Archive for April, 2010

Are Happy Days here again?

The big spenders are back!

The sheer number of P&G products sold – volume — grew 7 percent over the recession-plagued 2009 quarter, the strongest year-to-year growth in 18 quarters, the company said. Management credited a stream of new products and beefed-up advertising and promotions. “Volume growth was strong as we accelerated our pace of innovation and increased marketing support,” said CEO Bob McDonald.

I’ll hedge and say, “perhaps.”  Or, “some.”

Our research among CMOs shows that fewer feel themselves under strict executive scrutiny and pressure than a year ago.  It is down from 89% in 2009 to…80% this year.  So compared to last year, this is good.  But in absolute terms we probably all think differently.

Here’s my simplistic analogy.  Our economy was a car going 100 mph.  Come 2008 and we hit the brakes hard.  Too hard, going from 100 mph down to 0 mph.  This year the engine is revving up and we are now cruising along at 50 mph.  It feels fast, very fast, compared to last year.  But it is still 50 mph.

C.K. Prahalad

It was sad to read that C.K. Prahalad passed away a little over a week ago.

C. K. Prahalad, Proponent of Poor as Consumers, Dies at 68 – Obituary (Obit) –

Many will remember C.K. Prahalad for his writings on people at the bottom of the pyramid.

What drew me to his work was the developments around the theory of “co-creation.”  He coined the term, which has been gaining influence in the marketing world.  And he made it a central part of his work over the years.  It may yet turn out to be his most lasting contribution to marketing.

His thinking on co-creation has certainly informed our approach and how we developed Narrative Branding.  And I know it has influenced many others, both individuals and organizations.

We have all lost a very talented and inventive thinker.

Brands come and go but a portfolio is forever

One of the great and also sad parts of branding is the constant change.  Nothing in marketing is permanent.  The market dynamics, changes in consumer tastes, companies eating companies, all of these and more contribute to a continuously shifting brandscape.

This is great because there is new opportunity, energy, new ideas always being brought forward.  And it is sad because some of our creations inevitably disappear from the marketplace.

My musing on this was triggered by the news that Qwest is being acquired by CenturyLink.  Qwest was one of the brands I helped to create when I was at Bright Sun Consulting.  It was a tremendous success in the early years after launching.  And it was one of the few telecom brands created in the mid-1990s that is still around.

Ride The Light

Ride The Light

With the merger, there is a 50/50 chance that the Qwest brand will still be around.  But a more realistic scenario is that CenturyLink will become the corporate brand sooner or later.  There are times when the acquiring company adopts the brand of the acquired company (SBC acquired AT&T and rebranded as AT&T; Bank One and JP Morgan Chase).  But CenturyLink has a history of acquiring companies and rebranding them.

Longevity in this business means having a large portfolio of brands created and, inevitably, a portfolio of brands that were once stars and have now fallen to earth.  Even many of the designs of the great Paul Rand have been replaced over the years — 2 of them by our own Michael Thibodeau.

All is fair in the name of PROGRESS!  And, of course, reinventing marketing for today’s world.

Is this the end of email?

I sent an email to one of our teenagers and didn’t get an answer for a week.  “Oh, I only check email once a week,” she explained.  “Why didn’t you use Facebook?”  In fact, Facebook is a common way of communicating in our apartment — each kid in their own bedroom posting to Facebook and the adults huddled in our bedroom monitoring them.  Facebook, Skype, text message, they are more effective ways of saying, “Did you do all of your homework?” than the email.

So it got me to wondering…is this the end of email as we know it?  Will tweets replace the staccato email message?  Is email the technology equivalent of a record?

I can only hope so, since the amount of email I get seems to be growing exponentially.  I was unplugged for three days and the amount of stuff waiting for me was nearly overwhelming.  [Note — it was an involuntary unplugging.  I was away from home and my family forcibly removed the Blackberry from me.]

The amount of email has gotten so bad, I’ve had to resort to actually making phone calls when I need to communicate with people…

Great event with John Caslione, co-author of Chaotics

This evening it was a great pleasure to have John Caslione discuss the Chaotics theory of management and marketing.  We were quite fortunate to arrange the event, since John lives in Frankfurt, Milan and Chicago.

I find two things quite remarkable about the presentation and about Chaotics as a whole.  First of all, this is a fundamentally new theory of how to manage and market an organization.  Sure, there are pieces of it that have been played out here or there but nobody has put together a serious playbook of how to manage in a world of on-going disruptions — or turbulence as John and Phil put it.  The second is that here we find Philip Kotler, a seminal figure in modern marketing — n fact THE seminal figure of American marketing — coming right out and saying that the old methods of marketing will decrease in effectiveness.

So Bravo John and thank  you for an interesting, timely and at time provocative view on how to re-think and improve marketing!

Clients not turning to agencies for Integrated Marcoms

More evidence that the advertising industry continues to need reinvention.  On many key measures CMOs are finding their needs are not being met by their agencies.

Some of those measures from our CMO study this year:

Only 12% of corporate marketers say they are looking for a single agency to handle all of their needs.

Only 14% are confident that they are getting the best work out of their agencies.

Finally, only 5% rate their advertising agencies as “excellent” overall.   Another 50% say “good” and 33% say “fair”.

John Caslione to speak at NYAMA on 4/14

A reminder that Philip Kotler’s co-author of Chaotics, John Caslione, will be speaking at the NYAMA on Wednesday evening, 4/14.

In the book Kotler and Caslione see that the world has undergone some fundamental changes.  As the recession recedes, it will not be back to business-as-usual.  The circumstances have changed.  Consumers have changed.  And it appears that the world economy as a whole is increasingly volatile.

Well, if it isn’t business as usual, then we have to reinvent marketing.  Which is why John is part of the New Thinker series that the NYAMA is featuring this year.

You can sign up at the NYAMA website.   And if you use VERSE in the promo code section, you’ll save $20 (non-members only).  This offer is only for readers of this blog (okay, you can pass it along to a friend…)

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Google acting on principle

There has been much debate about Google pulling out of China.  Some people see it as vindication of Google’s values — the “do no evil”.  Others see it as a simple business matter, that Google wasn’t the leader in the China search market.  In this second version Google is acting cynically, cloaking their actions under the mantle of sticking to its values.

So I looked around for another instance where it appears that Google is, in fact, acting on principle.  I found that in South Korea.  A year ago, on April Fool’s Day, April 1st, the Korean government passed a law requiring that anyone uploading a video or a comment to provide their real name and national identity number.  That meant any and all uploads or comments on YouTube had to use your real name.

Imagine that you are now required to put your legal name, social security number and drivers license in order to upload a video to YouTube.

Rather than violate their values and hurt their reputation, Google disabled the ability to upload a video or comment to YouTube from South Korea.

That is strong evidence that Google takes its brand values so serious that they guide business decisions.

It’s not a widely know part of the brand story we tell ourselves about Google.  A footnote to most people outside of Korea.  An important point nonetheless.

CMOs need to rebuild their brands in 2010

Here it is, the trends reports on CMO attitudes about branding, advertising and marketing!


Phil Kotler’s co-author John Caslione to speak in NYC on 4/14

I’m delighted to say that John Caslione, co-author (with Philip Kotler) of Chaotics will be speaking in NYC on Wednesday, 4/14.

The book itself provides a solid framework for handling the current economic turbulence.  Kotler and Caslione suggest that the major upheaval that we are going through is not the only turbulence for business.  Even as the economy recovers companies will find it necessary to reinvent how they market since the old tried-and-true methods won’t work as well in the future as they did in the past.

That’s actually quite a remarkable statement to hear from Philip Kotler.  Here’s the fellow who has literally written the textbook, or rather textbooks, on marketing and he’s saying that what was taught about the past may not apply in the future.  He never stops looking for ways to evolve and improve marketing.

John is a very dynamic and entertaining speaker so I highly recommend this event.

And just for you there is a special $20 discount if you use the code: VERSE when you sign up!

Okay, you can pass the code along to your friends…

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