Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Default Yes

This week I fired up my new laptop for the first time and began the painful process of reloading it with everything I need. While this can be an ugly process, it demonstrates a very important marketing lesson.

In the process of downloading and registering new hardware and software, it's guaranteed that you will be asked if you would like to be marketed to in the future.

It's nice that they ask for permission, however they still being sneaky. Most likely, you will have to opt out of this option; not opt in. The default setting is "Yes, I would like to receive marketing materials."

Lots of organizations have this mindset. You're here, so why shouldn't you have listen to us?

However, smart organizations understand the power of permission marketing. They know that their best customers will opt in. They will be chosen.

Be chosen and only then will you have real brand loyalty.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Executives often talk about social media as a revolutionary development in marketing. While I recognize its force, I completely disagree.

The revolution will only come when social media will be used in a revolutionary way. There is nothing new about collecting an audience and having your message fall on deaf ears.

Build a real following and let them be your voice. Then there will be a revolution.

And if you cannot build a following, then your cause is not a worthwhile one.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Free Media II

I'd like to dig deeper and finish my thought on free media.

A second side effect of free media is that it appeals to a lower form of user. Free media is attractive to those with less than sterling reputations.

Think craigslist: for every legit mate posting there are two (minimum) that are scams or people looking to take advantage of others. Thus furthering the clutter and noise that the user has to tolerate. So, we put up our defenses and tune everything out.

Seth Godin further explores this effect on his blog. He poetically labels it a "driveby culture" that is created. It's a must read and is found here.

P.S. Have you noticed more quick-buck lawyers and credit assistance services on television since the recession began two years ago. The price falls with demand and they open the door to advertisers of the lowest common denominator.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Media

If you have ever read an internet job posting you have probably seen the phrase "Local Candidates Only."

However, last I checked the internet is global (or has the potential to be). Therefore, the ad will be read by far more people to whom it will be useless than the small group it's targeting.

This is one side effect of free media. The message is not intended for the masses but because we can send it across the globe in one click, we do. Doing this is extremely fast and easy. Plus, the more views the better, right? We can run to the client and say, "Look at those numbers! We did this!"

They will love that too. However, the problem is that that's all they are, numbers. Free media allows us to artifically inflate meaningless numbers while we ignore reaching out to the right people.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Sometimes all our brands need is to flash that big smile more often.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Good Strategy > Great Tactics

"Brewery shifts Honey Brown strategy"

These five words seem innocent and certainly would never be accused of stealing headlines. In fact, I noticed them above a small article quietly placed in a side column of the Rochester Business Journal.

However, they tell an interesting story.

In 2008, the High Falls Brewing Co (who owned it at the time) decided they were going to repackage and rebrand the JW Dundee line of beers, which included Honey Brown to "correctly position the Dundee portfolio within the craft beer category." That's according to their Vice President of Marketing, Patrick Magallanes.

Like most rebranding efforts, a lot of buzz was generated. The buzz, according to the VP, is just a symbol of the "renewed energy and innovation" that surrounded the brand. Too bad "energy" can only drive a brand so far.

So obviously the rebranding failed because they're returning to their old look.

Wrong. The tactical execution was flawless. The design work of Martino Flynn was widely acclaimed and took home the 2009's top advertising award: an Addy Award for Best in Show. It served its purpose exactly: reposition the beer to the craft beer category (view assignment portion of case study).

Strategy was the problem. Join the overcrowded craft beer aisle and while abandoning the guy who drank Honey Brown because it was had a nice flavor and was cheap. A classic mistake that we see all the time.
Even the greatest creative work cannot save a poor strategy.

That is why did those five words stood out. They're something rarely seen: an admission of flawed strategy.

I applaud the new owners of the Genesee Brewery for not simply citing poor execution, firing their ad agency and going about their day all wrong all over again.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

An All Male (grooming) Review

If you ask any executive of a consumer packaged goods company where they see growth, they will certainly mention the "male grooming" category.

Last July, Peter Clay, Vice President, Gillette Brand Franchise Leader said of his Gillette's new marketing campaign that "it supports our strategy to build our global leadership in men's grooming."

Even more convining watch their actions. In 2005, Procter & Gamble spent $ 57 billion to purchase Gillette Co. and in 2009 even purchased high-end shaving retailer, The Art of Shaving, for $60 million.

Futhermore, in 2009 consumers spent $61.3 billion in the category and many analysts expect that number to rise. Of course, money talks and with those numbers every CPG executive is listening.

While the appeal of $61 billion is undeniable, they're using some hairy strategy in their quest for men's grooming dominance.

For instance, P&G is staking claim at the morning male routine with two brands offering full lines of nearly identical products. Old Spice currently offers a mind numbing number of varieties of aftershaves, deodorants, body wash, body spray and cologne. While, P&G purchased the brand in 1990, the proliferation of Old Spice products began in the mid-2000's in reaction to Unilever's Axe brand and the grooming boom.

Meanwhile, P&G's Gillette brand is also transforming itself from a shaving company into an everything male brand. In addition to razor and shaving prep products, Gillette has product lines for hair care (shampoo, conditioners and holding gel), body wash, and deodorant.

(And I won't even bring up the overlap with Head & Shoulders shampoo line for men)

This line extension strategy is never good for a brand; however, it makes even less sense when brands are cannibalizing each other's sales.

However, P&G is not alone with this strategy; their rival's Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive each have multiple brands of men's body wash. Unilever has extended its Axe and Dove brand's and Colgate did so with Softsoap and Irish Spring.

Not only does line-extending brands (like Dove is with Dove Men) eventually weaken your core brand, but employing a such strategy can lead to brands overlapping and companies cannibalizing their own sales like these CPG's are doing.

Where did these companies go wrong? I believe it's the mindset that "men's grooming" is a category. No one brand could ever fulfill all grooming needs so why try to create a single brand for everything.

Rather, body wash, shaving, hair care and cologne are each separate categories that need their own brands.

Gillette had that. They owned more than 70 percent of the wet-shaving market with a focused strategy over the course of many years. Where will it take them.

What will become of the Dove brand as it washes away total femininity? Not to mention fighting it's teammate Axe for body wash sales?

What will become of the billion dollar men's grooming category?

I do know this: with unfocused masses at the top, their will always be great opportunities for a focused brand. How else could a 13 year old specialty retailer with thirty-six stores sell for $60 million.