Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do you suffer from Brand Cringe?

Image from skampy

Nike. Apple. This is not for you and your ilk. You are the ones known as ‘creative opportunities.’ Every creative wants your brand in their portfolio. There is no cringe, just competition for your patronage.

No, this is for all you category-number-threes and -fours. It’s for you financial brands. Or you B to B’s. Or, gasp, you CPGs. You form a gigantic group of vital, dynamic businesses otherwise known in the creative department as the bottom 99th percentile of all brands you’re dying to work on.

There are thousands of brands in this catch-all that get incredible counsel from their agencies. But there are so many more that are potential victims of Brand Cringe.

(And no, budget doesn’t make anyone immune. Agencies will do a quick, mental Boston Consulting Group number on you, and consign you to the Cash Cow quadrant. Harsh, but true.)

Ask yourself the following questions to see if you have Brand Cringe.

Are creatives fighting to get on your business, or off it?

If there are layoffs at your agency, are any of your creatives the first to go?

Is the conversation about your brand centered around what has to change (the logo, the name, the style, the customer) instead of what has to be magnified?

Do your creatives define a successful communication by how little it shows of your actual product?

Any interest shown in your business - is it professional, or passionate?

Examine your responses to these questions and you’ll have a sense of your creative partner.

(a) A highly engaged lateral thinker, walking arm in arm with you to success, whose passion for your brand is such that it even buoys you through the inevitable down days.

(b) A treader of the waters, going through the motions, a tad embarrassed to be seen in public with your brand. A carrier of the dreaded Brand Cringe.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

When the message is a service

My son goes to a really great school. It’s the polar opposite of my professional world: no logos are allowed, no characters, no team-wear, screen time is officially frowned upon, wood is preferred to plastic, live music is preferred to recorded, there is no candy, forget soda.

Which is what makes this little sheet of paper all the more impressive. It was handed out at a school meeting the other night.

Let me get this straight, teacher. You, the anti-commercial, are handing out the words from a TV spot as inspiration and grounding to your parent body? Wow, that’s when you know you have a viral message that will echo on for many years. That’s when you know you’ve hit a deep truth – “the people who are crazy enough to change the world, are the ones who do.”

“Advertising” has taken plenty of kicks to the groin, and deservedly so. It’s largely ineffective. It’s mostly irrelevant. “Services” do a better job of communicating. All true. Except for the rare occasion when the message itself is a service.

In praise of the ball-peen hammer

We’re in a golden age of communications tools, there’s no question.

That these tools are kept in separate tool boxes (the creative agency, the media agency, the digital agency) is at the root of the inefficiency that plagues our industry at the moment, but it will be a blip in time. Digital and non- will embrace each other in a heart-warming Hollywood-style final scene. Cue sunset.

Meanwhile, it’s good to see that the old tools, when used intelligently, work so well. Take this ad from last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, created by (I believe) Devito/Verdi. I’ve been aware of this campaign for many years. They’ve stuck to their tone, their look, their message, and their media placement, turning up again and again in my life, in a simple, smart, respectful way. It’s old school in just about every way there is. But I’ll bet it’s persuasive.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"What's wrong" isn't always right


Inspired by an observation from Adrian Ho the other day, that his recent posts were on the negative side. (A harsh assessment in my opinion.)

Inspired by the sheer joyfulness of WK London's ‘Welcome To Optimism’ blog.

Inspired by Goldfrapp's latest piece entitled 'Happiness'.

Inspired by the weather finally coughing up a post-50 day.

It’s time to focus on the positive. (At least for a day or two, then we can get back to being hypercritical.)

One of the many famous creative directors I’ve worked under and learned from was Lee Clow. Lee never had a bad word to say about an idea. If he didn’t like it, he didn’t say anything. He’d just move on. OR… he’d find what he liked about it and would focus on that.

People loved working for Lee, and I suspect they still do. He’d help them see the magic in their work.

It’s no different to when we work with a client. Yes, their business has warts – and the person who lives with them everyday is more painfully aware of them than anyone else. There’s much to point at and say ‘eww’. Traction happens when we accent the positive. Accent it and magnify it to outrageous proportions.

And how about our industry at large? There’s plenty plenty plenty wrong. Read all about it in every marketing blog there is, including this one. But what about what’s right? Maybe we should all spend more time focusing on the good stuff.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pre-roll hits all the wrong buttons

Image by pmilg

On some levels, I accept the pre-roll proposition: you watch my message, I’ll show you something you value for free.

Unfortunately, all the pre-rolls I’ve been subjected repeat the advertising sins of the past. They’re dull and tedious; they say ‘we have you captive so we do not need to worry ourselves with such trifles as engagement’.

But the very pits is when the pre-roll streams instantly, with not a single technical glitch, but the video you wanted to see in the first place strangely does not work.

For decades, we’ve been giving customers ample reason to avoid us. We’re our own worse enemies. And the “consumers” will outwit us every time.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Touchpoint Palace

Image remixed from kohtzy

In Persuasion’s early bootstrapping days, the hotels we’d stay in were more likely to feature crunchy carpets, polyester pillow cases, and previous guests’ takeout food scraps in the closet. But now, thanks to the magic of people paying us for our services, and the transformative qualities of corporate rates, we’ve had the good fortune to stay in a few W Hotels lately.

Is there a richer, more intimate setting for brand communication than a hotel?

Most don’t even try. But W nails it, over and over and over. (Maybe TOO much, but more on that later.)

There are of course the sensuous and playful colors and textures.

They never greet you like a stranger.

There are the mats in the elevator, saying good morning or good afternoon or good evening, so you know that’s a freshly cleaned elevator you’re standing in.

Cross promotions are everywhere, but they’re tastefully communicated and appropriate for the situation. For example, the Whatever/Whenever room service can get you your own limited edition pair of W Purple (hey, that’s Persuasion Purple!) Pumas.

They’ll print out your boarding pass for you in a program called W2GO.

On and on it goes - proactive, supportive and always with a distinctive brand voice.

When can it be too much? Well, when I’m checking in after a long day, and I’m tired and grumpy, and the constant interjection of knowing cheeriness feels more like an amped up waiter between soap roles.

Does everything have to come cloaked in brand. Can’t it just be? Is there really need to do a W song and dance through the menu, asking me things like “Who wants a chef’s special?”

And the word ‘view’ etched into the windows overlooking Lake Michigan. With the ‘w’ being the W. Was that helpful or necessary, or just too cute?

I know, I’m being churlish. Please don’t make me go back to the fleabag bootstrapping days. All in all, we can learn plenty from the way W communicates. Them, and my other favorite Touchpoint Palace, Dunkin Donuts. (Previously in Touchpoints, The Auto No-Show.)