Archive for marketing
I always wonder about writing from anger. In general it’s not a good place to write from. Writing from anger means that you’re taking a hard line stance. Stating a very fervent opinion. Often this is polarizing.
But are there times when it’s good and healthy. And then perhaps there are times when it’s necessary.
This isn’t necessarily how I wanted to begin to revisit my blog but alas it’s a blog that as stated is about culture and what I’m noticing about culture these days is pretty reprehensible.
Here is what I wonder… Is it possible that there has been such a confluence of events in which we as a nation have thought we’ve progressed so much but in actuality we’ve regressed to Pre-Civil Rights era times?
Over the past several weeks I’ve noticed a degree of frighteningly and racially charged statements and commentary from a myriad of sources.
There was the backlash about the comments from a dated interview with the Abercrombie Fitch CEO about body image. The blogger who largely exposed that story neglected to mention that A&F several years before settled a class action suit for $50M in which they admitted to designating minorities to back-room positions. Should the CEO’s comments about body image have been a surprise?
There was the viral undercover video from ABC’s show “What Would You Do?” of three individuals each filmed while trying “steal” a bike. There was a young white male, then a young African-American male (both dressed similarly) and lastly a young attractive blonde woman. No one contested the young white male even when he admitted he was stealing the bike. Almost everyone contested the young black male and one called the police with one going so far as to take his “tools”. With the attractive young white woman… people offered to help cut the bike free. Profiling much?
Then there was Sergio with his comment about serving Tiger Woods fried chicken for dinner.
And most recently there’s Paula Deen.
I’m sure you’ve heard about her most recent deposition statements stemming from a lawsuit in which she admittedly uses the N-word freely and makes racist and anti-semitic jokes and hatched a plan to host a dinner in which they would be served by African-Americans dressed as slaves. And then today Paula who agreed to an interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY Show failed to show. Perhaps someone informed Paula, that the slaves were freed December 18, 1865. At least on paper.
And what I don’t understand even further is the support for Paula Deen on the Food Network’s Facebook page which may in fact be a minority of people but a loud bunch. Kudos to The Food Network for not renewing Deen’s contract.
But then again I don’t understand the support for Sergio Garcia either.
For both Deen and Garcia these are comments which apparently so easily were/are at the forefront of their minds and so easily roll off their respective tongues.
Apologies seem to be a means not saving their own personal grace or to be truly sincere towards those they might have hurt for that matter but really a means to save their bank accounts.
So what was the confluence of events that has led to what is a seemingly festering culture of racism?
And what is it that suddenly enables certain people to have a level of comfort with feelings that are clearly so divisive? My guess is that it was the election of the President of the United States of America and partisan politics.
On the one hand the election of the first African-American President in our nation’s short history in theory symbolized how far we had come from when men were unleashing dogs and fire hoses on innocent human beings. Which at least one person understands that in geologic time frames was basically like yesterday.
But on the other hand is it possible that one moment in time brought forth feelings that had been simmering beneath the surface for those who simply haven’t made it past race and culture.
Is it possible that one moment during a State of the Union address where Rep Joe Wilson felt comfortable enough to disrespect not only the President but the very office of the President indicative of what certain people really feel about race and culture? And is it possible that as partisan politics continues to rage and common decency, respect and discourse seems to elude us do people’s true colors begin to show? Has the perception of acceptable behavior at the highest level given people permission to air their feelings no matter how hurtful or disrespectful?
There is a quote that a friend of mine once shared with me and I’ll do my best to paraphrase it but it essentially says that so as our leaders do, we are then comfortable to do.
In other words perhaps partisan politics cuts deeper than we think to reveal ugly ugly truths.
A friend and colleague recently posted the Nike spot titled Courage to his Pinterest page. It got me to thinking about Nike and the art of the montage spot.
Nike and advertising are basically synonymous.
Advertising and montages can be considered synonymous too.
However, good advertising montages are another story. They are typically an anthem spot with a familiar celebrity’s voiceover trying to talk about how whatever company is so valuable or how valuable you are to whatever company.
The reality is most of these spots suck.
Unless you’re Nike. And then you get guys like me paying homage to W+K and Nike for their omnipresent greatness and ability to so consistently create great montage spots that deliver on the brand promise and make me want to “Just Do It.”
With that, I deliver my top six favorite Nike montage spots.
For anyone who has played competitive sports, you know everything about this moment.
This is for the new Nike Fuel band. I’ll be taking the stairs from now on, thanks.
This just might make you believe that there’s an athlete in all of us.
My better is better than your better. Yes, Ladainian that would be correct. One commercial would vault Saul Williams into the public spotlight and end up being a favorite workout song on everyone’s iPods.
This spot gives me goosebumps every single time. Without fail. It speaks to the elegance of sport and I love it.
I laughed but then thought, wait, “Isn’t it supposed to be, jinx buy me a Coke?”
Is this an uh oh, moment for Coca-Cola? Is there a cultural shift going on right now among my children’s generation where generally middle class parents are less likely to feed their children fast food, soda and sugary fruit drinks. Where we actively buy things that at the very least don’t have high-fructose corn syrup or are organic.
The mere fact that the Corn Refiners Association has a commercial campaign attempting to legitimize high-fructose corn syrup with the line “sugar is sugar” should be telling enough.
Perhaps even more frightening for Coke is when your name starts to slip from the lexicon of an innocent multi-generational game played among kids.
In any sort of filmed medium there’s this thing known as “continuity.” This is when for example you see a scene with a glass of water that is half full. Pan away and pan back and the glass is full. Or there’s a painting on a wall in one shot and it’s not there in another.
This means that scenes were edited from different takes and no one paid attention.
For film buffs, it’s well known that Spielberg could give a rat’s ass about continuity. He argues that if you notice whether or not a glass is full or empty means he’s done a lousy job making a film.
I would argue that in this way Steve Jobs shared this trait with Steven Spielberg although he may not have known it.
Take the iPad for example. When it came out people complained (mostly techies) about it not having Flash. I think Steve Jobs knew that it didn’t inherently matter. Once a user has the device in their hands the overall experience trumps minor flaws.
It’s not to say that we shouldn’t fix mistakes if we can but perhaps not being afraid of a minor flaw in deference to the overall user experience is more important.
Food for thought?
I settle on The Daily Show despite the fact that I was fairly certain that it might depress me. Anything to do with “news” these days seems to be inherently depressing. Even making fun of the news.
Well wouldn’t you know it but The Daily Show would deliver.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Jon Stewart and all he does to expose the buffoonery that our news media outlets have become and for calling them to the carpet on this little gem.
“TOEMAGEDDON 2011: This Little Piggy Went to Hell” is what this would be dubbed.
The creative director for J. Crew, Jenna Lyons is pictured in an ad with her five year old son, Beckett. The moment seems candid and sweet as the two look lovingly at one another nose to nose. Nothing like a little childhood innocence right? Oh and in the ad, he has his toenails painted pink.
Well that is to say until it hits the media airwaves and turns into this statement of a woman trying confuse her son’s gender identity.
Seriously? WTF is wrong with us?
I have two daughters. They play outside. They get dirty. They dress like princesses. They paint their toenails and fingernails. They also have been known to paint Daddy’s.
Wait. Stop the presses. Get GMA, CNN, the Today Show and FOX news parked outside of my house. OMG, he lets his daughters paint his toes. Oh the humanity. They’ll forever be confused about gender roles because I let them paint my toes and even wore the nail polish out in public. WITH FLIP FLOPS.
Oh dear God. Wait. Now I’m confused. I’m not sure whether to stand or sit to take a leak.
I’ve been working on this post for quite some time. It’s purely conceptual in nature and I’m unsure of where it will go or even what it means to a degree. It’s just something that’s been mulling around in my brain for a while and I’m trying to figure out if it’s valid or valuable or if I should just move on.
My wife who is my de facto editor for most of my posts said that while she liked the general gist of this post that it seemed pompous. Great, so I’m an asshole. Well hopefully you won’t see this post as pompous but reflect on yourselves and what makes you… well you. Hopefully, you’re not an asshole.
“Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.”
So where does culture fit into the mix of your DNA? Is there such a thing as cultural DNA? If you google cultural DNA there are several views of what it might be. There doesn’t seem to be any real consensus and it’s a term that seems to be applied to a myriad of things from corporate culture to the content of one’s character and more. I’d like to apply this term to people as individuals and how you’re “defined” as it relates to marketing, advertising, brand choice and purchasing decisions.
In the marketing universe typically we bucket consumers. And we bucket them as simply as possible to ensure that we reach the greatest number of people. Age, Gender, Race, Geography, Household Income. Occasionally we’ll create custom segmentations and create fancy names for those segmentations and it’s all very clever and smart. We’ll do focus groups and ethnographies in the interest of getting to know “you”.
But what really makes you… you?
I like to think of consumers as a little bit more complex.
If you think about it everyone has what I’d like to think of as cultural DNA. It’s the what makes you… you.
I’ll use myself as an example.
I myself would say that I’m defined by at least 20 different cultures/sub-cultures/communities built up throughout my exposure to a variety of people and experiences throughout my life. This would include, Black culture specifically as it relates to the Civil Rights movement, Beat Generation writers, 60s drug culture, 80s preppy culture, 80s punk culture, early action sports culture, traditional sports culture, feminist culture, Italian-American culture, gay culture, Higher Ed Academia, NYC prep-school culture (yes it’s a culture) and so on. Then you throw in things like birth order and family legacy and things get even more complicated.
Put another way one way you could define a part of me is by my design sensibilities. I would say that I’m more “Dwell” then “Architectural Digest”. If I were to try and understand why I would guess that it was most closely related to my grandfather who was an architect who studied under Mies Van Der Rohe. Thus it’s very likely that my grandfathers design esthetic influenced my design sensibilities and in turn to this day influences purchase decisions related to various brands I migrate to.
Now what happens when you take the complexity I’ve discussed and two interesting people end up bearing children, their kids end up amassing the cultural DNA from both of their parents in addition to the cultural DNA they continually amass from external sources and sub-cultures.
And thus even more interesting and complex people are hatched.
So I guess the question is how do we take this and make it useful. Help.
This is an extraordinarily complex post. There are two fundamental themes. The first is the notion of the changing means of how content is consumed. The second theme is that the notion of consolidation or “whole” really needs to give way to the notion of “fragmentation”.
HOW WE USED TO RELATE TO CONTENT
Once upon a time we had three major networks. We came home from work. We watched the evening news. We ate dinner. Then we watched our shows. I literally grew up with M*A*S*H. MASH ran for 11 seasons beginning in 1972. So from about age 5 to about age 13 I would sit with my mom and step-father and watch MASH every week. I honestly cried during the last show.
Other shows I grew up with were “Different Strokes” (8 seasons), “Facts of Life” (9 seasons), “Dukes of Hazzard” (7 seasons), “Fall Guy” (5 seasons), “Magnum PI” (8 seasons) and of course “The Cosby Show” (8 seasons).
Hopefully, you’re starting to see a pattern. We used to “live” with TV shows. They were constants in our lives from season to season. We had relationships with these shows. Whether it was “St. Elsewhere” or “Hill Street Blues” we had prolonged relationships with shows and networks.
For the longest time every network followed a prescribed schedule. Then along came cable where repeats found new life and new audiences (or the same old ones). Then came FOX that started airing new shows when nobody else was. Then the Internet gradually began to turn things on its ear. Yet for some reason in the world of media planning and buying we still have a TV upfront.
I’ve known for quite some time that that the nature of TV shows and the way we watch them has been changing. I believe this to be a geologic change though. One in which we don’t necessarily see it happening. We make minor adaptations but there has yet to be a seismic shift.
That however I believe is coming. I’m not sure what it looks like. I’m not sure exactly when it will happen. Five years? Ten years? That’s where perhaps you can all lend a voice to predict or pontificate.
I believe that we are on the cusp of something and we need a much deeper understanding of people’s relationship with content.
What do we watch on which screen and why? Where does each “screen” fall as it relates to the trade-off of fidelity versus convenience? What is content we share versus content we commiserate about versus content we talk about at the water cooler?
We used to watch shows on a specific night. Now we may DVR a show and watch it on a different night. We may wait altogether and watch a whole season in weeks courtesy of Netflix. We may watch a show one week with friends and the next week online and the third week via a smartphone waiting at an airport.
Nevertheless, networks continue to present shows the same way all the time.
HOW CONTENT IS CHANGING
About a year ago, I watched Ken Block’s second iteration of Gymkhana.
No this isn’t Kurt Thomas’ attempt to extend his 15 minutes of fame and woeful acting skills on the heels of his early ‘80s film Gymkata. I’m talking about the founder of DC Shoes and his foray into the world of rally racing, stunt driving and the next generation of drifting.
Ken Block is a phenomenally intuitive marketer. Certainly as evidenced by his savvy in building DC Shoes into arguably one of the strongest action sports brands ever. Perhaps second only to Burton. Maybe it’s that no one felt comfortable to tell him the rules. Or he wasn’t listening anyway. Whatever it is, he knows right when he sees it.
Gymkhana 1 was originally posted about three years ago and between various posters of the video, it garnered over nine million views. Not too shabby. No doubt it was professionally shot at every level and Ken Block has money to throw at these things. Although, I’m pretty sure he’s mastered the art of OPM.
But then he came out with Gymkhana 2 (22m views). And Gymkhana 3 (25m views).
Nevertheless, while most create :60 spots and hope they’ll find viral traction on Youtube, Ken Block did it on purpose! And I know lots of people will say, “come on, we did that.” Tampax, Dove, Cadillac. Blah Blah Blah. I don’t think anyone has done it as well AND on purpose as Ken Block.
In Gymkhana 2, the video is 7 minutes and 32 seconds. They even call it an infomercial. At the beginning of the video note the following:
How many people are choosing to watch your spots?
Now let’s just take YouTube and content as a whole. Consider this from the ADWEEK article by Brian Morrissey about “YouTube’s Stars”.
“The dirty secret of cable TV is audience numbers are often pitifully small, with many programs drawing under 100,000 viewers. That’s not the case for a select group of YouTube creators… The numbers they draw can be staggering. Comic actor Shane Dawson averages nearly 1.5 million views per day, according to video analytics service TubeMogul, and has racked up 670 million views of his videos over two and a half years. The typical YouTube star will average 250,000 views per video. ‘On any given night or day or two, the top 10 YouTubers will have more views than any cable channel,’ says Walter Sabo, a former ABC radio executive who started an Internet talent agency three years ago called HitViews.”
iJustine pictured to the left has more than 1m subscribers. DC Shoes… 79k subscribers.
Take that Ken Block.
“Tremor Media, the largest independent network, reached a deal last week to acquire Scanscout, one of its smaller competitors, in a bold attempt to consolidate the market, and create a scaled competitor to Hulu and YouTube. Separately, Undertone Networks is expected to announce a deal Monday to buy Jambo Media, a video syndication and ad platform. Two weeks ago, Specific Media snapped up BBE, one of the first pure-play video networks in the market… TV advertisers are the ones moving most aggressively into web video, looking to achieve similar goals through it. ‘I think that has been one thing that has been missing for advertisers is the ability to deliver mass reach,’ said Chris Allen, VP-video innovations at Starcom USA. ‘A lot of our clients are married to the reach metric, and TV delivers reach as fast as possible. The only way to achieve that reach online is through a network.’”
Is the :60 spot going away? No.
Does broadcast deserve its dominance and to make all the money? Most definitely not. Arguably, they are the least removed from purchase behavior. Wouldn’t it make sense that I’d be more likely if I was online to then stay online to purchase something as opposed to going from one screen to another to do so?
Are “reach and frequency” dated analytics? Do they truly get at how we consume media and connect to purchase behavior?
Once upon a time people laughed at cable as a network contender. ESPN, 24 hour sports. It’ll never work. FOX could never take on the Big 3. 24 hour news? Don’t be silly. 24 hour weather? Please!
Is Comcast/NBC really that big of deal? Not really in my opinion.
Fragmentation is the world of today. Whole is the world of yesterday.
No matter how big Comcast/NBC make themselves, the reality is that when it comes to content, they are hardly the only game in town.
McCracken, Grant “Chief Culture Officer: How to Curate a Living Breathing Corporation”, 2010
Maney, Kevin “Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don’t” 2009
One of my previous posts was about how we view written content via mobile devices. It got me to thinking about the debate of whether or not “print is dead?” This too is a question pondered by Stephanie (@stooffi) from the Penn-Olson blog and in which I’ve borrowed some points of data from. It’s also contemplated by Steve Laube in another excellent post.
They both share my sentiments that they don’t see print going the way of the dodo however we differ somewhat in our rationales. What I’d like to do here is offer some observational reasons as to why I think print isn’t dead to augment Stephanie and Steven’s very good more data driven arguments.
If you subscribed to conventional wisdom you might think that let’s say that within 10 years magazines would be ancient history with books to follow shortly behind them. You might think that certainly about newspapers and there is a decent case for that.
Some quick stats to initially contradict those who firmly believe print is bound for extinction (from @stooffi via Sketchee):
- 93% of adults in the U.S. read magazines
- 96% of adults under 35 in the U.S. read magazines
- Book sales are up 11.4%
- Sales for higher-education publishing have increased 27.4%
- E-book sales have increased 204% (keep in mind this is a category that didn’t exist a mere few years ago so I’d take that growth with a grain of salt)
- 60% of consumers say they plan to purchase a tablet device within three years (what isn’t known is if they say they will purchase that device in place of a laptop)
Considering the data alone, I’m not so quick to put a nail in print’s coffin. With this being said, I’d like to offer a defense of print that is more observational relative to behavior/culture.
The first is case for print is that print is tactile. People like tactile. People comment on things like paper stock and gloss or matte finish with reverence.
The second is people like pictures. Big glossy, shiny, pretty pictures.
To be fair, I think it’s necessary to place a distinction on content that can be read versus content that can be viewed. The former would be lifestyle/niche magazines and the latter being more business, news and to some degree sports publications.
Logic would tell me that business, news and sports news magazines very well might have one foot in the grave because I think there’s a dramatic shift occurring in how people consume that type of content as my previous post “Where I’d like to read it” would suggest. As I write this, US News & World Report announced it is shuttering its print edition. And to add even further support this consider this recent article from Mashable.com clearly indicating that among smartphone users mobile is exactly how they like to consume.
However, I think we’re highly unlikely to see the demise of magazines entirely anytime soon. In fact in July 2010 there were 68 new magazine titles added versus 34 in July 2007. The difference is that most of the new titles were largely specialty magazines or magazines to serve a certain niche (often content to be viewed).
Consider a reason why? Have you been in a teenager’s room lately? If you’re looking at BOP or Tiger Beat online via an iPad, you can’t rip out the picture of Justin Bieber or Katy Perry and put it on your wall. Or rip a picture out from eurotuner of that sweet tuned BMW M3. Or the rad picture of Shaun White flying out of a half-pipe.
In addition, I believe a good amount of people still appreciate the “coffee table” book. This and certain magazines are a way we brand ourselves. For many they’re forms of “decoration” carefully placed around the home.
Chief among the reasons I don’t see print as going away anytime soon is that we haven’t changed how the youngest learn to consume print. Yes, my two year old niece can take out her Dad’s iPad, turn it on, flip three screens and start a game but how she learns to consume print will likely not change anytime soon. In fact, recent research would suggest that college students haven’t taken to eReaders as expected. And this might be a logical place to begin to see a cultural shift. I’m still not entirely sure we’ve crossed the chasm with eReaders/tablets. There I said it.
Granted my father-in-law is 74 and has had a Kindle since its inception. This inspired me to ask a few people with eReaders why they bought it. Number one reason? Because they travel a lot and that way they don’t have to carry a physical book. Airport bookstores consider yourselves warned. However, this lumps those who purchase eReaders/tablets into a specific category. In this case the eReader fill a specific need that people are willing to change how they consume content.
I’ll offer one final example of how embedded the way we learn to consume written content is.
I have two daughters ages 7 and 4. The two of them participate in a program called the “Thousand Book Club”.
This is a program where at their elementary school there are some 200 bags of books. Each bag has 10 children’s books. The goal of the program is to either read (or be read to) 1000 books by the time they finish kindergarten. It’s a wonderful program as you might suspect but the point is that it’s a heavily quantitative experience with books.
At the end of the day we’ve only barely begun to change how we interact with written content and until that happens drastically, I don’t see print going away.
What do you think?
Today, one can argue that the consumer marketplace is exceptional fractured. As a society we may do things in groups but what these groups look like has changed dramatically. Companies segment consumers all sort of ways but it generally involves falling back on household income, gender and race or ethnicity. For the purposes of any efficiency in marketing it is still required to find the greatest number of individuals to market to. But the reality is as most commercials will show, there’s really very little actual insight there.
Take a look at most commercials and they either simply push a product or play off a general consumer sentiment. Beyond that there is usually very little there to actually connect with the consumer.
Not too long ago I was approached by the agency for New Era, the baseball hat and apparel company. They said that there was a flaw in their segmentation of customers and wanted help understanding what it was and perhaps a better way to segment their customers. They segmented them by “Urban”, “Suburban” and “Fan”. The flaw was simple. You could reside in suburbia, have urban sensibilities and be a fan. Furthermore it didn’t really tell you anything about their customers. We designed a segmentation based on how people wore their hats. The initial breakdown was as follows:
So how does this new possible segmentation inform?
It can inform in multiple ways. It enables us to truly understand the consumer and what social groups they might belong to. Are they action sports kids? Maybe. But that’s not good enough. Because there are sub-cultures within action sports groups. Are they action sports hip-hop kids or action sports metal kids? BIG DIFFERENCE. Are they college frat boys? Are they girls? Are they “rad” girls or “bad” girls or “good” girls or “emo” or “goth” girls or “preppy” girls?
If you map the types of hats to sales you can identify patterns or anomalies that will heavily dictate what and how much product you might supply to various retailers. You can identify where you might participate in or sponsor events. You can identify which radio stations you might advertise on or if you do at all. The insights and variables are virtually endless.
As the consumer landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, it’s not something to be scared of or intimidated by but it is necessary to get out of your traditional comfort zone and start being creative with understanding your customers. And funny thing is, the more you actually show that you truly understand your customer, the greater loyalty you will inspire.
Recently I was having a conversation with a colleague. She’s a director of marketing at a large .com enterprise. We’ll call her Julie.
She was describing to me how hard her job is these days and how little confidence she has in decision making.
When I look at advertising today and most marketing for that matter I believe that this is a sentiment shared by many a CMO/Director of Marketing.
We’d like to say there is tremendous innovation going on but if I’m not mistaken, didn’t the Super Bowl ads sell out a full three months ahead of schedule this year?
If you live in places like New England, around this time of year you’re faced with having to deal with leaves. The once beautiful foliage is now dispersed all over your yard and to preserve your green grass you’re advised to do something with it. Techniques vary, my personal favorite is to pay someone else to deal with it but my wife has frugal sensibilities and thus there I am on a lovely Sunday with this 2-stroke contraption strapped to my back known as a leaf blower. This is hardly a precision instrument but useful.
As leaves are flying about it dawned on me, this is what Julie was talking about. This is what consumer marketing has become. An exercise in trying to corral leaves.
Once upon a time, they sat on trees and were easily categorized. Oak, Maple, Redwood, Japanese Maple and so on.
But then they all changed colors, fell to the ground and there was no order anymore.
And so is the job of anyone who works in marketing these days. To try and create a natural, efficient and sensible order to the chaos of these leaves being blown amok.