Posts Tagged 'narrative marketing'

Recession Redux? And What Does This Mean For Marketing?

Now that the stock market has taken a rather ugly turn, all of the talk has gone from “deficit, deficit” to “recession, recession”

When the 2008 recession came crashing down, marketing was one of the first things corporations cut.  And they cut marketing very steeply, far more steeply than almost any other part of their operations.  At that time I did a research study with Jupiter Research, in which we found an astonishing 89% of marketing executives said that their efforts were under greater C-level scrutiny than ever before.

No doubt it seemed self-serving at the time but all of the marketing executives, agencies and consultants screamed, “don’t stop marketing” and “don’t cut the budget so much”.

Here’s the big question — where they right?  Does cutting marketing during a downturn really hurt your long-term prospects?  Or were they wrong?

That’s an important question today, now that it looks like we are again on the cusp of a recession, if not already in one.

The evidence is pretty strong that the marketers were right.  People who invested in their brands generally out-performed those who cut marketing the most.  And the companies with the strongest brands were the ones who were not hit as hard by the stock-market plunge of 2008/09.

Here’s a chart put together in early 2010 by the very smart people of BrandZ.  They looked at both consumer companies and b2b companies, using survey data that reached back before the recession, to identify the strongest brands and the weakest brands.  Then they matched stock market performance.  Nobody was immune to the downturn (except, perhaps, the astonishing McDonald’s whose brand revitalization in 2004 continues to pay dividends today).

Will we remember the recent past?  Or are we going to find ourselves in another uncontrolled experiment of slashing marketing and watching companies falter because of it?

BrandZ Analysis: Brands in times of Recession





Tracking Studies — Are They On Track?

In the past few months I’ve been looking over a number of different tracking studies across a wide range of categories and brands.  As I was looking through these I was struck by their absolute similarity.  The questions were nearly identical.  The attributes being measured were nearly identical.  The scales and everything else were nearly identical.

How could that be?  Aren’t there category dynamics at play?

A tremendous amount of research resources are being devoted to “awareness”  top of mind, unaided, aided and otherwise.  In some of these studies it becomes clear that total awareness is nearly universal for all of the major players.  In fact,  awareness is not a critical measure for most brands — and therefore not necessary in most tracking studies.  To the extent that awareness might be an issue, the traditional ways of measuring it are inadequate for what we know about the way our memories work.

Currently tracking study awareness measures almost all rely on “recall”.  “When I say such-and-such a category, what is the first brand name that comes to mind…”  In reality people come across brands visually, seeing them in context.  I go to the shelf to buy pasta and there I see the name on the package with the logo and distinctive colors.  I “recognize” the brand and feel very familiar with it.

But the tracking study forces me to artificially remember the name without a real context.  It forces me into “recall” (do I remember it when prompted with nothing but a category cue?) when it really should be measuring “recognition” (do I recognize it when I see it?)

Why?  As the say in Fiddler on the Roof…TRADITION!

Because that’s the way tracking studies have always done it.  Looking back, we can trace the use of verbal recall as an adaption to the limitations of phone interviews.  Now they tracking are primarily conducted online, but the old questions are being retained.  The technology makes it possible to use more accurate measures.  Force of habit sometimes blinds us to these opportunities.

Measuring recognition is more representative of the real world in most categories (not all).  Because it consumes less research time, it is possible for companies to add in other measures that can be of great value.


Marketing The Musical – or – Opening Night for People In The Picture

The time: 6:30 pm, April 28, 2011

The place: Studio 54

The event: Opening night of “The People In The Picture”

Donna Murphy is spectacular.  It is as if the whole musical were written just for her, for her talents, for her singing, for her timing.  You really must see her to understand how wonderful she is.  The marketing of the show plays to her star power.


On Friday morning the reviews are in and so are the Drama Desk Award Nominations.  “The People In The Picture” picks up 3 of the nominations.  Tony nominations are tomorrow, May 3rd.  It is widely expected that Donna Murphy will be nominated for a Tony.

These will all be helpful in marketing of the show.  It seems that awards, particularly the Tony, are playing a larger role in the success of a show than in the past.  They give permission for people to go ahead and buy a ticket for a new and unknown show.

That is the biggest challenge for an original musical, based on an original story.  A fan base needs to be created.

In the past it was the newspaper reviews that mattered.  Not that they don’t today — but they don’t matter the way they did.  With the rise of social media, the influence is shifting away from critics and to the personal opinions of friends and family who saw the show and posted about it on Facebook.  Who are you going to believe more some guy from the New York Times who panned “Wicked” (which you loved!) or your sister whose post on Facebook says she loved this show, it made her cry and thinks everyone in the family must see it?

Now, on to the reviews.  Or rather, to the review that matters most to those to whom reviews matter — Ben Brantley in the New York Times.  Brantley’s review is full of raves for Donna Murphy.  From the opening of his review to the final lines, he sings her praises because “it does make you marvel anew at her protean gifts.”  However, he is decidedly divided and ambivalent about the show overall.

And that brings us to the story behind the story in the Times!

The book and lyrics of “The People In The Picture” were written by the enormously talented Iris Rainer Dart.  Iris Dart started out as a trail-blazing top-notch female writer of tv comedy shows back in the 1970s — Tina Fey before there even was an SNL.   Most people will know Iris Dart more for her bestselling novel and the smash movie, “Beaches.”

This is the salient fact when deciphering Ben Brantley’s review in The New York Times.   Brantley has a long history of expressing his personal dislike for the movie Beaches.   One has to question the editorial judgement of the New York Times for sending Brantley to review “The People In the Picture.”

About “People in the Picture” Brantley writes:

Such eventful, tear-stained, multigenerational plots are less common to musicals than they are to fat novels displayed in airport bookstores as temptations to women with purses full of Kleenex and long flights ahead. And it is no coincidence that Ms. Dart is best known for just such a novel, “Beaches,” which became a four-hankie hen flick starring  Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. 

In his review of “Wicked” on October 31, 2003, Brantley writes:

That’s one side, anyway, of the lopsided equation that is ”Wicked.” The other side involves the ambivalent, ever-shifting relationship between Elphaba and Glinda, in which the adversarial women learn from each other and which recalls sobfests about female friendships like the movie ”Beaches.” (You keep expecting Glinda to start singing, ”Did you ever know you were my hero, Elphaba?”)

His final judgement of Wicked?  “‘Wicked” does not, alas, speak hopefully for the future of the Broadway musical.”  From a commercial perspective, time has proven Ben Brantley’s judgement to be wrong on that one.

More about the marketing of the musical in future posts.

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.



Marketing to the human mind

What if everything you did was based on a premise that you later learned was wrong?

Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling about marketing since I finished reading a book about the human mind.  I thought, “wow, that really changes how I understand the ways our minds work.”

And then it struck me: If marketing is “the battle for your mind” then we better have the right model of the how the mind works. But all of the marketing books, from “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” onward are based on an out-of-date model of our minds.

In other words, marketing has been waging a battle with a wrong map of the battlefield!

Here’s something to think about.  In the “Mind’s Eye”, the neurologist Oliver Sacks shares many stories that demonstrate the plasticity of the human brain.  By this he means that we use many different areas of our brains for even the most simple task.  This is the new model for our minds.

In the old model each part of the brain was hard-wired to specific tasks such as memory, taste, sight and so on.  That’s the battle plan of Positioning.

Oliver Sacks shares many examples of how in the last 20 years there has been a gigantic leap in our understanding of how our minds work.  New technologies such as the fMRI (functional MRI) make it possible to watch the insides of our minds as we react to pictures, words, movies, ads, sounds, scents.  This technology suddenly made it possible to follow what happens inside of our heads over time.   There is a tremendous amount of activity when we hear music we love, a photograph of close family members, or even go into the supermarket to buy food.   Much of this activity in our minds happens below the level of conscious perception for most people — and profoundly influences our behaviors.  Our memories change.  Our  “knowledge” changes.  Perception in our minds is like an explosion of fireworks filling the sky.

Sacks shows how old model no longer fits the actual evidence of how the brain works in the real world.  This new evidence is leading neurologists and cognitive neuroscientists to reinvent their understanding of how our mind works.  From a hard-wired model to a plasticity model.

Damn!  Marketing is using the wrong map of the battlefield (assuming we are still waging war for people’s minds).

If we reinvent our understanding of our minds, then we need to reinvent marketing.

Wow, Oliver Sacks really opened up my eyes.  Metaphorically speaking.


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