more than 500 for Coca-Cola)…
On TV alone, total political spending on American broadcast TV (local +national) has crossed the $1 Billion mark, blowing the lid off of the 2008 election record of $ 515 M while investments across ALL MEDIA have reached  1.35Bn for Romney campaign  vs 1.16 Bn for Obama’s, the rest mostly spent on telemarketing, grassroots, events & rallies etc…).
Even beyond the US, international attention  & editorial coverage serve as a model (the 2011 Russian Presidential election strangely resembled the decorum & media format of America’s ) and can reach surprising level of interest in unsuspected places In the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Chinese tuned to the US convention speeches as they took place. Volunteer translators rushed to attach Chinese subtitles to online videos and photos of these speeches just hours after their delivery, Web users poured their feelings into discussion threads on Weibo (equivalent of Google)  that ran thousands of posts long… Commentators pointed out how Chinese watchers often find the deeper aspects of American politics, beyond the charisma of individual politicians, most moving. Among them: humanity and humility that American leaders seem to so highly value. Having learned in school about the Communist proletarian principles and the motto "serve the people," many Chinese people also value these concepts as defining qualities for good leaders, but often express disillusionment when party leaders don't seem to follow those same ideals…
When even Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez entered the conversation & relayed the US presidential election to the Venezuelan people by endorsing Obama, you know that the entire world’s public opinion is exposed and impacted.
Last but not least, the thousands of media articles , billions of impressions from  earned Media (vs paid) and social Buzz probably multiply the Ad value equivalent of the budget by 2 or 3 times…According to Forrester Research in April 2010, people in the U.S. generate more than 500 billion online impressions on each other regarding products and services. And if around 150 people view each of these posts (a conservative estimate), that's another 250 Bn+ impressions. In short, earned media is a powerful channel and social media has made it even stronger…
So no wonder that every day in every of the 50 states, Americans are subjected to dozens of TV ads over prime time , news & talk shows , on radio or outdoor billboards during their morning commute, or online banners every time you watch an online newsflash or a Youtube video on a computer or mobile device…
In that context, yes, the exercise boils down to the highest stakes , multichannel brand strategy & implementation exercise that lasts for months and culminates with the 3  Prez. debates and the Nov. 6 ballot.
The complex set of challenges of this branding battle towards moving the needle are:
  1. clearly define a compelling unique value proposition that embodies your key D.N.A. , values & vision and a solutions-platform,  that answers your buyer’s motivation or speaks to his direct benefit  (“what’s in it for me ?” rather than usual talking points…Romney’s Believe in America plan ”how 4 years of the same Obama’s policies will not get things better for middle income Americans“ or  for Obama “ Give me 4 more years in the same (right) direction for better results…”
  2. Emphasize your character/personality through your demeanor, personal style & ethics  (family/friends, compassion, religious belief, life record, charitable causes/community actions etc..): the “cool” factor from Obama, the “My experience as a business grower can bring America back” Romney
  3. Raise your profile and leadership through experience (communication style, standards, actions in your life that speak to your values: show how you are above the fray, how you were able to work across party lines (Romney’s Governorship in Democrat’s controlled Massachusetts’s legislature…) as the tone of your ads & speech have to be tweaked towards  your unique personality.
  4. Keep on top of the key drivers & interests of the public : stay relevant , set the record straight when the message gets derailed or off point or just renew the message when you get to a dull news  lifecycle position: that’s how Romney campaign's message of the day jumped around quite a bit in Sept., from foreign policy after the embassy attacks on Sept. 11, to China, to labeling Obama a redistributionist, to hitting the president for saying he can't change Washington "from the inside."
  5. Establish a conversation and connect with every one of your key audience segments, not all or anyone & everyone…mass is dead, multi-segment is king (focus on the most important demographics & states where your marketing can make a difference , make or break your win such as swing states , specific groups i.e. women, ethnic or religious groups etc…) throughout the full spectrum of channels & formats,  from town Halls to online forums, from an Ohio trade fair to an army base , a national Black caucus or a Florida retirement home…Cf. how Ryan featured his mother at a Florida retirement home rally to speak to the Republican’s commitment to Medicare or Sandra Fluke as the face of Obama’s dedication to women’s rights…
  6. Have a compact set of consistent platform subjects & objectives  applied in the key areas of interest/buying criteria’s of electors (from the economy to social issues to foreign policy or heath care): even though the economy is the top driver, chance are that over the months, campaign themes will move and the difference can also be made on secondary but also important for some voters like civil rights, security, heath care, immigration etc…the infamous “9-9-9 “of Herman Cain or the relatively recent 5 points economic plan from the Romney campaign
  7. Avoid negative, comparative or divisive rhetoric  as it can only lead you so far or just plain backlash… and doesn’t exactly speaks to your leadership & highest moral commitment in front of the Whole country…even if it can get you some interesting coverage from snippets, they have been shown to not generate a huge impact on voter’s behavior. See Romney’s  “47 %” comment or Obama’s “you didn’t build that business on your own…” or Biden’ chains” comment at an African American rally…
  8. Strike a balanced customer acquisition & retention strategy , between keeping your base energized (loyalty) and attracting undecided or independent voters (acquisition): that’s probably where the Obama campaign has been the most skilled with the Digital strategy…appeal to both new comers (new generations of voters) and keep  your base energized.
In that respect, and without prejudging of the election result, its already seems that each candidate went though a learning curve & had their own mishaps:
Camp Obama win:
As Obama had already led the charge during the game changing , digital -savy 2008 campaign, they pre-empted  Digital media very early in 2011 and outsmarted GOP counterpart for months, starting  with an ever more aggressive  budget allocation  to Digital  (more than $30 M on digital Ads so far- including text messages-according to ClickZ Politics analysis i.e. 3.5 times Romney's $7.6 M…In 2011, Obama's online ad expenditures merely doubled Romney's .
With Nearly 1-in-5 Americans (17%) say they got news yesterday on a mobile device, with (78%) on their cell phone and 19% of the public getting news headlines on social networking sites yesterday (+ 9% vs 2  years ago) with the percentage regularly getting news/ news headlines on these sites has nearly tripled, from 7% to 20%): the news consumption profile has definitively shifted, notwithstanding the fact that more &more young people go just news less.
Targeted digital ads can help the candidates better engage with the key voters they need in what's sure to be a close election: the elusive swing state independents, the coveted Hispanic groups, Catholics or Jewish voters …Digital  allows your brand personality to be a lot more precise with your message whilst, compared with broadcast, cheaper and easier to track… whilst being able to copy test various ads and readapt on the go.
Meanwhile, the Obama invested key social media platforms with success, now boasting more than 29 Millions “Like” on his Facebook page littered with intimate photos of the President in his daily life (only 8 M for Romney) and more than 20 Millions Twitter 1.2 M followers for Romney). In the first 6 months of 2012, the Obama campaign outnumbered the combined effort of the four leading Republican campaigns with any notable online Ad presence by a ratio of 10 to1 !
Camp Obama miss: during the first debate, given several opportunities to counterattack on some of Romney’s points, Obama appeared unwilling to do so, retreating to bland, small-bore, Clintonian talking points. Among the weapons that the president left on the stage was any reference to Romney’s now infamous “47%” comment that could have changed the dynamics of characters in the debate back to Romney’s need to justify & explain… 
More crucially , the President is also facing an unavoidable underlying question that he has not been able/or willing  to address nor deflate, at least indirectly, the  basic defining question infamously spelled by Ronald Reagan in the 1980 debate vs Carter:  “ask yourself : are you better off than you were four years ago? ” Even with the best comprehensive set of references to the economic context in which he took office, it remains the most basic, challenging & legitimate question for any consumer that should consider buying your product again…”there you go again” (!)  for defining a compelling value proposition !
Camp Romney win: when he seemed under tremendous pressure to regain leadership & demonstrate his ability to be aggressive rather than defensive in the 2 weeks leading to the first Prez. debate, Romney was able to deliver  a stronger performance  and reenergize his campaign  just 30 days before the election, generating $12 M in online contributions as well as a surge in volunteers and bigger crowds at his events. This was sheer illustration of successful profile raising and  asserting leadership while respecting the office of the President…
Camp Romney miss: obviously, beyond the “ I bet you  $10 000…  “ or “47%... “ unfortunate blunders, one of the biggest hurdle that candidate Romney has had to overcome has been to look approachable, seeming able to connect with the average American , making them feel that he understands their plight and everyday challenges…that’s where the character needs to come across through personal style, words, facial & non verbal language…elements of packaging, graphic design codes or personality that make a brand warm & loved as opposed to just considered, respected or remembered…
So, if anything , this campaign can teach  a few valuable lessons/cornerstones of complex brand strategy that every marketer should remember:
  • A) Illustrate your essence /vision with your track record & pragmatic commitments…rather than a succession of technical points (brand essence rather than succession of ad campaigns): that’s how a brand inspires trust and substance: laying out a vision or a program without applying it to people real life or your own actions doesn’t allow it to reach consumers’ hearts and minds. That’s the spirit of such successful brand strategies such as new Ally bank’s “no non-sense, just people sense” or Dove’s “Real beauty” campaigns that resonate so deeply with the consumer’s needs & state of mind of the era…
  • B) Lead the conversation, don’t let  your competitor or his allies define you: spell out your unique value proposition & unique style, don’t get caught reacting or playing defense, just lead your own music…too many brands respond to other players initiatives and forget to change the game with sheer innovation  i.e. The  new Doritos taco shell from Taco Bell !
  • C) Be opportunist, keep the pulse of the buzz , air du temps and readjust quickly: how Romney seized the Sept. 11 attack on the Lybia consulate to relaunch a new (albeit inarticulate) offensive on Obama’s failed Foreign policy…
  • D) The consistent story is what really matters but renew the narrative (lights on different facets) … In the age of the nonstop news cycle, every new development is the most important thing that has ever happened, meriting breathless coverage -- until the next, more important development inevitably overtakes it in a day or two. i.e. Romney campaign aiming to continue to talk about the failures of the president's policies, but in a forward frame, in a forward-looking discussion about how 4 more years of the last is not going to be good for the American people…
  • E) Stay on a simple & strong message, a consistent & clearly defining one: the one that will have the voter believe that they will get exactly what they mean to buy when they cast their vote, and not something around it…so any strategy that calls for various building blocks & phasing might work in the Ad executive circles but not in the general public arena: That’s how Geico “ 15 mn phone call could save you hundreds …” or “More Saving. More Doing”Home Depot have encapsulated a unique, concise set of benefits
  • F) leverage the conversation through your tribes & allies in the new media ecosystem: media, community support network, citizen journalists or customer forums are the new levers of the most permeable media of all: the daily, approachable one from seemingly peers: social media campaign engineering such as Old Spice ‘s ”The man your man could smell like”, the  fastest-growing and most popular interactive campaign in history that reached 1.4 billion impressions and 40 million video views  in a week, is an extreme capsule of that tribal marketing.
Now, for the moral value , one could ask how acceptable it is that a choice of candidate or society in one of the most advanced democracies in the world could be depending so much on marketing, the size of war chest or consultants: at a time when everybody recognizes the need to cut spending and address the budget deficit of a country, isn’t the necessity/benefit of a $5 Bn image war over the course of 12 months worth  questioning ?  
How would the democratic process work if Ad spending that the US Supreme Court decided to leave Unlimited in their 2010 landmark ruling in “Citizens United v. FEC” was reduced to “organic” social buzz & editorial coverage from media organizations ?
But then again how would you ensure that this coverage is fair, unbiased & balanced so that the voting public can make the most informed decision ?It’s hardly disputed that the Media are mostly skewed towards a Liberal bias and except for Fox News, few high profile /big audience outlets stand out  on the other side…
Maybe after all, this is like the Democracy it stems from, the worst model at the exception of all others…
However, I believe that in 20 years from now, this paroxystic point of political marketing will have found a more mature & reasonable framework of the election process whilst marketers will further refine the exemplary nature of this complex and exciting case of brand management.
  One thing is sure, whatever the eventual result of this US election: we now live in a global conversation where iconic figures fight hard & dirty for a universal model of society in which we want to live…quite a return from the multiculturalism  or laissez-faire & free-form / multi-local social experiments from the 70 and 80’s stem from the fragmentation & eventual explosion of a bipolar world that had given birth to many colors of politics both in terms of style, nation leaders and models…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why publicize the house when you are a house of brands ?

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:(for the lazy or time-challenged):
It might actually be a rather sensible strategic choice for some corporations to engage in the branding of the house even when you have been established as a house of brands in terms of portfolio organization...


That candid question formulated at a recent Brand forum sounds interesting and touches on much deeper elements...whilst already carrying a bias as it seems to suggest that there would have to be some inconstancy if a corporation chose one strategy or the other :

I would actually argue that this is an innate/ old conundrum and has always been a back & forth cycle or sort of balancing act between building brands & nurturing a masterbrand: from G.M. to Pernod Ricard or Tata , like it or not , the profile of the masterbrand has  at times been more emblematic or recognized than it’s brand portfolio: at the time when iconic companies were established in the 60 & 70’s, L’Oreal, Dupont or Procter actually meant as much to the general public than the Ellnet, Lycra or any of the “soap” brands Procter would launch through radio & TV early days sponsorship, these corporate names being emblematic of their product’s quality & reputation and often prominently signing vintage ads…

Then, a massive , natural brand extension phase ensued in the 80-90’s consisting of multiple launching of  brands across many product some point amidst that brand boom, marketers started rediscovering the virtues of central/common initiatives: cross-selling synergies (the Danone company, Nestle or G.M. initiated cross-brands promotional programs with Retail chains or dealerships), consolidation /economies of scale (Media buying, packaging, vendors, guidelines etc…); and more importantly, new rising categories/themes that were steming from evolving consumer needs & attitudes: those can become wider than what a single brand's perceived expertise would reasonably cover (ex. from breakfast Cereal/ fiber to healthy diet and energy supplements) and, if pre-empted, can offer much more long term growth potential (new brands in wider categories or existing brand extension etc…): hence the  “Let’s Make Today Great,” from Kelloggs ,  G.E.’s “Imagination at work” or a more complex “help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture's impact on our environment…” from Monsanto.

In the early 21st century & through the downturn, marketers had to revert to more vertically-focused investments under the pressure of their board for more immediate, tangible/accountable top line growth & R.O.I.: keeping behind-the-scenes, centralized resources, exit the active/ direct corporate value proposition to consumers…

I am therefore not so surprised that top marketers are now rediscovering the virtues of nurturing a masterbrand:
  1. A. LONG TERM GUARANTEE: Obviously,  the investment made towards the masterbrand generally pays off one day or another, preparing to take a punch for the team, lend support to the brand in a given category when it needs back-up for awareness, differentiation or reputation through a less product-centric, more inspiring (credible ?) dimension or mission statement: this makes the brands less dependent on a narrow value proposition or just a single product crisis (i.e. Mattel (2005) or Toyota (2010) recalls) by throwing the weight & support of a higher figure, the go-to school principal, the mission statement that, as Kotler says “acts as an invisible hand” more accountable to shareholders, regulatory bodies, media & consumer scrutiny…Sub-brands fade or die , their giant corporate parents still stand perennial…
  2. A WHOLE NEW HOLISTIC MARKETING: deeper sign of the times, the advent of Digital and the direct consumer behavioral data that it allows has opened the door for much more powerful, consumer centric cross-selling & promotional branding opportunities: you can now associate a buyer pattern & attitudinal profile across several categories & design much deeper/ more targeted value propositions in terms of demographics but also in regards with purchase pattern & loyalty across categories, promotional drivers or in terms of affinity with the channel, the content of the message, its context & attached geo-location services etc…Opening this new scope of shared/ single-source resources opens more applications beyond the richer needs-driven / Lifetime Value potential management such as:  multichannel communications planning, wider integration of Digital as a driving force in the conversation with the consumer, consistent benchmark of marketing effectiveness, R.O.I. and budget allocation optimization across the portfolio etc…This IS the real REVOLUTION that a masterbrand revival brings…                                                                                                     Let’s also not forget that some times, within the world of corporate politics, getting high-profile, strategic consumer-centric status for these otherwise behind-the-scenes/cross functional logistics helps a lot to get appropriate sign-off & cross-funding … It is indeed a powerful transformational theme and a new holistic marketing culture more in line with the natural perspective that Retailers always got right with their single view of shoppers, beyond category management, pricing & shelving organization …so, if it make sense and adds relevance, why ignore these fundamentals ?
  3. THEY ACT AS BRANDS ANYWAY: I would finally point out that, as BrandZ top 100 shows, some of these quiet masterbrands G.E. (15th), Chrysler (never only a sub brand) or Volkswagen (which aggregates Porsche  & VW in the study) are actually resilient enough in terms of reputation & equity  as to rank in the brandZ top 50, among "pure concentrate" brands ! (I would even argue that a special ranking for “conglomerate” masterbrands should be now created & allow for tracking & valorization…).
          This is probably no stranger to the fact that, as BrandZ points out “Consumers have little patience      with brands—and corporations—that violate trust. They publicize transgressions immediately and widely on social media…”: yes, the new consumer is much more knowledgeable & empowered, has  easier access to information and exerts more influence on a corporate governance that, after the Enron, BP or Mattel incidents has become more top of mind for consumers… so why not acknowledge that new order of transparency, take charge & manage this new dimension as a real asset rather than just have it putting up fires and only endure liabilities in P.R. hardships… ?
Somebody said “Trust is the new black”: corporate reputation is no longer about creating a vague, warm glow around a brand. It has become an integral part of the customer consideration, acquisition & retention value chain. We now recognize that corporate reputation helps convince customers that a company is relevant to them in an approachable, personal way which can directly affects purchase behaviors: it is an essential strategic asset.

So, why publicize the house when you are a house of brands ?
Well, because -not much less than for a branded house- the reputation of the house, its “brand" still has a life of its own, has much deeper repercussions than the simple sum of personalities /lives of the various family members that it harbors -children misbehaving , just growing up or leaving the nest, parents moving on to a new “empty nest” lifestyle or just seniors gently fading out of the picture: the house /family values (governance, corporate business principles) has to exist & stand strong for family members to gather, seek shelter in time of a crisis, help fund some of the kid’s misadventures…
In short: providing a guiding marketing culture and support system that remains relevant, alive & strong as the “pater noster” that once stood for the clan , well on top of the commerce stuff…

Friday, July 6, 2012

Why Facebook has to make such a compelling case for the monetization of social Media

There has been so much buzz from marketing, finance & social media pundits in the past month following Facebook's IPO that as things have not settled but still open for future prediction, I thought I might bring my own take & forecast:
Even if FB is overvalued & overhyped, it has 3 fundamental assets that many other social media or even traditional media don't always have: critical mass/captive audience, major brand recongition/equity. buzz /influence power.
  1. critical mass/reach: with more than more than 800 millions users worldwide, whilst 200 million accounts were added in 2011 , even if FB was churning more than Telco, Credit card or Media companies, this captive audience will still have prominence for the next decades over the still overpriced SuperBowl or Olympics TV iconic platforms...More importantly, it has become an integral part of a day in a life for hundreds of millions of teen agers, head of household/parents, opinion leaders or marketers who spent an average 700 mins per month actively engaging with their peers , family and friends: no other less than 5 years old medium can boast that kind of captive/regular , involved & deeply interconnected audience.
  2. major brand recognition/equity: even before the iconic Social network movie & cool J. Timberlake acting , FB had already reached  household name status that even LinkedIn or Twitter were not able to achieve , a brand that now ranks in the top 20 global brands (BrandZ 2012) among the Google, Coca-Cola, Apple, right behind WallMart & ahead of is the top riser (74%) in brand equity in 2012 -stay tuned in the next years!
  3. buzz / influence power: what people read on FB, either real, accurate facts or not, just counts: like oe not, as on Twitter or YouTube, messages, it amplifies & make any information become a public opinion trend or potential social wave.As Twitter starts flinching under a few blunders from celebrities or politicians who showed how tricky it can get to manage public opinion at global scale and from a 10 words billboard, FB still remains the trusted source where people go check the accuracy or details of a story: either a celebrity's daily life or a job seeker crosschecked by its future employers, it stands as a credible & true picture of what happens in everyday life.That's where FB still seems to hold a more trustworthy power than glossy spreads stories on E.T. or traditional print magazines or decidedly scripted "reality-shows" on Bravo.
So the key question is now: how will FB be able to monetize this in the best way without alienating its main asset: its members ?
The answer to this question has nothing to do with any behavioral vs attitudinal data are more relevant, any Display vs Search debate, nor how many or which brands should preempt it...

It is a case of HOW to: how to reinvent a new marketing game or way of subtle, interactive branding in storytelling:  more inspiration and service or deal driven than classic product show & tell: and that's exactly why old advertising patterns won't work: what only counts is that FB designs its monetization model and develop its commercial policies to advertisers, in real game-changing ways that both:
  1. bring a legitimate and relevant value: either in terms of interest, knowledge access, community building or activities: be a club, a forum, a polling or expression platform, bring real concrete benefits & advantages attached to a given community of interests or values... 
  2.  don't invade our privacy or comfort zone to a point that it would become intolerable like today's telemarketing or email Spam...sharing personal data with third party marketers might be fine as long it's then utilized in a way consistent with FB founding philosophy and values and not all over the map: that's where it would see the crumble of its very own initial asset & value at the very same incredible rate of that we saw in its growth...
We are being told that revenue stream will primarily stem from selling behavioral & attitudinal data to marketers & agencies: provided it is done in a way that brings value & relevance to the audience segment it targets and in a mature, intelligent manner, it might actually reinforce the strength & reach of the social network and finally seal its 100 billion market valorization and fate as THE most powerful media of the 21st century.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why the "CMO extinction" theme is a tired climate change cliché:

This Fast Company published blog is once again the same old song: that one being taunted by all sorts of new age marketing experts, trying so hard to look & sound oh so avant-garde by displaying a  breakthrough headline to sell their next episode:  as for those who invented the Internet or decided to dress cool by blaming global warming on modern industrialization for the past 50 years rather than considering the bigger picture, the data & the documented global temperature cycles that existed well before human CO2 contribution, the CMO’s extinction is an easy-sell theme, a popular urban legend in tabloid marketing circles…

I find that not only the reasons given in this paper for the theory of extinction of the CMO are distorted, redundant & incomplete but that, on the contrary, we are indeed living a defining time of evolutionary stage for marketers that should eventually see us regain more leadership in the C suite of more & more corporations; here’s why:

1)        If it is true that "....budgets are shifting..."  marketers have however been from the start at the forefront of the development of new  analytics , budget allocation tools & metrics of success beyond overall corporate performance & top line results; from marketing & media statistical modeling, new digital engagement metrics or web analytics, CRM data mining and customer segmentation or Customer Dialogue Management platforms are all tools & know how that marketers have created & mastered in adapting to a more complex landscape of consumers & channels; that means that the evaluation, dashboards & resource allocation process are more & more strategically driven by a more informed & analytics savy marketer rather than I.T transformation implementers or sales forces: marketers are the architects & designers of demand generation or systems that power the customer strategy that other functional teams help implement.

2)        If "...Social media exacerbates one thing..." it is the call for the real customer centricity order. The cacophony is an old (pre-digital) challenge that marketers already learned to address through real multichannel, integrated marketing strategies .If the consumer is now more empowered and an active co-writer of the brand story, the CMO always had, by sitting at the intersection of all Medium, to inspire, channel & harness that constant dialogue/relationship between the brand & its audience segments: has anyone seen customer feed-back, consumer research /opinions, ad testing  or CRM data being gathered & interpreted by other talents than those who are supposed to engage, respond & adapt to the markets every day…? Even call centers or Retail employees get their cue from marketing when it comes to the script & directions behind customer dialogue management or revenue optimization…
3)        "...The democratized web spawns confusion and trust issues…" and it’s precisely because everybody claims to be an expert in marketing that a C-suite relies on the CMO to sort out business intelligence , make determinations or present informed arbitrations; the P.R. crisis doesn’t dictate marketing, the sales people are way to entrenched into field management & too partial to analysis of success or failure and  web analytics still  tend to give a bias section view of the full customer base & patterns…Hundreds of TJMax "Maxinistas" or American idol contestants don’t replace a few dozens prominent rocks stars or gifted  fashion designers who actually know how to abosrb market trends whilst also monetizing them so effectively. It’s funny how the ultimate democracy or twit doesn’t automatically make everybody the best natural born communicator , buzz expert or leader !

4)        "...Pressure to demonstrate a return on investment with marketing has reached a fever pitch..." But it is hardly a new phenomenon. I have worked with most top CMOs in past 10 years  who in the mid-90’s started , under  the pressure to demonstrate their accountability in the C-suite, to hire an array  of powerful vendors & experts to help them make the case for their marketing MROI, budget sizing & allocation: from the management consulting or I.T. strategists , the top digital agencies to media marketing mix modeling divisions, CRM software Business Intelligence modules or Central Decisoning, they all cater their expertise to the CMO and feed his own decision making & dashboards: if there certainly  is pressure and stronger accountability , there is no cluelessness nor shortage of new science available; find me a single sales officer or CIO who can speak to MROI analytics & interpret the results of market research in front of a board !

5)        "...Lines of responsibility across marketing and sales are disintegrating..": again nothing new here: BtB or Btc marketers have long worked with sales force, customer services , call centers or customer facing agents…Marketing has always been all about top line revenue growth and extracting more value from every customer. I would argue that there is a danger in the GE solutions example as far as the artificial dichotomy between upstream and downstream: as any good marketer knows, product development is a key element of demand generation & can be informed & refined by downstream practices & experience. This is where integration stemming from a sharp understanding of consumer’s evolving needs & expectations can drive the product development or inspire go-to-market strategies: that what marketing genius Steve Jobs so beautifully embodied as the ultimate integrated marketer from corporate vision to technical execution, brand building or Retail strategy; I say the new generation of CMO is the Stve Jobs type, the best customer reader & advocate, the one who understand all pieces of the complex puzzle , dynamics & dimensions of what a brand is at heart and can nurture through a in-tune relationship with consumers & markets.

Now, of course, they are some of us who are not as talented as others or simply unable to adapt, wherever they sit, in marketing or somewhere else in the organization. Old media types , tired sales man or new digital wunderkinds are not necessarily cut for the greatest job of marketing leadership…I laugh at that underlying accepted cliche that puts any social media blogger or web designer at the pinnacle of marketing instinct & vision.

All in all, it is well known that the CMO role has been constantly reshaped & had to re-invent itself for the past 15 years with an incredible acceleration since digital reached a critical mass,radically changing the center of gravity of the relationship between consumers, channels & brands.The good marketers is te the one who understands & embodyies best the essence of the brand , both from the corporate and consumer’s perspective.He is the only one  who possesses the necessary subtle balance between art & science, creative, analytics & optimum mix across all available touchpoints, both strategically & operationally. They have their feet in the market, incredible sense of smell & hearing for the “air du temps” , have developed wings & acute long term vision to foresee future  markets shift... and the memory of an elephant when it comes to the roots of the brand.

The CMO role might be redefined or rebranded Chief Brand Officer, Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officers etc… but the fact of the matter is that while the contours & areas of responsibility evolve constantly under more & more pressure or scrutiny from the board, they are the most multi-skilled  & adaptable of species and the customer centricity agenda that they naturally lead has become more than ever before a central strategy to full scale corporate transformation that many CEO’s are now embracing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The nature of True Innovation for a brand

As Taco Bell is launching its Doritos Taco shell, I was reflecting on how the importance of true Innovation is essential to the equity & sustainability of a brand. They are a few notable dimensions to Innovation that this initiative is bringing to life:

Ø  Dimension 1: it makes perfect sense for the brands involved: it’s a perfect alliance in terms of product but also in terms of brand psyche: by touching on the Taco shell, a founding block of Mexican food, and transforming its blend, basic function into being part of the taste of a menu, it actually renews the core of the value proposition around taste & experience: it’s much more than packaging, it’s much more than Image; it puts the innovation in the heart of the Taco Bell around taste, indulgence beyond the fundamental of value for price or other commodity features that are hygiene factors  but not so differentiating ; it also brings the Doritos snack into a wider food experience, it gives it a more versatile dimension than chips with a beer.
Ø  Dimension 2: it makes perfect sense as a call to action: while it focuses on a product centered value proposition, it actually boils down to a strong “come try it” proposition and stands to generate traffic to the point of sale…and this is exactly what ANY innovation should trigger: it’s the sampling, the real life experience , as Apple so neatly did it with the “come play freely with the device” experience in the Apple store...Any Innovation that doesn’t carry that is a failure and this goes as much for consumers as for the company’s staff for it should galvanize goodwill around a new, clearly outlined & exciting narrative
Ø  Dimension 3: it makes sense from a supply chain /corporate synergy perspective: the brands who used to be both part of the same Pepsico company -before Pepsi spun Taco Bell to Yum brands- shared a natural common ground industry, marketing & product innovation culture: re-igniting this kind of mutually natural & profitable synergy is what breeds a Customer centric culture of Innovation beyond vertically integrated frameworks…

Now, from this rich example, I was reflecting on REAL Innovation: either groundbreaking product Innovation (Revolutions ?) such as the Ipad, the Google search engine or Tivo...or new marketing concepts such as Starbucks coffee, Dyson vacuum cleaners, at-home teeth whitening strips or Activia yogurts… Innovation these days has been so diluted by marketers, from the latest moisturizing lipstick or anti aging cream”Innovation” that’s been on the market for years to the “new” Tide that’s only as new as the primary color of the box.Even if it doesn’t mean that sometimes the genius of marketing Innovation can’t reside mostly in the go-to- market originality: that’s what Old Spice's “the man your man could smell like”, the  Jay-Z ‘s “Decoded” book launch or Burger King’s subservient chicken campaigns did so well…

Real Innovation  requires 3 essential ingredients :Talent , Cult (ure?)  of Innovation ,  Disruption.
First, they are the creative, idea-driven and entrepreneurial profiles that you need to have (find) to achieve true Innovation: a Johnatan Ive (Apple) , a Facebook team of students, a poised Martha Stewart, a media darling Tom Ford (Gucci) or a celebrity pet Armani , an unapologetic Jack Welsh or ubiquitous Philippe Stark....Of course, you have to recognize their next generation version in your everyday staff : there are others out there as these where when they were still undisicovered  !
Then, there’s the ecosystem that you create for these talents to be nurtured & drive the corporate (not only R&D) agenda: that’s where the genius of Steve Jobs came into play when as a CEO , he became the demanding, relentless dynamo of Innovation. This eco system doesn’t have to be confortable nor all lovey dovey, it’s not about the number of tennis courts or juice bars available on the HQ campus: it is about the focus on business value & results, customer centric attractiveness, profitability, constant self-improvement, non compromising excellence delivery in execution…
And then , there is the questioning (deconstructing ?) of the way you approach your usual business model every day: questioning the status quo from a market standpoint rather than the traditional paths in which things have been done or seen: in marketing, that chiefly means starting from a needs-based, consumer centric market research and segmentation, a wide ranging Customer Lifetime Value , cross-selling , beyond -category strategic planning..; it is unfortunate that it is also where many CEOs task their headhunter with finding the guy from competition who has marketed the same exact business model for years and is already formatted into it…a problem starting with the right culture profile of leasdership  & talent !

Lastly, Innovation is all about the magic “tour de main” or alchemy in which you prepare & combine these ingredients Keeping in mind like good chefs do, that as food is more about social & sensorial experience than just filling stomachs, Innovation is not an end in itself, it is the best way for a business to connect with its consumers , to stay RELEVANT: and relevance IS here the KEY objective for a CEO or CMO to keep top of mind throughout strategy AND project execution rather than Go-to-Market processes.
Then the good side effects of Innovation as a means is that it also naturally feeds many essential business assets such as brand brand equity, customer awareness & preference, transformational attitude and attracts the best talents in the industry…
I have learned  while working across a wide range of companies of different sizes & industries, that INNOVATION is a quality derived from a spirit, a CULTURE: setting that culture, infusing it through all employees, customer facing, sales people, I.T., design, manufacturing, control teams etc.., is what allows a company to grow innovation: that’s what Steve Jobs in his own autocratic/rough yet effective style was so good at; that’s what Jack Welch unapologetically accomplished for GE in the 90’s , Sir Branson infused so well into his ever stretching Virgin brand portfolio or what Samsung is now doing in their own Korean way. Nothing, none of the best brightest minds without that spirit, encouraged & organized INNOVATION culture can bring innovation into corporate life & success.Innovation is NOT a POPULARITY contest.

So ask yourself as a manager, employee or CEO not what you can do for Innovation not what innovation can do for you…Start contributing to nurturing , safeguarding the mind set together with the best people around the ideation of Innovation and then it’s tedious but necessary transformation process from nurturing curiosity & questioning to capturing suggestions and experimental  project or prototype task force…and don’t leave it only to R&D but have it championed by a business oriented officer who can has clout in the C-Suite…And that person should be the CMO –other name for Champion Innovation Officer J

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The right talents for 21st marketing: H.R. industry missing in action
Keith is right BUT:
As a critical agent of change/transformation, the selection of the right talents is key; they all say that but nothing changes in the talent acquisition PROCESS & M.O.: headhunters are less & less focused on quality, affinity & long term interest of their clients, they hardly manage reading and understanding the specifics of the assets they are supposed to manage. And HR departments -even at Unilever- don't have the skills, time nor power to do better...
Until the talents that are integrated (both digital & "old media") as well as having the right balance between art & science are recognized & nurtured by a truly professional H.R.industry, marketing will not achieve this so needed revolution that Keith is desribing..

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What’s behind the rise of French brands on the global scene

The Artist’s historic triumph at the Oscars not only warmed my French pride and special love for French cinema but it also reminded me that many French brands still seem to have this Je-ne-sais-quoi and are actually very active / present in the global marketing landscape (many of them actually leading most of these big tickets advertising slots during that kind of annual iconic mass…)  From L’Oreal to Chanel, Danone, Vuitton or Michelin ,  I was wondering what makes these French brands stand tall against perennial, global American juggernauts such as Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Apple or Ford…

Maybe it is the universally sensitive & charming sides that transcend various cultures, the delicate balance between brainy & emotional, mindful of their connection with an audience know to be diverse and complex. Where the British brands are so good at standing for civilized wit in a  universal English language, la French touch thrive to convey refined yet exotic & skilled at tapping in something very universal in each of us: that something being “the soul”.
As much as American brands carry a unique sense of power & dominance (epitomized by Dodge’s Guts & Glory , bordering on arrogance & imperialism), it seems that French brands uniquely personify suave & opening us to new things: the US brand is aspirational & speaks of leadership, the French brand is inspiring, accessible, attractive & evocative without being too esoteric or spiritual as Oriental brands can be seen. Descartes (Reason) meets Beaudelaire (symbolism/lyrism) or Lafayette meets Scott Fitzgerald…
It seems to me that the lessons in the area of marketing /brand strategy are the qualities that most successful French identity icons or other non french brands understand so well:
  1. Remain true to your roots: you should stay true to yourself when you grow & reach out to the world, speak the universal language of your roots (no pun intended, L’Oreal) in a way that’s not afraid of being original, sounding different and minding the diversity of your audience: whilst the Chanel legend has been reinvented & exposed over & over again instead of being diluted whilst being reinvented by design (Chanel’s Lagerfeld, Guesquiere’s Balenciaga) , retail or aggressive brand extensions to multiple spokespersons /faces ; Chanel, Vuitton, Armani…
  2.  Embody Universal but multi-identity: it also tells us that once you found your voice (brand positioning, channels) you can be as flexible as to have variations around a central personality or theme (Vuitton or L’Oreal’s “You are worth it” could have looked a bit rigid but has been spun & played by many stars or multiple faces (also H&M, Zara, Orange, Petit bateau)
  3.  It's OK to be unapologetically Aspirational & stylish: Refinement & sophistication are OK even in Mass marketing: you don’t need to oversimplify to be effective, popular & recognizable; they are ways of making the average Joe feeling special & impacted/empowered by a challenging , non-Politically Correct idea (Dove natural beauty campaign) or a deliberately elitist branding (Stella Artois, Marc Jacobs, Air France … )
  4. Don’t be afraid of mystery, epic or drama::in love as in life, not everything needs to be explained, analyzed or demonstrated: nurture the mystique, play with the grandiose & symbolic, everybody loves a big saga;know how not to reveal too much too soon and keep your audience guessing or real life pain or doubt or open interpretation: that's what keeps it exciting/ entertaining or interactive  even overtime or overexposed...see Apple, British Airways, Les Miz, Edith Piaf, Catherine Deneuve…
  5. Stay relevant & connected:keep surprising by innovating, don’t be too predictable : you should show your main target groups that you understand  new modes of communication & love to connect with your consumers in new or diverse ways the Medium is the message: multichannel /multi mode of communications (Sponsorship, grassroots, online, social media etc…), your brand should be confident & consistent enough to diversify its touchpoints & medium of choice (HSBC, Michelin, Ikea, Perrier, Agnes B or Old Spice’s “the man your man could smell like” type campaigns)
  6. Use modern yet timeless know-how: renew the message & the narrative but cultivate the legend, the savoir-faire (Lacoste, Hermes, Evian, Laduree) and the love of the craft: quality will always be in Fashion, the story of the making is eternal
  7. Play from tasteful feelings and sensuality don’t hesitate to pack on subtle sex appeal or sentimental, naughty or emotional: as long as it’s not vulgar or too hard-sell, cute or racy is refreshing & impactful  (Orangina’s Sexy Jungle, Mugler, Amelie, The Smurfs,  Nespresso’s George Clooney)
Now, even in French branding, there is no miracle recipe, it's all about work, consitency, vision & art, the last thing boiling down to the right execution...but most importantly in the way these traits are relevant to your brand strategy & marketing objectives at a given point in time or on the long term...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Should we let marketers be just fame whores ?

I want to believe as much as Tom Sullivan  in long term brand generosity & substance...In fact I always work with my clients from that assumption & mindset.
However, the thing is Kardashians, the last GOP darling or Lin sensations are the brands that suddenly get billions of impressions and are repeatedly grabbing the public psyche across all kinds of consumer segments or categories, even over a few months ‘s span; in fact I would argue that the most successful brand builders are the one (like Sir Richard) who can sharply focus on a brand for a launch, an event, build momentum & then drop it, move on to another story, another market like it didn't happen. Is there proven longevity or better performance for long term consistency or long term loyalty ?  besides. consumers are fickle, getting more & more ADD, more quickly bored, the average attention span is that of a text message or tweet: they demand to be fed with a new, shorter show, a new story, a new profile every week, every month, every year. We are living in the "Dancing with the stars" or "American Idol" of the day lifecycle.Marketers just need to come to terms with that reality and do the best job instantly, ready-to-eat fast food marketing…the dinner can't wait and is not even convinced that long term balance nutrition helps live better & longer. Long term view is a plus for a talented marketer but long term impact hardly appears in any corporate review or the most widely used ROI modeling research, let alone in advertising award circles or the digital agency narrative.
So, as an old school integrated marketer, I would settle for pragmatic & fame whore whilst keeping a 3rd eye for the more sustainable layer if it's within reach for the same price: that’s the stuff that will make my clients come back to me vs the next guy for the next step…while I keep driving them in the same right direction !

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Starwood brand experience & socia media:great example of brand /customer equity waste

As every empowered consumer & traveler, I recently posted on TripAdvisor my latest horrendous experience with the W hotel in Montreal.
After kindly droping a note to Chief brand Officer for Starwood H.Q. where I was calling his attention to both bad customer delivery & associated bad buzz link that i had generated, here is what I received:
1) a generic response from a very kind yet uninvolved Public Affairs agent who refered me to the local general manager
2) a back-handed apology from an arrogant & defensive hotel general manager who felt sorry that I had a bad experience (heavily suggesting that it was nothing but my only perception...) and claimed that it would be much beter after their planned million dollar renovation...
3) a LAVISH 2 nights points equivalent as compensation (not even enough to stay in the same category but in the cheaper tier ! )

What this teaches us is:
1) management should ALWAYS be set up to keep the pulse via appropriate & natural channels for a clear and open dialogue that allows them to hear from customers; however globettrotting, a  BRAND leader SHOULD NEVER BE too BUSY for a dissatisfied customer; isnt it common sense that that same management would, after delegating response to local manager, monitor its nature and impact on the customer: isn't it why it's called MANAGEMENT ?
2) the result is that I felt more insulted by the G.M.'s response than before his intervention...insulting the customer's intelligence & making bad excuses is never a good thing, adding insult to injury ! As if refurbushing was to replace bad employee attitude, horrendous breakfast service or poor bar management !
3) I will NEVER give a second chance to the W franchise after that handling
4) the number of Tripadvisor members reading my review of  this single W  location has reached over 1 500 views in less than 1 week and keeps growing: that means that the BAD  BUZZ is still spreading through a 30+ millions community, with my recommendations for direct alternative competition hotels in the area: how's that for defusing a situation & making it a better outcome for the brand, especially in regards with my intial goodwill & opprtunity given to Starwood for redemption :)
5) this experience has cast a perennial doubt & serious limitation on my Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty towards ANY of the Starwood portfolio brands as  they share the same central policies, processes and officers in charge ! Good job on Customer  Lifetime Value across 10 brands !!!

In short, best example of multi level brand imposture:  not delivering in real life whilst too busy trying to play cool AND even worst MANAGING customer quality delivery /loyalty & social media  BUZZ...

What a very talented & multi-skill waste !