Thursday, December 22, 2011

Vroom vroom ding ding part II

Last week, I discussed what consumer electronics marketers could learn from their counterparts in the automotive industry.  Today, let’s see if the wizards of transistors can return the favor.

While I identified three marketing practices from the auto world (sub-branding, service as a brand and racing/competition), I think that CE has only one big lesson to teach.  However, as Bugs Bunny might have said, it’s a doozy.

The CE industry, just like the auto industry, thrives on features: HD video and four-wheel drive, auto-focus and turbo-charging, fashion colors and the almighty lighted vanity mirror.  However, in CE, integration of those features makes powerful brands.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vroom vroom ding ding part I

As electric vehicles begin to become more commonplace, most of the attention has fallen on the implications of these cars and trucks on our transportation and energy systems.  However, I’m paying increasing attention to the integration of two large, heavily-marketed industries: automobiles and consumer electronics.

Recently for instance, Suzuki announced that it had teamed with Panasonic to help develop an electric scooter. Until recently, Best Buy sold electric motorcycles.  For that matter, the confluence of motor vehicle and consumer electronics industries hardly began with the 21st century.  In 1930, Motorola got its name by way of a portmanteau incorporating “motor” and “victrola” and began producing the first radios for cars.

However, recent innovations have changed the game.  While consumer electronics companies have long provided entertainment features to cars, they now supply substantial expertise in more critical areas such as battery technology, interface design and microprocessor use.  Of course, I don’t really understand any of these things, so I’ll focus on what I do understand, the marketing.

With this post and the next, I’d like to discuss what I think auto and CE marketers could learn from each other.  Today, I’ll start with the flow from Detroit to Akihabara.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All I Really Need to Know about Fixing Marketing I Learned in Auto Shop

The other day, I took a look at a marketing program that a client considered underperforming.  As I began to investigate, I realize that my approach resembled something I learned 25 years ago in a completely different place, the oil-slicked, unheated garage of my high school’s auto shop classroom.

Naff off, Robert Fulghum

As I looked at the components of the program, I realized that I didn’t know exactly what to look for, but instead, I knew I would find it if I kept looking for it.  In broad terms, that approach applies both to marketing programs and to balky lawnmower engines.

Let me give you a little background.  I attended a fine public school dedicated to sending all of its high school graduates on to higher education and they succeeded at a rate of about 85%, IIRC.  As part of their goal in developing well-rounded young men and women, they insisted on two semesters of practical arts.  Most of my honors-level classmates chose home economics or drafting.  I had different proclivities and chose not one but two semesters of auto shop.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Close, But no Cyber-Cigar

Oh, Samsung, I had such high hopes for your email campaign this Holiday season.  But you let me down.  If I enjoyed making lame Holiday similes (disclosure: Holiday quickly makes me ill), I’d compare you to the surfboard-shaped present under the tree that turns out to be an ironing board.

However, let us learn from Sammy’s mistake.

They started out very well.  I receive periodic updates from Samsung ever since I registered the phone I bought earlier this year.  Updates come monthly or so, just enough to keep me interested without ever feeling overbearing.  Two Sundays before Black Friday, I received this email:

I always advocate asking customers to provide preferences and this email takes a novel and useful approach for doing so.  People love Black Friday emails and certainly want the offers that matter to them without, say, $2 waffle irons.  Those of you who know my proclivities know that I clicked on “cameras and camcorders.”  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

When Branding Attacks!

As a casual fan of basketball, it took me a while to notice that the NBA hadn’t started playing yet.  (Disclosure: I am a nominal Knicks fan, so I have trouble understanding the difference between NBA teams playing and not playing)

Sports columnists and talk radio have centered on the conflict between owners and players at the heart of the lockout, and with good reason.  The “millionaires versus billionaires” conflict makes great copy and/or discussion.  Certainly, money lies at the heart of the dispute.

However, I wonder if the dispute owes itself to less obvious but perhaps more systemic problem.  Let’s call this problem, in the argot of Animal Planet programming, “WHEN BRANDING ATTACKS!”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Movin' Right Along

I highly advise against reading “The Aeneid.”  As classic epics go, Virgil’s ranks as the Larry Fine to Homer’s “Odyssey” (Curly) and “Iliad” (Moe).  However, no one can read “someday, perhaps, it will please us to remember even this” without a slight smile.

And so, I announce a new phase in my career.  I plan to put Translinear Marketing Strategy aside for a while to concentrate on my new post, Senior Marketing Strategist for StrongMail, an email and social media-focused company.

And, once again, I rejoin my longtime nemesis/mentor/punching bag Chris Marriott.  This time, however, I get to be Fozzie.

Among other things, I’ll have a regular gig on a real, grown-up website as a columnist (come back soon for more).  However, I plan to keep writing on the Translinear blog because I just can’t say some things on an official website that I can say on a blog and because they probably won’t let me use snarky disclosures (disclosure: snarky disclosures are my favorite part).  Look for updates on a weekly-ish schedule.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank some of the people who helped me along the way as I developed tried to figure out what to do next.  In no particular order:

  • The Acxiom diaspora, in particular Janice Alvarez, Mike Bowser, Mo Brunt, Steve Caratzas, Michael Darviche, Nick Fugaro, Steve “the Greek” Gianakouros, Trent Good, Andy Hawthorne, Jay Jayabose, Michael Lewis, Kyle Morehouse, Karen Riley, Sourabh Singhal, Fiona Taylor and Michael Turner
  • The Think New Ideas/Answerthink die-hards: Malcolm Faulds, Maureen (Kane) Fyke, Susan Goodman, Joan Gugliotta, Meredith Kaback, Chris Korintus, Mike Metz
  • The Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners old-timers (disclosure: don’t sweat it; we’re ALL old now): Hillary Benjamin, Mark DiMassimo, Leann Leahy, Brian Martin and Rina Plapler
  • The Euro folks: Mike “the Saint” Costantino and Chris Greco
  • The RAPP survivors Cindy Lindenbaum and Russell Nuzzo
  • My new friends at the Stop Abuse Campaign: Marek Lis and Andrew Willis
  • Special mention to Alan Jacobson of Red Three consulting for invaluable blogging advice
  • Last, but not least, a special thank you to my mother-in-law a) for the beef stew and b) because my wife will be angry if I don’t.

No words of valediction.  I have not finished trying to figure out how to break through the line between brand and direct.  But, since I can’t figure out how to end this post, I’m going to link to a video of kittens instead.


Friday, November 18, 2011

I Give Up, FIAT

After releasing two commercials featuring Jennifer Lopez, FIAT has now released one that does not feature she-of-the-famous-derriere.

Fun commercial.  Sexy commercial.  But precisely the WRONG commercial.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get the Picture?

Last night, I noticed a neat feature on Facebook.  It showed me a picture of my son in full-on sledding regalia and asked “was this taken at Central Park, NY?”  Indeed, an album I had uploaded two winters ago featured pictures taken in Frederick Law Olmstead’s most famous work.  Maybe this suggestion bordered on creepy, but I think I had entitled the album “Sledding in Central Park,” or had used “Central Park” in the descriptor.  I doubt the Big F somehow recognized the trees in the background.

As a marketer, a feature like this one gets my interest.  I could think of a lot of effective things to do with these data and, more importantly, what not to do with them.

Monday, November 14, 2011

UR Doin it Rong: Lands' End

Check out this bounty from my mailbox:

The catalog on the left was addressed to me and ran 64 pages.  The catalog on the right was addressed to Amy Mervish and ran 188 pages.  It might help to understand, if you didn’t already know, that Amy a) shares my address and b) is my wife.  In other words, Lands’ End sent similar--but not quite the same--catalogs to our household.

Multiple mailings such as these happen all the time.  They shouldn’t, and not just because extra catalogs kill innocent trees.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fashion (Branding) Advice from a Slob

Do fashion ads utterly confuse you?

Makes sense, right?  So how about this one?

OK, surely this one could have emerged from David Ogilvy’s workshop, right?

I think you get the point,  Karl Lagerfeld, the guy with all the jewelry, said “like Poetry, fashion does not state anything – it merely suggests.”  (thanks, Geekdad)  But what does it suggest?  Fashion advertising, and by extension fashion branding, bewilders a lot of us.  Fortunately, I think I’ve figured it out and want to share with you how it really works.

Friday, November 4, 2011

User Experience vs. Brand Experience: a Rabbit's Tale

No struggle means as much to consumers yet draws as little debate as the ongoing one between user experience and brand experience.  While this struggle sounds a bit abstruse, consumers experience this struggle on a frequent basis as they make their ways around the Internet and its mobile and social permutations.

Take this one, for example:

Click here to see the page live in its all-singing, all-dancing glory

Very trendy.  Very dynamic.  Very hard to read and navigate.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hardest Advertising There Is

Check out Stuart Elliott’s column today for a look at an interesting approach to a classic advertising problem--advertising a media vehicle.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that advertising a media vehicle such as a TV channel, magazine, newspaper or, in this case, a radio station, ranks as the hardest challenge in advertising.

Let’s take a look at the campaign described in the paper, for WQXR, New York’s classical music station.  Hope you weren’t expecting anything too sedate:

(Disclosure: I like it.  It’s a “Clockwork Orange” thing)

Friday, October 28, 2011

NMA (No More Acronyms), Part II: a solution

In my last post, I detailed my objections to compacting complex consumer traits into simple acronyms (DINK, EMEA, etc.).  In short, these acronyms trivialize consumers’ needs to the points where marketers find themselves communicating to stereotypes rather than actual people.

Marketers who do so, however, might counter that they need to simplify things because they simply cannot market to every last consumer need.  And they’re right; they can’t.

However, why should we stop there when marketers can effectively communicate with greater nuance than a handful of consumer groupings?  Why, you’d need some kind of machine to do that, wouldn’t you?  (Disclosure: if you don’t see where this is going, don’t bother reading past the jump.)

Monday, October 24, 2011

NMA (No More Acronyms), Part I

Stuart Elliott dropped a new marketing acronym on me this morning.  Buried about halfway into this article, Mr. Elliott quoted Dana Anderson, senior vice president of marketing, strategy and communications at Kraft as saying “we are living in a ‘VUCA’ world.”  “VUCA,” you see, stands for “volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.”

All at once, I realized what I hate about marketing acronyms and why we, if we truly want to understand our audiences as marketers, should avoid them.  Today, I’d like to discuss why acronyms fail marketers.  In a later post, I’ll discuss the cure, which I suspect may make some of you wonder what I’ve been drinking.  (Disclosure: this stuff)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blog: Night of the Living Net Promoter Score

It’s baaaaaack!

Even though I promised that I’d stop talking about Net Promoter Score (NPS), I just can’t help myself.  In this post, I’d like to outline an approach for NPS that really has less to do with the value of the score than how a marketing organization can make the most of single data point when integrated with other data points.

OK, that sounds boooooorrrrringggggg, so let me put it another way.  You can use NPS to find out who your true friends are.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

American Marketers for NONE OF THE ABOVE (Satire. Maybe.)

American politics have slumped to a new low.  The Democrats wage class warfare.  The Republicans engage in inflexible and deleterious partisanship.  On the fringes, Tea Partiers sound like angry drunks and the Occupy Wall Streeters sound like potheads.

What’s the problem?  Influence of money?  Callous disregard for liberties or human rights?  Outright corruption and lying?  Pish tosh, I say (disclosure: neither I nor any other actual English speaker really says “pish tosh”)!  The problem stems from bad data.

Not only will I explain this problem, I will suggest the solution after the break.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Et tu, Kohl's?

So apparently, FIAT isn’t the only company to use JLO as a spokesman.  Moreoever, yet another advertiser insists on using JLO in her natural habitat, the former estate of Jonas Bronck so lovingly bordered by the Hudson and Harlem Rivers, Long Island Sound and County Westchester, aka the Bronx.

I don’t want to turn this blog into the I-hate-JLO show, as a) I’d like to spark a broader conversation about marketing and b) I honestly don’t have anything against her.  But I really want to spark a discussion on what Kohl’s or FIAT could actually achieve with hiring JLO, and her borough, as a spokesperson.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Son of Net Promoter Score

So sue me.  I’ve got Net Promoter Score on the brain.  I mentioned in passing how marketers could use Net Promoter as a sort of early warning system.  However, explaining Net Promoter is kind of like handing a dog a saxophone.  Nice, but what’s he supposed to do with it?

Let me give you a concrete example of how it works.

Early on in a new customer relationship, marketers can use Net Promoter to identify customers’ satisfaction and use that information to drive additional purchase and to prevent attrition.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

UR still Doin it wrong: Fix it again, JLO

Last week, I severely criticized FIAT for putting an ad on TV that commendably encouraged consumers to explore the car online but that did not give them any reason to do so.

Turns out, they were guilty with an explanation, your honor.  According to this post from Adweek’s blog, FIAT, or their agency, edited the spot from a JLO video.  All agency folks have had a similar experience: short deadline, client insistent on leveraging a specific brand asset, do the best you can.  All is forgiven.

Or would be.  The follow-up spot makes even less sense.  Click below to see it and to see why it doesn’t work, either.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Stop Worrying and Love Net Promoter Score

In a post last week, I referred to the Net Promoter Score.  Net Promoter serves as a highly-sensitve indicator of overall customer experience.  Because I like this approach, I wanted to spend a little time discussing it firstly to give it the attention it deserves, but secondly because I think it has very clear pluses and minuses.

I’ll outline the methodology briefly and then spent more time on its usefulness, since methodology matters less than usefulness.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Now going into its fourth week, the Occupy Wall Street Protest, known by its hashtag #OWS, has only grown in strength despite, or perhaps because of, its refusal to clarify its demands.  I would argue that the medium is literally the message: the protesters haven’t occupied Pennsylvania Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard or I-95.  They’ve chosen Wall Street as the locus of their discontent because they believe that the financial masters of the universe have ruined America.

Makes me wonder: what would happen if they had decided to occupy Madison Avenue instead?  So, in the interest of a thought experiment, I offer some thoughts on Occupy Madison Avenue, or #OMA on Twitter.

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Barber is Smarter than a lot of Marketers

I got a haircut yesterday from my barber, Otis.  As I am mostly bald, I choose my barbers by price and convenience.  When I first met Otis, he had a chair in the Times Square subway station and charged $12.  Having hit the big time, Otis moved his chair around the corner to a third-floor shop above a dirty movie store on 8th Avenue and now charges $15.

How did Otis do it?  He knows a secret about marketing that many marketers don’t.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Making the Link

Since I began this blog in August, I’ve often talked about linking communications tactics to business results.  Sounds great, but how do you do it?

Making the link really lies in finding the right measurements, because only measurement tells the marketer if a tactic has succeeded or not.  Again, this statement sounds easy, but how can marketers figure out which measurements matter when they typically have more data than they know what to do with?

Turning really huge amounts of data from a coal seam of information to a diamond of insight really requires commitment in terms of executive buy-in, analytics know-how and technology integration.  However, most marketers who have some access to data can get a good start on the work with a little elbow grease.

I’ll explain how and give a recent example.

Monday, October 3, 2011

UR Doin it rong: FIAT 500

New advertising for the FIAT 500 broke over the weekend.  If you’re not familiar with the little Italian car or the ad, here it is:

At first blush, it looks as if FIAT thinks the way I do about TV, that it serves as an excellent way to drive traffic to the web and, beyond that, towards a sale.  Indeed, the supers “Like the car?” and “Go online” (at 0:22 in the clip) speak directly to the idea.

However, I think the ad falls short in one critical way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I guess the train didn't help

On Monday, I talked about using social media and search to track the value of an event, focusing on a vintage subway train promotion by HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”  Today, I read that the premiere actually had a disappointing rating--2.9 million viewers, down 8% from an average rating of 3.2 million viewers per episode in season one.  Perhaps even more discouragingly, 40% fewer people watched this year’s season premiere than last year’s series premiere.  No word on whether the train helped or not.

What’s a marketer to do?

I happen to enjoy the show, which depicts the lives and loves of crooked politicians, gangsters and bootleggers in Prohibition-era Atlantic City.  Thus I have a personal interest in seeing it do well.  If I were promoting the show, here’s what I’d think about: