We often draw thick lines between verticals of expertise. Someone is an analyst or an insights generator, a marketing expert or a brand specialist, a designer or an innovative thinker. It’s useful to have these titles and silos of talent. When a particular job needs to get done, with all of the constraints of time and money, it’s best to go with the experts. However, in this habit of specification, we might be missing the opportunity to blend our practices and re-imagine the potential within them.
Consider innovation and design. These areas have been the 21st century’s ascending stars. In the last decade, innovation has become the businessman’s core motto and it’s still the golden ring of nearly every industry. The tenets of innovation have pushed us to envision a process of regularly producing newness in the world. This has led to experimental approaches in workspaces, novel management styles and an increased focus on collaboration. The creation of innovation as a staple business practice has moved companies in some amazing directions.
Likewise, design has seen an explosion of popularity, both graphically and industrially. Thanks to companies such as Apple and Google, which have applied long-revered design principles to consumer electronics and digital interfaces, our eyes have been opened to the power of design and its ability to drive growth and profitability. While both innovation and design attract very different practitioners, it is when we consider the underlying tenets of both disciplines that we realize the need to blend them more thoroughly. There are three foundational similarities between design and innovation. These foundations can serve to inspire our thinking for what could be a powerful partnership. …Continue reading
This week’s news of Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile device unit and Samsung’s exciting advance of the “smartwatch” category with its Galaxy Gear offers up a Marketing 101 course on how companies that follow and live their positioning consistently and aggressively thrive, and those that don’t, flail.
Lets talk flail first. Microsoft MSFT +0.84% is spinning its $7.2 billion deal to pick up Nokia NOK +0.08%‘s wireless phone business as a new beginning for both companies. It’s a chance to revive Microsoft’s ailing mobility business. And one to make Nokia viable and relevant again (despite the fact that most Nokia devices are powered by the lagging Microsoft Windows Phone operating system).
I’m not buying it. The news caused Nokia’s shares to soar for good reason, yet dissipated most of the $18 billion surge in market cap Microsoft experienced on CEO Steve Ballmer’s retirement announcement less than two weeks ago. This was no surprise given Microsoft’s ongoing struggle for relevancy versus Apple AAPL -1.42%‘s and Google GOOG -0.64%‘s mobile operating systems. And despite its considerable success with the Xbox, it’s more often progressed with fits and starts on devices like Zune (iPod killer), Kin (smart device killer) and Surface (the company recently took a $900 million write-off for unsold units of this iPad killer).
Quite simply, Microsoft continues to be a software company trying to reposition itself as a device and services company. It is confusing the market, consumers, employees and of course, investors. …Continue reading
There’s an amazing milestone happening this year, which I’m surprised we don’t hear more about: 2013 will be the year that US marketing spend on digital surpasses TV. TV ad spend will be a little under $70bn (including media placement, creative and agency fees), and digital marketing spend will be over $70bn. Finally, 17 years since I set up a digital team at J. Walter Thompson, the future has arrived!
This is an amazing milestone for us data scientists and marketing analytics folk. Old-style TV advertising doesn’t create much data at all, except some Nielsen-based marketing mix modeling. On the other hand, digital marketing throws out an incredibly rich set of data – whether we’re talking about search, display, location-based services, digital TV/multi-screen with return data, or even email. The explosion of Big Data and the application of analytics is transforming marketing. …Continue reading
In a column for the New York Times, David Brooks posited that the U.S. has one clear advantage over Chinese competition: branding. He notes that U.S. firms are powered by “eccentric failed novelists” (presumably from agencies and consulting firms that are gifted at brand positioning and execution) and “visionary founders” (think Steve Jobs) who have created exceptional brands. This talent is lacking in the Chinese market where “executives tend to see business deals in transactional, not in relationship terms,” as Brooks says. This observation is important because there are Chinese firms that seem to have everything to win globally except for branding and marketing.
Speaking as a long-time observer of brands and brand strategy, I believe that Brooks is correct but his analysis is incomplete. China’s lack of people with brand instincts is not the only or even the main brand challenge of Chinese firms. Further, he does not address the big questions: How, and when, will they overcome this deficiency? …Continue reading
Hanging around St.Tropez recently, I was keen to avoid the tourist traps and dived into Truffaux, a hat shop. Or more correctly, a Panama Hat Salon.
Here as you can see is a business owner that takes naming seriously. What a fantastic set of product names: Le Charmeur, Creme Brulee, Leadbelly…you read the names and just want to try the hats on. Which I did. Leaving with ‘Le Cubain,’ I reflected on the appalling standards of naming in the mobile and finance sectors in which I have been working recently.
The desire for unanimous approval from every possible audience, a generic product and a tortuous decision-making process leads to the reductive and bland naming that we can see shouting out at us from every high street mobile store or bank.
Wouldn’t it be great if marketing managers making the decision realized that naming is not a purely rational exercise? We want names that reek of some authentic play on the product or service. That makes us smile. That makes us lean in to the product, take an interest and maybe try them on or try them out.
While the thinking behind the naming approach needs to be clear and logical, the names themselves need to be memorable if they have any chance of engaging the audience.
And if this is not possible then please, just use a number.
Top athletic teams create exceptional levels of performance of people and teams. They aspire to move beyond competence to excellence. Their concepts and methods provide lessons to those that would build excellence in marketing teams. In that spirit, I was attracted to the new book entitled Toughness: Developing True Strength on and off the Court by Jay Bilas. Jay was a top level basketball player for four years under fabled Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, played professional ball in Italy and is now an ESPN basketball analyst. He explores the value of toughness in a basketball player and team, a quality much admired in the sports world. His observations contain some familiar and some less-familiar admonitions, but his “toughness” perspective provides insights into how to achieve real excellence in a marketing team. …Continue reading
The Importance of Storytelling in the Startup World
In the bustling Silicon Valley, startups are starting to consistently roll out disruptive innovations, making industry giants become simultaneously nervous and impressed. When it comes to creating their own brands, startups have the flexibility and the risk-taking mentality to push new frontiers that redefine category expectations. Yet, with limited resources and constant uncertainty, startups also turn to basic storytelling to create relevant, differentiated and enduring perception in the hearts and minds of their customers.
Within small companies, each decision maker wears multiple hats – it isn’t surprising that at startups such as Uber and Square, the marketing functions also incorporate PR and communications. A centralized, lean machine often ensures that a consistent brand story is being told. “We always want to communicate to our customers that we are a local advertising technology solution provider, and we’re fast, efficient and cheap,” says Asees Singh, the Director of PR for Paper G. “Telling a great story is central to our brand – if we’re singing a song, our brand would be the chorus that everyone remembers, and the individual executions are the rest of the song.” …Continue reading
How the Retail Giant Is Transforming Itself
It’s been a long journey back for The Gap, but there’s a light showing that signifies it is finding its way back from both a leadership and relevancy perspective.
Recent headlines speak to this. Financial performance has been trending up. It’s been getting kudos for creative marketing and merchandising – from the bricks and mortar launch of its hugely popular Piperlime online clothier to Banana Republic’s very successful tie-in with AMC’s Mad Men. Then there’s the inspired move to bring on Michael Francis (former Target CMO and JC Penney president) as its first marketing creative advisor.
Seth Farbman, brought onboard 18 months ago as the Gap’s first Global CMO, has been steering the Gap’s transformation. During a recent presentation as part of Prophet’s Change Agent Webinar Series, Seth discussed the journey. Portions of his commentary follow: …Continue reading
I was recently reminded of a powerful tool for positioning: the “unlike” statement. A TV spot for Pradaxa, an anticoagulant drug, deliberately highlights that it reduces stroke risk and unlike Warfarin, “there’s no need for those regular blood tests.” This a niche example of direct competitive differentiation but others, like Southwest Airlines’ crusade against bag fees, have been much more visible example of the unlike positioning.
As marketers we are the beneficiaries of the fundamental tools of marketing pioneered years ago by the titans of modern marketing from professors like Kotler to organizations such as P&G and The Coca-Cola Company. The classic positioning statement handed to us from these pioneers includes very specific identification of the target, competitive frame, benefits and evidence. It is this deliberately concise yet deliberate statement that guides and coordinates internal decisions and external execution from brand strategy to pricing to advertising, packaging and service delivery. The gold standard of positioning is to articulate the value of the brand or offering in a way that is feasible for the business to deliver, valuable for the target and, at the same time, clearly differentiated in the market. It is on this last point that our classic statement sometimes fails. …Continue reading
Marketers have long championed the cause of branding, especially in the B2C space, citing such benefits as product memorability, familiarity, brand loyalty, and lower product marketing costs. But beyond these quantifiable costs, brands are also a reflection of the company’s spirit, goals, and position in the marketplace. One useful tool in understanding a brand is to think of it in the context of a superhero.
The Importance of Origin
Origin stories explain three important elements of a superhero: mission, identity and powers. Consider the origin story of Batman. Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne, walking with his parents in an alley, runs away as muggers approach and subsequently witnesses the murder of his parents. His traumatic story serves as the backdrop for the creation of Batman. Bruce’s mission quickly becomes clear: to avenge his parents’ death. His identity—millionaire and owner of Wayne Enterprises—explains his ability keep his Batman alter-ego secret. And while Batman has no supernatural power, his Batsuit, Batmobile, and Batcave enable his fight against Gotham’s most evil villains. …Continue reading