There's something interesting going on with agency Web sites. Ironically, many of the shops that pioneered immersive Flash sites for clients are turning their backs on the high-tech immersive approach when it comes to their own sites. The Barbarian Group, EVB and Juxt Interactive are going this feeds-over-Flash route.
Can companies do well by doing good? Yes—sometimes. But the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed.
If an ad is to work – make people talk about it, love it and want to take a stake in sharing it – it must become a social object. Many a viral campaign acts as a social object because it becomes part of the cultural conversation – people talk about it, and ultimately act as the medium for the message. But for an ad to take on meaning for the consumers that it speaks to – and to get them to take action as a result of it – it must be driven by a purpose-idea. A purpose idea is the emotional, intrinsic reason that will motivate an individual to want to buy the product – and the reasons why the product was created to begin with. A sense of safety and security from purchasing a certain brand of car, a boost in self-confidence from wearing a sexy heel (and the looks it may generate), or a sense that whole grain will nourish you and contribute to a healthier, lighter and longer life.
In Adweek July 18th- Warren Berger wrote an interesting piece about the potential mid-life crisis of the ad biz. "There are lots of tough questions companies must confront in dealing with a consumer who's more engaged, more informed and more concerned with social issues than ever before. Among those questions: What does the company stand for? What does it believe? How does it make its products and treat its employees? Is it being straight with us in its ads? All of these points are part of the larger conversation people are now having about brands." This isn't a crisis inflicting advertising, it comes from somewhere, it's a corporate identity crisis- could corporations have lost track of their reason for being? You sell stuff, we know that, but it's not enough. What's your reason for being? What do you want to do when you get to work in the morning? Does you brand have a cause?
A brand has to have a reason for being. It should make a difference in the world in some way. Moreover, a brand has to have an organization that powers it -- an organization that is passionate and committed to bringing that brand to life in all facets of the company. The power of a brand starts from the people who create the experience every day. And the purpose the brand represents needs to come through at every possible touch point.
Simon Sinek has a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership all starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.
Progress is good, but we need to make sure that we’re progressing in the right direction. Our fundamental skills and the craft of design have started to take a back seat. Using the right tools and techniques is certainly an important part of design. But do our tools and resources make us better designers? Taking a close look at the current state of design, we can see that sometimes modern design tools and processes do more harm than good. Please note that in preparing this article, we presented basic questions to designers, from beginner to expert, in an unscientific poll. Close to 600 designers participated.
I'd planned in all sincerity to write an essay about the three Super Bowl commercials that I thought wouldn't get the recognition in most "top ten" lists, but that I believed might actually do something business-wise down the road. I meant it. I wanted to be positive... ...but I just can't. I can't think of one spot that is going to matter after today's Monday morning ad quarterbacking is done.
Modern capitalism can be broken down into two major eras. The first, managerial capitalism, began in 1932 and was defined by the then radical notion that firms ought to have professional management. The second, shareholder value capitalism, began in 1976. Its governing premise is that the purpose of every corporation should be to maximize shareholders’ wealth. If firms pursue this goal, the thinking goes, both shareholders and society will benefit. This is a tragically flawed premise, and it is time we abandoned it and made the shift to a third era: customer-driven capitalism.
Most of the marketing rules we lived by just five years ago are practically obsolete. The industry has faced more changes in the last five years than in the previous 50. Let's face it, there's no point in improving broken legacy models. Since necessity is the mother of invention, let's not waste this recession and instead use it to rethink how we go about branding in this new decade.
I believe if Social Media warranted a mantra, it would look something like this, “Always pay it forward and never forget to pay it back…it’s how you got here and it defines where you’re going.” This is the credo I live by and something that has only been reinforced as part of my daily regiment, online and in the real world. Paying it forward and paying it back is the balladry of reciprocity, the undercurrent of social media and the currency of the social economy. The words, “what comes around goes around” and the overall spirit of karma reminds us that there may be personal rewards and satisfaction for helping and contributing more than we take away from our environment. In sociology, this form of alternative giving is referred to as “generalized reciprocity” or “generalized exchange.” In the same vein, the idea of giving something to one person by paying another is credited to Benjamin Franklin, which would ultimately serve as the defining foundation to “Pay it forward.”
Two powerful forces are combining to push businesses to catch up with Peter Drucker's ideas about them serving a higher purpose--just in time for his 100th birthday (which would have been today). Drucker was a strong proponent of businesses going beyond maximizing quarterly profits for shareholder benefit. Why? In his words (from this HBR tribute): "Most people need to feel that they are here for a purpose, and unless an organization can connect to this need to leave something behind that makes this a better world, or at least a different one, it won’t be successful over time.”
Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it's not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose. This point and its implications were made clear to me at the recent Association of National Advertisers conference in Phoenix where CMOs from some of the smartest organizations explained why purpose-driven branding is essential to success in this "new normal" environment. While it may sound a bit like Philosophy 101, a company whose employees can answer the question, "Why are we here?" will be the company that makes stronger connections with consumers in search of solutions to life's new normal issues.
As my original career was in biology, when I started working with stories I naturally wanted to consider the natural history of stories, including their life cycles. Now this is a much more difficult thing with stories than with tadpoles or mushrooms, because stories mingle and morph in ways that creatures can't. But here is try at it, based on my experiences and what I've read. I've been pondering this cycle for a long time and playing with it in mind, and this is what I've got to lately. Of course this cycle will be nothing new to anyone who thinks about stories, and it's obviously a greatly simplified metaphor, and I'm merrily making up terms as I go. But this sort of thing can provide a scaffold for discussions about helping people tell and share stories to attain goals.
A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend prior to an evening speech. After some small talk about life, the universe and everything, our conversation naturally turned to the abysmal U.S. economy. “Things are really tough right now,” she explained. “I’ve tried to get everyone to understand the importance of branding in this very difficult environment, but I don’t think they get it. In fact,” she added. “Our customers hate that word.” “What word?” I asked. “Brand?” “Yea. The non-profits we work with have a real aversion to the whole notion of branding. I guess they don’t really understand the concept and how it applies to them.” They’re not the only ones.
I was being interviewed as an expert by an ad agency the other day to help them with their client project and started to talk about how you would choose to text message certain pieces of information rather than make a call to say them. I’m not too sure if I gave agency the sound-bite they were looking for but it got me thinking a little about how we reserve the use of different platforms for different types of communication and it’s understanding this that might help us work out how to manage our information overload and even tackle texting while driving. In my interview I said that you’d never phone someone to say where you were going to be. You would text it because it’s a piece of information that wants to be consumed quickly and possibly referred to later. It will also definitely reach the respondent. A telephone call takes much more time to make, records nothing and there’s a good chance the person at the other end might not pick up.
With the consumption of traditional media in decline, the entire marketing industry is focused on social media. Whether you work in PR, advertising, consulting, digital, customer service or promotions, you are trying to figure out how to have a presence in social media. We’d like to offer another opinion. It’s one thing to just show up, but its quite another to truly have something interesting to say, to share, to invoke thought, to pique interest, to provide tangible value. With this in mind, the point isn’t about having a presence in social media, but having an actual purpose.
A video took the web by storm today entitled “Incredible, amazing, awesome Apple.” Basically, it boils down Apple’s latest event into a series of superlatives. It’s a funny video because Apple really does have a pattern of using these types of words over and over again in its demonstrations. Cynics will say this is how Apple brainwashes the masses into buying their products, and gets people jazzed about the tiniest features. But I think there’s something much deeper here. While certainly there is some element of hearing something so many times that you start to believe it, that’s nothing new, any good salesman will do the same thing. But why I think the tactic works so well with Apple is because they actually believe what they’re saying.
Here's a test. Ask five to 20 of your employees to explain what your company's customer value proposition is. How many different answers do you guess you'll get? Answer: somewhere between five and 20. This is, of course, in addition to the response, "What the heck do you mean by a value proposition?" This is slightly exaggerated to illustrate a point. But, in the many years with which we have advised on and written about customer-driven strategies, there has been a common pattern: massive inconsistency in people's ability to clearly articulate their company's value proposition.
Today my series on brand value creation comes to a close with a look at companies’ Learning and Growth. Previous posts have examined how brands create value for companies from the Customer, Financial (2 posts), and Internal Business Process perspectives. The Learning and Growth quadrant of the Balanced Scorecard asks, “To achieve our vision, how will we sustain our ability to change and improve?” The results produced by a strong brand relative to this quadrant may be the most difficult to quantify, but they are perhaps the most significant. Here are 3 ways a brand creates value by impacting an organization’s Learning and Growth:
We are now seeing conferences dedicated solely to Twitter—the latest was Jeff Pulver's 140Char held in NYC. Like many others who were not at the event, I was able to attend virtually through following tweets. After a while I thought to myself—wait a minute, we're still just talking about "social media" in silos. What about the bigger picture? And what do you ask is the big picture?
MySpace has fired 30% of its workforce, or about 400 people, just as parent company News Corp. scrapped a $350 million plan to consolidate it in a new office with the other components of Fox Interactive Media. Most of the business coverage sites blame falling advertising sales and traffic gains by Facebook. As you may know, News Corp. is busy implementing a strategic overhaul to combat these two issues, having recruited a new CEO for all its digital operations from AOL (an expert in falling ad sales), and one for MySpace from Facebook (adept at prompting visits that make it no money).
Where does word of mouth come from? A good experience, says Forrester. A trustworthy relationship with peers, says Big Research. A purple cow, says Seth Godin. They're all right, but the bigger question is: What binds all of those source elements together? The answer is almost always hidden within a company's culture.
There’s a healthy debate going on over at AdAge.com this week — a POV by Michael Fassnacht, Chief Customer Intelligence Officer at DRAFTFCB entitled “The Death of Consumer Segmentation?” has prompted a lot of comments. While the traditional consumer segmentation vs. “self-segmentation” discussion is interesting, I found myself wanting to return to the basics of segmentation. It seems that, before we debate the merits of any segmentation approach, we should revisit why segment at all.