Archive for March, 2011

microMARKETING Maven at the NYAMA’s “Meet The Author Series”

This morning we were delighted to have Greg Verdino at the NYAMA’s Meet The Author Series.  Greg is the author of “microMARKETING” (McGraw-Hill), a very smart new book about the strategies companies and agencies can explore to succeed in the digital world.

What made Greg such a delight is that he’s a natural storyteller.  Nobody wanted to stop listening and leave when we came to the end of the session.  There’s nothing more wonderful than listening to someone who has something important to say and can say it a way that engages and entertains.  Kudos to Greg!

microMARKETING by Greg Verdino

If you haven’t browsed through Greg’s book at, or or Amazon — or even in a real honest to goodness bookstore — then I’ll give you the sneak peak.  Here it is:

The Seven Shifts From Mass To Micro

from Mass Communications to Masses of Communications

from Media Networks to the Network Effect

from Interruptions to Interactions

from Prime Time to Real Time

from Reach to Relationships

from Awareness to Attention

from One Big Thing to the Right Small Things

You might have missed Greg this morning because the alarm didn’t go off, the dog had to be dragged out for a walk in the rain or the taxi kidnapped you and took you ten blocks out of the way. The good news is you can buy the book.

The next author is our series is David Rogers, director of the BRITE Conference at Columbia Business School.  He will be talking about his new book “The Network is Your Customer: 5 Strategies for Brands in a Digital Age”  That’s on Thursday morning, April 13th from 8 am to 9:30 am.  Sign-up at

All Context Is Cultural: Part 2

The last time I was in Beijing was shortly before the summer Olympics.  When I had some free time I walked around, observing the changes that the city had undergone since my previous visits.  Towards dinner time on one of my walks,  I was feeling particularly hungry for pizza.  Being a New Yorker, pizza is comfort food.  I went into a Pizza Hut, where there was a line of people waiting to be seated.  When my turn came, I was shown to a table, handed a menu.  I observed the people around me while waiting for the food to come.  At some tables there were couples, dressed as if to impress each other on a first date.  There were families, also well-dressed.  I suddenly became self-conscious of my own appearance.  Not that I was an American but that I was very casually dressed in jeans and running shoes.

What I observed was Pizza Hut adapting to the local cultural, where going out to dinner was reserved for special occasions.

For brands to succeed across different cultures, they need to adopt and adapt.  Understanding these differences requires careful observation and non-judgmental perspective.

Disney is a great example of an American brand trying to export Americana to a different culture.  EuroDisney was the company’s first theme park outside of the U.S.A.  The cultural conflict flared up as soon as the location, in France, was announced.  In the first years of the park, again and again, Disney stubbed their toes on the local culture.   For instance, EuroDisney did not serve wine or beer at their restaurants during the first year of operations.  Alcohol was almost antithetical to the Disney brand heritage.  You could sense Disney had an almost Puritanical judgment about wine.  However, faced with poor attendance, EuroDisney adapted to the local culture in the second year.

While many of the EuroDisney executives were culturally attuned, the overall Disney organization wasn’t.  The business model was to bring the American Disneyland to Europe.  Had the organization as a whole been more attuned, they would have realized that France has nearly perfected an art form of criticizing the shallow and inauthentic Hollywood culture.  EuroDisney learned through trial and error that success meant re-interpreting the Disney brand to adapt to the local cultures.  And that meant suspending judgement about the local culture.


All Context is Cultural

Who is this man?

What's my line?

Here’s a real example of how cultural context shapes the way we see and understand the world.

This image was actually used in a multinational qualitative study on branding.  People were given given a stack of photographs which included many different types of people, some famous and some anonymous.  Each person in the study was given the option of using any of the photos when creating a collage about a specific brand.

This photo was used by a substantial number of people across multiple countries.  But it was selected for very different reasons, strongly driven by cultural context.

No surprise that in Western Europe and the US that it was easily recognized as Albert Einstein, and people used it when they saw the brand having the qualities of genius, brilliance, or even eccentricity.

In South Africa and some South American countries it was selected when people felt the brand appealed to older people, particularly lower income.  It was never recognized as Albert Einstein.

So who is this?  Albert Einstein or an old man?  All of the interpretations are right.  The answer truly depends on your cultural context.

Oh, and for those of you who thought it was Peter Sellers disguised as a dentist in The Pink Panther Strikes Again.  Well, the resemblance is remarkable.

Peter Sellers




Global Branding vs. A World of Unique Cultures

Last night I was asked about how global branding is reconciled with the real differences between cultures and countries.  I was asked this by half a dozen people who had lived in China, Israel, Singapore, France and Queens (okay, the outer boroughs of NYC are only a foreign country to people who live in the City).

Some context — last night I was at the Media Networking Night up at Columbia University.  It drew a large crowd to Low Library, a group of people from about as many cultures as you could imagine.  The purpose of the evening was for students and alumni to meet with executives from a wide range of media companies, including ABC, MTV Networks, Nippon TV, Random House, NY Times, The Barbarian Group, Ruder-Finn, New York Design Center, Tribeca Film Institute, Epic Records, AOL, Huffington Post, Digitas — and Verse Group!

So back to the Global vs. Cultural question.  The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.  And that is important because what works for IBM will not work for Kellogg’s.


Consider that IBM is selling to IT professionals — people who tend have have more in common in terms of their education, needs and specialized technical language (generally in English).  IBM is also selling products that are almost identical around the world, with compatible protocols so they mesh with other systems in different countries.  Culture has relative low influence on attitudes about IT.

Kellogg’s is selling food to a wide range of people in each country, old and young, tall and short, across all the usual markers of socio-economics.  Culture has a huge influence on taste preferences, foods people eat, even when they eat.  In Battle Creek people eat cold breakfast with milk, milk, milk.  In China they eat a hot breakfast, and drink relatively small amounts of milk.  The low milk drinking is a combination of high levels of lactose intolerance as well as a culture where milk was very expensive so eating habits evolved without it.

Here we touched on two of the considerations in global branding:

1. Product category: weak influence of culture in IT infrastructure or strong influence like food.

2. Target audience:  similar across countries like IT engineers or diverse like the general populations.

Now try explaining that in a throng of hundreds of people in the echoing acoustics of Columbia’s Low Library!

Meet the Authors

At the NYAMA we are starting a new series, “Meet the Authors”.  Each month we will have a breakfast and conversation with an author of a recent and important book on marketing.  You can sign up for them on the website,

The first two authors are Greg Verdino on March 31st and David Rogers on April 13th.

Thursday, March 31, 2011: A conversation with author Greg Verdino, author of  “microMarketing: Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011:  A conversation with David Rogers, director of the BRITE conference and author of the new book, “The Network is Your Customer: 5 strategies for brands in a digital age




The BRITE-ness never ends!

Here is what Nancy Lazarus over at MediaBistro’s PRNewser wrote about Day One of the BRITE conference last week.  She was covering the 7 Digital Trends presentation by Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital:

Storytelling is evolving across media platforms: Given new technology, stories are not always told chronologically as everyone accesses different points of information. He suggested providing employees and customers with compelling stories and tailoring them to each social community.

7 Digital Trends Worth Your Attention – PRNewser


A BRITE holdover

I am delighted to share that David Rogers, the Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership — the group who put on BRITE — will be giving a talk about his new book at the NYAMA on April 12th.

This is the first in the new Author Series that the New York American Marketing Association is presenting.  Once a month we will be hosting an author of new and important books related to marketing.  You can learn more about the series and sign up at

David Rogers's new book

When We Were BRITE And Young…

More recap of the BRITE conference from earlier this week.

Thursday morning started off with a thunderclap.

How else can I describe that moment when you feel so completely alive and rapt by a presentation at a conference?  The usual “lean back, listen, observe, observe yourself observing” experience was replaced by the highly charged engagement of discovery — the  leaning in, hearing, trying to make sense of what is so sensible but so insightful and smart. For me it was a lightbulb moment, a Eureka moment.  That is the only way I describe what it felt like to hear Columbia’s own Professor Sheena Iyengar discuss her work on “The Art of Choosing” and her famous/infamous Jam Study.

Professor Iyengar discussed how people say they want more choices but what they really want are better choosing experiences.

More choice leads to “Choice Overload” which decreases: 1. commitment to buy  2. decision quality (make worse choices, abandon in-going criteria) and 3. satisfaction (did I buy the best thing? did I make the right choice?)

Then she tackled the problem that had been bothering me for years.  There’s a seminal study from the 1950s by George Miller which is titled “The Magic Number Seven Plus or Minus Two”.  In marketing this has often translated into theories about unaided brand awareness as the main predictor of brand selection and a very high level of importance placed on brand awareness.

Trout and Ries used Miller’s study as one of the fundamental pillars to support their positioning model in their book “Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind”.  Share of mind, or Mind Share, became the driving focus of marketing from the 1970s up through today.  It is what MBA students have been taught for decades.

There had always been something about this “magic number seven” that was contradicted by actual experience and empirical evidence.  After all, the average person can name many brands verbally.  And when you show them the actual packaging or logo their recognition jumps even higher.  Just off the top of my head I can name more than a dozen brands of beer (Saranac, Samuel Adams, Coors, Miller, Budweiser, Michelob, Sierra Nevada, St. Pauli Girl, Pabst, Rolling Rock, Anchor Steam, Brooklyn, Blue Moon, Molsons, Hite, Kirin, Heineken, Red Stripe, Guiness, Modelo, Polar, Busch, Kronenburg, Lowenbrau, Harpoon) and within that I can identify many variations (Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Lite, Miller).  If you showed me the packaging I would recognized at least twice as many.

Professor Iyengar cleared up this mystery for me.  In fact “experts” in any category can handle more choices and they want more choices.  They see options, organize the choices, categorize them.  They see patterns and put the different brands into those categories and sub-categories.

The example that she gave was the chess master.  The options for moves that a chess master has is exponentially higher than the total number of brands in the world.  The master sees patterns, zeros in on the most relevant choices and then thinks ahead many moves to see the consequences of his choices.

That made sense to me.  I do not consider myself an expert on beer but I did spend more than 4 years working on beer advertising accounts.  That sensitized me to beer.  I seem to notice beer brands unconsciously whenever I travel to a new place. Professor Iyengar helped me understand what was going on in my process of remembering the brands. I went through a number of filters.  The first was big brands vs. small brands (although Saranac isn’t a traditional big brand, I had spent time upstate in NY where it has a lot of visibility). The next was geography (states, countries, cities).  Then by visual memory of what I’d seen on bar taps and six packs.  Finally there are a number of brands that I can visualize in my mind but cannot immediately remember the name of…for example I can visualize Corona Light, with lime wedges, I know it is from Mexico, I can picture the advertising in my mind, I reach for the word cerveza is and until this moment I couldn’t say Corona Light.

She then provided the keys to helping consumers make better choices.

1.  Cut: get rid of similar looking options

2. Organize: by categories consumers intuitively understand, not by industry standards

3. Condition: help people handle complexity by going from the largest filters (e.g. 2 or 3 categories) to the smallest (multiple sub-sub categories)

Here’s what the NY Times had to say about her book.

Unlike “provocative” books designed to stir controversy, “The Art of Choosing” is refreshingly thought-provoking. [NY Times Book Review, 04/18/2010]

The Art of Choosing

One other presentation that I want to bring to your attention.

Renée Horne of Fedex discussed “the evolving role of marketing” and the growing importance of employees to influencing customer purchasing choices.  At the same time, customers are expanding the criteria they use for choosing brands — with social responsibility, sustainability, workplace conditions and other corporate reputation factors coming into play more than ever before.  And, finally, social media is the way employees naturally want to communicate these days.  If they are using Facebook at home, their inclination is to want to use Facebook at work.

For Fedex this meant tapping into employees and making them ambassadors.  It led them to “a fresh approach to brand storytelling.”  And to “I am Fedex”.

They recognized it as “potentially game changing…to drive higher level of engagement with our own employees.”  The more engaged the employees, the higher the level of customer satisfaction.

The roll of storytelling is very important to us

Using social media, Fedex seeded the program with professionally made videos and then allowed employees to make their own.  Hundreds of videos have been made by employees around the world, sharing their “I am Fedex” stories with each other on Facebook and other social media channels.

To keep the stories real, “authentic” there are no scripts but there are some clear and simple guidelines and criteria for employees to follow.

I am Fedex storytelling

Of course in today’s world what is internal is external in a matter of moments.  There is no longer the possibility of an employee branding program not being seen by the world at large.  So the Fedex program has external elements and visibility.  It isn’t pushed on anyone,

“if customers see it, it is through sales association…We put it online.  We are not pushing it in paid media…You can see it on our YouTube channel, “Behind the scenes at FedEx”

A central element of “I am Fedex” is the purple promise.  That is in many of the videos.  It is also shared through more traditional communications such as booklets, merchandise, posters, employee awards — many of which anyone can download from Fedex.

The Purple Promise

The Purple Promise booklet

The reality is that selling in the program was not a slam dunk.  The SVP who initiated it was persuasive in selling it in to senior management.  And then they had to “overcome the fears of “what if….” with middle management”.

So, some editorializing: What I find to be particularly compelling about the Fedex program is the use of the first person singular — “I”.  It personalizes the pledge.  It internalizes the stories.  Just by having an employee say “I am Fedex” aloud  commits them.  Nobody wants to have to take back their words.  Another good example of this internalization is the longer running “I’m an IBMer” program.


There was more and more to BRITE.  I’ve just skimmed some of the highlights that I found to be compelling, interesting or personally relevant.

Too BRITE – or – back to the office I go!

It’s Thursday afternoon already!  How is it possible that 2 days of BRITE have come and gone?  It will take me longer to recap than it took for the whole conference to happen!

Onward Ho!

There was a completely wonderful presentation and engaging working session with Luke Williams yesterday morning.  He’s the author of DISRUPT: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business.

I cannot possibly do justice to the exercises and ideas Luke shared.  So I highly recommend checking out his website .  then buy the book.  Or download it.

But I will leave you with one quote from Luke.

Free ourselves to see things as they are.

Sounds easy but the reality is very difficult.  It is really, really hard to see things as they are.  Why did it take until Galileo to see the the earth revolves around the sun?  The same evidence was there for everyone else but nobody else could see it.  They were blinded by expectations.


Google the Follower?

One of the unexpected reversals of day one was Google.  In casual conversations I heard at least six people comment on it.

The other speakers talked about technology requiring us to rethink the basic premises of marketing.  For example, Weiden & Kennedy’s Josh Millrod and Jason Clement said, “Socializing is the complete antithesis of traditional advertising.”

Google sounded like an ad agency from 1990.  Google was talking reach, frequency, CPM.  Google was presenting linear models, the same-old Awareness – Association – Favorability – Purchase Intent.

What is going on?  When all others are talking reinventing marketing, Google is talking media mix.

Here was a fabulous opportunity for Google to talk about mobile reinventing marketing.  Here was a great place for Google to discuss the industry-wide challenges of measuring the effectiveness of multi-platform marketing.  Here was a great place for Google to reinvent marketing the way it has reinvented search technology and mobile OS.

Ah, a missed opportunity for Google.

The last speaker of Day One was Carol Cone of Edelman.  She is a wonderfully passionate woman, who has a deep interest in the “power of purpose”.

She demonstrated another aspect of the changing consumer.  Over the past 5 or so years a growing number of consumers have been adding corporate reputation/good citizenship in making their brand choices.  When consumers change, attuned marketers need to change.

While the recession may have slowed this trend, it is still strong and continuing.

For those who haven’t seen Edelman’s studies on corporate citizenship and trust, I highly recommend them.  They show how the consumer has changed.


BRITE early

The day began with a series of very strong stories. I’ll hit some of the highlights. This is based on my reporter’s notes (a skill learned while working on the college newspaper), not recordings of the sessions.

The over arching theme I took away was “reinvent marketing” because technology has made it imperative and possible.

A secondary theme is the power of storytelling.  Narrative marketing is on the ascendency — although nobody used the phrase “Narrative Marketing”

Visa’s Journey

The first story was the journey that Visa took from a traditional marketing to digit, from telling to socializing. Antonio Lucio shared this journey from when he took over marketing at Visa around the time the company went public. That change in company status was the impetus for his team to

“question our marketing equation”.

First steps included bringing digital “from the margins to the core” — knocking down the silos and cul-de-sacs of marketing. He also set about educating the senior managers and executive team on how marketing needs to change. To do that, his team had to educate themselves about the changes in the marketplace.

This led to creating a completely new model of marketing for Visa: “Audience First” Marketing.

The traditional model was “yell and sell”
The new model was “an army of advocates” creating a “loyalty circle”

They mapped “the traveler journey” as a way of better understanding the realities of the customer journey. The better understanding of the customer journey “changed the way we do advertising”.

Part of that change was the radical idea that “media plan then drives creative executions” and “turning the old model on its head”. The traditional model was all about coming up with the big creative idea first and then identifying the best media vehicles to execute it.

They set 3 social principles:

  • Sharing
  • Recommendation
  • Participation.

They set up a media model that recognizes 3 forms of media:

  • Paid (TV, search)
  • Shared (Facebook)
  • Owned (Visa websites)

The “Audience First” system required a lot of internal education.  They created training modules and also brought it into key executive meetings through the strategic planning and budget process.  That was one way to guarantee the attention of the senior management.

The big challenge ahead is that a new system requires new metrics.  Currently all of the social media sites have their own metrics.  There are no industry wide accepted standards.  This is greater than a Visa issue — it is a challenge for the entire marketing community.  Lucio called for an industry-wide effort, including academia, to create metrics for a cross-platform, multi-channel world.  That is the next frontier.

Edelman’s Insights by Steve Rubel

Edelman digital next presented the top 11 trends that are reshaping marketing.  By trends they mean larger movements, it isn’t a “who’s hot/who’s not”.

In the interest of time (I’ve got some sleep needs ahead of me), I’ll hit on a few of the trends that I find immediately compelling.

#1  Attentionomics:  The old metrics of reach and frequency are empty metrics.  It is more important to measure the value of the attention.  It means thinking in visual terms since visual cues are more engaging.  It means looking at engagement that is relevant by daypart (time of day).

#4  Transmedia Storytelling:  “We love stories.  Society is driven by stories…Technology advances the techniques of storytelling.”

The challenge is that marketing no longer unfolds in a linear beginning, middle and end.”There is a narrative disconnection of time…So we need to help the consumers.”  Part of that is making is easy for employees and customers to tell and share their own stories.  Another part is the the story needs to unfold in a way that is appropriate to the platform.  What might be right for Facebook isn’t necessarily right for Twitter.

#6 The Integrated:  For too long “social media has been isolated.  You need to integrate it into holistic communications.”  Until now social media has been fragmented, not formal.  In the future it needs a central infrastructure, social media command centers to monitor, share and put information into the hands of executives across the company.

“The next brand crisis will erupt on Facebook or Twitter” (for example Kenneth Cole’s twitter about the Egyptian protests).

#7 Ubiquitous social computing:  “All devices will be social media”  Smart phones, tablets, will be the tools for creating and consuming social media, not just the PC.  Therefore Mobility needs to be built into the brand strategy.

#8  Location, location, Facebook.  What happens in Vegas stays…on facebook.  The principles of this trend are a) local b) social c) photo/video d) mobile

Interestingly he ended by stating that traditional TV advertising is still incredibly important.  It sets a foundation that the digital elements and social media can build upon.

Ogilvy’s Big IdeaLs by Tim Maleeny

All of the changes in the world mean that agencies need to change they way they hire, behave and “change the model of brands”  Culture and context are more important than ever before.  The work on Dove was one factor that actually opened a door of insight at Ogilvy and “really crystalized our thinking”.

The old model was:  Ideas = Share of Mind

The new model is:  IdeaLs = Share of Culture

When you find the overlap between “A brand’s best self” and “cultural tension” there is the opportunity for the big IdeaL Ogilvy labels this “the brand platform”

“Brand positioning is fine for a campaign but it creates disposable advertising.”

The Big ideaL is for creating a long term brand platform

The new approach is as focused on the internal audience of employees as the external customers.  Tim gave the example of IBM, where the “the #1 influence on the perception of IBM is the IBM employee”.

Most revealing of the changing models is that Ogilvy has dropped the 360 degree approach.

“360 degrees is a myth.  You cannot be everywhere.  And only 10% to 20% of it really works.

That’s a big about-face for Ogilvy.  It is a powerful statement for the ways companies recognize the need to reinvent marketing.

At the same time, Maleeny did recognize that change is anything but easy.  While everyone sees the need, most companies are “scared” and in denial.  Others marketrs are seeing the changes as inevitable and seizing them as opportunities to move ahead.  As an outside agency, Ogilvy can educate and share the new Brand IdeaL models but they cannot dictate them to clients.

Okay, enough for now.  More BRITE to come in future entries.



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