Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Who drives your brand personality matters.

Can brands ever really separate their personality from those at the driver's seat?

Virgin (and all it's brand splinters) all fall to a personality that embodies its founder. Richard Branson has a joie de vivre and that carries through the brands. The goal is to attract like customers and reach out to those people who do as well. It's all integrated. But, it also works for the brand and what it stands for.

Other brands, like Coca-Cola, have a personality that has been developed over time and I'm sure somewhat existed prior to the current CEO and other stakeholders. They understand that the brand isn't them, it is its own thing.

When working on branding projects, it's often hard for stakeholders, or the ultimate stakeholder, to not put their own spin on how they feel the brand should be positioned, for right or wrong. You see it when people are reviewing creative work all the time when they don't like something because personally they don't like it, not because it's not right for the brand or piece of communication.

Great brand leadership in a company is able to separate themselves from the work and will understand that the brand needs to connect with the target audience. It's not about what they want, it's about what works best for the brand and who they are trying to reach.

Until more executives and board members understand this, we will continue to see a proliferation of brands that struggle to identify who they are, how to connect with their customers and in the end, be successful. It's those who stay true to their inception and are brands developed with a purpose and belief that will be able to win out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keep it simple (and interesting) stupid

About two weeks ago, Dave Trott was giving a talk to some media folks about creativity.

An article, "Simple may be out of fashion but its the way forward", shared some of his points that he blogs and writes about.

His point of the talk was that the message remains more important than the medium.

Creatives, he said, weren’t producing the goods as they should, partly because they were completely confused about what they were supposed to be doing: content, ideation, transcreation, narrowcasting and all the rest of it. All these were driven by technology and the belief, mistaken in Trott’s eyes, that new means of distribution – media – require a different kind of message.

Trott is right on the money. The problem is that many folks are making money by obfuscating the process and inclusion of new technologies. Yes, new tech can be a part of the process and end result, but it is not the idea. It's not the connection. It's not the story (unless your brand's story is about tech). Human truths have not changed. We still all want to belong, to be unique, to be loved, to be successful, to have our dreams come true. Technology hasn't changed our wants and dreams as much as it's changed how we can achieve these things (or complain about them).

On the same theme of ‘simple is best’ Trott also pointed to survey information that purported to show that four per cent of UK ads were ‘remembered positively,’ seven per cent recalled less than positively and 89 per cent completely ignored. In an £18.3bn ad market this was a lot of waste, he opined, before moving to a classic Trott exposition on how to get noticed – be different, essentially.
This really gets me. Billions are poured into advertising that isn't effective mostly because it's so samey and dull it is forgotten or ignored. Brands that aren't afraid to have a personality, stand for something, and/or know who they are will succeed.

Both of these are basics. We're hurting ourselves as an industry by getting away from them and obscuring them with lingo and fluff.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Brands are about the WHY not the what

Are you what you do or are you what you believe?

This is a basic question when it comes to branding and it confuses many companies.

In most cases, brand stories aren't about what you do, they're about what you believe and the WHY behind what you do.

Less successful brands often get caught up talking to themselves and are so ingrained in their day-to-day that they cannot see the forest for the trees. They focus on the details of products or services they are delivering instead of standing back and looking at how they are impacting the lives of their customers.

Brands that are beloved and successful get this. They were either born with a clear mission or belief behind them, or understood what it would take to genuinely change their business to embrace one. Few companies can do the latter. It's much easier to start with the former.

And yet, so many companies struggle because they want to beat the competition that is LIVING their beliefs from its products to how it treats employees and all the way through to customer service. The best brands infuse their beliefs completely through their business in such a seamless way that it appears effortless.

But like a good concept, it starts at the core with a strong premise, and building off of it. Scale doesn't happen without challenges, and along the way, tough choices (financial, philosophical, etc.) need to be made to maintain that WHY.

Often "the brand" gets lost when a company goes public or the founder(s) leave. That vision and WHY disappear and often mean a drop in sales or struggle for maintaining the passionate customer base. When ONLY the bottom line is worshiped, brands will have problems with being successful.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Don't be boring

A while back I started a blog post about clients burning their money. It's on a different computer but I've been thinking about it today and really wonder why brand think that they are doing something to be remembered with some of the "content" that's out there.

If we only remember a small percentage of the ads we encounter on a daily basis, what is it that makes us remember those select ones?

  • Interest - am I looking for something in that category.
  • Entertainment - did I find it entertaining.
  • Value - did it educate me in some way

If your ads aren't doing any of these things, you're burning your money. Plain and simple.

Safe doesn't make you remembered. And that doesn't mean you have to be outrageous either. But being boring is the worst thing you can do.

I can't count how many times I've heard someone tell me about a great ad they saw or heard but couldn't for the life of them remember who it was for. This is also a fail.

Great advertising doesn't just try to entertain you without connecting to a message it's trying to get across (we're cheaper, we're smarter, we're who you want to be).

These are not new precepts in the digital age but ones often forgotten from the Mad Men era. As much as things change, certain pieces remain the same. There is a constant in our evolving world.

As Howard Gossage said, "People read what interests them. Sometimes it's an ad."

Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl Ad Predictions for 2016

Now that the Super Bowl is past us and we have 364 more days (give or take) until the next one, I thought I'd share some predictions for next year's ads:

  • A brand will create a 20-year throwback ad featuring Steve Winwood & Higher Love:
  • Politically charged ads about red and blue states
  • Advertisers will flip on dadvertising and try to focus on momvertising, because MOM!
  • More pharma brands will advertise with their illustrated grossness
  • Ads will feature less children dying
  • An internet star will show some skin
  • There will be slapstick humor - someone will fall down/get punched/get hurt
  • Lettuce growers decide to do a :90 ad
  • Ads will try to find the funny again and leave the heartstrings alone (except maybe Budweiser, if they bring that un-aging puppy back again)
  • The Olsen twins will show up in a car ad
  • Technology will show us how disabled people can achieve anything

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Winners, Losers of Super Bowl Ads 2015

My review of winners, losers and runner's up.

Budweiser Lost Dog
Snickers The Brady Bunch
Loctite Glue

Absentee dads from Nissanand dads that are there from Toyota.

Dead children from Nationwide.

Disabled achievers from Microsoft and Toyota with Purdy.

Screaming goats from Discover Card and Sprint.

Nothing topped the Nationwide dead kid ad though..

T-Mobile - Sarah Silverman & Chelsea Handler

Supercell/Clash of Clans with Leslie Neeson and a Taken spoof.

Always #likeagirl

Kia Sorento with Pierce Brosnan.

See all the Super Bowl ads from 2015 here: http://adland.tv/superbowlads/2015-super-bowl-xlix-commercials

Friday, January 02, 2015

Better ideas come from sketching it out

Image via http://thiagolevysketch.blogspot.com/
+ There once was a time in high school when I had a teacher tell me that I shouldn't draw or doodle in my notebook because it wastes ink. I found it very funny, both ha-ha and odd. Sure, he was a science teacher but that just seemed too Spock-like in its logic.

A google search of "Why do we doodle" turns up this interesting BBC story about humans being hardwired to doodle. An article in Smashing Magazine talks about doodling as a way to help us retain information. Time published an article about a study done in England that also showed it helps you pay attention.

Move forward to the corporate world where we are surrounded by folks who have meetings to discuss meetings (seriously this is crazy to me). It's no wonder that you'll find me doodling in my notebook. But often what I'm doodling is tied to what we're talking about. If it's a new campaign, I might start sketching out some rough ideas. If it's a sales meeting, it might be thoughts around ways we can make improvements.

Creatives these days don't pick up paper and pencil or pen like they used to. We lose something in the immediacy of computers and Adobe. Sketching and doodling while brainstorming has always been one of my favorite things in the concepting process. And no, I'm not a skilled illustrator by any sense of the word. But, I can draw things out to get a sense of what the idea might be or how it might be communicated. Stick figures and simple lines. Tracing even works sometimes if necessary (windows are great for this). But, just talking about ideas and then going straight to computer roughs skips a key step in the process.

Sketching and doodling while talking through an idea can lead to better solutions for solving problems. Seeing how something might work or playing around with various elements in a quick, less permanent way can keep your brain flowing more uninhibitedly. Shapes and simple drawings that are less of a commitment keep you agile in your thinking. It's all part of the iterative process that goes into coming up with great creative ideas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why I went to the client-side

+ Earlier this year I went from the agency world to client side. And within the past year I've seen plenty of other ad friends do the same. Why the migration to "the dark side"?

For me, having spent the prior 6 years at a digital agency (I know, that's forever in ad years), I wanted to get my hands on more pieces than just social and interactive again.

From a storytelling standpoint, I found that I wanted to be working on helping craft those stories for clients. It meant I was interested in looking at opportunities that provided more integrated thinking, strategy and creative challenges. There are a few agencies that do this well, but many are still specializing based on a medium.

In my experience I've found that many clients only saw a digital agency as able to handle certain aspects and when there was great thinking for other pieces of the business it was ignored until the "appropriate" agency presented it. I think that's sad and a miss for clients. And when agencies try to work together for their client, egos almost always get in the way. Everyone knows one agency is the "lead" but often it becomes a pissing match as they are all vying for a larger piece of the pie, which means a piece of another agency's revenue or work.

As much as I am into the nitty gritty of HOW brand stories come to life, I also want to explore the brand strategy components from a creative narrative perspective to craft what those threads are that run through all the touch points of a brand. To do so required getting embedded at a brand and helping bring all the pieces together.

I think many clients/brands underestimate the value of establishing these story lines for their brand. Because whether it's a spot or a tweet, they all should fit some how into the larger story for who you are and what you stand for.

And, sure there are probably a few other things that are contributing factors for going in-house. But that's another post for another day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why you should focus less on Millennials

+Millennials (aka Gen Y) are the only generation to be talked about so much by ad folk. There weren't long articles about reaching the Gen X generation or Baby Boomers. What is the industry obsession with this audience? Why focus so much on this one group?

Let's look a bit at what defines a Millennial. Pew Research defines someone born in 1981. Wikipedia states that there are "no precise dates when the generation starts and ends. Researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s." In May 2013, a Time magazine cover story identified Millennials as those born from 1980 or 1981 to 2000". And, a global generational study conducted by PwC (a network of member accounting firms) with the University of Southern California and the London Business School defined Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995.

So, they range in age approximately from 18-33 years old. That's a big difference in life stages. Entering college vs. starting a family. Dating vs. settling down. Figuring out your life vs. growing your career. And when you look at how they're talked about, it seems many still focus in on that lower end, those in their early 20s...perhaps forgetting that the middle range is now mid 20s heading toward 30.

And this, to me, is why focusing on the psychographics is much more successful in terms of nailing down who you are talking to. I don't care if you're in college or retired. We are more defined by our passions and our activism, than our age. Sure, age adds color to what you know or don't based on experiences, but those who weren't tech savvy are catching up with those who are natives to the technological world. And at some point soon, that will be a moot point because every one will be digital natives.

I found this How Millennial Are You? quiz and I scored 83 out of 100, which means I'm Millennial. Actually I'm not (although only by a couple years), but it's because the questions were based on behavior...yes, psychographics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Demographics vs. Psychographics

+ Demographics get so much more weight in our industry. And, I get it. They were the darling of the media world in the Mad Men heyday. But in this digital age, psychographics should be leading the way.

Let's start by looking at the differences between demographics and psychographics. Wikipedia defines demographics as such:
Demographics are the quantifiable statistics of a given population. Demographics are also used to identify the study of quantifiable subsets within a given population which characterize that population at a specific point in time. Demography is used widely in public opinion polling and marketing.
Typically this includes items such as: Age, Education level, Income, Geographic location and other types of concrete data similar to what one would find in census data.

Wikipedia also describes psychographics in the following way:
Psychographics as the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. Because this area of research focuses on interests, attitudes, and opinions, psychographic factors are also called IAO variables.
These are the less tangible data points. They are the things that make up the personality of the person.

Demographics make generalizations. And in some cases they can be valuable.
1) Geo-targeted needs: If your brand is local or regional, you need to focus your spend and messaging at a target that will purchase at your locations.
2) High-end, luxury goods: Most likely if your product or service has a big price tag, only those who can afford it will actually buy it.

Psychographics lump folks together based on beliefs, interests and the like. In the digital age, there are many more ways for people to connect around similar interests and share opinions about the brands that they use in relation to them (such as runners and shoes). Online ordering has removed the need to be local--if you have an online store front based out of Wichita, Kansas you can still have customers in Paris, France buying your goods. Even some items like cars can a stronger psychographic pull because gear heads can see luxury items as aspirational and they might not make a lot of money but would save it up to get the latest Audi or BMW to be car rich and life poor.

Psychographics transcend age and focus on behaviors. Someone who is 40 might be just as much a hard core gamer as someone in their late teens. You then need to develop communications that speak to that aspect of their passion, not to the fact that they are 40 or late teens. It can be trickier in some aspects but also much richer and relevant in others.

Strategies that focus on the behaviors and values of their customers provide brands a chance to connect with their customers at a deeper level than just looking at demographic data. Success is found when you find the right balance that allows you to be relevant to their needs.
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