Archive for May, 2011

Humanity of Marketing

DATE: May 30th, 2011


For generations sales people have told us that people buy from people. Fundraisers have put their own twist on it: people give to people.

In today’s marketing environment it’s not enough to have a clever campaign. You have to integrate the message through multiple channels. While this makes so much sense in a seminar — it’s tough. You see, most organizations are organized in silos. Marketing lives in their little campaign bubble. The sales team is doing whatever they can to meet their month end numbers. Customer service is doing their darnedest to assuage customers who are upset at the marketing and sales strategies.

It’s a circus!

So why does Steve Jobs make is look so simple? And why are schools all across North America tossing all branded products but inviting Dove right into their classrooms? Why can Jimmy Choo get mothers and daughters to line up for more than a block for cloth boot with glass sequins? And why does Justin Bieber’s new haircut top the twitter charts?


Steve Jobs embodies Apple. Dove has taken a different approach — they are the face of beauty — lots of personality. Jimmy Choo has locked into the luxury market — a global fashion designer for women keen to be noticed. And Bieber? Everyone loves a good news story when a cute 17 year goes from low income housing to the top of the charts and lands a personal invitation to the White House.

In the last week I have had significant conversations about brand.

The first thing I want to establish is that brand is not about product. What you make is not your personality. RIM’s big problem right now: they don’t have a personality. They are looking in the mirror and saying: “I’m better than Apple, so why don’t people like me?” But RIM is still a kid. They’re not yet confident about their core personality (OK, they are a business suit who is obsessed about over-achievement, but they want to wear a turtleneck).

Few of us sell unique products. The differentiation of our product has to be in our personality. Your selling power is based on your ability to develop a human face, building relationships with your customers. The same face has to show up in the marketing, sales and customer service.

Why don’t we do it?

1.  Well, it’s tough. I was writing a blog for a client, when I realized that I was just writing it to get it off my desk. But I hadn’t really developed a voice for the blog. I was horrified. How could I have overlooked the most essential component of the written piece? I was in a hurry. The client was happy with the blog. I was focused on product.

So I stopped right where I was and defined the writer of the blog. Now I write it in the context of the person.

2. Coupons are easy. Yeah, they are. Easy to track.  Easy to design. Easy to respond to. But take care. Every coupon contributes to your overall message. Too many random coupons will put you on shaky ground. When push comes to shove your customers will easily walk away because they don’t know you.Loyalty is to personality.

Even if cost effectiveness is your goal, you can still have personality. President’s Choice has done and amazing job of going from the low price, no-brand alternative to a huge brand.

3. Senior leadership doesn’t get it. It happens. The boss is intent on producing — they don’t want to get involved in the superficial stuff like personality. It’s a long term mistake. Marketing innovation differentiates by developing personality.

4. There is no content to produce personality. Dove went to a lot of work finding all of those “ordinary” beautiful women. Coke spends a good deal on making sure that the red doesn’t change — ever. It takes time and effort to produce a personality.

I love to take senior leaders through a colouring exercise. I just ask them to colour their company. Few are able to do it. They feel silly. They don’t know how to express themselves outside the context of a sales sheet.

Strong key messages and personality helps you make good choices and stay on track with your marketing message. It aligns you with your customers. It attracts new customers. It’s not as quick and easy as infiltrating your market share with one off coupons, but it’s always an investment into growth.


DATE: May 5th, 2011

Almost everyone I know insists that they will never give up the paper back. The luxury of a tub full of bubbles, a glass of wine and a good book is etched into our brain and gives us images of ultimate relaxation.

When I won an e-reader in the early days, my friends were curious how I would respond. I read 2 to 4 books a week. I love fiction and learn many truths from the books I read. After all, the writer is the ruler of our society (Shelley — if you’re not into literature).

Barefoot is experimenting with new technology. We believe that the tablet represents significant changes in the way we work, play and relate. We can’t predict the crooked path the development of these changes will take, but we are doing all we can to open our minds to finding new ways to communicate.

So we have invested in a few of the new tablets. I have to agree with Amy Lee from HuffngtonPost who believes the e-reader is on its way out. The tablet is just a much better experience. I was a little worried about glare, but last weekend when the sun actually appeared for about 5 minutes I tried it out. It was great!

I think most of my conversations with associates, clients and friends have missed the mark.

In the 19th century we had the appearance of the novel. “Novel” meant a new way of presenting ideas. It was received with enthusiasm from the public and disdain by poets and academics. The paltry fiction of the likes George Eliot, Charles Dickens, the Brontes was considered romantic and trite.

For more than 200 years we have consumed popular fiction in the form of the novel, whether paperback or hard cover. For many people the touch of the book, turning pages, dog-earring pages, flipping to the best part, underlining and jotting notes in the margin remain the unique experience of the book. I admit, I always tucked a book in my brief case or bag. I love a hot bath, bubbles and a good book. But the “novel” is no longer novel.

I agree with Allen Weiner, VP of research at Gartner, who suggests: “More and more, reading is taking on a bigger definition. It’s expanding in terms of content– not just books, but newspapers and magazines. It implies the need for color, graphics, other forms of media.”

We are on the threshold of change. Digital technology opens a huge door to amazing reading experiences.

Like the innovative app on the iPad which lets the reader blow into the iPad’s accelerometer turning the blades on the wind turbine. Al Gore’s Our Choice takes on completely new dimensions and reading becomes a multi-sense experience.

The VP of Kobo, Chapters’ version of Kindle, is pretty clear that Chapters fully anticipates the Kobo device to be outdated quickly. Even though millions of people purchased the device in the past 12 months, they anticipate new generations will quickly change the landscape.

How will we, as advertising professionals, use the ability to produce content that engages many different sense and allows our audience to participate?

Historically, advertising has been in the control of the audience. Traditional media tactics like space ads, outdoor media, TV, video, brochures, magazines and mail all are created and controlled by the marketing team. The audience is is passive, not contributing to the experience.

We have a lot to learn about the new form of reading. Right now the reading experience on the tablet is still novel…. it will take time for the experience to be “normal.”

I admit, I am hesitant to take the Playbook into the bath — I use my Kobo for that! But I am delighted by the options the tablet gives me. This weekend I “read” stories to a couple of young friends (4 and 6 years old). After every chapter there was a simple, interactive game that was aligned with the story sequence. It was great!

We will never forfeit the delight of a good story. Digital tool just open new doors and encourage new ideas.

Audience rules

DATE: May 4th, 2011

So Canada has voted…. What an amazing tribute to marketing and the  power of the customer. Until the last few days, the polls and analysts predicted pretty much the same old, same old.

Then the people spoke.

Well, you know the outcome. As I watched, I wondered if the campaign strategists had done their homework. Why didn’t they know that the mood of the people had changed? What was Quebec saying? And what moved to align Toronto and Calgary?

The election teaches marketers a very serious lesson. Don’t assume you understand your audience. Taking a defensive stand, hoping that the same old will work, is not an astute plan. Running a campaign from history doesn’t work… we need to understand our audience.

You know when the marketing team understands their audience. If you are a buyer, you will resonate with them. At the very least, you will recognize the people who personify the audience.

The bigger challenge comes when you see the possibilities of change in the audience. Take the liberal party. Decimated in just one day, they are looking for a new leader, a young leader, a leader who understands the heart beat of young voters.

But will they be able to make that work?

It’s always a risk.

While we understand that marketing provides the face and the position for the organization, without a solid strategy or platform, a young face cannot turn the party around.

Many years ago a tuna company launched a cool new, pre-mixed tuna sandwich spread. It was everything the customer wanted, quick, easy and cost effective.

Except for one thing. It tasted horrible.

The ad campaign went as planned. The company sold hundreds of thousands of cans of the product. But, in the end the product crashed because no one bought it again.

As we spend time, money and energy on developing campaigns for our customers, let’s use what we learned from the election:

1. The audience rules.

2. Make sure your product is what the audience wants — they will turn away if disappointed.

The PlayBook…

DATE: May 2nd, 2011

It’s been several weeks since I have posted.That’s because I have been busily exploring the business applications for RIM’s PlayBook. Well and Need for Speed.

Ok, I also went out west to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday.

So what do I think?

I’m trying to consider the tool on its own, away from the grey cloud of media. While fans in Waterloo continue to love it…. The world beyond, it seems, is ready to list it. (yeah, I have been known to watch HGTV)

I have been holding out for the much anticipated tablet for months, stoically arguing for RIM’s business savvy.

I have had the technology in my hands for seven days.

Here’s what I think:

I really wish the single quote was one the main keyboard…. But I’m a writer.

The screen is amazing.

The lack of buttons is cool and the screen swipes are working for me, although my 6 year old friend kept losing his game when he over swiped.

I had a short moment of panic when the screen went totally black. But the bb forum sorted that for me. I don’t think pressing the on and off volume buttons with the power key, holding them all down at once for 15 seconds, is particularly intuitive, but it worked.

I like the size. It’s the same size as my Koba e-reader. It loaded my library quickly and completely. And I like reading on it. It is great in the sun, which, I admit surprised me. I like it better than my e-reader, but it’s too costly to use only as an e-reader.

The bb bridge worked very well and I’ve pretty much set my Curve aside and only use it as a phone and to play Word Mole. I like the idea of the two working together but agree that RIM may have been short sighted or short timed on not putting e-mail on it.

The video quality is fabulous and I enjoyed the features of the Royal Wedding alongside my work day.

I’m a little disappointed by the battery life. Basically, it lasts about 5 hours. So I have to recharge during the work day.

I haven’t purchased the keyboard yet, but I might stop tonight after I vote.

Its touch screen can be slightly unresponsive, I need to get used to the slippery key board – remember I’m a bb user and used to the touch keys.

I am looking forward to messing with it as I watch the national election.

Ultimately, it reminds me of when I got my first Cuisine Art food processor for Christmas. Always in a hurry, I just started cooking. My first attempt ended up all over my counter. I had just spent hundreds of dollars on a kitchen device that sucked.

Refusing to accept the poor initial performance, I learned to use the processor… Today I wouldn’t be without it.

The PlayBook is the first step towards tomorrow’s world.

But I like it, I really like it!