Showing posts from January, 2010

Message to Toyota: Google "Audi Acceleration Problem" Right Now

Watching Toyota wrestle with its major recall and manufacturing suspension due to gas pedal problems reminds me of the similar trouble that befell Audi in 1989, when its flagship 5000 had similar issues that threatened to destroy the brand entirely. From an article in the Chicago Sun Times at the time:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Thursday it has closed a three-year investigation of so-called "sudden acceleration" in Audi 5000 models, saying driver error was the major source of the problem.
"The major cause appears to have been drivers' unknowingly stepping on the accleratator instead of the brake pedal," NHTSA said.
Reports of sudden accleration, in which a car inexplicably surges forward while still in park or at low speeds, were devastating to Audi's U.S. sales. They dropped from 74,000 in 1984 to 23,000 last year.

Of course, Audi did not meet its demise as a result, but became a very quiet brand for many years after that while th…

Holding Your Finger Up to the Winds of Chatter

The volume, tenor, and substance of chatter about brands and products on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn continues to grow in importance, according to an article in BrandWeek.

The article notes that measuring "...volume, sentiment, and share of voice" has become as important as established metrics such as awareness, brand lift, and intent to purchase.

Dynamic Logic used the capability to analyze an online campaign for a consumer products company that introduced a new product formula. Traditional brand metrics showed that awareness fell below the goal, even though traffic increased for the entire category. The social media buzz, however, showed that consumers who used the new formulation were pleased with it, indicating that marketing was the problem.

Ali Rana, vp of emerging media at Dynamic Logic, said going beyond mere mentions to figure out sentiment is key for brands seeing if they're ads are working.

"Our clients have long been wanting…

The Apple Tablet: Really Real? NY Times Says "Yes. Hell Yes."

I was intrigued by some speculation that the Apple event tomorrow might turn out to be all about a breakthrough product...but that that product was not the much anticipated tablet. Well, now the New York Times has put its credibility on the line to say that indeed, a tablet is what it will be all about:

“The iPhone was a harbinger,” said Trip Hawkins, a founder of Electronic Arts and now chief executive of Digital Chocolate, which makes games for cellphones. “When you have a device that is this convenient and fun for consumers to use, you can get a lot more people interested in paying for and engaging with the content. Big media companies should be all over this like a cheap suit.”
Indeed, they already are. The New York Times Company, for example, is developing a version of its newspaper for the tablet, according to a person briefed on the effort, although executives declined to say what sort of deal had been struck. [emphasis added]

If the tablet delivers, this will breathe some much n…

Social Media Lures Procter & Gamble to Silicon Valley

From AdAge today:

Procter & Gamble Co. loves Facebook after all, and besides encouraging brands to develop a presence there, the world's biggest marketer has opened an office in Silicon Valley to help develop social-networking systems and digital-marketing capabilities with the website.

A spokesperson for P&G gave some insight into the marketing giant's developing perspective on social media, saying that they viewed twitter as a "one-to-many" channel, much like TV, that can deliver short bursts of typical PR information, and Facebook as most appropriate for branding and advertising initiatives.

As an aside, I find it interesting that P&G somehow feels that its social media efforts will be more effective if run out of an office in Silicon Valley rather than Ohio.

Anyway, welcome to the neighborhood, P&G.

Political Advertising Consultants, Rejoice!

Today's Supreme Court ruling that political campaign donations by corporations and unions amount to free speech protected under the First Amendment will not only cause a sea change in the way politics gets done -- for the worst, most likely -- but it will also cause a massive shift in political advertising, again most likely for the worst.

With corporate and union dollars now able to flow freely into politics through the media, we will likely begin to find political advertising becoming part of our everyday lives.

If you live in California, you've probably been hearing Meg Whitman laying out her agenda for the state if she were governor, delivered through radio ads that are on such high-frequency rotation that it feels like we're being carpet-bombed by MEG-52s. Imagine what it will be like now that the shackles are off, and the inmates have not only escaped from the asylum, but have been given purses full of gold to spend on blaring their messages louder and longer than ev…

Britain Loses Another Iconic Brand

From the Economist today:

WHY can’t Britain hang on to ownership of iconic brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover, the Mini, Rowntree, the Times and now Cadbury, purveyor of chocolate to children of the British empire? On January 19th, after a four-month battle, Roger Carr, chairman of Cadbury, said his board was recommending to shareholders a £11.9 billion ($19.5 billion) takeover bid by Kraft Foods, of Northfield, Illinois. Somehow, despite the blustering of politicians and the protests of organised labour, great companies like this one have been slipping out of British control.

The British "Brand" has been losing steam for a while now, but things have really accelerated in the past decade, with the loss, as noted above, of all the great British motoring brands with the exception Rolls Royce.

So what does the British Brand stand for, anymore? Tea is perhaps one immortal British icon (Twinings, PG Tips), and maybe the Queen. Bass Ale, and within the U.K. fold also Guiness. But do…

Marketing Wine to Gen Y: The "Gen" Stands for Genuine

In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat today, an article about marketing wine to Gen Y, or the Millenials:

Wine marketers hoping to get their message across to mobile, fickle 20-somethings have their work cut out for them.
While research shows these young people are embracing wine earlier and at a greater rate then either Baby Boomers or Gen Xers, these so-called Gen Yers or Millennials — broadly speaking those born between the late 1970s and late 1990s — are proving impervious to traditional marketing and advertising methods.
“You need to be authentic with this generation,” 29-year-old journalist Nadira Hira told hundreds of wine executives gathered in Santa Rosa Tuesday. “This generation craves sincerity. We've been lied to … We don't believe you.”
Hira was a keynote speaker at the second annual Direct To Consumer Symposium held at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel. She is a reporter for Fortune magazine who focuses on Generation Y and how its embrace of technology and social networking …

Obama, Brand of the Millennium, Learns a Marketing Lesson

Under-promise. Over-deliver.

Or, since this is politics, over-promising is to be expected, but then one has to at least over-deliver in some fashion.

On the one-year anniversary of his historic inauguration, President Obama is being taken to task for not having delivered on promises of change, not having fixed the train wreck of an economy, nor presenting true healthcare reform to the nation. This is disappointing to those who supported him, but of course the rational among us look at what he has accomplished, especially given the destruction he inherited from the W-bomb.

But, as marketing professionals certainly know, consumers (and voters) are anything but rational. So, what went wrong?

President Obama's campaign was brilliantly branded. The narrative was stunningly compelling. Why, the guy was even named Marketer of the Year by AdAge, handily besting both Apple and Nike, much as he bested John McCain.

Glenn Greenwald, writing in the NY Times today, noted that Brand Obama has failed …

In Social Media, There are No "Experts"

Interesting story in BrandWeek today about the sudden, magical rise of agencies and consultants who call themselves Social Media "Gurus," or "Experts."

The rise of social media has been met with thousands claiming expertise in the area. The skepticism this engenders in longtime marketing pros is best captured in a popular animated video called "The Social Media Guru." The clip shows a know-it-all, lightly credentialed "expert" dispensing little more than buzzwords and common sense to a bemused client.

The video is here--note that the language in it is a bit coarse, to drive home the point, I suppose, that these new gurus have to use intimidation tactics to cover up their lack of knowledge.

Of course, Social Media doesn't work in the absence of "Traditional Media," as you still need ads, PR, promotions, events, and a sales team to build a brand and sell products. But that glaring need for integrated strategic planning and coordinated…

PR Grows 4% in 2009 While Advertising Suffers.

According to the Economist today:

According to data from Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), a private-equity firm, spending on public relations in America grew by more than 4% in 2008 and nearly 3% in 2009 to $3.7 billion. That is remarkable when compared with other forms of marketing. Spending on advertising contracted by nearly 3% in 2008 and by 8% in the past year. PR’s position looks even rosier when word-of-mouth marketing, which includes services that PR firms often manage, such as outreach to bloggers, is included. Spending on such things increased by more than 10% in 2009.

One global PR group, IPREX, of which our friends at FinemanPR are a member, saw a 14% increase in revenue.

PR tends to do well in recessions because it requires less capital outlay than big media campaigns, but its hit-or-miss nature is less effective than any well-executed brand ad campaign. If the story doesn't get picked up, nobody sees it. Plus, they don't usually let you put your logo or a tagline in…

Retail Revival? Not Likely.

Now that the tinsel and mistletoe dust have settled, let's take stock of the near future for retail advertising.

According to Calculated Risk, December retail sales were down .3% from November on a seasonally adjusted basis, but up 5.4% YoY from December 2008.

This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline).
Click here for larger chart.

Retail appears to have bottomed, and should begin a long, slow climb back to better times, although given anemic consumer confidence, that climb could be slower and more arduous than anyone would like, and this includes the retail segment of the advertising industry, whose fortunes have been tracking the industry it serves.

A report in Bloomberg News notes that:
Americans also bought more consumer goods, computers and telecommunications equipment from overseas, signaling a revival in overall demand and business investment.

But most analysts say that demand is weak, and that given the bea…

Globalization, Localization, and Transcreation

From the NY Times today, by way of the Wheels Blog's coverage of the Detroit Auto Show:
By far the most lavish display is from the Korean company CT&T, which has an ambitious expansion plan for the United States. According to its Web site, “We CT&T are manufacturing environment-friendly Electric Vehicles for your dreams come true with the talented and the stable know-hows.” [emphasis added]

Here is another situation where somebody at C&T really should have asked a few key questions of somebody in the United States, e.g. "Does what we wrote on our home page make any sense whatsoever?" and "Would police officers in the U.S. ever be caught dead riding in a vehicle that looks like a cheap toy?"
In both cases, of course, the answer would be NO.
In the first instance, as anyone who has used Google Translator knows, translation is not the same as Localization or Globalization, where a literal translation is scrutinized for relevance to the culture(s) that will…

The Outsize Power of Swiss Brands

In relation to its small size, Switzerland packs a hefty brand punch. 5% of the world's top brands in 2009 were Swiss, according to a report by Interbrand.

Among Swiss brands, at least 40 are practically household names.

What makes the Swiss affinity for branding so strong?

Come see me give a presentation on that very subject to the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce 5:30 PM on January 14th, at City National Bank.
150 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94111
(Enter main door no later than 6 pm; sign in with security, and ride elevator to 12th floor.
RSVP required to be on the check-in list.)

TO REGISTER go directly to
($15.00 for Members; $20.00 for Non-Members)

Google Abandons "Search Engine" Moniker

Reporting in the NY Times today, Miguel Helft captures the frank admission of Andy Rubin, whose title, paradoxically, is VP Engineering:

“There is an opportunity to make some margin on the unit sales, but that’s not the objective here,” Andy Rubin, a vice president of engineering in charge of the Android technology, said during a press conference at Google’s headquarters here. “Our primary business is advertising.” [emphasis added]

Interesting, I think, that the core notion of needing a big agency to handle your advertising continues to erode with advances in technology. The advantage is heading toward the smaller, more nimble agencies with great outside technological and graphic design resources that they can tap, but need not own. Overhead disappears. The focus shifts to creative strategy and administration.

Clients certainly benefit, but it is admittedly a bewildering time to run an agency, with everything in the game changing seemingly at once.

Apple Gets into the Ad Biz

Writing in the 'Bits' blog for the NY Times today, Claire Miller notes a significant acquisition by Apple:

Apple has acquired Quattro Wireless, a mobile advertising company, for about $300 million, according to a person briefed on the deal.
The purchase marks Apple’s first move into the advertising business, and will put the company into direct competition in the mobile ad market withMicrosoftYahoo and Google, which in November agreed to acquire AdMob, another mobile advertising network, for $750 million. 
What's interesting about this acquisition is that it suggests Apple is going to try and compete with those players in an arena in which it really hasn't spent much time before, if you don't count the company's own advertising. Are they really going to run an outside agency, with AEs and Creatives and all the attendant challenges, or is there a different motive? And, are they thinking iPhone ads, or are they really making this acquisition with an eye toward mon…