Seeing The Forrester For The Trees

21 07 2009

I’ve been working in digital since the earliest days, and I am a true believer.

Cut me and I bleed bytes.

But, still… are we not seeing the Forrester for the trees?

How does Forrester’s projection that in 5 years digital will account for 20% of the total advertising spend count as a massive change in advertising?

The curve is sexy. Noteworthy. But… it’s still only 20%.

In fact, a reasonable interpretation of the below chart is:

“despite all the hype, what this chart really says is that 80% of the ad spend in 2014 will be in the traditional media that we have been far too quick to declare dead”.


But obviously, things are not 80% the same as ever. Not by a long shot. So what’s happening here?

I don’t buy the argument that TV is dead, or that nothing at all is changing. What both arguments miss is a broader perspective. When I step back from the question of digital vs. analog and old vs. new, I see two tremendous shifts.

The first is an explosion of content and a fragmentation of audiences that has blown a massive hole in the business models of all content businesses. This makes it tougher to reach a mass audience.

The second is a shift from long-term brand-building activities to short-term direct marketing activities.

The Two Biggest Changes And Challenges In Advertising?

Digital is a major part of what is driving the changes in advertising, but it remains only a part. In my opinion, there are two major changes and challenges that marketers must grapple with. They are:

  1. Re-aggregating fragmented audiences into a meaningful size; and
  2. Re-learning how to build brands for the long-term

Advertising IS changing forever.

But when we focus too tightly on digital vs. analog share of ad spend, I believe we are missing the big picture.

The Blueberry Waffle Mix Lesson

15 04 2009

Here are some links to things that are worth reading.

Subjects? Facebook, ROI, CPG, social media, drugs, and the death of print.

But for me the real gem is the story of a guy who almost drowned in a vat of blueberry waffle mix.


Thankfully, he’s OK. But I see this story as a sort of absurd cosmic lesson: a reminder to always maintain our humility and sense of humor. No matter how smart we think we are, we’re always just one slippery step away from some darkly hilarious disaster.

Happy reading. And watch your step while you’re walking over the waffle mix 🙂

Photo credit: MHaitaca

Did You Know 3.0 (aka “Shift Happens”)

3 04 2009

UPDATED AUGUST 28: Now you can also download “Shift Happens” as a movie.


This is a very revealing video and worth your time. It speaks volumes about globalization, and the changes that are happening faster than we know.

It’s thought-provoking. Revealing. Surprising.

What’s perhaps most surprising is where it came from. It started as a PowerPoint presentation for a faculty meeting in August 2006 at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. In the words of the original author Karl Fisch:

“it “went viral” on the Web in February 2007 and, as of June 2007, had been seen by at least 5 million online viewers. Today the old and new versions of the online presentation have been seen by at least 20 million people, not including the countless others who have seen it at conferences, workshops, training institutes, and other venues.

It’s further evidence that ideas are not only found in big cities or famous universities.

And they’re not only generated for famous conferences.

Big ideas can come from everywhere, and from out of nowhere.

Where will the next idea like this come from? Gudda, India? Ororuwo, Nigeria?

Maybe “Did You Know 4.0” will come from you. After all, shift happens 🙂

Dolce&Gabanna, Meet Procter&Gamble: The Interview

18 09 2008

How P&G went to market in the 1950s:

Television, television, television.

A sprightly jingle, complete with a string section straight out of the Donna Reed show.

And a Disney-esque voiceover intoning, “Clean and bright as the sun on the sand”.

And, this is how P&G launches a new product today.

Where’s the TV campaign? Where’s the jingle? Why are bloggers involved? And what, in the name of all that’s traditional and stodgy in Cincinnati, do the Kardashian sisters have to do with all this?

Well, maybe a runway launch isn’t a bad idea for a product that’s tall, skinny, and curvy in all the right places.

Alissa Hammond of Procter & Gamble agreed to be interviewed for iCPG about the launch. Here’s what we talked about.

Tom: Who’s the ideal target for this product?

Alissa: Our target is the consumer who is concerned not only with performance, but also design. They want a power toothbrush that fits the aesthetics of their bathroom and is slim and sleek, but still offers the functional cleaning and whitening benefits of an Oral-B rechargeable toothbrush.

Tom: It’s interesting that P&G chose to launch with no TV support at all. What was the rationale? How did management react? How did retailers react?

Alissa: The rationale is based on the insights we have about our consumer. Because the product is unique and appeals to a new consumer group, we wanted to reach them when they are most receptive to hearing about our product and connect our brand to things they are already engaged in, such as design, fashion and beauty. We know our consumer target is engaged and passionate about bloggers, magazine editors, interior designers, and fashion and design events.

We saw a great opportunity to reach bloggers, media and some of our consumers directly at New York Fashion Week in early September. We partnered with Style360 to launch the Pulsonic on the runway. The toothbrush accessorized upscale loungewear clothing from Dash and Smooch, which are boutiques owned by the Kardashian sisters. Also on site at the Style360 events was the Pulsonic-inspired “Ultimate Fashionista’s Bathroom,” designed by Pulsonic-spokesperson Michael Moloney, interior designer for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Michael was onsite during the multi-day event to describe his inspiration for the bathroom design, as well as talk about the great benefits of the Pulsonic and why he recommends having it in your bathroom.

Tom: I’ve seen web banners for Pulsonic on MP3 download pages, and prominent paid search ads on Google, Yahoo and MSN. Are any banners behaviorally targeted?

Alissa: Knowing that the consumer is interested in design, fashion and beauty, we are able to provide our key messaging on the sites where the consumer spends much of their time online. We also utilize paid search via the major portals and integrate our message and banner advertising in contextually relevant sites.

Tom: Are you doing other digital advertising besides banners and paid search?

Alissa: Yes. We have been promoting the Pulsonic in various P&G newsletters that go out to consumers. We also utilized promotions and advertising through key eRetailers such as Amazon and Drugstore, and the Pulsonic was available for preorder on these sites prior to national launch.

Tom: What role will bloggers play in this launch? How did you reach out to the bloggers? Which company(s) did you use, and why?

Alissa: The unique characteristics of the consumer, specifically where they go to get new product information and suggestions, changes where we normally place our marketing focus. Our insight into the Pulsonic consumer target tells us that bloggers play an extremely important role in influencing her. We are extensively contacting and sampling the Pulsonic to bloggers and even gave one blogger backstage access to the Style360 events during Fashion Week so she could have an exclusive look at how the Pulsonic tied into the events. Our Public Relations agency reached out to bloggers and established relationships with them to spread the word about the Pulsonic.

Tom: Besides this, what role — if any — do you see for social media as you move forward

Alissa: Social media will continue to be an important part of our strategy when our consumer insights show he or she is influenced by social media.

Tom: How will you measure the success of your digital efforts?

Alissa: We measure ROI (return on investment) through our Marketing Mix Modeling and also have quantitative measures that we use along the way to measure our success.

Thanks, Alissa, for the interview.

For more observations on the Pulsonic launch, click here.

Indie-Film Marketing For CPG? Crest Weekly Clean’s Unconventional Launch.

21 08 2008

Here’s an intriguing little tale of bloggers and bicuspids. molars and marketing, word-of-mouth and Wal-Mart.

Can you launch a new, unconventional product — one that requires consumers to adopt entirely new behavior, no less — with 5 second TV tags and a whole lot of blogging?

P&G sure seems to think so.

According to an article in today’s Ad Age, they’re launching Crest Weekly Clean (a “weekly addition to daily tooth brushing, giving a ‘just-from-the-dentist’, smooth, clean feeling”) mostly via sampling to bloggers and P&G’s Vocalpoint buzz-marketing program.

Is This Indie-Film Marketing Applied to Consumer Packaged Goods?

Launching a new product at mass retail is not for the faint of heart, or light of wallet.

Consolidation at retail has given retailers unprecedented power. Today, one in four dollars spent at retail in the U.S. is spent at Wal-Mart.

What this means that a product launch today is like marketing a Hollywood film: if you don’t have a ginormous opening weekend (first few months of sales), you’re in trouble.

This makes me wonder whether P&G isn’t deliberately stealing a page from the indie-film marketing playbook.

First, work hard to generate some buzz and groundswell.

Then, air commercials as if you’re shocked by the early “spontaneous” buzz: “Gosh really, our little brand? How nice of everyone to notice. We really weren’t expecting this, are we blushing?”

I’m as big a proponent of interactive as you’ll find in any CPG company. But still, mass retail demands fast product turns and has little patience for waiting around for a new product to find its customers. If I’m honest, I’d have to say I’m not sure I’d have the guts to launch a product like Crest Weekly Clean using online only.

Can A Major Marketer Wait For The Groundswell?

If there’s not a 1-2 punch planned (buzz marketing first and TV second), I’ll be very surprised.

More than that, I’ll be watching it very carefully. If P&G can pull off a product launch with only a smattering of TV, that changes the game quite a bit, doesn’t it?

Four Ways To Be Astonishing

21 08 2008

Jim Dietzel posted this Victor Wooten performance of “Norwegian Wood” in the FriendFeed Jazz Lovers room today. It was so great I had to share it.

Why is this performance so astonishing?

  1. Surprise – He takes things we thought we knew (a classic Beatles tune, and the electric bass) and reminds us that there are always new creative possibilities.

    What could you do — right now — to reinvent something you’ve been thinking about the same old way?

  2. Solo – Victor plays this entirely on his own. It’s a risk. Will people understand the song right away? How far out can he stretch the melody until he loses us?

    How many of us are hiding behind the rest of our group, because we’re afraid to step out and take a chance on our own?

  3. Soul – Virtuoso technique is obviously a big part of what’s happening here. But it wouldn’t be compelling if we couldn’t feel the emotion underpinning it.

    If your work doesn’t reflect who you really are as a person, it may be technically perfect but it will always feel impersonal and unsatisfying to the people around you.

  4. Smile – I love Victor Wooten’s smile at the end of his solo. He enjoys his work and it shows.

    The Dalai Lama (who isn’t half the bass player Victor Wooten is) says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”.

    We should all play more. If we did, we’d smile more.

View Vs. Do And The New YouTube Ad Format

13 08 2008

It’s no secret that banner ads have distressingly low click-through rates.

The question is, why?

Allow me to share a pet theory of mine that I call “View Vs. Do”.

TV is a “view” medium: “I’ve got some time to kill, let’s see what’s on”.

The Internet is a “do” medium: “I’ll check the scores on ESPN, return some emails, and post to my blog.”

At my company, we’ve often seen higher click-throughs and actions taken from random banner ads on CNN than from banner ads on places where we instintively know our consumers want to do something. I believe it’s because when people are task-focused, even an interesting ad gets ignored because “it’s not what I’m doing right now”.

If that’s true, the ideal web audience may be one that’s sitting on its keester not really doing anything but clicking around looking for interesting stuff. And that may be the YouTube audience.

That’s why I’m excited about the new YouTube ad format. If it works the way I think it will, I’d expect to see greater engagement and higher click-throughs from video ads here than almost anywhere else. This may be one of the web’s first significant “view” destinations, with TV-like receptivity to good ads.

Let’s hope so. We need sight, sound and motion to sell.

Private-Label Pirates And Digital Defenses

12 08 2008

In days of yore, marketers built brands and retailers built shelves.

It was good business. Everybody prospered.

Then, without so much as a raising of the skull and crossbones, private label brands appeared on the horizon to steal market share.

Private label could offer customers cheaper prices, and no wonder. There was no need to invest in building the category.No need to spend a nickel on marketing, which is typically one of the three top expenses on a CPG company’s income statement.

All they had to do was sail in and take their share of the business.

Ol’ Roy, Wal-Mart’s store brand of dog food, bit Purina where it hurts and became the top-selling brand of dog food in the United States.

Recently, Unilever sold its All, Snuggle, Wisk, Surf and Sunlight brands to global private equity firm Vestar Capital Partners for $1.08 billion in cash. Why? They were so squeezed between market leader P&G and private label that they felt they couldn’t compete — even though their laundry care unit resulted in $1 billion in turnover for the company last year.

And Brandweek reports Unilever is not alone:

“ConAgra (… is) selling its Pemmican beef jerky brand to Brazil-based Marfrig Group (…) Kraft (…) relieved itself of lackluster-performing Post cereal line (…) The bigger companies are now looking to shed any brand that isn’t the leader in their category. No. 1: thumbs up. No. 2: ditch,” said Chris Bragas, CEO of Eastwest Marketing Group, New York, which specializes in strategic planning, advertising and partnership marketing.”

And now Ad Age reports that private-label is taking the next step and breaking down the walls between retailers. Safeway is taking its organic house brand, O Organics, and better-for-you brand, Eating Right, into competitive grocery-chains nationwide this fall.

This leaves CPG marketers with two choices. Cry in our rum. Or find ways to fight back.

How To Fight Back Against Private Label

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation. One way to beat the pirates: build faster brands.

According to Advertising Age, product categories in more than 20 countries show a private-label market that is 56% higher where there is low innovation activity compared with categories with many new products

Where are you supposed to find all these new ideas? Go online. Listen to blogs. Build a strong online loyalty program. Create digital panels and get engaged with your consumers.

Yes, the pirates can do these same things. Our job as protectors of our brands is to do it better, faster and smarter. It’s do-or-die.

Go Crazy. And Go More Digital. Let’s face it. There’s no rational reason to buy a name-brand product if the cheaper store-brand product is just as good.

If you can’t be better (for legal or cost-of-goods reasons), forget rational. Go crazy, and go digital.

According to Brandweek, P&G has been able to maintain the upper edge over competitors like Unilever while fighting off private label by continuously seeking innovation in product launches. Earlier this month, for example, P&G announced it was introducing a line of laundry and fabric softeners, called Tide and Downy Total Care, made from beauty care products.

Why not go a step further? P&G can create online fashion and beauty shows to support the launch, enlist celebrities to pitch, and build social communities around these ideas.

Shake things up.

Be More Facebook and Less Faceless. Private-label brands count on brands being boring, rational and predictable. They count on our brands being managed by bankers and not entrepreneurs.

Maybe what you need are a few more loose cannons rolling around on your decks. Challenge your agencies to think crazier. Ask social networks and online ad networks what they could do if there were no rules.

The commanders of the private-label ships are the same execs who used to manage your brands. They know your playbook as well as you do. Burn it, and keep them off guard.

Get Closer To Your Customers. Private-label brands know people like saving money. But since they’re not investing, they can’t learn the kinds of things that you can learn. What are the emotional reasons people need a pasta sauce, or a frozen dinner, or a haircolor?

What do your customers want to do? Who do they want to be? What do they dream? Can you offer them branded online tools that make their lives more interesting, more fun, less dull?

Leave the Parrots to the Pirates. The world doesn’t need more “me-too” products. By the time you copy a successful innovation, the pirates will be there too.

How else can CPG brands do battle against private-label, and win? What do you think?

Cuil Review

28 07 2008

I just tried the brand-spanking-new Cuil search engine founded by highly respected ex-Google employees. Here was my test:

Search query:

Response: “Sorry, an error occurred. Please try your search again. If the problem persists, please be assured that our team is working quickly to resolve the issue.”

Is this a bad search result , or is it actually stunningly accurate?

5 Lessons From The Verizon Viral

23 07 2008

There’s a brilliant viral video going around where the Verizon “can you hear me now?” guy and his network sneak up on a guy making a phone call and follow him around, just like in the commercials.

What can we learn from why this works?

  1. TV Is A “Socialization Medium”. TV isn’t a Social Medium in the way we normally think of it. But it IS a fantastic “Socialization Medium”.This stunt couldn’t have worked unless it was able to draw on the crowd’s shared experience. Their reaction wasn’t “what the heck is that?” Their reaction was “OMG, I’ve seen this on TV!”. Verizon was able to socialize this concept through good commercials in people’s living rooms.
  2. Show Beats Tell Every Time. How do you sell something invisible, like a better wireless network? The rational thing to do is to explain it with words. The smart thing to do is communicate it with an outrageous visual. Verizon invested millions and dollars and years of effort into making the Verizon guy and his network a visual icon.Making their product difference visible in an entertaining way made their story stick in people’s heads. It’s easy to forget a tagline. It’s hard to forget a visual story.
  3. Unexpected Is Powerful. Most of the time, most of the human race teeters perilously on the brink of being bored to death. By the time we’re teenagers, we’ve seen it all, read it all, heard it all and done it all a thousand times. This goes double for advertising. We have to make our messages new again, or accept the consequences.
  4. Leave Room For Human Moments. The best part of this video, for me, is when the guy who has been surprised begins playing along by taking half steps and seeing what the network will do. Unscripted moments like that will always be better than anything you could possibly script in advance. Why? Because they are genuine, human, real: three things that advertising generally is not.
  5. Resist The Urge To Hard Sell. The best way to have ruined this would have been to start thinking selfishly. “Shouldn’t we say something about how big our network is?” “Maybe our guy should be carrying a giant Verizon sign.” “Can’t we tag the video with a 5 second pitch about our new widget?”

Does anybody know if this was an official Verizon effort? Who the production company or agency was? Where or how the idea started? I’m really curious. It’s rare to see something done so well.

P.S. Disclosure: I’m a Verizon Wireless customer in NYC. I actually think they’re really good, which makes me like this video all the more.