Archive for April, 2013

You Won’t Know Until You Attend This Year’s Most Important Marketing Solutions Summit

What won’t you know?

You won’t know how IBM improved performance of their marketing until you hear from John Kennedy, IBM’s VP of corporate marketing.

You won’t know how Samsung vaulted into brand leadership until you hear from Peter Weefald, former SVP Marketing of Samsung Electonics and author of Green Reign Leadership.

You won’t know who is leading the global Champion Brand survey until you hear from Robert Schooling, President of APCO Worldwide

Mark the date: May 17th.  Mark the place: Pfizer.  Sign up for the full day event: NYAMA 2013 Marketing Solutions Summit.

We are bringing together experts who are creating the future of marketing. This is your opportunity to meet with them and learn from them. Then you’ll know how they have improved marketing performance.

Sign up now. Attend on May 17th. Then you’ll be in the know!

Click here to download the agenda: NYAMA_Agenda_Final_031413

A Sad Day In Boston

My heart goes out to all of the runners, their families and the thousands upon thousands of spectators in Boston this Patriot’s Day.

This afternoon I am living in fear that I will learn that someone I know, that I care about deeply, was injured by these insane acts.

I had the shock of recognition when watching  videos of the explosions at the finish line. The women and men within steps of reaching the finish line, a goal they have spend months thinking about, dreaming about, training for, straining for, with a deafening roar and wind blast on their left throwing them off-course for the race, perhaps throwing them off course for life. To have come all that way and then this.

The Boston Marathon is legendary. It is magic.

Qualifying for it is a dream come true for many marathoners. Running in it is glorious.

One of greatest days in my life was when I qualified for the Boston Marathon, 48 seconds faster than the 3 hours, 10 minute cut-off.

Equally great was the day I ran the Boston Marathon, on Patriot’s Day in 1992. It was a day much like today — in the low 50s, sunny — with the whole state off from work, children off from school, seemingly all of them out to watch the marathon. I remember being thrilled and sunburnt and dehydrated and exhausted running that last mile. The marathon is a particularly unusual sport, when your body keeps moving far longer than you can ever imagine it moving, where your mental focus becomes narrower and narrower the longer you are running, until the focus is to keep moving, drink some water, keep moving, glance at the crowd to see a friend, look for the clock, keep moving.  I remember seeing the finish line ahead, my eyes on the clock, the sound of people around me a white noise. I wasn’t deliberately remembering or thinking this, it came in flooding my mind while watching the videos of the bombs going off right before the finish line. I’ve been on the block, past that area, running toward the finish line. There is an exhilaration in those final steps of a marathon — or at least there should have been. Instead, today, it was a cruel greeting of death and destruction.

It takes a certain unique cruelty to plant bombs at the end of the Boston Marathon.

For all of those where there, may the healing begin, may the journey back to health be swift and sure.



Did Lack of Consumer Research Sink JC Penney?

In 2012 then CEO of J.C. Penney put into place a new pricing strategy. An article in USA Today he said that there wasn’t time to test the pricing strategy before rolling out.

He argued that testing would have been impossible because the company needed quick results and if he hadn’t taken a strong stance against discounting, he would not have been able to get new, stylish brands on board.

So the first reason not to research was a lack of time.

Which is curious, since how much time would it take to do an online survey for at least some indication of how J.C. Penney shoppers feel about the pricing?  A week?  An in-store test would take longer but even then we are talking about  matter of weeks not months.

Then we learned from yesterday’s New York Times:

By early fall 2011, Mr. Johnson was tackling Penney’s pricing, which he thought used too many discounts. He ignored a study Penney had just completed on customer preferences, and gave merchants a one-sheet grid explaining what prices they could use.

“Ron’s response at the time was, just like at Apple, customers don’t always know what they want,” said an executive who advocated testing. “We’re not going to test it — we’re going to roll it out.”

That’s a different story entirely. Customer research was done and ignored.

We don’t know what was in that research, so it is hard to say for certain that it would have prevented the retailer from such a major misstep. Even so, there is a cautionary lesson here.

Sometimes a little market research can be a major insurance policy against extraordinary risk.

And, yes, I know everyone in the universe will say shout “Look at Apple! They don’t waste money on market research!”

To which I suggest we do an Apple to Apple comparison.

Apple rolled out stores over time. If the first few had failed, then the company would have abandoned the plan at a manageable cost and minimal risk to the brand image. J.C. Penney was attempting to change what had become a defining element of the brand – the pricing strategy – across thousands of stores in a short span of time.

There’s a big difference between not doing consumer research before launching an individual product and not doing research before overhauling an existing major line of business.

A final word — not all market research is equal. It appears that Pepsico and Arnell did market research before launching the disastrous new Tropicana package design in 2009. The articles published around that time implied that the research study itself was flawed, that they did not pick up on how meamingful was the visual metaphor of a straw in an orange.

As the great market researcher Valentine Appel used to say, “All market research is a waste of money. Either it tells me what I already know, so why did I do it? Or else the research tells me the opposite of what I know, so I don’t believe it.”






Yes, Apple Does Conduct Market Research

What? Gasp!

Yes, it’s true. Anyone who has shopped at Apple stores and received a follow-up email has been participating in market research.

Maybe Apple doesn’t call it market research. But make no mistake, that’s market research. There’s more to market research than people sitting around in focus groups.

China Beige Book – or – The Researchers Who Can Research Anywhere

Here’s the story behind one of the award winning designs we created.  This is the story of  China Beige Book.

China Beige Book Logo

Ever wonder how to get reliable consumer research in notoriously difficult to research countries like China, Vietnam, India?  You have to know someone. One of the best to know is Craig Charney.  Craig is one of the few people who can field solid market research just about anywhere in the world including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Talk of the Town, recent issue of The New Yorker:  Chinese Puzzle.

“…since there are many market-research firms in China now, polling doesn’t seem subversive, as long as the questions aren’t political. “People are used to answering questions,” Craig Charney, Miller’s colleague and chief pollster, said later.”

The New Yorker piece is about the China Beige Book, a quarterly study of the Chinese economy by an independent group, CBB International.  Craig Charney handles the market research end of the program.ChinaBeigeBook_NewYorker

The CBB folks came to us with the kind of challenge we love — express their vision of providing openness and transparency into the Chinese economy.  Together the Verse team — Sylvia, Cristiano, Marina — and the CBB team came up with the design concept which conveys a translucent cover for a transparent book.

CBB. Now the Chinese economy is an open book.

The Book on China

So what does that other Beige Book look like?  And the html version of the Beige Book isn’t nearly as colorful as this.


So, to our friends at CBB International, congratulations on the award winning work.

And to our friends at the Federal Reserve, give us a call about the Beige Book. If you liked what we did redesigning FedWire, you’ll love what we can do for The Beige Book.

Award Winning Work

I’m very delighted to announce that the American Graphic & Design Awards has selected six of our clients for inclusion in this years Annual awards, vol #28.  They are:

Lockheed Martin

Quest Diagnostics

Touchstone Books



China Beige Book

These are all cases where great brand strategy leads to great brand design and great business results. Examples of the award winning work to following in upcoming posts.  Most importantly, many thanks to our clients are behind all of this work. They have truly co-created it with us.

Are Agencies The Worst Offenders?

Over the years I’ve noticed a peculiar tendency of agencies to “borrow” the intellectual property of other agencies, including registered trademarks.

This is no different than the way Chinese companies “borrow” the trademarks of Louis Vitton or Prada or Gucci or even HP to make knock-offs.

Actually, it should be of great concern to corporations when their agencies are “borrowing” the IP of other companies. After all, these are the same agencies that are being tasked with creating names, slogans, designs, advertising campaigns for those clients. It can be costly for clients when they are using another company’s trademarks. For example, in 1999 AT&T Wireless affiliates paid approximately $1 million in settlement for using the Suncom brand name. More recently there is the case of Apple introducing the iPhone — although Cisco had a trademark on that name. It was settled for an undisclosed sum.

I’ve witnessed first hand agencies “borrow” the name of another other agency, “borrow” the trademarked methodologies, “borrow” patented methodologies and even “borrow” the portfolios and client lists of other agencies. And, yes, the “borrowing” extends to creative campaigns. Of course all of this “borrowing” is done without compensation to the agency whose work is ripped off.

When agencies are “borrowing” the IP of other agencies, they are giving a black eye to our entire business.


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