Archive for November, 2010

It’s not Black Friday…It’s Bunny Friday!

For days now I’ve been bombarded by headlines and emails screaming “Black Friday, Black Friday.  Will it be a good day?  Will there be some personal tragedy a store that was unprepared to handle the crowds their marketing had attracted?   That happened last year at a Walmart.

I vowed to avoid the stores today.  Better to go for a good run in Central Park.

And then I learned that it’s really Bunny Friday!  At least that’s what the email said.  Bunny Friday.

Sounds a lot more sane than “Black Friday”.

Bunny Friday

Inflation in Action – or – Thank goodness it’s Macy’s Day!

Yes, this post is about inflation.  Balloon inflation.

Spidey trapped in a web

New York is a city of parades. From the Chinese Lunar New Year’s parade to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade to the Gay Pride Parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade — and let’s not neglect the Pulaski Day Parade, the Israeli Day Parade, parades for Tartans, Greek Independence, Sikhs, Steuben, Martin Luther King, Labor Day, Columbus Day and the famed Halloween Parade.  But there is no grander, more extravagant parade than Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This parade has a special place in my memories, as far back as I can remember. In fact, when I was a child I thought this holiday’s official name was “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day” or just “Macy’s Day” for short.

And one of the special treats of Macy’s parade is that it starts the night before.  Each year tens of thousands of locals crowd into the blocks around the Natural History museum on the Upper West Side to watch the balloons being inflated.

So, here are some highlights from this year’s inflation festival.

Buzz Lightyear getting ready for action

Pre-parade madness

Inflation in action!


The Parade Police

And a special thanks to this year’s Parade Police for their good humor, wonderful smiles and endless patience!


It’s 62 and snowing at the Flatiron Building

Hollywood magic at work!

Snowing at the Flatiron

Our “Indian Summer” has now extended far longer than usual.  It hit the low 60s in the neighborhood yesterday and today.  Across the street at the Flatiron Building there is a minor snowstorm, extending up Broadway to 24th Street.

Snow at MADison Square


That great showman, PT Barnum, who made MADison Square into the entertainment center of New York, must be looking on with glee.

Snowdrifts in 60 degree weather

Brand turmoil, part 2

Here are some more observations based on the BrandAsset Valuator work of Ed Lebar and Anne Rivers that was presented to the NYAMA last March.  I bring this up again because much of the economy is still stuck in recession.

One is that there are winners and losers in any economic downturn.  Even one as steep as what we’ve just experienced.  By the time the economy turns up again, the winners will have moved clearly ahead of the losers.  At that point it may be too late to catch up.  Certainly it is more expensive to play catch up than it is to invest in marketing during the downturns.

So here we have the BAV data demonstrating that companies who continue to spend on marketing and R&D are generally better off over time than those who make severe cut-backs.  Marketing and innovation are the engines of growth.  Turning those engines off puts the future growth of the company at risk.

Having said that, the short term pressures and temptations to make the cuts are often insurmountable, particularly when faced with a panic like 2008-2009.  Even companies healthy businesses cut back on their marketing.

Hard data like the BAV is not convincing enough when it seems like the floor has opened in the economy.

Of course the most powerful levers that an individual company has to reverse the drop in demand are marketing and product innovations.  No single company can make up for the lack of demand across the economy.  But they certainly can influence the demand for their own products.  Simply look at Subaru, McDonald’s and Apple for examples.

It really does take courage and leadership for companies to invest in marketing and R&D during a downturn.   The future is too unpredictable.  How many people would bet their career on “I know this will make our net operating losses bigger for the next two years but 4 or 5 years from now we’ll be in great shape!”

BAV Invest During Downturns


And here are seven different strategies that were identified as contributing to the success of brands during the downturn.  These were derived empirically.  Having said that, they make complete intuitive sense.

BAV 7 Strategies for Recession

Ed and Anne use Jeep as an example of a brand being an enduring advocate.  I would add Hyundai to that list, too.  With their buyer assurance they hit on several different points all at once.

The BAV also appears to support the observation that this particular economic crisis is going to have lasting effects on the people who are living through it.  When the recovery really does come around, the old habits won’t just bounce back.  Too many fundamental beliefs have been shaken this time around.

















Economic turmoil is creating brand turmoil

The top brands are more likely to lose their top position in this economy than in “normal” times.

The economic disruption is creating an upheaval that threatens to overturn many brands.

This is the story told in BAV research conducted by the good folks at BrandAsset Consulting — Ed Lebar and Anne Rivers — and presented to the NYAMA last spring.

Before the recession 78% of brands in a leadership position were still in that position one year later.  Not a whole lot of movement there.

Now, that has dropped down to 71%.

The chances of a Niche brand to move into a mass market leadership position has just gotten worse.  And niche brands are even more likely to slip than before.

Brands in Motion


These changes have come about for a combination of reasons.  Some reasons are external, outside the control of any one company.  For instance, the downturn has changed people’s values and purchasing patterns.  Other reasons are internally driven.  For instance a company may have cut too far back in their marketing as a response to the downturn.  Or they may have seen this as an opportunity to increase their marketing and launch new innovations.

A picture-perfect example is Hyundai in 2009.  At the very start of the year, during the Superbowl, they introduced their buyers’ assurance program.  While the overall car category tanked, Hyundai ended with strong increases in sales and market share.

From this we can draw two conclusions:  1.  The economic turmoil creates a situation where consumers are more receptive to trying something different.  2. Companies seeking to move up have a greater opportunity during times of economic turmoil.

So why don’t more companies reach for those opportunities during bad times?  Sometimes they can’t due to a lack of resources.  Sometimes they can’t due to risk aversion.  Sometimes they can’t due to internal pressures where any increase in marketing spend is seen as taking away dollars from some other part of the organization.

It is also a case where the brand managers of a leading brand have a difficult business case to make.  “We can reduce the risk of losing market leadership by investing more, now” doesn’t grip you by the shirt collar and scream.  Look at the logic — do nothing extraordinary and you still have a 71% chance of being the leader next year.  But if you spend more during the downturn, people look at you and say — “What, are you crazy?  You were the leader before and you are still the leader now.  What was the benefit of that extra spending?”  Avoiding the downside isn’t always so intuitive.






Mediocrity Wins Award for Near-Excellence in Online Marketing!

Breaking news!

This week we are giving out the First Official Verse Group Award of Near-Excellence in Online Marketing to

Yes, that’s right,!  A most excellent website which just may perhaps be the most inspiring site I’ve seen since last week.  It’s comfortable beige, clean and uncluttered with strange ideas.

Home of Mediocrity

What I found mostly inspiring is the mission statement.  It’s a keeper, with phrases like, “…mission is to manufacture the most…” “Our company is extremely dedicated and passionate about…” and “each and every day, we strive for…”

Mediocrity on a Mission

So imagine, just imagine, how disappointing I was to learn that Mediocrity isn’t a real company.  Imagine what is is like to feel all of the inspiration slip right out of the room. That is how I felt when I learned that Subaru is Mediocrity.

Okay, okay, it’s not so hard to put it all together that this brilliantly executed piece by Subaru and their agency is meant to convince me that Subaru is the solution to the same-old, same-old copycar cars on the road.  Such attention to detail in a mock campaign is a work of obsessiveness, people who are compulsively driven to bring an idea to lifelessness.

I applaud their (Subaru Mediocrity) risk-taking.  Their brand has been on a strong updraft lately.  In the face of success they are not afraid to try new things in their marketing.

Will it play out well for them in the marketplace?

At the end of the day I strongly suspect that they would be better served by dedicating their resources to positive aspects of Subaru rather than for such an elaborate hoax to tweak other car companies.  It strikes me as a case of looking over your shoulders at the competition when you should be concentrating on the road ahead.  All too often marketing trips and takes a pratfall with campaigns like this.  I’ve seen it happen where one company’s marketing team is so intently focussed on their competitor’s marketing moves that they launch an ad just to tweak the other brand.  It’s almost impossible to resist when you are on the receiving end, so you encourage your agency to retaliate with an ad or two.  Soon the two companies begin to focus their creative energies on ads directed at their competitor.  Thus they begin a hermetic duet, dancing with each other and ignoring the consumer.   The Dance of Differentiation.  Perhaps this is just another one of those flawed-in-conception-and-brilliant-in-execution ideas.

I had a good a laugh and fun.  And so, applause for the First Official Verse Group Award of Near-Excellence to Mediocrity!

This handsome, one-of-a-kind award, is personally signed and suitable for framing.  It will be presented at an impromptu awards ceremony held at the bar in Grammercy Tavern as soon as the winner contacts us.

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