I’m NIKE! Or at least you think I am

swooshAuthenticity is going to be the new battle brands will have on their hands. With the rise of social media and its low barrier to entry, companies that don’t take steps to protect themselves by registering their names on the major sites risk allowing someone else to control their brand name.

Which makes me realize that there is going to be a market for these identities, much like there was a business for Domain Squatting in the late 90s. I wonder how much Nike would pay for the @Nike handle on Twitter (with its legion of followers), especially if Twitter continues its meteoric rise in social media.

If you haven’t already, my suggestion is to register on the following sites and ramp up your privacy settings until such time as your company is ready to move forward.

Twitter
Facebook
MySpace
Friendfeed
Youtube

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Would your ad survive at a cocktail party?

cocktailWhen clients evaluate their brand ads, they should think of the ad as a person they’re meeting at a cocktail party.

You know the list of characters:

1. Chatter box – Yammers on, non stop, about his job, colleagues, kids, and everything else under the sun and doesn’t ask you a thing.

This is the ad that says too many different things and doesn’t care who you are.

2. Boring guy – Doesn’t have an opinion on anything. Has monosyllabic vocabulary.

This is the ad that tries to appeal to everyone.

3. Fashion disaster – Purple plaid jacket with yellow pants, white socks and red shirt.

This is the ad with no design balance, 4 font styles and bursts (i.e. 20% off!!)

4. Salesman – Won’t stop going on about his time share in Cancun.

This is the ad that screams “Buy NOW!”

5. The genius – Talks down to you like you’re eight years old. Usually has ‘doctor’ in his name.

This is the ad that spoon feeds the concept to you so you won’t miss the point.

A cocktail party is a lot like reading a newspaper or watching TV. There are lots of people (ads), and many of them would like to talk to you. Many clients do not consider this when evaluating their ads. So, next time you’re criticizing your ad, consider this:

If your ad is:

A. Interesting
B. Interested
C. Easy to understand
D. Well groomed
E. Not pushy

You probably have a good brand ad on your hands. And what’s more important is you’ll have a brand personality that people may want to meet again at the next party.

Why can’t we talk to the creative team?

notThis a comment I’ve heard many times in my career. Clients who want to circumvent the chain of agency process in order to speak directly with the people who will be developing the creative product.

In response, agencies usually have pretty lame excuses, like:

“We don’t want to disturb them;” or

“They don’t have the authority to do that.”

Essentially, what the agency is saying is “We don’t want to lose control of our process,” which is analogous to a woman in a store trying to buy a pair of men’s jeans and being told she can’t because it messes up their sales database.

Sometimes it’s imperative to retain control of your processes. But we need to think of our clients more like customers. They all have different needs, and we, as agencies, need to be flexible enough to address them.

Recently we revamped our communication process in our shop. Account Services designate whether a client job is ‘simple’ (i.e. under a certain $ level, design determined, easy collateral, production-oriented, only one art director required, etc.) or ‘complex’ (over a certain $ level, multiple resources required, creative brief required, etc.). Simple jobs get transferred right to the Creative department where the client interfaces directly with the art director or writer. In order to ensure success, we use estimate templates and give the creatives authority to open a new project in the system to bill their time to.

So far it’s early days, but our clients are thrilled to have this kind of access.

Why your brand needs to tell some people to piss off

trespassingWhen we work with clients on their brand strategy we spend a good deal of time defining their desired audience (i.e. people who will love them). We make great progress defining socio-economic traits, demographics, psychographics (and any other graphics we can come up) for both desired and, more importantly, undesired audience.

When the new brand is applied, however, more often than not, it doesn’t tell the undesired audience to piss off – generally because once marketing has presented the brand roadmap, their company has a different focus, which usually sounds like this: Any Business Is Good Business.

Translation: Welcome undesirable audience!

By doing so, the company can make short-term gains and look good to its investors, but in the long-term, they’re not doing themselves any favors. They aren’t creating a tribe of advocates. By appealing to everyone, they water down their brand personality. What’s worse is that they draw in an audience that is guaranteed to not love them. Which continues the cycle of escalating advertising and marketing costs, new customer acquisition programs and high churn rates.

Instead, if they are clear from the outset about whom they don’t want, they’ll appeal more to those whom they do want. Those people (while a smaller group than ‘everyone’) are the ones who have the potential to love them, and are much more likely to become advocates of the brand. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand that if customers love you, they’ll tell their friends about you, which reduces advertising costs, reliance on new customer acquisition programs and customer churn.

So why aren’t brands boldly saying ‘you’re not for me’. Probably because we’re too focused on short-term results, and the fear that telling some people they aren’t for us will cause bad publicity.

Are there any strong brands out there that you could say are for everyone?

How can David beat Goliath?

davidMalcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and Tipping Point, recently wrote a terrific article in the New Yorker about Davids and Goliaths. He referenced historical conflicts that demonstrated that when David fights Goliath on Goliath’s terms (i.e. conventional battle), he wins 28% of the time. However, when he fights on his own terms, he wins an astounding 64% of the time.

This gave me a moment of pause. Not because of the radical percentage swing, but because how many of us out there, when you think of our talent, skills, company influence, experience, etc. can really call ourselves Goliaths? I would have to say that the majority of us out there are just plain old Davids. And if we’re David, then everyone else out there, to us, is Goliath.

So, what are we doing differently to succeed against the Goliaths of the world? Gladwell references a girls basketball team that used a full-court press to overcome the fact that they were smaller and less skilled than their opponents. But really, you can use this methodology in any aspect of your life.

For example, next time you’re applying for a job (which many are today) and you know that you’ll be competing against people with more experience and deeper skill sets, what will you do differently? If you go by Gladwell’s stats, when you apply like everyone else, you stand a one in four chance of getting that job. But if you change your tactics to focus on your strengths, you can change the playing field.

This philosophy, in essence, is how we look at advertising. Often, our clients do not have the same budgets, reputations or brands as their competitors, so we have to change the game in order to increase our odds of winning. This can take the form of an innovative media placement or use of media, unusual messaging, and a host of other areas. It’s all about cutting through the clutter and getting noticed.

In fact, this is a great way to look at anything in life where you feel you’re at a disadvantage. If you go up against the Goliaths straight up, you’ll probably lose. But if you change the game, you can accomplish anything.

PS – Thanks to condron.us for adding my blog to their roll.

Will personalized magazines save the printed word?

timeTIME and its entities have partnered together to give consumers what the Internet has been doing all along – delivering personalized content. Through MINE, consumers now have the ability to get magazines delivered in mashup form. I guess the only thing that surprised me is what took them so long? Magazines still have the advantage of being one of the most acceptable media for casual reading – for now. But their irrelevance has been killing them. A mashup of this sort could help in the short term, before the Kindle takes over. It could also serve up advertising that is more relevant, which appeals to my clients.

My assumption is that newspapers will not follow suit. They’re too entrenched in their old-world model to deliver personalized content. And besides, innovation isn’t exactly their style.

How pigs can teach us good branding

pigThank god they changed the name of the Swine Flu to H1N1 Virus. I was scared to death to walk through the grocery store, let alone contemplate eating bacon or pork for the foreseeable future. But now that they’ve switched the name, I feel much better about the whole situation. Heck, I even had a BLT for lunch.

But don’t ever – EVER try to serve me chicken. I’ll throw it back in your damn face. After all, did you know that you can catch a pox from it?

And while we’re on the subject, you’ll never get me to travel through Germany. That’s where everyone gets measles.

In fact, you can scratch a bunch of countries off my list. You can forget Japan – you encephalitis-spreading jerks. And you can keep West Nile to yourself, you virus-loving bastards.

The worst thing about living close to the ocean though is that I can never go into the water. After all, don’t want to catch crabs. That’s nasty business, I hear.

You’ve got to admit, we really do live in the age of communication, when the pig farmers’ lobby can get the name changed of a worldwide disease that’s already on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The switch from Swine Flu to H1N1 Virus is timely, but if anything, it only demonstrates very short-term thinking. Once the furor around this flu dies down, it will fade into obscurity, just like all the other famous diseases and pandemics we know.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to a bbq. They’re serving insane bovine!